Valve’s Third Steam Announcement Will Be…

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Posted on September 26, 2013, Mike Sharkey Valve’s Third Steam Announcement Will Be…

SteamOS, Steam Machines, and…

Source 2?

A new game like Left 4 Dead 3 or, dare we say, Half-Life 3?

A new type of controller that melds mouse and keyboard precision with console controller functionality?

A biometric feedback device?

More hats for Team Fortress 2?

A combination of all of the above or something else entirely?

Many are expecting Valve to save its biggest Steam Universe announcement for last, and with the rather brilliant five-day unveiling format, the Valve buzz is now reverberating across the Internet. We’ll find out for sure in roughly 24 hours (1 p.m. Easter, 10 a.m. Pacific on Friday, September 27) what the third piece to the Steam-in-the-living-room puzzle is, but until then, why not engage in some good old fashioned speculation?

Over the past year, Valve has offered plenty of not-so-subtle clues about what it’s been working on, and based on information directly from Gabe Newell and crew, there are a handful of safe bets about what we’ll see tomorrow:

Source 2

Back in August 2012, the team at the Valve Time blog discovered a line of code in the Source Filmmaker script that read: Return an str with the current engine version. If key doesn’t doesn’t exist, assume ‘Source’, otherwise invalid — assume next-gen ‘Source 2′. Turned out that was just the beginning, and before long the intrepid script explorers found more than 60 references to Source 2 buried in Filmmaker.

Valve refused comment on the matter for months. Then, in November 2012 on Gabe Newell’s birthday, some fans from 4Chan paid Valve’s Bellevue, Washington HQ a visit with a gift for the almighty Gaben. Not only did Newell meet with the fans to accept the gift himself (yes, the boss of a billion dollar company took time out of his day to meet with fans), he answered nearly an hour’s worth of questions and didn’t shy away from spilling some sizable beans:

Fan: Is Valve potentially already working on a new engine? Source 2? Could or… could not be?

Gabe Newell: We’ve been working on Valve’s new engine stuff for a while, we’re probably just waiting for a game to roll it out with.

Source 2 confirmed. Now about that game Valve is waiting to roll it out with…

Left 4 Dead 3

The co-op zombie survival shooter has become one of Valve’s core franchises. After the original launched in November 2008, a surprising sequel followed just a year later. That’s warp speed in Valve’s world. It also led many to believe a third installment would follow shortly after, but it’s been five years now and still no Left 4 Dead 3. At least, not just yet.

Back in August, a simple tour of Valve HQ led one sneaky tour goer to snap a photo of a developer’s monitor, which just so happened to have a lengthy list of Valve’s open projects. That list included Left 4 Dead 3, which was also categorized as a Source 2 game. Valve refused comment and it’s possible the image was a fake. Even if it is, we know Source 2 is real, and it would seem natural the next Left 4 Dead would be a Source 2 game.

Valve’s Swiss Army Controller

A year ago, Valve published the patent for its “Video game controller having user swappable control components.” It allows the user to use two thumbsticks like a console controller, or swap out one or both thumbsticks for trackballs (and potentially other types of modular inputs). It seems like a terrific way to meld the precision of PC controls with the functionality of console controllers.

We also know that Valve was taking its new controller endeavors seriously, committing an entire team of people to the project. Led by now former employee Jeri Ellsworth, the team had reached a point where it was ready to begin beta testing Valve controller prototypes sometime this year.

Major cuts to Valve’s relatively new hardware team in February led many to believe its controller plans had been scrapped. Newell decided to address that speculation head on, telling Engadget: “No, we aren’t canceling any projects. No, we aren’t changing any priorities or projects we’ve been discussing.”

Yesterday, Valve seemed to confirm its proprietary controller, whatever form it finally takes, is coming soon. In the FAQ to the Steam Machines announcement, Valve stated:

Am I going to be using a mouse and a keyboard in the living-room?
If you want. But Steam and SteamOS work well with gamepads, too. Stay tuned, though – we have some more to say very soon on the topic of input.

A Biometric Feedback Device

Whether it’s a component of Valve’s new controller or a separate device altogether, Valve is very interested in incorporating biometric feedback into your gaming. By measuring and monitoring things like body temperature and/or heart rate, Valve hopes to create games that react to the individual player, potentially creating intensely immersive, uniquely personal experiences. Here’s what Newell told the Verge about Valve and biometrics in January:

“We think that, unlike motion input where we kind of struggled to come up with ideas, [there's potential in] biometrics.”

“Maybe the motion stuff is just failure of imagination on our part, but we’re a lot more excited about biometrics as an input method. Motion just seems to be a way of [thinking] of your body as a set of communication channels. Your hands, and your wrist muscles, and your fingers are actually your highest bandwidth – so to trying to talk to a game with your arms is essentially saying ‘oh we’re going to stop using ethernet and go back to 300 baud dial-up’. Biometrics on the other hand is essentially adding more communication bandwidth between the game and the person playing it, especially in ways the player isn’t necessarily conscious of. Biometrics gives us more visibility. Also, gaze tracking. We think gaze tracking is going to turn out to be super important.”

“I think you’ll see controllers coming from us that use a lot of biometric data.”

Half-Life 3

Unlike all of the above, there is no concrete evidence that Half-Life 3 is coming anytime soon. The only thing we have to go on is Gabe Newell making thinly veiled references to it while discussing Ricochet 2 in 2012:

“We always have this problem that when we talk about things too far in advance. The problem is, we think that the twists and turns that we’re going through would probably drive people more crazy than just being silent about it, until we can be very crisp about what’s happening next.”

That said, would there be any bigger way for Valve to get people to buy into SteamOS, Steam Machines, Source 2, and a new controller featuring biometric feedback than Half-Life 3?

Gamers want Valve to finally announce Half-Life 3 so badly, they’re seeing the iconic logo emerging from Valve’s Steam Universe glowing planet. See how it’s evolved in recent days and judge for yourself:

While it definitely looks like a logo of some sort is taking shape, it’s a safe bet it’s Valve’s Steam arm crank. Still, if you squint hard enough and cross your fingers and your toes, you just might see this emerging:

So what will Valve unveil in its third of three big Steam Universe announcements? I think we can cross Team Fortress 2 hats off the list. Based on the evidence I think it will be a combo of controller, Source 2, and Left 4 Dead 3. Fingers crossed for biometrics and Half-Life 3, but I don’t think Valve is ready to go there.

We’ll find out for sure tomorrow. In the meantime, use the comments section to chime in and let us know what you think Valve has up its sleeve.

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