PC Gamer
steamOS


By announcing SteamOS yesterday, Valve declared that PC gaming is more than desktop gaming, that Windows is not our master, and that—finally—cats can own Steam accounts. The free, Linux-based, cat-friendly operating system is designed for gaming on living room PCs, because PC gaming according to Valve isn't about WASD and DirectX—it's about openness and collaboration.

We're free to choose our hardware, our software, our mods, and soon more than ever, how we play, where we play, and whether or not Microsoft gets a cut. If SteamOS takes off, PC gaming will undergo one of its most dramatic changes ever—possibly one more significant than the introduction of the free-to-play model and crowdfunding. That's thrilling, but also scary as hell, so we've worked through our fears with a list of SteamOS pros and cons, followed by deep breaths in anticipation of tomorrow's announcement.

The Pros
 
It's free. If you have a living room PC, or plan to build one, you can ditch Windows for free. That feels really good to say, but the adoption rate hinges on SteamOS launching with native support for everything we want in a media and gaming center. Streaming games from a secondary PC is neat, but we'd rather run them natively on the machine we paid to put in our living room. It also needs native Netflix and Hulu apps, and all the other media services offered by the consoles.

Valve says it's got this covered, announcing that it's "working with many of the media services you know and love," and that "hundreds of great games are already running natively on SteamOS," with native "AAA titles" to be announced in the coming weeks.

It encourages competition in the console market. May the best Steam Box win! Windows isn't designed for TVs, so neither are many PCs. Now Valve is giving away a platform for games, movies, and music, challenging hardware manufacturers to make systems that are powerful, quiet, and inexpensive. It used to be Microsoft vs. Sony vs. Nintendo fighting for the top of the living room ecosystem's food chain—soon it may be Microsoft vs. Sony vs. Nintendo vs. Everyone.

It should run some games better. One of the few advantages consoles have over PCs (whether or not they always make the best of it) is an OS specifically designed for gaming. Meanwhile, we have Windows, which is clearly not designed to be an ideal gaming platform. With SteamOS, however, Valve claims it has "achieved significant performance increases in graphics processing," and is now working on "audio performance and reductions in input latency at the operating system level."

Last year, Valve posted a performance test of Left 4 Dead 2 running on Windows 7 and on Ubuntu, and the Linux build came out ahead, saying that the test "speak to the underlying efficiency of the kernel and OpenGL." This isn't close to being an objective experiment—and we'll look forward to making our own evaluations—but it is encouraging.

It means more Linux games, and more couch-friendly PC games. SteamOS is as much about ditching Windows as it is putting PC gaming in the living room, so it affects even those firmly planted in their desk chairs. If SteamOS achieves the install base it needs for developers big and small embrace Linux, the Microsoft shackles may be broken forever.

The Cons
 
Steam Boxes may struggle to compete in price. A PC designed to run SteamOS skips over the Windows fee, but unlike a console, the manufacturer can't rely on game licensing fees to recoup costs—that money goes to Valve. Sony and Microsoft, however, can price their consoles competitively with that revenue in mind, which gives them the advantage. Valve itself could price hardware this way, but that would undercut third-party hardware manufacturers and could turn out to be anti-competitive. Unless, of course, Valve makes the unlikely move to subsidize the cost of these systems.

It could increase development costs. Major game developers aren't going to ditch Windows, the platform with the world's largest install base. If SteamOS becomes a competitive gaming platform, competitive developers will have yet another version to make, soaking up more resources.

The pessimistic angle is that this can only result in either lower quality games or more expensive games. The optimistic angle is that SteamOS will be embraced and prioritized by developers with the same enthusiasm as the consoles.

It could further fragment games and smother certain genres. If SteamOS eclipses the popularity of desktop gaming, developers will have less incentive to develop desktop games. Just as developers rushed into mobile and Facebook development, we could see a flood of controller-based Steam games that push niche and classic-style PC games into the slums.

It's a scary thought, but when we un-jerk our knees and really consider this scenario, it's a very minor concern. Crowdfunding has proven without a doubt that there's still a huge appetite for old fashioned mouse and keyboard PC games. The positive—and more likely—angle is that we'll see just greater diversity in the Steam library.

It gives Valve even more power over PC gaming. Valve isn't PC gaming. We know that, and millions of League of Legends players, World of Tanks enthusiasts, GOG.com users, modders, and more know that. But Steam is the most popular digital distribution service, and soon, it will be a platform. SteamOS may be free, but it's only as open as Valve allows. We don't know yet if we can use SteamOS to play non-Steam games, or if Valve will make exclusivity deals. We've asked, and Valve's answer will be a huge indicator of its intentions.

If you've got a passionate thought about SteamOS, we'd love to include it in our next issue of PC Gamer. We're always listening at letters@pcgamer.com.
PC Gamer
The best shooters of all time
PC Gamer
Left 4 Dead 2 thumb


Like the zombies it's filled with, Left 4 Dead 2 just won't stay down. Valve continue to update their co-op FPS with new features - this time shoring up the game's Steam Workshop support with an official release of their Extended Mutations. In effect, they've mutated the mutators to provide advanced scripting tools to the community, allowing them to tweak rules and create new game modes. Like adding tiny, shrunken undead. They'd be cute if not for the biting.

Valve say they'll be highlighting some of the best mutations on the official blog later in the week. For now, they recommend Holdout: "It is a multi-map Mutation that includes the concept of resources and buildable items. It was created to showcase some of the functionality of EMS and as a byproduct, it is pretty damn fun." Valve plan to continue supporting the top community mutations through official servers.

This latest update also marks the full release of other beta features, including Linux support - which has now been rolled out to allow testing on further builds and distros. You can find the full patch notes here.
PC Gamer
steam trading cards


Just as promised, Steam Trading Cards is now live. The virtual cards can be earned by playing participating games on Steam, trading with other users, or buying on the Steam Marketplace. Complete a set to create a badge, earn rewards and XP, and level up. The user with the highest Steam level at the end of the year gets to high five Gabe Newell while announcing Half-Life 3. In space.

In other true facts, I'm already hearing from users playing the Steam marketplace to profit off the cards' initial popularity. One user I spoke to has been buying low and selling high to pad his Steam wallet, even creating scarcity by buying up low-value cards in quantity. I'll keep an eye on marketplace prices as more users start trading the collectibles.

I was hoping to find a good deal on a 1952 Mickey Mantle card, but unfortunately, baseball isn't a participating game. You can see which of the games you own are participating here.
PC Gamer
server


Here at PC Gamer we like to play PC games. Sometimes, we even like to play them with other people. That’s why we’ve got a huge lineup of game servers hosted by GameServers.com. Feel free to hop on whenever, or join us on Community Friday or during our other random events.

All servers hosted in the US. We'll update this list with PC Gamer UK's servers as soon as possible.
CS:GO Arms Race


The in-game matchmaking system only lets 10 players duke it out in Arms Race. Our server has room for 24 players with the latest and greatest custom Arms Race-compatible maps from the Steam Workshop.
CS:GO Classic Casual


Our very first community events took place on the server we like to call: The Psychedelic Den of Map Experimentation. Try out some of the best maps available on the Steam workshop in our 24-player, 128 tick server.
Rising Storm


Join the Axis or Allies as we battle it out on PCG’s Rising Storm server. Territories mode is the name of the game with our soon-to-be ranked server.
Battlefield 3


Vehicle enthusiasts can drive around in our 64-player Battlefield 3 server. Watch out for mortars!
DayZ


Part of the public hive, our DayZ server is a great place for you to scavenge for loot, meet new friends, or hunt down some bandit scum.
Minecraft


A 32-player Minecraft server with the Tekkit Classic mod installed. Download the Tekkit client before jumping on to play!
Team Fortress 2


Show off your hats and other accessories on the PCG TF2 server. We’re running the official maplist with support for 24 players.
Left 4 Dead 2


If you’re looking for a reliable dedicated server for your co-op zombie escapades, look no further than the PCG 8-man Left 4 Dead 2 server. Pick your favorite flavor of L4D2 and murder some zombies.
Unreal Tournament 2004


A staple of the PCG offices, now you too can join in on the fun with our 32-player UT2K4 server.
GoldenEye: Source


If it wasn’t already clear, PCG loves mods. In fact, we love them so much that we’ve set up a 16 player GoldenEye: Source server for you guys to play on.
Natural Selection 2


For whatever reason there’s a 10-slot maximum on our Natural Selection 2 server. We like to think that this encourages teamwork.
Killing Floor


Another co-op zombie classic, jump into our 6-player Killing Floor server to play with other PCG community members.

If you’ve got server requests, plugins, mods, or other suggestions, email jake@pcgamer.com or ben@pcgamer.com.
PC Gamer
l4d2 raptor p90


Good community content continues to flow from Left 4 Dead 2, a game we can't seem to stop championing for its healthy modding scene. Our latest praise is aimed at GoldenEye 4 Dead, an adaptation of the 1995 James Bond film and Nintendo 64 game that isn't afraid to bring original ideas to a setting most gamers are deeply familiar with.

Watch my playthrough with Tyler above.

Download links to featured mods
 
Download GoldenEye 4 Dead campaign
Download S&W Model 29 revolver weapon mod
Download Stevens Model 620 shotgun weapon mod
Download Lightsaber weapon mod
Download Desert Recon FN P90 weapon mod
Download Mountain Dew pills
Download Captain Price character mod
Download Hitler Hunter character mod
Download Glowing One Spitter character mod
Download Raptor Ellis character mod
PC Gamer
DNIEPR Left 4 Dead Campaign

After three years of labor, French development team Elseware Experience is finally ready to release DNIEPR, a custom Left 4 Dead campaign placed in the bleak Soviet-era ghost town of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.
I can't believe I didn't realize before now how perfect the abandoned Ukrainian city of Pripyat (also the subject of STALKER: Call of Pripyat) would be for zombie hordes and rampaging Tanks. Now that I’ve seen it in action, it’s chilling how much photos of Pripyat already look like set dressing for The Walking Dead.



This project is the kind of thing that makes you love gaming on PC. Three and a half years after Left 4 Dead 2 released, here we are with another completely new campaign with four new maps, an original story, an original soundtrack and custom models. If you'd like to show your support for the "hundreds and hundreds" of hours Elseware took to create DNIEPR, you can send them a donation at the bottom of this page.


DNIEPR will be available for download on May 20. If you haven’t played L4D2 in a while, this is a perfect excuse to reinstall and jump back in. If you need even more reasons, we've covered a plenty of great content mods for Left 4 Dead before.
PC Gamer
rsz_tf2_medic


There may come a day when preparing for the next chapter of a Left 4 Dead game will include wiping down your sweaty palms and taking a deep, deep breath. If you don’t, the zombies will get faster.

In remarks during the 2013 NeuroGaming Conference and Expo (via VentureBeat), Valve’s in-house experimental psychologist—Wait, hold on. Did you know that Valve employs an experimental psychologist? I wonder if he has lunch sometimes with the economist.

Anyway, Valve’s in-house mad scientist, Mike Ambinder, discussed experiments where players’ overall nervousness and agitation were measured, in part by recording sweatiness. If players began to show signs of nervousness or fear, the game would speed up. This new control scheme—mouse, keyboard, sweat-measuring skin pads—added another way for the player to interact with the game. Shoot zombie, reload pistols, keep calm. Signal for rescue, throw molotov, keep calm.

Ambinder also described other experiments in game design and biofeedback—which Valve has been talking about for a few years—including a version of Portal 2 that was played via eye tracking. Exploring the next generation of possible gaming inputs shows once again that Valve continues to operate, and plan, on a whole different level.

So good for you, Mike Ambinder. Just stay away from the mega-baboon hearts and everything will work out just fine.
PC Gamer
rsz_tf2_medic


There may come a day when preparing for the next chapter of a Left 4 Dead game will include wiping down your sweaty palms and taking a deep, deep breath. If you don’t, the zombies will get faster.

In remarks during the 2013 NeuroGaming Conference and Expo (via VentureBeat), Valve’s in-house experimental psychologist—Wait, hold on. Did you know that Valve employs an experimental psychologist? I wonder if he has lunch sometimes with the economist.

Anyway, Valve’s in-house mad scientist, Mike Ambinder, discussed experiments where players’ overall nervousness and agitation were measured, in part by recording sweatiness. If players began to show signs of nervousness or fear, the game would speed up. This new control scheme—mouse, keyboard, sweat-measuring skin pads—added another way for the player to interact with the game. Shoot zombie, reload pistols, keep calm. Signal for rescue, throw molotov, keep calm.

Ambinder also described other experiments in game design and biofeedback—which Valve has been talking about for a few years—including a version of Portal 2 that was played via eye tracking. Exploring the next generation of possible gaming inputs shows once again that Valve continues to operate, and plan, on a whole different level.

So good for you, Mike Ambinder. Just stay away from the mega-baboon hearts and everything will work out just fine.
PC Gamer
L4D2 Linux


Valve has thrown a bit more of its weight behind Linux with the release of beta builds of Portal and Left 4 Dead 2. If you own either (or both) games you should find that beta versions have materialised in your Steam library - along with Portal 2, according to some. The Linux build of the first-person puzzler has so far gone unheralded by Valve, but here's a blog post describing the latest beta version of Left 4 Dead 2. In addition to letting Linux users play Valve's zombie hit, the download acts as a "testing ground" for its new Extended Mutation System. Thankfully, you can try the beta on Windows and Mac too.

The beta version of Left 4 Dead 2 is the same size as the main game, so you have a hefty download ahead of you. (I assume the same is true of Portal.) Steam for Linux officially launched in February, so it hasn't taken too long to get Portal and L4D2 on there. Half-Life 2 next?

Thanks to BluesNews and Kotaku.
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