Microsoft Hires Jason Holtman (ex-Valve) for PC Gaming.

Subject: General Tech | August 15, 2013 - 08:09 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, valve, xbox, pc gaming

A half of a year, almost to the day, passed since Valve removed two dozen employees. Jason Holtman, then Director of Business for Valve, was among those released. Despite the flat-by-design corporate structure, with even game credits listed alphabetically versus title and department, Holtman is considered key to the success of Steam.

And now Microsoft acquired him.

gfwl.png

Games for Windows has not been a success. Microsoft Game Studios, and even Microsoft Hardware, had high respect in the PC gaming industry with extremely popular franchises and lines of peripherals. Their image has since regressed far enough for Microsoft to give up, two years ago, and roll Games for Windows into the Xbox brand.

As Microsoft fell, Valve climbed. Steam, largely credited to efforts by Jason Holtman, distributes games for basically every major publisher. It has a respected position on the hard drive of gamers which is an enviable feat. The Windows Store has not received any uptake. Microsoft feels the need to change that and, it would seem by accepting the job, Holtman believes he can accomplish that.

I do wonder how Microsoft will be influenced by this hire. The major concern with Windows Store is its certification process and I doubt anything will change on that front. I expect the hope is his contributions to publisher relationships but he might also, on the side, induce change in visible ways.

Source: VR-Zone

The International 3 Tournament: Watch, DOTAuanna?

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | August 7, 2013 - 03:52 PM |
Tagged: DOTA 2, valve

Valve has just commenced, with the first match setting up and taking place (between teams Na'Vi and Orange) as I type, the third iteration of their giant DOTA 2 tournament: The International 3.

The prize pool, starting at 1.6 million dollars, is increased by $2.50 for each $9.99 tournament Compendum sold. Almost 500,000 were sold by this point yielding a purse of $2.84 million USD; the prize for first place, alone, is currently $1.42 million USD. This continues The International's trend of being among the most lucrative video game tournaments, almost doubling Blizzard's 2013 StarCraft II World Championship Series which are also along this weekend.

The live Twitch stream, ignoring fans at the venue and cheering from a variety of pubs, currently distributes to 154,000 viewers. Check out their website to watch live, check the schedule, and view past results. The tournament will continue until Sunday. The first match will begin just a minute or two after this publishes.

Source: Valve

Source Engine 2? Left 4 Dead 3? Numbers? Valve?

Subject: General Tech | August 7, 2013 - 02:56 AM |
Tagged: valve, Source 2, L4D3

Valve is a secretive company and it is rare, but possible, to get a leak out of them.

Left4Dead2.jpg

How does Valve count to 3? On their fingers first, apparently.

Now, once they know, practice it for the next half of their life.

PC Gamer was lucky. A portion of Valve's corporate changelog was photographed and somehow made its way into their possession. Due to the condition of their picture, more commonly known as "low resolution and bad", I am guessing someone was... phoning it in... at work that day. A couple of entries are a little more serious than I am:

valvechangelog.png

Pardon the ugliness and eyebleed: my attempt is to make text more visible.

Click to make larger or check out the original at PC Gamer.

Update: Or, thanks to one of our readers, a *much* better version at imgur.

  • [Source2] Changed typedef for ENTITYFUNCPTR to point to a CEntityInstance member instead of a CB...
  • [Source2] Changed L4D3's test_networking unit test to use the devtest level again. Ran assert-free...
  • [Source2] Restored L4D3's devtest unit test. Ran locally 6 times without an assert. There may be an...

Looking into patterns, I would expect that all changes tagged with the yellow "2" refer to a Source Engine 2 change. If true, that would add the following four entries, alongside the above three, referring to Valve's next-generation of video game engines.

  • Getting VScript running on the client: Created tier4 interface VSCRIPT_SERVICE_INTERFACE_CLIEN...
  • Auto-submit of game binaries - built from revision 1858395... Changes included in this submit: Chang...
  • Auto-submit of game binaries - built from revision 1858344... Changes included in this submit: Chang...
  • Added model_editor support for creating a blank vagrp->SplitQC translator into own file in model...

I have the feeling that a few little nuggets can be extracted from these entries if left to the crowd. First and foremost, Valve is a very productive company; these entries illustrate just an hour of development time. Valve caffeine consumption aside, production of Left 4 Dead 3 seems to be ramped up to a decent level. They are at the point of testing networking code modules which, I expect, occurs after the prototyping phase.

Have any reading to add from these tea leaves?

Source: PC Gamer

L4D2 Beta Coming to Steam For Linux This Week

Subject: General Tech | April 29, 2013 - 07:25 AM |
Tagged: valve, steam for linux, steam, pc gaming, linux, l4d2, beta

Users of Valve’s Steam for Linux client will be getting access to the beta version of Left 4 Dead 2 later this week. The L4D2 beta will come with the new Enhanced Mutation System (EMS), which adds advanced scripting options to the multiplayer zombie survival game.

In fact, all Left 4 Dead owners will get access to the new beta release via the Steam client (not just the Linux platform) for free. The beta will appear in the all games list as a separate download from the main Left 4 Dead 2 game. It will allow beta players to connect to beta servers and other L4D2 beta users.

L4D2 Beta with EMS.jpg

The EMS system is the biggest addition to the beta currently. It gives developers access to custom script logic as well as custom spawn points and control entities. New maps, characters, and weapons are beyond the scope of the EMS, however.

Interested gamers should keep an eye on their Steam games list as well as the Left 4 Dead blog.

Source: L4D.com

Xi3's SFF PISTON Gaming Console Now Available for Pre-Order

Subject: General Tech | March 27, 2013 - 12:06 AM |
Tagged: Xi3, valve, Steam Box, piston, pc gaming, gaming

It may or may not be Valve's Steam Box, but Xi3 is the closest thing to a small form factor PC gaming console running Steam on the radar so far. The Xi3 PISTON is now up for pre-order with an intended holiday 2013 launch.

The PISTON starts at $899 and increases in price from there depending on the amount of internal storage included. Basic specifications of the Piston include an AMD APU (likely the A10-4600M) clocked at 2.3GHz (3.2GHz turbo), Radeon 7660G processor graphics (384 shaders), 8GB of DDR3 RAM, and a 128GB solid state drive. For an extra $340, Xi3 will swap in a 256GB SSD, and for $750 the company will include a 512GB option. Of course, that would bring the price of the living room TV up to $1649, which is far from cheap.

Xi3 PISTON.jpg

For that kind of money you could build a much more powerful mid tower that could actually run Steam games at 1080p with all the details cranked up. The Xi3 box will be lucky to average 30FPS at 1080p with the latest games. With that said, it is a start and I hope to see continued development of these "Steam Box-esque PCs. Hopefully once mass production, competing options, and economies of scale kick in, consumers will be able to get their hands on cheaper Steam Boxes!

If you can't wait for the official Steam Box, however, you can head over to the Xi3 website to reserve your own PISTON.

Source: Xi3

Steam Box Prototypes Will Reach Developers Within The Next Four Months

Subject: General Tech | March 8, 2013 - 05:26 AM |
Tagged: valve, Steam Box, steam, pc gaming, gaming, console, big picture mode

In talking with the BBC, Valve CEO Gabe Newell revealed several details regarding the company’s upcoming Steam Box gaming PC. The console competitor will go up against Sony’s PlayStation 4 (PS4) and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 successor. So far we know that the Steam Box will utilize Valve’s Steam distribution service and its Big Picture Mode user interface. Valve will be manufacturing its own reference design, but third parties will also be allowed to construct Steam Boxes that will tap into Valve’s gaming library. Xi3 in particular looks to be at least one of the likely Steam Box partners to produce hardware.

Newell indicated that Valve would be sending prototype devices to customers within “the next three to four months.” The designs are not yet finalized, however, as evidenced by Newell’s statement that the prototypes would be used to gather feedback, and Valve is still working on balancing heat, noise, and performance.

“We're working with partners trying to nail down how fast we can make it.” - Gabe Newell in an interview with BBC before receiving an award for Portal 2.

Further, Valve has not yet determined exactly what it wants the controller to be. It will reportedly be shipping several different prototype controllers along with the Steam Box PCs. One area that Newell is particularly interesting in is in gathering bio-metric data -- such as heart rate -- and using that data to change the game experience for the gamer. This would be one area that Valve could focus on and have an advantage over other consoles. As a fully-fledged PC, the Steam Box could tap into existing bio-metrics technology and easily have the horsepower to effectively parse the bio-feedback. I can only think of a few situations in which such data would be useful (horror games, party/dancing/exercise games), but I do see it as being at least as beneficial as the Kinect was/is to the Xbox.

With that said, we still do not know much about the Steam Box. Much like the PS4, we still do not know what the actual hardware will look like (though we have at least been shown the PS4 controller). Pricing is also one of the major unknowns, and BBC reporter Leo Kelion quoted an industry analyst Lewis Ward (IDC) as noting that Valve will likely not be able to subsidize the hardware nearly as much as the other major console players (Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo) are able to. The Steam Box is inevitably going to be priced more in like with PCs than with consoles, as a result. On the other hand, gamers that buy a Steam Box can look forward to getting games that are much cheaper than the console equivalents. Give Steam Box gamers a couple of Steam holiday sales and they will easily make up the price difference!

What do you expect the Steam Box to be, and will it finally take PC gaming to the masses?

Source: BBC

CES 2013: Valve Announces Steam Box Not Announced in '13

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | January 9, 2013 - 02:44 PM |
Tagged: CES, ces 2013, valve, Steam Box

CES opened with excitement from Xi3 Corporation and their announcement of the Piston. When Gabe Newell spoke with Kotaku at the VGAs he said that we would see Big Picture PCs this year. With word that Xi3 received funding from Valve some of us, including myself, wondered if this Piston was Valve’s “Nexus” Steam Box.

Ben Krasnow, hardware engineer at Valve, comments in the video below about whether we have seen Valve’s canonical Steam Box or if there are any planned announcements for 2013.

Thank you Ben.

There seems to be some discrepancies between statements from Krasnow and Valve Managing Director, Gabe Newell. The major deviation concerns whether the official Steam Box will be based on Linux or another operating system. When interviewed by The Verge, Gabe Newell claimed the official box will be based on Linux with no unclear terms:

We’ll come out with our own and we’ll sell it to consumers by ourselves. That’ll be a Linux box, [and] if you want to install Windows you can. We’re not going to make it hard. This is not some locked box by any stretch of the imagination.

Krasnow in an email discussion with Engadget was somewhat more timid in future plans. The Engadget article was published on the same day as the The Verge interview which makes neither position particularly out of date. His statement:

"The box might be linux-based, but it might not," he continued. "It's true that we are beta-testing Left for Dead 2 on Linux, and have also been public about Steam Big Picture Mode. We are also working on virtual and augmented reality hardware, and also have other hardware projects that have not been disclosed yet, but probably will be in 2013."

At the same point this might all become irrelevant very quickly. As reported yesterday, Gabe Newell in the very same interview seemed to strongly suggest that post-Kepler GPUs will bring virtualization to the consumer market. If that is the case, then the only barrier between Linux and Windows would be for a company to provide a user-friendly virtual machine. Having your host operating system as one or the other would not particularly matter if the user could run gaming applications from the other platform.

Coverage of CES 2013 is brought to you by AMD!

PC Perspective's CES 2013 coverage is sponsored by AMD.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Engadget

CES 2013: The Verge Interviews Gave Newell for Steam Box. Valve's Director Hints Post-Kepler GPUs Can Be Virtualized!

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards, Networking, Systems, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2013 - 11:11 PM |
Tagged: valve, gaben, Gabe Newell, ces 2013, CES

So the internet has been in a roar about The Steam Box and it probably will eclipse Project Shield as topic of CES 2013. The Verge scored an interview to converse about the hardware future of the company and got more than he asked for.

Gaben.jpg

Now if only he would have discussed potential launch titles.

Wow! That *is* a beautiful knife collection.

The point which stuck with me most throughout the entire interview was directed at Valve’s opinion of gaming on connected screens. Gabe Newell responded,

The Steam Box will also be a server. Any PC can serve multiple monitors, so over time, the next-generation (post-Kepler) you can have one GPU that’s serving up eight simulateneous [sic] game calls. So you could have one PC and eight televisions and eight controllers and everybody getting great performance out of it. We’re used to having one monitor, or two monitors -- now we’re saying lets expand that a little bit.

This is pretty much confirmation, assuming no transcription errors on the part of The Verge, that Maxwell will support the virtualization features of GK110 and bring it mainstream. This also makes NVIDIA Grid make much more sense in the long term. Perhaps NVIDIA will provide some flavor of a Grid server for households directly?

The concept gets me particularly excited. One of the biggest wastes of money the tech industry has is purchasing redundant hardware. Consoles are a perfect example: not only is the system redundant to your other computational device which is usually at worst a $200 GPU away from a completely better experience, you pay for software to be reliant on that redundant platform which will eventually disappear along with said software. In fact, many have multiple redundant consoles because the list of software they desire is not localized to just one system so they need redundant redundancies. Oy!

A gaming server should help make the redundancy argument more obvious. If you need extra interfaces then you should only need to purchase the extra interfaces. Share the number crunching and only keep it up to date.

Also check out the rest of the interview over at The Verge. I decided just to cover a small point with potentially big ramifications.

Coverage of CES 2013 is brought to you by AMD!

PC Perspective's CES 2013 coverage is sponsored by AMD.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: The Verge

CES 2013: Valve Talks Piston, Better Listen. Steam Box!

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2013 - 02:06 PM |
Tagged: Xi3, valve, trinity, Steam Box, ces 2013, CES, amd

Going from a failed Kickstarter to Valve’s premier console? Sounds like a good anecdote to tell.

Valve has finally discussed the Steam Box in more concrete details. Get ready for some analysis; there are a bunch of hidden stories to be told. We will tell them.

Update for clarity: As discussed in IRC technically this was an Xi3 announcement that Valve will have at their booth but not an official Valve announcement. That said, Valve will have it at their booth and Valve funded Xi3.

Another Update for new information: Turns out this is not the Valve-official device. Ben Krasnow, Valve hardware engineer, made a statement that the official Steam Box is not planned to be announced in 2013. What we will see this year is 3rd Party implementations, and that should be it. News story to follow.

ValvePiston.jpg

Image by Engadget

As everyone is reporting, Valve hired out Xi3 Corporation to develop the Steam Box under the codename Piston. Xi3Corporation was founded in 2010 and revealed their first product at CES two years ago. In late September, Xi3 launched an unsuccessful Kickstarter to fund their latest designs: The X7A and the X3A.

The X7A Modular Computer is the most interesting as it seems to be what the Piston is based on. Regardless of the Kickstarter’s failure, Valve still reached out to Xi3 Corporation chequebook in hand. According to the Kickstarter page, the X7A has the following features:

  • 64-Bit Quad-Core x86 processor up to 3.2 GHz with 384 graphics shader cores.
    • My personal best guess is the AMD A10-4600M Trinity APU.
  • 8GB of DDR3 RAM
  • 1 TB of “Superfast” Solid State Memory
  • Four USB 3.0
  • Four USB 2.0
  • Four eSATAp
  • Gigabit E
  • 40Watt under load
  • “Under $1000” although that includes 1TB of SSD storage.
    • Also Valve could take a loss, because Steam has no problem with attach rate.

The key piece of information is the 40Watt declaration. According to Engadget who went hands-on with the Valve Piston, it too is rated for 40Watt under load. This means that it is quite likely for the core specifications of the Kickstarter to be very similar to the specifications of the Piston.

Benchmarks for the 7660G have the device running Far Cry 3 on low settings at around 34 FPS as well as Black Ops 2 running on Medium at 42 FPS. That said, with a specific hardware platform to target developers will be able to better optimize.

During the SpikeTV VGAs, Gabe Newell stated in an interview with Kotaku that third parties would also make “Steam Boxes”. They are expected to be available at some point in 2013.

Coverage of CES 2013 is brought to you by AMD!

PC Perspective's CES 2013 coverage is sponsored by AMD.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Engadget

Valve Opens Steam for Linux Beta to General Public

Subject: General Tech | December 28, 2012 - 03:32 AM |
Tagged: valve, ubuntu, steam, opengl, linux, gaming

Gamers were given an early holiday present last Friday when Valve announced it would be opening up its Steam for Linux beta to everyone. For the past few months the company has been testing out a version of its Steam client software intended to run on Ubuntu 12.04 Linux. Valve initially performed internal testing, and then proceeded to invite users to a closed beta. And now (finally), it seems that the company is comfortable enough with the applications stability that it can release it to the general public. While it is still very much beta software, it is actively being developed and improved.

Along with the move to a public beta, Valve is transitioning to GitHub to track changes and bug reports. Further, an apt repository is in the works, which should make installing and updating the Steam beta client easier, especially on non-Ubuntu distros (like Ubuntu forks). From the documentation available on the Steam website, it seems that apt-get install gdebi-coreand gdebi steam.debis still the preferred command line installation proceedure, however. 

Steam For Linux Beta.jpg

Further, Valve has fixed several issues in the latest Steam for Linux client. (Users that were in the closed beta will need to update). The company has improved the back navigation arrow placement and added discount timers and other UI tweaks to Big Picture Mode, for example. Valve has also fixed a bug concerning high CPU usage when playing Team Fortress 2 and an issue with the Steam overlay crashing while playing Cubemen.

Right now, the game selection is very limited, but the client itself is fairly stable. The traditional and Big Picture Mode UI are identical to the Windows version that many gamers are familiar with, which is good. Installation on Ubuntu was really easy, but I had trouble getting it to work with the latest version of Linux Mint. In the end, I was not able to use the CLI method, but the GUI instructions that Valve provides ended up working. At the moment Valve is only officially supporting the beta on Ubuntu, but it is likely to be expanded to other Debian forks as well as used in Valve’s Steam Box console.

The full announcement can be found on the Steam Community site, and the repository files are located here. Another useful resource is the getting started thread on the Steam forums, where you can find help getting the client installed (especially useful if you are trying to install it on an alternative distro).

Have you used the Steam for Linux client yet? I’m excited to see more games and engines support the Linux OS, as that will be what will make or break it.

Source: Valve