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VR Revolution or another Steam Machine letdown? What we want from Valve at GDC | Dealspwn roundtable

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Features
Tags:
Steam, Steam Machines, SteamVR, Valve, Virtual Reality

VR Revolution or another Steam Machine letdown? What we want from Valve at GDC | Dealspwn roundtable

So Valve are coming to GDC... and they're bringing some toys.

"At GDC 2015, we'll be giving demos of the refined Steam Controller, new living room devices, and a previously-unannounced SteamVR hardware system," read an unassuming little post yesterday that sent the internet into a flurry of speculation and expectation. Valve's much-vaunted 'Steam Machines' initiative stumbled and fell by the wayside, but they've been quietly beavering away in the skunkworks and are ready to return.

Valve are perfectly placed to become a major player in the emerging VR market, but do they have what it takes to conquer the living room? Do they even plan to? Here's what the three of us want and expect from this year's showing.

Carl

VR Revolution or another Steam Machine letdown? What we want from Valve at GDC | Dealspwn roundtable

What do I want to see from Valve? Some affordable products releasing sometime soon would be a lovely start.

In all seriousness, considering the fiasco over pricing and variation of the Steam Machines, it would be great to see if Valve can deliver a VR headset that can rival the Oculus in terms of performance, comfort, and more importantly price. That last point has been the main barrier between stopping me joining the VR revolution, so I do hope that it doesn’t become another peripheral too expensive to realistically consider.

Otherwise, the big thing I’m interested in seeing is how the SteamVR will work in terms of menus within a headset. Will it be just a screen, or will users be looking around for different options? If done right, it might inspire other developers to overcome the problem of third-person games played through headsets – something I know has been a challenge for developers to get right without making the user vomit everywhere from disorientation.

VR Revolution or another Steam Machine letdown? What we want from Valve at GDC | Dealspwn roundtable

As for the Owlface… sorry, I mean Steam Controller, I’m actually hoping they make the face buttons either more accessible in contrast to the track pads, or reveal they are trying something new. After the loss of the touch pad in the centre, I can’t help but feel that Valve could have done something else to help innovate the controller. Still, at this point we have no idea what is in store – for all we know they may have added in the once-rumoured biometrics again.

Oh, and we’ll no doubt see some sort of hidden trolling reference to a certain long-awaited thing that’s the third part of something. I know I would if I were Valve.

Brendan

VR Revolution or another Steam Machine letdown? What we want from Valve at GDC | Dealspwn roundtable

As intrigued as I am to see what Valve have planned in the VR scene at GDC 15, as they take to the stage wishing they'd stumped up the cash to buy Oculus Rift before Facebook did, I can wait. It'll be ages off and something we'll probably not see again until GDC 16.

A bit like those Steam machines we saw this time last year. You see, as a console gamer, I've been looking for a cheaper, entry level way to get into PC gaming without breaking the bank. I need to get a new laptop soon for work, so I don't really want to buy a rig as well. So unless I'm going to buy a slightly more capable laptop, I'm going to have to look elsewhere for gaming.

This time last year, I was really disappointed to see the first wave of Steam machines unveiled with hilarious price estimates. Valve and their partners seem to be missing the whole point. So this year, I'm hoping that we'll see some hardware much more sensibly priced, in order to tempt console gamers like myself over to Valve's heaving library of cheap games.

VR Revolution or another Steam Machine letdown? What we want from Valve at GDC | Dealspwn roundtable

I may be dreaming, but I think anything over the price of a new next-gen console, let's say £400 for a rough day one console, isn't going to be attractive for console gamers. I'm not expecting a wonder box that'll run Battlefield on ultra settings for that price, just something that'll run most games without me having to faff around with hardware upgrades, drivers and other PC jargon nonsense that has proved so off-putting over the years.

Seasoned PC gamers already know what they're doing and have probably already built their own rigs for less than the costs of the initial wave of machines revealed last year, so I doubt many of them will be bothered about getting involved just for the sake of a steam logo on a box. And those PC gamers probably already have a large TV plugged into their rigs already, so I hope a streaming device isn't the new Living Room Experience that the company are promising.

Anything else? I can't wait to see how the Owl Face controller has evolved again. If they can just put the buttons in the rights place, we'll be laughing for the right reasons. Half-Life 3? Don't be silly, although maybe they'll troll the crowd like Square Enix did at the PlayStation Experience with Final Fantasy VII.

Jonathan

VR Revolution or another Steam Machine letdown? What we want from Valve at GDC | Dealspwn roundtable

Oh, Valve. We've danced this dance before and where are we now? Steam machines are a joke; you promised so much yet delivered so little so slowly, while PC gaming is already becoming more accessible than ever thanks to your software, not hardware. Last year was a crushing disappointment and I really don't want to get too excited this time around...

...but wait a minute. G is the seventh letter of the alphabet. D is the fourth and C is the third.

7+ 4 + 3 = 14

4 - 1 = 3

And it's GDC 2015...

HALF LIFE 3 CONFIRMED FOR 2015 YOU GUYS! GUYS?!

VR Revolution or another Steam Machine letdown? What we want from Valve at GDC | Dealspwn roundtable

Okay, so let's get real here. The fact that Valve are entering the VR race themselves is a great thing in my opinion. and I hope that SteamVR is another viable and vibrant contender. We need to face facts: Virtual Reality may be amazing, but it's basically just a community right now that has to become an industry to make a real difference. As such it needs multiple big players, machines and manufacturers involved, all with different tech, but all pushing the message that "VR is the next big thing."

I'm also curious to see the Owlface: Final Evolution, mainly because I loved the idea of a multi-genre controller that could adapt to fit practically any game with its context-sensitive touchscreen. A touchscreen that is now history, but here's hoping that the Steam Controller proves different enough to make a splash.

While the Steam Machines and SteamOS ever take off? I don't know, and to be perfectly honest, I feel that teaming up with Microsoft to help design a better version of Windows might be the smarter play for all concerned at this stage -- Microsoft especially. But for now, just releasing a HTPC with similar specs and price to the PS4's RRP might be the way to go.

Add a comment4 comments
Late  Feb. 25, 2015 at 13:02

I may be dreaming, but I think anything over the price of a new next-gen console, let's say £400 for a rough day one console, isn't going to be attractive for console gamers. I'm not expecting a wonder box that'll run Battlefield on ultra settings for that price, just something that'll run most games without me having to faff around with hardware upgrades, drivers and other PC jargon nonsense that has proved so off-putting over the years.

Seasoned PC gamers already know what they're doing and have probably already built their own rigs for less than the costs of the initial wave of machines revealed last year, so I doubt many of them will be bothered about getting involved just for the sake of a steam logo on a box. And those PC gamers probably already have a large TV plugged into their rigs already, so I hope a streaming device isn't the new Living Room Experience that the company are promising.


This. Completely this.

With my console I buy a game, I pop it in the machine or click buy, and (after initial installation) I'm up and running. With my pc I buy a game then find out it won't work with my pc unless I upgrade a couple of components, download a few drivers, resolve a couple of conflicts, do the hokey-cokey, and tweak the graphical settings.

I want Valve to bring out something that's similar in size, price, and simplicity to the current consoles. A machine that I can put under my telly, and allow me to play steam's games. The machine they promised/alluded to a couple of years ago.

It'd be a win for consumers, as they'll get access to a massive catalogue of relatively cheap games. And it's a win for Valve as they open up their games catalogue to millions of new people. Instead of targeting their current user base, which is what they seem to be doing thus far with their steam machines initiative.

edamer  Feb. 25, 2015 at 16:40

[quote]
I want Valve to bring out something that's similar in size, price, and simplicity to the current consoles. A machine that I can put under my telly, and allow me to play steam's games. The machine they promised/alluded to a couple of years ago.



This is what they need to do and the reason I don't play games on PC its just too painful. Also make it so I can install Kodi (XBMC) and it's a done deal.

phil16  Feb. 26, 2015 at 13:48

-Brendan - Just buy a slightly better laptop - you don't need a super SLI setup to play PC games. I picked up an AMD powered laptop for £300 (No windows but I had a spare license) that was capable of playing most games at low settings. I use it play all the indie games that are out and it does a damn good job at those. For £500 you could get one with a mid range GPU that could probably do medium settings. You really don't need to spend a £1000 to game on a laptop nowadays (Although dell etc would love to convince you otherwise). Sure the graphics aren't the best but they're not bad either.

-Late - PC gaming isn't that bad now. Steam can even update graphics drivers for you and Windows 8.1 rarely needs touching. Sure you have to adjust the graphics settings in some games but there are tools to help with this (Nvidia experience. AMD have something similar - I can't remember the name). As to the cost - A Gaming PC starts at ~£400 now for something basic (my old rig was £500 and still plays most games fine - I drop less than £100 a year now on it to keep it up to date). When the games are half the price on average of a console it can be a cheaper way to game...

Late  Feb. 26, 2015 at 14:11

Thanks, Phil.
A lot of it boils down to too much choice, for me. I often have a tendency to be overawed if there's too many options and end up buying nothing.

My desktop pc is on it's last legs, so doesn't get used much. I'll hopefully pick up a replacement later this year, and was planning on spending only around £200 for something basic for browsing, downloading, and a few of the least demanding games, but as my steam library is constantly expanding I definitely need to consider increasing my budget and getting something that'll actually allow me to play most of the games I have. (Most aren't very taxing - I buy a lot of bundles and games that are really cheap, just to build up a bit of a library, but I don't have the latest AAA titles.)

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