Personal Musings: Through the Sands of Time…

This could get quite philosophical and –likely- not especially structured nor with many conclusions. I just have words to say and so here they are, written down for all to see… Also, I couldn’t resist the tag… Turns out I can’t stop being silly even when I am soul-searching!

What is it that we are left with in the end? A lifetime of moments drawn into a singularity of time with every second passing too quickly, with far too few and with the majority being wasted. Maybe not on purpose but so much time passes us by. I am almost always busy and put a lot of time and effort into my work, regardless of what it is or whom it is for. I spend a very large proportion of my time working for other people, sometimes small things that take a few minutes; other times things that can take an hour… In one case a project that took several months of pretty hard work. Is this time wasted? Once upon a time I thought no because it helped people, it made their lives easier and it was worth the effort and my time.

Now as I get older and have really needed the support back I have learned a very valuable lesson. It doesn’t matter how far you go, not everyone will support you when you need it. Those who have spent more than 10 minutes with me likely know the sheer level of insecurities and supreme lack of self esteem I have. I have absolutely zero confidence in almost every aspect of my life, I guess I am lucky that I have a few “talents” which I know that I am good at so I can at the very least fake confidence with them. Long story short the last 7 days have been the second worse 7 days of my entire life. The fragile balance of my mental state came crashing down and I know I was in a spiral that I couldn’t control. I did a rare thing and reached out hoping that I could be supported in my time of need…

I learned that not everyone will support you in the same way you have supported them. I am happy to say that most people whom I reached out to have offered wonderful support and really helped keep me going when I really, really just wanted to give up. These people I am Proud of the time I’ve devoted to them and their lives. However, those who refused to help or who were just cold with me I have still learned something of value from. If my time is not good enough then I shall keep it for myself and use it for those people who are worth my time. The few people who have proved to me that we support each other through thick and thin, no matter the circumstances or even the context.

So what is left in the end?  What will be my legacy? Happily my own legacy is shared between several very wonderful people whom I love very greatly. We share our lives and our legacies. I hope one day I will have children to carry on this legacy, to continue a shared existence with a few special people… 

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Simulated Simulators!

Something has really gotten my Goat (1) recently. A genre very close to my heart being Milked (2) massively. I feel it is Haemorrhaging (3) the qualities and Mechanical (4) soundness that created such a wide reaching and interesting genre.

Right, enough with the puns! I am of course talking about the influx of current “simulator” games that Bear (5) no resemblance to the term Simulator (okay, NOW I am done with the puns!). The genre pretty much came into being back in 1989 with Will Wright and the seminal SimCity (one word Dammit!). Yes Utopia predates this by 7 or so years but it was SimCity that made the Genre explode. Since then you’ve had games like Flight Simulator, Train Sims and the old F1 Simulators that tried to replicate the experiences as closely as possible while still being possible to do for us mere untrained mortals. In the same way the FPS games have moved away from super-hard skill based tension to regenerating health and masses of ammo, and Platformers moved away from 3 lives to complete the whole game, so have simulators. They have become watered down and a casual like the rest of the market.

This saddens me greatly. I have no problems with them being made more fun, this is perfectly acceptable -I love Euro Truck Sim 2 because it is fun but still a simulation of trucking and business- but by the Gods what has happened with this last lot of “sims”. Don’t get me wrong I think Surgeon Simulator 2013 is one of the most hilarious games to play with other people since Wii Sports but it isn’t a Sim, and Goat Simulator is hilarious fun but it Isn’t A Sim! So what’s my beef (seriously, this isn’t an intentional pun!) with this influx of non-sim sims? Well it means that actual proper simulators get buried underneath these bombastic gimmicky games that just aren’t simulators. I have no problem with their existence, in fact, I applaud their focused scope and general levels of silliness but dammit why can’t they be called something else?

One bright thing on the horizon is the companies who are mixing the “silly” and the “simulation” and putting out something that is accessible but still hardcore. Naturally I am talking about Kerbal Space Program which mixes hard science and the “cute” little Kerbals. It’s a fantastic mix and –importantly- nowhere does it say Simulator in the title, it is its own thing that exists as part of the Simulator genre but doesn’t pretend that it is here to be serious.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to get back to simulating being a Robot Farmer in a 2d pixel universe (Starbound is still amazing folks!)

(1)    Goat Simulator
(2)    Farming Simulator 2013 Titanium Edition
(3)    Surgeon Simulator 2013
(4)    Car Mechanic Simulator 2014
(5)    Bear Simulator (currently on Kickstarter!)

Dream Theater – 10 shows in 10 years = Happy Darren!

This is mostly for my own reference than anything but I hope that some other peeps enjoy this.

What is this exactly? Well, last night I got to see the mighty Dream Theater for the 10th time in 10 years (and a month) which is super awesome so I am going to do an analysis of everything I’ve got to see over my time seeing them (including 73 complete full DT songs, 7 parts of DT songs, 2 covers and a drum solo!).

So where do we start? Well let’s start with the songs I’ve seen the MOST live. For this I am only including FULL songs to start with then we’ll add in the parts too.

Number one of the list –happily- is Caught In A Web from Awake. It’s the 20th anniversary of Awake this year so even more awesome it is top of the charts with 5 times seen live. That’s 50% of DT gigs! Unfortunately we go from a personal favourite to two of my most hated DT songs. That’s Constant Motion and Forsakem, also 5 times each. Things get better in the 4 times category; As I Am, In The Presence of Enemies (Pt. 1) and possibly my favourite DT song and fave none Mike Oldfield song ever Metropolis Pt. 1. Those 6 songs I’ve seen a combined 28 times! Crazy numbers!

Let’s add in the parts of songs and see what that does, shall we? Just to clarify the parts are when they’ve thrown a section of another song into a song OR when they’ve done a medley.

The best thing about this is that Metropolis Pt. 1 jumps up to 6 times and means it is the most heard song (YAAAAY!!), Learning to Live jumps up to 5 times which also makes it the most part song heard (with 4!), Finally Free joins the 4 ranks as does Trial of Tears. Good work there I feel!

Now let’s do an album breakdown! How many songs have I seen from each album? I know right now before I even start going though it that I’ve seen the WHOLE of Awake and Images and Words live (YEEEEEES!!) so hoping for a few more surprises! So in Alphabetical order:

AWAKE – 10/10 Yup, I’VE SEEN IT ALL! Last night finally got to see The Mirror, Lie (two of the songs been TRYING to see since the first time saw them. EVERY time I saw them for 6 years they’d play them the night before or the night after…) as well as Lifting Shadows Off A Dream (which was just AMAZING) and Space-Dye Vest. Never thought would see that one live!!

Caught In A Web – 5, Erotomania, Voices – 3, Scarred – 2, 6.00, Lie, Lifting Shadows Off A Dream, Space-Dye Vest, The Mirror, The Silent Man – 1

BLACK CLOUDS AND SILVER LININGS – 3/6 Just the 3 off this one. Granted that is half of the album but unfortunately only 1 of the songs I’ve actually wanted to see.

A Rite of Passage -2, The Count of Tuscany, The Shattered Fortress – 1

A DRAMATIC TURN OF EVENTS – 6/9 Not bad going as it’s an album I very much enjoy! Yet to see my favourite song off the album mind (This Is The Life) but maybe next time!

On The Backs of Angels – 3, Breaking All Illusions – 2, Bridges in the Sky, Build Me Up Break Me Down, Far From Heaven, Outcry – 1

DREAM THEATER – 5/8 Now then, I’m not including False Awakening Suite in this, hence the 8 songs not 9, but either way good work considering this is album they’re currently touring. I’ve actually had The Looking Glass stuck in my head since the show… Not bad considering I am not even a fan of the song!

Along For The Ride, Enigma Machine, Illumination Theory, The Enemy Inside, The Looking Glass – 1

FALLING INTO INFINITY – 3/11 (4/15) Right… This is tough because FII has a story attached where they ended up righting a TON of material but the label got all pissy and changed a load of it so the actual album is heavily diluted.  Technically speaking I’ve only seen Peruvian Skies and Trial of Tears as the album versions. Hollow Years saw the Demo version (or the good version if you prefer!) and Speak to Me (which is one of my fave DT songs!) is not on the album but on the Demos. I massively recommend any DT fans to track down the Demo album as it’s FAR better than the final album.

Hollow Years (Original), Peruvian Skies – 2, Trial of Tears -2 (4), Speak to Me – 1

IMAGES AND WORDS – 8/8 BOOM!  The album that made Dream Theater and got to see the whole album live in Newcastle in June 2007 (the final time saw them as a truly happy fellow too which makes the gig that extra bit special) plus bits of it all over the place.

Metropolis Pt. 1 (The Miracle and the Sleeper) – 4 (6), Another Day, Surrounded, Under A Glass Moon – 3, Wait For Sleep – 2, Learning to Live – 1 (5), Pull Me Under, Take The Time – 1

OCTAVARIUM – 6/8 I’ll be honest. I am not a big fan of this album but I have at least got to see 2 of the 3 songs I REALLY like off the album live so bonus!

Panic Attack – 2, Never Enough, The Root of All Evil, Sacrificed Sons, These Walls – 1, Octavarium – 1 (3)

SCENES FROM A MEMORY – 9/12 Wow! This one has surprised me in a very good way! I think this number will say as 9 unfortunately as the three I am missing aren’t songs that work so well out of context… Here’s hoping they’ll do the whole album for the 20th anniversary!

Beyond This Life, Strange Deja Vu – 3, Finally Free – 2 (4), Home, Overture 1928, The Spirit Carries On – 2, Fatal Tragedy, The Dance of Eternity, Through My Words – 1

SIX DEGREES OF INNER TURBULENCE – 4/5 + 3/8 Annoyingly I am yet to see Disappear from the first disc which is one of my favourite songs , however, I love the first disc so to get 4/5 is very cool! Doubt will get much more from the second disc much to my sadness!

Misunderstood, Solitary Shell, The Great Debate -2, Blind Faith, The Glass Prison, The Test That Stumped Them All, War Inside My Head – 1

SYSTEMATIC CHAOS – 6/8 Another album I am not massively keen on. When it’s good it is Excellent though so got kinda lucky with it!

Constant Motion, Forsaken – 5 (urgh!), In The Presence of Enemies Pt. 1 – 4 (Yay!), The Dark Eternal Night – 3, In The Presence of Enemies Pt. 2 – 2, The Ministry of Lost Souls – 1

TRAIN OF THOUGHT – 5/7 – Phwoar! What an album! Hoping one day to see the missing two as I love them both VERY much! Very happy with these numbers though! They’ve even only played the songs not too keen on once and the ones I like the most lots!

As I Am – 4, Endless Sacrifice – 3, This Dying Soul -2, Honor Thy Father – 1 In The Name of God – 1 (3)

WHEN DREAM AND DAY UNITE – 3/8 + 1. Another slightly funny one as only seen 3 songs off the album live but also saw a song that wasn’t officially on the album –the very first DT song no less!-  although yet to see my fave off this one live. One day maybe!

A Fortune in Lies – 2, Another Won, Only A Matter of Time, The Ytse Jam – 1

ADDITIONALS!

A few extra bits they’ve done live including Also Sprach Zarathustra by Strauss (2), Mike Mangini Drum Solo (2), Death on Two Legs by Queen (1) and part of Change of Seasons (2)

Ergo, in total seen Dream Theater perform a total of 153 songs (or parts of songs) over the last 10 years which means an average of 15 songs per gig and a hell of a lot of happiness. I certainly doubt I could have coped with everything that’s happened over the years without their music and especially the live stuff.  The 10th November 2007 gig in particular as that was the night I met the whole band just 11 days after my sister passed away, it was also the night they played The Spirit Carries On for the first time I’d seen it. Needless to say I wept but it really helped me carry on, I guess it’s why the band are still so important to me as a person and why the shows are –to quote James LaBrie- Especially special.

I think it is fitting to finish with some lyrics from Along For The Ride as last night was part of the Along For The Ride tour.

‘I can’t stop the world from turning around or the pull of the moon on the tide. But I don’t believe that we’re in this alone. I believe we’re along for the ride’

Game of the year 2013 and The Fruits of Kickstarter.

So this post isn’t one of those personal ones, this is a post about Gaming in two parts. Part one is about Kickstarter –specifically Planetary Annihilation and Broken Age- and part two is about my Game of the Year for 2013.

Let’s jump headfirst into Kickstarter, shall we? For those who don’t know (and frankly how can anyone who has any interest in the digital age not know?!) Kickstarter lets you give money to companies to create a product they wish to make. It is not tech-exclusive, however, many tech and gaming companies have certainly taken to it very strongly. The reason? Companies can’t take risks as publishers won’t fund games unless they know that they’ll make much more money back on their investment. Don’t get me wrong, I understand this stance, it is a business after all and the idea of a business is to make money. But some companies just want to make a certain kind of game because there is an audience who has gotten lost…

Enter Double Fine and Uber Entertainment. Let’s start with the latter. Uber Entertainment are made up of the core team of engineers and coders who created two of the greatest RTS (real time strategy) games of all time. The revolutionary Total Annihilation (which I still play 17 years since its release!) and the modern ‘sequel’ Supreme Commander. They were annoyed that no-one had created an Epic RTS since SupCom –especially after the travesty that was SupCom 2- and so went to Kickstarter with the desire to create Planetary Annihilation. They asked for a paltry $900,000 but 44,162 dedicated RTS fans screamed “IT’S THE GAME I’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO PLAY!! TAKE MY MONEEEEEEEEY!!!!”. I was one of these fans who threw my wallet at the screen until they blasted (puns!!) through 900k and went on to get $2,229,344 which means the game will be CONSIDERABLY more awesome!

They’ve so far very much delivered on their project as it is THE most Epic RTS ever. I’ll go into much more detail another time, but needless to say it is everything and more than I hoped. It is a masterpiece and only in beta! If you’ve ever thought that having the biggest weapon is the way to win this game laughs at your naivety and crashes a friggin’ ASTEROID into your base! Ka-BOOOOOOOOM!!!!

Moving away from Supreme Destruction on the other end of the spectrum we have Double Fine. For those who don’t know Double Fine is a studio based in San Francisco and is headed by non-other than the Legend that is Tim Schafer –that’s the Tim Schafer of classic Point ‘n Click LucasArts Adventure games!- and if that means nothing to you check out Grim Fandango and the bunny scene from Full Throttle to understand how awesome this guy is! They’ve done some much larger games like Psychonauts (a true classic) and Brutal Legend (best gaming soundtrack ever? Certainly on the shortlist!). However, they wanted to make an old-school point ‘n click adventure game like back in the early 90s. So Tim went to Kickstarter and said they wanted to make this little Adventure game… We heard his plea and we threw our money at him! He asked for $400,000 and we dedicated DF fans scrounged $3,336,371 between the 87,142 of us!

The first Act of Broken Age (the above game!) was recently released and –being a backer!- I got to play said act. It is the exact opposite of Planetary Annihilation in terms of pace. It is a cerebral challenge with a wonderful story and truly beautiful art and music. It is a modern artistic masterpiece of gaming and a pretty good game too. The puzzles aren’t exactly difficult but that means you don’t end up horrifically stuck and get frustrated. Well worth playing regardless of your age or gaming expectations. I would very happily play this game with kids if I had them!

A few more quick words on Kickstarter before I move on, it’s worth checking out War for the Overworld which is a Dungeon Keeper spiritual successor. It’s –like the above games- still in development but it is very enjoyable. I got to have a bit of a chat with the lead dev back at Rezzed when he noticed my City of Villain T-shirt, we spoke for a while –he’s a REALLY cool guy- and he invited to sit with him and his team and chat games… I shouldn’t have missed that opportunity (especially to pimp out my composition services!) but alas I had trains to catch. Regardless worth checking out, and on a City of Heroes/Villains theme The Phoenix Project is worth checking out. It’s being made by fans of City of Heroes which was killed dead by NCSoft because they are… Idiots.

It’s a community made game funded by the community and I cannot wait to see what they come up with (and I certainly plan on sending some composition stuff to them!). These are all games to watch coming this year and beyond. But what about last year?

Singling just one game out from the plethora of games released this year is tough. Especially in a year there anything XCOM related came out. Pretty much anything from Firaxis is an Automatic GOTY for me. However, I can confirm that it is not the XCOM expansion… However, I must admit it was a close run thing!

The game of the year for me is a game that isn’t even fully released…

Ladies and Gents I proudly name Starbound as my game of the year.

Why? ‘Cause it’s freakin’ Awesome!

There is currently no story to really speak of outside of a vague origin story (that is not yet even fully implemented) and a few tutorial missions. Like Terraria –they are similar games however you want to look at it- the beauty is in the sandbox. Unlike Terraria which gives you a single world to explore Starbound gives you a WHOLE DAMN UNIVERSE!! You can go to any star system, pick any planet or asteroid belt, fly there and explore. Build. Mine. There is a super huge crafting system and a procedurally generated weapon and monster system so you never know what you’ll see or meet.

Best of all: This is stage one of the beta. There’s a lot more to come but the game is –generally- solid. The building, crafting, farming, fighting, exploring and multiplayer is fantastic and so far I’ve spend more than 40 hours –half of what I’ve spent in Terraria!- in the game, playing both single and multiplayer.

I am mighty impressed and I look forward to what happens next. Right now we’re awaiting the final “wipe” which will wipe literally everything. Characters, worlds, the universe, everything! They shouldn’t need to do any more wipes once this one is done, I guess we’ll have to wait and see. Regardless this game is stunning and it’s my game of 2013. I’ll be writing about Starbound a lot throughout this year I am sure but I am going to leave you with a “mock-trailer” for a character I’ve created to play with in the game.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pN6j3CVXUo0

Take care all! \../

Personal Musings: The Core of the matter.

So when I started this blog it was mostly a place for me to offload my tech wafflings that I have. After all I love talking about technology and to a level which bores most human beings to tears thus I could get out all my geekery and if no-one read it that was fine ‘cause I wouldn’t have the urge to grab the nearest person and scream “THE R9 290X HAS 2816 STREAM PROCESSORS AND 6.2 BILLION TRANSISTORS BUT USES A 28nm PROCESS!! WHY DON’T THEY MOVE TO 20nm AND STOP DROP THE TEMPS!! WHHHHHHY?!?!?!” but thankfully I don’t need to because of this blog!

However, I have moved a little away from tech recently (in the few times I’ve actually updated at all) and it’s all become a lot more personal… That isn’t changing today I am afraid. At least I’ve thrown some waffling above so that I don’t feel so bad about it but anyway, I’m doing a PGCE in Secondary Music –which is rather tough- and as part of it there is a lot of reflection and thinking. For anyone that knows me the two things you don’t want me to do is a. Reflect, and b. Think! However, much of this has been done and so I’d like to share some thoughts on my thoughts.

Music. Why music? This is the question I’ve posed to myself a lot. Why do I want to teach music? I feel as comfortable teaching ICT as I do music. Hell, I have a better understanding of ICT even though I don’t have any formal qualifications. Then I realised then reflected a lot on the answer…

Music is at the very core of my being. While I am not an especially open person (surprisingly maybe!) when I play music what comes out is Pure me. Even if everyone else does it better, what I play is mine and it is very much baring my soul. Every so often I listen to my dissertation I wrote for undergrad and I am incredibly proud of what I wrote. Every note is me –even though it is roughly based on Beethoven’s works- and is a snapshot of my life at that moment. I can hear the joys, and sadness, within the piece. I can hear the happiness of the memory of my little sister, and I can feel the pain of the breakup with my ex. I would write it entirely differently now –as I am in a different headspace as well as well as being a much better composer too!- and every so often I look at the score and consider updating it, but then realise that no, doing so would degrade the purity of the emotion I put into the piece.

That phrase ‘the purity of the emotion’ is a phrase I’ve pondered over a lot and concluded that, actually, that is at the very core of my core (after all, we have octo-core and hyper-threaded processor cores and as hyper-threading is kinda like having a core within a core I am allowing myself the technical wizardry to run with this metaphor!) and as I am a very emotional person (again, surprising maybe!) having a way to share my emotion in its most pure and raw state is important. This is where my musical being and my physical/mental/spiritual being combine to create a Meta-Darren. Sure anyone who has seen me play can’t say that I don’t become enthused and love being a part of the music.

However, at the same time as all of the above it means that I am massively exposed when I perform or write music. I am fortunate enough to have a band where I can be 100% relaxed and know that I can be open an vulnerable, and the music that I’ve helped write in the band is super important to me. It’s helped me deal with many things. I remember when the woman I was engaged to left me, the next band practice we played Eyes of the Soul which Pete wrote the music for and I wrote the lyrics about her. It hurt to play it but during the guitar solo there was so much of the emotion that was pent up released, that solo screamed and at the end of it –once wiped away the tears- I felt stronger somehow. When Rach committed suicide and I was just filled with sadness I sat down and wrote a song, that song (Song for Rach) is an incredibly personal song, and now since losing my little Sister we’ve added an extended introduction which is a guitar solo which I play for Louise. Every note is hardwired directly to my heart and my soul –and I admit there are usually a few tears when I play it-, but every note helps me deal with and work through something which I still cannot comprehend even now.

I know that I can show this with the band though as Severed Head are my family ‘cause we share our music together and I am so, so Proud of what we’ve done over the years and I hope we continue for many years –even if it’s been really difficult the last year- as that too is a part of me. Just like teaching. Teaching is a part of who I am. I want other people to understand the joys of creating music, to show their own souls and to share their emotion and I am always proud when people want me to work with them to create music, to collaborate our musical passions to create a piece that can be far greater than the individuals. I am incredibly picky about who I choose to make music with, however, when it comes to my own projects as I need to have a very deep connection to the person/people for it to work.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this too! I believe it is because I am a passionate person who needs to feel that connection. I am going to use the term relationship but only because it is much more personal connection for me and the relationship I have with the few people I want to write music with/for is more powerful than anything as letting other people shape and develop music is really letting them have complete control of my being (scary metaphor!) and if there isn’t a bond of trust and –dare I say it- love then it all falls apart and that is like a very hard punch in the chest.

As I have already broken 1,000 words I think I’ll leave it there, although a very wonderful person said I should talk about things that are weighing me down, but I figured I’d actually talk about some things that lift me up. Even if no-one reads this (and if you are reading this line, well done! Here’s a digital cookie!! *COOOOKIEEEEE!!*) I have at least put it out there and because this is all about my music without any music, here’s a link to four tracks which are direct links to Me!

Formula 1: 2013 ramblings.

So the Formula 1 season finished yesterday. 19 races throughout the world, 23 drivers throughout the season and the end of an era.

Yesterday was a day of goodbyes for the sport. Goodbye to the awesome V8s that we’ve heard for so many years. My main team –Lotus F1- said goodbye to Kimi even if he wasn’t at the last two races. And the most sad; we said Goodbye to Mark Webber.

I admit I’ve always had a super soft spot for Marky. He’s never exactly had things easy, nor has he had things his own way but he’s been their fighting for 215 races over 12 years. He led the World Championship for a while too, until Red Bull gave in to Vettel and Webber mysteriously had several retirements with car problems… Anyway, a mighty sad farewell to an honourary Brit and all round nice guy Mark Webber.

A real pity that the season was a bit of a washout… In the case of the first qualifying of the year literally! There was a fight on for the first quarter of the year as the tyres were massive. Some teams got it perfectly right and were doing fantastic and then everything kicked off with tyres exploding. Because of this the compounds changed and it effectively handed the entire season to Vettel. Many of the midfield who really worked hard on designing a car around the tyres were caught short with the change. Because of the massive rule changes and engine changes for next year most of the midfield just gave up, as did some of the top teams as Vettel started to run away so they just pumped more resources into next year’s cars.

Next year should be a super interesting year. V6 Turbos are coming into the sport, massive chassis changes and two or three brand new races on the calendar. Plus a load of new drivers and driver changes (PLEEEEEASE let Lotus get Hulkenburg!!) so hoping the 110 days until the Australian goes fairly quickly (but not too quickly! PGCE is fast enough as it is!) and I am hoping for a considerably better season next year… Just hoping that Vettel doesn’t just run away with it again next time!

The War is Over.

Microsoft and Sony have been trading blows with each other for the last few months since their new consoles were announced. They were constantly trying to outdo each other with technological prowess and games…

The Valve appeared. You remember Valve, right? That little game company who released Half-Life back in ’98, then set Steam upon the world (as a DRM tool basically for Half-Life 2) in 2004. Well 9 years later they’ve announced their next big Thing. Nothing to do with Half-Life 3 sadly but three pieces of kit which on their own are interesting and even fantastic, but combined will be a force to be reckoned with.

How has Valve ended the console war? Easy! They’re releasing their own console. Microsoft and Sony are using locked down x86 PC parts, but x86 PC parts none the less. So what are Valve doing?

The Steam Box.

How does the Steam Box work? Well it’s a PC, isn’t it? It’s modular like a PC. It’s unlocked and open like a PC. You can tweak it and change it like a PC. It’s an x86 PC just like the one I am typing this on. Due to the fact that they are full-fat PC’s they have a lot of grunt, and because they’re not locked down to the platform if you want more grunt you can buy and stick in a new piece of hardware! Modular Console! About damn time!

SteamOS

Naturally the Steam Box can run Windows, Linux or anything x86 you choose but why would you when there is a rather awesome looking SteamOS! Building upon Steam Big Picture mode released last year the SteamOS takes Linux gaming to the next level. Where the Xbox One or Playstation 4 have no backward compatibility, the Steam Box –and by definition the SteamOS- will have “hundreds” of games that will run natively through the OS and then on top of that can stream from any other PC on your network. What does this mean? Simple. You will be able to stream any of the over 3,000 titles on Steam through your network and onto your TV.

How’s that for a release roster? As yet there have been no more announcements on what AAA games will be running natively on the OS but it’s only a matter of time until announcements start trickling through. On top of this most TV, Movie and Music streaming will run through the OS giving pretty much all of the usability of the other consoles but without being locked down.

The Controller.

Finally, the new controller for the Steam Box is an interesting device indeed. Rather than two analogue sticks there are two trackpads. This allegedly gives enough accuracy to play RTS’ and FPS’ without getting really angry at the sluggish response time of the current console generation.

Conclusion.

There are a lot of assumptions. Valve are the kind of company who don’t release something –or even announce something!- without it being everything that is promised. There are still a lot of details that are required, price, range of specs etc… But there are still a lot of questions hanging over the next gen consoles so I’m not worried that we don’t know everything just yet.

An additional massive boon is that if you have an old PC hanging around you can install the SteamOS and use said system as a Steam Box for free. That’s right; the SteamOS won’t cost a single penny! I can’t see how Microsoft or Sony can even try to get into the ring with Valve now. They’ve got everything in place now to change not just the game for consoles but for PC’s as well.

Now give us Half-Life 3 ya bastards!!