Valve’s Gabe Newell Talks Steam Box

It’s been a crazy couple of days for Valve news. First, a rumor crops up from a German source Valve would be unveiling its Linux-based Steam Box sometime this year. Then, Xi3’s Piston modular PC was revealed at CES, leading some to believe that this is the Steam Box that Valve electrical engineer Ben Krasnow was supposedly talking about, though later we’d learn that Xi3 is simply one of many hardware vendors that are partnering up with Valve to work up some prototypes.

Yesterday, the Internet got a bit deflated as Krasnow spoke with Engadget and cleared things up, saying that “it’s true that we are working on getting Steam into the living room, and are planning for a hardware box, but we have no current plans to announce anything in 2013” and that “the box might be Linux-based, but it might not.” But five minutes later, The Verge posts an exclusive interview with Valve co-founder and general head honcho Gabe Newell stating one very important thing:

The Steam Box exists.

All right, so not big news. It was basically public knowledge at that point, but still: a confirmation is a confirmation. The interview—a rarity with Newell—revealed some other big news, though. For instance, the Steam Box won’t be just for the living room; ideally, it’ll be utilized across a plethora of screens. “The Steam Box will also be a server. Any PC can serve multiple monitors, so over time, the next-generation (post-Kepler) you can have one GPU that’s serving up eight simultaeneous [sic] game calls.” On Newell’s “Good, Better, or Best” spectrum, that falls somewhere on the Best side of things.

But it doesn’t just stop there. Those are for big screens, and the initiative is appropriately called Bigfoot internally. For mobile, they have a correlating directive called Littlefoot. “We also think there’s a lot that needs to be done in the tablet and mobile space to improve input for games. I understand Apple’s [approach]; all the way back in ’83 when I met Jobs for the first time, he’s was so super anti-gaming.” This includes touch input, as “in one of the designs that we’re building on the controller side, it has this touchpad and we’re trying to figure out where that’s useful.”

Which is to say that Valve is exploring controller options, but they haven’t quite settled on anything yet. Regarding motion control, Newell says “Wii Sports is still kind of the pinnacle of that. We look at that, and for us at least, as a games developer, we can’t see how it makes games fundamentally better.” And as for controllers, he went on to call out their focus on “kind of super boring stuff all around latency and precision,” to which he responds with biometrics.

Newell says that our highest bandwidth channel of communication in our body is with our fingers, and that going to motion controls is like going from Ethernet to 300 baud dial-up. But with the combination of biometrics and gaze tracking, Valve thinks they can improve on the controller experience, which explains all those rumors we heard mid-2012 about wearable computing devices.

Oh, and as for the Linux thing, Newell says that the Steam Box will absolutely ship with it, but that “if you want to install Windows you can. We’re not going to make it hard. This is not some locked box by any stretch of the imagination.” So I guess Newell tidbits trump Krasnow ones. Be sure to read the whole interview over at The Verge. There’s a lot of interesting stuff there besides news about Linux and biometrics.

Source: The Verge

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