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PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Report lists Steam’s most popular (and most untouched) games">Steam graphs







Have you played every single game in your Steam library? No? Neither have I and that accomplishment is apparently just a small sand grain in the over 288 million games in Steam collections that have never felt a press of the Play button. That's a surprising figure from a new report by Ars Technica researching the most active and popular games on Steam straight from the recorded statistics of some of the platform's 75-million-strong community.



Ars' method for its number flood involves sampling registered games and their played hours via profiles and their unique Steam IDs. With the help of a server for computational muscle, Ars randomly polled more than 100,000 profiles daily for two months to pull together an idea of which games see the most time on everyone's monitors. In other words, your Backlog of Shame (don't deny it, everyone has one) probably took part in some SCIENCE at some point. Exciting.



Some caveats exist, though. The data Ars looked at for its research only extends back to 2009, when Steam brought in its "hours played" tracking system. Owned and played/unplayed games are thus slightly skewed to not account for older releases from the early noughties, and any length of time spent in offline mode wouldn't get picked up by Steam either. Still, Ars claims its results deliver a good picture of Steam gaming trends for the past five years albeit with some imperfections.



Predictably, Valve's personal products stack high on the list in terms of ownership and most played hours. Dota 2 takes the crown with an estimated 26 million players who ganked faces at some point in the MOBA, but free-to-play FPS Team Fortress 2 follows closely behind with a little over 20 million users. Counter-Strike: Source rounds out the top three with nearly 9 million players, but it's also collecting dust in over 3 million libraries.



As for non-Valve games, Skyrim wins in activity, barely edging out Counter-Strike: Global Offensive with 5.7 million estimated active owners. Civilization V kept 5.4 million players hooked for Just One More Turn, and Garry's Mod boasts 4.6 million budding physics artists.



Want to know what the most unplayed Steam game is? It's Half-Life 2: Lost Coast, the Source tech demo given free to pretty much everyone on Steam who bought or fired up Half-Life 2. It hasn't been touched by an approximate 10.7 million players. I guess that old fisherman is feeling pretty lonely right now.



My favorite stat is the total of played hours divided by game mode, more specifically the separate multiplayer clients of the Steam versions of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Black Ops. The single-player campaigns for each respective title sits modestly within the mid-20-hour range, but the multiplayer side balloons well into the hundreds of hours. It's a pretty obvious indicator of where the biggest chunk of popularity resides in FPS gaming, but it's not like you wouldn't get weird looks for claiming you play Call of Duty for the story anyway.



See more of Ars' results in both number and pretty orange graph form in its report.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Half-Life 2′s City 17 recreated in the Unreal Engine, looks stunning">HL2 Intro







For some reason, the Source engine is lodged in my mind as the default baseline for what a game looks like. It's almost ten years old now, but because its characters aren't the angular blockmen of older engines everything since feels like an improvement on that default unit of Graphics. Until, that is, somebody decides to post screenshots of their Unreal Engine recreation of the opening map from Half-Life 2, at which point I'm reminded that we live in 2014 and have access to exponentially more Graphics.



That somebody is environment artist Jeannot "Logithx" van Berlo, whose UDK remake of City 17's train station is a beautiful thing. And as good as these shots look, van Berlo is now considering converting his recreation to the newer, sexier Unreal Engine 4. Ultro-Graphics!



"Still tons of stuff to do like creating all the exterior stuff, train interiors and some smaller models (monitors and props) but then Epic released UE4 in all its glory," van Berlo posted to the Polycount community's "What Are You Working On?" thread. "Please note that there's lots of placeholder models/textures/lighting and general derpyness in these pics," he writes. "Can't wait to get going with UE4."



See all three shots below.















Thanks, Dan Marshall.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to The future of PC gaming: virtual reality">futurepcgaming-vr







Illustration by Marsh Davies



All week long, we're peering ahead to what the future holds for the PC gaming industry. Not just the hardware and software in our rigs, but how and where we use them, and how they impact the games we play. Here's part three of our five-part series; stay tuned all week for more from the future of PC gaming.



Palmer Luckey has dedicated his career to virtual reality and bet millions of investment dollars on the idea, so it s expected that he would call it the most exciting technology of the last century. But it s still a bold statement from the young entrepreneur and founder of Oculus VR, and we told him as much during our chat at CES 2014.



I didn t say it s going to be the most successful, responded Luckey. But I think it is one of the most exciting, especially when you think of the potential.



Luckey has a lot of backup there; science fiction writers and scientists alike have been spinning tales of VR s potential for ages. All the way back in the 80s, Jaron Lanier the computer scientist credited with coining the term very accurately and excitedly predicted the virtual reality trends emerging in PC gaming today: massively multiplayer worlds, motion controls, and head-mounted displays (HMDs) through which we re immersed in stereoscopic visions of unreal places.



A US Navy hospital corpsman demonstrating a virtual reality parachute trainer.



And even before Lanier s predictions, there s been a persisting sense that virtual reality is both feasible and inevitable, which made growing up in the 80s and 90s terribly disappointing. The VR revolution just never came to pass. The technology never really worked in a consumer setting, and VR became a joke a list of novelty failures like the Virtual Boy.



Palmer Luckey and the Oculus Rift VR headset are putting that all behind us. It isn t a proven success yet, but it has proven that it s not a joke. By all indications, including the millions of dollars from enthusiastic Kickstarter backers and major technology investors, the virtual reality dream is finally becoming a reality.

Why VR works now

Consumer head-mounted displays existed before the Oculus Rift, but they weren t nearly the stuff of cyberpunk fiction. Shining stereoscopic images into the eyes is easy a plastic toy can do that but immersing the wearer s head in a world without making their stomach feel like an airborne water balloon is a lot harder.



Virtual reality that feels anything like reality requires an HMD with low-latency head tracking, high-resolution screens, minimal motion blur, and a field-of-view expansive enough to reach the peripheral vision. The first Rift prototype came near to solving these problems, but still made our managing editor, Cory Banks, quit Half-Life 2 with the contents of his stomach.







The latest hi-res prototype, however, strapped Cory and his stomach into a space battle with enough fidelity to keep his lunch secure. By overcoming its biggest critic the finicky human body virtual reality has proven that it s ready to arrive in our homes. It is no longer the stuff of failed Nintendo systems, theme park rides, and arcade installations of the 90s. It s real, and we ll be using it in the next year or two.



Mind you, modern VR technology is nowhere near the dreams of sci-fi writers we still need better motion control, haptic feedback, and face capture solutions but think of the Rift as the PC you would have played Doom on in 1993. We look back at those Pentium-powered antiques and laugh, but we bought them then because Doom was worth it. The VR tech of 2034 will make today s Oculus Rift look silly, but VR is just sophisticated enough now to be worth having, and that s why this is its watershed moment.

Game changer

The most important and exciting thing about this moment is that it isn t just about playing the same games with screens strapped to our faces. Virtual reality isn t a type of display it s a new gaming platform and it needs its own kind of games. In my ideal fantasy of the near future, we're still playing all the games we play now, but we have an expansive set of mutated genres made possible by VR.



As a first step, simulation makes sense. The closer technology gets to simulating reality, the better suited it is for simulations of reality. In the most basic VR scenario, you re sitting in a chair with a headset on, which makes it perfect for games about sitting in a cockpit or driver s seat. Expect VR support to be standard in driving, flight, and space sims Project Cars, for instance, already supports the Rift, and EVE Online developer CCP is making a dogfighting game designed specifically for the headset called EVE Valkyrie. Elite: Dangerous looks very promising as well see Andy talking about it below.







First-person shooters work in VR, too I played through part of Half-Life 2 with a Rift developer kit but slower is better. I doubt Titanfall would make a good VR shooter, for instance. Jetpacking up walls and being flung around by giant mechs might disorient even astronauts.



No matter how good you make a VR headset, it won t necessarily let you do everything you can do on a monitor without feeling disorienting," says Luckey. "And that s because a lot of things that you do in traditional games would make you sick if you did them in real life.



Call of Duty multiplayer, for instance, would probably not benefit from VR. Constant sprinting, 360-degree spinning, and bunny-hopping? No thanks and I doubt you'd get a competitive edge. That doesn't mean VR games will all be mundane strolls through static scenery, but even in a single-player shooter or on a psychedelic trip to Mars, I expect movement will need to be more natural. How often do you actually strafe across a room or walk backward around corners?



So, we ll move more like people move, and we ll also explore more with the Rift, just being in a place is instantly more interesting than it ever was on a flat monitor and more and more, we ll stop being asked to wield a gun at all times. In VR-land, pure shooters will further lose status as the dominant genre for first-person games. In their place, the survival-horror genre will continue its recent ascension Zombie Studios is already developing the Rift-compatible, properly terrifying Daylight and the less masochistic will find a greater number of first-person RPGs like Skyrim and exploration games like Dear Esther, The Stanley Parable, and Gone Home.



Many Oculus Rift demos are simply places to explore and experience, such as RedOfPaw's rendition of The Boiler Room from Spirited Away.



VR will be optimally used for simulation, exploration, and role-playing, and the games won t always fit into traditional definitions of games (as the last three I mentioned are either accused of or praised for, depending on who you ask). We ll visit foreign landmarks by exploring photorealistic 3D-scanned replicas. We ll bounce on the surface of the moon with friends. We ll dive into the Mariana trench in personal submarines.



These ideas call back to the multimedia CD-ROM experiences of the mid- 90s. The era s video encyclopedias and FMV games didn t earn the best reputation, but they ll come back in a much better way with VR. Consider Star Trek s reality-generating holodeck. The crew of the Enterprise didn t jump into the horrors of war as endlessly respawning soldiers. As much fun as that is (don't think I'm going to stop enjoying Rising Storm), I don't see it as the most exciting use of VR technology. No, Picard and crew experienced places, stories, and simulated people. They were role-playing, and even though the holodeck was just a plot device, I foresee real VR technology leading to the same thing. I also expect it to spur on advances in relatively un-advanced segments of game design and programming.

A new reality

For instance, role playing in virtual reality should lead to more convincing characters. Right now, short of hiring actors to populate my personal Sherlock episode in some kind of multiplayer murder theater, there s no way to have a natural interaction with a non-player character in a game. People don t fall in love via dialog wheel or blink idly when they have nothing to say, and as games start to feel more like reality, we ll expect their characters to act more like real people. AI and voice recognition will improve, and communication will become more important.



And when VR hardware is sophisticated enough, the goal of improving graphics and motion controls will be wholly replaced with the task of better simulating reality. That s the ultimate dream of VR from the perspective of many who have written about it a reality substitute, where people play, socialize, shop, and do business, as in Neal Stephenson s Snowcrash and other sci-fi fiction before and after it.



VR Cinema is a novel way to watch movies with extremely high resolution headsets, it could be a great way to share the theater experience with distant friends.



Virtual Reality starts out as a medium just like television or computers or written language, said Lanier in a 1988 interview with now-defunct magazine Whole Earth Review. But once it gets to be used to a certain degree, it ceases to be a medium and simply becomes another reality that we can inhabit.



Today, Luckey is saying much the same thing. When VR is going to be exciting is when it gets as good as real life at everything, he says. And you start to say, well, Why would I travel on a business meeting across the world just to go sit face-to-face with people, if we can just plug in Rifts and get all of the same nuance of communication we could have gotten otherwise?



But that s not to say that gamers aren t important, or that the goal of VR is to leave gaming behind. We re vital, according to Luckey and I agree because that grand cyberspace future will never get off the ground without us.



"Gamers are the ones that I think are most accepting of this kind of new technology," he says. "Gamers are willing to take time out of their day to go do something that s out of the ordinary and fantastical. And VR is one of the best ways we re going to have to do that."
PC Gamer
rel="bookmark"
title="Permanent Link to The future of PC gaming: virtual reality">futurepcgaming-vr







Illustration by Marsh Davies



All week long, we're peering ahead to what the future holds for the PC gaming industry. Not just the hardware and software in our rigs, but how and where we use them, and how they impact the games we play. Here's part three of our five-part series; stay tuned all week for more from the future of PC gaming.



Palmer Luckey has dedicated his career to virtual reality and bet millions of investment dollars on the idea, so it s expected that he would call it the most exciting technology of the last century. It s still a bold statement from the young entrepreneur and founder of Oculus VR, and we told him as much during our chat at CES 2014.



I didn t say it s going to be the most successful, said Luckey. But I think it is one of the most exciting, especially when you think of the potential.



Luckey has a lot of support there; science fiction writers and scientists alike have been spinning tales of VR s potential for ages. All the way back in the 80s, Jaron Lanier the computer scientist credited with coining the term very accurately and excitedly predicted the virtual reality trends emerging in PC gaming today: massively multiplayer worlds, motion controls, and head-mounted displays (HMDs) through which we re immersed in stereoscopic visions of unreal places.



A US Navy hospital corpsman demonstrating a virtual reality parachute trainer.



And even before Lanier s predictions, there s been a persisting sense that virtual reality is both feasible and inevitable, but the VR revolution just never came to pass. The technology didn't work in a consumer setting, and VR became a joke a list of novelty failures like the Virtual Boy.



Palmer Luckey and the Oculus Rift VR headset are putting that behind us. The device isn t a proven success yet, but it has proven that it s not a joke. By all indications, including the millions of dollars from enthusiastic Kickstarter backers and major technology investors, the virtual reality dream is real.



Why VR works now

 

Consumer head-mounted displays existed before the Oculus Rift, but they weren t nearly the stuff of cyberpunk fiction. Shining stereoscopic images into the eyes is easy a plastic toy can do that but immersing the wearer s head in a world without making their stomach feel like an airborne water balloon is a lot harder.



Virtual reality that feels anything like reality requires an HMD with low-latency head tracking, high-resolution screens, minimal motion blur, and a field-of-view expansive enough to reach the peripheral vision. The first Oculus Rift prototype came near to solving these problems, but still made our managing editor, Cory Banks, quit Half-Life 2 with the contents of his stomach.







The latest hi-res prototype, however, strapped Cory and his stomach into a space battle with enough fidelity to keep his lunch secure. By overcoming its biggest critic the finicky human body virtual reality has proven that it s ready to arrive in our homes. It is no longer the stuff of failed Nintendo systems, theme park rides, and arcade installations of the 90s. It s real, and we ll be using it in the next year or two.



Mind you, modern VR technology is nowhere near the dreams of sci-fi writers we still need better motion control, haptic feedback, and face capture solutions but think of the Rift as the PC you would have played Doom on in 1993. We look back at those Pentium-powered antiques and laugh, but Doom was worth it. The VR tech of 2034 will make today s Oculus Rift look silly too, but VR is just sophisticated enough now to be worth having, and that s why this is its watershed moment.



Game changer

 

What this moment will do for games is the most exciting unknown. It isn t just about playing the same games with screens strapped to our faces. Virtual reality isn t a type of display it s a new gaming platform and it needs its own kind of games. In my ideal fantasy of the near future, we're still playing all the games we play now, but we have an expansive set of mutated genres made possible by VR.



As a first step, simulation makes sense. The closer technology gets to simulating reality, the better suited it is for simulations of reality. In the most basic VR scenario, you re sitting in a chair with a headset on, which makes it perfect for games about sitting in a cockpit or driver s seat. Expect VR support to be standard in driving, flight, and space sims Project Cars, for instance, already supports the Rift, and EVE Online developer CCP is making EVE Valkyrie, a dogfighting game designed specifically for the headset. Elite: Dangerous looks very promising as well see Andy talking about it below.







First-person shooters work in VR, too I played through part of Half-Life 2 with a Rift developer kit but slower is better. With a Rift on my head, I spent more time than ever before walking around looking at the details of Half-Life 2's floors and ceilings. I also noticed that, when I took my time observing, I was able to create a better mental map of the levels than I recall making during any previous playthrough.



I doubt, however, that Titanfall would make a good VR shooter. Jetpacking up walls and being flung around by giant mechs might disorient even astronauts.



No matter how good you make a VR headset, it won t necessarily let you do everything you can do on a monitor without feeling disorienting," says Luckey. "And that s because a lot of things that you do in traditional games would make you sick if you did them in real life.



Call of Duty multiplayer, for instance, would also probably not benefit from VR. Constant sprinting, 360-degree spinning, and bunny-hopping? No thanks and I doubt you'd get a competitive edge. That doesn't mean VR games will all be mundane strolls through static scenery, but even in a shooter or on a psychedelic trip to Mars, I expect movement will need to be more natural. How often do you actually strafe across a room or walk backward around corners?



We ll move more like people move, we ll explore more with the Rift, just being in a place is instantly more interesting than it ever was on a flat monitor and more and more, we ll stop being asked to wield a gun at all times. Shooters will exist in VR-land, but they'll further lose status as the dominant genre for first-person games. The survival-horror genre will continue its recent ascension Zombie Studios is already developing the Rift-compatible, properly terrifying Daylight and the less masochistic will find a greater number of first-person RPGs like Skyrim and exploration games like Dear Esther, The Stanley Parable, and Gone Home.



Many Oculus Rift demos are simply places to explore and experience, such as RedOfPaw's rendition of The Boiler Room from Spirited Away.



VR games won t always fit into traditional definitions of games (as the last three I mentioned are either accused of or praised for, depending on who you ask). We ll visit foreign landmarks by exploring photorealistic 3D-scanned replicas. We ll bounce on the surface of the moon with friends. We ll dive into the Mariana trench in personal submarines.



These ideas call back to the multimedia CD-ROM experiences of the mid- 90s. The era s video encyclopedias and FMV games didn t earn the best reputation, but they ll come back in a much better way with VR. Consider Star Trek s reality-generating holodeck. The crew of the Enterprise didn t jump into the horrors of war as endlessly respawning soldiers. As much fun as that is (don't think I'm going to stop enjoying Rising Storm), I don't see it as the most exciting use of VR technology. No, Picard and crew experienced places, stories, and simulated people. They were role-playing, and even though the holodeck was just a plot device, I foresee real VR technology encouraging the same kinds of experiences. And with those experiences, I expect VR will spur on advances in relatively un-advanced segments of game design and programming.



A new reality

 

As one example, virtual reality should lead to more convincing characters. Right now, short of hiring actors to populate my personal Sherlock episode in some kind of multiplayer murder theater, there s no way to have a natural interaction with a non-player character in a game. People don t fall in love via dialog wheel or blink idly when they have nothing to say, and as games start to feel more like reality, we ll expect their characters to act more like real people. AI and voice recognition will improve, and communication will become more important to gameplay.



And when VR hardware is sophisticated enough, the goal of improving graphics and motion controls will be wholly replaced with the task creating more and more complex simulations. That s the ultimate dream of VR from the perspective of many who have written about it a reality substitute, where people play, socialize, shop, and do business, as in Neal Stephenson s Snowcrash and other sci-fi fiction before and after it.



VR Cinema is a novel way to watch movies with extremely high resolution headsets, it could be a great way to share the theater experience with distant friends.



Virtual Reality starts out as a medium just like television or computers or written language, said Lanier in a 1988 interview with now-defunct magazine Whole Earth Review. But once it gets to be used to a certain degree, it ceases to be a medium and simply becomes another reality that we can inhabit.



Today, Luckey is saying much the same thing. When VR is going to be exciting is when it gets as good as real life at everything, he says. And you start to say, well, Why would I travel on a business meeting across the world just to go sit face-to-face with people, if we can just plug in Rifts and get all of the same nuance of communication we could have gotten otherwise?



But that s not to say that gamers aren t important, or that the goal of VR is to leave gaming behind. We re vital, according to Luckey (and I agree), because that grand cyberspace future will never get off the ground without us.



"Gamers are the ones that I think are most accepting of this kind of new technology," he says. "Gamers are willing to take time out of their day to go do something that s out of the ordinary and fantastical. And VR is one of the best ways we re going to have to do that."
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Source SDK mod Estranged: Act I now on Steam for free">Estranged: Act I







It's always nice to see a mod progress from humble beginnings to its own Steam product page, and Estranged is fully deserving of the achievement. Alan Edwardes' spooky, puzzle-filled FPS plays and looks like a first-person Alan Wake, and it's an excellent deviation from standard run-and-gun zombie-fragging with its supernatural twists and an atmospheric sense of foreboding. The first act is available on Steam as a free download independent of any Source-based game, so you won't need Half-Life 2 to jump in and start exploring.



Washing ashore on a misty, moonlit island coastline, you'll need to both figure out what happened and how to escape from the island's strange and sometimes hostile inhabitants. The story, like most well-crafted horror yarns, shrouds itself with mystery and urges exploration to reveal the truth. It's a particularly effective strategy, as Edwardes and his team poured a wonderful degree of detail into the island's foggy docks, murky woodlands, and eerily empty houses.



And when the monsters glowy-eyed zombie/infected hybrids do jump out from the shadows, the game shines with a less-is-more approach of eschewing musical cues or zombie groans for more silent and sudden attacks. Running away is often just as correct as fighting, since you'll find yourself hoarding the precious bullets and medical supplies you'll scrounge up as long as possible. Trust me, after getting my back clawed to pieces by a zombie who I could've sworn wasn't behind me a second ago, I can assure that rush of adrenaline will be genuine.



Estranged has come a long way since its beta became the Mod of the Week last September, and seeing just the first act appear on Steam suggests more to come from Edwardes to further unravel more pieces of the island's riddle. Grab it for free on Steam, and check out the official website for more screenshots and info.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Half-Life 2: Deathmatch mod Jaykin’ Bacon 3 reveals its surprising weapons in Instagib trailer">Jaykin Bacon







I've not much sympathy for "things were better in the old days" reminiscing. For instance, those who prefer the twitch action of 'old-school' shooters still have valid options for their acrobatic rocket-spam. Far better then, are those retro-pastiche projects that filter the philosophy of nostalgia through something entirely more ridiculous. Take Half-Life 2: Deathmatch mod Jaykin' Bacon 3. As you'll see in this trailer, its Instagib mode will let you play a flying Solid Snake shooting his deadly electrified finger gun.







There's no hint of a release date yet for the Jaykin' Bacon Source sequel, so while we wait for the mod team to provide further instructions, you can check out their official site. Alternatively, head over to ModDB to see how the creators have incorporated Perfect Dark Zero into their mythology.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Black Mesa: Source team gets approval from Valve to sell remake on Steam">Black Mesa: Source







Black Mesa: Source, the free high-def remake of Valve's first-person shooter classic Half-Life, is a clear example of how awesome the PC gaming/modding community is. For no reason other than they wanted to, the team behind Black Mesa painstakingly rebuilt Half-Life inside the Source engine, prettied up all the art, and released the result for free. On Tuesday - Half-Life’s fifteenth birthday - Black Mesa received permission from Valve to be sold on Steam.



“Last year, Black Mesa was one of the first Steam games to be Greenlit by you, our amazing fans,” project lead Carlos Montero wrote in a post on the community forums. “We've had quite a year since then, with a lot happening internally that we haven't been able to talk about... until now. Black Mesa has been given the opportunity to be sold as a retail product on Steam!"



The big surprise is Valve allowing Black Mesa to profit from what is, basically, a work of fan tribute. Although a groundswell of popular support put Black Mesa on the Steam store, there was never an expectation that the game would ever be anything other than free-to-play. "The use of Valve's for monetary gain was not predicated by our being greenlit," Montero tells PC Gamer. "This was really the only thing we thought to be possible at the time." It says a lot about the quality of Black Mesa that Valve is allowing them to profit from the Half-Life universe.



"This is an incredible honor—one we never expected—but also one we found hard to accept," Montero continued in his forum post. "We never developed Black Mesa with money in mind. Our team is made up of average, hardworking people, and no one joined the team to make money. For us, Black Mesa is purely a labor of love.”



While no price has been set, you'll soon be able to support the Black Mesa team for a “relatively low” price. The free version will still be available, however, and the team continues to plan frequent updates. High on that list is the release of Xen, the much-anticipated final chapter of the Half-Life remake, but unfortunately that update is "still a ways off."
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Valve’s internal database accessed, suggests Half-Life 3 and Left 4 Dead 3 teams">L4D







As mentioned in yesterday's highly speculative Half-Life 3 news, people have been scurrying through Valve's project management database JIRA again. Now, NeoGAF user 'angular graphics' has posted the full list of Valve staff assigned to the still unconfirmed Half-Life 3 and Left 4 Dead 3 development teams. If nothing else, it's a rare glimpse into the company's internal working, and what happens to its employees after they're sworn to the Valve code of silence.



The Half-Life 3 team contains lead writer Marc Laidlaw, series composer Kelly Bailey (seemingly having returned to Valve after leaving in 2011), and series designer Steve Bond. It also lists Adam Foster, the creator of Minerva (as well as the Portal 2 announcement ARG). The other instantly recognisable name is Portal writer Erik Wolpaw, who appears on both Half-Life 3 and Left 4 Dead 3's lists.



If anything, the Left 4 Dead 3 team is the more surprising. It contains not only familiar Valve names like Chet Faliszek and composer Mike Morasky, but some of their more notable newer hires. Both Clint Hocking, of Far Cry 2 fame, and Doug Church, of System Shock 2 and Thief fame, are attached to the project. Now more than ever, I'm pretty damn excited about the possibility of shooting up some zombies.



Standard caveats still apply, the most notable of which is that we don't know how accurate this data is. At best, it could represent a single moment in time for each project, as Valve plays its endless game of musical chairs. And, of course, people working on a project is now indication of when that game might be announced.
PC Gamer
rel="bookmark"
title="Permanent Link to The pros and cons of SteamOS">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.
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title="Permanent Link to SteamOS announced by Valve, a free operating system “available soon” for living room PCs">steamos_2







Following up on its enigmatic announcement-of-an-announcement last week, Valve has unveiled SteamOS, a free stand-alone operating system “for living room machines.”



The OS “combines the rock-solid architecture of Linux with a gaming experience built for the big screen,” according to the announcement. In-house streaming to a TV, similar to what’s used in Nvidia’s Shield, is a feature of the OS.



Valve also emphasizes SteamOS’s openness. Users can “can alter or replace any part of the software or hardware they want,” and hardware manufacturers are free to “iterate in the living room at a much faster pace,” setting it apart from console-style closed systems.



A vague component of the announcement is Valve’s claim to have “achieved significant performance increases in graphics processing” in SteamOS. Valve adds that it’s “now targeting audio performance and reductions in input latency at the operating system level.” It’s also unclear how many of the 3,000 games on Steam will run natively on SteamOS--Valve says you'll be able to "access the full Steam catalog" through in-home streaming. We're also curious how well the operating system will be suited to desktop PCs or laptops that aren’t used in the living room.



Check back on Wednesday for the second of three announcements expected from Valve this week.



Story by Tyler Wilde and Evan Lahti



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