This November, Valve brings tidings of further developments in their SteamOS plans. They plan to expand PC gaming by introducing their new operating system and at last, the Steam Machine.
Recently visible on the store homepage has been a whole pamphlet of information regarding what Valve plan to do with their first foray into the console market—as always they’re thinking outside the box.
The first showcased item of Valve’s console is the controller. Because the games are varied, with some requiring a controller, and some requiring a mouse, Valve have built the Steam controller with this in mind. Improving on the resolution and fidelity of what’s currently available in controller input, they have integrated high precision technology and focused on low latency while still retaining the wireless capability of modern controllers. The controllers dual trackpads are what allow the high precision input needed for PC gaming in the living room. The controller apparently boasts 1:1 scale precision input via virtual controls like a trackball, adaptive centering joystick—or steering wheel. These virtual surfaces can also be customised to suit whatever people wish.
The trigger buttons of the steam controller can be used as an analog or digital input as well as allowing both types to be used simultaneously. An example of this is putting a weapons iron sights on the “sweep-in” before firing with the actual trigger itself. The controllers also include a “satisfying digital click sound” once a trigger has been pulled, according to Valve. With Haptic feedback on each side of the controller, the vibrations are measured in microseconds and every input from triggers to the pads is able to vibrate, providing force-feedback. The controller can also be customised to each user as well as borrow pre-set configurations from the community. That is neat!
Also coming out this November is the Steam Link. This device allows players to transfer their PC collection with them into the loungeroom. All one has to do is connect Steam Link to their television and the home internet network in order to access their full Steam library, as well as the online catalogue. The Steam Link will automatically look for any computer running Steam on the same network and is designed to make use of your home power, streaming from your gaming computer. The visual and audio data is sent from the PC and the input from the controller is outputted in real-time. Valve are claiming that virtually every PC game can be played via Steam Link.
Every Steam Machine will run on the SteamOS and comes with the steam controller. This is apparently the only common link the machines will share, as each manufacturer to optimise for the needs of a specific demographic with their own machine, catering to everyone. There isn’t just one type of Steam Machine though. Currently, there are 15 listed on the website page. They vary manufacturer, from the big ones like Alienware, ASUS and Gigabyte down to the lesser known brands like iBuyPower SBX, webhallen s15-01 and the Scan 3xd ST Steam Machine. They also vary greatly in price, with the cheapest ones sitting in the $500-$600 range and the most expensive ones stretching out to roughly $5,000. They all vary greatly in specifications and will need to be thoroughly researched before a purchase for anyone wanting to get the best value for their buck.
The really cool device that will be available and support integrated into the Steam Machine is the Steam VR. looking like a cross between the Oculus Rift and a motion tracker with 360-degree room scale support. The only currently listed version is the HTC Vive Developer Edition which includes the headset, two single handed controllers and the system that tracks them all. designed with high-end virtual reality in mind, the Steam tracking system captures the player’s position of the headset and controllers. The Steam tracker is optimized for accuracy and to remove low latency. The system will also track several devices simultaneously with sub-millimeter precision.
Borrowing the Steam controller’s trackpads, the technology has been placed on the one handed VR controllers and—built with movement being a big aspect, the Vive Dev kit’s base stations are all the Stream tracking system needs. You place them in opposing corners of the room and you’re done. The Steam APIs will be free to utilise and come default with everything already on Steam. Alternatively the OpenVR API can be acquired without the default Steam setup, including all the capabilities, minus the Steam installation.
The Steam Machine is boasting some impressive capabilities. Clearly not following the pack in what Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, Valve have sought to make the Steam Machine and indeed the SteamOS uniquely different. While I’m cautiously optimistic, the claims are a tall order to fill with some of these ideas having been attempted in the past with things like OnLive and others that have previously failed. Will Valve be the company to break this losing streak and emerge victoriously? Only time will tell, but we at the Nation wish them luck! Follow us on Twitter if you want to remain up to date on the latest Valve happenings with the SteamOS and Steam Machine.