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In this week's Round-Up, we're discussing the reveal of one of Valve's most ambitious projects to date - SteamVR, which will be shown off at GDC 2015 next week! We're also checking out a few recent updates for Dota 2, TF2, and CS:GO!
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Hot off the press! Valve has just announced their plans for next week's GDC 2015.
In a press release from Doug Lombardi, he states that Valve will be demonstrating "Steam Machines with the final Steam Controller, new living room devices, and a previously-unannounced SteamVR hardware system."
Click to read the entire press release:
VALVE TO ANNOUNCE NEW HARDWARE PRODUCTS
Leading Entertainment Platform Surpasses 125 Million
February 23, 2015 - Valve will show a family of new Steam devices at next week's Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco, CA. Products being demonstrated at GDC include Steam Machines with the final Steam Controller, new living room devices, and a previously-unannounced SteamVR hardware system.
Developers and publishers interested in experiencing the new SteamVR hardware may request to schedule a GDC demo at http://www.steampowered.com/universe.
GDC 2015 will mark the 13th anniversary of Valve's first public announcement of Steam, which has since become the leading platform for PC, Mac, and Linux games and software.
In the last year, Steam added new services and features - including In-Home Streaming, Broadcasting, Music, and user created stores - as it grew to over 125 million active accounts worldwide.
Steam now offers 4500 games, with 400 million pieces of user-generated content contributed by members of the Steam Community.
We've known that the Steam Machines and the final Steam Controller would be making their appearance, but there are two new elements of note:
- "New living room devices," which sounds separate from our current knowledge of the Steam Universe.
- There will be a demonstration of a new "SteamVR hardware system."
If you (or know someone that is) are attending GDC, Valve invites you to stop by their booth to demo all of their hardware that will be on display, including this new SteamVR hardware. You can make an appointment @ http://www.steampowered.com/universe.
There is also now an official Twitter account for SteamVR @SteamVR.
In other news, Doug also released some new staggering Steam stats! As of today, there are:
- 125 million active Steam accounts
- 4500 games
- 400 million pieces of user-generated in the Steam Community
It's been a big week for Dota 2 and Half-Life fans, with the most recent Half-Life 3 finding arriving right in the middle of this year's New Bloom 2015 update! With GDC 2015 fast approaching, what does it all mean?
If you enjoy what you see, don't forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel and to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and TwitchTV. Thanks for watching!
Valve is going to have a large presence at GDC 2015 in March. Not only are they expected to reveal the entire Steam Universe, but several Valve employees will be holding informational sessions. These sessions are:
- glNext: The Future of High Performance Graphics (Presented by Valve) with Pierre-Loup Griffais and John McDonald
- Advanced VR Rendering with Alex Vlachos
- Physics for Game Programmers : Robust Contact Creation for Physics Simulation with Dirk Gregorius
- Physics for Game Programmers : Physics Optimization Strategies with Sergiy Migdalskiy
In preparation for GDC, I thought it'd be nice to write a little bit of background for each session. It was hard for me to decide what info to put in and what to leave out, so I hope I covered enough for you all. So, let's just get into it...
glNext: The Future of High Performance Graphics
Valve will be unveiling the next evolution of OpenGL, known currently as glNext. This session will be presented by Valve's John McDonald and Pierre-Loup Griffais, and they will be accompanied by developers from DICE, Unity, and Oxide.
Why All the Hubbub About glNext?
As told by the Khronos Group, an organization that is today responsible for OpenGL and other important APIs, this chart illustrates a good point...
...OpenGL is the only major graphics library that's supported by all modern GPUs and operating systems. This means that, if a video game developer took advantage of it, it should be easier for them to support a game that spans across multiple platforms, such as Windows, Linux, Mac, and it's even a stepping stone for Mobile support. As a result, developers can reach a wider audience with their games, and consumers won't potentially miss out on playing a particular game due to platform limitations.
There are also a lot of other important notes about glNext that can be taken from the presentation that's linked above:
- After twenty two years -- need ground up design of API for high-efficiency access to graphics and compute on modern GPUs
- Incremental change is not enough. GL has a good track record of adaptive evolution... but structural problems can’t be fixed by accretion
- Who's on board: Valve, Apple, AMD, Intel, Nvidia, and others
- Fast-paced work on detailed proposals and designs are already underway
- NOT your father’s multi-year design-by-committee process
- Clean, modern architecture
- Greatly reduced CPU overhead
- Multi-thread / multicore-friendly
- Improved reliability and consistency between implementations
- Unify OpenGL and OpenGL ES
Also, since SteamOS is a Linux operating system, Valve probably doesn't want to continue translating DirectX games over to OpenGL with Source 2. It would make development much simpler if they were able to concentrate on one API, and it would be beneficial to use the API that runs the best on the SteamOS.
While developing for and exploring the performance capabilities of OpenGL over the recent years, Valve has become a key player in OpenGL's evolutionary development, and that brings us to...
Valve's Known Roles in the Future of OpenGL
Valve has had a very, very active role over the years in improving the next-iteration of OpenGL. They are, after all, a Contributing Member of the Khronos Group.
Valve has been working closely with hardware and technology vendors such as NVIDIA, AMD, and Intel to improve graphic driver performance on Linux. As a result, they identified driver & multithreading issues and were able to increase Left 4 Dead 2's performance by about 15% on Linux over Windows with OpenGL.
While settling in and learning as they go on with OpenGL and Linux game development, Valve has created some open-source tools.
ToGL: A Direct3D -> OpenGL translation layer. This can make it easier for game developers to port their Direct3D 9.0c games over to OpenGL.
VOGL: An OpenGL debugger first conceived by Rich Gelreich, a former software engineer for Valve and RAD Game Tools, and current hater of open-office spaces.
Valve has given funding to LunarG, an organization that works within the Mesa development community. They work on the Mesa 3D Graphics Library, an open-source implementation of OpenGL, which is the graphics driver in the Mesa branch of the SteamOS. A year ago, it was found that Dota 2 had a 20-second reduction in loading time with an added patch to SteamOS Mesa.
Advanced VR Rendering
Alex Vlachos, an experienced 3D graphics engineer at Valve responsible for L4D2's wounding system, Portal 2's water flow, and The Orange Boxes post-processing techniques, will present methods of rendering games efficiently using Virtual Reality. As described by his GDC session's webpage, some topics will include:
- Efficient stereo rendering
- Reducing rendering latency
- Saturating the GPU despite synchronization points
- Reducing pixel cost for low-priority pixels
- Specular antialiasing
- Constrained anisotropic lighting
What's interesting, though, is that apparently Vlachos has been responsible for engineering virtual reality support in Source 2, as told by Gabe Newell in his Reddit AMA last year. This means that, whatever Vlachos presents in this session, it is likely that it's all going to be implemented in Source 2 to enhance its support for virtual reality. So we can assume that the six points above are going to be additional features of the Source 2 engine, in general.
A Brief History of Valve and Virtual Reality
Valve has had a vested interest in virtual reality for awhile now, mostly starting with Michael Abrash and his R&D. He introduced us to the concept of "wearable computing" and augmented reality, but it wasn't until three months after that initial blog post when Abrash finally uttered the words "VR" (once). Fast forward one more month and Abrash, Palmer Luckey, and John Carmack are sharing the stage at Quakecon talking about virtual reality.
Abrash and his efforts were supported by other software engineers at Valve, like Joe Ludwig. Joe and the team were responsible for creating a real-world application of virtual reality from Valve, and bringing it to consumers. So, around 2011 and 2012, they worked on porting Team Fortress 2 to VR. Since then, they have been continuing to update TF2's virtual reality support.
In 2013, Valve released an update to the Source SDK, bringing official support for virtual reality and the Oculus Rift. In 2014, they released SteamVR, an update to Steam allowing for virtual reality support within the Big Picture Interface.
What's next? That brings us back to Alex Vlachos and Source 2, all of which we'll learn more about in March.
Physics for Game Programmers
Both Valve's Sergiy Migdalskiy and Dirk Gregorius will be discussing physics simulation & optimization techniques. Specifically, Gregorius' session is called "Robust Contact Creation for Physics Simulation", and Migdalskiy's is called "Physics Optimization Strategies". The two presentations may cover in combination:
- Numerical Integration
- Contact Manifolds
At last year's GDC, Migdalskiy and Gregorius both covered similar topics in physics - "Debugging Physics" and "QuickHull", respectively. And in 2013, Gregorious also presented "The Separating Axis Test". These are all very general topics, so it's not likely they'll explicitly expand on any Source 2 information.
We'll talk more about Valve's plans for game physics in an upcoming ValveTime video, so look out for that!
So there you have it. GDC 2015 will run from March 2 thru 5, and so stay tuned to ValveTime as we cover the event. It's going to be a good one for fans of Valve!
Yesterday's announcement of the New Bloom 2015 seemed like all of Valve's cards were now on the table, but it would appear that wasn't quite the case. As the Part 4 page shows, the previously mysterious "Year Beast Brawl Event" will see teams face off against one another with the help from their very own red or blue Year Beast, which will "charge down the lands toward the opposing team" at 5 minute intervals.
For 10 minute periods a few times a day, players will be able to search for a Year Beast Brawl match, which will function like a regular non-ranked All-Pick game, only with the appearance of the aforementioned big, formidable beasts. By accumulating and spending "Ability Points", each team's Year Beast can be upgraded in three categories, including support, combat, and speed. As the game progresses and the 10 and 20 minute marks pass, more powerful new abilities can be acquired, such as "Resurrection Aura", "Greater Hex", "Stampede", and more.
Those who win a Year Beast Brawl will be awarded a guaranteed item set and a commemorative trophy to track their wins. The more times a player wins the brawl, the greater their rewards will become, including a Ancient Rhythms Loading Screen, a Redhorn Courier, a Jadehorn Courier, and a Goldhorn Courier for winning upwards of 10 Year Beast Brawls and accumulating a total of 8,000 ability points.
The New Bloom 2015 update is now live on the main Dota 2 client, so be sure to brush up on all the previous parts of the update before you dive in. The first Year Beast Brawl is set to kick off sometime tomorrow, giving you plenty of time to get to grips with newcomer Winter Wyvern before the Year Beasts arrive. The Year Beast Brawl Event officially comes to a close on March 2nd 2015, so get to it!
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