Steam: SL on your TV?

SteamGabe Newell, co-founder and Managing Director of Steam’s parent company, Valve, is aiming high.

On December 3rd, 2012 the company launched the Steam Big Picture mode, with the slogan The revolution will be televised, which had been in beta since earlier in the year.

The services was announced thus on the Steam website:

Heading to the living room—or anywhere there’s a big screen—is Steam’s soon-to-be-released big-picture mode, offering simple, easy-to-read navigation designed specifically for TV. With full controller support, big-picture mode will let gamers kick back and enjoy their favorite games on the biggest screen in the house.

Gabe Newell, co-founder and MD at Value

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. And don’t worry, keyboard and mouse aren’t going anywhere—users will be able to switch between input devices at any time.

Nothing beyond a physical connection between a computer and TV is required for the new service to work.

The move is just the start of Valve’s living room revolution”. Speaking to Kotaku’s Jason Schreier (who also did the in-depth write-up on The Big Picture mode) at the Video Games Awards last week, Newell confirmed that in 2013, he expects companies to start selling “Valve-approved” PC-based systems designed to hook up to a TV and run Steam straight out of the box – and which will be able to go toe-to-toe with traditional console offerings.

“I think in general that most customers and most developers are gonna find that [the PC is] a better environment for them,” Newell said. “‘Cause they won’t have to split the world into thinking about ‘why are my friends in the living room, why are my video sources in the living room different from everyone else?’ So in a sense we hopefully are gonna unify those environments.”

The big picture: could it also include SL? (image courtesy of Steamworks)

There are significant hurdles to be overcome for this to work – the PC boxes won’t be as open to tinkering, for example, as Newell notes in talking to Kotaku. There’s also the case as to how well some games may translate from keyboard to controller – although the company is, interestingly, working on a “moddable controller” with elements which can be switched around to allow for customised gaming, as well as a system by which the controller can be used in place of a QWERTY keyboard for conversing in role-play based games.

Lotus: using an XBox 360-style console as a replacement keyboard (image courtesy of Kotaku)

So, with Second Life expected to arrive on Steam “pretty soon” TM if not possibly “real soon” TM, these moves could yet see Second Life itself make the move from the computer screen to the big screen – and possibly broaden its appeal in the process (although that is perhaps an awfully big “possibly”).

Michael Abrach (coutesy Techcrunch)
Michael Abrach (coutesy Techcrunch)

Valve are also moving ahead in other areas of hardware development which may also benefit SL. Newell’s interest in wearable computing options such as motion sensors, etc., is well-known. It is an interest shared by Michael Abrash, in a blog post on the matter also revealed he has a common source of inspiration as Philip Rosedale. Wearable / motion sensing systems have been connected with SL for some time now, particularly where Kinect is concerned. If Valve develop a system which works out-of-the-box with SL, it could well have a major impact on carious combats systems / environments in SL and potentially further leverage SL as a games enablement platform with the attraction that the environments in which the games themselves are played is totally configurable via SL’s content creation options.

Does this really mean that Second Life is coming to a living room near you? Well, maybe, maybe not. Part of this may come down to how the TV in your lounge is used (and what you get up to in SL vs. who else is around in real-time to witness it!). However, the TV was itself long ago freed from the lounge. It can be found in the bedroom, the study, the den … so one can see a certain attraction in sitting up in bed and spending time in-world (as some do) with just a hand controller and the TV rather than a laptop perched on legs…

Time will tell, as they say. In the meantime, these developments from Valve, if successful, could be of major impact to gaming as a whole, and are doubtless going to be watched with interest.

With thanks to Kotaku.

SL project news: week 50/1: Server, JIRA, mesh and Shining

Server Deployments

Due to the offline e-mail issue involving scripted objects, as reported in my last news update, there has been no Main Channel deployment this week. Two RC deployments are currently planned for Wednesday 12th December, however. These are:

  • BlueSteel and LeTigre: should receive the same maint-server project that rolled to Magnum in week 49, with bug fixes arising from that deployment. The release notes are available for review
  • Magnum should receive a superset of the changes scheduled for BlueSteel and LeTigre, which includes extra bug fixes, including stability improvements and a memory leak fix.  
    • The only new feature new to Magnum is an increase in the allowed animation asset size – the 60KB size limit on animation assets has been raised to 120KB. This change is to allow for longer and more complex animations to be made in the future, once an viewer-side update to allow 60-second animation loops has been implemented. Magnum’s release notes can be read here.
So be sure to read them :-) (with thanks to Whirly Fizzle for the link)
So be sure to read them 🙂 (with thanks to Whirly Fizzle for the link)

Update on Key Region Issues

Physics Memory / Region Performance

As reported last time, the physics memory issues affecting some regions, which I reported in week 47, had been tracked down by Simon Linden to a Havok issue related to navmesh rebakes. His fix for this problem cleared QA and forms a part of the RC deployments for the 12th December, together with a fix for a low-level threading problem within the simulator code which has also been causing region crashes.

Offline IMs from In-world Objects Failing to Forward to E-mail

This issue, linked to llInstantMessage(llGetOwner(), caused the RC deployments in week 49 to be rolled back on Thursday 6th December. A fix has been developed and tested and is included in all three RC deployments planned for Wednesday 12th December.

Code Freeze / No Change Windows

Again, to re-iterate from my last report, there will be no server-side code changes over the holiday period as follows:

  • Week 52  – commencing Monday December 24th
  • Week 1, 2013 – commencing Monday December 31st

Simon Linden still hoped that one of the code being deployed to the RC channels this week can be rolled to the Main Channel in week 51. There will likely be a further update on this following the Thursday Server Beta UG.

JIRA / Bug Tracker Update

Linden Lab are still mulling the September closure of the old public JIRA system. Since the initial shut-down, things have opened up a little. Additional JIRAs have been left open as read only beyond the initial triage, while others have been opened and have had their comments enabled in order to allow feedback – such as the CHUI JIRA, which is being very constructively used for comments and feedback and shows how, in an ideal world, the system might work.

Currently, it appears that “nothing definitive” has been decided on the change, although it has been under internal discussion.

Feedback from those in the two JIRA support groups (developers who have significantly contributed code and those who have in the past supplied significant support in handling JIRAs) has been interesting. It appears that the number of feared duplicates on issues has been a lot smaller than had been feared. The overall quality of input given using the new form also appears to have been significantly improved since it was introduced.

Continue reading “SL project news: week 50/1: Server, JIRA, mesh and Shining”