Valve Software Has More Fun In The Works
September 10, 2012

Valve Brings Games To The Television And Your Eyeballs

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

Hot on the heels of recent rumors of a standalone hardware device, online video game giant Valve is set to launch a public test of “Big Picture Mode,” a way to bring online video games from the den to the living room.

The New York Times announced this news over the weekend, (Valve has since confirmed) as well as discussing a few hare-brained ideas the gaming company has up their sleeves.

As it stands, the UI of Big Picture Mode seems clean and reactive. Users have the choice to interact with Big Picture Mode either through a controller or a keyboard and mouse. One of the most difficult challenges with television interfaces is the issue of onscreen keyboards, an issue which Apple addressed by releasing an iOS app which gives users a QWERTY keyboard on their iPad or iPhone.

Valve, on the other hand, has chosen a different solution. Using what they call a “lotus” style keyboard, users can use the controller or a mouse and keyboard to navigate to groups of letters in different “petals” of the lotus flower. One Valve employee told Kotaku that though this new style seems confusing, people are “almost instantly faster than [when using] QWERTY."

Much like Apple´s TV options, Valve promises their Big Picture Mode will be easy to set up and use. According to their Web site: "With full controller support, big-picture mode will let gamers kick back and enjoy their favorite games on the biggest screen in the house. Steam's big-picture mode doesn't require any additional development from you. Just ensure your game works well with a controller, and we'll take care of the rest."

When asked if this new move is a signal of a future “Steambox,” or rumored Valve hardware, Greg Coomer, head of the team which was responsible for rolling out this new feature (according to the New York Times piece, Valve employees don´t really have titles) told Kotaku, “What we really want is to ship [Big Picture mode] and then learn.”

"So it could be that the thing that really makes sense is to build the box that you're describing. But we really don't have a road map. And we think we're going to learn a tremendous amount through this first release.”

One piece of hardware Valve has built, albeit not much more than a prototype, are a pair of virtual reality goggles, which immerse the gamer into a completely 3D animated zombie attack.

Though the team at Valve clearly isn´t the first company to dream about bringing wearable computers to consumers, (one other company comes to mind) the way in which these Valve goggles could be used differs quite a bit. Rather than snap pictures and perform Internet searches based on what you´re looking at, these Valve goggles will be used to not only create a totally immersive gaming experience, but they will also be able to make use of augmented reality to overlay the gaming elements over what the wearer is actually seeing in real life.

“They´re on the cutting edge of the future of this industry,” says one of Valve´s competitors, Peter Moore, chief operating officer at Electronic Arts, speaking to the Times.

However, Mr. Moore is also a bit skeptical about the public´s reaction to goggles from either Google or Valve.

“It´s appealing to them because they live in that outer fringe of IQ and money,” says Moore, suggesting Gabe Newell, official CEO of Valve and Sergey Brin of Google are out of touch with what the mainstream public looks for in a device.

Valve gamers can look for Big Picture Mode today, though the Goggles are 3 to 5 years away, should it be released at all.