Valve ratcheting up future VR tech, Steam Link and free Source 2 engine

4 Mar 2015

The HTC Vibe VR headset to be used with Steam. Image via HTC

Hedging its bets for the resurgence of the PC gaming market, Valve and its gaming platform Steam are gearing up for virtual reality (VR), streaming games and making its next engine free for developers.

While many tech-savvy eyes have been focused on Barcelona and the Mobile World Congress (MWC), gamers are arguably a little more interested in what’s happening state-side at the Game Developer’s Conference (GDC), where some of the industry’s biggest names are gathered to show off their latest tech.

One company that has caught particular attention and effectively cornered the PC gaming market has been Valve. The PC gaming market has seen a resurgence in the last number of years, mostly because of the popularity of its Steam platform with gamers and developers alike.

Valve feeling the VR Vibe

With this in mind, Valve’s president Gabe Newell explained during a press conference that there are a number of new pieces of hardware entering the market in the near future, with much hype surrounding its partnership with Taiwanese manufacturer HTC to build Valve’s first VR headset, the Vive.

Whereas the Oculus Rift still only really exists as a developers’ play thing, Valve and HTC have promised VR enthusiasts that the Vive will be available by the end of this year, with developer versions coming out as early as this spring.

Included with the Vive is some of Valve’s latest VR technology, particularly its room scale tracking system code named Lighthouse, as well as a VR input system.

This, Valve’s hardware engineer Alan Yates said, will give the Vive the necessary high resolution and high tracking.

“Lighthouse gives us the ability to do this for an arbitrary number of targets at a low enough BOM cost that it can be incorporated into TVs, monitors, headsets, input devices, or mobile devices.”

Valve and its wonderful Steam Machines

Much has been discussed over the last year or so of Steam’s intentions of releasing a series of gaming consoles – known as Steam Machines – designed to take on the might of Microsoft and PlayStation but despite announcing partnerships with companies including Alienware and Falcon Northwest, delays have pushed much of the release dates out to November this year.

However, at GDC, Steam also showed off the Steam Link, which effectively becomes a relatively small streaming device that will allow users to play any Steam game through a PC or Steam Machine on another TV in a home’s network at 1080p and 60Hz for as little as US$50 (€45). Steam Link is due for release with Steam Machines this November.

Developers to work on Source 2 for free

Following a survey that showed that 75pc of current game developers believe Steam is ‘very important’ to their game’s development, it might come as even better news to hear that the next version of its Source game engine – Source 2 – will be made free for developers to use as they see fit.

Given how important user-generated content is becoming, Source 2 is designed not for just the professional developer. It will enable gamers themselves to participate in the creation and development of their favourite games, said Valve’s Jay Stelly.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic