A while back Valve shipped out the Knuckles EV 1.3 developer kits to VR devs, a new hand controller which improves upon the original Vive Wands. Knuckles EV2 is the next iteration and improves upon the original design in many ways, including ergonomics, battery life and new sensors. The new sensors are the most interesting aspect as these controllers have force sensors which can detect a range of pressures placed upon them, supporting much more precise hand movements in VR using. You can read more about that and Skeletal Input here.
Comparison of Knuckles 2 (left) and 1.3 (right) - photo by @ColinNorthway
In order to exhibit the possibilites of EV2, Valve have produced the Moondust tech demo. EV2 developers can download and try the demo here. Moondust is set in the Portal universe, and involves a range of mini-games such as crushing rocks for Aperture Science to increase their moon-rock gel stores, control a giant robot, drive a moon buggy and assemble a space station in orbit.
The demo was developed in-house at Valve however it appears some independent VR developers also contributed to the development. Check out the video below!
Today Valve have announced a new version of Steam, 'Steam China' that will bring Steam's catalogue of games to the Chinese market.
Historically, Valve have licensed versions of their titles to Perfect World. In doing so, Perfect World have adapted Valve's titles localising them for the Chinese market. This has been in-part due to Steam not being available in China, a hurdle that all Steam's partners have had to endure as it has restricted their reach to China. Player Unknown's Battlegrounds included, turned to Tencent late last year to permeate the Chinese market, effectively cutting Steam out the deal for the vast number of copies sold. Steam China looks to prevent repeats of such situations.
Full Press Release Below
6/11/2018 -- Perfect World Zhengqi (Shanghai) Multimedia Technology Co., Ltd. and Perfect World Game Co., Ltd., two wholly owned subsidiaries of Perfect World Co., Ltd., and Valve Corporation announced an extension of their ongoing partnership to begin work on Steam China, which will provide Chinese gamers and developers with a new way to access Steam's expansive selection of games and entertainment. No release date for Steam China has been announced.
Steam China will extend the strategic cooperation between the two parties that began in 2012, when Perfect World's subsidiaries obtained the license to operate Valve's DOTA 2, and later Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), in China. Robert H. Xiao, CEO of Perfect World, said the company would introduce more games to China through Steam China, providing quality content and improving the experience for both gamers and developers.
Perfect World and Valve will collaborate closely on Steam China, actively promoting its launch, marketing, and game lineup. No changes are planned for Steam's existing worldwide operations and services as a result of this announcement.
In today's article, we're going to talk about Barking Dog Studios' contract work for and contributions towards Valve's titles. After the release of the original Half-Life, the Canadian studio soon entered a collaboration with Valve in which they worked on a number of projects including one of the early beta versions of Counter-Strike. To learn more about the company's collaboration, we contacted Barking Dog's co-founder and designer Chris Mair to answer our questions.
Team Fortress Classic
Barking Dog Studios worked on four maps for Valve's port of the popular team-based Quake mod Team Fortress, Team Fortress Classic. Of these levels, three were completed and released.
Mair states that their goal with these maps was to create new game ideas that broke away from the standard 2Fort-style of gameplay. The levels had proved popular in their internal playtests and those with Valve. While they were intended to be officially included with the game, this plan was never carried out, and Mair remarked he wasn't sure why Valve came to that decision. Despite this, some of the content from these maps can still be found distributed with various versions of TFC.
As Valve decided not to include the maps, Mair received permission from Gabe Newell to release them independently. Barking Dog worked out a deal with PC Gamer magazine to include the levels on the cover disc of their May 2001 issue. However, to Mair's dismay, few players discovered the maps from this limited release, relegating them to near unknown status afterwards.
After Team Fortress Classic, the team moved on to work on Counter-Strike.
You can download the maps from this link.
Eleventh Hour (eleventh.bsp) by Chris Mair
Taking place in a large missile silo, Eleventh Hour is a Tug of War map in which both teams must deliver two keycards to each of the security doors located in their enemy's territory. This gains access to the map's Control Center where they can launch the missile, achieving victory. One Red and Blue keycard is placed in their respective base, while a neutral Green keycard sits within a contested zone in the middle of the level. A hologram table sits in each base showing the current status of each security door.
Monkeypox (pox.bsp) by Chris Mair
Set in a seaside warehouse, Monkeypox is a CTF Infiltration map which features three teams battling it out. The Red and Blue teams must attempt to poison each other with a Bioweapon initially stored inside the freezer of a nearby docked ship. A team member must deliver the Bioweapon, which is constantly leaking and will continually damage the carrier, to the ventilation room of the enemy base. The Yellow team begins on the ship and must protect the Bioweapon from being stolen by either Red or Blue members, earning points for keeping it safe within the freezer.
The Signal (signal.bsp) by Jamie Mactaggart
Among the buildings of a war torn city, The Signal is a Capture / Defend map where the attacking team begins on the roof with a single Flag. The attackers must bring this Flag to capture a communications Truck located in a garage at the base of the building. The defending team must hold out and successfully guard the Truck for 10 minutes. Teams swap roles each round.
While the other two Barking Dog Studios TFC maps were created by Mair, The Signal was made by Jamie Mactaggart who had previously worked at Team Fortress Software and Valve. At Valve, he had contributed before to Team Fortress Classic and Half-Life deathmatch.
The fourth map
The final TFC map that Barking Dog worked on ultimately went unfinished. Unused textures included in the assets of their released maps show that it was meant to be a snow-themed level. An unused skybox named "arctic" further reinforces this theme.
Barking Dog Studios was the first team to work on the mod Deathmatch Classic. Gabe Newell had asked them if they could port Quake's deathmatch mode to Half-Life and remaster it. According to Mair, there were a lot of players at the time which hadn't embraced Half-Life's deathmatch, and Newell was interested in trying to bring them over.
At first, Barking Dog took the original maps and redid all of the textures and lighting to make them look more modern. Valve gave them feedback that Quake players then were not interested in this type of enhanced visuals, so the team went back and redid the maps with classic lighting. However, Valve felt they still weren't correct. Barking Dog had also rebuilt Quake's player models to make them work in Half-Life.
The team worked on the project for a few months before they ended up abandoning it, choosing instead to focus on Counter-Strike. Deathmatch Classic was then given to the Holy Wars mod team who developed their own version which eventually released.
During this period, Valve had been looking for ways to give new content to the community in order to keep them engaged in and playing Half-Life. This desire lead to One Man, an unreleased single player mod started by Barking Dog intended for Half-Life. Described as "Die Hard in Space" by Mair, who did the design and written the story, it ultimately did not develop much further than being a game design and concept. A rough version was said to be playable, but it wasn't very advanced. Once again, the focus on Counter-Strike took over, and the team ended up shifting all of their efforts there.
Counter-Strike's co-creator Minh Le was working at Barking Dog Studios at the time. When Valve discovered this, they asked the company if they could help Le develop the upcoming Beta 5 version of his mod. Gabe Newell wanted to improve Counter-Strike, so the team worked on the project for months to help better and rebuild the mod and add new maps and content.
Backalley (cs_backalley) by Jamie Mactaggart
Set in an urban area with apartment blocks, Alleyway is a Hostage Rescue map that was first introduced in Beta 5.0. Due to its complex layout, it is considered one of the less popular Hostage Rescue maps, not reappearing again in the series until Global Offensive as a community remade map in Operation Vanguard.
Train (de_train) by Chris Mair
Train is a Bomb Defusal map that was also introduced in Beta 5.0. Taking place in a train station, the terrorist team must plant a bomb to destroy one of the two nuclear payloads being transported on flatcars.
Train has since developed a long legacy in the Counter-Strike series, being featured in almost all incarnations of the title. You can find more about the level's development by viewing 3kliksphilip's video.
In all of Barking Dog Studio's levels discussed here, their company logo with the title "Popdog" appears. The term Popdog is a reference to the name of the team at the studio who worked on first person shooter games.
• In the Team Fortress Classic maps, the Popdog logo appears several times throughout either on vending machines or on billboards.
• In Counter-Strike's Alleyway, the Popdog logo appears on vending machines and a billboard in a very similar fashion to those seen in the TFC maps. Additionally, Train features two boxcars with the Popdog logo on their sides. Players crouching under either car will hear the sound of a barking dog.
Hayri "Barnz" Yurdakul and Rikki "Marphy Black" D'Angelo
Chris Mair for answering our questions
Don (Unquenque) for providing the TFC maps
In a recent email conversation, the former writer of the Half-Life series Marc Laidlaw confirmed that the cancelled Junction Point Studios' Half-Life 2 episode and Arkane Studios' Return to Ravenholm were the same project. According to Laidlaw, Gabe Newell offered the idea to Warren Spector first. When they couldn't do it, it was passed along to Arkane Studios who started again from scratch. Neither of these attempts got far enough to develop a story.
In Half-Life 2, Ravenholm is depicted as a dark and dreary zombie-infested town with a series of claustrophobic streets, teetering buildings, and an oppressive sky. Before the events of the game, it was an old mining settlement inhabited by refugees from City 17 until the Combine discovered and bombarded it with Headcrab Shells. The only survivor of the attack is the pastor of the town's church, Father Grigori, who helps the player throughout the chapter.
In the May 2006 issue of PC Gamer (US) magazine, there is an interview with Gabe Newell in which he talks about the future of the Half-Life series and episodic gaming. In this interview, Newell revealed that there was going to be a fourth Half-Life 2 episode with its own standalone plot developed outside of the company. Much later, in an email conversation from September of 2008, Newell declared that this specific project was no longer going to happen.
Junction Point Studios
In November of 2004, game industry veterans Warren Spector and Art Min left Ion Storm to form Junction Point Studios, an independent video game development company. During this era, they spent much of their time on conceptualizing ideas and trying to find funding partners until the company was acquired by Disney in July of 2007.
In December of 2005, the company announced they were working with Valve on a new game using the Source Engine to be delivered via Valve's digital distribution platform, Steam. This was later revealed to be a cancelled Half-Life 2 episode. The company had a previous project that was cancelled, leaving them with no remaining funds. Valve stepped in and saved them by offering them the opportunity to work on a Half-Life spin off.
The game was to introduce a new weapon called the Magnet Gun which went through several iterations. In one version, the player was able to fire a sticky magnetic ball at a remote surface that would attract metal objects, a twist on the Gravity Gun's mechanics. It had both combat and puzzle solving applications.
On March 24, 2017, a Facepunch Forums member leaked map files created for the Half-Life 2 episodes. This pack also included "styleguide_ravenholm_01", a snow-themed Ravenholm level with references to Spector's Half-Life work. In this map, the Combine attacks a group of rebels residing in the town. The player would wake up in a room with two unique characters named Duncan and Scooter. It is implied that the player crashes into a warehouse in a gondola lift. You can check out the attached text file below for further information.
In the November 2017 issue of PC Gamer (UK) magazine, Spector confirmed that the game was to take place in Ravenholm to tell the story of how the town became as it was in Half-Life 2, an aspect that he believed was underdeveloped and that fans would really enjoy. In addition to fleshing out the setting, they wanted to see more of Father Grigori and the origins behind his character.
According to Spector, the company had just figured out how to use the Source engine and get the most out of it when Valve cancelled the project. Spector stated that he believed Valve was rethinking their episodic plan at the time and had decided to move in another direction. Valve passed along the development opportunity of a new Ravenholm-themed Half-Life 2 episode to Arkane.
In May of 2011, a group of hackers gained access to Eidos' websites and leaked numerous resumes of job applicants. This included a resume of a developer who worked at Arkane Studios, a French video game development company. According to this resume, Valve approached Arkane to help develop a sequel to the Half-Life 2 episodes. Starting in 2006, they worked on the project for a full year before Valve decided to put their episodic efforts on hold.
In January of 2012, Laidlaw revealed the story behind the project. He remarked that Valve were big fans of Arkane and wanted to come up with a project that they could work on together. Based on Valve's ideas, Arkane built some early game material, but they eventually decided that it didn't make sense to pursue it at the time as they felt many of the staples of Ravenholm, including Headcrabs and Zombies, had already been heavily played out by that point. In addition, the game would have to take place sometime before the end of Episode Two, which was a creative constraint for the project and the company.
Over the years, more information and media has surfaced. Described as a very interesting character, the game was to introduce a new protagonist, as well as many more experimental gameplay ideas. In one of the demo reels, there is a footage of a Citizen who acts like one of the infected zombies from Valve's Left 4 Dead series. Some of the screenshots show a HUD element for something called Absorption. It is unknown what this refers to.
According to Arkane's former president Raphael Colantonio, their first game Arx Fatalis had not sold well but was a favorite amongst game developers, including Valve employees Marc Laidlaw and Robin Walker. This led them to Valve.
In addition to Return to Ravenholm, the company released Dark Messiah, an action game with role-playing elements, powered by Valve's Source Engine. They also worked with Valve on The Crossing, another Source Engine project, which was covered in one of our videos by our former content creator Nick.
Hayri "Barnz" Yurdakul and Rikki "Marphy Black" D'Angelo
Jonathan Ewald for his email conversation with Marc Laidlaw
Maarten Frooninckx for the screenshots
 Gamers at Work: Stories Behind the Games People Play by Morgan Ramsay (2012)
 PC Gamer (UK), November 2017 issue
Earlier today, Valve added eight new private videos to the taunts playlist on Team Fortress 2's official YouTube channel. Shortly after this discovery, one of our contacts, who wishes to remain anonymous, managed to extract the thumbnails of these videos and sent them to us.
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