Indies On SteamOS, Pt 1: ‘Openness,’ Potential Pitfalls

By Nathan Grayson on September 30th, 2013 at 12:00 pm.

You probably haven’t heard, but Valve’s officially going forward with its plan to launch its own Steam-centric OS, living room hardware, and a crazy, touch-pad-based controller to back it all up. I know, right? It’s weird that no one has been talking about it incessantly. But while Valve preaches openness and hackability, it’s downplayed an ugly reality of the situation: smaller developers still face a multitude of struggles in the treacherous green jungles of its ecosystem. SteamOS and various Steam Boxes, however, stand to bring brilliantly inventive indie games to an audience that doesn’t even have a clue that they exist, so I got in touch with developers behind Gone Home, Race The Sun, Eldritch, Mark of the Ninja, Incredipede, Project Eternity, and more for their thoughts on SteamOS, who it’s even for, Valve’s rocky relationship with indies, and what it’ll take for Steam to actually be an “open” platform.

Steam? In Living Rooms? Who Is This Even For?

PC gaming in the living room. A chance to overthrow the simplified scion of consoledom in favor of a glorious kingdom of customization and openness. That’s what we’ve always wanted, right? But no dream ever comes true without some kind of catch, and Valve’s plan for domination of all rooms (except maybe the bathroom… for now) isn’t without its complications. So then, the big one: who is SteamOS and its various hardware extensions really for? Many console gamers, after all, tend to prefer convenience over options, and PC gamers already have, well, PCs. Beyond that, who’s left?

If there’s anything Valve is good at, it’s playing the long game (insert Half-Life 3 pun here).

“It kind of seems like an odd proposition to me,” said Gone Home project lead Steve Gaynor. “I guess the target market would be ‘somebody who wants to play these cool indie and PC games I keep hearing about, but doesn’t want to deal with building or maintaining a computer.’ Which does sound pretty cool. So, I dunno. I wouldn’t be the target market probably, since I’d just build my machine and play games on it. But I could see this filling a middleground between hardcore PC builders and console gamers with an interest in PC gaming but no interest in the headaches that come with maintaining a PC. And also it does give developers a single target hardware spec to test on, like consoles have, which is a plus.”

Former Mark of the Ninja lead and current Campo Santo founder Nels Anderson, meanwhile, figured that Valve has the time and resources to figure out where exactly its mighty steam engine is headed as it goes along. SteamOS won’t necessarily be an overnight success, but then, neither was Steam. Valve’s MO is adapting and evolving over time, and it’s gotten Gabe Newell and co insanely far. Why suddenly go for an instant, unsustainable smash hit instead?

“The thing is, a lot of PC games really aren’t meant to be played on a controller in a living room,” Anderson noted, speaking of the current landscape of these things. “Are the people who primarily want controller + TV games already having their needs met by the more proven and streamlined consoles? Do the console exclusives still have pull for those folks? No idea. If there’s anything Valve is good at though, it’s playing the long game (insert Half-Life 3 pun here), so it will definitely be interesting to see how this all develops for sure.”

Obsidian CEO Feargus Urquhart agreed, adding that Valve’s pretty clearly angling its molten-hot news eruptions at dyed-in-the-wool PC gamers right now, but we’re just the beginning. “I’m betting Gabe is looking for this to ultimately be for everyone,” he said. “If I had to guess though, the early adopters will most likely be users and fans of Steam along with gamers who want to play their PC libraries on their TVs.”

The question, then, is how Valve will catch the increasingly fickle eyes of all humans, and that’s where things get tricky. SteamOS’ big selling point is PC-style openness and options in the living room, but that on its own simply won’t be enough. Convenience always wins, and that mantra rules over living rooms with an iron fist. If Valve wants everyone on board, it’ll have to (somewhat paradoxically) offer both options and a smooth, streamlined experience that doesn’t paralyze users with indecision. Given that John Q Publicsmithingworthamshire views PC gaming as more trouble than its worth, SteamOS has its work cut out for it.

“If they can make it very very easy to buy, plug in, and use then I think it could take off,” said Incredipede creator Colin Northway. “I’ve always thought people avoided PC games because of the ‘hassle’. I make games and I have no idea how to benchmark a new gaming machine right now. It looks like Valve is looking to remove all the friction.”

Obsidian’s Chris Avellone concurred, adding that convenience is becoming even more key as mobile devices devour more and more of people’s gaming time. “Seeing the increased level of functionality a lot of mainstream TVs have nowadays (internet, USB ports, their own Netflix buttons on the controller, etc.), it feels like the migration into using the TV as a one-stop PC machine as well seems, well, inevitable,” he explained. “Already seeing a lot of that consolidation on mobile phone tech, bringing the PC to the living room via Steam seems like a smart move.”

Steam Vs Indies (And Why Steam Isn’t Actually ‘Open’)

Valve dreams of an entirely open gaming future, but well, the future sure seems far away sometimes, doesn’t it? While SteamOS and Steam-powered hardware might – to varying degrees – let anybody wriggle around in their innards, Steam itself is quite a different story. Valve’s spent years trying to figure out how best to curate its virtual shelves, but it’s yet to find a solution that makes everyone happy. Most recently, Steam Greenlight’s been giving many smaller developers no end of trouble. And with the prospect of expanding into living rooms and – with that – a whole new audience on the horizon, something needs to change lest gamers, developers, and even Valve miss out big time.

Former BioShock 2 developer and current Eldritch lead David Pittman made no bones about his hope that Valve swings in the opposite direction. If you’re going to try and be “open,” you may as well go all the way.

“The execution of Steam Greenlight has been a contentious subject, and I am not entirely convinced that curation ultimately benefits anyone,” he said. “Certainly, the present form of Greenlight seems to preclude the availability of niche titles, and that’s something that I hope improves over time as Valve continues to review the process.”

“I believe it is critically essential to the openness of the platform that SteamOS can be used to play games (and any other software) which are not available on Steam, just as a Windows- or Linux-based PC can do. It is unclear to me yet if that will be the case.”

Incredipede creator Colin Northway, who nearly found his game beaten and penniless at the bottom of Greenlight’s barrel, echoed that sentiment. The system came through for him eventually, but the circumstances were far from ideal. For his part, he doesn’t think it has to be that way anymore.

“I would love to see Steam become an open platform,” he exclaimed. “Steam is great for both players and game developers. I just want it to be more egalitarian. I dislike gate keepers, I don’t want Valve to be the one who decides what players see, I want it to be blogs and gaming sites and people’s friends and curators. I would like to see them step back from the curation side of things entirely. It would make a few people less money but more people more.”

Others, however, didn’t see the issue as so cut-and-dry. Race The Sun co-creator Aaron San Filippo, whose game has financially crashed and burned due to sluggish Greenlight progress, was surprisingly even-handed about the situation.

“Man, this one’s tough,” he began. “In a sense, we love Steam for its curation. As developers, we love hearing stories about how quality games can launch there and do really well, supporting developers where few other platforms can do this. On the other hand – what would really benefit us right now, is to be able to reach customers who love the convenience of Steam, and to be able to build on top of Steam’s social layers. It seems like Valve is moving in the direction of letting more and more games onto their system, and so for me the big question is: How do they handle curation? Maybe they’ll be able to use metrics in a way that other big platforms haven’t, and give games a chance to get front-page exposure based on how much players are engaging with them? It’ll be really interesting to see where they go.”

Mark of the Ninja/Campo Santo’s Nels Anderson chimed in with a similar point of view, adding: “It’s a hard problem to solve, and I don’t think a 100 percent open platform is the right approach. As the iTunes App store pretty clearly attests, complete openness does some severe violence to the signal vs. noise of content on platform. The pseudo popularity contest of Greenlight tends to self-select certain types of games too, though. I don’t know what the right answer is (easier access for developers that have already shipped on Steam or other platforms? Some kind of sponsorship from existing Steam devs?) but I think some kind of curation is important to Steam’s long-term health as a platform.”

This, too, is an area where SteamOS could get a major leg up on its new competition. Sony and Microsoft are finally (in the latter’s case, kind of) embracing indies, but PC’s already got them handily beat. Even Steam’s still very flawed approach has eclipsed consoletopia’s twin titans, but Valve can’t afford to rest on its laurels.

“Valve’s generally been pretty hands-off, as they are in most things,” explained Anderson. “You don’t see them promoting anyone else’s games at events or anything like that. In regard to exposure, which is one of a smaller developers biggest challenges, it’s really nice seeing Sony pointing some of their big ol’ media spotlight at smaller developers. But in terms of easiest, lowest overhead platform to develop for, Steam obviously can’t be beat.”

The Banner Saga technical director John Watson had similar praise for Sony, who’s taken quite a bit of initiative in giving indies the spotlight. “Sony has been extremely accommodating over the last few years, and is very active at outreach,” he said. “Steam is hard to approach and hard to get into, but once you are in, the developer’s life is pretty good.”

Northway also concurred, but he still thinks Valve has the best chance of sparking a real revolution. At least, if it plays its cards right.

“Of everyone embracing indies right now my favorite is Valve because for some reason, they actually care about what’s right and what’s fair,” he said. “It’s bizarre and I love it! I think Sony is laudable for what games they are publishing and it’s obviously working out for the game creators as well as Sony, but Valve is the only one that might actually change how we find, buy, and play games.”

Check back soon for developers’ thoughts on Linux’s many ups and downs, streaming, and of course SteamOS’ much-talked-about controller

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115 Comments »

  1. DarksDaemon says:

    I must say I actually like Greenlight the way it is, the only thing I would change would be the speed in which chosen games are accepted like a weekly draw.

    I don’t get peoples hatred for it, it seems to always stem from “MY FAVORITE INDIE GAME WASN’T ACCEPTED ONTO STEAM IMMEDIATELY SO I HATE IT” Tbh if it doesn’t get onto steam then it probably wasn’t that good, and making it truly open would bring about an apocalypse of incredibly crap games made in 10 minutes and flogged at £200 a pop.

    • Ravenholme says:

      Given the state of the XBL Indie Arcade thingymabob, I am inclined to agree.

      • ScubaMonster says:

        I totally agree. I’d much rather have a controlled system than utter chaos like the XBLIG channel. For every gem there were tons of garbage games. Does that mean some decent games might not make it? Probably. But so be it. I wouldn’t want Steam flooded with a bunch of crappy games.

        • Shuck says:

          Or the iOS/Android stores. it’s horrible for both developers and players – impossible for developers to distinguish their games, or for buyers to find anything good, much less what they’d be interested in.

    • iainl says:

      Except that Race The Sun has been getting pretty uniformly praised, and I really love it, so I’m fairly certain it’s not “crap”.

      The real problem I see with Greenlight is that the popularity contest seems a bit fake. Anyone who’s actually got a copy to play is unlikely to really buy it again on Steam, so they’re saying otherwise just to help the developer. And anyone without a copy is just guessing it’s interesting because others have told them so. Valve really do need to get a few people looking at games and deciding to let them through if they like them – it seems to be working for Sony.

      • DarksDaemon says:

        Sooo like the original acceptance process for steam where they would refuse your game without so much as a inkling why they refused it? At least this way you have proper community feedback as to why people are hesitant to vote for your game.

        • RobF says:

          The problem with arguing “your game just isn’t good enough” is threefold.

          One: this existing quality bar is a myth. There’s utter shit on Steam. Having waded through and voted on GL, having played a fair few games that are stuck in limbo or were before they got pulled from GL I can safely say they are better than Arcadia, Bad Rats, Secret Of The Magic Crystals, Duke Nukem Forever, Aliens Colonial Marines and the list goes on.

          Two: Passing through agree GL isn’t a test of quality. There’s shit that’s passed through there on novelty, shit that’s passed through there because some guy has a YouTube channel, there’s shit that’s passed through through there that’s been shit for 30-odd years and counting and the list goes on.

          Three: it assumes that you just make a good game and et voila, of course it will get through GL and writes off the experience of everyone who does make a good game and fails to proceed through a completely arbitrary system as them just not working hard enough. Work harder! That’ll do it. Despite critically acclaimed games being pulled from there after over a year of limbo, despite games thousands of people have voted to buy on there sitting in the top 100 and not being on there, just work harder.

          If you’re not working harder making a better game, that’s OK, you should be working harder at getting votes or you should be working harder telling even more people about your game. Not once does this allow for stopping, pausing and questioning the system and to see whether there’s truth there, whether the system is a good one, whether the system should exist, it automatically assumes the system is infallible and it’s the developers at fault.

          That’s dangerous bunk.

          • Shuck says:

            The primary way to navigate Greenlight is successful marketing efforts outside it. Which of course says nothing about how good the game is, but only how good the marketing efforts have been (or how lucky you were to find a well-connected champion on the internet to do the marketing for you). As a means of game evaluation, it does suck.

          • fooga44 says:

            You can have critically acclaimed games there is not a paying audience for, you can have shit games that sell well.

            Mainstream AAA gaming is proof of this. I as a space sim fan hated that Freespace 1+2 got lost in the crowd back in the 90′s (sold a crappy amount).

            So please, just because you make a critically acclaimed game doesn’t mean there’s an audience that will buy it. Indie games especially are just really crappy low budget games 99% of the time. They are even worse then NES and SNES games. If an indie developer can’t do something to the level of past retail releases, they are not that high quality to begin with.

            Indie games compete with ALL GAMES a gamer would rather be playing, it’s not competing against other indie games. Gamers play games with the finite time they have, so they have to ask… why should i buy this?

          • RobF says:

            “You can have critically acclaimed games there is not a paying audience for, you can have shit games that sell well.”

            That;s great and all that but you can have a paying audience ready and Valve still don’t accept you onto Greenlight if they don’t fancy it so not sure what that’s got to do with anything.

          • Kitsunin says:

            If you have a pretty big audience that would be willing to pay already, then shouldn’t said audience also be able to push you through Greenlight? Of course, Valve has thus far shown that votes don’t necessarily seem to equal being greenlit, however the hell that works. Anyways, I think that is what their pro-Greenlight point is. Steam wants to know what the market is for your game, not how good it is.

            I for one have always been annoyed by the idea that game “developers” have to as much marketing on their own as they do, something that a system like Greenlight absolutely insists upon, but I guess it is what it is.

      • frightlever says:

        Race the Sun has had plenty of coverage. If people really wanted to play “Race the Sun” they’d be doing better on Greenlight. There’s a good chance people just aren’t that interested in it. That happens sometimes.

        As for the difficulty of the Greenlight process – I’m all for it. I’m in favour of whatever keeps the tidal wave of malware, trojans, viruses and ad-spam off Steam. If every game was Greenlit then Steam would have to deal with a swathe of security breach issues.

      • Saul says:

        Valve curating everything wasn’t working, and I don’t think it’s the way forward. Gabe talked about the idea of opening up the platform and letting people create their own storefronts – so you might buy your games from the IGN store or the TotalBiscuit store, or Yahtzee’s store, or whatever store you end up trusting based on past experience. I think this is a fantastic idea, and look forward to it. It will break up the monolithic “Steam is 70% of everything” thing that happens now, and allow people to gain exposure by shopping themselves to various smaller entities.

      • Mctittles says:

        I read their blog post on how they weren’t doing well and while I feel for their frustration I don’t believe that’s the way to go when trying to convince people to buy their game. Nothing makes people want something less than to hear others don’t want it either.
        Instead of saying “no one is buying our game because we can’t get greenlit” you might want to say “I can’t believe all the people that are enjoying our game right now. There are more sales every day!”. Which statement makes you more curious about buying the game?

        • khulat says:

          Quite honestly, the first statement makes me more likely to consider buying. But i am not “the average consumer” whatever that means. I can’t say which statement would be generally better, but to me the second one reeks of marketing bullshit and is immediately off putting.

          • Mctittles says:

            It might reek of that to you sure. But it will get more sales than trying a pity plee. That’s just how the world works; kick them when they are down and all that psychology stuff :)

      • Lemming says:

        Universally from whom? Journalists? Certainly. People who’ve played it? More than likely. The problem is, all those people clearly aren’t everyone voting on Greenlight. Maybe there just isn’t enough praise?

      • Shuck says:

        Greenlight has always appeared to me to be a system intended to get the next “Minecraft” on Steam. So it seems to have been designed (as much as it can be said to be “designed”) for games that are building popularity with free alpha versions and lots of internet attention.
        I’ve always thought that Greenlight should be an additional means of approving games beyond their old method. They obviously had limited resources to approve things, and Greenlight makes sense as a (flawed but serviceable) way of adding popular games that slipped through the cracks of their main approval method.

    • Saul says:

      Why the hate? Because we indies are trying to survive. Most of us can’t do it without Steam, but the Greenlight process is arbitrary and unpredictable in a way that can can make forward-planning very stressful. Our game Particulars is currently doing the Greenlight dance, and we’re praying like mad that we’re Greenlit by the time we launch in January, otherwise our studio is in a fair bit of trouble.

      Of course we’re not just praying – we’re also working incredibly hard to put our game in front of as many eyeballs as possible. People seem to like the game quite a bit, but there’s still no telling how the Steam thing will work out.

      While I’m here – Particulars is a game based on subatomic particle physics that just yesterday won awards for its narrative and audio design (at Freeplay 2013). It’s currently available as a pre-release Alpha, and there’s a free demo. Links to all of that from our Greenlight page: http://greenlight.particularsgame.com

      Oh – why not throw us a vote while you’re there?

      • DarksDaemon says:

        I am also an indie developer and I know there are many more distribution platforms out there than steam, to place all of your eggs in one basket is plain irresponsible.

        Also no, whilst polished and somewhat pleasant I feel your game would get very repetitive, it also looks more like a mobile game than a PC game (imperfect control and whatnot)

        • Saul says:

          Steam is 70% of the PC download market, it’s as simple as that. Of course we’ll be on all the other digital markets as well, but it’s hard to make a crust without Steam.

          Thanks for the comments. Our game certainly isn’t for everyone, but I can assure you that the full version contains a fair amount of variety. Imperfect control is one of the themes of the game (narrative, as well as the gameplay), rather than a side-effect of low input fidelity. Ironically, we are looking to do a tablet version, but our physics and graphical effects are proving a little too much for the poor dears.

          • DarksDaemon says:

            I know it dominates the PC market but you can still profit from the other 30%, but I guess that depends on how many people are actually working in your team.

            I unsurprisingly I have found that imperfect control seems to work better on a platform with imperfect input, as with a perfect input method harder tasks get frustrating rather than challenging. (I play an absolute tonne of puzzle and physics games)
            And are you using proper physics?

          • Saul says:

            The imperfect control in Particulars comes from the other particles exerting forces on you as you move. The main skill in the game is learning to “surf” these forces, which is something that becomes more intuitive and internalised the more you play. Precise control is necessary to be able to master this skill, so a phone-sized screen is definitely out. Most people seem to prefer controller for the PC version (because it fits better with the “flow” aspect), but it’s very playable on keyboard as well (where it becomes more about precise tapping).

            Yes, we use Box2D for the physics, and all of the interactions are based on the actual equations of subatomic particle physics (although of course simplified and abstracted in order to make an enjoyable game).

          • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

            The imperfect control in Particulars comes from the other particles exerting forces on you as you move. The main skill in the game is learning to “surf” these forces

            Hang on, wouldn’t that require knowing both the position and the momentum of the other particles?

          • vivlo says:

            For what it’s worth, i can report my own experience here : regarding indie games, i have bought most of those i own outside of Steam. Well, like 99% have been throgh Humble Store… And tbh, not only indie games. I’m sure now you must hate me, since i bought most of those games for cheap. But the “most of” is important, i did not buy an AAA game since forever (in fact, SC2 WoL) and have bought several full price indie OFF steam (not much of them.) but ON HumbleStore (which was incidental : developper selling throuhg Humble Widget).
            And more often than not, i prefer to buy an indie through HumbleStore rather than Steam, because :
            -you can download just it, wihtout the need to start steam (which is sometimes a problem without internet)
            -you can also register it on steam, not paying more (i’m not sure if doing this gives money to Steam though – might be the reason for the donation threshhold)
            -you have it in the Humble Library, which is very cool and in some regards better than Steam Library : easy download from website, no need registering computer, no advertising noise, faster and a look of overall more robustness than Steam (well, i never crashed Steam apart from within a game, but still).
            tl;dr : I wouldn’t honestly mind buying an indie game through humble store without steam (which i did in fact).

          • vivlo says:

            Also Particulars looks quite nice, reminds me of Osmos in a way.

          • Saul says:

            Their position and momentum can be seen, and their pull (or push) is weaker the further they are from you. Obviously you don’t consciously do a whole lot of calculations in your head and make your moves based on that – no more than you would in a shooter or a racing game. Rather, you begin to get an intuitive feel for the way the forces interact as you play, and you can start to judge how much force you need to apply to stay on the course you want. There are several graphical effects that assist with this – a glow showing the relative intensity of each particle’s charge, and a warping outline “blob” which indicates the forces are being exerted on a particle at any given moment.

            Grab the demo and try it for yourself: http://www.particularsgame.com#demo

          • Saul says:

            @vivlo: I’m also a fan of Humble Store! We’re actually in the process of implementing it on our site at the moment. And of course I don’t hate you! I buy plenty of indie games on sale myself. It’s often the only way I can afford them. The great thing about digital goods is that you have infinite stock to sell, and so lowering the price dramatically can often lead to higher profits overall (a concept that makes little sense with physical goods, beyond a certain point).

            And Osmos is definitely an influence – that game was fantastic at creating this meditative, otherworldly space, and we are trying to do something similar in that respect.

        • Lemming says:

          Your comment about his/her game brings me to another point: there are many many games on Steam Greenlight at the moment that would be much better suited in the mobile market, and that’s a big factor for why they aren’t getting voted on, I’ll wager. I’ve seen many games on Greenlight like this, and I’ve hesitated to upvote it because, while I think it looks like an okay game, it doesn’t feel like it belongs on Steam. If there was some way to convey this in greenlight, other than the comments it’d be useful, but I’m unsure how one would go about that.

          • RobF says:

            The “it looks like it doesn’t belong on Steam” is one of the problems Greenlight brings. Because what does belong on Steam and what doesn’t? Have you seen what’s on Steam? There’s everything from casual games to arthouse to manly shooty bang games to ports of mobile games and more and there’s a big enough audience on Steam to sustain all these different sorts of things to greater or lesser degrees.

            There’s a lot of talk about what is/isn’t a Steam game but if you look at what’s there, what is -currently- a Steam game is most kinds of games that have graphics. There’s obvious skewerings to a certain demographic but that’s videogames anyway so…

            In an ideal world, I, you, anyone would take a look at their Greenlight queue and simply answer the question “Would you buy this if it was on Steam?”. And if it’s a game we like the look of and think, yes, I’d like this in my library, we’d hit that button and all would be well. If we didn’t, we’d just move along now.

            But instead, because we’re humans (or small furry creatures with green hair but I’m going to guess you’re a human really), we end up with things like “I don’t think this belongs on Steam” or “I think this would be better suited elsewhere” and many, many other variations. So GL ends up with a subset of users who use Greenlight policing the content of Steam for everyone else and that’s where it gets weird.

            Maybe I really like Pastoral Amble Simulator:Owl Edition but I don’t have the time, want or inclination to go wading through a thousand games not in the store to see if there’s one that might be in the store. I just want to buy some games and play them after all, the machinations and inner workings of the signing process are no concern of mine, nor should they be. I just want to give people money and be done with, I’m a busy chap. Railing through Greenlight is an hour I could be eating food or sexing or sexing food, I don’t know.

            Maybe I’m one of 100,000 people with Steam who’d buy Pastoral Amble Simulator:Owl Edition and that’s enough to make Valve some nice money and the Devs some nice money but someone has come along and decided that, because they don’t like it or they don’t want it, it doesn’t belong on Steam.

            There’s a whole culture of people using Greenlight that do this, that rail against anything that doesn’t fit their vision of what makes a videogame… awkward, right? Given the traffic on and through Greenlight is a minor blip on Valve’s daily usage figures, you end up with this small group of people policing it for the majority. Double awkward.

            It’s a natural sort of thing to slip into and we all do it to some greater or lesser degree but it’s just one point of many where the system breaks down because what I, you, someone else thinks belongs on Steam is different to another person somewhere. I’d happily burn 99% of the F2P titles, don’t give a toss about the sports games – screw those things! And no more Laser Disc ports EVER! Yet there’s an audience there on Steam that don’t share my vision.

            “Does this belong here” isn’t the choice we’re supposed to be making when it comes to Greenlight, we’re just supposed to say “Yeah, I’d buy that”. Of course, we don’t though but that’s sort of what you get when you build a system for humans but fail to actually account for humans in the first place, which is pretty much Greenlight in a nutshell.

      • houldendub says:

        Thing is, telling yourself that Steam is this be-all and end-all to getting success is kinda worrying. What happens say if the Greenlight phase is drastically made easier to get through, or you’re just generally successful in the GL campaign, and then the game tanks.

        Whose fault is it then if the game tanks? Steam’s fault for not putting your game front and center? Kinda hard when there are the AAA titles coming through that need pushing and the boatload of other indie devs trying to do the same thing. It wouldn’t be the GL process at the wrong as you’d have already gotten through. Is it the fault of the Steam client? Not discoverable enough?

        Have you tried GoG? GMG? Desura? Hell, Origin? PSN store? What about the Humble store? Any contact with any of the indie bundle providers? Hell, what about an online version of the demo playable through the website? All of that stuff just helps. Simply saying “Our game is struggling because it’s not on Steam” isn’t enough these days, there’s already I’d say too many indie devs pushing through GL, you need to do something different, wonderful, weird even, if you want to get the name out there.

        What about the price as well? I understand that you actually need to be able to survive, but people might look at your game and see a one-trick pony. I mean, it’s wonderful to play but when you first see it, it’s black and white blobs moving around a grey or black surface. A mobile-style price might be more suited? I can get Worms Armageddon on my phone for the same price as your game, and, being brutally honest, things like that are a much more attractive option for less than $5. What about a “Sale”?, just to try out the notion of a cheaper price or something.

        • Saul says:

          Let me try to address this point-by-point:
          telling yourself that Steam is this be-all and end-all to getting success is kinda worrying
          We’re not. It’s just pretty important.

          Whose fault is it then if the game tanks?
          It can be a multitude of things, obviously. And that’s why you work at it from every angle you can. It’s just that some fish are bigger than others, and Steam is the biggest.

          Have you tried GoG? GMG? Desura?
          Yes. We’re already on Desura (which is rubbish as a sales portal, frankly). We’ll definitely be on GMG, and hopefully on GoG as well.

          Hell, Origin? PSN store? What about the Humble store?
          I’m unsure about Origin, but I think we’re looking into it. PSN is definitely on the list once the PC version is done. Humble Store is being implemented as we speak.

          Any contact with any of the indie bundle providers? Hell, what about an online version of the demo playable through the website?
          We were in a Groupees bundle recently, which gave us a decent GL boost, as well as a modest amount of income. Humble is obviously the Steam of bundles (so to speak), but we definitely need more traction before we’d be considered for one of those. There is a free downloadable demo. We are looking into an in-browser version (may or may not happen).

          Simply saying “Our game is struggling because it’s not on Steam” isn’t enough these days
          But it’s often the truth, even when you are pursuing all these other avenues.

          What about the price as well? I understand that you actually need to be able to survive, but people might look at your game and see a one-trick pony.
          They might, and that is a problem. We are looking at addressing this with a more in-depth and exciting gameplay trailer. Also, the final game will have a broader range of colours in it, and we need to show more of that soon.

          What about a “Sale”?, just to try out the notion of a cheaper price or something.
          Sales will happen after release, for sure.

          TL;DR: All of the suggestions you make are good, and none are things we’re not pursuing. The fact is that right now, Steam is by far the most important.

          And if I gave the impression that we’re not doing well on Greenlight, then apologies – we are doing quite well compared to many others I’m spoken to. The stress is in the arbitrary nature of the process. The “getting people to vote for you” part is straightforward, but I know a number of devs who were stranded in the Top 100 for a year or more – seemingly always on the verge, but never actually being Greenlit. The fact is that it’s still ultimately Valve making the call, and they move in mysterious ways.

          • gwathdring says:

            “Simply saying “Our game is struggling because it’s not on Steam” isn’t enough these days
            But it’s often the truth, even when you are pursuing all these other avenues.”

            I guess rather than campaign to make it easier to get on Steam, we should be trying to encourage players to buy games that aren’t on Steam. I buy a ton of indie games through the game dev’s store whether or not I get a Steam key. The whole Steam/Origin fight and Steam loyalty thing? It seems useless to me and harmful to the industry. Perpetuating that by clamoring to put steam even MORE at the center than it already is strikes me as a mistake in the bigger picture. By all means clamor with respect to your smaller picture, your own game. That’s your thing, your livelihood. Do what you have to do. But let’s not pretend getting more games on Steam is a particularly good solution. If nothing else, the more games are on Steam, the more noise there is to cut through and the less being on Steam helps you stand out from the crowd. Keep in mind the confounding variables here! Currently, with getting on Steam being a gated process … Steam exposure only comes about when there’s enough support and pressure to get the game higher sales volume than it’s peer-games anyway! So we can show that indie games on Steam do better and indie games do better after making the transition to Steam … but that whole process is a self-perpetuating cylce. We’re making it true by believing and pursuing that idea.

            That doesn’t change how important Steam can be for your game now. But once we zoom out to the industry-wide level … do we really want to make Steam THE platform? Is that really the solution here? I don’t think so. I think that will make it worse.

      • frightlever says:

        How independent are you if you can’t survive without Steam? That’s an oxymoron, and I don’t mean a big, dumb cow.

        • Saul says:

          “Indie” to us means that we have creative control over what we make. It doesn’t mean that we have to give away what we make on street corners. We even have a “publisher” of sorts (Surprise Attack Games). They don’t fund our development, but they do help out with marketing and PR (And take a cut of the profits). We’re still indie.

      • povu says:

        Game not getting traction on Steam greenlight? Bankruptcy around the corner? Better call Saul!

        • Saul says:

          It’s crazy how many shows have a Saul in them now: Breaking Bad, Battlestar, Homeland. Used to be that the most contemporary pop culture reference was the New Testament.

      • fooga44 says:

        I’m sorry but your game sucks.

        • Saul says:

          That’s not very useful feedback, unfortunately, because we’re aiming the game at people with taste.

          • hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

            Zing!

            For what it’s worth, while I wasn’t sure about how much I’d like the game (hard to tell without sinking one’s teeth into it for a while) I gave you a thumbs-up on GL. It looks appealing, at any rate. Good luck to you.

      • El_Emmental says:

        I think the main problem is knowing the audience voting on Greenlight.

        If Steam was actually rewarding people voting on Greenlight stuff (even with silly stuff: badges, emoticons, TF2 hats, profile background, etc – then maybe give earlier access/extended demo to people with the “Greenlighter” badge (Greenlight more than 200 items – at least 30 sec for each vote, otherwise it doesn’t count), and not relying on Youtube for all gameplay footages (Youtube’s is throttling down my ISP, I can’t use it without a proxy), maybe more people would vote on it.

        Then, developers should know they’re facing PC gamers who rarely play something other than the top 10 most played on Steam, and have some kind of negative feelings regarding anything that looks like a casual or mobile/tablet game.

        Particulars is one of them: it doesn’t feature 3D graphics, violence on humans/animals or gore/blood, it’s a top-down (!) 2D game with nice colours, waves, with a very minimalist approach regarding the HUD, “powerups” or whatever. Where is the score ? the “+100 you did this” “+50 you did that” ? Where are the activable skills ? The achievements showing onscreen all the time ?

        There’s none of that, the overall UI seems to be quite “clean”, sadly most people think it’s because it’s for smaller screens (mobile/tablets). With more crap/informations on screen, I’m sure much less people (in the Greenlight audience) would perceive it as a mobile game.

        People got used to have the screen filled with as much stuff as the device could handle – the stronger/bigger the hardware, the more clogged the UI and the ingame effects have to be.

        Make a minimalist FPS with a minimalist HUD, and you can be sure most people will think it’s for the Ouya or some tablets (even if it’s done on the CryEngine 3).

        ps: if you need to “buff” up Particulars’ look/UI with stuff on screen, make sure to make it small and detailled => big, round UI elements looks like mobile/tablet UI and PC gamers are afraid of that.

    • Viroso says:

      For me the biggest problem with Greenlight is how it shows you games. Sometimes I go there and start looking at games, voting for them.

      If it only showed me games in a more practical way, let me select them faster with less clicking and less waiting. I think the biggest problem is in the layout. That and indie developers who think that a good pitch for their game is a trailer that goes for 2 minutes “hyping” the game showing text on a black background.

      Seriously, indie developers, there are tons of games there. Get to the point as soon as possible. Get to the point on your description, the one that’ll show up when I hover the mouse over the thumbnail for your game, get to the point with the trailer just show gameplay.

      The truth is, very few people care about the ancient curse in the lands of Netherfall and the counsel of nine who chose one man to wield the Demon Sabre, the only weapon capable of banishing the corruption from the land brought by the Adversary. So very few people care that most of them didn’t even make it through this last paragraph.

      • DarksDaemon says:

        IS IT FUN, WHY WON’T YOU JUST TELL ME, I NEED TO KNOW IF I WILL HAVE FUNNNN

      • Monkeh says:

        Couldn’t agree more. I’d be happy to vote for a lot of games on Greenlight, but after checking it the first few weeks it was out, it had gotten so crowded and was too much of a burden to go through. As you pointed out, this would’ve been less off a burden with a better layout and without the terrible slowness of it all.

        Currently, I almost only vote on Greenlight games I find on RPS/forums/(re)tweets. Which are mostly the few games that are already quite popular.

      • Saul says:

        These are all very much additional problems with the process as it stands. Bring on the “open platform with lots of curated stores” that Gabe hinted at a while back!

    • Lemming says:

      Yep, I agree.

  2. InternetBatman says:

    I don’t mean to be a dick, but I wish this article wasn’t broken up the way it is. A large part of it is just how developers feel about steam, and that’s really nothing new. So it’s about a quarter page of how they feel about something new, and then the rest is a reiteration of what we already knew.

    • Njordsk says:

      Yeah my feeling, the paper was… weird to read. No guideline or something.

    • Wulfram says:

      Yeah, for an article titled Indies on SteamOS this was a touch disappointing. Though I guess they don’t have a great amount to say about it yet.

      • LionsPhil says:

        So why say anything at all?

      • AlwaysRight says:

        I’ve chosen to unfollow a whole load of indie developers on twitter over the last week. The incessant bleating and negativity towards an operating system they’ve never used on a PC they’ve never seen using a controller they have never touched was enough to make me question their views.

  3. Ravenholme says:

    I think Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni making it through Steam Greenlight sort of spells the end of niche titles not making it through Greenlight, to counter the Bioshock 2 Dev’s points. I don’t think you get much more niche than a “sound novel” (to quoth the developer himself, who acknowledges his visuals are… not good), with no choices, terrible art, but fantastic story and sound design. It is the definition of “un-game”, and it made it through.

    • DarksDaemon says:

      Oh god the peoples bodies! It’s like a plague made them all lose bone structure and muscle definition D:

      • Ravenholme says:

        He improved, slightly, with Umineko, but even there the art is terrible. But it grows on you, and the music and sound design (ESPECIALLY in Umineko, which unfortunately doesn’t have an official translation) is utterly fantastic.

  4. Frank says:

    “as a one-stop PC machine”

    …aka, a PC?

    • Stardreamer says:

      Under no circumstances is the PC a “one-stop” proposition. I love the beasts, but that love is based on the understanding that the modern ‘Personal Computer’ is a vast array of hardware and software options that somehow comes together as a gaming machine. My machine will not be the same as your machine – guaranteed.

  5. MO73 says:

    I’m actually looking forward to the move away from Mouse and Keyboard controls. It’s done us well for decades but honestly I do think it’s time the hardware evolved – Haptic may not be perfect but it’ll surely be a stepping stone for better things in the future.

    • AlwaysRight says:

      Me too!
      I currently (and for the last 4/5 years) have my PC linked to my living room TV and prefer to use a controller to play games. I own games I haven’t even played just because It can be uncomfortable to use M&K on the sofa.

    • HadToLogin says:

      That reminds me of that story about US spending millions of $ to create space-pen while Russians took pencils…

      • MO73 says:

        A story that isn’t actually true and says a lot about the 2 programs. True the Russians were leaner and meaner but it was America’s approach that put a man on the moon – arguably one of the greatest engineering achievements in the history of mankind.

        So yes, Mouse and Keyboard are fine but “fine” isn’t what inspires people to do great things.

        • ViktorBerg says:

          Nevermind that the whole space race was just that – a race to see who could wave their dick first during the era of the Cold War. I’m sure that, had the circumstances changed a bit, the first human in space could’ve been an American, and the first human on the moon could’ve been a Russian. But let’s not delve into this tangential topic. The original point was that moving away from the M+KB might not be necessary. We will see how the new controller fares, it’s hard to judge it without seeing it in action.

          • Synesthesia says:

            There are many times a KB+M setup is less than optimal. I’d even say its not the best for FPSs. The mouse is amazing, but the keyboard is way too stiff. Incremental lean in ARMA, for example, is a complete game changer. Driving vehicles is a complete chore with a fixed speed, or clumsy shortcuts. It’s still great for RTS’s but change is always welcome. I cant wait to see what changes come in input.

        • RProxyOnly says:

          An engineering achievement that belongs to the Nazis, not the Americans.

          • MO73 says:

            0_0

            Von Braun wasn’t the only man on the project…

            I’m not going to debate this though – Viktor is right, it’s an article about gaming, let’s keep the discussion focused and let’s definitely not bring up the Nazis. It can only serve to poison the debate.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I am too, but I hate the controller form factor. It’ll be interesting to see how differently this one works.

    • bills6693 says:

      I think it really depends on the kind of game you are playing.

      Sure, there is interesting new technology coming – the new controller, things like the oculus rift, and other interesting things a little further on the horizon but certainly headed our way.

      However, it seems to me that there are also a lot of things which these technologies are not suited for. Imagine trying to play Total War with a controller. Even Civilisation V, shown on the ‘tv’ in the promo image, would surely just be more difficult to control with a controller than a mouse.

      I personally find the mouse and keyboard to be a very, very suitable control scheme. I fail to think of many games I play that I would prefer to have a controller for. Often games are ‘suitable’ for a controller but just better with the KB&M.

      At the end of the day, I feel that I would still be using KB&M, probably just wireless ones, if I were to ever go for playing on a TV. Although again, I don’t think I will. Gaming is my own, private thing, even if I do it with friends online – its not something I sit and do in front of my housemates, or my family. And there is no way I could take over the TV, which is the device everyone else uses for their entertainment, so that I can play a game. And I just don’t see myself switching to shooters and driving games and wanting to use a controller.

      • MO73 says:

        Bills you are quite right!

        Gaming is a hobby and we should all be able to enjoy it in our own way. So long as the existence of Haptic doesn’t preclude the M&K then there really won’t be a problem.

        Although I would disagree with you over Civ – I can definitely see myself relaxed on the sofa, lazily min-maxing my empire during a marathon game session (the kind that playing Civ inevitably leads to). It’ll be a damn slight more comfortable than hunching over my PC like I normally do.

        • bills6693 says:

          Right, that is what I was (badly) saying. There is awesome and exciting new technology around the corner for controlling games – from the haptic controller, rift, even stuff like the Wii U controller is pretty cool if only there were games that took advantage of it!

          But at the end of the day I feel that it really depends on preference and also the game, some things to me seem to be games that would not work well with these alternative input methods – although I wouldn’t be closed to something else coming along which IS great for strategy, simulation, management etc games!

          And I dunno, I feel pretty relaxed sitting/lying back with my laptop and a mouse by my side. I just feel like controlling all the many things that need to be controlled in Civ would take forever and be less easy with a controller. But I guess I don’t know until I try. Plus there is lots that CAN be automated (all worker things, exploration, city management, lots that takes a lot of time but doesn’t have to)

    • The First Door says:

      I really disagree! There is a reason why mouse and keyboard haven’t been done away with yet. They just work better than any other input method I’ve tried for text input and accurate navigation of complex pages.

      Don’t get me wrong, I love new tech and the opportunities it gives for design, but I think this constant desire to ‘replace’ the mouse and keyboard is flawed, at least for me. I’d rather there were options for input devices so people can design around the one which suits them best.

      • Stardreamer says:

        I also disagree. I’m always a bit suspicious of people who look for ‘New’ when the old solution is doing the same brilliant job it always did.

        M+KB is best at some types of games. Controllers are best for others.

      • The Random One says:

        I disagree with your disagreement! There is indeed a reason why M+K hasn’t been done away, but I believe that reason is that it’s convenient, since every PC has a mouse and keyboard. The mouse is great, but the keyboard is a suboptimum input device because it was designed for writing, not gaming, and keyboard controls are more or less a hack. It’s just that no one has come up with a better idea that works with the mouse.

    • phuzz says:

      Generally I prefer M+K for most games, but in odrer to get on the Steambox beta I had to play a game with a controller, and after finding that Arkham Asylum doesn’t work anymore I went for Gone Home instead, which fully supported the controller (no having to grab the mouse to click a ‘play game’ option on a popup window), and worked just fine. Of course, I didn’t need the speedy aiming of a mouse for Gone Home so it fitted just fine.
      Since then I’ve been replaying Arkham City with a controller (XBox wired pad) and that works great as well (now I’ve retrained my muscle memory).
      So, I think I’ll be keeping a controller around for some games, mainly ones where I need all the buttons at my finger tips. I was also wondering if the twin sticks would work well in Kerbal Space Program for docking maneuvers, one stick for attitude, and another for translation, with the triggers for the 6th axis on each.

      • Alex says:

        If you own it, try XCOM: Enemy Unknown with the controller. It’s one of the few PC games that use a controller almost exclusively; I feel like I can control the view and issue commands much faster than with M+K!

  6. Bonsai2 says:

    I don’t think we have to be worried about the ”openness’ of the Steam platform. From what I have seen and read of Gabe and his plan for the future of steam I feel very safe. Now this is completely my perception, but I feel that Valve will continue to produce theses tools and platforms for its users in a kind of closed system. But slowly as the community can take more control over them, they set them free.

    In one of Gabes talks he states that he doesn’t like the Steam Store. What I think he would rather is that Valve help host a database of games users can buy and anyone can setup a shop that sells them. If we continue that idea we can see Greenlight being part of this were we have this open database of games that anyone can add to, if the community feels the game is good enough.

    I feel the same will happen to the SteamOS platform. Like the Android platform were Google is the biggest contributor and then other companies like Sony. We will see this happen to SteamOS. A platform that was started and designed by one company then set free to for the community to develop on and push forward. In the meantime Valve (like Google) make money by being the biggest contributor to the platform and opening the market up to more users.

    • Lone Gunman says:

      One corporation having their fingers in near 100% of a market can’t possibly be bad and should only be encouraged by all.

  7. Viroso says:

    Steam sales. You all forget Steam sales. 75% off on games. Everyone wants in on that.

    Steam Box I think aims at console players too, not just at some weird middle ground or whatever. Somehow, despite all the hours I’ve spent PRODUCTIVELY arguing on the Internet demystifying the stuff people believe about PC gaming, somehow nobody has listened to me. So weird.

    A lot of people believe PCs are complex, expensive and need replacing every year. They think all cool PC exclusives need super machines, when 99% of them don’t. Weirdly, it seems people don’t have a TV in their bedrooms? They don’t know that they can use a 360 controller and that an HDMI cable can be longer than 1 meter.

    But everyone wants in on those crazy Gabe sales. They just need to believe that a steam box is like a console, as simple and portable as a PS4.

    • bills6693 says:

      :P I dunno. I agree on the steam sales side of things, but also I do believe the middle ground is a main target. I think that middle ground is PC gamers on low-spec machines, especially laptops, who want to game on PC with better hardware but can’t afford to, or don’t know how to, build their own.

      Also, I don’t know about the majority, but I personally would just plug the steam box into a monitor. I’ve never had a TV in my bedroom, only ever had one TV in the house and thats in the living room. And that is the domain of everyone else’s entertainment – just because I don’t want to watch TV on it, everyone else does! I don’t see myself taking that away from everyone else so I can game.

      But I think that there is probably a market for these boxes to be used like normal PCs, plugged into a monitor.

  8. R_Yell says:

    I’d like to hear Valve talking about the future landscape of SteamOS games. Micro-transactions? Freemium games? Pay2Win? Hope they avoid all that crap as much as possible.

    • Ravenholme says:

      SteamOS games will be the games usually available on PC? So not really sure what you’re on about…

      • R_Yell says:

        Gabe N talked about different hardware approaches for Steam machines. The lowest specs one was basically a streaming pc that could also play casual games on its own. It could be pretty cheap or directly free (subsidized). I see this model the one that actually may succeed. People with powerful PCs could just stream any game there, but other people would be restricted to those casual games. The mobile gaming market where free apps are king now could be replicated somehow in that scenario. Clear?

    • alex_v says:

      Well they make two of the biggest free-to-play games in the World, and have consistently highlighted that as the future of their business model, so I think you’re going to be disappointed.

  9. bills6693 says:

    I think the biggest thing this article could have expanded on and didn’t is the aspect of ‘who is this marketed towards’.

    Firstly, I don’t think the gaming world is split into two groups – hardcore PC gamers who build their own rigs, and console gamers. I think there is a big middle ground – people who play on PC but on low-powered machines, often laptops. I belong in this group. A high-end PC is just out of the question, financially as well as through a complete lack of experience in how to build such a thing. And a console is also out of the question, thanks to both cost, and a lack of interest. I think that there is a huge segment of people who do not want a console because you simply cannot get the same games on a console. I’m not talking about indies here. I mean proper strategy games, city cames, management and simulation games.

    The domain of PC is this, I feel, and if SteamBox can open up more powerful machines with the convenience of not building your own, and with a good power-to-cost ratio – specifically, a better value machine than I could build myself (which could be possible, given both mass-production of the same box, and possibly subsidised prices by Valve), then I feel it would be a great option for those who currently sit with low-powered machines but don’t want to switch to consoles.

    TL;DR: There is a middle ground between console gamers and hardcore PC gamers, people with low-powered machines that can’t afford to or know how to build their own PCs. Consoles may have the price advantage but don’t offer the same gaming experience (strategy, simulation, management games etc). If SteamBox can pull off selling a powerful PC at a reasonable price-point, possibly through lower costs due to mass-production and maybe valve subsidy, making it cheaper than building your own PC, it could tap into this group of gamers very heavily.

    • The Random One says:

      I agree, because I’m in that camp. I was a console player until very recently, because I like knowing that, if the game’s box says XBox 360, and the faceplate of my console also says XBox 360, the game will run. But I defected to PC because the downsides of the closed environment started to overweight the advantages, which also started to fade away (for instance, GTAV may say XBox 360 on its box, but I doubt my tiny old-ass 13GB HD has room for the necessary install). However, I still know fuck all about PC specs and when my present rig starts to get old I’ll be at a loss as to how to update it. I’m not interested in the Steamy Box, but I’d be very very interested on a box with set specs that I can easily tell wether or not it’ll run the games I want to play.

  10. alex_v says:

    I do think gamers are very prone to saying “I don’t need this” without really meaning it. And then applying that statement to the market as a whole. I just think a lot of people who think this new system doesn’t speak to them or apply to them will be first in the queue when it launches.

    Also I think a lot of the wrong questions are being asked. Misgivings over greenlight likely have little or no relevance to the success of a linux-based pc console. The open-ness of the platform is interesting but not a valuable indicator of whether it will be a success or not. Even controller vs mouse/keyboard debates are pointless as Valve have indicated the new box will support both.

  11. cpt_freakout says:

    I think a lot more information is still needed to make a good tentative state-of-the-issue article. Sure, Greenlight is important right now, but if the OS is basically a skinned Linux then there’s a high possibility that indies can just release stuff for this thing without relying on Steam itself or Greenlight. After all, if Steam OS turns Linux into a closed platform, then the whole thing would be a bit pointless at the beginning: I could still just plug in my Windows-based PC to the TV and play all sorts of stuff you can’t currently find on Steam. Which is to say, indies would be basically working through exactly the same channels they are now, and if the PC already constitutes a very wide market, what’s the draw to go Steam Box?

  12. Kitsunin says:

    I think that it makes sense for Steam’s store to be curated, but the problem really becomes a problem in that Steam has become so ubiquitous with PC gaming that it can be incredibly damaging for your game not to be on Steam, even ignoring the boost you would be getting from advertisement on the store. This wouldn’t be such a problem if you could purchase games via Steam, without having them marketed at you by Steam.

    Basically I mean for developers to be able to publish their game on a Steam page that is cut off from the Steam store, allowing people to purchase the game through Steam and register the game to their Steam account, but without Valve endorsing said game in any way, the process being completely automated. I know there could be some problems since Valve would essentially be acting as a Paypal, but I imagine they could be worked out?

    I say this because one of the most heartbreaking things I notice is when people refuse to buy a game because it’s too inconvenient to purchase outside of Steam. I can totally understand, entering credit card info, manually downloading and installing, keeping track of the files, needing to find the download all over again if you want to reinstall later, totally sucks, but it’s sad that this is the case.

  13. Martel says:

    Am I weird in that I’m wishing I could get my console games away from my TV and onto my PC? Granted I do enjoy gaming in front of my giant TV, but my wife doesn’t, and I lose all those lovely things that playing a game on one monitor with something else on the 2nd monitor provides.

    • Llewyn says:

      Personally I have my X360 and PS3 going via an HDMI switch into my PC monitor, with sound going from the monitor headphone jack to PC aux in. It makes my console gaming as close to my PC gaming as possible.

  14. PopeRatzo says:

    but no interest in the headaches that come with maintaining a PC.

    What the hell are the “headaches” of “maintaining” a PC? What is he talking about? Does he have to clean up after his PC or walk it or give it special food for its allergies?

    Maybe he’s got to oil his PC on a regular basis, I’m not sure.

    God I hate marketing.

    • Grey Poupon says:

      He’s talking about the times you get a red light on your PC power button that’s almost a full circle and then you have to try and get it fixed somehow.. Wait, something’s not right here..

    • cunningmunki says:

      My PC gives me headaches, and I’m pretty sure I’ve shouted at it on more than one occasion (it didn’t help). I’d definitely call it a love/hate relationship.

    • fooga44 says:

      Buggy games that crash, or some bad program or bug in the OS/Drivers causes them to crash.

  15. Lestibournes says:

    If Linux becomes a popular gaming platform then it would be easy for anyone to create his own console while knowing that there will be plenty of 3rd-party games for it. I’m sure EA would love to create their own OriginBox, which would be totally locked down and allow users to only purchase games from the Origin Store, and the SteamBox makes it more possible for EA to do that, and I’m sure the same goes for other big game developers, publishers, and distributors. This would be excellent for Linux and the free market, but not so much for the customers who would have to buy a whole pile of consoles to be able to play every game.

    To make this really happen Valve will have to invest a lot in SDL as an alternative to DirectX in order to get game developers to switch to it, which will then make it trivially easy for them to support Linux. SDL needs feature parity with DirectX, similar performance, similar ease of development (maybe it already has all these things, I don’t know) and to add official support to Xbox, Playstation, and Wii on top of the official support that is already there for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android, which would make it cheap and easy to develop a game once and then support it on all major platforms. Valve needs to push for this hard, but fortunately it looks like they are already doing so.

  16. realitysconcierge says:

    I really hope they get Netflix working on SteamOS… That’s like one of the biggest things keeping me from switching over to linux right now.
    I think that in order for the new controller to really succeed, Valve needs to make a game that shows what the controller can accomplish, like Mario 64 did.
    The weird thing for me about Greenlight is that I still see some really low budget games get put on steam without needing to go through the Process and it just boggles my mind how some of these guys weren’t told to go use Greenlight before being given the OK to be put on the storefront. (Totally thought I had an example from recently, but I don’t. Haven’t had my coffee yet.)

  17. cunningmunki says:

    The key to Valve’s success is going to be that “middleground between hardcore PC builders and console gamers with an interest in PC gaming” that Steve Gaynor mentions. They’re a bit like the on-the-fence ‘swing’ voters in a general election. However, in this case, I think success depends on the sheer volume of them, rather than which way they’re going to swing, because if Valve deliver what they’re promising most of them are almost certainly going to go with SteamOS.

    I’m both a PC gamer and a lapsed console gamer. I used to play both (predominantly FPS and RPGs on PC and platformers & TPS on console), but one day I decided I was sick of the whole PC gaming lark (after a new game I’d really been looking forward to utterly failed to work on my machine even though my graphics card was only a year old) and decreed that I would become a console-only gamer. My console never complained when I bought a new game, it knew nothing of acronyms such as CTD or BSOD, it never demanded that I install new and expensive innards, and it even played my entire Blu-ray collection. So I decided that this was the only machine I needed and I started to buy all new games, and even some I’d already owned on PC, for my PS3. I was determined to figure out how the fuck to play FPS games using an analogue stick (I never did), and pledge my allegiance to the great walled garden.

    I lasted about 2 months.

    After that, I built a new PC, with an IR sensor and a Blu-ray drive, stuck it under my TV, ripped out my PS3 and my DVD player and put them in the loft, where they remain. I wanted one machine to rule them all, and that’s what I now have. But by Jiminy Cricket it was painful, and it still is. Fortunately, I had the time to do all the research needed, and put in the hours tweaking the system to work exactly as I want. I’m not technical by trade, but, like many PC gamers, I’m sure, I’m quite technically-minded (thanks to my Dad introducing me to a ZX Spectrum when I was wee), which also helps.

    That “middleground” is full of people that are not technically-minded, who want the security and hassle-free nature of a console, the ability to play games from the sofa, and the customisability and flexibility of a PC. Valve are appealing to that middle-ground for a reason, and they’re not doing it to be nice and inclusive (even thought they are generally both of those things), they’re doing it because they believe it’ll be popular and they think that that middleground is potentially huge (and they might even convert some dyed-in-the-wool PC and console gamers along the way). Valve have a tendency to get things right because they do their research and get their enormous, and devoted, community to help, just like all their other endeavors (and they’ve all turned out pretty well).

    (Apologies for the wall of text)

    • Kitsunin says:

      You really don’t need to be so technically minded, though. I bought my PC straight out of a store for $500 (More than consoles cost, I’ll say that), setup was 100% self-explanatory. The most difficult thing I’ve had to do involving games is update my graphics drivers. It’s been a year and a half and I haven’t had any sort of hardware problems either.

      Of course, when the time comes I need to upgrade my graphics card, which is so-so right now, I’ll need to learn a lot, because apparently the tower is really unfriendly towards modding. Even getting a new tower and card will make the PC cheaper than any two consoles though, and I’ll probably be able to figure out how to transplant everything by googling the necessary information…I hope…

      • iridescence says:

        Yeah, I get the store to put together my PCs from parts I select and generally keep messing around with hardware to a minimum but once the PC is correctly assembled I find 95% of the time games work as advertised. I think some people are really over-estimating the hassle involved in running games on a PC. Most of the time it’s probably just as easy to run a game on a modern PC as on a console. It’s only if your hardware is more than about 5 years old that you’ll start running into a lot of compatibility problems.

        I think cost is the main barrier to entry. If they can keep this SteamBox thing about the same price as the consoles it’ll do well but if it ends up being way more expensive, no one will buy it because people who want an actual $700-1500 gaming PC already have one.

  18. pupsikaso says:

    Believe it or not, there is a market for SteamOS and Steambox. You might be comfortable either with your PC in your room or you might be comfortable with your console and TV in your living room, but there are people that aren’t.

    There are “PC gamers” that want to play their PC games in the living room on a TV, and there are “console gamers” that want to play PC games on their consoles. You will probably just think to yourself “well, I’m not either so I don’t care about this, it’s irrelevent to me”, but regardless of what you might think that market exists. And that market is not being served right now.

    Yes, you can connect your PC to a TV, and yes there are “PC games” that appear on consoles, but neither of these are optimal. What Valve is doing, is very smart from a business perspective. They have identified a market that is underserved, and are moving in to take control.

    Personally, I cannot fathom why I would want to play on a SteamOS box. Primarily because I don’t even have a TV. But I have several friends with whom I game that have giant-arsed TVs in their bedrooms, who play !PC games! with me on these screens, using console controllers when possible. They always have to fiddle to make it work, either with the screen or with the controller setup, having to use 3rd-party tools and drivers to map buttons on their controller and what not.
    SteamOS is for them.

    • Emeraude says:

      Believe it or not, there is a market for SteamOS and Steambox.

      The very success of Steam on the PC is enough to convince me of that.
      The questions being: is that market sustainable, and under what conditions ?

  19. waltC says:

    It’s obvious that SteamOS is Ubuntu 12.03+ with a Valve-themed front end/UI of some kind–since the Valve SteamOS Q&A page clearly says that “a few hundred” Steam games are already compatible with Steam OS, while the other ~3,000 or so Steam games can be “streamed” to the SteamOS box via an in-home Windows box on the local network. A few coats of superficial paint slapped around and it’s business as usual at Steam, seems to me. What we seem to have here is a Valve-themed version of Ubuntu 12.03+ with Valve “partnering” with x86 clone OEMs to sell boxes with “SteamOS” decals plastered all over them.

    What I want out of Valve is Half-Life 3. That seems the single topic Gabe won’t run on about for hours at a time, unfortunately.

  20. DanMan says:

    Erm… didn’t Valve say they want to change Greenlight into a community-based curation system? Where everyone can vote for games, and then the best will make it?

    AFAIK they also talked about letting everyone create their own store within steam, and thus earn money through every purchase made from within that store? I could see that turn into a platform for other retailers to sell their games on. Like a Gamespot store within Steam (being as big as they are, they may be able to negotiate how big their share will be). That could prove interesting, especially for SteamOS.

  21. Beelzebud says:

    As Carl Sagan once wrote: “It’s good to be open minded, but not so open that your brains fall out.”

    Greenlight is enabling indie devs to get their games on Steam, who otherwise wouldn’t have the resources to do so. I’m not sure how that is being painted as a negative thing. Do indie developers really think the Steam store should be open to every crappy scam-game that comes along? Not all games are created equal, and not all of them deserve to be on Steam. That’s just reality.

    Instead of picking out all the negative aspects of waiting in line (because that’s what it comes down to), how about highlight the fact that Greenlight is probably one of the best things to happen to indie developers in a long time.

  22. Apocalypse says:

    I did not even know race to the sun was out already.
    Greenlight it guys, do it now!

  23. Zogtee says:

    As an old person, I find the complaints about Greenlight somewhat amusing. Is it a perfect system? Fuck no, but indies have *never* had it better than they have today.

  24. MellowKrogoth says:

    Valve should just let people install their own games designed for SteamOS without having to go through Steam, just like you can on Windows. There, open platform for you.

    Regarding the target audience, I want to: a) play games without having to pay for a Windows license (I use mostly open-source cross-platform software for my non-gaming needs so the move would be pretty painless). If games released for SteamOS work on other Linux distros or if SteamOS is a full-fledged Desktop OS, goal accomplished. b) I want to play all the games out there including console ones without having to buy several machines, and I want the choice of doing it in front of my computer or my tv. I also want more coop gameplay on PC.

    Looks like I’m a pretty good target audience.

    Too bad Steam Big Picture is buggy as hell though, I tried it twice at a 6-months interval and it was really easy to make it crash.

    Regarding their controller it better be very good and have good Windows driver support and a way of making it work well with past games that expect an Xbox 360 controller, otherwise it’s gonna feel like a waste of money.

  25. Tuco says:

    This isn’t actually an article about the SteamOS.
    This is the usual trite bunch of arguments about the Steam client and Greenlight.

  26. Yglorba says:

    Why not just allow any game into a “sandbox” on Steam, where they don’t appear on most parts of Steam and can only be accessed by direct link? Then, after a game proves it can make sales from there, it gets unlocked for full Steam visibility.

    That’d combine the benefits of a curated and open system, wouldn’t it?

  27. jrodman says:

    I’m hopeful that:

    * “SteamOS” will not keep any Valve-specific APIs locked up, and allow arbitrary third-party developers to build software against it without even using Valve tools to install. Sure, that might not be the path of least resistance, but for example if other game stores could deploy to it, it would be more attractive for sure.
    * Valve will not require any strange gyrations to get root or install third party software on the device. Yeah, there is the spectre of malware tarnishing Valve’s image, but I think this can be handled.
    * Generic Linux games will run unaltered.
    * Steam will be further opened up along the lines Gabe has been discussing, with other people able to host stores on steam with low effort and promote the games they like.

    If all my dreams come true, I will see nothing to complain about. If some do not, I may be somewhat disappointed.

  28. jiminitaur says:

    I keep seeing these complaints about the state of Greenlight, but the only examples I see are developers who are unhappy with it because they didn’t succeed with the ease they would expect. They seem to think that Steam should just support them if they bring a game to the table with a couple people interested and a some decent reviews.

    Would the world benefit from a laxer policy, probably; but is it a critical failure? I think only if you’re expecting it to do the work for you. It shouldn’t take a lot of business sense to realize you’re going to need a strong independent PR campaign to succeed, nor should it be a surprise that a minimum number of people who have no mandate to be honest must at least say they would pay for the game in order for it to be considered.

    As a tool to crowd-source the problem of getting the titles people want into the market, Greenlight, seems to work just fine from my perspective. The list of Greenlit and Released games seem like appropriate reflections of quality based on the time I’ve spent reviewing/voting. Compared to some of the terribly done 360 titles that my old roommate had downloaded, the lowest common denominator on Greenlight looks like a AAA blockbuster. That minimum level of quality is more important to me than a few potentially worthy games that fall through the cracks. Steam imposes no penalties on developers who abandon, infest, or otherwise fail to properly support their products. That should change; but until then the bar should be set high to protect the market in general.

  29. bp_968 says:

    I think to many people are assuming that steamOS will naturally be quite closed and are basing assumptions on that. I believe the assumption should be that valve will deliver a polished and high performance “skin” for Linux, similar to what you see with OSX. Unless valve has a really warped idea of “open” we should easily be able to install other game stores should their makers decide to support Linux.

    I see this whole thing as a wonderful opportunity for us to get out from under the yoke of Microsoft. Right now we are forced to stick with windoze because no real alternative exists. This will hopefully change that. How many PC gamers “need” windows for anything other then games? If your games ran under Linux would you stay with windows and buy a windows license? I suspect the answer is no for most gamers. We use windows because we have no other choice. If I didn’t play PC games I’d have dropped windows years ago. For web surfing, photos, Netflix, etc, Linux works fine (and so does android, chromeOS, iOS, etc).

    I guess I’m seeing this beyond the “living room battle” or as a console alternative and am seeing the first real shot at getting PC gaming out from under the yoke of Microsoft. Having an OS designed for gaming can only be a good thing.

  30. markcocjin says:

    Such a failure in foresight and simple reading back on Gabe Newell interviews.

    Valve plans to make each and every Steam user a curator. A store owner. Someone who promotes games.

    In the near future, everyone and their dog can make a web page or blog and sell Steam games of their choice. They can select games as curator and get a cut from people who buys Steam games through them. Valve plans to make Steam a web based thingy where you can recommend games to others.

    Why is this relevant and how will it be successful? Simple.

    Forget small time users on Steam who promote some games. Imagine power users like Rock Paper Shotgun who will have a Steam storefront to their name. RPS will curate and sell games through Steam’s services. Imagine each gaming website as a storefront. You can now choose which gaming site recommends you their games and when you buy through them, you give them additional income.

    Read back. You can find traces of this information from past interviews. Gabe is throwing you a bone. These indie devs interviewed have no clue that it’s coming.

  31. frymaster says:

    “I believe it is critically essential to the openness of the platform that SteamOS can be used to play games (and any other software) which are not available on Steam, just as a Windows- or Linux-based PC can do. It is unclear to me yet if that will be the case.”

    He really hasn’t been paying attention.

    “Users can alter or replace any part of the software or hardware they want” – from the steamOS launch page.

    All steamOS is, really, is a branded version of Linux that comes pre-installed with the steam client. All the steam box is, is a branded media PC that comes pre-installed with steamOS. All the important announcements on the OS page were steam _client_ new features.

    I love that steam is curated. How about a halfway house? Game devs can, for a nominal fee, let their games use steamcloud / achievements / multiplayer joining, on condition that if it gets popular they either accept a standard steam deal (say, Valve take 30% cut and the minimum price is $10 at launch) or get cut off.