Valve’s nascent hardware business slowly started to peak out into the public at the Consumer Electronics Show last week. Xi3’s tiny prototype all-in-one PC made for the living room gave the world its first tangible taste of just what kind of gaming machine Valve wants to slap its name onto. Over the past twelve months though, Valve has hinted that it’s working on far more than just a box that runs video games. It’s also working on new interfaces, possibly game controllers, and redesigned keyboard-mouse combinations. “Wearable Computing” is a big part of Valve’s research, and virtual reality-style headsets are a part of its vision. The quiet company will talk in detail about how it sees games working with VR headsets at this year’s GDC.
Valve programmer Joe Ludwig is scheduled to give a talk at the 2013 Game Developers Conference entitled “What We Learned Porting Team Fortress 2 to Virtual Reality.”
“Several people at Valve spent the past year exploring various forms of wearable computing,” reads the talk description, “The wearable effort included porting Team Fortress 2 to run in virtual reality goggles. Topics covered include an overview of what stereo support entails, rendering 2D user interface in a 90 degree field of view display, dealing with view models and other rendering shortcuts, and how mouselook can interact with head tracking in a first person shooter. In addition to the lessons that apply to Team Fortress 2, there are also several lessons that would apply to any new virtual reality game.”
A number of developers have been working hard to convert existing first-person video games for VR headsets over the past couple of year. Id’s John Carmack (Doom, Quake) in particular demoed the HD remastered Doom 3: BFG Edition with a VR headset at a number of public events in 2012. “Sony and Microsoft are going to fight over gigaflops and teraflops and GPUs and all this. In the end, it won’t make that much difference,” said Carmack after E3 2012, “In the end, it won’t make that much difference. When you get to this, it really makes a big difference in the experience. Nintendo went and brought motion into the gaming sphere and while only having a tenth of the processing power was able to outsell all of them in all of these ways. I think someone has an opportunity to do this here [with VR headsets]. It takes a whole ecosystem though, but it is almost perfect.”
Valve may well be the company that seizes that opportunity.