Valve’s top bossman Gabe Newell hasn’t forgotten about the software side of his empire, even though he just dropped confirmation of a living room, Linux-powered Steam Box. Steam will continue to evolve, he tells The Verge at CES, and in the future it may resemble a user-generated profile hub, where users can create their own stores and aggregate games within those markets.
"Our view has always been that we should build tools for customers and tools for partners," Newell says. "An editorial filter is fine, but there should be a bunch of editorial filters. The backend services should be network APIs that anybody can use. On the consumer side, anybody should be able to put up a store that hooks into those services.
"Some people will create team stores, some people will create Sony stores, some people will create stores with only games that they think meet their quality bar. Somebody is going to create a store that says ‘these are the worst games on Steam.’ So that’s an example of where our thinking is leading us right now."
Newell’s love affair with user generated content can be seen in its infancy with Greenlight, which allows users to choose the games that make it to Steam. The idea, however, stems from a more established aspect of Steam – the Workshop.
"So now we’re in this strange world where we have people who are using the Steam Workshop who are making $500,000 per year building items for other customers," Newell says. "In other words, there’s this notion that user-generated content has to be an important part of our thinking. We know of other game developers making more money building content for the workshop than what they get in their day job.
"One of the things we found is that this notion of a workshop needs to span multiple games. If we’re connecting Skyrim and other games… it’s like this notion that there’s just a game seems to be going away; games are starting to look like an instance of some larger experience."
With the recent launch of Steam Big Picture, it hasn’t taken long for the words "Steam Box" to enter the collective gaming community’s brain space. Valve boss Gabe Newell reignited that discussion when speaking on the red carpet at last night’s Video Game Awards ceremony about the company’s plans to enter the hardware business.
Newell told Kotaku that he sees multiple companies entering the hardware space, and that "most customers and most developers are gonna find that [the PC is] a better environment for them." His reasoning is that consumers "won’t have to split the world into thinking about ‘why are my friends in the living room, why are my video sources in the living room different from everyone else?’ So in a sense we hopefully are gonna unify those environments."
The Valve boss suggested that companies would launch PC bundles in 2013 designed to run Steam in the living room and compete with next gen consoles. Newell added that Valve is one of those companies, and its efforts may not be as open-source as some might expect:
"Well certainly our hardware will be a very controlled environment. If you want more flexibility, you can always buy a more general purpose PC. For people who want a more turnkey solution, that’s what some people are really gonna want for their living room. The nice thing about a PC is a lot of different people can try out different solutions, and customers can find the ones that work best for them."
Team Fortress 2‘s fourth-annual "Scream Fortress" festivities have begun, bringing with them the usual blend of spooky items and ghastly baddies. This year’s event, which runs until November 8, is also accompanied by a now-customary comic book, which explains how such terrifying circumstances came to be.
Said circumstances include haunted King of the Hill matches, during which players must battle the powerful ghost/wizard Merasmus and his book of bomb magic, the Bombinomicon. Additionally, control points have been booby trapped and now trigger the "Wheel of Fate" with each change in power, which has as much potential to harm as it does to help.
Item-wise, the ghoulish update adds magic spells in the form of potion bottles that can be applied to other inventory items; changing their colors, summoning ghosts or performing any number of other possible magical happenings. "One of the spells might even give you Glenn Danzig’s eldritch phone number," Valve’s announcement reads.
Mann vs Machine isn’t left out of the fun either, gaining a brand-new mission called "Wave 666," which replaces the usual robotic enemies with those of an undead variety.
The Left 4 Dead series has sold more than 12 million copies, Valve writer Chet Faliszek noted in an interview with VG24/7. Faliszek talked about the company’s approach to promoting its games, saying Valve doesn’t rely much on marketing because "when a game does really well at pre-release, they’re going to know that you’re not just talking a bunch of PR crap."
"We just let the game speak for itself because the internet has made this thing where you can’t pull the wool over people’s eyes any more. They’re going to know you’re hyping," he said. Either the zombie apocalypse creates some high-quality wool, or Left 4 Dead must be a pretty great series.
Valve in-house hardware hacker Jeri Ellsworth told Engadget that she hopes to hold an external beta test, tied to Steam, for the company’s first hardware product next year. Internal beta tests within Valve are already ongoing.
She wasn’t clear on what the device would be, but the stated goal is "to make Steam games more fun to play in your living room." The new hardware is some kind of input method to improve playability of PC games using Big Picture Mode. It could be a controller, or it could be some kind of keyboard/mouse combination.
Or it could be maracas. Maracas have proven perfect for every game we’ve tried them with, including Samba De Amigo, and …
How often have you wanted your fast-paced online shooters to include some aspect from MMOs, such as epic mounts, complicated hotbars for all your skills, or monthly subscription fees? Well, none of those things are coming to Team Fortress 2…yet. Instead, it seems like Valve is testing the waters by adding crafting to the game. Yes, crafting.
In case you think I’m making this up, let me assure you I’m not that imaginative. Here, I’ll let Valve explain it.
Introducing Team Fortress 2′s new Crafting system. Say goodbye to those enjoyable evenings spent complaining on the forums about which item in your inventory was the most useless, spraying anti-Australian racist hate speech all over Robin Walker, his lovely wife, and his beautiful children. EVERYTHING in your inventory now contributes towards something you actually WANT, and can build YOURSELF! If you’re super clever, you’ll even be able to craft new items before others can earn them the old fashioned way.
Bear hide gathering, forlorn LFG’s in the chat text, and gold farming can’t be far behind.
Doug Lombardi has told Joystiq that a multiplayer demo for Valve’s Left 4 Dead 2 is planned for both the Xbox 360 and PC. According to Valve’s PR guru, users who pre-order the upcoming zombie survival title at "participating retailers or [via] Steam" will gain "advanced access to the demo," which will eventually land on both platforms for all users prior to the game’s November 17 launch.
Speaking with OXM at a recent London preview event, Lombardi discussed the strength of Left 4 Dead‘s "word of mouth," which has presumably fueled the need for a demo to the sequel. With groups calling for a boycott of Left 4 Dead 2 due to lack of content support for the original title, a demo may be the best way for Valve to prove why it believes its sequel warrants a full price tag. Although, strong pre-order numbers tell us the game is already on pace to decimate sales charts like a zombie tank.
Gallery: Left 4 Dead 2
Homer Simpson once said, “You tried your best and failed miserably. The lesson is: never try.” Valve must take that second part—“never try”—pretty seriously, since it told some dude at E3 that it has no interest in developing for the PS3. Reason being? It’s too hard. Fair enough.
The full quote, straight from a Valve dev on the E3 show floor:
The PC and the 360 are just more straightforward. We can focus on what we want to do, which is make game experiences, instead of sweating bullets over obscure architectural decisions they make with their platform. [...] I didn’t come into this business in the 90s because of some technical fetish. I came in because I wanted to give people experiences that made them have fun.
Sounds reasonable to me. If Valve can sustain itself developing only for the PC and Xbox 360, why should it knock itself out trying to figure out how to develop for the PS3? It quite literally is not worth the effort.
It’s not my business to tell Valve what to do with its resources, said with an eye toward the ongoing “controversy” regarding Left 4 Dead 2.
When Valve introduced the first four class updates to Team Fortress 2, an achievement system was used to help unlock new weapons and items. According to Valve, that system did not work as intended. In the end, instead of playing the game toward fun and rewarding goals, hardcore players would grind achievements to unlock the game’s latest weaponry. At the time, users complained the achievement system was changing the landscape of Team Fortress 2‘s online community — mostly because some of the achievements were so difficult to acquire regularly.
In response, Valve has changed the new weapon system with the latest update (Spy & Sniper). In the new system, Team Fortress 2 utilizes Valve’s Steam Cloud, automatically rewarding players new weaponry and items previously only attainable through completing achievement related tasks.
According to Valve, the new system is designed to reward gamers based on how long they play Team Fortress 2. Play more, get more. But according to the game’s forums — and multiple emails to Joystiq — some players are unhappy with the changes.
Valve claims that the complaint was not officially submitted to the “contractually agreed audit and dispute process” and states that the auditor thus refused to consider it. So, what did Activision do? It paid $1,967,796. Yup, that’s exactly $424,136 less than the awarded amount. Furthermore, Activision stated it would sue Valve if the company attempted to have the court confirm the total payment due.
Undaunted, Valve is now asking that the court award it the deficient payment and officially close the arbitration process, thus barring Activision from attempting to re-open it. More legal fireworks, it would seem, are about to ensue.