Gaming news summary for April 19, 2015
The Game Replay is a twice-weekly look by MacNN and Electronista on the wider gaming landscape, highlighting some of the more notable stories from the last few days. Today's list includes improvements to security on Steam, "Timewalking" in World of Warcraft, and the small matter of a new Star Wars game.
Little known in terms of required specifications for PC, headset performance
Digital game delivery system developer Valve and electronics manufacturer HTC have unveiled their attempt at a virtual reality headset -- the HTC Vive. The system, shown at Barcelona's Mobile World Congress, will see two releases before the end of the year; a developer edition coming this month, and a consumer version shipping in time for the holiday season.
News from the video game industry for the week of December 28
Every Sunday, Electronista and MacNN offer a look back at some of the big news from the video game world in the previous week. To roll in the New Year for Weekly Game Replay, we take a look at Steam's new concurrent user record, Xbox Live founder Boyd Multerer's departure from Microsoft, the Planetside 2 beta coming to the PlayStation 4 in January, Croteam's trap for video game pirates in The Talos Principle, and the new free games for PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live gold subscribers.
News from the video game industry for the week of December 14
Every Sunday, Electronista and MacNN put together a one-stop article for some of the major news in the video game industry in the past week. In this week's edition of the Weekly Game Replay, we look at Valve's handling of Hatred on Steam Greenlight, Mojang and Telltale Games team up for a narrative-based Minecraft game, a judge gives the go-ahead on a Killzone resolution lawsuit, World of Warcraft is exploring in-game purchasable game time tokens, and Majesco Entertainment's receiving an investor cash infusion.
Beta program allows friends to watch gameplay, broadcasting automatically starts, ends
Valve has launched a new feature for its Steam gaming platform today, that aims to make live streaming gameplay a little easier than the widely-used Twitch. Steam Broadcasting is currently available as a beta feature, allowing users to hop into a stream to watch their friends play a quick game, or watch public broadcasts through the community hubs.
Service hits eight million concurrent peak users, breaking previous record
Valve's Steam platform draws the attention of all sorts of consumers during its seasonal sales, from gamers looking for a large price break to the completists that feel a need to buy everything that goes on sale. With gamers coming out in droves during the most recent Steam summer sale, which concluded earlier this week, a new milestone was reached for the service. On the final day of the sale, over eight million concurrent users showed up for a last shot at the deals.
Launch date slips in favor of more hardware development
Steam users will potentially have to wait until next year before they will be able to purchase Valve Software's Steam Controller, the company has announced. In a community blog post, Valve advises it is "looking at a release window of 2015, not 2014" for the controller, and in turn could affect the shipment of Steam Machines from the company.
Handheld now features two of the highest rated PC games of all time
Last month at the GPU Technology Conference, Nvidia announced that it would be working with game developer Valve to bring one of the most celebrated games in PC history to the Android-powered Shield handheld. Today, the company announced that Portal is available on the Google Play store, with an added bonus: Half-Life 2 has also been ported, and released for use with the Shield.
Coding legend feels VR is ultimately 'The Final Platform'
The driving force behind game developer and distributor Valve's virtual reality effort has left the company. Michael Abrash has taken a job at post-Facebook acquisition Oculus, as chief scientist. In a post announcing the shift (and defending the acquisition), Abrash claims that "Facebook's acquisition of Oculus means that VR is going to happen in all its glory."
New controller eschews touchpad, adds D-Pad and ABXY diamond
Valve is in the middle of its annual Steam Dev Days developer conference, and it has revealed the addition of 10 million new users in just the last three months. Additionally, the forthcoming Steam controller will no longer have a touchscreen, and will see other modifications for backwards compatibility with legacy applications and other industry-standard controllers.
Steam Machines arriving at beta tester households
The first units of Valve's Steam Machine gaming devices have begun arriving on the doorsteps of beta testers. Engadget on Sunday pointed to reports from a number of sites showing that beta units have begun showing up at a few households of the 300 beta testers Valve has signed up to try out its new device. The units are arriving in a wooden crate, which opens to reveal a padded interior with the gaming device and its novel gamepad tucked inside.
Linux-based SteamOS at the core of slated testing
Digital game purveyor Steam has revealed that 300 beta "Steam Machine" gaming hardware suites will commence shipping to selected participants on Friday, December 13. The 300 recipients will be informed today at about 2PM PST (5PM EST) that they are the recipient of the hardware, as well as a collection of games that run natively on SteamOS. All other factors ignored, qualified users have less than a 0.07 percent chance of being selected for the trial.
Steam hits another record for most users at one time
Popular gaming service Steam logged a record number of concurrent users on Sunday, besting its previous high of 6.6 million users. Figures on the service's site indicate that Steam hit 7,190,578 concurrent users mid-morning Eastern Time on December 1. The figure is indicative of the service's growing popularity, and may bode well for the company's impending Steam Box gaming devices.
Service offers OS X, Linux, Windows games for download
Digital game online storefront Steam today announced 30 percent growth in active accounts during the last 12 months, bringing the company's total to 65 million. The increase in users puts the cross-platform game distribution service ahead of Microsoft's Xbox Live user base, which totals 48 million active users.
Valve invites developers to Steam Dev Days
Following Valve's recent announcements surrounding the SteamOS and Steam Machine hardware platform, the company is inviting developers to its Steam Dev Days conference. The two-day event is scheduled to begin January 15 in Seattle, Washington, where attendees will have access to Valve's Steam team and try out the new OS, prototype Steam Controllers and Steam Controllers.
Modular gaming PC to cost minimum $900
Hardware manufacturer Xi3 has opened up its online store to pre-orders for the Piston console. Shown at CES as an example of Valve software's Steam Box game console concept and the first to officially go on sale, the Piston is effectively an entire personal computer with modular components, housed in a compact case.
Dismisses Valve console despite company doing 'innovative stuff'
Microsoft is not afraid of Valve's Steam Box game console concept, according to one executive. Don Mattrick, president of the interactive entertainment business of Microsoft, does not view Valve as a competitor to the Xbox platform yet when compared to other established gaming hardware companies, though does admit that the game developer is "doing some innovative stuff."
Linux client, games major step towards Steam Box
Valve has launched its Steam game distribution platform on Linux, after a lengthy period of beta testing. Initially announced in July 2012, the internal project has now opened up the store on Ubuntu, with interested users being able to download the client through Canonical's Ubuntu Software Center at no charge.
Nearly 10 percent of the company may have been laid off
(Updated with a statement from Gabe Newell) Following a tweet Tuesday confirming the firing of human interface engineer Jeri Ellsworth, Valve is apparently in the midst of larger staff cuts. Valve has indirectly confirmed reports of the departures, with the purge of eight staffers from the staff list website that were present as recently as a week ago. The firings include Valve's director of business Jason Holtman, and a handful of development personnel and engineers.
CES showcase for hardware; Valve heavy investor in project
At least partially confirming the rumors from last year, game developer and digital distribution house Valve and hardware manufacturer Xi3 have teamed up to announce a de facto Steam Box. The hardware, codenamed "Piston," is being previewed at the Consumer Electronics Show in both Xi3's booth and the Valve presence at the Las Vegas show.
Steam Box rumor confirmed in awards interview
Valve Software is planning to release a PC package aimed towards living-room gaming. Though stopping short of a console, Gabe Newell confirmed the company's plans to release the previously-rumored "Steam Box" by next year, and follows the "stronger than expected" reaction to Steam's Big Picture mode by gamers.
First software available intended for game production and design
Steam online store owner Valve Software has announced the availability of the first non-game software for purchase on the online venue. While the Steam game store is cross-platform and includes Macintosh OS X software, the current seven offerings are Windows only. During the first week of Steam Applications availability, all titles are ten percent off.
Possible peripheral planned after lack of 'meaningful' change
Valve has effectively confirmed the wish to build hardware on their website. A job posting for an "Industrial Designer" with six years of hardware product development experience has appeared on the company's corporate pages. This has added weight to the previous rumors of a Steam-based console, although the extent of the company's hardware vision is still not clear.
Crowd-sourced scheme sets popular items onto online store
Valve Software has opened its crowd-sourced product release scheme. Steam Greenlight will allow game creators to list their titles on the service and allow users to vote for which they wish to see put onto the service in the future, effectively taking a significant amount of product vetting work off the Valve employees. Large game publishers will still be able to add their titles to the system though existing procedures.
Only Valve's second simultaneous Mac/PC release
Valve has released Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, a long-awaited update to its multiplayer first-person shooter. The game is available through Steam, and marks just the second time that Valve itself has done a simultaneous Mac/Windows launch through the service. In the past couple of years Valve has turned more attention to Mac support for both first- and third-party releases, compensating for the fact that most Steam content is otherwise Windows-centric.
First applications on sale through service September 5th
Valve is set to open its Steam store up for non-gaming content. The formal announcement confirms speculation that was fueled last month through the company's mobile apps, which would see Steam gain categories for various productivity and creativity genres. The first non-gaming titles are slated to begin digital distribution on September 5, in a move that evolves Steam into a general app store beyond its original gaming focus.
Left 4 Dead 2 reportedly stable, working towards full Linux support
Valve is bringing the Steam game distribution platform to Ubuntu. A company blog for the project tells of an 11-person team porting not only Steam, but also Source engine-powered game Left 4 Dead 2. According to the post, co-founder of Valve Gabe Newell has been interested in a Linux port of Steam and Source for some time, and last year formed the team devoted to the project.
Extra non-gaming categories added to app store
Game download service Steam may be moving into other markets, according to its Android app (Free, Google Play). Genres listed in the mobile app now show non-gaming listings, suggesting the Valve Software service may transition toward a general app store. The move itself would be a natural progression for the service, and would see it competing against Apple's Mac App Store.
Simultaneous release expected August 21
As promised by Valve in 2011, the follow-up to one of the most popular player-versus-player online games of all time, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is shipping for the PlayStation Network, Xbox Live, and Steam for Windows and OS X on August 21. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is a combined effort from both Valve, and Hidden Path Entertainment. Demos are available for play at this week's Electronics Entertainment Expo.
Oakley would have indepndent, tethered glasses
Oakley is developing its own equivalent to Google's Project Glass with a possibly more independent design. CEO Colin Baden said in an interview with Bloomberg published Tuesday that the project would initially focus on sports, serving as a heads-up display for a workout. It would likely spread to other fields, he said.
Valve Software elaborates on wearable tech work
Valve Software researcher and veteran programmer Mike Abrash has posted a long retrospective that has also gone into detail about wearable computing studies. He had started on it after realizing there was no immediate need for more work on Portal 2 and saw it as a chance to explore always-available computing. Wearable hardware could be a practical reality within 10 years and possibly under five, he said, and the research would help speed this along.
Apple CEO visits Valve for possible software deal
Apple CEO Tim Cook was supposedly spotted at Valve Software's Bellevue headquarters on Friday. His purpose and who he talked to weren't mentioned by the AppleInsider contact. Most likely, he would be visiting company founder Gabe Newell.
Valve looks to hire hardware engineer
Valve has taken to Twitter to announce that it is looking to hire electrical engineers. Aligning with a recent rumor that the software company is looking to develop a gaming console, the posting seeks to entice potential applicants with ambitions to help Valve ‘invent whole new gaming experiences.’ The successful applicant or applicants will need experience and knowledge of ‘ARM and x86 system design’.
Focusing on getting new UI out the door
Last week, rumors began to circulate that Valve was working on the Steam Box, a hardware gaming console. Today, the online gaming software maker has clarified that it is not planning to produce such a device any time soon. The company also stated that it's not partnering with anyone on such a project to date.
Valve Steam Box would consolize PC gaming
Valve Software is entering the console race by developing its own hardware platform, new rumors brought up early Saturday. The approach outlined by The Verge would have typical PC hardware with a Core i7, 8GB of RAM, and NVIDIA graphics, but it would serve as a fixed platform for three to four years. Developers would then target their games to the system, which as expected would use Steam as its primary way to get games.
Valve Software may leap from games to devices
Valve Software founder Gabe Newell in an interview Monday disclosed that his company was considering getting into hardware. While careful to couch it for Penny Arcade as contingent on what the rest of the market did, the Portal and Left 4 Dead co-creator divulged that the company might make its own wearable computing. The company had already been experimenting with the technology, Newell said, and it would get involved if there weren't signs partnerships or independent work didn't step in first.
Invites no longer equired
After a brief period of exclusivity, Valve has opened up the Steam Mobile beta to the general public. Previously just a select group of Steam users were allowed to try the beta, although invites handed out to testers gradually increased the userbase. Free Android and iPhone versions of the mobile client are available.
Steam Mobile live for iOS and Android
Valve has partly fulfilled one of the most common wishes of gamers Thursday by posting Steam Mobile. Versions for both iOS (App Store) and Android (Market) lets users both keep up with their Steam chats and groups while away. They can go so far as to buy games for the Mac or Windows that they can start downloading immediately when they get home.
Valve says Steam payment, passwords may be at risk
Valve Software co-founder Gabe Newell warned in a message to users that a forum hack found on November 6 had also touched on vital account information. After an investigation, the Portal 2 developer found that the unnamed intruders had gotten into a database that also had account names, e-mail, encrypted credit card numbers and passwords, and purchase records. While Valve had no reason to think the account information itself had been compromised, Newell advised gamers to watch their credit card activity "closely."
Mac, Windows versions bundled together
Developer Valve Software has released Portal 2, a sequel to a game originally bundled with The Orange Box in 2007. Portal 2 differs not only in being a separate retail product, but also a full-length title rather than a small side-project. Windows, Mac, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions are launching simultaneously. The Mac and Windows versions are bundled together, whether on Steam or at retail.
Valve gives us Portal 2 for Mac clue
Valve Software today began giving out cryptic teases for what's presumed to be the launch of Portal 2 for the Mac. MacNN was given a piece along with several others that all follow the same theme. Our copy read "troops be cores," which like the others is an anagram of "reboot process" and hints at the reborn GlaDOS AI that became the villain of the original game.
Extent of possible integration unknown
Valve is investigating the possibility of expanding Steam to iOS and Android, a member of the official Steam forums claims to have learned. The person says he was told of the company's plans in speaking with co-founder Gabe Newell at Valve headquarters in Bellevue, Washington. Steam is currently only available for Windows and Mac, and even then with a much stronger emphasis on the former.
We look at Razer's Hydra and Switchblade at CES
Razer had an unusually strong presence at CES this year and brought two big devices: its Hydra motion controller for computers and its Switchblade handheld PC, both of which we saw first-hand at the show. The Hydra was the truly functional example and impressed us with a specially optimized version of Valve's Portal 2. The new version had a handful of new objects and puzzles designed around the controller's dual motion, dual analog stick setup.
Windows 8 said having gaming focus
Microsoft's Windows 8 could have a much stronger focus on gaming, a slip alleged today. The developer is said making gaming not just important but a "key component for the whole OS." What that would entail wasn't given to the TechRadar source.
UK game retailers threaten to boycott Steam games
Driven by fears of its developing an unassailable monopoly, big games retailers in the UK have said they will boycott selling games that support the Steam digital games distribution platform. According to a Thursday MCV report, retailers' concerns are growing that selling games with Steam will bring gamers to buy games using the download service exclusively. It;s estimated the US studio Valve that runs Steam commands 80 percent of the PC download market.
Special bundle merges first, second games
As promised yesterday, Valve has launched the Mac version of Left 4 Dead 2, its zombie-themed first-person shooter. To promote the game though the company is now also offering a special discount, pricing the title at $6.79 instead of a standard $20. A free expansion, The Sacrifice, has been made available simultaneously.
Original Mac game due by Halloween
The Mac port of Left 4 Dead 2 is set to launch on Tuesday, Valve has announced. Players assume the role of one of four armed survivors, trapped in the middle of a zombie apocalypse ravaging the American south; five primary campaigns chronicle the group's escape. While playable with AI teammates, the game is meant to be experienced online, where modes such as Versus and Survivor allow a second four-player team to control the zombies.
Case even extends to gaming companies
Olympic Developments has filed a lawsuit through the US District Court for the Central District of California, LA Division, charging several companies with violating two of its patents. The first patent, Transactional Processing System, describes a way of offering products and services through credit card transactions. The concept also involves real-time authorization. The second patent, Device for Controlling Remote Interactive Receiver, specifically describes a remote that can save financial information.
Should improve speed of game production
Valve will provide some extra resources to Mac developers using the Steamworks community infrastructure, says Jason Holtman, the company's business development director. In exchange for the closer integration with Steam, developers should soon get "a portion" of Valve's graphics code to accelerate production. Specifically the code is meant to help with the Mac OS X graphics layer, considered the biggest obstacle to Mac game development. Windows is typically more concentrated on game support.
Wraps in enhancements from Windows update
Following up on an earlier claim, Valve has released the first Mac version of Counter-Strike: Source through Steam. Players take sides with a team of terrorists or counter-terrorists as the former try to plant a bomb and ensure it isn't defused. Until today, the popular multiplayer game has only been available for Windows users.