It's called "big picture mode," and it's how Valve intends to declare war on consoles. Launching in beta form today, big picture mode is a special interface for Steam that's more appropriate for viewing on a living room television set than the current one you see on your PC. It's Valve's answer to the walled garden approach console makers have taken with their platforms, and could be the first step towards the oft-rumored Steam Box that's talked about every so often.
Valve's Steam Community shed its beta baggage and is now open to anyone in the general public interested in finding and sharing game related content. The cleaned up release introduces a handful of new features, like automatically formatting YouTube links, a slick new interface (including a collage of your finest gaming moments on the screenshots page), the ability to search within discussions areas, and other goodies.
For better or worse, Valve has officially decided to jump into the PC hardware business. We know as much because a job listing on Valve's website in search for an Industrial Designer spells it out in no uncertain terms, though details of the hardware project remain a secret. All we know for sure is that Valve is "frustrated by the lack of innovation in the computer hardware space," and to rectify that, the software developer is "jumping in."
Game developer Valve is preparing what it considers to be a "major update" to the Steam Community, one that will introduce a Game Hub feature to each and every game. The Hubs will highlight the most popular user-created screenshots, videos, and Steam Workshop items as rated by the community, while also populating them with game related news, discussions, and comments.
Valve is forging ahead with plans to port its Steam distribution platform over to Linux and has even managed to tweak Left 4 Dead 2 to run faster on a 32-bit Ubuntu system than on a Windows 7 machine, but as far as John Carmack is concerned, the real challenge will be getting Linux users to open their wallets. Carmack, as you know, is the founder and technical director of id Software, and also an open source advocate. He's also a realist.
In a recent interview with Valve CEO Gabe Newell, the outspoken unofficial head of PC Gaming leveled some pretty damning criticism on Windows 8. Using words such as “catastrophe”, the internet instantly lit up with story’s and comments that for the most part, were largely supportive of his radical stance. It could easily be argued that his comments are largely self-serving since Microsoft is setting itself up in direct competition with Valve’s Steam store, but people will have to decide for themselves. Why bring up old wounds you ask? Valve has a new supporter.
You may have heard that Valve is hard at work porting its Steam client to the Linux platform, but it's not because the company has developed a sudden affinity towards the open source space. The real reason is because Valve views Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 release as a "catastrophe" in the making for the PC industry at large, or at least that's the viewpoint held by Gabe Newell, co-founder and managing director at Valve.
The kick ass Summer Sale isn't the only thing the Steam team has up their collective sleeves this week. Yesterday, Valve launched a brand-spanking-new Valve Linux blog to chronicle the company's forays into open source, and the initial post was a doozy: it confirmed all those earlier reports that Valve is working hard to get Steam up and running on everybody's favorite open source operating system. Actually, scratch that; the 11 person Valve Linux team already has the Steam client up and running.
I can't tell you the number of times I came down with dysentery, one of the many diseases that stopped me dead in my tracks on the Oregon Trail. But I plodded on, a banker from Boston who developed a skill for shooting bison and fast moving critters. And then it would be time for recess. Today's generation may never known of the awesomeness that was playing Oregon Trail on an Apple computer, but thanks to Valve, a good many will experience Portal 2 in the classroom as part of a "Steams for School" initiative.
If your trigger finger starts itching for a new FPS frag fest while you're out-and-about and away from your PC, Steam now offers the gaming equivalent of calamine lotion: remote game management. Yup, Valve's made it possible to install new games on your PC while you're "busy" at work. Yay instant gratification!