It's The PC Gamer Show! In episode three we're introducing the new Large Pixel Collider Jr. with an afternoon of special living room gaming challenges. Can Counter-Strike maven Evan Lahti win when he's forced to play with an Xbox controller? Who will survive the frictionless mayhem of GTA 4's Carmageddon mod? Plus, we play upcoming electronic sport Videoball, and PC Gamer UK walks us through ARMA 3's awesome Zeus mode.
We love building PCs. Last year, we set out to assemble the most irresponsible gaming rig imaginable, and we called it the Large Pixel Collider. Over the past nine months, we’ve spent a ton of time writing stories, making videos, and playing around with our absurd, $10,000 computer.
But as Valve’s incursion into the living room started taking shape this year, we wondered: what if we could build an equally ridiculous but smaller PC suited for playing games on a couch?
For years, PC gaming was synonymous with Windows gaming. DirectX was the go-to API, and if you wanted to play the latest and greatest games on your killer rig, you did it under the auspices of Microsoft's operating systems. But Alienware Product Manager Marc Diana expects that situation to change dramatically once Steam Machines (and, more specifically, the SteamOS that drives them) are finally unleashed.
Back in January, Evan expressed his doubts in the Steam Controller. No matter how hard Valve tries, it simply cannot replace the mouse and keyboard (though its recent delay indicates that Valve certainly wants to try). "An innovative controller can’t and won’t replace the decades-long relationship PC gamers have with WASD," he wrote, "because PC gamers don’t like compromise." And he's absolutely right.
Roccat agrees with us, and has developed a solution that it says can put the control of a mouse and keyboard setup into the living room (say, with a Steam Machine). The company today unveiled that solution to PC Gamer, a lapboard it calls the Roccat Sova.
Today at E3 2014, Alienware unveiled its entry in the Steam Machine lineup. The Alienware Alpha gaming console is a gaming PC designed from the beginning to bring your favorite Steam games into the living room—even if SteamOS and the Steam Controller isn't quite ready yet.
The Electronic Three is nigh. Next week, the entire gaming industry will descend on E3 2014, eager for big announcements at flashy press conferences and as many video games as can fit in LA's massive convention center. There will be new PC games and new PC hardware. That's all expected. But what about the unexpected? What E3 announcements will blow our minds? Is this the year Gabe Newell finally walks onto a stage and says "Half-Life 3 is done, and you can play it right now," and we all leave E3 early?
Probably not. As we psyche ourselves up for E3, the PC Gamer staff have made some wild and not-so-wild predictions about Oculus and Steam Machines and the biggest surprises we'll see at this year's show.
Interview with Tripwire's John Gibson: "Microsoft's done their best to kill gaming on PC for as long as I can remember"
In April, I spent an entire day at Tripwire Interactive's office in Atlanta, Georgia getting the first look at Killing Floor 2. We talked about KF2's new gore system (enemies burst apart dynamically in 19 places), blood system (every drop of blood stays on the map for an entire match), and new guns, which live up to Tripwire's reputation for accuracy.
I also spent a good deal of time talking to Tripwire president John Gibson about PC gaming at large—his thoughts on SteamOS and the Steam Controller, Epic's Unreal Engine 4, and Battlefield 4's ongoing issues. As always, he had strong opinions about the present problems and future possibilities of PC gaming. His boldest prediction: almost every PC game will end up on Linux eventually, and PC gaming will thrive as a result.
If anyone can direct and dictate the course of PC gaming for the next 10 years, it’s Valve. The creators of Steam—and a little game called Half-Life—have already changed how we get our games, and the prices we’re willing to pay for them. Now the company is going one step further, with an initiative that will expand where PC games are played.
It’s a plan comprised of three parts: SteamOS, the open-source operating system compiled by Valve and running on the Linux kernel; Steam Machines, PCs that are custom-built for living in an entertainment center; and Steam Controller, Valve’s solution to the input issues that have made living room computing, at best, an uncomfortable compromise. The message, according to Valve, is simple: “You want to bring your Steam library onto your sofa, and we’re building the best way for you to do that.”
Get to know our new editor Wes Fenlon (read his first report, too, on how net neutrality affects PC gamers) this week as he joins us to chat about CES, Steam Machines, our hands-on with the new Oculus prototype, as well as The Banner Saga, DayZ, and Broken Age.
Why order pizza when you could have PC Gamer Podcast 368 - Legendary Eagle Chalupa?
It's safe to say that Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey was exhausted when we sat down at last week's International CES to chat. He'd been in town for eight days, talking to the press and showing the newest Oculus Rift prototype, dubbed "Crystal Cove." The newest headset uses 360 degree positional tracking and low persistence motion blur tech to essentially keep wimps like me from vomiting during use. But even though he was wiped, Luckey still took a few moments to talk to me about the promise of VR for videogames and beyond, the rumors of John Carmack making an Oculus Rift game, and his thoughts PC gaming moving to the living room.
Valve is dropping the touchscreen from the center of its new experimental controller, according to attendees at the Steam Dev Days developer conference in Seattle. The move ditches the conceivably infinite number of buttons presentable on a touchscreen for a rather more finite, and traditional, D-pad and ABXY configuration. The haptic thumbpads will remain where they are—for now.
With all the excitement surrounding Steam Machines this year, it’s easy to forget about the controversal "Steam Box" from last year's CES. As a reminder, in January 2013, Xi3 unveiled its Piston console, along with the news that the company had received an initial investment from Valve, indicating the Piston’s position as a Steam Machine. However, in March, Valve announced that it claimed no involvement with Xi3, sending ripples of confusion and drama throughout the industry.
Buying a Steam Machine right now—if they were available—would be a curious decision. You'd have an attractive, compact gaming PC meant to go under your TV—a good thing, but pricey—with a Steam-modded version of Linux that you'd be best off uninstalling. SteamOS might be better-designed than Windows for your TV, but a GTX 780 is a bit overkill for the small portion of Steam's library that runs natively on Linux. That's Valve's challenge, and expanding Steam's native Linux library is its priority, says Product Designer Greg Coomer, who spoke with PC Gamer at CES 2014 today.
At Monday's Steam Machine press event for CES 2014, Valve's Gabe Newell made an off-hand comment during his ever-so-brief Q&A section that, while the company is responsible for producing Steam Controllers, other companies may make them as well. It was a surprising statement—it's long been assumed that Valve would use its control of the Steam Controller design to help steer the direction of the 14 Steam Machines created by various hardware manufacturers. After all, you can't call yourself a Steam Machine without including the gamepad and its owl-like dual trackpad design.
Monday night at CES in Las Vegas, Valve unveiled the third-party Steam Machines currently under development. A few names on the list were well-known: Alienware, Origin PC, Digital Storm. But one of the lesser-known developers, Zotac USA, boasts a unique quality among its competition. “We were the first company to start working with Valve [on a Steam Machine],” Zotac’s Kevin Wang reveals. “Originally it was not going to be multi-partner, but Valve went that direction.”
At this year's Consumer Electronics Show, Valve's Steam Machines are king. The Half-Life developer and Steam creator held a press conference that that everyone wanted to attend, but flipped the script when it devoted the majority of the event to its hardware partners. But even though Gabe Newell gave the briefest of briefs, some Valve-only content was still available: The company's press area included six Steam Machine prototype stations, giving the press a chance to try some popular games with the fabled Steam Controller.
The Steam Machines are upon us. It was always clear that Valve were working with other companies to bring gaming PCs to the living room. We expected four or five, but 13? A new market has sprung up overnight, which means plenty of competition to judge. These small, weird and occasionally ugly new devices represent an exciting future for the platform, not because of the technology, but because of the new audiences it could usher into the unifying embrace of PC gaming. Let's take a look at the Steam Machines we have so far. Which ones are good value for money? Which ones look the best? What will they do for PC gaming?
At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas today, Gabe Newell was blinded by a bright future as he revealed the manufacturers working with Valve to release this year's line of Steam Machines—living room PCs which will come equipped with Valve's free, Linux-based SteamOS. The current lineup includes Alienware, Materiel.Net, Alternate, Next, CyberPowerPC, Origin, Digital Storm, Scan Computers, Falcon Northwest, Webhallen, GigaByte, Zotac, iBuyPower, and Maingear.
Before running away for a few days to visit family and then de-stress in DayZ, Evan, Cory, and Tyler gathered to reflect on the biggest surprises of 2013. Watch the whole five-video series on the PC Gamer YouTube channel, and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more regular content, gameplay footage, and conversations.