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Valve's Big Picture Could Be a Linux Game Console 272

Posted by timothy
from the speculative-fiction dept.
Penurious Penguin writes that "a hopeful article at The Verge persuasively suggests that through Valve, Linux could soon become a formidable contender in the gaming arena, capable of holding its own against such giants as Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and the Wii. With 50 million users, a growing Linux team, a caboodle of interesting experiments ('Steam Box' hardware baselines, etc.) and a strong conviction that more-open platforms are the way, Valve may actually see it through."
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Valve's Big Picture Could Be a Linux Game Console

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  • Hmmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by systemidx (2708649) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @09:08PM (#42016097)
    "The Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Nintendo Wii are nearing their end. As powerful as they have been in the living room, gamers want more."

    Quoted from TFA. Am I the only one who wants LESS? I don't really want my game system to do 9 million things. I just want it to play games.

    Then again, when was the last time we were actually listened to? Draconian DRM, the removal of OtherOS, etc...
  • Re:Hmmm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Baloroth (2370816) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @09:13PM (#42016109)

    Well, then, the Ouya [wikipedia.org] is probably the kind of thing you are looking for. Straight-up gaming platform with standard controller. I'm sure it'll have video streaming apps and everything else as well (given it is OSS Android based), but it is really just a basic gaming system.

  • Re:Hmmm (Score:1, Insightful)

    by CastrTroy (595695) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @09:22PM (#42016149) Homepage
    I want it to do more, but I don't want it to be running Linux, or Android, or any other mainstream OS. Sure it means that I may get more apps, as developers are more familiar with it, but these general purpose operating systems just seem to slow things down in the end. My console just needs to play games, allow me to watch videos, and surge the web. That's it. It doesn't need multitasking. Whatever program is running should have full reign over the console so that it can take full advantage of the hardware. My Android phone is good, but it does these annoying things. If a text message comes in while playing a game, the game will come to a screeching halt for 10 seconds just so my phone can make a ding sound. Sometimes games will play slow, for no apparent reason whatsoever, even if I've recently restarted the phone. Sometimes it will just fail to connect to the network. It will say it's connected, but no data will get through. I want my console to just work, and to be able to do exactly one thing at a time, and do that one thing well.
  • Re:Piracy (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 17, 2012 @09:23PM (#42016161)

    Since an "open platform" is no difference from windows WRT piracy, where Valve has been happily selling games for years, I guess I don't see the point. They will use the same DRM they use on windows... duh?

  • Re:Hmmm (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 17, 2012 @09:26PM (#42016189)

    Am I the only one who wants LESS? I don't really want my game system to do 9 million things. I just want it to play games.

    No, but you're in the smallest minority. The majority doesn't really care ("Netflix? That's cool, I guess."), and a slightly larger majority actually thinks not-quite-omniboxes are a good idea.

    I don't get it myself. If I wanted a full-blown 'entertainment center', I'd use a PC. Much better at handling that job - games from the 80s to just-released-yesterday, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, CrunchyRoll and pretty much any streaming service, ability to easily play any video format from local sources, sane web browsing, far better support for playing music with cool functionality (Milkdrop!), and easily upgradable.

    Plus I can run Office. Nothing clears out a party that's gone on too long quite like opening up Excel and doing some accounting.

  • Re:Piracy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CastrTroy (595695) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @09:31PM (#42016221) Homepage
    Yeah, like that's worked out so well for us in the past. Publishers create the worst kinds of DRM. At least when I get and Xbox/Wii/PS game I know it isn't going to install some boot loader or root kit or rogue driver on my system and screw it up. If the security is baked into the console, at least I don't have publishers coming up with their own messed up schemes that end up messing with my system. I know that I can buy a game, take it home, and play it.
  • Re:Hmmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by davydagger (2566757) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @10:06PM (#42016403)
    "I want it to do more, but I don't want it to be running Linux, or Android, or any other mainstream OS"

    you won't notice the linux, any more than you notice the windows in the xbox, except it recycles already compiled game code meant for linux.

    linux is just a kernel. boot straight to whatever minimal controller based GUI you have, with a few auto-run runs for disk insertion, to run whatever game you insert.

    That would be pretty trivial to write/configure with a mainstream linux setup. XBMC does this pretty nicely as a media player. Its just a UI that can run instead of a desktop.

    just have init call it from boot, with a nice splash screen and you'd never knew it ran linux.

    that said, you need a powerful multicore capable OS to run most major games today. It'd make the game desigeners lives easy if they were common libraries and a common OS underneath.
  • by DeathFromSomewhere (940915) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @10:07PM (#42016405)
    You can thank Microsoft [windowsstore.com] for that. Why would someone buy from a third party when you can buy games from the store built into the operating system? Valve is running scared because they see their biggest revenue stream drying up.
  • Re:Hmmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mal-2 (675116) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @10:30PM (#42016501) Homepage Journal

    There's no technical reason it can't handle 32 GB of flash -- it just couldn't do that at the $99 price point. Swapping flash is pretty trivial as user upgrades go, so I don't really see that holding it back. The capacity limit of SDHC being reached might pose an issue, if it's not made to accept SDXC. The hardware is the same, and the firmware can probably be hacked -- just like Rockbox did for the Sansa (mine is quite happy with a 16 GB micro-SDHC card when it was built to handle just a 2 GB micro-SD card), so I doubt THAT will be a significant issue either.

    Naturally the Ouya will look to replace some settop-box functions, since even new TVs have a finite number of inputs. That doesn't mean it will be particularly optimized for them, or that it needs to be.

  • Re:Hmmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rtb61 (674572) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @10:34PM (#42016521) Homepage

    Android being the magic word missing in the article and what it likely is really all about. Building custom Linux distributions like Android and achieving an open market, where more downstream producers and manufacturers can gain greater control. People might complain about those phones and various other Android devices, that manufacturers release with their own branding layer and marketing identity on top but that really is a major advantage of Linux. Even software distribution companies can get in on the act and create an environment where they are not having to pay extortion to another party in order to do business.

    It is all about shaking out those billions from M$ and releasing it to a whole bunch of companies, manufacturers, software producers and net entities in order to improve their bottom line and give them greater control. So for Valve, it's not so much a game console but being able to distribute games across a 'ALL' available platforms, phone, tablet, smartbook, PC and Big Screen Display. For the end user buy one game and use it across all your platforms via Steam or the other game distributors will become very desirable and avoiding a pointless 30% M$ extortion fee for nothing, even after having to pay for their bloody software, will mean more money for actual hardware and software creators.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 17, 2012 @10:42PM (#42016565)

    Steam is what caused me and as far as I can tell all of my friends to start buying games instead of pirating them.
    Steam offer something piracy does not, hassle free installing. It also offers something buying games in stores does not, the ability to get the game right now and great deals.

    Spotify did the same regarding music.

    Will there be piracy, probably. Will it be rampant on the steambox? Probably not, just use your normal computer.

  • by antant007 (1702214) on Saturday November 17, 2012 @11:15PM (#42016701)

    You can thank Microsoft [windowsstore.com] for that. Why would someone buy from a third party when you can buy games from the store built into the operating system? Valve is running scared because they see their biggest revenue stream drying up.

    Why? Because the last thing like this (windows live games) was a complete pos.

  • Re:Piracy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by symbolset (646467) * on Saturday November 17, 2012 @11:43PM (#42016815) Journal

    Look, Microsoft is pushing all software through their own store if they can beginning with Windows 8. Steam is a software store that would compete with that store, on Microsoft's Windows platform. Gabe Newell used to work at Microsoft. He knows this means they intend to eliminate the Steam software sales store in Windows, and they are as eminently able to do that as they have been to sabotage all other software that competes with their offerings on Windows. The Goose has fled and Valve needs a new goose. Hence the console plan. An own-brand console gives Valve a platform that cannot be made to sabotage their content.

    A lot of casuals are just going tablet and phone, really.

    It could be worse. Retail box software vendors are just out of luck. No more sales for you.

  • Re:Hmmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dunbal (464142) * on Sunday November 18, 2012 @01:00AM (#42017049)
    I have a quite-definite-omnibox. It's called a desktop PC. And we have come full circle, except I never left. Nor did I pay for all the steps on that circle.
  • Re:Hmmm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by msobkow (48369) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @02:06AM (#42017279) Homepage Journal

    Funny.

    Nvidia doesn't seem to have much trouble releasing Linux blobs.

    Technically, the blob is just another package distribution mechanism that happens to incorporate DRM. All of the APIs that Steam requires are pretty much stable. Nvidia and co. were likely brought on by Valve so they could tweak their drivers and correct any bugs that were discovered, not because there was some magic code inserted into anyone else's software just for Valve.

  • Re:Hmmm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Microlith (54737) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @03:52AM (#42017591)

    we already see the distros starting to balk at the license terms

    No we aren't. That was a poor Slashdot article, making news of something that is already handled by the non-free repos all the high profile distros have.

    like it or not Steam IS DRM which I have a feeling those core devs that work on the vital subsystems and treat the GPL like the ten commandments will probably go out of their way to make sure their updates "accidently" break Steam.

    Sorry, but this is bald-faced bullshit. You can't selectively break a single action in an open source project without getting caught real damn fast.

    Hey, at least you're consistent in your posts.

  • Can't happend. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tei (520358) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @04:04AM (#42017629) Journal

    In a perfect world Microsoft would not exist, or where a different company.

    But the Microsoft that exist fight standards, and create propietery protocols or closed programs, and created huge dependencies for these, so people with one of his programs must buy the others. Microsoft fiery defend other companies, but not on quality, but on poisoning the well.

    OpenGL was one of the key pieces to code a game once, and play it everywhere, and Microsoft succefully made it secondary with Direct3D. It has continued fighting all standards, to destroy them, and in games have a unmitigated success. Games are a world of Microsoft libraries, and game dev's don't know how to build games withouth these libraries, and the games created don't withouth these libraries (or libraries that emulated them).

    At this point Microsoft is a cerebral parasite, and removing it would kill the host.

  • Re:Hmmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hognoxious (631665) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @05:27AM (#42017857) Homepage Journal

    I could see the kernel being used, but the OS would probably consist of new libraries for sound, input, storage, networking etc.

    I'd give a long rebuttal of your points but I don't have time: I'm working on an awesome replacement for those round things under my car.

  • Re:Hmmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jeeeb (1141117) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @07:43AM (#42018169)

    I want it to do more, but I don't want it to be running Linux, or Android, or any other mainstream OS. Sure it means that I may get more apps, as developers are more familiar with it, but these general purpose operating systems just seem to slow things down in the end. My console just needs to play games, allow me to watch videos, and surge the web

    So in other words the kernel only needs to provide:

    • Disk drivers and file-system drivers
    • Wireless/Ethernet drivers and a complete network stack
    • USB and input device drivers
    • Video card drivers and OpenGL-ES
    • Sound card drivers
    • Support for preemptive multitasking over multi-cores for games that want/need to utilize multiple cores (i.e. most modern games)
    • Virtual memory to support copy on write, memory mapped files and to provide protection from buggy games crashing the entire system and potential corrupting disk data
    • Power management
    • Miscellaneous functions such as executable loading, .etc.

    Might as well use Linux by this stage. It would sure beat re-inventing the wheel. Plus it gives you a much greater chance of developers actually supporting your platform. The fact that your Android device slows down when receiving messages while gaming sounds like a problem with the design of Android.

  • Re:Hmmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tibit (1762298) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @10:08AM (#42018631)

    You demonstrably have no clue about OS design, or even design of embedded software. The despicable multitasking you claim is so bad, if absent from the OS, will be badly reimplemented by everyone and their mother because the world we live in is full of asynchronous events. Any kernel worth its salt will multitask, even if all the tasks are lightweight run-to-completion tasks. There's no way around it. Interrupt handlers do preemptive multitasking, if you haven't noticed it yet. Even Windows 2 did cooperative multitasking for userland code, and preemptive stuff in the "kernel".

    Any sort of a communications or driver stack that's more than a minimalistic proof-of-concept will have to multitask. Multitask as in interrupt handlers doing the minimum necessary amount of work so as not to unduly impact the overall interrupt latency of the system. Then normally scheduled bottom half tasklets finish up the work. You need this for USB, for networking, for really anything you can think of. Without solid scheduling and task preemption, you're doomed. Implementing most communication protocols becomes rather easy once you have interrupts, tasklets and timers.

    As for those "annoying things" you claim your Android phone does, they happen precisely because things are *not* properly coded for asynchronous execution. Things get slow, almost universally, when something somewhere blocks, or worse, busy-waits (spins). It's rather unfortunate that neither C nor C++ really facilitates writing well performing software that's able to react to asynchronous events. Writing state machines explicitly with each state being a function/method or even a select case is a pain. You'd think it'd be a well solved problem by now, but it's not, and developers being what they are, you see plenty of applications that present you with busy cursors with no CPU nor I/O load to back it up. That's blocking behavior, and it's there because it's somewhat hard to write code otherwise. Every example code out there for receiving data from any device (serial port, network, etc). is fundamentally wrong and contributes to the problem:

          send("foo");
          read(buf);
          if (buf == "bar") { ... };

    For your console to do your "one thing at a time" well, it must do a hundred things in parallel behind the scenes. It's your lack of appreciation of this simple fact that makes your post an uninformed rant.

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