The steam must flow
October 16, 2015 7:54 AM   Subscribe

 
Finally, it's the year of Linux on the console.
posted by jaduncan at 8:02 AM on October 16, 2015 [16 favorites]


This just won't work. The controller is lovely, but unless most AAA games aim to come out for SteamOS too, there's not way that it can catch on.

What any console needs to dominate my living room is: a) a large, high quality game library, b) ability to run Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, and music streaming services alongside c) a good price/power ratio.

That means that most years the best console is a Windows PC.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:10 AM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I get my Steam Controller in (checks watch) eight hours... the only trouble is figuring out which game to try first! Portal Stories: Mel, probably.
posted by neckro23 at 8:10 AM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Releasing some kind of new installment in some kind of massive game franchise might help them, I guess.
posted by Artw at 8:14 AM on October 16, 2015 [37 favorites]


The Steam Controller is new and different and it scares me.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:18 AM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Releasing HL3 as a SteamOS exclusive would be such an amazing troll.
posted by kmz at 8:24 AM on October 16, 2015 [16 favorites]


It is the year 2015. The last vestiges of the hope for the Year of the Linux Desktop are long lost in a trackless desert. But a strange new machine comes over the horizon, clad in strange shrouds...
posted by curuinor at 8:25 AM on October 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


While the SteamOS interface includes large warnings that these games require extra hardware, and Valve isn't directly responsible for third-party developers' unfriendly decisions, it still seems like an oversight to have such games be unplayable out of the box.

You know, saying things like that is really crappy on Valve's part. Pretty sure other consoles don't suffer that (for a reason).

Consoles, in general, provide the Apple experience (tm) -- fixed hardware, walled garden, etc. The steam box appears to be following the PC model - much cheaper, but YMMV applies to damn near everything.
posted by k5.user at 8:27 AM on October 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Releasing some kind of new installment in some kind of massive game franchise might help them, I guess.

Don't worry, I heard they're working on Left 4 Dead 3!

(that's ok with me, I love Left 4 Dead)
posted by neckro23 at 8:33 AM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Looking forward to trying my preordered Steam Controller, but on my normal Windows PC thanks.
posted by Foosnark at 8:35 AM on October 16, 2015


I predict this will be either a rousing success or an utter failure.

Now I'm off to post this sentiment in every other thread today.
posted by griphus at 8:36 AM on October 16, 2015 [15 favorites]


So I have an ageing xBox 360 and a small but slowly growing library of Steam games (which I play on my Mac, but where I also have some purchased PC games I got on sale for some weird future where I might get a PC).

I would LOVE to be able to hook up a Steam Box to my telly alongside my old 360 and play both shooters and strategy type games on my TV.

Can I do this? Where do I even start? I find this product (group of products? technical standard?) confusing.
posted by Happy Dave at 8:40 AM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Don't worry, I heard they're working on Left 4 Dead 3!

A while back I got to see the Valve offices, which was cool, but at the time everyone was working on DotA which was.... I dunno, I'm just not very interested in that gave versus just about any other thing they do so it was kind of cool but mostly a bit sad because not Half life or Portal.
posted by Artw at 8:41 AM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm also kind of way less into this thing than I was in 2012 or whenever, which seems like an age ago, but I probably haven't sat down to play a non-phone videogame for any length of time since then either.
posted by Artw at 8:43 AM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you haven't played Portal Stories: Mel, I'd highly recommend you do (if you like Portal in general). That said, good lord some of them are diabolical to figure out.
posted by qcubed at 8:44 AM on October 16, 2015


Yeah, I've found Portal Stories: Mel way harder than Portals 1 and 2. Definitely fun to play, though, and worth looking at if you're a fan of the original games. You might want to open Youtube in your browser and cue up a Walkthrough video as well, though.
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 8:47 AM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Consoles, in general, provide the Apple experience (tm) -- fixed hardware, walled garden, etc. The steam box appears to be following the PC model - much cheaper, but YMMV applies to damn near everything.

I don't really have time for gaming anymore, but if I did, there's not even the slightest chance that I would buy a box that "might not" play all the games. I guess I just don't understand the market, here: too fiddly for the console crowd, not fiddly enough for the PC Master Race crowd. So who is this for? Is there really a big segment of the market that wants something in-between?
posted by uncleozzy at 8:49 AM on October 16, 2015


Valve is going to have a problem with messaging for this many products at the same time.

SteamLink means (in theory) those AAA games don't need to be re-released for SteamOS. You have two computers. Your Windows computer in the den, and the SteamOS machine hooked up to your TV let's you play Windows games on your TV.
posted by fragmede at 8:52 AM on October 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's fascinating how many manufacturers are assembling these things. I agree with the prevailing mood that it seems likely that these will be a niche market, at least to start. And yet there will be what, fourteen companies selling into it? (Hard to tell if some of those are manufactured by the same company.)

There's additional competition in this space too, on the low end you have Apple/Android TV, some of which support streaming from a PC as well.
posted by Kikujiro's Summer at 8:53 AM on October 16, 2015


Engadget has a more positive take, with a focus on the controller. As a Linux-user, I've been really pleased by the knock-on effect of so many more (it's true, proprietary, closed-source) games brought by Valve's push for the Steam Machine. I think the effect extends to games bought from DRM-free GOG.com.

If I had the money and probably when I feel I can spend that sort of money, I'll probably spend it on the controller(s) and a DIY device with SteamOS or this version of SteamOS with what used to be known as XBox Media Center integrated. I assume that if I did this, I would help make Valve's plan for the Steam Machine/SteamOS viable, since I'd be spending more on games than I do with my piddling computer now, but somehow the slightly DIY aspect makes me think "And this is why you don't market to Linux users!".
posted by Gnatcho at 8:54 AM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


So who is this for?

PCMRistas who secretly just want to play games in their living rooms. The whole PCMR bigotry is at least partially ironic anyway, and Valve knows that very well. But there's a lot of people who do have a big investment in Steam games and would like to play them in a console environment, particularly as a couple or with friends over.
posted by bonehead at 8:56 AM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I haven't spent anytime looking at it, but we have 3 steam accounts here, with hundreds and hundreds of titles, shared thru the family option, and if there were a way for us to play some significant amount of our games together on the couch, I would probably be sold, even though we just got an xbone for the teenage horde.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 8:57 AM on October 16, 2015


I think the success of SteamOS (assuming it is successful) is going to come less from the AAA, EA-sports 'set' but the shear volume of indie games, old/classic/remastered games, and just the wider variety of game types etc.
posted by rosswald at 9:00 AM on October 16, 2015


Yeah, I don't think I'll be getting this. I already have a PC with Steam hooked up to my main television, and it works well. I do have a console, but it's the Wii U. My reasoning was because Nintendo's game library fills out many of the weaknesses of the Steam Library: Gimmicky but fun motion based games, pick up and play couch games, and of course Mario/Zelda/Splatoon exclusives.

Unless there's a string of killer exclusives that go beyond just FPS (which I play occasionally, but it's not my main genre), I'll probably wait for this to get really cheap before even taking a look at it.

I will say the controller might be useful, though I wonder how it stacks against a keyboard/mouse for shooters.
posted by FJT at 9:10 AM on October 16, 2015


But there's a lot of people who do have a big investment in Steam games and would like to play them in a console environment

Hm, yeah, and I suppose they can also stream (pretty well-ish, it seems?) the games that won't run on SteamOS. There does seem to be a ton of hardware, though, for what seems to be a sort of niche market.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:10 AM on October 16, 2015


Finally, it's the year of Linux on the console.

ISTR that the PS3 and PS4 both run freebsd, so it's been the year of pretty-much-unix on the console for a while now.

SteamLink means (in theory) those AAA games don't need to be re-released for SteamOS. You have two computers. Your Windows computer in the den, and the SteamOS machine hooked up to your TV let's you play Windows games on your TV.

I have to admit I still don't see the attraction (or much purpose) in SteamOS. Yeah, sure, you don't have to buy another windows license, but it seems like you give up a lot. I'd rather just pay the $80 or whatever and play all the games natively & locally.

Can I do this? Where do I even start?

Yeah, and it's stoopid easy. Take a windows pc with hdmi out and use an hdmi cable to connect the pc to your tv or receiver. That's it. You'd want to pick up a steam controller or 360 controller and, maybe, a wireless keyboard with touchpad (we use a logitech that was maybe $25 from newegg; it's fine).
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:13 AM on October 16, 2015


Valve is going to have a problem with messaging for this many products at the same time.

This is one of those problems that is not that much of a problem, but I totally agree. They have at least two, maybe three, great ideas here and as opposed to make a bet on one of them they just shipped them all. Not what orthodox marketing would say to do.

Also the controller is nuts. I feel like I wouldn't even be able to drive it. i r teh oldz.
posted by GuyZero at 9:25 AM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Has the hardware-standard-as-a-console thing worked before? I'm trying to think of other things that used it -- the 3DO and CD-i immediately comes to mind -- and they were all sort of embarrassing failures.
posted by griphus at 9:27 AM on October 16, 2015


I'll be honest. I preordered a Steam Link as an impulse purchase. This seems like it's *right* up my alley.

I am what I assume what many of those tech companies would consider a "whale". I'm definitely in the 1% of Steam users with an extraordinary number of games in my library (over 400, most of which I've never actually played), but with the vast majority of them being the simpler, more indie types that seem like they would be much more friendly to playing on the couch, rather than in my office. I'm not looking to play Civilization, Far Cry 4, Borderlands 2, Saint's Row, Portal, or a MOBA/MMO on the Link--instead, I'm looking to stream Bastion or Transistor, Dust or Audiosurf, Trine or rymdkapsel.

These would be the games that can easily be picked up and set down, the ones that I wouldn't mind other people playing while I do something else.
posted by qcubed at 9:29 AM on October 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yeah, and it's stoopid easy. Take a windows pc

You mean disconnect and carry from the back room? Too many odds and ends plugged in, wife will be pissed about the dust bunnies and then how will I check the email I really don't want to have everyone else read?

Or the guy with an old laptop that doesn't want a glowing gamer box.

There's a market, big enough to make money?
posted by sammyo at 9:30 AM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Consoles, in general, provide the Apple experience (tm)

I'd say Apple doesn't really provide the console experience here - to much variance in performance depending on generation of hardware.
posted by Artw at 9:32 AM on October 16, 2015


Apple Experience? only applies to the latest generation of hardware on which you did not install the latest OS revision.
posted by griphus at 9:37 AM on October 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


FJT: Yeah, I don't think I'll be getting this. I already have a PC with Steam hooked up to my main television, and it works well.

That's not you not getting one so much as it is you wanting one badly enough that you made one yourself ahead of Valve.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:37 AM on October 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Does Plex or something like it run on SteamOS? Seems obvious, but you never know.
posted by bonehead at 9:38 AM on October 16, 2015


I've been running Steam on a windows box in a closet downstairs for months. Runs fine at 1080p on my linux media center with their streaming.
posted by pan at 9:40 AM on October 16, 2015


I think the success of SteamOS (assuming it is successful) is going to come less from the AAA, EA-sports 'set' but the shear volume of indie games, old/classic/remastered games, and just the wider variety of game types etc.

A SteamOS machine can play more AAA games than a WiiU and has a whole lot more games not found on other consoles than a WiiU (whether the best of the Linux-enabled PC exclusives is comparable to the best of the WiiU exclusives depends on your taste in games). And the SteamOS version of many AAA games will typically be better than the Xbox/PS4 version, whereas the WiiU version of a AAA game will often be not as good.

The WiiU has not been a big success so far, but I think SteamOS machines could do at least as well if Valve can sufficiently streamline the experience.
posted by straight at 9:41 AM on October 16, 2015


I'm intrigued by the controller, but scratching my head for how often I'd have to use it. Most indie Steam games I buy come with gamepad support, and my PS4 controller is plug and play on my macbook, which hooks up to my TV in five seconds. (I just played Beginner's Guide this way and it was just like playing any console game.)
posted by naju at 9:43 AM on October 16, 2015


I don't get the whole 'Play games in the living room ' thing. The only TV in my house is in the master bedroom, as, in my country/social caste, having a TV in the living room is super gauche.
But, if you have a TV in the living room, and want to play games there, why can't you just grab your laptop and take it there?
posted by signal at 9:44 AM on October 16, 2015


Does Plex or something like it run on SteamOS? Seems obvious, but you never know.

SteamOS really is "just" linux with a fullscreen application that it starts up. There's an unofficial repository for Plex for "Ubuntu/Debian/SteamOS", though the whole trick is getting one's desired "big picture" apps to smoothly transition between each other, as far as I can tell.
posted by Gnatcho at 9:44 AM on October 16, 2015


I'm thinking someone could get rich marketing this as a Minecraft Machine for the living room that runs all the mods and plays all the YouTube channels.
posted by straight at 9:44 AM on October 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


Microsoft owning mine craft now might be a stumbling block there.
posted by Artw at 9:53 AM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


With all the reasons given in this thread for why it's going to fail, I expect the Steam console will be a rousing success.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:53 AM on October 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


What any console needs to dominate my living room is: a) a large, high quality game library, b) ability to run Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, and music streaming services alongside c) a good price/power ratio.

I switched to Ubuntu a few months ago partly due to Windows 10 privacy drama. (Further pushed by a hard disk failure last week.) Netflix and Amazon Video are handled by Chrome. I've not tried Hulu but Hulu was flaky on me under Windows so I stopped using it a while back. The biggest problem had been blobbed DRM. Google and Steam will ship that if the main distributions don't.

One of the things I was pleased with on c) was cutting my multi-minute wait from power-on to usable login from over a minute to about 10 seconds. Although I admit that my Win7 configuration had collected an asston of junk that insisted on running every time the machine was rebooted.

a) is changing a bit. Many of the big licensed engines are available for Linux, which has made Linux just another build target. Steam advertises 1,500 Linux/SteamOS titles (as of a few months ago.) On the other hand, they're probably not going to get Bioware's in-house engines. The switch was eased by the fact that I burned out on AAA game designs, so as long as I can drive my virtual Volvo across Poland, I'm good.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:54 AM on October 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


At $50 the Steam Link is practically an impulse purchase for big Steam users - it's basically the price of another game and now your whole library is on a big TV as well as on your PC.
posted by GuyZero at 9:56 AM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't get the whole 'Play games in the living room ' thing. The only TV in my house is in the master bedroom, as, in my country/social caste, having a TV in the living room is super gauche.
*shrugs* I play games in my room, I play them in my office, why shouldn't I play in my living room? Then again, the only TV in the house (which isn't even mine) is in the living room and belongs to the roommate, so... different cultures?

But, if you have a TV in the living room, and want to play games there, why can't you just grab your laptop and take it there?
Maybe I want to use the laptop for something else? Maybe it'd be neat to have a device that can stream all of my games just because?
posted by qcubed at 9:59 AM on October 16, 2015


But, if you have a TV in the living room, and want to play games there, why can't you just grab your laptop and take it there?

Some games can be more enjoyable when you're sharing the experience with someone. I loved The Last of Us, and I didn't even play it -- but I'd sit on the couch with my husband while he played, and it was like watching an interactive movie.

This is also how we played Portal 2's single player mode -- I ran the controller, and we talked and brainstormed as we tried to solve the levels.

I've also been known to sit on the couch with my laptop playing something while the hubs plays something else on his desktop -- it all depends on what you're looking to accomplish with your game or free time.

That said, I've never really been a PC gamer. I can't seem to get a hold of keyboard/mouse controls -- heck, I'm still not that great with the Xbox controller I use for Steam games -- and I'd rather curl up in a comfy chair or a corner of the couch if I'm going to be playing for a few hours. And a smallish laptop screen? Meh. So I'm thinking the Steam Link, if not the controller, is going to be right up my alley.
posted by alynnk at 10:02 AM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


On the other hand, they're probably not going to get Bioware's in-house engines

Well I am playing Baldur's Gate 2 Enhanced Edition right now on my Ubuntu box with Steam... but yes, you are probably right as far as the others
posted by rosswald at 10:02 AM on October 16, 2015


I didn't realize the controller is only $50. Surprising for all that impressive-sounding tech. I might just get it even if I'm skeptical.
posted by naju at 10:03 AM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Microsoft owning mine craft now might be a stumbling block there.

Wow. I genuinely wonder now if concern about a Minecraft Box competing with the Xbox was a factor in that purchase. Minecraft is a much bigger deal than the motion-control game fad that drove a lot of those original-Wii sales.

How many kids these days (if they had to choose) would rather have an Xbox than a machine that plays Minecraft with all the mods?
posted by straight at 10:14 AM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


This looks cool but I've never been any good at playing games with a controller; I'll stick with a mouse and keyboard (with left-handed keymappings).
posted by octothorpe at 10:20 AM on October 16, 2015


I would LOVE to be able to hook up a Steam Box to my telly alongside my old 360 and play both shooters and strategy type games on my TV.

Can I do this? Where do I even start? I find this product (group of products? technical standard?) confusing.


If you have a Windows PC with a GPU already, buy a Steam Link and a Steam Controller. Done.
posted by Talez at 10:20 AM on October 16, 2015


I'm still waiting on more reviews for the Steam Link. Valve itself is basically saying "hey, I know there's a wireless antenna in it but you should probably run cable" which is not super encouraging.

I do think I read that the Link works with other controllers which would be a big help.

I need to figure this living room thing out. My computer is literally on the other side of the wall from the living room... I have run an HDMI cable in the past but I had a lot of problems with wanting games to consistently launch to the TV monitor while other stuff launched to the PC, and I could just never quite get it right.
posted by selfnoise at 10:24 AM on October 16, 2015


SteamOS is the interesting piece to me that says Valve knows their market, and knows what they're doing. The enthusiast segment that is willing to tinker with Nvidia driver versions, and tweak performance settings is a large part of Valve's market. To take it further, Steam sends (opt-in) the specs of any PC it's been run on, so presumably Valve's actually done studies with the data they have on how many PC's actually get handed down, and how many don't reappear in their database, so I'm willing to bet that a large portion of Valve's customer base has a second PC just gathering dust in the basement.

Why didn't they use Windows for SteamOS? Licensing. $80 retail, on a device trying to compete with the $350 xbox, is a bit of a non-starter, though I'm sure they could get a better price. The bigger issues is that licensing is just a pain the in ass. Even if it costs just 1 cent, it still would not remove the hassle involved with the scheme itself. Moreover, I doubt Microsoft would let Valve host their own tweaked copies of Windows for download for any amount of money, or even advance copies of Half Life 3.

Basing it on Linux (Debian) means that Valve can just host a pre-programmed ISO for all those enthusiast users to throw on that spare computer and just try it out one weekend. Which many people did, judging by Valve's own forums.

The thing is, having a keyboard and mouse in your living room is just as fiddly as it ever was, trying to see the tiny cursor and move the mouse precisely, either on your lap or awkwardly on the coffee table. For viewing Netflix, there are tons of better options, but for anything else, it's just fiddly. So Valve added Big Picture Mode to make it easier to run Steam, either Windows or Linux-based, from the couch.

Also keep in mind that Steam itself costs $0 to download and run, it's the games and peripherals that they make money from, and even then, Valve making their own peripherals is new. Valve knows the other side of the video game market (where people are still willing to pay $50 for a game) is in console games. Rather than buy an xbox or ps 4, and all new games for it that you can't play on your computer, just reuse that PC in the basement thats gathering dust.

Oh, and hey while you're at it, you might as well buy a copy of Rocket League that you can play from the couch.

On preview:

If you have an extra Windows PC, plug it into your TV, plug a 360 controller into your PC, turn on Steam's Big Picture Mode, and set Steam to auto-login and run on startup.
posted by fragmede at 10:24 AM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


> the only trouble is figuring out which game to try first! Portal Stories: Mel, probably.

I'm getting stuck and frustrated pretty early on this game because I can't make a particular move with my mouse well enough that the guy in the walkthrough does with ease. You just gave me the idea that it would be doable on a controller. So I guess I won't be finishing this game.
posted by Sunburnt at 10:25 AM on October 16, 2015


Valve itself is basically saying "hey, I know there's a wireless antenna in it but you should probably run cable" which is not super encouraging.

As competent as Valve is, I don't really see them solving the problem that (current) wireless networks are just shitty a lot of the time.
posted by ODiV at 10:26 AM on October 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


Yeah, exactly. Delivering seamless low latency streaming interactive video over wireless is going to be a crapshoot. WiFi networks are not really designed for this use case at all, and even if there is sufficient bandwith available you’re still going to be introducing a lot of extra latency in the radio encoding/decoding process. A piece of ethernet cable on the other hand will give you a very low latency connection with oodles and oodles of bandwidth. It’s going to be the better option every time if you can manage to actually string the cable out of the way somewhere.
posted by pharm at 10:33 AM on October 16, 2015


I'm still waiting on more reviews for the Steam Link. Valve itself is basically saying "hey, I know there's a wireless antenna in it but you should probably run cable" which is not super encouraging.

It's a CYA move as it depends on how good your gear is. For instance I've been streaming 1440p, 19 megabits per second over a 5GHz link perfectly fine but my network has a consistent aggregate latency of less than 2ms. If it works, it works, if not buy a cable.
posted by Talez at 10:36 AM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Not just your own gear, but also how many of your near neighbours are also crowding the same WiFi frequencies. Plus whether any of them have poorly shielded microwaves in their kitchens (this may or may not matter depending on whether you have 5GHz kit or not). If you’re lucky, it works fine. If not, well, not. A cable on the other hand is always going to work...
posted by pharm at 10:41 AM on October 16, 2015


WLAN party, everyone!
posted by Artw at 10:44 AM on October 16, 2015


You mean disconnect and carry from the back room?

No, I mean buy/build another one and put it near the tv.

Or the guy with an old laptop that doesn't want a glowing gamer box.

So don't get/build one that's glowy. Ours has no lights at all because I just never plugged them in.

But, if you have a TV in the living room, and want to play games there, why can't you just grab your laptop and take it there?

Lots of laptops have GPUs that just aren't up to it, and the "cramped keyboard and touchpad/nipple" of most laptops are maybe the worst possible control scheme.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:48 AM on October 16, 2015


"hey, I know there's a wireless antenna in it but you should probably run cable" which is not super encouraging.

The biggest legitimate shot against the Chromecast is that it can struggle to get 720p over current-generation wifi. The C2, just announced, uses bonded channels and ac connectivity, but it's not clear to me if 1080p will be widely used on the device.

If you want high-quality gaming at 60fps, I'd suspect that current wifi is going to be a problem, especially in noisy environments or through many walls. "You should probably run a cable" is likely the best answer.
posted by bonehead at 10:59 AM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Not just your own gear, but also how many of your near neighbours are also crowding the same WiFi frequencies. Plus whether any of them have poorly shielded microwaves in their kitchens (this may or may not matter depending on whether you have 5GHz kit or not). If you’re lucky, it works fine. If not, well, not. A cable on the other hand is always going to work...

Pretty much. At my old place in a condo I had some jackass that was blasting out with some shitty ass Netgear kit at the full 1W on channel 149 that was fucking my shit up. Whatever. Switch over to 36 and grab some extra gear.

Now I live in a place that has nothing on 5GHz. It's beautiful.
posted by Talez at 11:02 AM on October 16, 2015


I'm getting stuck and frustrated pretty early on this game because I can't make a particular move with my mouse well enough that the guy in the walkthrough does with ease. You just gave me the idea that it would be doable on a controller. So I guess I won't be finishing this game.

I've been playing through it with a mouse and haven't encountered anything like that. The puzzles can get pretty fiendish, but IIRC there's been nothing so far that requires fancy moves. Maybe the walkthrough is just showing off a bit?
posted by neckro23 at 11:02 AM on October 16, 2015


In addition to not wanting to license Microsoft Windows, Valve probably doesn't want to be chained to Microsoft DirectX/Direct3D. So it's in their best interest to expand the OpenGL/Vulkan market.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:25 AM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


In addition to not wanting to license Microsoft Windows, Valve probably doesn't want to be chained to Microsoft DirectX/Direct3D. So it's in their best interest to expand the OpenGL/Vulkan market.

Valve are also the only people who have written a Vulkan driver that's in production use. They wrote one for the Intel HD series for Linux.
posted by Talez at 11:25 AM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't get the appeal. People who want to play games on a TV are better off with an XBOX or something, and people who don't want to play games on a TV obviously don't need this. Hell, trying to play an FPS with a controller against people using m&k is futile unless you're a masochist.

*old man yells at cloud.jpg*
posted by Justinian at 12:05 PM on October 16, 2015


Can you use the steam controller to play older non-Steam games - like Planescape: Torment, for example? (I assume you'd have to create your own controller mappings...)
posted by naju at 12:10 PM on October 16, 2015


People who want to play games on a TV are better off with an XBOX or something

The Steam Link price is $50 which is the about the same price as the yearly fee for just playing your XB1/PS4 online (which thankfully comes with some games).

If get a Steam Link for I can play any of the games in my Steam Library on my TV. If I get an XB1 I can play the free lives games and then...? XB1/PS4 digital "sales" don't hold a candle to digital PC sales.

My computer is something like 5 years old now, with a 2 year old graphics card and SSD. It still works fine for games. If I didn't have a computer or Steam library maybe I'd want a current gen console, but those game prices are way more than I'm used to paying now. I really don't see how it would be better to go buy a $350 console that works with none of my current games.
posted by ODiV at 12:17 PM on October 16, 2015


Of course that's assuming the Steam Link is any good. I have no idea! I'm going to wait for reviews/impressions.
posted by ODiV at 12:18 PM on October 16, 2015


Naju - yes. Not only that, the mappings you create can then be shared over Steam, so presumably in a few months you can buy a Steam Controller, go on there, and find a bunch of suggested mappings.

The controller is incredibly configurable in general. Which is really impressive and neat, but I both want something that just works and hate trackpads, so sadly I think I'm going to pass.
posted by selfnoise at 12:19 PM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


People who want to play games on a TV are better off with an XBOX or something

Not necessarily. We finally built one so we could play Fallout 3/NV on the tv without it lagging so much, and because streaming local video through the PS3 was getting annoying because of the cinavia, and so we could apply mods if we wanted. It's a nice one stop shop for gaming, local streaming, youtube, etc, though netflix is still better on the ps3.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:29 PM on October 16, 2015


Oh, and also because so many games are dirt cheap on steam sales or through humblebundle.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:30 PM on October 16, 2015


In addition to not wanting to license Microsoft Windows, Valve probably doesn't want to be chained to Microsoft DirectX/Direct3D

I'm sure there's lots of reasons, but the one that seems the biggest to me is that as long as everyone's gaming on Windows, Valve is vulnerable. If MS ever got their crap together and made a good app store, how could Steam possibly win that fight?
posted by aubilenon at 1:28 PM on October 16, 2015


I'm sure there's lots of reasons, but the one that seems the biggest to me is that as long as everyone's gaming on Windows, Valve is vulnerable. If MS ever got their crap together and made a good app store, how could Steam possibly win that fight?

Steam is never going away unless Microsoft committed to throwing billions of dollars into a money pit. It's just too entrenched in gaming culture. Many people have their entire libraries backed up on Steam. They have hundreds if not thousands of games collected through Steam sales and bundles. They have an ecosystem that survives in spite of EA and Ubisoft giving them the middle finger.

They could try prohibiting the installation of application stores and only going Metro app installation in Windows X but Windows X-1 would be the last version any gamer would install.
posted by Talez at 1:59 PM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Microsoft could easily do what Valve did and certify games bought elsewhere.

They just don't want to. They'd rather focus on the console market.
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:04 PM on October 16, 2015


Many of the big licensed engines are available for Linux, which has made Linux just another build target. Steam advertises 1,500 Linux/SteamOS titles (as of a few months ago.) On the other hand, they're probably not going to get Bioware's in-house engines. The switch was eased by the fact that I burned out on AAA game designs

Thanks for this. For my part, AAA RPGs are basically all I want to play: Bioware, Bethesda, etc. I need my annual Mass Effect/Dragon Age/Fallout/Elder Scrolls fix, with I guess an occasional Witcher thrown in.

Since I have a daughter now, I want to start playing in the living room so she can join me, and hopefully her interests will begin to guide what we play. But that still argues for maximal access to games like you can get on PC, especially if it's only an extra $50 for the Windows license. I'm happy to buy my controller from Steam, though. It looks boss.
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:29 PM on October 16, 2015


Steam is driving the use of Wine as well, is it not? I'm sure that's how many of the ports are made.
posted by bonehead at 2:36 PM on October 16, 2015


I think Microsoft is a bit vulnerable. They're not going anywhere with PC gaming and have sold off flagship properties like Flight Simulator. Their mobile/desktop convergence hasn't fully developed. (Although anything can change, see Blackberry.) We're past peak PC.

Steam is driving the use of Wine as well, is it not? I'm sure that's how many of the ports are made.

GOG does, I think Steam is focusing on Linux-native Unity, Source, and Unreal-engine games.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:44 PM on October 16, 2015


Yeah, I don't think SteamOS even includes Wine.
posted by selfnoise at 2:48 PM on October 16, 2015


I was experimenting with KVM on SteamOS. If you could use the inbuilt Intel HD Graphics for the SteamOS interface then use PCI passthrough to run a GPU native VM of Windows then use in-home streaming over the virtual network.

You could essentially have Steam OS with perfect compatibility. I wouldn't be surprised if the GRID GPUs start coming home too.
posted by Talez at 2:56 PM on October 16, 2015


Valve itself is basically saying "hey, I know there's a wireless antenna in it but you should probably run cable" which is not super encouraging.

Well, many games are pretty much full-motion video, but without the compression, so it's a bit much to expect average, or even pretty good, wifi to stream full uncompressed 1080 HD from one of your computers to another, especially when you remember that unlike a movie, it can't cache or preload anything.

Even Wifi-AC can't do that reliably. Plus, you know, whenever mom turns on the microwave...
posted by rokusan at 2:59 PM on October 16, 2015


Well, many games are pretty much full-motion video, but without the compression, so it's a bit much to expect average, or even pretty good, wifi to stream full uncompressed 1080 HD from one of your computers to another, especially when you remember that unlike a movie, it can't cache or preload anything.

Actually it uses H.264 encoding and there's actually an article that Dark Shikari wrote about implementing single frame H.264 encoding and decoding that's quite the interesting read. All this tech was originally developed for OnLive but since has been leveraged by Steam and to a certain extent by Nvidia as well for their Geforce Experience stuff.
posted by Talez at 3:13 PM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Steam is never going away unless Microsoft committed to throwing billions of dollars into a money pit. It's just too entrenched in gaming culture. Many people have their entire libraries backed up on Steam. They have hundreds if not thousands of games collected through Steam sales and bundles

They certainly couldn't replace Steam overnight, but OTOH, it doesn't seem like it should cost billions of dollars to build an app store that is as user friendly and developer-friendly as Steam. You're right that people have a lot of stuff on Steam already, but that's just not that sticky. You don't have to uninstall Steam or delete all your games to also start buying stuff through another channel. What if the MS store let you play the XBox360 games you already own, on your PC? Do people not buy Blizzard games just because they're not available through Steam?
posted by aubilenon at 3:22 PM on October 16, 2015


Do people not buy Blizzard games just because they're not available through Steam?

Less Blizzard -> Steam, but I haven't been able to *give away* Electronic Arts games, specifically because they're on Origin, so there's that as a datapoint.
posted by CrystalDave at 3:25 PM on October 16, 2015


Well, speaking for myself, I don't buy Blizzard games because I think Blizzard as a company is awful. I stopped buying EA games when they ceased putting new titles on Steam.
posted by trunk muffins at 3:30 PM on October 16, 2015


(And speaking as someone who spent hundreds of hours playing Dragon Age: Origins, yeah, it was a little painful not to play the follow-ups. But I won't do it.)
posted by trunk muffins at 3:31 PM on October 16, 2015


as long as everyone's gaming on Windows, Valve is vulnerable. If MS ever got their crap together and made a good app store, how could Steam possibly win that fight?

That's a pretty huge if. MS has in fact already tried to do this, it was called Games For Windows Live, and it was a total disaster.

Plus there's the small matter of the 10-year head start and near-monopoly that Valve has. Steam has competitors, but they're either backed by huge game publishers (UPlay, Origin, Battle.net) or cater to the anti-DRM crowd (GOG, which is backed by a not-huge game publisher).
posted by neckro23 at 3:35 PM on October 16, 2015


Gaming on Windows is a minority and shrinking market these days. Android is bigger than Windows. It wouldn't surprise me if iOS is bigger than Windows (or about to get bigger than Windows.) This is why many game engines have gone cross-platform in recent years, and Microsoft created Windows 8. There's no reason at this point in time for Microsoft to gamble billions on what it sees as an increasingly marginal market.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 3:47 PM on October 16, 2015




It's so odd to me... I probably have 200 Steam games and have had a PC in the house to play them on for at least a decade (it's a Mac-heavy house, except for gaming), but that one PC has always, always, always been connected directly to the TV with a wireless keyboard, mouse and joystick.

I've never understood the appeal of sitting at a desk with a keyboard and mouse to play games. I just spent all day doing that for work, you know? I want a sofa.

Anyway, weirdly enough, none of this Steam machine stuff seems to be for me.
posted by rokusan at 3:50 PM on October 16, 2015


My PC is displaying on my TV and I'm about to play XCOM from the couch. So I really don't get who this product targets because everyone I know who cares about sitting on the couch and playing a PC game already figured it out years ago.

They also have Steam Big Picture which is just a UI overlay for steam that's controller friendly.

I guess it just boggles me that they think there's some hidden PC gaming market that will be like oh boy finally a console!!! when PC gamers are already pretty fucking hardcore in my experience (I'm not really, but that's why I play mostly on consoles/pc games on my couch).

edit: and this just makes me laugh, my pc streams to my tv through my xbox one.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 4:10 PM on October 16, 2015


Heh. I totes play XCOM on my phone on the bus.
posted by Artw at 4:31 PM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


My fuzzy understanding is that this was inspired by the user unfriendliness of Windows 8. The touch screen Metro stuff seemed like a disaster for Windows, so Valve started developing their own lifeboat to save PC gaming when Microsoft went under. But Windows has course corrected quite a bit since then, which makes the Steam OS and its ecosystem more of an exotic option, instead of a desperately needed alternative.
posted by Kevin Street at 5:12 PM on October 16, 2015


Naju - yes. Not only that, the mappings you create can then be shared over Steam, so presumably in a few months you can buy a Steam Controller, go on there, and find a bunch of suggested mappings.

Thanks! After some digging I'm seeing confirmation of this. That's seriously awesome.

For the benefit of others: within Steam there's an "add a non-Steam game" option. This lets any game on your computer run within the Steam environment, and that means you can configure the Steam Controller for that game. It looks like you can also do this for DOSBox games and anything else you want. A reviewer said: "Yes it is possible. I have been using it to open Battle.net to play Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm, and if I wanted to, I could easily set up control schemes for one or the other and just switch between the two in the overlay. And I haven’t played any of the old X-Wing sims, but it does work well with both. When I play Borderlands, I use the mouse for aiming but Xbox 360 controls for everything else."
posted by naju at 5:19 PM on October 16, 2015


I'm really interested in the Steam Controller, but I feel like it would be better to wait and let other people figure out how to use it before putting down the $60, then take advantage of their accumulated wisdom.
posted by Kevin Street at 5:38 PM on October 16, 2015


It's not a real TV until you've played Dwarf Fortress on it.
posted by mikurski at 5:38 PM on October 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Ha. Making a workable controller mapping for Dwarf Fortress would be a major project in itself. If someone manages to do it, I would certainly be game to try it out.
posted by naju at 5:42 PM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


We just used a keyboard on a USB extender, nothing fancy. I imagine you could probably doing something with chording to allow play via controller, but that's about the point where I go back to playing Soul Calibur using DDR mats.
posted by mikurski at 5:54 PM on October 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


When I play Borderlands, I use the mouse for aiming but Xbox 360 controls for everything else

That sounds incredibly awkward.
posted by Justinian at 6:27 PM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I *think* that means "The 360 setup for the steam controller except the right pad pretends to be a mouse instead of the right thumbstick."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:37 PM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh that makes more sense.

As for me, you can pry my actual mouse out of my cold, dead hands.

Actually that isn't terribly unlikely given how much I am on a PC.
posted by Justinian at 6:41 PM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thank you Talez, that article is fascinating. With 10ms latency you could almost play in a band together over the web!
posted by yoHighness at 12:34 AM on October 17, 2015


I'm gonna stop derailing in a second but I just learned it actually is now possible to do live low-latency music jams (with devices such as the JamLink). Hooray!
posted by yoHighness at 1:05 AM on October 17, 2015


I'd add to the confirmation naju, I've found bindings for multiple games in my library. It's easy to swap between bindings mid game, until you get the settings you want.

I set up my link and controller today. I have a decent computer for gaming, and could easily see this combo replacing a console for me.
posted by zabuni at 1:34 AM on October 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


Reading reviews of the steam controller now. They're not positive. :(
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:33 AM on October 17, 2015


I've been really enjoying mine. It's a new and unique take on control in games.
posted by Talez at 8:58 PM on October 17, 2015


I have mixed feelings about the controller.

Good:
- Big Picture seems to be a pretty decent thing for the most part.
- Community templates are a nice feature. I immediately found one for Rocket League that's to my liking.
- It works surprisingly smoothly for Bejeweled and I actually prefer it over using the mouse.
- The thumb stick isn't grinding itself to rubbery dust like the one on my $15 knockoff XBox controller.
- Wireless is nice to have.
- The onscreen keyboard works surprisingly well (but see below).

Mixed:
- It works decently for Dirt Rally, but there are no community templates yet, and I haven't messed around with it long enough to get vibration working.
- I don't see this (or any controller but mouse/keyboard) working with MMOs at all. Maybe something like Neverwinter.

Bad:
- The onscreen keyboard completely blocks the input field on the browser in Big Picture, and seemingly can't be moved. You have no idea what you've actually typed until you close the keyboard.
- Those rear paddle button things kind of make the whole controller feel flimsy, and often have terrible defaults that I trigger accidentally. They could be useful but I think I'd rather have had buttons similar to the shoulder/trigger buttons.
- I am half-decent at FPSs with mouse and keyboard, but a total klutz with a controller. That's more a reflection of my gaming habits than this controller.

Overall:
- This isn't going to be the universal controller I want to use for every game, and it's not going to convert me into a couch gamer. Considering the cost of wireless game controllers I don't feel ripped off, but this isn't exactly revolutionary.
posted by Foosnark at 7:30 AM on October 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm glad they took the opportunity to overhaul big picture mode. Now I just need the Xbox One wireless adapter to ship and my living room will be perfect for Rocket League.
posted by selfnoise at 7:59 AM on October 18, 2015


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