Steam Dev Days talks are now online

Steam Dev Days

Remember the Steam Dev Days, the event held by Steam and aimed strictly to developers? Among other things, it was used for announcing changes to the upcoming exclusive hardware and for showing Steam’s global reach.

The only way to have the first-hand experience with Steam’s secrets was to be invited to their Seattle HQ. Luckily for the rest of us, now all the talks are available through a massive YouTube playlist.

Here’s Gabe Newell’s opening speech:

Source: Joystiq

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China’s game consoles

On September, after 13 years of prohibition, game consoles ban was finally lifted in China. That’s why the Kotaku team decided it was the right time to take a look at the country’s interesting relationship with gaming hardware, gathering together some of the most popular Chinese consoles.

Some of the knock-offs are really… interesting.

You can find the article here.

Nintendo president cuts his pay in half… and drops 2 bombs

"Hi. We're on Mr. Iwata's list"

“Hi. We’re on Mr. Iwata’s list”

These have been really busy days for Nintendo. After forecasting a surprise $240 million loss for the current fiscal year, and among different kind of rumors, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata spoke yesterday at an investors meeting in Tokyo and dropped some unexpected news. Since I can’t speak or read Japanese (and since the official Nintendo translation doesn’t include everything), I’ve spent some time researching different outlets and in order to bring you a proper summary.

As part of Nintendo’s new strategy, Iwata is reducing his salary in half. Other seven executives (including Shigeru Miyamoto) will get pay cuts between 20% and 30%. The salary reduction starts in February and will last until June, when the situation will be reviewed based on the company’s progress.

“We still have THIS money left…”

This move may be unusual for the rest of the industry but not for Nintendo: over 2 years ago, Iwata had made a similar decision following disappointing 3DS sales. Those also were rough times for the company, making its former president Hiroshi Yamauchi lose $500 million in one day.

In the long run, the handheld business proved to be healthy for Nintendo. The Wii U, however, seems to be more problematic, having to compete against its classic opponents (Sony, Microsoft) and the emergence of mobile gaming.

Regarding the company’s next steps, Iwata used the same investors meeting to drop 2 bombs:

  • There are no plans to launch Nintendo games for non-Nintendo platforms, BUT…

Therefore, we would like to, instead of directly expanding our business on smart devices, focus on achieving greater ties with our consumers on smart devices and expanding our platform business. (…) Accordingly, I have not given any restrictions to the development team, even not ruling out the possibility of making games or using our game characters. However, if you report that we will release Mario on smart devices, it would be a completely misleading statement. It is our intention to release some application on smart devices this year that is capable of attracting consumer attention and communicating the value of our entertainment offerings, so I would encourage you to see how our approach yields results.

  • Iwata’s next 10 years in the company will focus on “quality of life through entertainment”. In that line, Nintendo’s next platform will be a non-wearable device to monitor the user’s health, and will be launched during the fiscal year ending March 2016.

Nintendo’s leapfrog strategy

You can read the official translation of the presentation here. It’s full of interesting quotes.

Sources: Eurogamer.net, Polygon, The Wall Street Journal, Kotaku

Google Glass Gaming?

A group of Google developers prototyped 5 simple minigames to test some of the gadget capabilities. According to them, “with tons of tiny sensors and a screen that fits neatly above the eye, Glass is an exciting new place to play”. Here’s what they put together:

However, they aren’t the only ones to see gaming potential for Google Glass. Back in November, Niccolo de Masi (Glu Mobile CEO) told VentureBeat that he considers Google’s wearable device “a brand new paradigm for interactivity, so it’s a brand new paradigm for games”. In his opinion, it could even trigger another “iPhone moment”. His company has recently developed Spellista, a word game exclusive to Google Glass.

“My prototype is cheaper”

You can learn more about the Google Glass minigames here.

Source: Polygon

The Steam controller abandons its touchscreen

"No more touchscreen for you!"

“No more touchscreen for you!”

A key part of Valve’s new hardware venture is the Steam Controller“a different kind of gamepad”. It was born with an ambitious goal: to “bring the Steam experience, in its entirety, into the living-room“.

In order to become a viable alternative to the Xbox gamepad (a popular option for PC games) and the keyboard+mouse combination (still the best option for some genres), Valve took a step forward and placed a touchscreen where the rest of the controllers have buttons. It could be used for selecting troops in an RTS, for example, replacing the mouse.

The touchscreen could be clicked in 4 different places

However, after receiving feedback from users and developers, the revolutionary touchscreen was ditched in favor of the classic D pad + ABXY buttons. One of the main reasons of this change is to ensure the backwards compatibility with the thousands of games thata are currently available at Steam.

A 3D printed prototype

The possibility of mapping the controls in any way is still there, though, as well as the gyroscopes. Biometrics, in turn, are important for Valve, but they concluded that the hands are not the best place to capture them.

I don’t know if having a big touchscreen was the best decision (the PlayStation 4 controller has a small one), but it was surely bold. Too bad that focusing on the available games overshadowed other future possibilities.

Nevertheless, the Steam controller will surely keep changing. It’s still in beta, after all.

Source: Steam Dev Days

Xbox One had 75 prototypes before its final version

Xbox_One_Console_and_Controller

Microsoft launched its stellar Xbox One on November 22, 2013 in 13 countries (Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, UK, and USA). By the end of the year it had shipped 3.9 million units to retailers, selling “over 3 million” of those, against the 4.2 million PS4 units sold by Sony through December 28 (here’s a practical comparison).

However, a lot of hard work had to be done during the previous years in order to reach that milestone, involving a lot of designs and iterations. More than 75, actually.

One Xbox to rule them all

Carl Ledbetter, senior industrial design manager at Microsoft and the guy behind the Xbox One design (and the original Intellimouse!), admits it wasn’t an easy task.

There was this conundrum in that we had to meet and satisfy desires of core gamers and Xbox fans, and at same time we wanted Xbox to reach out and mean something to new people. From a design perspective, how do we make that happen? That was a big challenge.

He and his team had to create a sophisticated yet approachable gaming powerhouse, that could become the entertainment manager without overshadowing the rest of the living room. By the end of the process, they had more than 75 iterations of the console, 100 of Kinect, and more than 200 of the controller

We put a lot of time into all of the details. The overall product is really premium. It really feels designed, engineered and crafted in quality.

You can read the full interview here.

Valve’s virtual reality headset… is Oculus Rift

For months we’ve been hearing and reading that Valve was developing its own virtual reality headset, even just a couple of months ago.

However, during the second day of the Steam Dev Days conference we learnt that Valve has ditched its previous hardware efforts in order to support Oculus Rift, virtual reality diva. Next week we should be seeing Valve’s own virtual reality development tools.

According to their own projections, we should start seeing real consumer devices within the next two years.

What a lovely gang!

Source: IGN