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 | 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!
Subject: General Tech | January 16, 2015 - 12:45 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: steam, linux, idiots
If you move the Steam home directory of $STEAMROOT in Linux then you are running the risk of running rm -rf on your user directory, which in the case of this unfortunate person on Slashdot included their attached USB hard drive. This is rather nasty bug and one which is easily avoidable by the use of proper syntax but unfortunately the command rm -rf "$STEAMROOT/"* contains an unnecessary / and without an error checking facility included if there is no $STEAMROOT directory the command run is rm -rf "/"*. As it is in your home folder you do not even need to be running as root so for the time being it would be very wise to leave your Steam files in their default location and to realize that anything plugged into your machine is not a true backup until removed from your system.
"I launched steam. It did not launch, it offered to let me browse, and still could not find it when I pointed to the new location. Steam crashed. I restarted it. It re-installed itself and everything looked great. Until I looked and saw that steam had apparently deleted everything owned by my user recursively from the root directory. Including my 3tb external drive I back everything up to that was mounted under /media."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Xen Hypervisor 4.5 arrives with 64-bit ARM processor support @ The Inquirer
- Medic! Intel can't staunch bleeding from mobile chip biz @ The Register
- Ex-Apple, Intel, Google geeks in line for $415m over wage-fix pacts @ The Register
Subject: General Tech | December 21, 2014 - 04:58 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: valve, steam
Especially with digital distribution, some regions of the world receive different pricing for the same content based on what their target market is capable of paying for it. On Steam, most regions are just about equivalent to their exchange rate with the US dollar. There are a few, most notably Russia, that receive steep price cuts (because the increase in expected customers outweighs the decrease per unit).
This leads some thrifty people to purchase keys that were intended for other, lower-cost regions. Recently, Valve has adjusted the Steam back-end to block gifting from certain, reduced-price regions to other regions. It does not affect existing purchases, only new ones. This also might not be their final decision, as Valve claims that they are still “assessing the market”, according to PC Gamer. This currently applies to: Russia, the Commonwealth of Independent States, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Turkey, Brazil, Mexico, and Singapore.
I am quite... conflicted on this decision.
On the one hand, I believe that moving a game from one region to another should be acceptable. Unless Steam requires that users (or gift givers of unactivated keys) declare that the license is intended for members of a given region, which could be fraud to lie about, then I cannot see any reasonable way to prevent this. On the other hand, I find Valve's method to be fair and targeted, even though it is relying upon DRM to restrict user access.
What do you think? Tell us in the comments! (Registration is not required)
Subject: General Tech | December 2, 2014 - 07:18 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: steam, steam broadcasting, twitch
Before we begin, note that this only available for the Steam Client on Windows 7 and 8.x for now, but Valve intends to bring it to Linux and OSX (and Vista for some reason). You must also opt-in to receiving Beta releases of the Steam Client. Beyond the currently limited support in hosting a stream, watching a stream is only possible with one of three web browsers: Google Chrome, Apple Safari, and the one in Valve's Steam Client.
Obviously, the pre-launch browser support is quite disappointing. Clearly Valve limited support of their web app to their rendering engine of choice, WebKit and its fork, Blink, and that is a step up from doing it in Flash. It is probably most disappointing for Opera, who switched to WebKit (and later Blink) from their proprietary “Presto” engine. Of course, relying on a collaboration with Google for standards support can only help so much, and it apparently did not help enough.
As for the service itself, Valve is focusing on user choice with their offering. While public streams will be allowed, you are allowed other privacy options – public is not even the default. Your stream can also be set to: only allow invited friends, allow all friends, or allow friends to request viewing permissions. By default, it is set to the last (fourth) option.
Now on to the speculation...
Why would Valve being doing this? Of course, Amazon believes it is a billion dollar business, so it is not insane for Valve to throw their hat in the ring, and hats is something they have plenty of, but I believe it might be bigger than this. This announcement follows the beta release of In-Home Streaming, back in May. Especially with the privacy options, I could see this following Sony, and its PS4 Share Play feature. Share Play allows people on your friends list to override your controller, or an extra controller if you want to play local multiplayer over the internet. These are all products using the same building blocks.
Steam Broadcasting (Beta) is available now through the Beta Steam Client release channel.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | September 26, 2014 - 02:03 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: steam, precisionx 16, precisionx, overclocking, nvidia, evga
If you were looking to download EVGA Precision X recently, you were likely disappointed. For a few months now, the software was unavailable because of a disagreement between the add-in board (AIB) partner and Guru3D (and the RivaTuner community). EVGA maintains that it was a completely original work, and references to RivaTuner are a documentation error. As a result, they pulled the tool just a few days after launching X 15.
This new version, besides probably cleaning up all of the existing issues mentioned above, adds support for the new GeForce GTX 900-series cards, a new interface, an "OSD" for inside applications, and Steam Achievements (??). You can get a permanent badge on your Steam account for breaking 1200 MHz on your GPU, taking a screenshot, or restoring settings to default. I expect that latter badge is one of shame, like the Purple Heart from Battlefield, that is not actually a bad thing and says nothing less of your overclocking skills by pressing it. Seriously, save yourself some headache and just press default if things just do not seem right.
PrecisionX 16 is free, available now, and doesn't require an EVGA card (just a site sign-up).
Subject: General Tech | September 3, 2014 - 01:50 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: steam os, steam, htpc
In a recent Steam Beta update, Valve added a few new entries to its EAppType structure. Previously, the options were invalid, game, application, tool, demo, media, DLC, guide, driver, config, shortcut, and "depotonly". The recent update adds five new ones: film, TV series, video, plugin, and music.
These additions could mean that Steam is intending to distribute film, TV, video, plugins, and music; alternatively, it could just allow users to integrate existing catalogs into the same interface. Of course, this is coming from someone with just about zero knowledge of Steam's internal structure. Someone who is more familiar with Steam might be able to say that I am stupid and this specific enum structure is only used the interface with the catalog or the store. I do not know.
What I am confident in saying is that Valve is serious about making Steam a full home theater PC platform. At LinuxCon, prior to the announcement of SteamOS, Gabe Newell discussed the family ownership (and sharing) of music and movie libraries right alongside his discussion of video games. Whether they want to deal with media company relations is a different story, however.
But let's not get too caught up in media for a second. What is a "plugin"?
This entry was what really caught my eye. Could Valve be designing a plugin architecture for the Steam client? Its built in web browser (or third-party browsers if Valve allows)? Or could it be a method of delivering user content for other apps on their system (similar to how DLC has its own type). If it is a Steam Client or SteamOS plugin, what would that even entail? I am definitely curious.
Subject: General Tech | August 20, 2014 - 08:33 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, reverse-consolitis, steam, GOG, free to play, dlc
So PC gamers rarely go to the store to buy a disk anymore. According to DFC Intelligence, via PCR-Online, 92% of sales for the PC gaming platform were online. This number seems to be based on revenue, rather than units sold. It includes both full games purchased from Steam, GoG, and other distribution services. It, also, probably includes free-to-play revenue, DLC, and so forth.
Of course, this also suggests that retail sales of PC games has quite a bit of money floating around still. While sources lump several categories together, we could still be talking about a hundreds-of-millions or low-billions order of magnitude (USD). Of course, these are personal, mental math estimates. A grain of salt is required and, in this case, probably good for your (mental) health.
Watch your cholesterol, though.
Again, this is one of the advantages of open architectures. Companies and organizations are allowed, because no-one can tell them otherwise, to try new things. Sometimes, they end up being gold mines that lead to industry revolution, whether we consider the specific positive or negative. However long it takes, it wins. It eventually finds a way, and then the blob tumbles along.