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SteamMachines (steampowered.com)
514 points by cheald on Sept 25, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 287 comments

Sooo, it's what everybody's expected, except we don't know anything more about it. Frustrating.

Also, only 300 boxes for beta? That seems a little small.

EDIT: actually the latest answer in the FAQ is interesting:

"Am I going to be using a mouse and a keyboard in the living-room?"

"If you want. But Steam and SteamOS work well with gamepads, too. Stay tuned, though - we have some more to say very soon on the topic of input."

Something new on the input device front? Oculus Rift?

Valve sure is good at hyping things.

I'd love to see Valve have the "defacto OS/console" for Oculus Rift. Oculus Rift will enable truly "next-gen" gaming, and Valve would be very smart to ride that trend, and grow with it.

I would hope not, actually. Many people are nowhere near hardcore enough to spend the money and time for Virtual Reality Gaming over regular gaming.

OK Debbie Downer, what evidence is that based on? Even when I've shown non gamers the general impression is very positive...

Downer? Just because VR nowadays is a nice experience doesn't mean that casual gamers like, say, myself might want to save a few hundred bucks by sticking with a TV set. It's a nice add-on. It doesn't have to revolutionize the world of gaming forever.

I certainly hope not. The day I have to wear a f--king headset is the day I stop gaming.

Who said anything about "have to"? They're marketing SteamOS as the "do what you want with it" system. Why would they force you to use an expensive peripheral?

I responded to the typical Optimus Rift "future of gaming d00d" fanboyism.

I don't think it'll ever become mandatory, but don't you think that VR and deeper immersion is eventually where gaming is going to go? The technology still needs a lot of time to improve, but if the kinks can get worked out and if they're less likely to make people dizzy/nauseated, I imagine VR headsets will dominate the market in the next few decades.

Frankly, no, I don't. The immersion is more than canceled out by the additional hassle, not to mention that many people (including myself) that this sort of 3D either doesn't work for or causes intense motion sickness.

So parent's comment was "it will be great once the tech improves" and your response is "no it won't because the tech currently sucks"? I think you're missing his point.

No, not at all. I am saying the CONCEPT sucks. It's not really a technology issue, since to overcome it we would need to be at like literally jack-in-to-the-brain, bypassing the optic nerve levels of tech. At which point we will probably have something better to do than play Half Life 3D.

If your only experience is with the developer kit then you're not really equipped to make a judgement on it. Motion sickness is caused by a combination of the demo in question and the fact that the screen is pretty low quality.

Also, I'm not sure how this sort of 3D can't work for someone unless you're either blind in one eye or have some sort of issue with stereoscopic vision in general. Sounds like a configuration issue.

I do have issues with stereoscopic vision. My right eye is about 20/25, and my left 20/40.

Well, I simply disagree. Once the technology improves, I really think it's going to become the first ever instance of true virtual reality. I think once they do a very seamless overlay that encompasses your entire vision, motion sickness may not be a problem anymore for most people.

Indeed! Apart from all the hype Valve just seems to be confirming the rumors here. I'm surprised by how little information they actually give away. No screenshots/videos of SteamOS, no specifications of the boxes.

I'd really like to know more. Currently I don't see why this is better than building a mini-ITX gaming rig in a nice case and putting Ubuntu + Steam Big Picture mode on it.

I think if you built a mini-ITX gaming rig in a nice case and put Steam OS on it, you will have built a Steam Machine.

I would love a trackball on a game controller in place of the right thumbstick.

I just searched for such a controller and this study from the University I went to came up: http://www.yorku.ca/mack/FuturePlay2.html

Apparently gaming performance increased between 5 and 10 percent going from a traditional controller to a prototype trackball controller.

In addition to that gaming performance increase, I wonder if a trackball could be put to better use in other more traditional UI situations that SteamOS has to implement (big-picture mode clover-leaf keyboard, scrolling, item selection...)

only 300 boxes for beta? That seems a little small.

It does, but like any other prototype the beta boxes are probably a couple more times more expensive than the finished product, and they'll probably be giving them to people for free (??) which represents half a million dollars out of their pocket.

The Rift is output, not input. I think they're announcing some kind of new controller.

The Rift is both input and output, though the input is fairly limited to head movements and generally requires supplementary input for gaming.

In any case, I don't think it is what Valve is hinting at, though it is something they have made some moves to support already in the form of TF2 and limited HL2 support.

It does headtracking, so it's both.

Technically you could say head movement is input but I get your point.

That being said it could be a combo, like Rift + a wiimote-style thing?

Mouse + keyboard break Rift immersion, pads are better but still far from perfect.

Considering the vast majority of current Big Picture games use the Xbox360 controller, and that they'll probably already worried about getting enough content working on this device, I highly doubt they will do something so different as a Rift + Wiimote and the like.

My assumption is Rift will be supported, but primary controller will be something extremely 360-like. If not made by Valve than by someone that already makes 3rd party 360 controllers.

The entire idea here is to have a TV-attached device along the lines of the Xbox or Playstation that plays Steam games — so you can sit on the couch with your SO and play some Trine 2 or something. An input device that you strap over your face would make the couch-and-TV integration a bit moot.

Good at hyping, bad at actually delivering on time... Half-life (Episode?) 3 :(

They haven't hyped HL3 or HL2E3, or even announced either of them. Kinda silly to blame them for not delivering something they never promised to deliver.

... Did you finish Episode 2? Have you lost internet access for the last 6 years? Valve confirmed it waaaaay back in '07, and Gaben has been dropping little nuggets about it every few years.

You really need to understand how painful this is for HL fans. It would be like if AMC decided not to produce & air the final season of Breaking Bad... or delay the final season for 6+ years.

I know that episode 2 did not end the story. However, http://half-life.wikia.com/wiki/Future_of_the_Half-Life_seri... indicates that it did not contain any teasers. I don't remember the details of the ending since it has been a few years since I played it.

But in any case, leaving the story with a loose end is not the same as announcing or hyping a game. I don't see anywhere Gabe has even indicated they are working on HL3.

I don't remember the details of the ending since it has been a few years since I played it.

This is a big problem with this long dev cycles. There are a few games where I was a big fan of the previous games but when the sequels eventually came, I had lost interest because I couldn't remember the precious game's story and did not want to replay it. Of course nowadays I'd just get the rundown online or watch the ending on youtube, but unless you're a big fan, it IMHO still dampens the excitement somewhat. At least for me.

@gknoy It's just frustrating from a personal perspective... I mean, taking 6 years off to work on hats? It feels like heckling from the sidelines, but if Valve is truly great they'll find a way to, you know, make a great game again - alongside doing all of this 'extraneous' hardware/platform stuff.

1998 Half-Life ... 2004 Half-Life 2 2006 Half-Life 2: Episode One 2007 Half-Life 2: Episode Two

I see what you mean, now.

However, not only has Valve been doing many other things in the interim, there was also about six years between the original HL and HL2. It might be a little longer to wait.

However, I would also not be surprised if Valve were to wait for the SteamOS release, and then announce HL3 as a "flagship" SteamOS game. They already have dozens of such games that work, but not as many that will make people put down their COD, GTA V, etc and play with a SteamBox in their living room.

I doubt/hope it won't be true "flagship" title with Steambox/steamOS exclusivity. However, maybe they'll do a bundle similar to xbox where if you buy a steambox you get HL3 included? HL3 could definitely be Valve's game that makes the steam box a major player, similar to Halo for xbox. Valve feel free to hire me.

I'm excited about where Valve is going with this, of course, but to be honest I'm concerned about controllers the most. Buying a good controller for a PC is not hard, but it's not simple either. Picture yourself as a "living room console guy" getting into PC gaming. You'd like to use a controller for a certain game.


- You can use your XBox360, PS3 controller, or WiiMote, but that's not obvious. You'll need to do some research to figure out that you CAN do it as well as HOW to do it. Again, the steps aren't particularly complicated (especially for the XBox wired controller), but remember who we're targeting, here. If you don't know much about this stuff, you might be worried you'll break something or won't be able to hook your controller back to your console.

- If this doesn't occur to you or you'd rather not use your console controllers, you might be tempted to buy one of those gaming controllers you see at Radio Shack, Best Buy, or somewhere online. Chances are high that the controller you bought will be quite shitty in comparison to your console controllers. You'll notice everything from drifting inputs to cheap buttons to just plain uncomfortable hand feel. You'll convince yourself that you just picked wrongly, so you do some more research. You eventually come upon something pretty good, but it's expensive and it's STILL not your XBox 360 controller.

- If you get past all this (whether that's finding a good 3rd party controller or reusing your console controller), you're still not QUITE sure how each new PC game will react with a controller. Sure, maybe the mappings make sense, but you worry that you'll come upon something that requires an action the developers forgot to map to a controller button. Or maybe it'll just feel wrong because the controls for your particular game were clearly designed to work best for the physical characteristics of a mouse and keyboard. You know with enough tweaking this won't be a problem, but it still bothers you that you have to tweak anything in the first place.

Nothing I've outlined above is a problem for advanced gamers, but if something like a Steam Machine is ever going to take over the living room, it has to be a natural plug n' play experience with respect to input devices. And I mean natural for your mom or uncle, not for you.

Luckily it sounds like Valve will be addressing this head-on; I am more excited about what they have to say about this than about what the specs of any particular Steam Machine might be or what the beta might look like.

I believe that you will find this interesting...


Video game controller having user swappable control components

Original Assignee: Valve Corporation


A game controller is provided. One or more main control input interfaces on the game controller consist of generalized sockets. A variety of modular input interfaces can be plugged into these sockets. Hardware specific to the input type of the modular input is contained within the modular input itself, and plugged in via an interface. This allows for dual analog sticks, a combination of analog and trackball, or further any combination of touchpad, directional pad, or additional components.

This is why I love HN. Were you randomly looking up Valve-assigned patents and happened to stumble on this?

"This is why I love HN."

Thank you... same here!

I'm just very interested in the game industry (and a lot of other fields). I tend to R&R (Read and Research) a lot!


Edit: Valve Corporation patents, for those interested:


I don't know of R&R and a search comes up empty...anyone have a link?

It's not a technology. It's how that user describes spending their time.

Like, "RTCHN - Responding To Comments on HN"

It's also a pun - R&R would normally stand for "rest and recreation."

It was posted here too. What's cool in this case is that user X asks about the relevance of P, and user Y comes up with many months olds news on Q that happens to be the perfect missing piece in the puzzle.

This stuff happens all the time. Why is R this way? CEO of R Inc. comes up to tell you. Why is S not in space? It just so happen that a engineer from the space program is reading the comment and answers with a detailed insightful post.

When that happens, HN is awesome.

Other fun Value patents:

Player biofeedback for dynamically controlling a video game state: https://www.google.com/patents/US20110009193 - Responsive play

Dynamically providing guest passes for a video game: https://www.google.com/patents/US20080234043 - Steam Sharing?

A bit of a crappy pattent. Already been done: http://www.madcatz.com/mlg/ps3_controller.htm

That's not really the same.

I'll bet this will be their 3rd announcement.

Why not just buy two-three gamepads with different layouts? Surely that would be cheaper and easier!

You're right. That's what leads me to guess that they have significantly more than 2-3 layouts in mind.

Imagine selecting your weapons physically as well as in-game before going on a raid with some gamepad-plugins offering better control over in-game weapons or accessories than others.

BenHeck had invented this as far back as 2007, 2 years before this patent was filed.

that's awesome! good find!

Steam seems to have standardized on the XBox 360 controller. At least that's what they support with their current "couch mode" thing. So it seems like you don't need to worry too much about choosing the wrong controller since there is only one choice at the moment.

It works pretty well, for what it's worth.

My Logitech controllers work with Big Picture mode as well.

Even my steering wheel, while not practical to use with that application, is recognized.

> Nothing I've outlined above is a problem for advanced gamers, but if something like a Steam Machine is ever going to take over the living room, it has to be a natural plug n' play experience with respect to input devices. And I mean natural for your mom or uncle, not for you.

Even though it's coming to the living room, I still don't feel that the first iterations of the Steam box are really targeted towards non-core gamers. Not even traditional video game consoles are a good fit for them beyond the original Wii, so I doubt even future versions of Steam machines will truly target non-core gamers. The products from Apple, Google, and Amazon are a better fit for that demographic, especially if any of them ever truly figure out TV... and ship. Unless Steam comes out with a cheap TV box, the non-core gamer isn't their target.

I can echo your concerns because I ran into it with Spelunky recently - they seem to only support Xbox360 controllers as their "controller" settings. I solved it by using Joy2Key to map keys to my controller (a very solid Logitech one!) and had no problems.

However, most people probably wouldn't want to jump through those kind of hoops (downloading a third party app + mapping the keys to the right keyboard keys) so I'd love if Steam had some sort of unified controller support, but I also feel like that's asking for a lot.

This is a pretty recent change in how controller support works in (Windows? DirectX? not 100% sure) but basically any third party controller can register itself as an Xbox controller.

I have an older Logitech DualAction and a newer one, the older one will fail those checks but the newer will register itself as an Xbox controller. It seems like Microsoft, somewhere, standardized what it means to be a "controller" finally instead of having an arbitrary button0 through button10 that are always different and constantly requiring remapping.

A good change, but really frustrating for anyone with older hardware.

That might have been true in the past (I remember having some trouble with a SideWinder controller on a dedicated control port in the 90's) but these days the 360 wired USB controllers are as plug'n'play as it gets (on windows at least). It Just Works.

PS3 controllers are a pity though, you need those shady ad-ridden closed source third party drivers.

Very true, but remember that the issue I'm addressing is more about branding and marketing than about the tech. For example:

"Wait, you mean I have to buy an XBox 360 controller to use my Steam Machine?"

Well, no, but it's better that way.

"What do you mean, isn't there a Steam Controller."

Not exactly, you see any Steam Machine is compatible with any number of controllers.

"So why can't I buy this other controller I saw at Best Buy?"

You can, but I can't guarantee you it'll work very well. I only use my 360 wired controller with it.

"Oh, ok. Well maybe I'll just get an XBox, then."

That's the kind of thing the Steam Alliance (or whatever they'll call it) will have to overcome.

More likely, you'll buy a SteamController as the preferred input on your SteamBox. In fact, they are basically teasing as much at the bottom of the page. Friday's announcement looks to be controller related.

"Wait, you mean I have to buy an XBox 360 controller to use my Steam Machine?"

"Nah, its compatible with a lot of controllers. In my experience the Xbox 360 one works pretty well so I'd just go with that. You can check the other ones out if you want, too."

"Ok, cool."

Oh, that makes sense. But I simply assumed that the SteamBoxes (the official ones made by Valve that is) will come bundled with a controller. We just have to hope it'll be a good one (unlike the Ouya...).

Why is the Ouya's bad? It doesn't look as comfortable as an Xbox controller, but I haven't held one.

I like the idea of a touch pad for configurable interface elements. That's what I first thought of when the Valve modularity patent was mentioned. Has anyone played a game on Ouya that made good use of that touchpad?

Or am I mistaking and it's not both a touch screen and touch pad, just more of a trackpad-like input device?

> "Wait, you mean I have to buy an XBox 360 controller to use my Steam Machine?"

Why wouldn't Valve include a controller with their Steam Machines?

Your argument makes no sense.

Or they could buy an Arduino Leonardo and make their own completely custom controller.

Well that is the sort of FUD that Microsoft is counting on. That people recommend XBox 360 or XBox One controllers for their competitor's products. The average user isn't very tech savvy and then will fear that the XBox controlled might not work with their SteamMachine system or that it will be difficult to set up, and that the Steamtroller isn't as good as the XBox controller, so they will have to avoid all that fear and uncertanty and just buy a Microsoft XBox 360/One at Best Buy next to the XBox controllers and ignore the whole SteamMachine because of it.

The same thing happens when you recommend Linux to the average user, get a Microsoft Keyboard and Mouse to use with Linux. Well why aren't there Linux mice and keyboards? Can't I run Windows apps on Linux? No, well sort of, you have to install WINE and then if it is on the compatibility list, er ah look Linux has their own apps most are free and do the same thing as Windows apps but have a different user interface. Steam works on Linux, but only has 100+ Linux games, but if you run the Steam Windows Client under WINE some of not most of the games might work if you add in some exceptions to the built in libraries, etc. Then they just buy a Windows 8.1 PC instead of installing Linux over their old one that runs XP.

I really hope that SteamOS and SteamMachines catch on and port most of the Steam games to Linux, so I don't have to deal with this nonsense to my non-technical friends and family members. I hope the Steamtroller or whatever is as good as if not better than the XBox one.

Oh yeah I had friends and family members who bought a Macbook, and then ask me how to install Windows apps on it. Run Bootcamp, repartition the hard drive, reboot, stick in your Windows CD/DVD or USB stick and install, you now can dual boot Mac OSX and Windows. Then they don't know how to select it and forget what key to hold down, sell it and buy a Windows 8.1 tablet instead.

Basically if you are expecting an XBox, buy an XBox, if you want a Windows PC/Tablet buy a Windows PC/Tablet. If you want something else that is different and new, and might have a lower footprint OS that runs your games faster, and you don't care that it isn't an XBox or Windows PC/Tablet then try the SteamMachine and SteamOS. But please don't try putting XBox and Windows game disks into the SteamMachine!

Remember the average person that goes to Best Buy is a 'sheeple' controlled by FUD by the news media and other megacorproations to just part with their money on whatever new geegaw gadget they come up with as long as it is a 'trusted brand name' they are familiar with. They go to Best Buy because they hold their hand and tell them what they need to buy. If Valve was smart, they'd make a deal with Geeksquad to partition part of their area into a Steam Store that they can assist people with SteamMachine issues.

XBox wired controller works well with mac as well thanks to the open source driver (http://tattiebogle.net/index.php/ProjectRoot/Xbox360Controll...).

I have never faced any issue using the controller to play steam games on my mac.

A couple years ago I bought a Logitech gamepad that happened to use Xbox protocol (I didn't read the label well enough, I just saw the name brand). I tried to use this Xbox360Controller driver but it didn't recognize my gamepad. So, I fixed the driver to work.

When Mountain Lion came out I had to update the driver, which had undergone some 32bit -> 64bit change but also added in some other garbage about Xbox chat pads that was breaking when I tried to use it with my Logitech game pad. I don't remember if it kernel panicked or just didn't work. Certainly I caused a kernel panic or two while tinkering with the driver. But I got it working again, mostly by commenting out stuff I didn't want.

I have kernel panic with this driver unfortunately. Wired XBox 360 with iMac 2011 and MacBook Pro 2012. Not sure what caused the issue... Because of it, I installed Windows via BootCamp and play all games over there, a bit inconvenient.

Which version of Xbox360Controller and what Mac OS version? You might want to try an older pre-64bit version of the driver if that will work on your OS.

Or you could try to debug the source if you're up for that. I would try but don't have the expertise to help without seeing it and tinkering with it.

From my experience Android File Transfer causes kernal panic when used with the latest drivers.

Restart your machine, Terminate Android File Transfer and try plugging the controller again.

Hold the phone there. Why is Windows even entering the comment section of a SteamBox/SteamOS article? It's Linux-based, SixAxis controllers are easy to set up on both Linux and Android, Valve will have a very easy time creating a simple easy-to-use GUI for linking the two.

Why is Windows even entering the comment section

Windows isn't; your parent is explaining that clearly, given the 360 controller works great with Windows, using a controller with your PC is no longer quite the black art to the public that it used to be.

Actually you do need to install drivers for this to work:


Linux has natively supported xbox 360 controllers through the xpad kernel driver for a number of years, and Windows asks to install drivers when you plug in the controller.

Agreed, there really needs to be some type of official controller. I'm assuming whatever input device they come up with be bundled with Valve's own Steamboxes, and available for purchase separately. Also, I wonder if there are agreements for other hardware manufacturers to bundle that same device.

This way, all games have a standard controller to develop towards. Everyone loves the Xbox controller, not only because it's a solid device, but because it's the standard controller for PC gaming. Most games are developed with it in mind, so it's typically plug and play. For this reason, I'm going to assume Valve launches a controller that has a similar configuration to the 360 controller, so all the previous games designed for the 360 controller are ready to go. However, it'll probably have some misc tweaks, like buttons to perform certain tasks within the Steam software, and perhaps a touchpad, pull out mini-keyboard or improved motion controls.

I'm not going to worry about people going to Radio Shack or Best Buy and randomly shopping for controllers. I think Valve has this under control, and we'll have THE controller, and third party controllers, similar to any other gaming console.

I use my Xbox 360 controllers with a no-name wireless receiver. It took some work to get the drivers working properly, but it's fantastic now. If Valve can provide a similar experience, except all plug-and-play, that'll be killer.

I totally agree that it's non-obvious to most of the gaming market, though.

Doesn't the next generation of controller simply work over bluetooth? I know the DS3 already does. If that's the case, it shouldn't require any specialized hardware, since almost everything comes with bluetooth these days.

Sony and Nintendo use Bluetooth, while Microsoft uses a proprietary wireless protocol.

Nintendo uses a proprietary connection for the Wii U GamePad as well.

That doesn't surprise me, the GamePad in particular seems like something that bluetooth wasn't really designed for. Does it even have the bandwidth to push video? It's pretty power-hungry when 100% active too.

I think they're actually using a variant of 802.11n on the 5 GHz band for the Wii U GamePad, probably because it's the cheapest option that has enough bandwidth.

This was my first thought when i heard about steam OS - currently I've forced the official Microsoft driver onto my Chinese knock-off wireless receiver, will that work on steamOS? i don't know...

The Linux kernel should support the receiver and xbox 360 gamepad out of the box. If its not currently I suppose this has a very high priority for fixing at Valve.

I did the same, the thing took a while renaming inf files and such to get working on Windows.

Linux, plug and play. Lovely.

Can you share where you got your no-name wireless receiver?

I got mine on Amazon. Believe it or not, it worked first try and it turned out to be a Microsoft one. Drivers were not an issue once I figured out that some of my USB ports were powered and others were not - it needs a lot of power to work.


It was Amazon - this one specifically:


To get it working, you need to install the Microsoft Wireless XBox 360 Controller drivers manually, then go to the hardware manager and manually specify the official Microsoft driver as the driver for this device. Easy enough if you know your way around driver updates, but not plug-and-play. It works great, though.

From TFA:

>Am I going to be using a mouse and a keyboard in the living-room?

>If you want. But Steam and SteamOS work well with gamepads, too. Stay tuned, though - we have some more to say very soon on the topic of input.

The third announcement will be the controller Valve patented some time ago. This controller replaces a thumbstick with a trackball, and might let you swap out input devices for different games. Regardless, it'll be painless to set up with SteamOS.

> "This controller replaces a thumbstick with a trackball"

That sounds like a special hell. What would even be the point? Making it marginally easier to control products that were never properly re-designed as living room software at the expense of compatibility with essentially every piece of contemporary living room software?

Here's to hoping that if such a thing is actually rolled out, it falls under "an option" and isn't an approach they put too much emphasis on.

FPS games kind of suck on a controller, due to a lack of precision. At the very least, you can't compete with anyone using a mouse.

A trackball, on the other hand...

Is going to exhaust your thumb and cramp the hell out of your hand in record time.

And on top of that, occupy some 'third' control scheme somewhere between "kb/m" and "gamepad" that developers would have to explicitly target, at a time when so few of them even put the time into adding proper kb/m support for their console-first-PC-port-maybe-if-its-cheap-to-farm-out titles.

I find trackballs (the Logitech M570 in particular) much more comfortable to use over long periods of time personally. The only criticism I have of their design is that having the trackball on the side entails removing a lot of area where additional mouse buttons could have been placed, and I enjoy having extra buttons there to bind to debugging/build/vcs keys.

According to the patent other people in here have already linked, the feature of the gamepad will be that it uses "modules". Modules like directional pads, touch pads or trackballs. You will stick these modules into the pad and they will use interfaces within the controller.

Not sure just how sturdy the thing will be, all this talk about separate components being stuck together by the user sounds kinda fragile. But if it is, you will be able to configure your pad just the way you want.

I really do hope you're right on the trackball bit, though i'm sure a lot of other people would hate it..

Or you:

Buy Logitech F710 wireless controller.

Plug Logitech controller in.

Notice modern Windows games auto-detect Logitech controller as XBox controller.

Play games.

It's not rocket science. And frankly, most PC gamers are pretty familiar with jumping through far more hoops than that.

Been there, done that.

Key binding continuity issues are still a problem for most games.

Yeah, the Logitech F710 controller basically pretends to be an Xbox 360 controller, so it's very compatible.

It costs the same as the wireless X360 controller for windows, does it have any advantage over it?

Much better layout IMHO, and compatibility with DirectInput API (used in some games).

Be interesting to see how they tackle the player-with-controller vs player-with-mouse/keyboard issue... clear advantage in FPS games with a mouse.

I'd buy a console tomorrow if they allowed mouse/keyboard - sick of all the cheaters in PC gaming, and having games get _better_ as the hardware ages would be a welcome change from having to constantly upgrade my video card to play new releases at a decent frame rate!

Valve have at least been thinking about that problem for awhile. Back in 2011 they were planning for CS:GO to have cross-platform play between Xbox, PS3 and PC. However, the idea got ditched in 2012.

I've never played a match that was console vs PC, but I've heard people say that Halo 2 for PC (which can be played with the Xbox 360 controller or mouse & keyboard) is easier with the controller. Keep in mind that this is a game that likely has mostly console gamers playing.

Halo features aim-assist, and aim-assist is usually disabled in mouse mode. Also, you can assume the controller-based gamers are coming from console experience (and therefore have already played H2 and know the maps and weapons), whereas the mousers are coming from other PC-based FPS games.

Good points, makes sense now.

You could buy a console and a XIM3[1]. You could dominate any FPS, I think.

[1] http://xim3.com/

I blew the money to get one of their EDGE devices. It's not what it seems.

The way FPSs interpret mouse movement is by mapping units of mouse movement onto units of rotational movement. If you move the mouse x units to the left, your view will rotate f(x) units (an absolute relation). When mapping joystick movement, the location of the joystick determines the speed at which your view rotates. If the joystick is x units off center, you will move at f(x) units per second until the joystick moves again (a relative relation).

For this reason, it's pretty simple to convert relative joystick movement into mouse movement, since you simply need to map the joystick position onto an absolute mouse velocity. However, it's extremely difficult to turn the absolute mouse movement into a relative joystick position. From what I can tell, it takes the velocity of the mouse movement and returns it as a joystick position, so if you're moving the mouse at x units per second, it will return a joystick position of g(x), which the game will then turn into f(g(x)) units of rotation per second.

What you end up with is jerky and unresponsive. Mouse movement just can't be translated into joystick position in a transparent way. I used the thing for a couple days, and ultimately gave up on it. Even as a hard core Mouse/Keyboard gamer, I preferred the controller over the XIM.

Well damn. Thanks for the review. I guess I expected it to Just Work. Glad I never wasted the money on it.

I have a wired XBox 360 controller that I use for Big Picture, and it works out of the box on both Linux and Windows. It's also a fairly comfortable controller (Microsoft can make good hardware, it seems).

> Buying a good controller for a PC is not hard

Is this actually true? I've been looking for a decent PC gamepad for a long time. The default recommendation seems to be the Xbox 360 controller, but with the caveat that the d-pad sucks. I play a lot of games that use the d-pad.

What's a good PC gamepad with a good d-pad?

I have one of these that I've used forever, a Logitech Precision USB. If you just need a digital d-pad and don't care about analog sticks or triggers, it's great.


Although I've started seeing compatibility problems recently: the Xbox 360 controller has become such a standard that some newer indie games support ONLY them and not native PC gamepads.

Well, provided that you find the 360 controller's d-pad acceptable, the wired xbox 360 controller works directly, however the wireless 360 controller does not work directly, a different wireless controller that specifies working with the PC has to be purchased and uses a specialized receiver as well. However, once that is accomplished it works well. I do find it obnoxious that it both requires an external USB receiver and the typical wireless 360 controller does not work with the PC. Still, that is the one I use, and it works well.

That isn't true.

The wireless controllers for the 360 work just fine with the PC. I personally swap mine between them all the time.

Are you talking about the ones advertises for PC or the ones not sold for PC? When I bought mine (circa 2010) I had to purchase one advertises for PC as the one I had for the 360 before would not work with it otherwise. It seemed nonsensical to me that such was the case.

I'm talking about this product here: http://www.microsoft.com/hardware/en-us/p/xbox-360-wireless-...

Though mine was in white.

From the page. "Xbox 360 Controller for Windows works with most Windows XP-based PCs and Xbox 360, delivering a consistent and universal gaming experience."

It comes with a wireless dongle thing you plug in to your PC. Both the controllers that come with your 360 and this controller can be swapped between your PC and your 360 on demand by pushing the resync button on the controller and on the device simultaneously.

I've never heard of a 360 controller that didn't work both with the PC dongle and the 360 itself.

(replying to the child post) The products are not the same if for no other reason than because one comes with the receiver and ordering the other product does not, and that the receiver is even required is not something that is apparent beforehand without research, so the buyer must understand that having the product work as expected will require purchasing either the receiver as a stand alone product or as the bundle which is distinguished by being labeled as "...for Windows."

Naively, I had expected beforehand that the controller to use 802.11(a|b|g|n|ac) or bluetooth and therefore not need another receiver provided that those protocols were already available on the PC, but in the case of the wireless Xbox 360 controller another component is necessary for better or worse.

Luckily, I researched the situation before purchasing another controller with its usage on the PC in mind, so I did not encounter a potential headache until the solution dawned upon me.

Hopefully the next generation PS4 or Xbox One wireless controllers work without taking up a port on the PC with a wireless receiver again.

There actually exists two separate Microsoft Wireless 360 controllers, the one that specifies for Windows will work on both the PC and for the Xbox 360 (after syncing the controller with the appropriate receiver, something which is somewhat tricky if the PC receiver and the console receiver are within the controller's wireless range).

However, the one which does not specify "...for Windows" will not work with the PC, which is the distinction I am attempting to express when recommending it as an option for PC gaming.

On (US) Amazon the two separate listings are http://www.amazon.com/Microsoft-Xbox-Wireless-Controller-Win... and http://www.amazon.com/Xbox-360-Wireless-Controller-Glossy-Bl...

The PS3 controllers may work differently, but I do not find them as comfortable to use as the 360 controllers personally.

The "For windows" version is simply bundled with the wireless receiver. Once you have one of those, you can use any 360 controller.

I regularly use both the controller that came with my 360, and another 360 controller that I brought separately (with no "for windows" marking) in addition the controller that came with the wireless receiver.

I assure you that all 3 are identical.

They are separate listings because one has the USB receiver needed to connect to a PC.

I have a wireless receiver that came with a 'for Windows' controller, and it works perfectly with the controller that came with my Xbox.

I use a PS3 controller with my PC, using the Motioninjoy drivers. Better than having to buy an wireless receiver for my wireless XBox 360. The PS3 wireless controller actually sends control commands over the USB port if it's connected, whereas the wireless XBox 360 controller does not.

The PS3 controller.

The street fighter xbox 360 controller. It has a different d-pad.

Maybe try finding a 360-compatible controller with a good dpad?

I think this also exposes a problem with most tech sites who issue fifty-billion gadgets a decimal score from 0 to 10. This won't help people decide on a controller, if there are thirty products out there.

With mice, you can usually just buy Logitech and be guaranteed to get a great product, but with controllers, you'll probably end up relying on word of mouth.

This is why The Wirecutter is so important, but people who play videogames will go to videogame websites for advice instead - and won't be any wiser for it.

>You can use your XBox360, PS3 controller, or WiiMote, but that's not obvious.

Just a thought: In a few weeks every Xbox360 and PS3 will become obsolete. So, what are the chances of me installing SteamOS on there? I'd love to turn my PS3 into a SteamOS box.

For PS3 the chances are 0 percent due to a very unusual hardware architecture. For Xbox360 I'm not as sure, but I would say chances are also low. These devices are closed and contain chips to make sure only secure and encrypted code can be run. This is to prevent console hacking, game copying, etc.

Yeah, but PS3 supported Linux not too long ago. 360 I figure is a dealbreaker. Shame we don't have the legislation or political power to be allowed to tinker with our equipment, especially EOL'd equipment.

Even were it possible, the zeroes of games supporting Xenon or the PPE would be, uh, a problem.

Why would you use a controller? Wireless keyboard and mouse is the way to go. Especially if you're going to play an FPS. You'll be slaughtered if you use awkward analog sticks instead of a mouse...

Because some games are better with a controller than a keyboard and mouse.

Driving games, platformers, RPGs, and more.

You worry too much about nothing.

Simply use the Logitech Wireless Gamepad F710 for all Steam boxes, problem solved.

It's to me, better than all controllers you mention. It supports BOTH DirectInput and XInput APIs.

I am using my mac with PS3 controllers, works like a charm.

The two real revelations here are:

>Can I download the OS to try it out?

>>You will be able to download it (including the source code,[...]) but not yet.


>Am I going to be using a mouse and a keyboard in the living-room?

>>If you want. [...] Stay tuned, though - we have some more to say very soon on the topic of input.

yep, the fact that they're making the source code available is a big deal. A lot of people were worried that SteamOS would just be another closed platform, and this puts that fear to rest pretty definitively.

They've positioned themselves so that none of their IP even matters as far as their core business goes. What does matter is that they own the marketplace for games. Giving the source code away only allows people to improve the platform, which only strengthens their hold on the market place.

Not if somebody modifying it to use with his own marketplace, which is unlikely but possible with the open source software.

> Not if somebody modifying it to use with his own marketplace, which is unlikely but possible with the open source software.

People have been doing that on PCs for ages. So far Valve seems to be doing well with "well, then, we'll just outcompete" as a solution to that issue.

I'm not sure if they're open sourcing the actual code for steam... it sounded like just the OS. None the less, code doesn't make market places. It takes effort, good faith, proper marketing etc.

Look at the beta eligibility list: they require the would be participants to get a leg in the steam community facilities, and try playing in living room mode.

That would give a huge crowd an incentive to try Steam the way Valve is hoping it'd be used in the future. So they give 300 boxes, but get thousands of people trying their console-like services.

Evil geniuses, those Valvers are.

It's not only that, but look at all the steps they have taken in the last 12 months:

1) Convince Nvidia and AMD to improve their Linux graphic drivers - probably by promising them additional revenue from Steambox sales - to lay the groundwork 2) Port Steam to Linux, start porting their own games 3) Build a Steam-based Linux distribution and make it available to everyone 4) Find partners that build custom hardware to run SteamOS

IMO Valve is trying to achieve two goals with this. The first goal seems to be to hedge their bets OS-wise. Gabe Newell was quite explicit in his criticism of the road MS has taken with Windows 8. Valve may very well view this as an existential threat to their business model if MS for instance takes the Apple route of promoting app store downloads over the old way of installing software. Thus, it makes sense to work towards an alternative platform that is not entirely controlled by one company. The second goal would be to introduce a new competitor in the console market by leveraging the existing Steam ecosystem and game catalogue. The beauty of this strategy is that each step adds value on its own even if the ultimate goal of establishing Steamboxes should fail

Valve does love achievement unlocks!

This is almost a non-annoucement. They've basically said they were doing this for the last year. The only news is a sign up process for early steam boxes.

That seems pretty big doesn't it? Going from "we are doing this" to "we are going to release some of these to early adopters"?

That seems pretty small to me, both in terms of progress and in terms of the actual size of of the release.

It means they are fully committed to the programme. Up to now there was speculation that they were going to abandon it.

No, it emphatically does not mean that. In fact, this announcement makes it sound even more like they are going to abandon it. As far as I can gather from this announcement, they're releasing a very small number of units for beta testing, and then they're getting out of the hardware game and letting third parties carry the torch.

As a parent, if these things don't come with time-based parental controls, that would reduce their appeal A LOT. Windows, for all its warts, is great this way. The Windows-based PC in the living room, running Steam, has time-based parental controls configured at the OS level. This works great for everyone involved, reduces effort and contention. Also, kids do really well on fixed timetables.

I've opened a discussion thread in the Steam Universe forum, on this very topic.


Seriously? When I was a kind my NES and SNES didn't need built in time controls and I am just fine.

I am a parent (11 year old girl and 7 month old son) and I restrict her (son is a little too young!) time playing games in the same way my parents did by making sure I do my chores and homework first. I don't rely on OS level parental controls and I find it kind of sad people need to. I spend a lot of time playing Animal Crossing with my daughter for example and she knows when she can and can't play it.

I guess I just find it kind of depressing that we have all these kind of digital restrictions in place for kids these days. Part of the reason I am successful in what I do [professionally] is that I didn't have such restrictions as a child and I hope my daughter in the same. At the end of the day playing Mario Kart or Viva Piñata isn't going to ruin her life.

I didn't think this would require pointing out, but amazingly it does.

So, without further ado: Each person / family is different. We could probably sit down and have a conversation and find out some topic where some random solution works amazingly well for me, but - surprise! - it does not seem to be working so well for you. At which point, it would be my turn to observe how you could just man up and do it; after all, it's so easy. For me. In my particular case. Which is different from yours. People and families being different from each other.

Have I belabored the issue enough now?

I apologise if you felt my post was targeted directly at you. That certainly was not my intention. What you do as a parent is ultimately your choice and I have no right to tell you what is right and wrong for your family.

I was simply sharing my opinion that until a few years ago no kid grew up with these automated digital restrictions and pretty much everyone seems to be ok.

I understand that such things can be helpful however my personal opinion is that it is a little sad that there is such a need for such features. I would bet that most people on Hacker News are successful in their lives because of unrestricted access to computers as children/young adults. I know that is certainly the case for me. I would spend hours typing in BASIC from computer magazines sometimes into the early mornings. I would get told off and have my computer taken away now and then for breaking the rules my parents put in place but this was ultimately good for me I feel (both the breaking of the rules and accepting the punishment).

Then pethaps the parent post could have read 'A LOT... to me' because it sure sounded to me like it was generalizing.

I also view parental controls as contrived and harmful, and dont use them personally, but I'm certainly not going to critise someone else for doing so.

However, I honestly doubt that parental controls will have any significant impact, generally, on the viability of the steam boxes.

I'm ambivalent on the topic. Sure you can instill the values of proper time management into your kid and hope they abide by them when you're not around. However, I don't feel it's unreasonable to have an automated solution for this kind of thing.

Just like I'd love to have automated lighting in my home, or automated curtains, or a computer that will automatically turn on at certain times, sometimes it's also nice to have a things that automatically turn off after a while as well.

I think there is quite the difference between automating curtains or a computer turning on or off and parental control systems. Please do not take offence but I feel kids deserve more than an automated system that tells then when they can and can't use something.

This is Linux, though. Even if a timer isn't built in, it will be trivial to install. You could probably use something already in the apt-get repositories.

shutdown -h 20:00

What happens when the timer hits zero? The game just kicks out?

Why not just set a timer on your smartphone and when it goes off turn off the kid's console..

Or just, you know, have your kids obey the rules. Without your daily intervention.

Ah, I want to live in this magical fictional world too. (:

I worked at a YMCA with kids for 7 years. As many as 35 at a time by myself.

This is no magical fiction world, I assure you.

Respect them, have reasonable rules, discipline every single rule violation (most important), and have fun. Suddenly you'll find kids are awesome.

Yes, how did parents control console use before OS-level time controls? The problem seems intractable.

On Windows at least, the account locks up similar to a password-protected screensaver, except you can't log back in.

The timer method does work (tried and true), but it's far, FAR easier if the computer automatically locks the account.

time-based parental controls

It will be small, put it away in a cupboard when it isn't being used like any other toy.

> Am I going to be using a mouse and a keyboard in the living-room?

> If you want. But Steam and SteamOS work well with gamepads, too. Stay tuned, though - we have some more to say very soon on the topic of input.

This excites me. Valve's bread-and-butter, as a gamedev company and not a game reseller, uses a pointing device. FPS games and Dota are both genres that do far better with a mouse.

Obviously, supporting gamepads will get the vast ocean of console-like games into the living room just fine. But for games originally designed for a mouse, a gamepad is a pretty sub-par experience. Do they have some new control device planned? Please? Pretty-please?

Did nobody else read the Beta Terms of Agreement?

1. Valve Corporation ("Valve", "We", "Us" or "Our") has developed and produced prototypes of entertainment system hardware and software, including a set-top box running custom software and a game controller

A game controller...

Yes, but that may be simply a Valve-owned clone of the XBox360 pad that has become standard in PC gaming. Or it may be the exciting modular device they patented:


Or it may be something to do with Gabe Newell's interest in biometrics.

I simply answered the question, which was 'Is there a new controller going to be included?'.

The possibilities are exciting.

>FPS games and Dota are both genres that do far better with a mouse.

Toupée fallacy. I'd argue that games built for a gamepad -- Halo and Gears of War come to mind -- feel much better on a gamepad than they do on a keyboard and mouse.

Games designed for the gamepad do work nicely on a gamepad, but they achieve this by slowing down the FPS gameplay so thoroughly that they functionally exist within their own genre, as well as providing substantial auto-aim. The PC-style of FPS gaming, which is substantially faster-paced than the console-style, is dependent on having a pointing-device for aiming.

Experiments in allowing gamepad and mouse players to compete directly have proven absurd to balance, since you either give the joystick players aim-bots or let them be crippled. Joysticks are meant to provide you with good control over a vector - you can comfortably select and gradually alter the velocity of something with a joystick.

Pointing devices are meant to control a position, not a vector. "facing", from a user perspective, is best expressed as a position. The player is thinking "I want to face this way" not "I want to turn this fast".

The main reason Halo and GoW feel bad on mouse+keyboard is that they feel glacially, frustratingly slow on a system where the conventions tend to be far faster-paced (because the interface allows for it) and because the games used heavy auto-aim to compensate for the difficulty in making precise movements on a gamepad.

Which is fine, I'm no snob. But at this point you've created a substantially different game with a substantially different experience.

edit: to take it further, notice the huge difference in the DOTA and RTS genres between PCs and consoles - places where auto-aim won't really fix the game. The interface has to be so fundamentally altered that they're a whole new genre.

Interesting point, but I think you don't mean to say vector, but something more like 'velocity', 'momentum', or better yet, joysticks are meant to control a rate of change.

Velocity is a vector.

Sorry, busy today and didn't see this. Velocity is a vector, but so is position, and direction, and a whole bunch of things. Anything you can express as a fixed length, ordered, group of numbers is a vector (I guess they don't even have to be numbers). The point is that the distinguishing thing here is not the vectoral nature, but the fact that the mouse directly modifies the absolute 'direction vector' while a joystick directly modifies the rate of change of that 'direction vector'.

Oh, OK, I take your point. Fair enough!

I've never been able to play halo on a console, it feels far too inaccurate to me, now that I'm used to playing with a mouse.

Are people using a mouse and keyboard going to play against people using a controller? The results will be hilarious (in that anyone using a controller wont stand a chance). Everyone will be forced to use a mouse.

There have been games that have released with this allowance. They achieve balance by offering powerful aim-assist to the gamepad players.

In any other context that would be the foulest cheating... but in the context of game-design for vastly different interfaces, it's a perfectly reasonable handicap.

You wouldn't be able to (and can't) do this on competitive PC/Steambox games though because you can just fake it on PC, so gamepad players would never be able to compete.

It also works reasonably well for cooperative games. I beat Portal 2 with a friend this way.

And I've never been able to play Super Mario Bros. with a keyboard. It goes both ways.

Wait, that doesn't make sense. Super Mario Bros. uses digital inputs, not an analog stick, so it's essentially the same as a keyboard...Are you saying keys are somehow different than controller buttons?

Well, yes. There is a different feel to using a d-pad and using four distinct keys, and it throws me off when I'm playing a 2D platformer. In SMB, the inertia feels totally wrong using the arrow keys or WASD.

I agree, but I think it's because a d-pad does two things: 1) it lets you press two directions at once with a single finger (all four diagonals are actually two presses, e.g. up+left); 2) it stops you from pressing two opposing directions at the same time like you can on a keyboard, e.g. up+down.

Once you get used to these limitations or find a game where diagonal movement isn't required (not sure about SMB), it's really quite tolerable to play a 2D platformer with WASD or arrow keys. But you're still right it doesn't quite have that magical kinesthetic quality that a d-pad does, and I'll always choose a gamepad myself.

Not easy to play on a keyboard using only two thumbs.

Really? I first played it on the console but have no trouble using a keyboard.

I always liked Halo a lot more on PC, so that's pretty subjective.

I'd say that Genres built for a gamepad, such as platformers, feel much better on a gamepad, but shooters still feel best with a more precise and fast device. Sure you can design around it to make it suck less, but in the end you still need to add in aim assist to make it an enjoyable experience (as pretty much all console shooters do).

You can argue that, but that doesn't make his statement a fallacy. Many people will argue that you are wrong.

I'd be open to something new if it serves the purpose but I wouldn't mind getting a mouse and keyboard in my living room if that happens to be the best way to play a game. But that's probably just me.

They want SteamOS to restructure the console market like Android did with the mobile market.

They give PC makers a great new customizable way to enter the livingroom-computer market. With their gaming shop built in.

This is great for gamers. In a few years any SteamMachine for 300$ will easily outperform PS4/XBone. And have way way more games. And all AAA games (all PC releases).

> They want SteamOS to restructure the console market like Android did with the mobile market.

Makes me wonder when MS will complain that SteamOS is free just like how they complain Android is free.


Given their investment in Xbox, they complain about it yesterday

The hardware manufacturers will love having a chance to compete with consoles in the living room. It opens up an entirely new revenue stream for them. They'll be marketing this new hardware, and helping to push it into homes. For example, DELL running a marketing campaign, 'Faster than a Playstation 4, more games than an Xbox One, and half the price. Check out the new 2016 Dell Steam Machines.'

'In a few years any SteamMachine for 300$ will easily outperform PS4/XBone.'

Uhh, do you have any support for this claim?

moore's law? Or more specifically, look at charts of cpu/$, gpu/$ memory/$ and flash/$ over time. They all go down over time.

I'm pretty sure there's the same distinction today, where a ~$500 console is more graphically powerful than a ~$500 general-purpose computer. I don't think that you're going to see that price point move very much 'in a few years'. The better case for the SteamMachine is in whatever streaming capabilities it will have. I venture to say that most people who care about bleeding-edge graphics probably have their own custom boxes already, and if Valve can port that over to the living room they'll really have hit a home run.

Have you been around the tech world in the last at few years?

Current gen consoles came out in '05-'06, by 2008 a strong having pc could easily be built to surpass them in abilities (strong gaming PC - ~1000$). By 2010 that goal was achievable on a more sane budget (let's say 600$).

Now you want to say: "hey z999! You said 300$ in a few years!, this is 600$ in five years!". Yes, but the next gen console are much less powerful compared to the market than what the current gen console were compared to the market in 2005. Remember how the PS3 cost 600$ and the Xbox was 500$ (I'm not certain on the Xbox price, it could have been 400$)? Well, next green consul mess know that there is no reason to lose money on hardware because that doesn't win the race, meaning they are probably equivalent to a 1000$ PC TODAY, so following the past trends we will easily see HSA arcade of equivalent power in the 300$-400$ bracket.

"Can I download the OS to try it out? You will be able to download it (including the source code, if you're into that)"

So it will be open source...

Since SteamOS is Linux and they're distributing it, they have to. This doesn't mean that any of the Valve applications running on top of it will be open source. I don't expect them to be.

The question is about "SteamOS" however, not the kernel. That means that the userland might be open source as well (like android). Actually it's a must if they want people to actually port their OS to a wide range of hardware.

That being said Steam (the app) will obviously remain closed source.

Is there any reason to suspect that the SteamOS userland isn't the same (or at least very similar) to what you'd have on Ubuntu? It seems like asking for trouble to go with a completely custom userland (even if they open source it).

What userland is there? It runs startx and launches Steam Big Picture, right?

And right there you're going to need a sizeable chunk of X windows, and a C library, and network configuration utilities, hardware management tools (looks like this is aimed at commodity hardware + reference machines from Valve) and the guts of a web browser and Steam itself. I wouldn't be totally surprised to find coreutils or at least busybox in the default install too, for aiding and abetting system initialising (and to please the intrepid few who somehow make their way to a command line).

Sure, not contending there is userland, just wondering if there is any interesting userland that Valve develops. They won't be open sourcing steam, so the fact that they release their build of X windows that is exactly the same as upstream isn't very interesting.

I hope it won't use X. The sooner we can get rid of X, the better.

Problem is, we now have 2 (maybe more?) would be replacements, and I'm sure there are more to come. Obligatory XKCD reference: http://xkcd.com/927/

"Am I going to be using a mouse and a keyboard in the living-room? If you want. But Steam and SteamOS work well with gamepads, too. Stay tuned, though - we have some more to say very soon on the topic of input."

Sounds like the next announcement is likely to be a controller then

If there was ever a good case for eyebrow dismissal it is that.

This is non announcement. They didn't tell anything. Except some weird beta test on unspecified hardware.

It'll be interesting to hear if AMD's announcement today has anything to do with this.


>> Make 10 Steam friends (if you haven't already)

Are there any HN groups on Steam? If I try to create a group named Hacker News, it's already in use. If I try to find it, no results found :-)

Just hop on here [1] and jump to the end of the thread. View profile of 10 people & add them. Should take only a minute.

[1] http://steamcommunity.com/groups/steamuniverse/discussions/0...

I don't know about any HN groups or what not, but reddit has http://www.reddit.com/r/SteamFriend if you're in need of more people.

Right now when it comes to computers, there is an implicit monopoly. There is only 1 company on the planet that supplies both their own hardware and an operating system of their own bundled with it. This company is Apple. Because they supply both hardware and software, they can sell a "complete experience" to customers who, quite frankly, will lap up anything they hear about computers and their 'black magic'.

But Valve are about to change this.

The so called Steambox announced a day or so ago is now going to be in direct competition with Apple's own devices as Valve can now offer this "complete experience" package too. If you want to know why this is so important you only need to realise that the term "Mac" for most people refers not only to the computer itself, but to the operating system also. No other company has anything that comes close to this, but soon Valve will, and the more time passes and the more people get accustomed to the range of available Steamboxes, the most ground Valve will gain, and the more Apple will lose.

I'm a tiny bit concerned.

    Can I download the OS to try it out?
    You will be able to download it (including the source code, if you're into that) but not yet.
Open source os. Hardware partners for devices. Sound familiar? >_> android.

So, when I buy a samsung steambox it's going to come with its own BallsWiz UI customization as they try to differentiate isnt it?

Similarly it means that a group of consumers could work together and create a great build to use (eg Cyanogen Mod).

As long as we can install our own OS it'll be fine.

So, according to the last answer, the 3rd announcement will probably be about a gamepad or an input device of sorts. That's a bummer. I know it was very unlikely, but HL3 announcement would have made me so happy. I'm still hopeful though, since it's been confirmed that Source 2 is in the works. Valve usually shows off their new engine with a new HL game.

While HL3 would be an awesome announcement, it doesn't seem highly relevant to SteamOS. I'm sure if anything, they'll release HL3 as a Steam-exclusive game as a launch title.

From the sounds of it they're producing multiple different machines.

I can imagine it being like this

1) Top of the range high spec machine running SteamOS (£500-£600) 2) Medium spec machine running SteamOS (£250-£400) 3) Basic machine running SteamOS that's designed for people who just want to stream games from their Desktop PC into their living room (£60-£120)

Why on earth have they not called the hardware "Steam Engine" instead of these strange other names?

Maybe they are saving that for their Unity3D competitor :)

I really like this theory. Seems to me that if Friday's announcement isn't a game reveal, it'll instead be Source Engine 2 and a possible Unity competitor. This would make a lot of sense if Valve is serious about getting developers on board for their SteamMachine/Linux/cross-platform strategy.

Valve has already announced the OS and hardware, dev tools could be next.

They really like "Steam Machine" off Human After All, and they're looking forward to using it in a marketing campaign?

Strange names are much easier to search for.

Their company is called "Valve" ;)

And they have software named Steam and a game named Half-Life.

The top Google hits for all of those things (depending on how Google rates what kind of consumer you are) are not Valve's products. They seem to do fine, though.

So the only thing I learned from this is that its not a SteamBox, it is a SteamMachine.

This naming saddened me, maybe in part from remembering the awesomeness that was OrangeBox.


This cought my eye: > Can I download the OS to try it out? You will be able to download it (including the source code, if you're into that) but not yet.

Wondering if that'd include their entire product in source code? probably not, aye?

Well it's built on top of Linux so it would only make sense. Plus they seem eager to get people to hack it, so why not? Can't hurt their business either way, they still own Steam as a store.

Almost assuredly not, since their DRM is a big part of their platform. They may include pieces of it, though.

Isn't most of their DRM encryption based? I mean, it's not all that restrictive, and it's quite possible that simply seeing the code for the DRM would not be enough to circumvent it. I think other companies would have a problem, but I don't think valve is probably one of of them. I could be wrong though.

Preorder delivery is encrypted, yeah. However, they also have bits in Steam-delivered games that can check for a valid Steam session, terminate the game session if the Steam session is lost, and the like. I don't think they'll be shipping some of those components because they wouldn't want to enable people building custom Steam installs that just stub out the DRM features.

While I agree that they will definitely not be releasing source for Steam, I doubt its for DRM reasons. As far as I can tell steamapi.DLL DRM is pretty thoroughly owned.

I wish they would follow Apple's lead and tightly control the hardware. It would make it easier for devs to test and consumers to make a choice. Apple's wildly successful with their iPhone business model. Please try to avoid the fragmentation issues with Android. Windows already owns the home PC market, why go after it?

> It would make it easier for devs to test and consumers to make a choice.

A choice of one is no choice at all

>Apple's wildly successful with their iPhone business model.

Have you seen the mobile market share? Android is king.

Yes, I will admit that. Android is king with lots of devices running old versions. Google is trying to wrestle control of OS updates away from the HW manufacturers and Valve has to try to avoid that. Also the choice is SteamBox vs XBOne, PS4, WiiU. Better to have one device to focus all marketing and development efforts on than try the Windows Everywhere tactic.

To add further: there is only one XBOne hw configuration, there is only one PS4 hw configuration, there is only one WiiU hw configuration. Does Valve think it knows better?

There are $BIGNUM PC configurations, which Valve currently provides games and gaming platform services for.

I'm gonna say "Yes, they do know better".

> It would make it easier for [...] consumers to make a choice.

Because no choice is as easy as no choice?

Marketing in the guise of a beta/prototype program. Google seems to have been pretty successful doing with Glass and I'm sure there were prior examples.

In any case, I'm pretty much guaranteed to buy the finished product. What little gaming I've done for the past 4 years or so has been almost exclusively via Steam.

I'm rather skeptical about their in-home streaming option. In a world where games are buying LCDs to minimize input lag, what kind of a performance are they expecting from streaming a game over LAN?

I'm interested in knowing how this streaming is going to work. Is this similar to VNC?

I don't think that applies to the majority of gamers. In fact, I bet most gamers don't even know what input lag is.

I'm more concerned with the prospect of needing to buy both a PC and a Steambox to play games.

>needing to buy

That's a non issue. Valve would be stupid to start making Linux only games. The SteamMachine is for people who would want to play pc games in their living room but who don't have a PC anywhere close to connect it to the tv.

So now, they can get the Steam Machine. But since Linux based games on Steam are still a minority, people might say they don't want that "console" if it doesn't have much games so Valve set it up that you can stream every windows based game from your pc that can be anywhere in your home via lan to your SteamMachine.

Now they need a pusher, to get SteamMachines and SteamOs on the market. Half Life 3 confirmed?

>Half Life 3 confirmed?

If you take the time of the announcement (in seconds elapsed since midnight, March 14th 1993), divided by the amount of letters in the FAQ, and then find the square root of the resulting number, you get 3!

Seriously though, are you suggesting that HL3 will only be released (even for a short while) the SteamOS? I agree it's possible, but I think that would piss all kinds of people off due to it obviously being a marketing ploy.

I would imagine a more likely option for them are discounts for various games on the platform for a few weeks.

but I think that would piss all kinds of people off due to it obviously being a marketing ploy.

You mean like HL2 and the original steam release?

Everyone has short memories. I remember the uproar when that was announced... Followed by us all dealing with it and getting steam.

Gosh I miss CS1.5

Or the original Halo on the first Xbox. If I remember correctly that game alone promoted the console for a lot of customers. Valve could give HL3 a head start of a couple of months on SteamOS and release it on other platforms after that. It would be less annoying that being fully exclusive. Besides, all the PC gamers could just go and dual boot SteamOS on they PC. It's free after all.


just in case: kk it is still funny :p

Heh, there's still time, you never know! Perhaps Friday's announcement is a cold HL3 product launch.

With Rift support?

At first I thought this will have to do something with steam powered machines[1]

[1] http://1stclass.mylargescale.com/scottychaos/steam_washingto...

Bah, I thought the link was about real steam machines, who cares about a game platform...

That doesn't seem like a large enough beta and it really only targets PC gamers. I would think that they would want to be trying to capture console gamer share rather than existing PC gamers.

I think that they're just playing it a little safe. If Valve can't convince me to buy a steam machine, despite the large steam library which I'd be able to play on it, how are they going to convince my XBox playing cousins, who would have to buy all new games.

Some of the biggest fiascos in gaming have come when company took its fans for granted while trying to expand into a new market (e.g. Ultima 8). The usual result is losing your existing base while not building a new one. Once Valve is sure that the PC gamers are on board, who should be their easiest sell, they'll start going after the console players.

Why wouldn't they beta with existing Steam users who use their Steam accounts in the living room?

I think one of the point is to make existing PC gamers to buy controller for their Machine and use it, creating a big enough people with controller as a leverage when dealing with publishers and developer to include controller support in their games.

Or more importantly, to make it easier for the console game makers to port to Steam box since the controller will be the primary input device anyway.

It makes a lot more sense if you consider it less of a testing-to-make-sure-stuff-works beta and more of a let's-generate-publicity beta

Seem to me the opposite, they are targeting existing steam users, evident by the streaming option and portable library.

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