While the past week was a little light on officially released news from Valve, there was still plenty of partner and community topics to help develop a few headlines. These headlines include new details about the upcoming reveal of games for the HTC Vive, the announcement of Steam versions of the Sven Co-op and Prospekt mods for the Half-Life series, and a leaked recap listing the successes of the recent Steam Winter Sale.
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We're back for a whole new series of news Round-Up episodes in 2016! In this week's episode, we're recapping all the news from the course of our three week break, including the recent reveal of the HTC Vive Pre at CES 2016, the extremely infamous Steam Christmas data leak, and the sad news that Marc Laidlaw has officially retired from Valve.
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At long last: We have a date! Earlier today, HTC Chief Executive Cher Wang told The Telegraph that the company's virtual reality headset, created in collaboration with Valve, will be available for pre-order from February 29th 2016 ahead of the full retail launch in April 2016, as previously revealed in December 2015.
The Telegraph's article also mentions HTC are, at least partially, refocusing their hardware efforts away from smartphones and towards virtual reality, claiming creating "a natural extension to other connected devices like wearables and virtual reality is more important". While their commitment is admirable, the headset's starting price has yet to be revealed or even hinted at by Valve or HTC, with other representatives such as Shen Ye and Chet Faliszek remaining silent on the topic.
Regardless, we're looking forward to finding out even more about the Vive in the coming months and even pre-ordering one for ourselves as soon as possible!
Update: Marc has directly confirmed his retirement with us and many others. The future of Half-life will be with someone else.
Although unconfirmed, user @TeddyWolf posted an email exchange with Valve writers Marc Laidlaw which states Marc as having retired from Valve and that "My time working on the series [Half-life] is behind me"
The email comes from an address known to be Marc's personal gmail and is listed on his personal website. The content in the email come across as very genuine however it is a little strange how Marc has decided to reveal this news.
As expected, CES 2016 has seen Valve and HTC unveil the "Vive Pre", the second generation developer kit for the HTC Vive revealed last year at GDC. While we previously had a pretty leaky look at the headset and the newly-designed controllers, today's unveiling has really drawn back the curtain on this new model and it's enhanced features.
All of the headset's components feature a smoother and clearly more finalised design, with the now-smaller base stations appearing almost entirely black and featureless. While the controllers have had the biggest redesign in terms of ergonomic use, they are apparently nearly functionally identical to their older counterparts, with the only real improvements arriving in the form of new built-in lithium batteries and a "dual-stage" trigger making it easier and more natural to interact with objects.
The headset itself actually features the biggest changes, with new rotating hinges presumably making it easier to take the headset on and off while limiting potential damage to the now-tougher head straps. Even so, it sounds as if you won't have to take off the headset nearly as often, as the speculated front-facing camera is in fact real, and allows the real-world to be shown to the user of the headset, augmented-reality style. A black and white, opaque preview of the real-world can now be used instead of the exterior area boundaries, allowing the user to know exactly what it is they may be about to bump into, while a full Chaperone mode can display the real-world in full, allowing you to move around, sit down, or even eat and drink without having to worry about not being able to see.
The headset has also been improved in other ways, featuring a more compact design, with a brighter display, and "image refinements" that provide "increased clarity", according to an HTC representative speaking to ArsTechnica.
One thing missing from the headset that was rumoured to be included closer to launch is a pair of headphones, which are strangely missing. It's possible that HTC and Valve have given up on this idea in order to allow users to pair the headset with their own audio equipment, or maybe they just haven't gotten around to it yet. Considering Valve's largest team is currently working exclusively on virtual reality, this latest reveal makes us even more excited for what the future of the Vive may bring.
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