Meet the Pyromania

Subject: General Tech | June 27, 2012 - 01:28 PM |
Tagged: valve, tf2

The last of the Team Fortress 2 Meet the Team videos has been released. Is the Pyro a male or a female? Who knows, I wrote this article the morning before it aired. And let us be honest -- we probably did not get that question answered anyway… or the gender is revealed as “Pyro” or there are two videos or something like that. We also get new items but that is common these days.

Update: For the machinima fans -- the Source Filmmaker has also been announced with sign-ups available to their Beta. You can use the same tools that Valve has used for all over their Meet the Team videos for your own stories.

Forget the Spy: the Pyro is a mystery wrapped in an enigma.

Who is the -- man? -- who can rock the old propane tank, car muffler, and gas pump nozzle fashion all year round? Who is not satisfied with an axe until it is wrapped in barb wire? The answer is of course that we do not know. What we do is that they might just be more of a handy”man” than the Engineer.

Pyromania.png

Agent 00 Leet.

The Pyromania update introduces a new map and game mode. Each team fights to deliver rocket fuel so that Poopy Joe the space chimp can deliver a recalled Australium suitcase nuke to the Soviets. Apparently Australium was always radioactive -- who knew. Eleven new achievements accompany this new game mode.

A half dozen new items will also be made available including a speed booster for the scout that charges with successful hits and discharges completely when you jump. Also available is a multirocket launcher for the Soldier which should be familiar to Unreal Tournament fans.

There will be cauterized wounds.

And the reason why you are all here… apart for indepth and reliable computer hardware news… is that Meet the Pyro is now available. Enjoy.

Steam Allows Remote Installation of Games

Subject: General Tech | May 6, 2012 - 03:48 PM |
Tagged: valve, steam, gaming pc, gaming, games

Valve recently released a beta update for its Steam client that allows users to remotely install games to their local machine using the steampowered.com website.

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After installing the beta update to the local Steam client (Steam > Settings > Beta Participation), just leave the client logged in on your machine. Then navigate to Community page of the Steam website. After that, click on the Games category where the website will then list all the games tied to your Steam account. If you have a game you want to download and install while you are away, just hit the install button to the right of the game’s name.

This is certainly an interesting feature for some, especially if you happen to be on vacation during a Steam Holiday Sale! (hehe). More details on the process can be found here. Is this a feature you’ll be using?

Source: Valve

Valve, tired of rumors, announces wearable computing

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | April 14, 2012 - 04:09 PM |
Tagged: valve, wearable computers

Valve has been under the public eye since rumors of The Steam Box broke. To put out the rumors, Michael Abrash -- now at Valve -- announced their mystery project investigates computing devices that you can wear.

Great, that is just what we need, more Steam punks and their costumes.

Valve has traditionally been somewhat of a quiet company accustomed to public speculation. In a change of pace from the typical cries to release Half Life 2: Episode 3, Valve has recently been subject to rumors about breaking into the hardware business. In another change of pace, Valve has announced their hardware project is wearable computers and publicly solicited for job applicants to join in the research.

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Want me to show you my knife collection?

(Photo Credit, Giant Bomb)

Michael Abrash wrote in his blog on Valve’s website what his work is based on and it is quite similar to what Google is looking at with their augmented reality glasses.

By “wearable computing” I mean mobile computing where both computer-generated graphics and the real world are seamlessly overlaid in your view; there is no separate display that you hold in your hands (think Terminator vision).

While this is very interesting, it still remains to be seen where Valve intends to be involved with this project. Steam is pushing out from the desktop PC to the home theatre with their Big Picture UI and what that could potentially spread out into.

It is entirely possible that Google and Valve both see some link between Steam/Google TV and Wearable Computers/Augmented Reality glasses that we are just unable to perceive yet and are lunging for the same target. While the blog posting is very interesting, it still reveals little about the technology itself.

Also, this announcement does not mean that Valve is not working on a hardware platform to accompany The Big Picture, it just says more about what Valve is currently working on in secret. The previous rumors could still have some shred of truth in them.

As for when we will see wearable computing? It’s still a long ways out in Valve time.

To be clear, this is R&D – it doesn’t in any way involve a product at this point, and won’t for a long while, if ever – so please, no rumors about Steam glasses being announced at E3. It’s an initial investigation into a very interesting and promising space, and falls more under the heading of research than development.

So, which will we see first? Valve augmented reality devices, or the stunning conclusion to Gordon Freeman’s story-arc? That is a bet that will require one heck of a patient bookie to make.
Source: Valve

Valve denies Steam Box, posts job for Hardware Engineer

Subject: General Tech, Systems | April 13, 2012 - 01:58 PM |
Tagged: valve, Steam Box

Doug Lombardi of Valve denied rumors of the Steam Box console last month, but fell short of denying future possibilities and so forth. Recently, Valve has posted a job opening on their website for an electronics engineer.

When Valve’s Doug Lombardi responded to rumors of a “Steam Box” console, he used the following words which were posted all over the internet as Valve denies Steam Box console rumors:

We're prepping the Steam Big Picture Mode UI and getting ready to ship that, so we're building boxes to test that on. We're also doing a bunch of different experiments with biometric feedback and stuff like that, which we've talked about a fair amount, […] All of that is stuff that we're working on, but it's a long way from Valve shipping any sort of hardware.

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That is not a denial!
(Image created with Memegenerator.net)
(And yes, I know that's Gabe Newell, not Doug Lombardi)

 

As it turns out Valve has just recently posted a job position for a Hardware Engineer with the following duties:

Work with the hardware team to conceive, design, evaluate, and produce new types of input, output, and platform hardware

Join our highly motivated team that’s doing hardware design, prototyping, testing, and production across a wide range of platforms. We’re not talking about me-too mice and gamepads here – help us invent whole new gaming experiences.

While that hardware engineer position could be any number of things including peripheral development, it is clear that Valve wants to get into hardware more than they let on. This looks to be more than just development hardware.

Source: Valve

GDC 12: Valve & Razer renew their motion partnership vows

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | March 6, 2012 - 03:41 AM |
Tagged: valve, Steam Box, GDC, GDC 12

Valve and Razer formally agree to support Razer Hydra motion controller in Valve’s four most popular titles and two upcoming ones.

A little over two years ago, Valve and Razer announced a partnership for their Sixense high-precision motion controllers. During CES 2010, attendees were able to experiment with a prototype motion controller from Sixense to control Left 4 Dead 2. Sixense TrueMotion controllers were later released by Razer last June as the Razer Hydra.

Now you're thinking with controllers.

This Game Developers Conference (GDC) fast forwards us to almost a year after the launch of the Razer Hydra. The price for the controller has dropped $40 to $99.99 at some point between then and now. Valve has also announced that support would be extended from Portal 2 and Left 4 Dead 2 to include Half-Life 2, Team Fortress 2 and upcoming Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

The fishiest part of this whole announcement involves the Steam Box rumor from a few days ago. Valve appears to be very focused on the best portions of console gaming for the PC all of a sudden. I could easily see motion controls be used to support The Steam Box or whatever it might be called -- especially if it were used for more than just gaming and by more than just gamers.

So what do you all think?

Source: WebProNews

GDC 12: The bigger big picture, Steam Box to be announced?

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | March 3, 2012 - 05:16 PM |
Tagged: valve, Steam Box, steam, GDC 12

It is rumored that Valve will announce a Steam hardware platform as early as GDC next week although that could be pushed back as late as E3 in June.

Steam has grown atop the PC platform and consists of over 40 million active user accounts. For perspective, the Xbox 360 has sold 65.8 million units to date and that includes units sold to users whose older Xbox 360s died and they did not go the cardboard coffin route. Of course the study does not account for the level of hardware performance each user can utilize although Valve does keep regular surveys of that.

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A console with admined dedicated servers to kick the teabagging and griefing Steam punks.

Within the last couple of years, Valve has been popping in to news seemingly out of the blue. Allow me to draw your attention to three main events.

At the last GDC, Valve announced “The Big Picture” mode for their Steam software. The Big Picture is an interface for Steam which is friendly to users seated on a couch several feet away from a large screen TV. While “The Big Picture” has yet to be released it does set the stage for a great Home Theatre PC user interface for PC games as well as potentially other media.

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I must admit, that controller does not look the most ergonomic... but it is just a patent filing.

Last year, Valve also filed a patent with the US Patent Office for a video game controller with user swappable control components. Their patent filings show a controller which looks quite similar to an Xbox 360 controller where the thumbsticks can be replaced with touch pads as well as a trackball and potentially other devices. Return of Missile Command anyone?

Also a little over two years ago, Valve announced a partnership with Razer for their Sixense high-precision motion controllers. It is possible that Valve was supporting this technology for this future all along. While motion controllers have not proven to be successful for gaming, they are accepted as a method to control a device. Perhaps The Big Picture will be optimized to support Sixense and compatible devices?

The Verge goes beyond their claims that Valve will announce The Steam Box and has included specifications for a closed-doors prototype of the system. The system was rumored to be used to present to partners at CES contained an Intel Core i7 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and an NVIDIA GPU.

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You know if Microsoft had focused on Media Center for gaming rather than the Xbox...

It is very unclear whether Valve will attempt to take a loss on the platform in hopes to make it back up in Steam commissions. It is possible that Valve will just push the platform to OEM partners, but it is possible that they will release and market their own canon device.

I am interested to see how Valve will push the Home Theatre PC market. The main disadvantage that the PC platform has at the moment is simply marketing and development money. It is also possible that they wish to expand out and support other media through their Steam service as well.

At the very least, we should have a viable Home Theatre PC user interface as well as sharp lines between hardware profiles. A developer on the PC would love to know the exact number of potential users they should expect if they were to support a certain hardware configuration. Valve was always keen on supplying hardware profile statistics, and this is certainly a harsh evolution of that.

Source: The Verge

Gabe Newell gets Steamed up over piracy discussions

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | February 20, 2012 - 08:08 PM |
Tagged: valve, piracy, Gabe Newell

Ben Kuchera of Penny Arcade caught an interview with Valve Software’s managing director and co-founder, Gabe Newell. The topics were quite typical for a Gabe Newell interview and involve working at Valve, the future of gaming, and DRM. Gabe also joined the beard club; welcome Gabe!

Gaben.jpg

Photo Credit: Giant Bomb

A little over halfway through the interview, Penny Arcade asked Gabe whether they believe that they sidestepped the problems of used games and piracy with Steam. Gabe instead responded to the premise of the question, rather than the question itself:

You know, I get fairly frustrated when I hear how the issue is framed in a lot of cases. To us it seems pretty obvious that people always want to treat it as a pricing issue, that people are doing this because they can get it for free and so we just need to create these draconian DRM systems or ani-piracy(sic) systems, and that just really doesn’t match up with the data.

This quote echoes a problem I have had with the piracy discussion for quite some time. The main problem with the concept of piracy is that people wish to frame it in a context that seems intuitive to them rather than experiment to discover what actually occurs. Piracy is seen as a problem which must be controlled. This logic is fundamentally flawed because piracy is not itself a problem but rather a measurement of potential problems.

Gabe continues with an anecdote of a discussion between a company who used third-party DRM for their title and himself:

Recently I was in a meeting and there’s a company that had a third party DRM solution and we showed them look, this is what happens, at this point in your life cycle your DRM got hacked, right? Now let’s look at the data, did your sales change at all? No, your sales didn’t change one bit. Right? So here’s before and after, here’s where you have DRM that annoys your customers and causing huge numbers of support calls and in theory you would think that you would see a huge drop off in sales after that got hacked, and instead there was absolutely no difference in sales before or after. You know, and then we tell them you actually probably lost a whole bunch of sales as near as we can tell, here’s how much money you lost by bundling that with your product.

Gabe highlights what a business should actually be concerned with: increasing your measurement of revenue and profits, rather than decreasing your measurement of piracy. You as a company could simply not develop products and completely kill piracy, but that would also entirely kill your revenue as you would have nothing to gain revenue from.

Before we begin to discuss piracy, the very first step is that we need to frame it as what it really is: a measurement. While violating terms of a license agreement is in fact wrong, if you focus your business on what is right or wrong you will go broke.

If you believe that there is value in preventing non-paying users from using your product then you will only hurt yourself (and if SOPA/PIPA taught us anything, innocent adjacent companies). It is possible that the factors which contribute to piracy also contribute to your revenue positively as well as potentially negatively. It is also entirely possible that increased piracy could be a measurement of a much bigger problem: your business practices.

You know, it’s a really bad idea to start off on the assumption that your customers are on the other side of some sort of battle with you. I really don’t think that is either accurate or a really good business strategy ((…)) we’ve run all of these experiments, you know, this has been going on for many years now and we all can look at what the outcomes are and there really isn’t – there are lots of compelling instances where making customers – you know, giving customers a great experience and thinking of ways to create value for them is way more important than making it incredibly hard for the customers to move their products from one machine to another.

Source: Penny Arcade

Steam Sees Huge Growth in Sales and Users

Subject: General Tech | January 9, 2012 - 01:39 AM |
Tagged: valve, steam, growth, gaming, game

Valve, the company behind the Steam digital (game) distribution service recently announced their 2011 growth data for Steam. Tech Power Up reports that Steam did exceptionally well last year and managed to grow its sales numbers and user base quite a bit.

Among the data, the service saw a more than 100% growth in year over year sales "for the seventh straight year." Further, the service boasted 5 million simultaneous players during the Steam Holiday Sale! Even more mind blowing is the amount of data the company served to users at 780 Petabytes of data (that's a lot of game downloads; about 89.35 million copies of Dirt 3 for example!).

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Steam, taking my money since HL2.

Also, Valve managed to bring more games into the Steamworks fold including Skyrim and Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Since the program's inception, over 400 games have shipped with the Steam DRM and achievements. Quite a success! CEO Gabe Newell seems happy about the service's success and confident about the future. He was quoted by the site in stating "Looking forward, we are preparing for the launch of the Big Picture UI mode," and that Steam continues to evolve to meet customer and game developer demands for content. More information can be found here.  

I'm glad that Steam is continuing to grow.  On the other hand, my wallet is going to hate me come the Steam Summer Sale!

Now you’re thinking with Portals not cumbersome mod tools

Subject: General Tech | October 30, 2011 - 02:32 PM |
Tagged: valve, Portal 2, editor

Now do not get me wrong, I have no problems with complicated modding tools that give you nearly endless power over your creations: I just think this is cool. Valve has announced on their official Portal blog that they are soon releasing a simplified puzzle creator for their popular crate dating sim, “Portal 2”. Along with the new editor for the mod creators themselves, mod consumers will have an easier time acquiring the puzzles they desire through Valve’s Steam Cloud service. According to the screenshots released by Valve, the puzzle creator looks startlingly like something out of the Sims -- potentially introducing more people into videogame modifications as a whole.

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Be honest… how many of you will search the item repository for cake?

Image from Valve Software

This news comes on the heels of free DLC released for Portal 2’s co-op mode earlier this month. As a part of the Steam Cloud integration, community features will allow you to follow certain mod developers that you find make levels that speak to you (like the companion cube) and keep up to date with their works. Unfortunately, with Valve, the duration between announcement and release could be Half of your Life so there is no guarantee when we will see the tools and features. If only they could give us our personal Jonathan Coulton bundled with the editor.

Source: Valve

Valve Releasing Free Peer Review Portal 2 DLC On October 4th

Subject: General Tech | October 2, 2011 - 05:13 AM |
Tagged: valve, Portal 2, gaming, dlc

Although id Software’s RAGE and DICE’s upcoming shooter Battlefield 3 have been getting all the attention around the PC Per office lately, Portal 2 is about to receive some free DLC that just might hold gamers over while they wait impatiently for their Battlefield 3 and RAGE pre-orders! Dubbed “Peer Review,” the upcoming DLC has been delayed several times and missed its original “summer” release date; however, it is finally releasing and will be available on October 4th.

Portal 2.jpg

The Peer Review DLC (download-able content) will be available on the PC, Playstation 3, and Xbox 360. According to Digital Trends, the free content will include new co-op modes for Atlas and P-Body in addition to new single play puzzles. Unfortunately, the single player puzzles will not extend the overall story of the Portal universe. Leader-boards and a new Challenge game mode will also be featured in the DLC.

One can be assured that GLaDOS is waiting. Whether gamers will finally get the promised cake is another matter, however.