Steam, Steam, Steam, and more Steam!!!

Steam-OS

OK, I know, to most of you, you may have already heard of the stuff that Valve is making with the Steam trademark. There’s Steam OS, the Steam Controller, and Steam Machines. I like Steam! So let’s have a look into this!

Steam OS

Not much has really been said about Steam OS. But it rumours has been spread around that Steam OS is Valve’s Linux based operating system built around the “Big Picture” that was released last year. This assumption sounds about right as Gabe Newell was very disappointed with Windows 8 and has been benchmarking Left 4 Dead 1 and 2 in a Linux kernel to see how they would perform. Not to mention that there’s a few games on  Steam that work in Linux already. It just sounds like Gabe wants to make his own operating system made for gaming!

Steam Controller

SteamController

Now this thing is VERY real! In Fact rumours about a “Steam Controller” were around a year ago when people discovered a patent in Valve’s name that was a controller was detachable parts to it. The real product though is a controller where rather than using a pair of analogue sticks, it has a pair of circular track pads, and features a black and white OLED display in the centre.

Steam-Controller-Portal-2

The Idea with this controller is to do it’s best to eliminate the limited response of an analogue stick, but retain the “compact-ness” of a joypad controller. And thus you have a controller with a pair of track pads on it, which is the closest way of having mouse responses on a controller. What’s more interesting is that each track pad has three rings, and a clickable surface similar to that of a Macbook’s trackpad. The three rings can be set up to do different things, for example the centre ring of the left track pad can be clicked to jump, the middle ring can be made for walking movement in the direction of where the thumb is placed, and the outer ring can be set up so that you could run (so shift + w, a, s, or d), something that my friend Aidy prefers a controller over a keyboard for “Shift-less” running. The thing that’s bizarre about this controller is that there’s third pair of triggers! This reminds me A LOT of that horrible looking Gravis Xtermintor controller that too had 3 pairs of triggers! :/

thirdpairoftriggers

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Yup! 3 pairs of triggers! At least the third pair on the Steam controller are way bigger than what this abomination had!

Still, as a fan for Valve and Steam, I fully welcome the Steam Controller with open arms! But that’s the thing, why is Valve making a controller?

Steam Machines

Steam machine teaser-578-80

Valve announced a week ago that there’s going to be pieces of hardware called “Steam Machines”. These are simply small PCs made by PC manufacturers that have a small footprint, and run Steam OS on them.

Infact today on the Steam Community forums they announced these details about the specifications of these Steam machines.

Hello from the Steam hardware bunker.

Thanks for joining the Steam Universe community group. As we get closer to shipping the prototype Steam Machines and controllers we talked about last week, we’re going to be posting info here about what we’re up to, and give you some insight into the work we’ve done to get to this point.

As we talked about last week, the Steam Machines available for sale next year will be made by a variety of companies. Some of those companies will be capable of meeting the demands of lots of Steam users very quickly, some will be more specialized and lower volume. The hardware specs of each of those machines will differ, in many cases substantially, from our prototype.

Valve didn’t set out to create our own prototype hardware just for the sake of going it alone – we wanted to accomplish some specific design goals that in the past others weren’t yet tackling. One of them was to combine high-end power with a living-room-friendly form factor. Another was to help us test living-room scenarios on a box that’s as open as possible.

So for our own first prototype Steam Machine ( the one we’re shipping to 300 Steam users ), we’ve chosen to build something special. The prototype machine is a high-end, high-performance box, built out of off-the-shelf PC parts. It is also fully upgradable, allowing any user to swap out the GPU, hard drive, CPU, even the motherboard if you really want to. Apart from the custom enclosure, anyone can go and build exactly the same machine by shopping for components and assembling it themselves. And we expect that at least a few people will do just that. (We’ll also share the source CAD files for our enclosure, in case people want to replicate it as well.)

And to be clear, this design is not meant to serve the needs of all of the tens of millions of Steam users. It may, however, be the kind of machine that a significant percentage of Steam users would actually want to purchase – those who want plenty of performance in a high-end living room package. Many others would opt for machines that have been more carefully designed to cost less, or to be tiny, or super quiet, and there will be Steam Machines that fit those descriptions.

Here are the specifications for Valve’s 300 prototypes.

The 300 prototype units will ship with the following components:
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 GDDR5 (GPU)
Storage: 1TB/8GB Hybrid SSHD
Power Supply: Internal 450w 80Plus Gold
Dimensions: approx. 12 x 12.4 x 2.9 in high

As a hardware platform, the Steam ecosystem will change over time, so any upgrades will be at each user’s discretion. In the future we’ll talk about how Steam will help customers understand the differences between machines, hardware strengths and weaknesses, and upgrade decisions.

We aren’t quite ready to post a picture of our prototype – just because they’re not finished enough. Before they ship we’ll let you know what the prototype looks like. And we expect people to redesign the machine, too. Both from a technical perspective, deciding on different components, and from an industrial design perspective, changing the enclosure in interesting ways.

So high-powered SteamOS living room machines are nice, and fun to play with, and will make many Steam customers happy. But there are a lot of other Steam customers who already have perfectly great gaming hardware at home in the form of a powerful PC. The prototype we’re talking about here is not meant to replace that. Many of those users would like to have a way to bridge the gap into the living room without giving up their existing hardware and without spending lots of money. We think that’s a great goal, and we’re working on ways to use our in-home streaming technology to accomplish it – we’ll talk more about that in the future.

Stay tuned for some closer looks at the Steam Controller.

It sounds as if they’ll be many different Steam machines depending on if you’re on a budget, or if you want high-end power. There’s going to be a machine for everyone. I definitely like the sounds of this. Unfortunately I was too late to sign up for the hardware testing, but I’m super interested in this already! 😀