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Games Hardware Linux

Valve's SteamBox Gets a Name and an Early Demo at CES 328

Posted by timothy
from the you-mean-sgi-isn't-cool? dept.
xynopsis writes "Looks like the final version of the Linux based Steam Gaming Console has been made public at CES. The result of combined efforts of small-form-factor maker Xi3 and Valve, the gaming box named 'Piston' is a potential game changer in transforming the Linux desktop and gaming market. The pretty device looks like a shrunk Tezro from Silicon Graphics when SGI used to be cool." Looks like Gabe Newell wasn't kidding.
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Valve's SteamBox Gets a Name and an Early Demo at CES

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  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @09:54AM (#42517471)

    offer modular component updates, including the option to upgrade the PC's CPU and RAM.

    I will *not* get back into that chase again, thank you very much. The whole reason I left PC gaming years ago was because I got tired of the specs chase. Consoles meant never having to look on the box and see if I needed yet another upgrade to play a game. I've even still got the stack of old video cards and MB's to remind me of how much money I wasted back then.

    Not going back to that. And if I was, I would just build my own PC and connect it to my TV (why bother with Valve's box?). After all, if I'm going back to the chase, may as well get the freedom of a PC too.

    • by slashmydots (2189826) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @10:03AM (#42517593)
      You must not have known what you were doing or something. My PC is 2 years old and it's still fast enough to run any modern game at medium to maxed specs at 1920x1080 while running Netflix in HD on monitor 2. It cost about $790. The constant need for new requirements in "console" games would piss people off though. With an Xbox, once you've got the hardware, you're good. If you constantly have to buy expensive games plus new hardware, that's just stupid. I would make it mandatory for any game on Steam that wants to be console-capable to have a "Piston mode" that is guaranteed to run properly on their hardware as-is.

      Since I know someone will ask....
      i5-2400 8GB 1333 CL7 RAM 1TB 524AS-ending Seagate drive ASUS DVD-RW GTS450 MSI P67-based board Digital TV Tuner Card
      Tada, I'm good for a couple more years.
      • by firex726 (1188453) <[moc.oohay] [ta] [627xerif]> on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @10:13AM (#42517707)

        Yea, my last computer lasted some 4 years without needing an upgrade.
        Granted I usually try to max it out, when I buy it initially.

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        Why so much RAM and still a spinning disk?

        I bet my machine with 4GB of RAM and an SSD is faster to use.

        • Yeah, the twenty bucks you would have saved getting 4 GB instead of 8 GB would've allowed for a much better storage drive.
          • by h4rr4r (612664)

            Ok, so buy them both.

            I thought maybe the $20 would have got him $20 closer to a bigger performance boost.

        • by thoromyr (673646)

          measured by what benchmark? My non-SSD system will bury yours in the benchmarks I care about due to its 32GB RAM (still not enough, though) and fast CPU. Hint, your SSD isn't fast enough to keep system performance up when buried in swap. While 4GB is sufficient for some users, many it is not. A windows gamer friend of mine finally had to bite the bullet and go 64-bit to be able to use 8GB RAM so it isn't just non-gamer uses that benefit from RAM.

          In short, it all depends on what your use case is. If yours in

        • by gman003 (1693318)

          1) 8GB isn't much RAM. My laptop is packing 12GB and a slot to spare, and I know of several gamers who rock 64GB so they can put games on a ramdisk for instant loading.

          2) Games are too big to install to any reasonably-priced SSD, and are often optimized for sequential access due to consoles still running off optical disks. So installing games to a spinning rust disk makes more sense than installing them to an oversized thumb drive. Thus it follows that your options are either a somewhat-tricky, more-expensi

      • So, your rebuttal is you recently bought some mid range, almost high end (for the CPU) hardware. Your point of view amounts to being right if you spend money and being wrong if you don't spend it.

        Meanwhile, my PC is about 3 year old and never could run Crysis 1 well, because I could not spend a few hundreds to boost it enough. I even bought a recent midrange card (gt240 gddr5), which was incredibly more powerful than what I had before but it was still too slow. Other specs : Athlon II X2 245, 2GB ddr2, nf

      • by slim (1652)

        You must not have known what you were doing or something.

        (I am not the GP)

        I used to know what I was doing, with regard to PC building, from around the 486 era until when AGP started replacing PCI. Then I realised that it didn't interest me one jot, and dropped out of the race. From then on I used consoles for gaming, and off-the-shelf PCs for general computing.

        If someone offers me a cheap box that behaves like a console, but is more indie-friendly than an Xbox, I'm interested.

      • by Builder (103701) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @01:06PM (#42520351)

        Two years in the gaming world is nothing. I remember about 12 years back when you really did have to upgrade every year to 2 years to keep playing games with decent performance.

        Things in the hardware space weren't always as stagnant as they are now.

    • by suprcvic (684521) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @10:11AM (#42517677)
      My PC is 5 years old and the only upgrades I've done are more memory and new video cards periodically. Build a beefy enough system up front and upgrades later are minimal.
    • by h4rr4r (612664) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @10:11AM (#42517679)

      PC's got good enough about 5-10 years ago that this specs chase is a distant memory. If you spend $500 every 5 or so years you will be a head of the game.

      Valve might prefer you do that, it is why steam has a big picture mode after all.

    • There is no chase anymore. Gaming hardware advancement has far outstripped the speed of gaming software improvement now, with PCs up to 5 years old more than able to play the latest games (I only upgraded because my old PC died and parts weren't available anymore). I have a friend gaming on a QX6800 with 4GB DDR2 and an HD4750, and he plays the same games as I do on my i5 2500K with 16GB DDR3 and GTX670, and I played the same games on my Q6600 with 4GB DDR2 and 8800GTX until about 4 months ago.

      I'm sure Mod
    • by ledow (319597) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @10:42AM (#42518153) Homepage

      Personally, I never have been a "gamer" from that sort of perspective, and yet since the days of DOS I was playing top titles within a year or so of their release. Hell, I played Quake on a min-spec Pentium with a Voodoo card within days of release and that was the first ever game to actually MAKE people into "gamers" to buy an upgrade card that serves no further purpose than to play games faster (back then, it was necessary, though unless you wanted flickbook framerates).

      The problem with PC gaming is not the hardware, but the mentality. "I have to have 120fps on everything, in HD, with all the options turned on and all the latest kit to show off" - there isn't a console in the world that actually does the equivalent, and if there was it would cost a fortune or slow to a crawl and gamers would hardly notice the difference otherwise.

      I have a laptop now - technically nowhere close to a gamer's laptop but it has nVidia Optimus graphics. It cost not much more than just about any of the current consoles has ever cost on release day. I can't find a game on my Steam list that it doesn't play. And from the current AAA-titles? Well, in a year's time when they are sensible prices I will buy them and try them and most of them will work just fine (if 9 years of Steam gaming is anything to go by, and years more of Counterstrike play before that) but I might have to turn down an option or two.

      PC gaming isn't about upgrading every two seconds. Being a "gamer" is. I can name every upgrade I've ever done to every PC I've ever personally owned, and most of the time that was a one-time, never-to-be-repeated upgrade that doubled the performance for much much less than the price of an equivalent replacement (if you upgrade a machine, it's likely that it's to hit some bottleneck which costs more than the machine is worth to upgrade further). I have never upgraded a motherboard, or a CPU, in my own machines in all the time I've owned a PC precisely because the upgrades, and their associated prerequisite upgrades, were never worth it.

      And I've probably personally owned about 3 desktops and 4-5 laptops in all my time playing, so I certainly get some use out of them (and, to be honest, the laptops die by physical breakage on the hinges more than obsolescence and I still have an IBM Thinkpad with a 90MHz processor that's going strong). And I do think of myself as a gamer, in terms of the amount of time I spend playing and the amount of money I spend each year on games, but not a "gamer" in terms of spending money on constant upgrades for my computers.

      I actually have, upstairs, an MSI gaming laptop that was bought as my last work laptop three years ago (my employer buys whatever I specify, and I specified nVidia graphics for various reasons and ended up with a gaming laptop that was vastly overpowered and half-the-cost of an equivalent business model). The screen hinge is shattered and it's being used as separate LCD / keyboard parts (blue-takked to the wall and the worktop appropriately). And it *still* laughs at 99% of the games on my Steam account after all that time. And that's a laptop, which can't really be upgraded at all (about the only thing I could do to it is increase the RAM but it's on a 32-bit OS and already at 4Gb, or change the HDD, but that's really not a bottleneck in anything I do on it).

      Gone are the days where you have to have the latest bus that nobody else has got, with a massively overpowered card that churns through power, whirrs like mad, and sets the motherboard on fire, and some huge CPU and memory that's unheard of in anything else but video-editing, and some stupidly over-powered PSU to run it all, just to play a 3D game. Hell, a half-decent laptop laughs at anything for at least 3-4 years so long as you're not hoping for 120fps in stereo 3D at the highest resolution supported on the HDMI out, on full detail while encoding Blu-Ray's in the background.

      And, to be honest, in all my time, I've never had a laptop that didn't break BEFORE it became obsolete (usu

      • by telchine (719345)

        Hell, I played Quake on a min-spec Pentium with a Voodoo card within days of release and that was the first ever game to actually MAKE people into "gamers" to buy an upgrade card that serves no further purpose than to play games faster (back then, it was necessary, though unless you wanted flickbook framerates).

        I played Quake on a Cyrix DX4-100 (overclocked to 120Mhz) with a standard SVGA card.

        Sure the resolution as lowand the frame-rates wern't spectacular, but isn't that your whole point? You don't need to buy top end hardware to play games. You can get away without upgrading every few months if you are happy with not having the best graphics.

    • Consoles meant never having to look on the box and see if I needed yet another upgrade to play a game.

      "Never" is a strong word. Several games for Sega Saturn and Nintendo 64 required a RAM expansion cartridge.

      And if I was, I would just build my own PC and connect it to my TV (why bother with Valve's box?).

      Valve is targeting the mass market, which has shown itself unwilling to connect a device marketed as a "computer" to a display marketed as a "television". To the mass market, computers are for desks and consoles are for living rooms. See previous comments [slashdot.org].

      • Several games for Sega Saturn and Nintendo 64 required a RAM expansion cartridge.

        Several is an exaggeration, in the N64's case it is "THREE". DK64, Perfect Dark and Majora's Mask. in other words, games requiring expansions are niche cases which is why the meme is: console hardware expansions fail in the market"

  • if this means more games for linux on the desktop then yeah it could be big.

    Otherwise - it's just another locked down console and I'm not sure what benefit it will have for linux on the desktop.

    • Re:Well (Score:5, Informative)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @11:25AM (#42518767) Journal

      if this means more games for linux on the desktop then yeah it could be big.

      Otherwise - it's just another locked down console and I'm not sure what benefit it will have for linux on the desktop.

      Unless Valve has been lying through their teeth this whole time(certainly possible; but not obvious why doing so would be an advantage for them), their desire is to compete in the console space by offering one or more 'easy, just-works, fits in your living room, appliance' style PCs that will be churned out to spec by cooperating OEMs and running Steam-on-linux by default; but that they have no problem with people running Steam-on-linux on whatever oddball homebuilds they like, subject to the caveat that Valve has minimal interest in dealing with the rough edges of motherboard Z's shitty ACPI implementation or binary compatibility problems introduced by your Gentoo install's creative compiler flags.

      Steam is, among other things, a DRM system; but not one that has ever depended on some crypto-lockdown-trusted-firmware(and, indeed, they seem quite worried that Microsoft, despite Games for Windows Live sucking pretty brutally, is well placed to be the ones offering such a system instead, same with Apple and its app store on the OSX side) in its Windows or Mac iterations. It would be odd if they were to go that route for Linux.

      Obviously, they aren't porting stuff to linux just because they love penguins and freedom and whatnot(since the closed source Steam binary will still mostly dish out closed source game binaries); but the threat posed by both Microsoft and Apple having digital stores attached to their platforms, along with a desire not to add the cost of a Windows license to every 'console' they ship, gives them a pretty good reason to support compatibility of games with at least the most common Linux desktop systems.

    • Otherwise - it's just another locked down console

      There's a difference between "locked down" in the sense of Apple iTrinkets and "locked down" in the sense of Sony and Nintendo products. Apple encourages startups to develop for its iTrinkets; Sony and Nintendo seek only established studios with "financial stability" and "relevant video game industry experience". Is Steam Greenlight closer to Apple's model or to Sony's and Nintendo's?

      • Sony and Nintendo seek only established studios with "financial stability" and "relevant video game industry experience".

        True, because, bluntly put, they don't want a bunch of wannabe game developers making a ton of shovelware tetris/bejeweled/sokoban clones.
          So that's why you "pay your dues" if you want to do a console game. If you're not willing or capable of doing so...you'll have to live with the reality of how things are.

  • 2013 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gmuslera (3436) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @10:00AM (#42517539) Homepage Journal
    Maybe won't be the year of the linux desktop, but with that, and a few android based gaming consoles could be the year of the linux game console.
  • I hate the case (Score:2, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo (153816)

    Wake me up when people start making consoles that stack again

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      They make too much heat for that.
      If they let you stack it, it would have to be bigger and actually have adequate ventilation. That would cut into their margins and not look cool.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Besides, having steam come out the top is probably a marketing feature.

    • Like what? When was there ever a console that would stack? I've never seen one...maybe you could claim the original X-box, but that's all I can think of and even that wouldn't work all that well. Most of the others I know of, for CDs or cartridges, were all top-loading....

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        There was a slot-loading SegaCD, too. It was a POS but that was Sega's fault, not an inherent problem. And the 360 stacks, believe it or not, just don't cover the holes.

      • When was there ever a console that would stack?

        Well, obviously the PS2 stacks. The slim version is top-loading though.

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        PS2, NES, Colecovision if you took the controllers out, and most top loading CD systems if you were willing to unstack them to change games.

      • I can think of 3 consoles that stack:
        NES front-loading model
        PS2 (up until the PSTwo)
        Wii
        The Xbox 360 to a certain extent.

        • How could you forget the Pioneer LaserActive? That bitch was rackable. How about the 3DO??? Huh? Ppfft... and you call yourself a gamer.

    • Would you like them all to have the same dimensions so that you're not building an oblong pyramid with every addition of device, too?

      As much as I prefer nice perpendicular-angled boxes myself, that is more of an aversion to convex sides that make it impossible to stack anything on top of them - or them on top of anything - than it is about the actual angles. Looks like this thing's X shape will happily let it stand on a flat surface on all 4 sides, and anything else will happily lay flat on it.

      Most likely,

    • I quite like the case; It wouldn't offend the lady of the house to have it sat near the TV, which is exactly where it would be.

      They show it mounted to the VESA mounting on the back of the monitor. How am I supposed to mount the TV to the wall mounting bracket?
      • by slim (1652)

        There's precedent for that. For example there are Raspberry Pi cases which mount on the VESA screw holes. It's a good option, but you do need alternative options, if you want to use the VESA mounting for something else.

        • Oh certainly, and the VESA mount goes unused on my PC monitors. However, if this is to be a games console, and it is to be linked to a TV in a living room, I know more people with TVs that are wall mounted than not. I can't help but think that this is an oversight on their part.
    • I hate the case

      I love it! The mini-Tezro makes a nice package. A little minus comes from its grilles of shiny aluminum -- if I owned one I would soon paint them matte black, like the rest of the case.

    • Wake me up when people start making consoles that stack again

      I curse the process by which rack compatibility for A/V gear somehow became a "Wow, you must be crazy rich and want a $50k system installed by specialist contractors, or you are a roadie and only buying musical gear, not home theater stuff' feature.

      Most of it is still roughly the right width, and light enough that a simple two-post setup built into the basic crap MDF enclosures that TVs are placed on would be able to support it; but no not even optional rack ears, and a proliferation of weird-shaped set-top

  • Not *the* steam-box (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @10:11AM (#42517675)

    This is just *a* steam-box, just a few days ago Ben Krasnow (Valve hardware designer) said that steambox would appear at GDC.

  • X7A, on which Piston is based, costs 999$. Good luck gathering adoption at this price point.

    • by slim (1652)

      Make enough of them, and that price will come right down.

  • I think they have a serious problem if they think a device costing anywhere near $1k will compete with the likes of Xbox 360, PS3 or Wii U. It would be a high end niche device only for folks that are also buying giant screen 4k tv's this year. I think they'll need to target $300 or less to have a chance of it taking off. People put $1k or more into PC's because you can (and most do) use them for a hell of a lot more than just video games.
  • by RudyHartmann (1032120) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @01:29PM (#42520693)

    There are lots of people claiming that the little SFF computer called the Piston does not have the power to adequately run Steam games under Linux. But I have Linux Mint KDE 14 AMD64 installed on an HP nx9420 laptop which is 5 years old. It only has a dual core 2.16GHz processor, the equivalent of an Nvidia GT 7900 GPU and 4GB of ram. I was playing Dark Descent, Team Fortress 2 and Killing Floor all weekend. It worked great. If this laptop will do this well, I'm sure that little SFF computer will be just fine also. I wonder if Valve will release them with a subscription like mobile phone companies do.

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