Batman: Arkham Knight Being Re-Released on PC October 28

Subject: General Tech | October 25, 2015 - 02:54 AM |
Tagged: warner bros, steam, release, re-release, pc gaming, batman arkham knight

Four months after being pulled from sale due to performance woes, Batman: Arkham Knight is being re-released for PC (along with a new patch containing all of the fixes) on October 28.

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Image credit: Warner Bros.

From the official statement:

At 10 am PDT, Oct. 28th, Batman: Arkham Knight will be re-released for the PC platform. At the same time we’ll also be releasing a patch that brings the PC version fully up-to-date with content that has been released for console (with the exception of console exclusives).

This means that next week, all PC players will have access to Photo Mode, Big Head Mode, Batman: Arkham Asylum Batman Skin, and character selection in combat AR challenges.”

After such a terrible introduction and long absence after its unprecedented removal from sale on Steam, is there any chance Warner Bros. will still attempt to charge full price for the re-released game? Such a move might be considered controversial, but we will have to wait and see as pricing was not announced.

Valve Says (External) Ads in Steam Are "Just Dumb"

Subject: General Tech | October 16, 2015 - 11:21 PM |
Tagged: valve, steam

Of course, this quote doesn't include things like promotional images for games. It's a store, so it will promote its products. This is referring to like, Doritos. In response to Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation integrating ads in their service, Valve said that it doesn't make sense for Steam. It might make some short-term money, but it doesn't bring value to the user, it could harm the long-term relationship with the user, and it probably doesn't even sell Doritos.

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Doesn't go with Mountain Dew.

In my opinion, it doesn't really matter. An ad-free Steam is nice, but I don't feel it would that it would affect me much as a user (although that would need to be actually measured to be a valid data point). I also think that its lack of effect is a fallacy. When surveyed, the vast majority of people believe that advertisements don't work on them, or just let them know that products exist. They're wrong.

I do believe that it would affect their long term brand perception with customers in general, though. Several brands have tried to get involved in gaming platforms and events, and the inevitable ads and product placement get ridiculed. It makes sense that Valve would avoid that, especially since their brand is what's keeping them on par with their competitors.

What do you think, though? Do you believe that you would mind? Or would you just shrug and ignore them (unless they're obnoxious)?

Source: GameSpot

Steam "Store Within a Store" at GameStop, GAME UK, and EB

Subject: Systems | October 5, 2015 - 11:39 PM |
Tagged: valve, steam os, steam machines, steam, pc gaming

According to SteamDB, Valve has struck deals with GameStop, GAME UK, and EB Canada to create “store within a store” areas in North American and UK locations. The article does not clarify how many of stores will receive this treatment. It does note that Steam Controller, Steam Link, and even Steam Machines will be sold from these outlets, which will give physical presence to Valve's console platform alongside the existing ones.

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The thing about Valve is that, when they go silent, you can't tell whether they reconsidered their position, or they just are waiting for the right time to announce. They have been fairly vocal about Steam accessories, but the machines themselves have been pretty much radio silence for the better part of a year. There was basically nothing at CES 2015 after a big push in the prior year. The talk shifted to Steam Link, which was obviously part of their original intention but, due to the simultaneous lack of Steam Machine promotion, feels more like a replacement than an addition.

But, as said, that's tricky logic to use with Valve.

As a final note, I am curious about what the transaction entailed. From what I hear, purchasing retail space is pricey and difficult, but some retailers donate space for certain products and initiatives that they find intrinsic value in. Valve probably has a lot money, but they don't have Microsoft levels of cash. Whether Valve paid for the space, or the retailers donated it, is question that leads to two very different, but both very interesting in their own way, follow-ups. Hopefully we'll learn more, but we probably won't.

Source: SteamDB

More Movies on Steam

Subject: General Tech | September 23, 2015 - 11:01 AM |
Tagged: valve, steam, pc gaming, movies

Valve has been dipping their toes into distributing non-games on Steam for quite a while. Gabe Newell at LinuxCon 2013 said that they are dissatisfied with families needing to manage multiple content silos, and they would like everything to be accessible everywhere. This can be interpreted as a “situation: there are now 15 competing standards” environment, but it seems to be more in the context of “I have all my content on my PC, why can't I bring it into my own living room?”

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We later saw this manifest as Steam In-Home Streaming for PC games. For videos, according to the Streaming Video on Steam FAQ, “In-home streaming is not currently supported”. Still, this seems like it will be their method of getting this content out to arbitrary displays in the future. Also, I have to wonder how Valve's historical practice of distributing purchases made from other stores will play into this whole situation.

For now, Valve has been adding more and more content to their service. It started with a few documentaries and low-budget films, including a video from the publisher of the game Hotline Miami. Now we are seeing the Mad Max franchise including the summer film, Mad Max: Fury Road available on the service. Steam doesn't need to have every movie right now if it wants to survive. They don't have to justify their actions to a board. They do, and they experiment with how it works and why.

Source: Valve

Happy Sesquimillenial Linux Game, Valve and Steam

Subject: General Tech | September 21, 2015 - 01:21 AM |
Tagged: linux, pc gaming, steam

While the number of games doesn't exactly mean much in isolation, a large amount of them have been making their way to Linux recently. Valve's first-party library is an obvious addition, as they have been jaded with Windows since 8.x scared just about anyone interested in back catalog support with their “Desktop as an App” attempts to isolate the Win32 APIs. Other developers have been following suit, especially since engines are being designed cross-platform as of late.

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Milestones can be interesting, though. In this case, Steam crossed the 1,500 mark in games for Linux that are hosted on its service. Some equate this to “there exists 1500 games for Linux”, which isn't quite right, but the distribution platform is definitely a behemoth in the industry. It is the default way to purchase many new titles, and is a Linux host for ARK: Survival Evolved and Shadow of Mordor.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find anyone who listed what the 1500th title was. Sorry!

Source: Phoronix

OMGChad Talks Steam Controller with Robin Walker

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | September 14, 2015 - 12:53 AM |
Tagged: valve, Steam Controller, steam

As far as I can tell, this video is not from a larger organization. I sent OMGChad a tweet to verify that he was at PAX as an independent YouTube personality, but I didn't get a response. I couldn't recognize the intro bumper, and it didn't seem to be in use on any of his other videos, or any other PAX video that I could find, but it seemed like a significant amount of work for a one-off. If someone in the comments knows anything, be sure to leave a note.

Update, Sept 14th, 2015: OMGChad has just responded to my tweet. He was there "for myself and @MindcrackLP". Again, it's a minor point, but it's something that I should get correct if possible.

As for the story, OMGChad talks with Robin Walker, the man who takes responsibility for all the hats in TF2, about the Steam Controller in Alienware's booth at PAX Prime 2015. After several delays, the input device is scheduled to launch on November 10th (which will be a busy day apparently). It has changed significantly over time, with early prototypes even playing around with a touch screen. The two touch pads, while markers on them have changed from concentric rings to a cross on the left and nothing on the right, were relatively close to their original concept.

Robin Walker goes over the main design decisions and what rationale led to them. For instance, the reason for the grips on the back is because they found that people were taking their thumbs off of the view stick for just a couple of actions, such as reload or “use”. He also discusses the dual-stage triggers, which have a button at the end for secondary actions (like a nitro boost at the end of your throttle). It is somewhat expected that a representative for a company selling a controller would highlight what makes their product unique, but it's nice to have that extra behind-the-scenes insight.

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The Steam Controller will launch on November 10th for $49.99 USD ($59.99 CDN). There was an option to pre-order to get it early, but the early batch is over so -- let's be honest -- you don't need me to tell you what you already did.

Source: OMGChad

Valve Steam Controller Pre-order Is Dated... Twice.

Subject: General Tech, Systems | June 5, 2015 - 08:22 PM |
Tagged: valve, steam link, Steam Controller, steam

So, if a company says “a limited quantity of orders will be shipped on October 16th, weeks in advance of our official launch”... does that mean October 16th is its release date? What about its official launch date of November 10th? Also, why am I trying to make sense of time when the subject is Valve?

Either way, the new Steam Controller has been put up for pre-order and given a release date. The input device will sell for $50 USD, $59.99 CDN, or £40 GBP depending obviously on where you are. It also has a finalized design that is very similar to the Xbox layout, with thumbpads replacing the d-pad and right analog stick. Going to the device's Steam page will send you to a gaming retailer to make the pre-order (wat???). I get EB Games, because I'm Canadian, while Americans get GameStop, which is the same company anyway.

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Unlike previous Steam Controller designs, the left thumbpad is shaped like a cross, which I would like to see used as a d-pad because most PC controllers that I've used are either terrible at it, or are horrible at everything else. The video also uses the left thumbpad as a scroll mechanism, but I wonder what other functionality Valve allows because I have yet to find a single mouse driver that can do everything. For instance, Razer's is unable to record mouse scroll (up, down, left, or right) events in macros.

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The rear of the controller is very interesting. The main trigger is analog up to the end, which is a tactile switch. These can be bound to independent actions, although you will obviously need to have the maximum analog command play well with the click command. The given possibility is for first person shooters where you use the analog part to bring up your iron sights while you fire with the click. I could also imagine a racing game where the throttle is analog and clicking at the end activates a boost. There are also buttons in the grips for your ring and pink finger to activate. It also looks like there's shoulder buttons above the triggers, but I can't quite tell. This would basically yield six shoulder buttons, along with all of the face inputs, which is about the max that I could imagine.

The official launch is November 10th, but a pre-release run is shipping on October 16th. The Steam Link is supposedly also available at the same time for the same price, which is basically a streaming target for Steam on the TV.

Source: Valve

Steam Allows Refunds

Subject: General Tech | June 4, 2015 - 01:23 AM |
Tagged: steam, valve

Valve has added a refund policy to Steam. They say that they do not care about the reason, but there are obviously restrictions including a blanket “abuse” clause that lawyers love. First and foremost, the refund must be done within fourteen days of purchase or two hours of game time. If you feel that your circumstance is an edge-case, even if you are outside these windows, you are free to ask for a refund anyway and Valve will take a look at it. Pre-purchasing is not considered a sale until the game launches, but “Early Access” has not been addressed. I assume Valve would handle that on a case-by-case basis. Valve says that refunds will be processed within a week.

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This system is very similar to EA/Origin's refund policy, with a few obvious differences. First, EA's policy only considers “participating third parties”, although they fully put their money where their mouth is with their own catalog. EA's policy lasts seven days, while Valve's last fourteen. On the other hand, EA allows returns within the first 24 hours of launch, while Valve counts the first two hours of execution, seemingly regardless of how long that takes to happen.

We're hearing a bit of concerns from developers, especially those who create quick experiences. That's a bit of a hot-button issue, but I feel as though it is something that you will need to agree to in order to ship on Steam. Honestly, I expect that users will overwhelmingly not request a refund unless they feel slighted, even for a short game. It's a pretty convoluted way to pirate a game, for a brief time, and runs the risk of Valve cutting off the account from refund requests under the “Abuse” clause.

A final note: Valve will officially support refunds for titles purchased just before a sale. If you buy a game, and it goes on sale within the refund window, you can return it and re-purchase it at the sale price.

Source: Valve

GDC 15: Valve Shows Off $50 Steam Link Game Streaming Box

Subject: General Tech | March 4, 2015 - 09:31 PM |
Tagged: GDC, valve, streaming box, Steam Box, steam, pc game streaming, gaming, gdc 2015

Valve has slowly but surely been working on its living room gaming initiative. Despite the slow progress (read: Valve time), Steam Machines are still a thing and a new bit of hardware called the “Steam Link” will allow you to stream all of your Steam content from your computers and Steam Machines to your TV over a local network. Slated for a November launch, the Steam Link is a $49.99 box that can be paired with a Steam Controller for another $49.99.

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Valve has revealed little about the internals or specific features of the Steam Link. We do know that it can tap into Valve’s Steam In-Home Streaming technology to stream your PC games to your TV and output it at 1080p 60Hz (no word on specific latency numbers but the wired connection is promising). The box is tiny, looking to be less than half of a NUC (and much shorter) with sharp angles and one rounded corner hosting the Steam logo. Two USB ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, a HDMI output, and an AC power jack sit on the rear of the device with a third USB port located on the left side of the Steam Link.

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In all, the Steam Link looks like a promising device so long as Valve can get it out the door in time, especially with so many competing streaming technologies hitting the market. I’m looking forward to more details and getting my hands one later this year.

GDC 15: ZOTAC Announces the SN970 Steam Machine - Powered by a GTX 970M and Intel Skylake CPU

Subject: Systems | March 4, 2015 - 05:11 AM |
Tagged: Skylake, zotac, valve, SteamOS, Steam Machine, steam, gdc 2015, gdc 15, GDC, GTX 970M

Favor a steamier TV gaming experience? ZOTAC has announced a new Steam Machine on the eve of Valve’s presentation at GDC on Wednesday.

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The SN970 presumably gets its name from the GTX 970M mobile GPU within, and this does the heavy lifting along with an unspecified 6th-generation Intel (Skylake) CPU. The massive amount of HDMI outputs (there are 4 HDMI 2.0 ports!) is pretty impressive for a small device like this, and dual Gigabit Ethernet ports are a premium feature as well.

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There's a lot going on back here - the rear I/O of the ZOTAC SN970

Here's the rundown of features and specs from ZOTAC:

Key Features

  • SteamOS preloaded
  • NVIDIA GeForce® GTX 970M MXM graphics
  • 4 x HDMI 2.0, supports 4K UHD @ 60Hz

Specifications

  • 6th Gen Intel Processor
  • NVIDIA GeForce® GTX 970M 3GB GDDR5
  • 8GB DDR3 SODIMM
  • 64GB M.2 SSD
  • 1 x HDMI in
  • 2D/3D NVIDIA Surround
  • Dual Gigabit Ethernet
  • 4 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0
  • 1 x 2.5” 1TB HDD
  • 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0
  • Mic-In, Stereo Out
  • SD/SDHC/SDXC Card Reader

The release for this new Steam Box isn't specified, but we will be doubtless be hearing more from Valve and their partners tomorrow so stay tuned!

Source: ZOTAC