Subject: General Tech, Systems | June 5, 2015 - 04:22 PM | Scott Michaud
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.
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.
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.
Subject: General Tech | June 3, 2015 - 09:23 PM | Scott Michaud
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.
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.
Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | March 14, 2015 - 07:30 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: vive vr, vive, valve, re vive, Portal 2, Portal, mwc 15, MWC, htc, gdc 15, GDC
At the recent Game Developer Conference and Mobile World Congress events, Valve had a demo for HTC's Vive VR system that was based in the Portal universe. The headset is combined with two controllers, one for each hand, which sound like a cross between Valve's Steam Controller and the Razer Hydra.
When HTC briefed journalists about the technology, they brought a few examples for use with their prototype. C|Net described three: a little demo where you could paint with the controllers in a virtual space, an aquarium where you stand on a sunken pirate ship and can look at a gigantic blue whale float overhead, and a Portal-based demo that is embedded above. I also found “The Gallery” demo online, but I am not sure where it was presented (if anywhere).
Beyond VR, the Source 2 engine, which powers the Portal experience, looks good. The devices looked very intricate and full of detail. Granted, it is a lot easier to control performance when you are dealing with tight corridors or isolated rooms. The lighting also seems spot on, although it is hard to tell whether this capability is dynamic or precomputed.
The HTC Vive developer kit is coming soon, before a consumer launch in the Autumn.
Subject: General Tech | March 6, 2015 - 01:54 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: valve, Steam Controller, peripheral, gdc 2015, gdc 15, gaming, controller
Valve has given the elusive (vaporous? heh, I'll leave the good puns to Scott) Steam Controller a release date and several refinements to the design. Slated for a November 2015 launch, the Steam Controller will ship with most of the Steam Machines offered by OEMs. Users will also be able to purchase controllers directly from Valve (via Steam) for $49.99.
The final controller features a curved design with lots of rounded edges (no sharp angles here), large handles and dual circular programmable trackpads. The four button d-pad has been replaced by an analog stick while the four A, B, X, and Y buttons sit where a second thumb stick traditionally resides.
A circular Steam button and two smaller buttons finish out the face controls.
The two large (and despite my impressions from photos apparently ergonomic) handles each host two dual stage (analog and/or digital) triggers on the top and a button on the underside of the controller.
The Steam Controller is powered by two replaceable AA batteries and is wireless.
Users will be able to create and save custom configurations to their Steam profiles as well as share those custom settings with other Steam users. This should make adoption a bit easier since you will be able to jump into games with a recommended configuration that other users report works well. Or at least it will be a better starting point for your own custom settings rather than being thrown to the wolves with a new and unfamiliar controller. I think it is going to take practice to get good at this even with the jumpstart on suggested configurations though.
It will be available in November (Steam Store page link) for $49.99 which is just cheap enough that I will likely pick one up just to try it out and see what the hype is about. If it is as comfortable as some writers (who have gotten hands on time with them at GDC) are claiming, I’m willing to give it a shot now that it includes a thumb stick (I think I need to be eased into this dual trackpad setup).
Engadget has several more photos from the GDC show floor that are worth checking out.
What do you think about the final Steam Controller?
Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | March 5, 2015 - 10:40 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: valve, source engine, Source 2, gdc 15, GDC
At the Game Developers Conference, Valve has formally announced the Source 2 engine and that it would be free for content developers. At the same time, they committed to releasing a version of it that is compatible with Vulkan, the graphics API from the Khronos Group that we have been talking about a lot over the last couple of days. Of course though, free can mean many things. As it turns out, there is one string attached: the game must be made available on Steam at launch. It can be available elsewhere too, but Steam must be one of the launch retailers.
I do wonder what will happen if someone makes a title that Steam refuses to publish. Of course, the natural thought is “What if Valve refuses to publish for content reasons?” That is an interesting thought, and maturity is one area that many other engines (like Unreal) do not restrict, but it is not the only concern (and Gabe Newell is quite laissez-faire with his -- albeit loosely defined -- content guidelines). What if your content simply does not make it on Steam? For instance, with is someone creates a title in Source 2 and has a failed attempt at Greenlight because it was unpopular? Are you then unable to publish your content through alternative channels, too? This seems like something that Valve will need to provide a little clarification on.
Try as I might, I could not find a release date for Source 2, however. It will arrive when it does.
Subject: General Tech | March 5, 2015 - 03:22 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: vulkan, vive, video, valve, titan x, strix, Silverstone, shield, Samsung, rv05, re vive, raven, podcast, nvidia, Nepton 240M, liquidvr, Khronos, Intel, htc, gtx 960, glnext, coolermaster, amd, 750ti
Join us this week as we discuss the NVIDIA SHIELD and Titan X, AMD Mantle, OpenGL Vulkan, and much more from GDC!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
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Hosts: Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano, Scott Michaud and Ken Addison
Program length: 1:22:13
Week in Review:
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Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
Jeremy: Um, I don’t know, SteamOS sales I guess?
Subject: General Tech | March 4, 2015 - 04:31 PM | Tim Verry
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.
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.
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.
Subject: Systems | March 4, 2015 - 12:11 AM | Sebastian Peak
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.
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.
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:
- SteamOS preloaded
- NVIDIA GeForce® GTX 970M MXM graphics
- 4 x HDMI 2.0, supports 4K UHD @ 60Hz
- 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!
As GDC progresses here in San Francisco, AMD took the wraps off of a new SDK for game developers to use to improve experiences with virtual reality (VR) headsets. Called LiquidVR, the goal is provide a smooth and stutter free VR experience that is universal across all headset hardware and to keep the wearer, be it a gamer or professional user, immersed.
AMD's CTO of Graphics, Raja Koduri spoke with us about the three primary tenets of the LiquidVR initiative. The 'three Cs' as it is being called are Comfort, Compatibility and Compelling Content. Ignoring the fact that we have four C's in that phrase, the premise is straight forward. Comfortable use of VR means there is little to no issues with neusea and that can be fixed with ultra-low latency between motion (of your head) and photons (hitting your eyes). For compatibility, AMD would like to assure that all VR headsets are treated equally and all provide the best experience. Oculus, HTC and others should operate in a simple, plug-and-play style. Finally, the content story is easy to grasp with a focus on solid games and software to utilize VR but AMD also wants to ensure that the rendering is scalable across different hardware and multiple GPUs.
To address these tenets AMD has built four technologies into LiquidVR: late data latching, asynchronous shaders, affinity multi-GPU, and direct-to-display.
The idea behind late data latching is to get the absolute most recent raw data from the VR engine to the users eyes. This means that rather than asking for the head position of a gamer at the beginning of a render job, LiquidVR will allow the game to ask for it at the end of the rendering pipeline, which might seem counter-intuitive. Late latch means the users head movement is tracked until the end of the frame render rather until just the beginning, saving potentially 5-10ms of delay.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | March 1, 2015 - 05:16 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: MWC, mwc 15, GDC, gdc 15, htc, valve, vive, vive vr, Oculus
Mobile World Congress (MWC) and Game Developers Conference (GDC) severely overlap this year, and not just in dates apparently. HTC just announced the Vive VR headset at MWC, which was developed alongside Valve. The developer edition will contain two 1200x1080 displays with a 90Hz refresh rate, and it will launch this spring. The consumer edition will launch this holiday. They made sure to underline 2015, so you know they're serious. Want more information? Well that will be for Valve to discuss at GDC.
The confusing part: why is this not partnered with Oculus? When Michael Abrash left Valve to go there, I assumed that it was Valve shedding its research to Facebook's subsidiary and letting them take the hit. Now, honestly, it seems like Facebook just poached Abrash, Valve said “oh well”, and the two companies kept to their respective research. Who knows? Maybe that is not the case. We might find out more at GDC, but you would expect that Oculus would be mentioned if they had any involvement at all.
Valve will host an event on the second official day of GDC, March 3rd at 3pm. In other words, Valve will make an announcement on 3/3 @ 3. Could it involve Left 4 Dead 3? Portal 3? Will they pull a Crytek and name their engine Source 3? Are they just trolling absolutely everyone? Will it have something to do with NVIDIA's March 3rd announcement? Do you honestly think I have any non-speculative information about this? No. No I don't. There, I answered one of those questions.