Practically required listening for this post
Last week was a rather fun one with all sorts of Valve announcements rocking the internet and driving all sorts of hype through ceilings. It was, in fact, a week-long event with three announcements scheduled for Monday, Wednesday and Friday to allow for proper amounts of speculation and wonder in between conferences. Speculation that all revolved around Half-Life 3, of course, due in no small part to the whole three announcements thing, and I'm sure that Valve is acutely aware of that fact. Those rascals. As someone who doesn't do the whole PC Gaming thing, all of this was a mere curiosity to me even if I do plan on getting into the scene at some point in the future when I have money to throw into a fairly decent rig (or even a -super- decent one) if only to check out a few odd exclusives here like Recettear and such that have no chance of jumping ship anywhere else. Still, I can't help but take a look at the announcements and work through them as an outsider, but I'm going to tackle them in a way that...makes a little more sense than the order they picked.
Wednesday's announcement was that The Steam Box is now the Steam Machine and it is real. Not only that, but they will come in all sorts of shapes and sizes because there are several different hardware manufacturer's that will make their own box, basically, even if they all have the exact same innards to start. Or...maybe they will. It's all very vague, if you haven't noticed. I was originally thinking that there was going to be two different 'builds' or 'tiers' of it - one that acted mostly as a stream-between Box to get your games in Big Picture (and probably optimized a little better) versus a box that just -plays your Steam games-, but it seems like it's more or less going to be an amalgamation of the two. It's hard to really pin down, however. The only thing that's confirmed is the former bit about the streaming, but I can't imagine that Valve is going through all this trouble to release a dinky little bridge for people who want to use Big Picture, but can't be assed to...set it up properly through their PC.
How will it do this, you ask? By using what was announced on Monday - SteamOS. That's right, a Linux-based Operating System specifically for Steam to help you get all your digital content attached to your Steam account (and things on your normal PC) to your fingertips in one way or another. Obviously, Steam Machines will run SteamOS natively, but you'll also be able to download it elsewhere if you feel like it; hell, you can probably just make your -own- Steam Machine based off of how open this thing seems to be. What it's going to do, however, is try its best to optimize the parts for Game performance where a PC generally cannot do that, even a specialized one, because of the overhead from other programs and such. Being Linux-based, it'll be able to natively run games that support Linux, but as we know that's not -every- game. Or a good majority of them. For the games that won't run natively, you can hook it up to your PC and stream the game through your house, but just how much of it all runs on one thing and the other is something that I just can't fathom. It would be nice if it could just use the Machine's components and Windows' process so that I could actually play the scant few games in my library (assuming they're not Linux-compatible), but that sounds too wonderful to be true.
Finally, there's the question of -how- you will play all of this, which is where Friday's announcement of a Steam Controller comes into play. This baby (viewable at the top of the page) is built specifically for PC gaming and will be compatible with pretty much every game in the Steam catalog, even (hopefully) games that don't have controller support cooked into them. Of course, even knowing and seeing the controller, the issue remains of -how- you're going to play it....because the controller looks very, very unwieldy to me. The trackpads stand out first thing, of course, but there are apparently people who've played with them already and said they work quite well, much to my disbelief. What bothers me, however, is the placement of the face buttons, because they just seem so...weird. Even the beta models of the controller have them taking up the touch-screen area as large keys, and that seems just as bad. Hopefully it plays a little more intuitively than it looks, however.
The long and short of it, however, is that with those three announcements, Valve has more or less officially thrown their hat into the ring. It's not a complete thing, as their investment is basically just as much at it's been aside from getting hardware makers to make hardware for them and if they have to discontinue them then, well, it's no big loss since a PC basically -is- a Steam Machine already with SteamOS being a thing and the controller being compatible with whatever. Big Picture mode still exists, so what the Steam Machine/OS seems to be is an attempt to create something cohesive to mold it all together in one package which is a smart move, but you have to wonder if it'll be able to go off as seamlessly as it's arranged to do. Depending on how many games end up running Linux natively (since I don't plan on hooking one up to this junk heap one way or another) I might just find myself owning one of these things to get my PC gaming fix....which I haven't even really dipped into yet. But the Zeboyd catalog, Recettear and a few other things are all very tempting and ensure that I'll get into PC stuff, one way or another.
Update!: So, now we have specs for Steam Machine prototypes.
The 300 prototype units will ship with the following components:As we all know, that is a bunch of gibberish to me, but consensus from conversations about it that others have had seems to suggest that this....this is all very bad. By virtue of being disgustingly good. Because it will cost a lot of money, you see. Like a lot.
GPU: some units with NVidia Titan, some GTX780, some GTX760, and some GTX660
CPU: some boxes with Intel : i7-4770, some i5-4570, and some i3
RAM: 16GB DDR3-1600 (CPU), 3GB DDR5 (GPU)
Storage: 1TB/8GB Hybrid SSHD
Power Supply: Internal 450w 80Plus Gold
Dimensions: approx. 12 x 12.4 x 2.9 in high
really though, who -isn't- going to get the clip of the lyric and make their machine boot with that