GWJ Conference Call Episode 379

Conference Call

Skyrim Modding, DayZ, Hoplite, Suburbia, Oculus Rift News, Steam Machines, CES, Your Emails and More!

This week Allen, Julian and Cory talk about CES news, the Oculus Rift, Steam Machines and more!

To contact us, email [email protected]! Send us your thoughts on the show, pressing issues you want to talk about or whatever else is on your mind. You can even send a 30 second audio question or comment (MP3 format please) if you're so inclined.

Chairman_Mao's Timestamps
00.02.13 Skyrim modding
00.07.13 Hoplite
00.08.38 DayZ
00.18.26 Suburbia
00.19.52 Mame 1.5 with HLSL
00.21.32 Call of Juarez: Gunslinger
00.23.00 Continue?
00.24.55 This week's topic: CES!
01.06.35 Your emails!

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Show credits

Music credits: 

Intro/Outtro Music - Ian Dorsch, Willowtree Audioworks

True (Game Edit) - BigBot Audio Drop - SGX - http://sgxmusic.com/ - 24:24

Push Anyway - BigBot Audio Drop - SGX - http://sgxmusic.com/ - 1:05:59

Comments

Back when the Steam OS/Machine/Controller were announced I wrote a lengthy blog post about what I thought which ended with:

Here is the problem with all of the above as I see it: Valve as a company is structured such that staff work on what they are interested in, not necessarily what needs to be worked on, and these announcements have a scope and requirement for constant future commitment such that their internal culture would need to change for this to have even the slimmest chance at success – and that’s assuming there is even consumer interest.

Valve, convince us that this isn’t going to become something that was a good idea that never took off.

Concerning the letter from the guy who needs to placate his wife for his 'wasted' gaming time, I recently gave my nephew the following advice: "Find someone who supports your gaming habit and NEVER LET GO!".

Here's what I want the SteamBox to do for me. Right now I have a Raspberry Pi hooked up to my TV. It reads puts music and movies (from a NAS) and TV (from an attached HDD) into a nice, easy-to-read-from-the-couch library GUI (a Pi-specific OS called Xbian). It has pluggins to let me watch YouTube, Vimeo, PBS, listen to podcasts, NPR, and music streaming sites like Grooveshark. It's pretty sweet.

The only drawbacks are that it is a bit slow at times, I can't stream Netflix, Hulu-plus, Amazon Prime Instant video, or any other network specific streaming apps, and it doesn't run games.

Take the first paragraph, mix in the opposites of second paragraph, and you'll sell me a SteamBox when I get the money to pay for one. I know the SteamBox plays games but there doesn't seem to be much talk about what it can do make it a complete HTPC (at least I haven't seen it), which is what I want from a computer hooked up to my TV.

High Level Shader Language (HLSL).
This is Microsoft's shader language which allows graphic programmers to tell your graphics card how to process pixels. Basically it means that your application has been updated to allow customized shaders which are what give you specialized effects (like mimicking an old CRT screen).

Not a big fan of Gunslinger. Don't get me wrong, the story is fantastic and the world is beautiful, but the gameplay is too frustrating. Just as you're settling in to a scenario you get interrupted and either the scenario ends or you get put back at the beginning to accomplish the map in an alternate way. If they had made Gunslinger in a Red Dead Redemption open world style, well that's GOTY material. Wandering around the Wild West as Silas Greaves, encountering legends and going down skill trees? Yes, please.

RE: Steam Box. I would say that one of the biggest reasons that I'm still a PC Gamer is Steam Sales. With consoles if I want a used game (often the only way to get those big discounts) I have to hit Gamestop (which doesn't sell used games at a fair discount) or scour cragislist/ebay. Being able to get titles at 50%, 75%, 90% off without leaving my house is incredibly convenient and good for my wallet. I also enjoy the freedom of a PC (free software utilities for just about anything, countless mods for games including Steamworks). At this point with around 200 titles on Steam (and much of that part of the pile) it's assured that I'll always be primarily a PC gamer even though I'll always have a console (currently a PS4 and WiiU).

Also, well done on the Three Philosophers. Cheers!

Bummer to hear that Steam streaming isn't a high priority. That would've gotten me on-board tomorrow on the ground floor.

Right now, I see no compelling reason to go Steam-OS native for the pc hooked up to my television. Valve is indeed playing the long game (as they did with Steam back in the day), but I think change this time will have to come from devs developing for Linux, which if the install base is small, they won't see the point.

It's the same chicken/egg scenario for Windows Phone. There's no apps because no one's using it. But no one's using it because there are no apps.

Steam-OS is the closest we have to a potential "one console" future. It's just going to take a while. While I'm not very pessimistic, I'm not very optimistic either.

+1 shout out also for Omengang! Three Philosophers is one on my faves.

Couldn't agree more that 'Continue?' was a waste of money. I too was sold on the idea, but it totally lacked in gameplay. Yawn.

For those looking for a physical version of Suburbia I would direct you to this post on the board gaming thread.

What was the router they talked about?

ChrisLTD wrote:

What was the router they talked about?

I think it was the Nighthawk.

Did I hear "this is the GWJ podcast for 15 January 2013"?

I think Cory just sold me an Occulus Rift, and his (plus Allen's) points on the Steam Machine is pretty much in line with my own thoughts on the matter. It'll be interesting to follow, but right now not something I need or want. The streaming functionality sounds promising but I don't need it (computer is close enough to the TV to run HDMI to it) and the beta for that functionality only just started in the last week or two.

Also, I don't get why people are so hung up on the price of the ibuypower version. If you look at their website (namely the "Erebus XL-V3" design) this is pretty much their schtick. Isn't it a little bit like complaining about Toyota selling a $20k Camry as well as the $60k equivalent under their Lexus brand? Personally, I think when people first heard about Steam Boxes they thought they were going to get something equivalent to the PS4/One for $100+ cheaper. That's just not going to happen unless Valve's willing to open the money bin and subsidize what are effectively pre-built microATX boxes running a custom version of Debian. The margins on PC hardware aren't that great to begin with so I'm not terribly surprised that most of the OEMs phoned it in at CES as Steam Machines probably aren't going to earn them much money. Don't get me wrong, I think there's a market like Allen's example of people who just can't or don't want to deal with the hassle of building out your own rig. But that market has always existed and Steam Machine isn't really doing anything novel on the hardware side of the problem.

PaladinTom wrote:

Right now, I see no compelling reason to go Steam-OS native for the pc hooked up to my television. Valve is indeed playing the long game (as they did with Steam back in the day), but I think change this time will have to come from devs developing for Linux, which if the install base is small, they won't see the point.

I think Steam Machines are Valve's attempt at trying to grow the market, but ultimately what needs to happen is that the workflows/pipelines at the major studios need to change such that multiplatform support doesn't require contracting out a porting specialist and launching on Mac or Linux 6-12 months later. From what I understand, Humble has been helping out a lot in this area. So much so that developers like Double Fine are now just natively cranking out multiplatform releases on their own (I think this came up on an Idle Thumbs episode a few months back). If Valve and Humble can make more headway into AAA studios/publishers that'll increase the appeal of Linux based systems and the appeal of doing multiplatform development.

Plus, if Valve can also convince Epic that Linux Unreal Engine 4 is very much worth their trouble that'll go a long way. UE3 was near ubiquitous in the last console generation and I expect that trend will continue in this generation.

Really anything that can be done to make multiplatform releases is going to help solve the chicken and egg issue. I don't think this needs to be a Steam Machine vs. PC issue. If you can get the game on Steam OS then you should already have a Linux version playable (at least for some distros), and the Humble people have already demonstrated that Linux users are a very under-served market. So even if Steam Machines don't really take off, you've still got a market of Linux users to sell to.

It's pretty much why I don't think Valve's going to make Half-Life 3 (or whatever is their next game) SteamOS exclusive. They're much better served by making it multiplatform and launching it on Day 1 for Win/Mac/Linux(SteamOS). There's little reason to target SteamOS exclusively.

EDIT: Project Christine looks fairly similar to ThermalTake's Level 10 case they debuted a few years ago.

This is mega-OT, but how do you pronounce ThermalTake? Is it ThermalTake as in "I take the cake." or is it ThermalTahkay?

It's pronounced "throat warbler mangrove".

padriec wrote:

This is mega-OT, but how do you pronounce ThermalTake? Is it ThermalTake as in "I take the cake." or is it ThermalTahkay?

The answer is "Mahrio"

(I believe I say it as in "I take the cake")

I think that Skyrim random encounter is actually in the vanilla game.

Personally doing the Alpha build of DayZ and i'm not there for the pretty graphics, but the ability to have those intense moments and be part of amazing little stories without having to deal with all the hacking that was so prevalent in the mod. For each story that show up in the thread there's probably 5-6 more that doesn't that are very rare to find in a game.

While it may not be complete or look as nice as what the mod does yet, I consider this a step up from there. I'm definitely excited to be able to watch it grow from here.

I wouldn't recommend this game to just anyone because the nature of the game itself i'd definitely recommend it to anyone that was curious about the mod and never had a chance to jump in.

Man, I really want to try one of the new Oculus Rifts now..

Modding Skyrim is a disease of the mind. I have it bad right now. Skyrim Nexus is like being at the best buffet ever. A little of this, a little of that.

Tanglebones wrote:

Man, I really want to try one of the new Oculus Rifts now..

Me too!

shoptroll wrote:

I think Cory just sold me an Occulus Rift,

Agreed completely, though I personally can't understand how the steam controller and the Oculus are not matches made in heaven. When he spoke about looking down and pressing a controller button, I fantasized about looking at Civ 5, leaning in to zoom in, using head tracking to pan around, and selecting/navigating the interface with the Steam controller. I originally just wanted streaming, but now I want both of those gadgets. Granted, I don't anticipate that fantasy (among others) ever coming true. But the idea was very compelling for me on other games as well.

That's another thing that it makes me consider. I can see myself wanting several different interface devices if I were to actually own a production Oculus rift. For some things, I may want a Wii-type controller to wave my noodle arms around to smack things off virtual shelves, throw or catch things. Other activities, I would want to use a regular 360/PS4 controller. And still others, I would think that the steam controller would be a dream even though some people don't like it.

Do you see yourselves only using 360/PS4 controllers? After I spoke to a game dev friend and his experience, I don't think I would ever want to use mouse and keyboard.

breander wrote:
ChrisLTD wrote:

What was the router they talked about?

I think it was the Nighthawk.

Indeed. It's made a noticeable difference in the general quality of connections around the house. The REAL test will be this weekend when 35 people show up with 1-3 devices each. Historically, that's required a nearly hourly router reboot. Fingers crossed.

rabbit wrote:

The REAL test will be this weekend when 35 people show up with 1-3 devices each. Historically, that's required a nearly hourly router reboot. Fingers crossed.

I humbly request that there be follow-up on this point in the show.

Re: Oculus.....Cory mentioned that they're tight-lipped about potential release dates, but what about price? Was there anything at CES or recently that would indicate whether it's going to be available for the mainstream or only for us infra marginal consumers?

BTW, Cory, congratulations on the extra access through your PC Gamer cred. There was a noticeable difference in what I was able to glean from CES compared to previous years. (Note that I avoid the gaming press generally and get most of my news through GWJ in one form or another.)

I was pretty much sold on an Oculus based on some of the vids of folks with dev kits playing it with ETS2. And as tallfroggy (heya Coffee Grinder who can quote, you should post more often) mentioned above, if matched with a Steam Controller, it sounds like a match made in heaven.

I'm also in Cory's camp re: Steam Boxes and SteamOS. I don't want to buy a Steam Box, I want to build one. Shop, I understand where you're coming from with IBuyPower, but when I put my box together last year, I noticed two things: 1) I could get more "oomph" for my money if I built my own, and 2) I didn't mind taking ownership of "if things go wrong".

I think it was Julian who was throwing around the concept of leasing a Steam Box, and I think that's a healthy middle ground that we'll see some manufacturers take at some point.

As for Star Citizen, I found that I just couldn't pull the trigger and buy more ships for my account when they've been on sale over the last few months. I'm already in for $85, and pretty sure I'm going to be staying there - until we get something that's more playable than the hangar (which, don't get me wrong, is freaking sweet!). There's been a handful of ships that I've thought about adding/swapping for, but just couldn't click "buy" when facing the thought of throwing in another $90+ to my pledge.

Which leads to the Kickstarter/escrow email - I've backed 80+ projects in the last 2 years, and have had 3 outright fail to deliver. What I do like about Kickstarter is that, as a backer, you can always request a refund for your pledge, up until the moment that the creator delivers your promised pledge. Kickstarter/Amazon refund you, and they issue a chargeback to the Creator and make them deal with it. With the 3 that I've had fail, I still haven't gone and asked for that money back. When I became a Backer of their projects, in my mind I've already "spent" that money. So what if I don't get those chocolate dice, or that game that should have taken 3-4 months stretched on to 8+ and the dev has decided to put it on a shelf while he takes care of his family - in both cases the money that I pledged has already been spent.

I try to put myself in their shoes - if I had just given my all to try and make something happen, and spent every single dime that was pledged, the last thing I'd want to see is a deluge of chargebacks pushing my finances even further into the red (note to self: if I ever do a Kickstarter, spend the personal money to put together an LLC first...).

I wouldn't be surprised to see Kickstarter trying some alternative funding schemes this year, perhaps even doing some kind of escrow/tiered release of funds. They've got a bunch of smart cookies working there, and have brought in a lot of successful industry veterans to help shepherd projects all the way through the process. It's also important to remember that failed projects do not help ANYONE - a failed project spreads FUD over the whole concept of crowd funding, not to mention putting Kickstarter and the Creators in awkward positions in regards to the funds and refunds. It's in Kickstarter's best interest to ensure that every project is as successful as possible.

Can you picture a Kickstarter project for a new game where the funding was released on a schedule tied to milestones, just like games that are funded by publishers? You get 33% of the funds once the drive ends, then the next 33% when you release the alpha, and the final 33% when you release the playable beta. If you miss a milestone by n% of time/some other metric, the remaining money gets sent back to the Backers. I'd be cool with that.

McIrishJihad wrote:

I'm also in Cory's camp re: Steam Boxes and SteamOS. I don't want to buy a Steam Box, I want to build one. Shop, I understand where you're coming from with IBuyPower, but when I put my box together last year, I noticed two things: 1) I could get more "oomph" for my money if I built my own, and 2) I didn't mind taking ownership of "if things go wrong".

Right, it's always going to be cheaper to DIY because 1) you have control over how much cash you're spending on each part 2) you can wait for parts to go on sale and 3) you're not paying for the assembly costs. A "Steam Machine" isn't anything special, there's no secret sauce in the box that makes it any different than a DIY build. It'd be nearly impossible for them to do "exclusives" on it unless they were to go down a Nintendo-esque route and have a custom piece of hardware each OEM had to add to the build to flag it as an "official" Steam Machine. I don't see them doing that because that would seem to defeat the whole "open" platform they've been touting lately.

After Julian mentioned having four tiny projectors on all four walls as a media room (along with all the Rift discussion), Bradbury's "The Veldt" came to mind.

I'm sure he has better kids though.

Keithustus wrote:

Re: Oculus.....Cory mentioned that they're tight-lipped about potential release dates, but what about price?

The report I heard was that they're aiming for $300.

This is the most I've learned about the SteamBox discussion, and it honestly sounds like an OUYA for AAA games in addition to indies. The biggest reason I can imagine to get a SteamBox over a PS4, Xbox One or Nintendo WiiU is the possibility of being able to upgrade the hardware yourself, which opens up all the extraneous problems that come with regular PC gaming.

Which is funny, as I'm still listening to the Podcast and that's precisely when I hear Rabbit say "I don't want to do that anymore".

If Steam develops their own OS, then indie devs and AAA devs will need that OS and they'll need to develop for that API and it becomes yet another platform. At the very least Xbox One and Windows should share some level of the API (they did with XNA, which Microsoft kills so who the Hell knows what's going on under the hood now). I dunno, I just see things like Mods becoming less accessible, and essentially that developers will have yet another OS to develop for, and essentially we'd have four separate console Operating Systems to work on.

I'm sure the SteamBox has a market, but it's certainly not me and it's harder to consider who is the target demographic aside from Valve and Gabe Newell, whose interests are entirely in "we don't want to get screwed by Microsoft in the next five, ten, twenty, or however many years".

Valve is pushing SDL and OpenGL which are cross-platform APIs / libraries. They seem less concerned with shifting everyone to a new platform than making it easier for games to run on multiple OSes and platforms.

Which is probably good for the industry because DirectX development seems to have stagnated a fair bit in recent years.

I think it's unhealthy for PC gaming to be entirely reliant on Microsoft's closed platform (which they are currently in the process of absolutely destroying). I don't know if Valve will succeed but I applaud their efforts.

McIrishJihad wrote:

Can you picture a Kickstarter project for a new game where the funding was released on a schedule tied to milestones, just like games that are funded by publishers? You get 33% of the funds once the drive ends, then the next 33% when you release the alpha, and the final 33% when you release the playable beta. If you miss a milestone by n% of time/some other metric, the remaining money gets sent back to the Backers. I'd be cool with that.

Except nobody is deciding these milestones except the developer themselves. You'd have to create some sort of Kickstarter oversight board in order for that to work. Personally I believe in caveat emptor in these cases. Don't Kickstart money you aren't willing to take a 100% loss on.

I think that Steam Machines need more games to be convincing, but I think devs need Steam Machines to be commercially available before they invest the resources to add one more platform to develop to.

It makes total sense for OEMs to take current designs, add the OS and controller, call it a Steam Machine, and sell it as such. Not a ton of extra investment, maybe sell a few more boxes.
Next time I need a new machine, it would totally make sense to buy a dual-boot Windows/Steam Machine. I know it will work with the Windows games I have. Also know that it has the right components to work with SteamOS, if that goes forward.

While some of us are up for dragging a PC to the livingroom, or run an HDMI cable like Certis has, there is something appealing to just having a separate box in the living room that just-works. Even if the streaming is just a stop-gap, there is something appealing to buying an Intel NUC, putting SteamOS on it, and being able to stream from my gaming PC in the basement. Even if it is just the 10% of my library that is compatible, or came from Humble Bundle purchases.

Along the lines of the Nighthawk, ASUS has a "Dark Knight" that I purchased and has delivered a similar significant upgrade in performance of my LAN.