updated 01:11 pm EDT, Mon September 10, 2012
Claims solved problem of game controller-based typing
Valve Software will be making an assault on the living room later today, with the introduction of Big Picture Mode. According to Kotaku, the menu system, previously thought of as part of the rumored Steam Box console, will allow users to have access to Steam content through a PC connected to a TV, with an emphasis on game controller-based navigation as opposed to the keyboard and mouse.
Operating in a similar way to the dashboard navigation style offered by the Xbox 360, users can navigate between games installed in the Library, community pages, and the Steam Store itself. Typing with a controller has been given an overhaul from the traditional onscreen Qwerty keyboard, instead opting for "Daisywheel," which could be best described as a flower with groups of letters. On an Xbox 360 controller attached to a PC, using the left thumbstick allows the selection of a group, while pressing one of the buttons selects the letter, with the position and color within each cluster matching with that of the controller buttons.
A web browser is also included, using a customized version of Steam's existing in-client browser. Although PCs have browsers installed, the Big Picture Mode version is designed for use with the controller, and can be switched away from to an already playing game at any time.
Although this pushes against the existing gaming services found in the front room, such as Xbox Live, this is still not an indication that Valve are making a game console. Greg Coomer, head of the Big Picture team within Valve, claims that the company just wants to ship the mode and then learn how people end up using it, then make a decision as to what to do. "If it's getting involved in shipping some kind of hardware, then we will get involved in doing that if we need to," said Coomer. The Big Picture release along with a recent job posting for an industrial designer with experience in hardware product development does suggest that a Steam-based console is on the cards, but it all depends on if the company sees the need to build one.