Steam Big Picture, Store, Browser, Library, Steam Machine, Steam Controller, Gamepad Interface Overview
Steam's "Big Picture" mode was announced in 2011; public betas started in September 2012 and were integrated into the software in December 2012. Big Picture mode is a 10-foot user interface, which optimizes the Steam display to work on high-definition televisions, allowing the user to control Steam with a gamepad or with a keyboard and mouse. Newell has stated that Big Picture mode is a step towards a dedicated Steam entertainment hardware unit. SteamVR, a virtual reality (VR) Big Picture interface, was introduced in beta in January 2014. The SteamVR mode enables the user to operate the Big Picture mode and play any game in their Steam library with a virtual theater displayed through the VR headset, the equivalent of looking at a 225-inch television screen, according to Valve. The mode was first introduced in beta for the Oculus Rift headset and later expanded in March 2015 to support the HTC Vive, a VR unit developed jointly with Valve, with the feature to be publicly released shortly after the Vive's public launch in April 2016. In-Home Streaming was introduced in May 2014; this allows users to stream games installed on one computer to another—regardless of platform—on the same home network.
The Steam client, as part of a social network service, allows users to identify friends and join groups using the Steam Community feature. Users can use text chat and peer-to-peer VoIP with other users, identify which games their friends and other group members are playing, and join and invite friends to Steamworks-based multiplayer games that support this feature.
Through Steamworks, Steam provides a means of server browsing for multiplayer games that use the Steam Community features, allowing users to create lobbies with friends or members of common groups. Steamworks also provides Valve Anti-Cheat (VAC), Valve's proprietary anti-cheat system; game servers automatically detect and report users who are using cheats in online, multiplayer games. In August 2012, Valve added new features—including dedicated hub pages for games that highlight the best user-created content, top forum posts, and screenshots—to the Community area. In December 2012, a feature called Game Guides, where users can upload text and images detailing games and game strategies in the same manner as GameFAQs was added. Starting in beta in December 2014 and publicly released in January 2015, the Steam client allows players to broadcast video streams to the public or Steam friends while playing video games.
In September 2014, Steam Music, a built-in music player, was added to the Steam client, allowing users to play through music stored on their computer or to stream from a locally networked computer.
The Steam Machine, also known as the Steam Box during development, is a pre-built gaming computer designed to operate Valve Corporation's SteamOS through the Steam client. Several computer vendors have engaged with Valve to develop their own versions of Steam Machines for retail, offering additional options atop Valve's requirements such as dual-booting options with Microsoft Windows, and the ability to upgrade the computer in the future.
To support the Steam Machine and SteamOS, Valve developed and released its Steam Controller; a highly customizable game controller with touchpad-based haptic feedback that is compatible with Steam and SteamOS, can be used for the OS and most games, including those that normally require keyboard-and-mouse controls, and Steam Link; a device that allows consumers with existing Steam software on their computer to stream content directly from the computer to a monitor and play directly there.
Steam Machines and the related hardware were released for consumers on November 10, 2015, following a two-year testing period. A portable version is to be released in late 2016.
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