Valve Brings Steam to Your TV With New Big Picture Mode

Valve Brings Steam to Your TV With New Big Picture Mode

Steam is coming to your living room with a streamlined dashboard and redesigned virtual keyboard.

Many have argued that the history of game technology is driven by graphics, but equally important is the matter of convenience. It was convenience that moved gaming from arcade machines to our consoles, allowing us to kick back with a controller from the comfort of a living room couch. The biggest exception to this rule is PC gaming. Despite the impressive contributions computers provide to our hobby of choice, convenience is pretty far down on the list. Valve first mentioned a plan to alleviate some of those concerns with a television-based interface for Steam that would allow your Steam Library to function smoothly on modern, HDTVs. Fans won't need to wait much longer to sink their teeth into it: The beta version of Big Picture Mode will be launching sometime this afternoon.

"PC gaming continues to be the leading edge of entertainment, whether it's social gaming, MMOs, graphics hardware, free-to-play, or competitive gaming," Valve President Gabe Newell said. "With Big Picture for Steam, we are trying to do our part to give customers and developers what they want - their games, everywhere, optimized for the environment in which they are playing."

Once the update arrives, Steam will include a Big Picture button that replaces the familiar Steam UI into a dashboard similar to the one available for XBox 360. The mode will also include full controller support, including a new visual "lotus-style" keyboard that will allow users to quickly type commands without hunting for adapted QWERTY characters. All players need to do is hook up their computer to a television, preferably with an HDMI cable.

Overall, it's an impressive concept, but I suspect there will still be some hurdles between the two gaming experiences. Outside of simply lugging your PC into the living room, computer builds without HDMI ports will require individual video and sound feeds to get Big Picture started, which not everyone has the expertise or patience to do. And that's not counting the problems that will inevitably crop up with any beta project. That said, there are lots of PC gamers out there who prefer controllers anyway, and anything Valve puts a "free" price tag on is usually worth checking out. Besides, if Big Picture Mode is a success, maybe it'll inspire them to put together that Steam Box after all.

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Makes me wish I still had a PC, there are few things I like beter than plugging into a nice steamy box.

Ok... cool. I mean, really cool. But I don't get it. I do this anyway. I hook up my laptop to my TV and game on it with my XBox controller (if it isn't an RTS/FPS/etc.)

I guess whether or not I use it is dependent on how easy the user interface is. We'll see.

Huh...I've never seen a Steam commercial before. it seems so weird to hear an official ad saying the name rather than reading it or a news blog talking about it.

This seems preety cool.

forgive my ignorance but how is plugging your pc to your telly via hdmi any different to this?

ZeroMachine:
Ok... cool. I mean, really cool. But I don't get it. I do this anyway. I hook up my laptop to my TV and game on it with my XBox controller (if it isn't an RTS/FPS/etc.)

I guess whether or not I use it is dependent on how easy the user interface is. We'll see.

Yeah people say (and so have I) that they have done this or could do this in the past as well, and it's true, anyone can hook up their computer with a TV and use it as a monitor. But there's a reason why I use XBMC and not VLC for playing videos on my living room TV. It's made with an interface that works from your couch, using either a (gaming) controller or keyboard and mouse.
Same thing applies to Steam, sure you can use it with mouse and keyboard in front of your TV, but the default interface wasn't made for that, and there's no controlling it with your gamepad. And that's where The Big Picture comes in handy. It still let's you hook up your TV and PC together, but this time, it's made with the couch experience in mind. I don't play mouse and keyboard games awkwardly in front of my TV, I have my main gaming rig for that, but for those easy to pick up games with full controller support, this is what we've been missing so far.

Evil Smurf:
forgive my ignorance but how is plugging your pc to your telly via hdmi any different to this?

Long story short. Yes, you still plug in via HDMI. But the interface and controls are different and actually made for using from your couch to your TV. If you actually watch the video, you'll see there's a difference.

Just in time for my new PC next month :D

NLS:

Evil Smurf:
forgive my ignorance but how is plugging your pc to your telly via hdmi any different to this?

Long story short. Yes, you still plug in via HDMI. But the interface and controls are different and actually made for using from your couch to your TV. If you actually watch the video, you'll see there's a difference.

It makes you ask, Why has it not always been like that?

Evil Smurf:
forgive my ignorance but how is plugging your pc to your telly via hdmi any different to this?

It means you won't need to use a mouse to navigate, giving people the couch gaming feel without all the Microsoft/ Sony bullshit. All they are doing as far as I can tell is making a new UI for use with a game pad, while still keeping the old one for mouse navigation. My guess is you will simply be able to toggle between them.

CardinalPiggles:

Evil Smurf:
forgive my ignorance but how is plugging your pc to your telly via hdmi any different to this?

It means you won't need to use a mouse to navigate, giving people the couch gaming feel without all the Microsoft/ Sony bullshit. All they are doing as far as I can tell is making a new UI for use with a game pad, while still keeping the old one for mouse navigation. My guess is you will simply be able to toggle between them.

Plus the controller based web browser, which looks quite cool, but will be wasted on me, because I can't use a controller in "first-person" for the life of me. My kids will probably love it though. Of course if all you use your PC for is games and the web, this makes Win8 more viable, as you'll just need to launch the Steam Metro button and you'll be away...if only Valve would work on a media player and TV tuner now.

Woah, woah. Just back up there a minute though, there are PCs that don't have HDMI ports? Egads!

Well, pretty much any HD TV has a VGA port and pretty much any video card has a VGA port, or a DVI to VGA adapter, get a long audio cable and presto!, PC gaming in your living room!

And really, it doesn't make absolutely any difference between connecting your PC with HDMI to using VGA, it's just a better picture quality, it's like deciding to connect your Xbox with Component cables instead of the better HDMI, it's not big science, people!

As for the Big Picture... all I can say is YES!!!, and kudos for Valve for thinking about that way of typing using the 4 buttons of the controller, my thumb still hurts from the blisters I got trying to use MSN with the 360 controller on the Xbox.

Now, if only I had an HDTV...

I love the line about a TV browser that doesn't suck. Does this mean that they're going to make Steam's Store browser less shit? Because I would love for them to do that first.

daibakuha:
I love the line about a TV browser that doesn't suck. Does this mean that they're going to make Steam's Store browser less shit? Because I would love for them to do that first.

The Store browser in big picture mode is pretty good. Simple, yet everything is there.

OT: I have been looking forward to this. I would love to put together a PC based "console" running Steam to have in my living room. The only thing that is now missing from the PC in terms of gaming is the specific exclusives that consoles have. The living room is now another PC gaming domain. For now I will just hook up my netbook to play some classic, gamepad friendly games on.

That lotus keyboard is actually ingenious. Did Valve invent it or was it taken from somewhere else?

Right now, this is nifty, but nothing incredible. But it's a framework that could render consoles obsolete. It just needs some hardware to facilitate the plugging of a computer sound and video into a TV, along with some hardware that makes the mouse/keyboard input more portable, and controllers more friendly. I mean, this would be a serious breakthrough if Valve were, say, working on some hardware to go along with this.

Wait a second... http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/119408-Valve-Gets-a-Jump-On-Hardware

I can absolutely see Steam competing with Microsoft and Sony next console generation. It would be very easy to market a couple of cords as a $30 console for people with a computer already.

I've been waiting to see this for some time. Was curious what Valve had in mind with it. Upon trying it tonight, my first impressions are generally positive.

The interface is easy to navigate. It's fluid and responsive, which is a nice change of pace to most UIs like this. The new store and library pages are nice. The web-browser, while mostly bare-bones, functions quite well with a controller, which surprised me.

I do have a few complaints, though.

The friends interface, while decent, could use a little work. For example, it's very hard (read: near impossible) to start individual group chats with several people. Also, the list just shows a general list of ALL of your friends.

Now, I'll grant that it displaying the list as such isn't much different than the Friends list usually is, but since the advent of the "tag" feature, browsing your friends list is much easier. The fact that it's absent in Big Picture is puzzling.

Otherwise, I've not major complaints thus far. I've still a lot of poking around to do with it but as of now I'm liking it.

AC10:
That lotus keyboard is actually ingenious. Did Valve invent it or was it taken from somewhere else?

I've not seen anything specifically like it before.

Unless you deem it entirely derivative of the radial menu designs. (which it is, but that's like proclaiming a drop-down menu as derivative of, well, drop-down menus)

Either way, I quite like it. It's vastly faster and more intuitive than the classic virtual-keyboard layout you usually see with controller based UIs.

I honestly can't even figure out how to turn it on. I have played with my TV as my monitor for probably close to a decade now so I wouldn't mind trying this out.

How do I turn big picture mode on?

So this is why Gaben hates Windows 8...Big Picture is basically the Metro interface and he mad Microsoft did it first.

"It's the world's first first person browser"

Ծ_Ծ

Ya, and my guess is it'll be the last.

Evil Smurf:

NLS:

Evil Smurf:
forgive my ignorance but how is plugging your pc to your telly via hdmi any different to this?

Long story short. Yes, you still plug in via HDMI. But the interface and controls are different and actually made for using from your couch to your TV. If you actually watch the video, you'll see there's a difference.

It makes you ask, Why has it not always been like that?

Proper hardware support between PC and TV. HDMI is the killer-cable for this obviously, but not all PCs or TVs have been supporting that standard in the past. My latest media center PC that I built some months ago was a pain in the ass to work with my old TV that didn't support HDMI. HDMI to analog (VGA, S-Video, SCART, Composite) doesn't work at all unless you buy an active converter that'll set you back a few bucks and isn't guaranteed to work. My new PC didn't support VGA either.
Analogue signals are also prone to quality loss over cable, and generally lower resolution and quality. Watching movies or fast gameplay works fine on old CRTs, but static small text on a UI that isn't made for TVs is a no-no. This is mostly remedied by the use of digital signals like HDMI, SPDIF, DVI and such. But there's still some older hardware out there without full support.

And generally I'd say PC-gaming has been seen on as mouse and keyboard in front of a close screen thing for many years. It's just the way we're used to doing it. We're seeing a lot of games with native controller support in the later years, especially with the increase of console-to-pc ports. It's been a long gradual shift, but as long as RTS and FPS are better played with keyboard and mouse in front of a small screen, it's gonna be a split between this new couch PC-gaming and the "old" way of doing it.

Also: Bonus: You either need a separate PC close to your TV (which costs money), or move your gaming rig closer to you TV (which makes normal desktop use harder, or requires you to move your weighty thing every time you feel like gaming). Or exceptionally long video cables, which would be prone to signal loss, or limitations in the specification, such as the need for repeaters. This may have been remedied a bit by the introduction of wireless HDMI which is starting to come out now.

We'll just have to wait and see.

nice any more options and stuff is always good to see. of course not owning a TV a couch or many games that play well on controllers doubt ill get much use out of it personally

godofallu:
I honestly can't even figure out how to turn it on. I have played with my TV as my monitor for probably close to a decade now so I wouldn't mind trying this out.

How do I turn big picture mode on?

You have to go to your Steam settings and opt into the Steam Beta. Once Steam restarts you'll see a big "big picture beta" button near the upper right. Just click it and away you go. ;)

OlasDAlmighty:
"It's the world's first first person browser"

Ծ_Ծ

Ya, and my guess is it'll be the last.

Have you actually tried it? It's actually pretty damn intuitive. It's definitely a far sight better than any of the consoles browsers.

Will it replace Firefox, Chrome, etc. Hell no. Of course not. But even so, I was thoroughly surprised at how easy it was to surf the web.

----------------------------

For that matter, the Daisywheel is itself ingenious. It's not faster than using a keyboard but it's sure as hell a lot faster than using some awkward virtual keyboard.

*cough* Xbox Dashboard *cough*

Makes me wonder two things:
1: Why has no one else thought of this before? It's so much more natural for typing with a controller. Seriously. Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo have had consoles out for over a decade. How have none of them thought of this?

2: How soon can we expect everyone else to start copying the Daisywheel?

Onlive much?
Could be streamed from PC, but from servers could be possible too.

I don't really need this(i don't own a TV), but i do like the game-pad typing thing they have in mind.

Well this just murdered OnLive.

I wasn't aware that doing this sort of thing was that common. My TV and PC have always been separate--I like my desk and my chair <3

It is pretty impressive. I cannot not believe someone has come up with a way for typing with a controller that is usable.

My tv is already on my desk as a monitor but now I'm eyeing the 40" in the living room with covetous eyes. I don't think anyone in the house would mind if I commandeered it, I mean they only use it to watch soaps anyway, I'll put it to better use :P

All of you talking about the new Lotus Virtual Keyboard should know that the original Killzone had something very similar. The lotus keyboard just looks like a further refinement of that. The original Killzone was on the ps2 though and to my knowledge no one has used this style of virtual keyboard for this console generation. Why I'm not sure, I think perhaps a lot of console developers just get tunnel vision and miss obvious innovations as this.

While the lotus keyboard is similar to the one killzone had it isn't exactly the same, it looks a lot nicer and in general looks a bit less confusing to use with all the color coding and such. Still good on Valve for picking this up and making all the console manufactures look like boobs for not using this style of input before. It makes perfect sense when you sit down and really think about how you would type with a controller.

AzrealMaximillion:
Well this just murdered OnLive.

And OUYA too.

"Alright, this will be neat to check out. Just need to change my settings to 'Beta Participation'. Okay, reload is finished, time to warm up my controller and hit 'Big Picture Mode', and... oh. It crashed. Let me just try this agai- nope."

So it's not working for me. I hope you all have better luck with this than I do.

Well. Points for having the first commercial I've ever seen that used the phrase "...that doesn't suck".

gabycms:

AzrealMaximillion:
Well this just murdered OnLive.

And OUYA too.

Haha the OUYA. That was going to kill itself anyways. That will be what breaks Kickstarter's rules for backers.

 

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