Last week Valve told the world they had three big announcements coming this week. Huge announcement + the number "3" = many assumptions that at least one of them was going to be Half-Life 3. Much to the dismay of many a fan, this was not the case. A company has to be doing something right though, when they can announce a new operating system, a new machine, and a completely new controller design and it's still not the most exciting news they could have announced.
A New Operating System
Most gamers have heard of the "Steam Box" Valve has been working on and this week, Valve hit fans with a three punch combination that began with a new operating system. SteamOS is Linux-based and built to stream Windows and Mac games, music, tv shows, and movies from computer to the television. It is built to run on "any living room machine" and will be available soon for free.
In SteamOS, we have achieved significant performance increases in graphics processing, and we’re now targeting audio performance and reductions in input latency at the operating system level. Game developers are already taking advantage of these gains as they target SteamOS for their new releases.
SteamOS will make use of the new Steam Family Sharing program that rolled out recently to allow you to share game libraries with friends and family. Plus Valve is also working with a variety of major media services for music, tv shows and movies.
The "SteamBox" itself came next and it's not just about Valve's own console, but a category of hardware offering customers a choice in a variety of models from multiple manufacturers.
But Valve isn't sitting out the hardware game, as they have been hard at work on their own machine and will be rolling out 300 prototypes to beta testers soon. You can sign up on their site now for your chance to test out the new hardware.
Steam PC Game Controller
Other than Nintendo's nunchuck controller with the launch of the Wii years ago, game controllers have been pretty standard fair. Most players have the choice between sticking with their keyboard/mouse setup on PC, or a generic controller for console; Valve hopes to change that.
The two circles you see on either side of the controller are both high-quality, haptic feedback trackpads that will allow "precise control over frequency, amplitude, and direction." The center screen is a touch-enabled screen, and both the trackpads and center screen can be clicked as buttons as well. When using the center screen, the info can appear on screen as well so the player won't have to look away from the game to access whatever feature is accessed.
The overall goal has been to replace the keyboard and mouse setup with a controller that will still offer players the precise control of a mouse and the configuration of a keyboard. Plus, just like they attempt to do with gaming by allowing users to contribute content, they hope to do the same for their hardware.
The Steam Controller was designed from the ground up to be hackable. Just as the Steam Community and Workshop contributors currently deliver tremendous value via additions to software products on Steam, we believe that they will meaningfully contribute to the design of the Steam Controller. We plan to make tools available that will enable users to participate in all aspects of the experience, from industrial design to electrical engineering. We can’t wait to see what you come up with.
None of these new options will replace anything. If a player is happy with their mouse and keyboard, playing on a traditional computer with whatever operating system they prefer, they can continue to do so.
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