Archive for April, 2013

Housekeeping: A little more organized

April 28, 2013

Until this point, I would basically post whatever I felt like, whenever I felt like. I would write a post, put it in a very general category, throw on some random tags, and call it a day.

That changes now.

I’m cleaning up the categories and making the tags more consistent. Housekeeping is a new category. As you can see, the title of this post has “Housekeeping” in it. All (well, most) future posts will have the category in the title. They will have fewer tags, but more useful tags.

It’ll take a while to get things cleaned up, so bear with me.

Lynne Publishing: Because you suck. And we hate you.

April 14, 2013

Recently, one of my videos was taken down from YouTube due to copyright violations. I understand the reasoning- I don’t agree with it, and I think the current system is a) horribly broken and b) basically trolling, but that’s a rant for another day. I (correctly) assumed that the issue was with the background music- I doubt HBO would make a claim over the fifteen seconds of Generation Kill I used. Lynne Publishing… hmm, let’s Google that. It’s the parent company of Shockwave Sound and a few others. Hey, they have a copyright warning on their website. You can read it here.

Firearms enthusiasts will immediately understand where I’m going with this. Needless to say, I won’t be using any Shockwave Sound tracks in the future, and it’s not because of copyright. (more…)

Steam Box, Part Two – Price Point

April 7, 2013

One aspect of the Steam Box I didn’t talk about was price point. I figured it would be obvious. It would have to be priced similar to traditional consoles and Valve knows that.

I was reading about the Xi3 Piston and its cost struck me dumb. A thousand dollars? Sure, it’s a cool little mini PC, but my similarly specced media center rig cost half that. My main rig, which is far more capable, cost the same amount. Now, it’s not the Steam Box, and I’m thankful for that. Because if the Steam Box cost that much, there’s no way it can compete. Not against traditional consoles like the recently announced PS4 and Xbox 720/8/Next, and certainly not against the dirt-cheap Ouya class of devices.

It needs to come in at four or five hundred dollars, max, and it’s gotta have decent (not killer, but decent) specs for that price. It has to cost about the same as the PS4 or the Xbox 720/8/Next or nobody will buy it. Console gamers won’t make the switch, because they’re not willing to spend the extra cash for a machine they know little about, and PC enthusiasts will just build their own for the same price or maybe a little less. And this is an area where Valve is naturally disadvantaged versus the console giants.

When it was first released, the Playstation 3 was sold at a (quite significant) loss, and if I remember correctly, the Xbox 360 was also initially sold at a loss, tapering off to a slight loss or slim profit later in its lifecycle. The consoles are subsidized by game sales, a portion of which goes back to the console maker, and things like Live and overpriced accessories. If Valve tries to subsidize the Steam Box with game sales, the userbase will crucify them. They can’t charge for online, and nobody will buy the overpriced accessories. The Steam Box cannot be sold at a loss. Period.

It’s also likely to cost more. Console manufacturers use proprietary, specialized hardware, design for cost efficiency, and build millions of units. There’s a definite economy of scale here. Contrast the Steam Box, which is built with commodity PC hardware (although the next gen is pretty damn close), designed for flexibility and openness (we hope), and unless Valve is insane, will not be built by the millions, at least not initially.

Of course, they also have to provide something that works and works well. The obvious choice to power the device would be one of AMD’s Trinity chips, twin module (I refuse to call it a quad core) and all the shaders unlocked. That’s not a cheap part, even if they work out some kind of deal. It’s gotta have at least 4GB of memory, preferably 8GB, and enthusiasts will hate it if it’s soldered on so it better be a SODIMM or conventional DIMM. Trinity likes fast memory for it’s graphics- you really need dual channel DDR3-1866 to feed it, and that isn’t exactly cheap, though it’s not really expensive either. You can pretty much forget SSDs unless you only have one game, but a hybrid setup with an SSD boot or SSD cache might be the ticket. This is not a cheap computer. This is definitely at least a $500 machine, and it’s the minimum for today.

As you can see, Valve is trapped between a rock and a hard place. If this is going to work, they have to provide good hardware at a low price, and they can’t use the same tricks console makers use. And at the end of the day, most gamers will not part with a thousand dollars of their hard-earned money, no matter how flexible, open, and awesome the platform is.