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Valve Getting Into Game Hardware Business
'Frustrated by the Lack of Innovation' in Gaming Hardware
by Karl Bode 06:23PM Wednesday Sep 05 2012
While it may have had a bumpy beginning, Valve Software's Steam platform revolutionized the video game industry, and now offers users a huge catalog of (frequently on sale) titles available via broadband to a huge community of dedicated fans. Though they initially denied such a project, every indication is that the company is now considering a push into video game hardware. A job listing (via CVG) on Valve's site for an "Industrial Designer" argues that the company is "frustrated by the lack of innovation" in the hardware arena, and had decided to "jump in" to that market. From the posting:
quote:
Click for full size
Valve is traditionally a software company. Open platforms like the PC and Mac are important to us, as they enable us and our partners to have a robust and direct relationship with customers. We’re frustrated by the lack of innovation in the computer hardware space though, so we’re jumping in. Even basic input, the keyboard and mouse, haven’t really changed in any meaningful way over the years. There’s a real void in the marketplace, and opportunities to create compelling user experiences are being overlooked.
Earlier leaks suggested that Valve's interest was in partnering with hardware vendors to create a cloud-heavy living room console, though Valve denied the report, claiming they had no plans for such a device in the "immediate future."

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amungus
Premium
join:2004-11-26
America
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make it special

I'm sure it'll be spiffy, if it ever really comes along.

One could wish for some level of being able to upgrade... would be amazing if you could swap a newer GPU in, for example, every couple years.

Not sold on offloading hardware altogether for something like gaming.
moes

join:2009-11-15
Cedar City, UT

Re: make it special

They need to lock themselves in with nvidia for GPU's and then like you suggest upgradeable cards, but only nvidia cards would work in the system.

ctceo
Premium
join:2001-04-26
South Bend, IN
Reviews:
·Virgin Mobile Br..
The problem here is patent and copyright related. We would have a one-computer does all type device BUT the driving forces won't have it that way. It does not make good profit.

I'm sure this is another way for them to network with companies like microsoft to embed security features in their console to prevent hacking and pirating.
Rekrul

join:2007-04-21
Milford, CT

No innovation...

We’re frustrated by the lack of innovation in the computer hardware space though, so we’re jumping in. Even basic input, the keyboard and mouse, haven’t really changed in any meaningful way over the years. There’s a real void in the marketplace, and opportunities to create compelling user experiences are being overlooked.

The reason that the keyboard and mouse haven't changed over the years is that they work well for what they do. How else are you going to enter text? An onscreen alphabet that rotates like a ring? How are you going to move a pointer or gunsight around the screen? A wand that you shake in different directions?

If they follow through and produce a gaming system, it will almost certainly have a standard gamepad controller with a D-Pad, two analog sticks and a crap-load of buttons, just like the Xbox, PS3, etc. Or it might have motion controls, like the Wii. Yeah, lot of innovation there. Not to mention that playing a FPS game with a gamepad sucks compared to using a mouse.

Here's a thought; Why doesn't Valve get off their asses and release Half-Life Episode 3. It's only been what? Five years since the last one...
tgp1994

join:2010-10-06

Re: No innovation...

said by Rekrul:

Here's a thought; Why doesn't Valve get off their asses and release Half-Life Episode 3. It's only been what? Five years since the last one...

Yes please! I'm loosing track of all of the loose ends and hints.

Koil
Premium
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Irmo, SC
kudos:2
said by Rekrul:

We’re frustrated by the lack of innovation in the computer hardware space though, so we’re jumping in. Even basic input, the keyboard and mouse, haven’t really changed in any meaningful way over the years. There’s a real void in the marketplace, and opportunities to create compelling user experiences are being overlooked.

The reason that the keyboard and mouse haven't changed over the years is that they work well for what they do. How else are you going to enter text? An onscreen alphabet that rotates like a ring? How are you going to move a pointer or gunsight around the screen? A wand that you shake in different directions?

If they follow through and produce a gaming system, it will almost certainly have a standard gamepad controller with a D-Pad, two analog sticks and a crap-load of buttons, just like the Xbox, PS3, etc. Or it might have motion controls, like the Wii. Yeah, lot of innovation there. Not to mention that playing a FPS game with a gamepad sucks compared to using a mouse.

Here's a thought; Why doesn't Valve get off their asses and release Half-Life Episode 3. It's only been what? Five years since the last one...

Well, thank goodness not everyone follows your thought process, or we'd never have anything such as the Wii or Kinect, which is what I'm pretty sure Valve is talking about integrating here...the same type device for the XBox, but for the PC. Hell, we would still be killing stuff with rocks and sticks, by that logic.

For the mouse, I can already tell you that optics that track the movement of your pupil would be an upgrade to the pointer aspect of things, with different "click" inputs used by blinking, clinching the jaw, whatever....

Text entry...obviously verbal would be the easiest method.

Movement issues (WASD, D-Pad) would likely be done by either wii/kinect technology, or smaller scanners that can track movement of some sort. (Move your hand forward to go forward, back for back, etc)

Innovation is a beautiful thing, just because you can't see it, doesn't mean a better option isn't possible.
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Rekrul

join:2007-04-21
Milford, CT

Re: No innovation...

said by Koil:

Well, thank goodness not everyone follows your thought process, or we'd never have anything such as the Wii or Kinect, which is what I'm pretty sure Valve is talking about integrating here...the same type device for the XBox, but for the PC.

Motion sensitive controls are fine for casual gaming, but do you really think that hardcore gamers, the kind who play games like Call of Duty for hours, are really going to want to stand up and contort their body for a 3-4 hour gaming session?

I've played the Wii a few times and it gets tiring.

Even if you're only using your hand to motion with, do you have any idea how uncomfortable it is to hold your arm in the air for long periods of time with nothing to rest it on. Try holding your hand up off the desk for half an hour and then tell me that's a good method for controlling games.

said by Koil:

For the mouse, I can already tell you that optics that track the movement of your pupil would be an upgrade to the pointer aspect of things, with different "click" inputs used by blinking, clinching the jaw, whatever....

Seriously? Grinding your teeth and having to consciously blink in a specific pattern is better than using your finger to click a button? And how would such a system work? It can't 'fire' every time you blink, or you'd be entering random clicks all the time. If it requires two or three blinks in a row, you wouldn't be able to fire quickly. And what about rapid fire? Would gamers actually be expected to engage in a virtual firefight while basically creating their own strobe effect through rapid blinking? Maybe they just keep their eyes shut to fire continuously?

If using the jaw method, that precludes any kind of eating or even chewing gum while playing, since doing so would trigger unwanted clicks. It would also result in a sore jaw.

Plus, even if you still click a button and the system just tracks your eye movements, it would still be awkward. How often do you move the pointer onto a button and then take one last look at the screen before clicking OK to make sure you haven't forgotten anything. Oops, took the focus off the button. In a game, you could be aiming at one enemy when something the background catches your eye. You glance at whatever it is, which takes the aim off the current enemy, and you end up getting hit.

said by Koil:

Text entry...obviously verbal would be the easiest method.

Even if voice recognition were perfect, which it isn't (far from it), do you really want everyone within earshot to hear your passwords? Unless we're talking about Star Trek levels of voice recognition, it still takes significantly longer to input text by speaking than it does to use a keyboard. At least it does for people who are comfortable with a keyboard. Of course, the kinds of people who aren't comfortable with keyboards are also the kinds of people who aren't familiar with the limits of voice recognition and expect it to understand full English sentences using slang.

said by Koil:

Movement issues (WASD, D-Pad) would likely be done by either wii/kinect technology, or smaller scanners that can track movement of some sort. (Move your hand forward to go forward, back for back, etc)

For a typical game, you'd still need some kind of additional input to handle the 10+ buttons that all games today use. One button to draw a weapon, one button to switch weapons, one button to go into aiming mode, one button to fire, one button to access the inventory, one button to make selections in the inventory, one button to operate machines, etc.

And if you're going to argue that such functions should be handled by voice commands, please watch this video, specifically the part at 6:43;

»www.youtube.com/watch?v=9kBMscW_dVg


said by Koil:

Innovation is a beautiful thing, just because you can't see it, doesn't mean a better option isn't possible.

All of these options have been tried in the past and been found to be lacking in either ease of use or practicality.

VR helmets that track your head movements would seem like a perfect idea for FPS games, right? Not really. If the unit is self-contained then you have the weight of the batteries to contend with and they can die in the middle of a gaming session. If it gets its power from an external source, then you have a cord attached and can't turn in a complete circle. So it can only track your head movements so far and then has to go into 'turning mode'. like using a joystick. Then there's the issue of eye-strain and what to do if one of the LCD screens in the helmet dies on you.

Light guns are a natural for FPS games, right? Well, aside from the fact that traditional light guns no longer work with LCD screens, there's the issue of the gamer holding a pistol while their onscreen character is using a rifle or vice-versa.

Don't get me wrong, outside of FPS games and a select few others, I'm not a fan of using the keyboard as a game controller. I just don't think that all these other 'innovations' are all that practical to replace it with.

I grew up with systems like the Atari and C64 and I'm still not convinced that a little, left-handed, plus-shaped pad is a practical replacement for a right-handed joystick (for right-handed players of course).

RockCake
Premium
join:2005-07-12
Woodbridge, VA

Here's a thought; Why doesn't Valve get off their asses and release Half-Life Episode 3. It's only been what? Five years since the last one...

+1
Though it's been so long, I've lost interest...

El Quintron
Resident Mouth Breather
Premium
join:2008-04-28
Etobicoke, ON
kudos:4

1 edit

I'd pay some decent $ for this

I'd love some preconfigured hardware to play my PC games on my TV, assuming of course that I could play most of my purchased games.

Should be interesting to see how this plays out, I'm hoping it materializes.

Somnambul33t
L33t.
Premium
join:2002-12-05
Blackwood, NJ

Whatever Valve craps out

I will buy. I dont care if it's a monkey flinging poo, as long as i can afford it i will be supporting them. in 12 years they've never even slightly disappointed me with a release (tf2 hats, on the other hand...) and have my full, blind faith. any company that packages TF2, HL2, ep1, ep2, and Portal 1 into one box for normal MSRP (and that i bought on sale on launch day for $30) truly cares about their product and fans. they know that they are making shit tons of money because of quality, innovative, true pc games that customers love. when you look at the AAA devs/publishers, valve is in a league of their own. i wouldnt trust EA, zenimax, or actiblizz to do anything innovative in the PC world. valve is the only AAA developer that still kinda feels like an indie dev, and the only one putting out PC and console games where the PC version hasnt suffered a cataract. In fact valve still develops on and for the PC and then adapts/ports games to console, not the other way around.

of all the dev/pubs in the gaming market, valve is the only one i'd trust to create anything hardware-related besides contracting MADCATZ to slap a couple EA logos onto a console controller.

LightS
Premium
join:2005-12-17
Greenville, TX

Re: Whatever Valve craps out

Well said. I used to feel the same about Blizzard, and gave them my blind faith.

Valve has always had it - especially back before even cs:source game out.... ahhh, Valve, I hope they keep it up & don't crap out. They've been one of my favorite sources for games for a long, long time..

Shawn808

@myvzw.com

Hardware is a loss

All of the profit is in the software. Ex. The ps4 which will be coming Sony will take a loss on initially until production expenses level off with consumer sales. Now unless steam works with an independent gpu and CPU maker and can release hardware that will be generations ahead of Nvidia and amd tech I just see steam loosing. Stick with the software

cpsycho

join:2008-06-03
HarperLand
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Re: Hardware is a loss

said by Shawn808 :

All of the profit is in the software. Ex. The ps4 which will be coming Sony will take a loss on initially until production expenses level off with consumer sales. Now unless steam works with an independent gpu and CPU maker and can release hardware that will be generations ahead of Nvidia and amd tech I just see steam loosing. Stick with the software

Not exactly, They don't need to partner with anyone on this. Most likely they will go with ati/amd. with opencl and direct access to hardware layer. They will be able to pull of some interesting stuff. They are working on Linux ports as we speak. Just remember consoles only need to achieve 60 fps at mid range graphics to be successful. This could be achieved under a Linux platform with with a amd A10-5800k. Remember direct hardware access will improve performance over any api layer such as direct x.

El Quintron
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Re: Hardware is a loss

said by cpsycho:

Most likely they will go with ati/amd. with opencl and direct access to hardware layer.

If by doing this they bring Linux ATI GPU drivers into the 21st century, I'd do backflips, I've been married to nvidia's GPU hardware now just because I happen to run Linux and would like to use my hardware to its full potential.
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diablo1892
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Keep offline mode!

As long as steam keeps the offline mode feature i'm happy cause i'm a satellite user and the connection drops out a few times a day making it very unstable.. Steam, you made me one happy customer the past few years, DO NOT make me have to change it cause i have on the last couple game purchases with some other company's like diablo 3 and TM2 canyon so don't screw this up.

Thank you,
Happy Steam customer!

insomniac84

join:2002-01-03
Schererville, IN

Steambox

If this ever happens, it will be a spec, not actual hardware.

It would be way too limiting to create a console type product that ages quickly.

It is far easier to create a steamBox rating that can be listed on PCs and in game requirements that simplifies the requirements for the average and below average consumer.

It would give manufacturers something to sell. Not just a gaming PC, but a PC with a steambox 2.1 rating.

Just like how microsoft requiring hardware upgrades for new pcs in order to support windows features, a steam rating would push manufacturers to offer better hardware that can be more easily advertised to the consumer.

As for input devices, it will be cool to see what they come out with, but I am not holding my breath. The only thing a keyboard and mouse are missing is rumble features. Otherwise they work pretty well. Other companies are making things like the novint falcon, VR glasses, and the xbox 360 controller. All valve has to do is push games to support this stuff. They could easily slap a tag on the purchase page for games in steam listing the 3rd party hardware that is supported. Right now they don't list much beyond the xbox controller.