Half-Life 2 NPC Portraits by Adam Rosenlund
Valve Dreams Up Steam Machines
I’ve little technical savvy to me, sadly, but far as I can gather, Steam Machines are gaming devices that perform mechanical work using steam as a working fluid. Wait, shit, that’s a steam engine. Wiki screwed me again.
Second attempt: a Steam Machine is living-room hardware that, naturally, runs the newly conceived SteamOS. In 2014, Valve will allow a multitude of different manufacturers to market their own Steam Machines, the logic being that consumers will have a litany of choices at hand to suit their needs — be it size, performance, or price.
Valve is still creating their own line of prototype boxes, however, in order to tune, tighten, and harness user feedback into designing a meaner, leaner Steam Machine. “At Valve we always rely on real-world testing as part of our design process,” said the company. “The specific machine we’re testing is designed for users who want the most control possible over their hardware.”
"Most control possible" is a canyon beneath under-exaggeration. Valve says you’ll be able to hack the box, change the hardware, install your own software to it, or even utilize an altogether different OS. Eventually, you’ll be able to download SteamOS, even its source code ("If you’re into that," says Valve).
Valve’s own version of the Steam Bo — Er, Steam Machine will be undergoing a very limited beta that could land you, potential participant, with a free machine at your doorstep. How limited of a beta, you ask? Only 300 devices are being made available. Entry rules hereabouts. Go. Run. Now.
This week’s most percolating gaming happenings that you may have missed. If you didn’t miss them, congratulations. You’re better than I am. But now that you’re gloating about it, you’re worse than I am. O, how quickly your vanity carried you to ruin, my former liege. Anyway, welcome back to the Roundup. Leave your shoes anywhere.
- Sony is bent on selling five million PS4’s by next March. I’m bringing you one unit closer to your goal, guys. You don’t have to thank me. But you do owe me.
- Fun fact: the PlayStation 4, a console owned and created by a Japanese company, is delaying its Japan launch because there aren’t enough Japanese games for it. A sign that Western developers have overtaken the gaming scene this generation? “Nah,” says Sony figurehead Shuhei Yoshida. Japan is a “portable-heavy” market is all. So you say.
- "The Steam universe is expanding in 2014." A tease of promises untold or a thinly veiled threat of world dominance? When it comes to Valve, cryptic sentences usually result in both. The Bellevue, WA geek kingdom, a company that has subtly but surely influenced industry sweeping trends, is teasing three announcements for next week, beginning Monday morning. What’s the deal? Gabe “The Man” Newell hinted “hardware opportunities” for bringing Linux to the living room will be revealed soon. Steam Box anyone?
- The RetroN 5 is upon us, old school fiends. Hyperkin, one of the foremost manufacturers of video game clone devices (we’re adults here; I mean “knock-offs), has dated their wondrous, cartridge eating console for December 10th, 2013. The RetroN 5, to those unfamiliar, is a plastic portal to the past that allows you to play NES, SNES, Famicon, Genesis, Mega Drive, Sega Master System (B.Y.O. Power Converter, though) and Game Boy carts all in one machine. Essentially it’s the universal remote off retro consoles. Classic kicks will cost you $99.
Resident Evil 6 and Left 4 Dead 2 Crossover! Valve and Capcom’s Undead Collide Exclusively for the PC
Did not see this one coming but, as evidenced above, Capcom and Valve have joined forces to provide exclusive content to PC players of both Left 4 Dead 2 and the upcoming Resident Evil 6 port.
On Capcom’s end, RE6's PC version will have a remixed Mercenaries mode fittingly called “No Mercy” in which the four survivors of Left 4 Dead 2 — Coach, Ellis, Rochelle, and Nick — are featured as selectable characters replete with custom weapon loadouts. Valve has also relinquished two iconic infected for players to get slaughtered by; the Witch and the Mini-Tank (a bite-sized, still assholey version of the big boy Tanks). All this content will be made available as a free background download come April 5th.
On Valve’s side of the zombie spectrum, a small roster of RE6's gruesome B.O.W.'s will run rampant in Left 4 Dead 2 thanks to the power of the Steam Workshop tool set. The Lepotitsa, Napad, and Ogroman — some of the biggest, meanest sons of bitches RE6 owns (the Ogroman alone stands at two stories tall; expect some reduction there) — will invade as cameo Specials in L4D2 later this Spring.
"We’re huge Resident Evil fans,” said Valve’s senior writer, Chet Faliszek, “so when the opportunity arose to work directly with Capcom to combine L4D2 and RE6, we jumped at it.”
Well, thanks to Capcom and Valve, my console edition of RE6 has been outmoded into the ground, through the earth, and out the other side of the world. Time to start a PC fund, folks (to which PC players resoundingly reply: “Duh.”)
Half-Life, Portal Getting the J.J. Abrams Big Screen Touch?
With both the Star Trek and Star Wars film franchises residing on his To-Do List, you wouldn’t be wrong to figure director/producer J.J. Abrams is the busiest sonuvabitch in all of Tinseltown. That’s why it came as a bit of a fanboy shock to learn the genre hero is looking to put some of Valve’s biggest video game franchises onto the big silver screen.
During a fascinating talk at today’s DICE summit about storytelling structure in TV and on film versus its implementation in video games, amidst Valve honcho Gabe Newell and Abrams’ geek flexing, the pair dropped a double whammy. Concluding that they wanted to see their discussions turn into collaboration, J.J. revealed the fact that he has a notion for a game in mind and he’s set on Valve realizing it.
On the other end of the spectrum, the two stated they would try to “figure out” how to make the award winning Half-Life and Portal franchises into feature-length films.
The details hit a brick wall past that. Two veritable rockstars of their respective mediums, a J.J./Gaben collaboration seems to set the stage for exactly the kind of kick in the ass video game movies need. And as for Abrams’ hand guiding a video game narrative? You could really do worse than the man handpicked to continue motherfucking Star Wars.
Valve on the Potential Future of Left 4 Dead
Hunkering down in a recent interview with Valve’s lead writer, Chet Faliszek, Eurogamer outright asked the question on everyone’s minds: Will there be a Left 4 Dead 3? To paraphrase Faliszek in a short response: “Yeah, maybe.”
"A 3? You know, some time down the road. Like anything, I would say that to all of our games. So that’s not a promise of when or where," said Chet, who personally scribed the original L4D's story (as spread out as it is in between flying limbs). Valve is even a little surprised at how devout the relatively new series' fan base is, having sold 12 million copies across two titles.
Faliszek claims apart of the franchise’s success stems from the observation that gamers play Left 4 Dead differently than other games in their collection. While certain titles may be played “religiously” before being exhausted and shelved, Left 4 Dead on the other hand, let’s you “hook up with your friends from college every one or two weeks and you have a round. You play maybe once or twice. You play co-op and then you go on. So it’s a game people keep playing while they play other games.”
Just because the series’ current titles have been profitable without another numbered release doesn’t mean Valve is not without ideas for a potential sequel. The creators went as far as to tinker with a feature that would let a “dungeon master” so-to-speak control the game’s AI Director, therefore placing zombified chaos in the hands of a human player; a demented mode that derives inspiration from Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard’s The Cabin in the Woods (which you need to watch). “Obviously there’s a lot of work that needs to be done to do that,” says Chet. “But it would be interesting.”
Why, hello out there! I didn’t see you there. Or, rather, you didn’t see me here because I haven’t committed to a Roundup for damned near weeks now. First of all, sorry. Second of all, kindly step off my dick. Third of all, sorry for snapping at you. Fourthly, if I had to be honest, you are kind of needy and I know you hate hearing that because more than one ex has tossed that word at you, but come on, seriously, you’re gonna chalk that up to coincidence?
…Fifthly, sorry again. Video games. I don’t know why you let me get sidetracked. Welcome back to the Roundup, anyway.
Valve is Officially Entering the Hardware Market
Thanks to a job posting on their own website that’s scouting for an Industrial Designer, it has been confirmed that famed software developer Valve is making a move toward crafting computer hardware — presumably a dedicated gaming platform (a “Steam Box” of sorts) — despite dismissing initial rumors.
From the horse’s mouth (i.e. the Industrial Designer listing):
Valve is traditionally a software company. Open platforms like the PC and Mac are important to us, as they enable us and our partners to have a robust and direct relationship with customers. We’re frustrated by the lack of innovation in the computer hardware space though, so we’re jumping in.
Valve goes on to say that they believe there is “a real void in the marketplace, and opportunities to create compelling user experiences are being overlooked.” The company wishes to examine even the most traditional aspects of computer gaming, like the standard keyboard and mouse setup, and try to change them for the better.
Innovation sums up Valve’s mission statement in a word, so it’s hard not to go weak in the knees at the prospect of their own hardware. Save for an almost complete lack of expertise in hardware manufacturing, Valve is exactly the type of brain trust you’d want behind a project like this.
If innovation happens to be your game, as well, feel free to peruse Valve’s job postings.
'Cold Stream' DLC Finally Coming to Left 4 Dead 2 on the Xbox 360
The first user created map to ever be doctored and distributed by Valve is heading to the Xbox 360 on July 24th. After almost a year of play testing, Left 4 Dead 2 fanatics will be privy to the entirety of “Cold Stream” as well as L4D1's “Blood Harvest,” “Dead Air,” and “Death Toll” campaigns. Hell, Valve is even throwing in the mini DLC campaign “Crash Course” in the bundle. That's one very complete, zombie blasting package.
As if that wasn’t enough, Cold Stream’s arrival on the 360 also marks the deployment of a new patch for both the home console and PC versions of L4D2 which will give players access to every one of the game’s mutations any time you want to tackle them. Valve, you seriously know how to make every other developer look bad.
More details and even surprise announcements are to come in the following weeks according to Valve (including, hopefully, specific pricing — and, no, I sincerely doubt Microsoft would allow such a whopping download to pass through their servers for free).
PC people have had little reason to uninstall the game, but if you Xbox folk have committed the crime of letting Left 4 Dead 2 cycle out of your collection, you have about a month to right that wrong. Add me when you do and we’ll see if we can’t make the apocalypse that much safer.
Previews Galore-ious - Dead Space 3 Gets a 20 Minute Preview and Payday: The Heist Goes All Left 4 Dead
Almost as if in retaliation to the criticisms shot their way for incorporating co-op into their survival horror sequel, Visceral dropped a monster of a gameplay preview for Dead Space 3 today depicting not only the solo portion of the campaign, but the accursed multiplayer aspect as well.
Historically, co-op and a gal named Tension have never gotten along decently enough to produce anything amazing, yet Visceral seems convinced they’ve concocted something special. Their haunted house formula actually translates well within the effectively atmospheric environments, but I’ll let you be the judge if you find this footage “spine-tingling.”
So we’ve gotten some clarification in regards to the ‘No Mercy’ DLC developer Overkill is cooking for Payday: The Heist. Yes, the content takes place in Mercy Hospital from the “No Mercy” campaign in Left 4 Dead, a co-op shooter made by Valve. No, Valve is not making the ‘No Mercy’ DLC for Payday, a co-op shooter made by Overkill. There. The world should make sense now.
Payday's 'No Mercy' merely uses the hospital setting and definitely alludes to Valve's zombie hit (including a brief cameo from a popular character), but the content doesn't tell the origin of the Infection nor does it even serve as canon. If these facts spoil the DLC for you, may I counter by adding that it still looks like a blast and also who cares?