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Post by Dan @ 06:40am 26/09/13 | 23 Comments
Valve Software has finally put its own name to the category of living room-tailored PCs that the community has been referring to as a "Steam Box", unveiling plans to put an official stamp on a variety of hardware configurations that they're calling Steam Machines.

The announcement is devoid of any target specifications or device photos, but notes that Valve will be working with "multiple partners to bring a variety of Steam gaming machines to market during 2014" that will be natively running the recently revealed Linux-based SteamOS.

Kicking off the initiative, Valve has constructed its own prototype Steam Machine, described as "a high-performance prototype that’s optimized for gaming, for the living room, and for Steam" and "completely upgradable and open", and in true Valve form, the company will be offering up 300 of them free of charge to Steam users for a very public beta testing.
We're conducting a beta of the overall Steam living-room experience, so we needed to build prototype hardware on which to run tests. At Valve we always rely on real-world testing as part of our design process. The specific machine we're testing is designed for users who want the most control possible over their hardware. Other boxes will optimize for size, price, quietness, or other factors.
All Steam users have a shot at being one of the lucky 300 by fulfilling the conditions below and earning the Steam Hardware Beta Candidate Badge:
Before October 25, log in to Steam and then visit your quest page to track your current status towards beta test eligibility
1. Join the Steam Universe community group
2. Agree to the Steam Hardware Beta Terms and Conditions
3. Make 10 Steam friends (if you haven't already)
4. Create a public Steam Community profile (if you haven't already)
5. Play a game using a gamepad in Big Picture mode
That's essentially it for today's announcement. A FAQ at the bottom of the announcement confirms plans to ship the beta prototype Steam Machines in 2013, that multiple devices built to run SteamOS will be made available by different manufacturers in 2014, and that pictures and specs of Valve's own prototype device will be shown off "soon".

The FAQ finishes with a potential hint at the last of the three promised announcements from Valve -- due two days from now -- stating "we have some more to say very soon on the topic of input", suggesting Valve has some living-room tailored keyboard or controller peripherals to unveil. It has also been rumoured that the next iteration of Valve's in house Source Engine tech might be getting a look-in.

steamvalve softwaresteam boxsteam machine

Latest Comments
Posted 09:01am 26/9/13
I'm guessing the last announcement is the controller
Posted 09:02am 26/9/13
I am curious. I'm looking to replace my media PC probably early next year, so maybe this will be a good option. I'm assuming XBMC will be available on it as it already supports Linux.
Posted 09:17am 26/9/13
I really hope the third announcement is like what Syd posted, but maybe offering both a normal controller and a keyboard/mouse hybrid. Something like what Microsoft use (maybe still do) to offer with that trackball in the keyboard. Keeps the precision of a mouse but also offers the keyboard fidelity.
Posted 09:56am 26/9/13
Some people speculate it's the source 2 engine that'll get announced and it'll run completely independent of DirectX.

If it is that, it'd be pretty awesome.
Posted 10:01am 26/9/13
Some people speculate it's the source 2 engine that'll get announced and it'll run completely independent of DirectX.If it is that, it'd be pretty awesome.
yeh that would be pretty awesome! I'd much rather something like that than a controller thing. Getting into the controller game seems really boring given the ubiquity of existing console controllers and the vast amount of third parties already in that space.
Posted 11:14am 26/9/13
Yeah, the controller doesn't excite me. My money is on it being the controller though. The first days symbol was the O, ended up being for the OS. Today's was [O ], which is the console, and O+O probably means controller.

But, I can't imagine that a new engine is far away. Source is getting old, and I bet Valve would push for their next engine to run natively on SteamOS.

Also, it's funny reading people complaining that Valve are discriminating against them as you need a controller to qualify for the free steam machine.
Posted 11:25am 26/9/13
just install vjoy if you don't have a controller.
Posted 11:27am 26/9/13
Makes sense, they've clearly been having trouble with the variety of configuration options out there in Linux land to support.

Rather than try and package Steam for Linux more generically and deal with the inevitable clusterf***, they're forking (is that the word? I'm FOSS newb) a distro and specifically working with hardware vendors to get support solidified into a reliable platform. Its a pretty smooth move (although a bit boring as an announcement).

It does make me wonder what this means for all the people who orgasm'd about having a cheapy living room SteamOS terminal made out of leftovers that could stream games from the desktop. Hopefully that use case doesn't require a shopping list of approved hardware..
Posted 11:26am 26/9/13
It seems likely that the 3rd announcement will be a controller, from the FAQ section of the Steam Machines announcement:
Am I going to be using a mouse and a keyboard in the living-room?
If you want. But Steam and SteamOS work well with gamepads, too. Stay tuned, though - we have some more to say very soon on the topic of input.
Posted 12:48pm 26/9/13
If Valve want a SteamOS box to work, if they want to dislodge themselves from Microsoft. Then they need to ditch DirectX. OpenGL if only history ran a little bit different.
Posted 12:49pm 26/9/13
Look being Valve it had want to be more than just a simple controller.
Posted 01:35pm 26/9/13
announcing a controller would be pretty anti climatic.
Posted 01:37pm 26/9/13
Yeah I'm not a huge Linux fan, but I have memories of the 2.4 and 2.6 kernel days. Trying to install nVidia drivers was a whore for a new user to the OS. Sure it's fine step by step, most of which I had no understanding of what was happening behind the scenes, just to get the computer to a state where it could run the card properly. I assume with Steam OS, all the mainstream hardware will be supported all the way from installation of the distro.

I like this talk about the next Source engine possibly being free from Direct X. This is another game changer for people who would like to migrate to linux fulltime with no dual booting for games. If others followed suit, Microsoft will need to make a lot of people happy, where at the moment they're all over the place.

I saw a quote from someone in MS talking about the xbox policy changes. They said something along the lines of "We were thinking a little to far into the future, but we've heard you and are making changes." - I know I wouldn't want an xbox after reading that.
Posted 02:22pm 26/9/13
Why would they make a big announcement about their next engine being free from DirectX? They've already ported pretty much everything that runs on Source to Linux and Mac, so it's not a big deal. It's more likely they'd announce support for AMD's Mantle API.
Posted 02:24pm 26/9/13
If Valve want a SteamOS box to work, if they want to dislodge themselves from Microsoft. Then they need to ditch DirectX. OpenGL if only history ran a little bit different.
Or AMD's answer, their new 'Mantle' API that is open-source and lightweight:

At the moment its only tested on Windows with Battlefield 4, but people are already speculating its worth on SteamOS. The fact that AMD have both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 under its wings could mean an easier escalation path for next-gen games to PC, so hopefully SteamOS gains some compatibility from that partnership.

I have a feeling the Saturday announcement will be a mixture of a Steam controller, Mantle support and Source 2 with a list of 2014 games which could include a Valve title.
Posted 02:45pm 26/9/13
Mantle would, IMHO, be a terrible thing for the PC ecosystem, and almost completely against the point of Linux and SteamOS - which is to make a nice set of standards that everyone can use to play nice with. If Mantle becomes the preferred thing for SteamOS games, then it means AMD immediately becomes the preferred hardware supplier - meaning we have less choice because NVIDIA will not get as much as a look in.

Mantle might be utterly awesome for games and game developers, but part of the problem that Valve are trying to solve with SteamOS is that single dependency that gaming currently has - Windows. Adding in a hardware one - especially in an area like video cards that is practically a religious war amongst gamers - would not be helping the great leap forward.
Posted 02:45pm 26/9/13

i will just stick to a gamer rig with windows 7
Posted 02:58pm 26/9/13
trog, i guess you missed this bit?

We've been told at the GPU14 Tech Day event that the Mantle API is open, so theoretically Nvidia could purpose the technology in their GPUs.
Posted 03:02pm 26/9/13
trog, i guess you missed this bit?
Yeh, I saw it was open but I cannot imagine NVIDIA wanting to use it simply because it'd be a PR coup for AMD. "Our products and tech are so good that even NVIDIA want to use it!!"

Maybe it is so awesome that they will go for it - s***, I'd love to be surprised - but it would just strike me as unusual given how large corporates seem to operate around things like this.

Carmack also expressed doubt that other vendors (e.g., Sony, MS) would be keen to get on board, I assume for similar reasons.

I don't know where Mantle sits in the technical chain of things, but if they're serious about making it a standard they should have done something in conjunction with NVIDIA and other vendors and made it an extension to OpenGL or something.
Posted 04:14pm 26/9/13,24418.html

Will Mantle become another case of the Glide API? 3DFX created that API back in the mid-90s so that developers like id Software would have direct access to the Voodoo GPUs. Once additional GPUs became common on the market, OpenGL became the favorite until Microsoft beefed up the relationship between Windows and DirectX. Now smartphones and tablets have reignited OpenGL support, developers want to shun DirectX, and AMD is producing an exclusive API. However, this time around, this GPU spread isn't locked to mere gaming PCs.

"AMD’s approach to providing a consistent gaming experience on the PC, in the living room or over the cloud — all powered by AMD Radeon graphics found in AMD graphics cards and accelerated processing units (APUs). The four pillars of the Unified Gaming Strategy — console, cloud, content and client — come together with the introduction of Mantle," the company said.

There's talk that Mantle is open-source, meaning Nvidia could add support to GeForce GPUs. But given the company's recent collaboration with Valve and Linux, Nvidia may be more inclined to focus on better supporting OpenGL.

This is at odds with:

AMD has revealed an API that gives developers direct access to GPUs using the GCN architecture.

Now that AMD is powering all four major gaming platforms – namely the Wii U, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC – the company has finally revealed its secret weapon to bind these platforms together: the low-level high-performance "Mantle" graphics API. This will allow developers to "speak the native language" of AMD's Graphics Core Next architecture used in modern AMD-based graphics cards and APUs.


Yet GCN is only found on AMD hardware from what I can see:

Available on select, high-performance AMD Radeon™ HD 7000 Series graphics products, the Graphics Core Next (GCN) Architecture is a radically new approach to the design of a consumer GPU.

I searched for anything related to GCN and nvidia, and as I expected I found nothing. This makes me assume that nvidia would need to build a compatible driver for the language, and even then there would be a lot of software in the middle of what's supposed to be a faster way to access hardware.

If it's what it looks like, I don't think it's the way to go.
Posted 04:27pm 26/9/13
I imagine that Valve are going to push OpenGL rather than adopt Mantle. The fact that they have been working with Nvidia and now have a Linux OS around the corner, it is probably safe to speculate that.

I would love to see PhysX on the Source 2 engine.
Posted 07:33pm 26/9/13
I imagine that Valve are going to push OpenGL rather than adopt Mantle. The fact that they have been working with Nvidia and now have a Linux OS around the corner, it is probably safe to speculate that.
Yeh, that seems like the most likely outcome to me as well.
Posted 07:50pm 26/9/13
just install vjoy if you don't have a controller.

That defeats the purpose though. They want people who actually play on their TV and use controllers.
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