There has always been something about Valve as a company. It seems to have this shadowy blob that tends to mask and obscure the very essence of the company’s game development. Rumors and wild speculations by those in the gaming industry (and video game journalists) seem to attribute quite a lot of pageantry to Valve’s hidden mysteries. The largest problem with this is, even if the “news” is too good to be true, those of us who are familiar with Valve’s past ventures want the promises of grandeur to be the truth so badly, we are willing to believe nearly anything… even without Valve to confirm or deny the information or sources.
So, like everyone else did, I was watching gaming industry news feeds to learn new information about the upcoming highly anticipated lowly hyped Steam Box when all of a sudden, I glanced upon an article from the lovely people at Kotaku about how trademarking had begun with a handy dandy game named Half Life 3. So the link was floating in the air and was simply ready to be plucked and shimmied into some major league news. It didn’t take people long to make the assumption that the Steam Box was going to be launched with Half Life 3.
If you don’t know, Half LIfe 3 to the gaming industry is the unicorn that vomits rainbows and has bowel movements of vanilla ice cream topped with rainbow sprinkles. It’s a game of absolute legends and myth that is rumored to head the table of gaming gods in video game Valhalla. This being said, if you want to push a brand new console, Half Life 3 would probably decimate all competition within the market. Especially when the line-ups from the “Xbone” (Xbox One), the PS4, are not that interesting, and the absolute dreadful line-up on the Wii-U. It’s a shame that none of the other consoles have any sort of “Wow factor” that a game like Half Life 3 would bring to the Steam Machine.
Even though Half Life 3 would push sales of the new Steam Machine into a new golden age of consoles, it is, as we know now, just a rumor. What we do know is very little. Valve hasn’t really put much information out about the ever so elusive console nor of the games that we can expect to launch the console. What we do know are three facts listed by this website from Valve: http://store.steampowered.com/livingroom/
1 ) Steam has created a Steam focused Linux Operating system to better combine your video game experience with your living room experience. Keeping in the spirit of Linux, it’s free. Keeping the spirit of Steam, it’s awesome.
2) The Steam Machine is the new console, and it’s not like any other console out there. Several points to note with this console. One is that there are going to be different types of Steam Machines. There are going to be $1-2,000 fully functional brand sparkly new computers with all the newfangled bells and whistles. Then there will be middle of the road machines as well as some that are the bare basics for (an estimated) less than $100. The point being is that Valve’s mission is not to replace your computer if you already have one, but if you need a PC that can handle the highest end games that Steam has to offer, you can buy the giant monolith that suits your computing needs.
If you have a Frankenstein’s monster based machine that’s held together with a gross menagerie of lightning and neck-bolts, you can keep it. A low end Steam Machine will suit your needs to move your monitor to the TV, add live streaming, video and all sorts of media content to your living room. However, if you are in need of some serious computing power and want to play games solely through the Steam Machine, then there are many options to do so. Not only that, but here’s a new idea: like a PC, the Steam Machine is completely upgradable. You can literally go into any computer parts store and change out the console’s internal components.
Steam is starting to be known for its “workshop”. A place where players interact and create content for games on their own to be selected by the community and added to any number of those games. This is a spirit in which Valve wants the Steam Machine to be used. They want it to be opened up and tinkered with. They want players that know what they are doing, to mod and play with the inner workings of the controller (as well as the console itself). Unlike most consoles on the market today, which quickly void any warranty and profess very anti-modding policies, the Steam Machine is quite the opposite!
And just a heads up: Valve is having a Hardware BETA with 100 of the higher end Steam Machines: Here’s the Sign-up for it.
3) The Steam Controller, a Coup De Gras to the “industry standard”. Controller design has not changed for quite a few console generations. From the Sega Dream Cast’s dual joysticks all the way to the PS4 and Xbox One changing practically nothing at all, two joysticks, bumpers, buttons. triggers and rumble. Nothing at all really is “new”. Even the Wii controller isn’t much of a stone’s throw from the same old same old set up (it’s just a controller cut in two).
Not so, the new Steam Controller. This thing is rocking out in all of the right places. Touch based precision track pads are now the newest thing to grace our thumbs. And that isn’t even the most innovative part. ELECTROMAGNET POWERED “HAPTIC” RESPONSES. Simply put, the large broad track pad faces have a powerful electromagnet underneath them that vibrate them much like the surface of a stereo speaker. This feature literally replaces the old style “rumble” feature, which is crude and rudimentary for the times of today. Valve took that simple motor with an unbalanced weight attached and replaced it with pure science.
There has has been this general malaise surrounding gamers with the released news of the current line of new-gen consoles. The big fish at the top, Microsoft Xbox, Sony Playstation, and Nintendo, have ground to a nearly complete stop with innovation and creativity. It has been disheartening to watch as the consoles just keep spitting out the same old sludge that they have peddling to gamers for years now without much change. Games keep getting hyped that have rushed deadlines and short-sighted plot lines filled with bugs and broken mechanics from devs who aren’t given enough time allotted to them from company execs so they can do their jobs effectively.
But due to their unwillingness to test new waters, their greed has left them stagnant in their own pools, unaware of how vulnerable they have become to bolder companies and gamers who long for something new and interesting. They have left the table wide open for a new player to enter a challenge to show the old dogs how it’s done. I, for one, am grateful that Valve is grabbing the reins and throwing down with the rest of them. Add some wanted competition that will hopefully force these companies to start innovating and rocking out some meaningful R’nD.
These are interesting times indeed.