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Valve Job Posting Confirms Hardware Plans 219

Posted by Soulskill
from the waiting-on-the-steambox dept.
redletterdave writes "Valve is reportedly interested in building hardware. The Bellevue, Wash.-based software developer added a job posting to its site on Tuesday morning for an industrial designer. We're frustrated by the lack of innovation in the computer hardware space though, so we're jumping in,' the posting said. 'Even basic input, the keyboard and mouse, haven’t really changed in any meaningful way over the years. There's a real void in the marketplace, and opportunities to create compelling user experiences are being overlooked.'"
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Valve Job Posting Confirms Hardware Plans

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @01:48PM (#41225155)

    Well, at least we'll never have to buy more than two consoles from them.

    • by dywolf (2673597)

      Ya: an even longer wait for HL2:Episode 3, and figuring out just what the man in the grey suit has to do with everything!

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        Ya: an even longer wait for HL2:Episode 3, and figuring out just what the man in the grey suit has to do with everything!

        the guy in the grey suit was the finance guy trying to get them to finish the game for publication. isn't it obvious? now that they're loaded with in-house money he hasn't been around too much.

  • by Missing.Matter (1845576) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @01:52PM (#41225189)

    Even basic input, the keyboard and mouse, haven’t really changed in any meaningful way over the years

    Maybe the reason for this is the basic form works. The design of the wheel hasn't changed much in a 5 thousand years either. I wonder why.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @01:54PM (#41225219)

      Nuh uh! You're just crusty and old and resistant to change. How dare you want stable, mature interfaces rather than ever changing bullshit to justify the job of some hipster designer. What next? You're going to tell me we shouldn't ditch steering wheels and pedals in cars? FUCK YOU YOU FUCKING LUDDITE!!!!

      • Actually studies have shown that people react better in emergency situations with a joystick, in that they're more likely to steer and brake at the same time. I can't say whether it makes you able to take a corner more optimally, but in passenger cars, where safety is the primary concern as opposed to a race car, a steering wheel and pedals isn't as good as it gets.

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          Interesting, how do they do force feedback?
          Ideally such a system would need to not let you just overpower the force feedback mechanism as that would mean joystick position would not reflect reality.

    • How unenlightened, I've always wanted to put a d-pad on the thumb side of the mouse for easy weapon switching instead of reaching keys in odd spaces. Even with keyboard customization distributing the load to a hand that is more idle (the aiming hand) that merely only moves the mouse increases efficiency.

      I've had tonnes of insights into how hardware and user interfaces as well could be better designed. Perhaps you need to learn about the fact that you don't live in reality but only your awareness? i.e. w

      • You realize you can already so that with your scroll wheel, right?

        • by tepples (727027)
          I thought the scroll wheel (mouse buttons 4 and 5) was for changing things on your current tool such as the zoom of a scope. That leaves either keys or thumb buttons for switching tools.
          • by s73v3r (963317)

            Just about every FPS I've played uses the scroll wheel for switching weapons. Generally a key on the keyboard controls zoom.

            • by nschubach (922175)

              Some games will switch state. If you are right click scoped, the wheel zooms, but otherwise it swaps weapons. Generally, I think you are right, but I don't play a tremendous amount of FPS anymore.

            • by Talderas (1212466)

              LMB : Fire
              RMB : Zoom (most weapons do not feature adjustable zoom distances)
              Scroll wheel : Swap Weapons

        • The scroll wheel has flaws in that you can over scroll, and miss the weapon you actually want to get, a d-pad lets you just assign weapons to each direction your thumb say rests in the middle and each weapon is equidistant (short) from the center. With a mousewheel you have to cycle through weapons list and you can often miss during harried fights or you have to slow down. Not my idea of accurate controls in tense highspeed action games where reaction time matters.

          Now this is not to say there aren't keyboar

          • by hairyfeet (841228)

            If you are over scrolling then blame the GUI friend, because they should have set the scroll sensitivity correctly. Personally I use this as one of the gauges of whether a title is good or not, a good GUI should easily allow you to do the actions you are required to perform in the heat of battle while a bad interface design will leave your frustrated and pissed.

            For an example of a bad user interface design please watch this Angry Joe review [angryjoeshow.com] and watch how many times he says things like "WTF? Stop...stop it!

        • You realize they've already started making mouse with direct inputs for MMO's right? I wouldn't be surprised of a dpad variety shows up.

          http://www.ncix.com/products/?sku=74357&vpn=910-002864 [ncix.com]

          So please spare me your bs.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by hairyfeet (841228)

          Hell if he doesn't want to use that (why I don't know, a wheel makes it crazy fast to spin through a weapon switch) there are several gamer mice that have a rocker switch on the right side where the thumb would rest on a traditional mouse.

          BTW I know this is a little childish but to all those FOSS zealots that were "Oh no, GabeN is doing this because he really believes in Linux!" allow me to say TOLD YOU SO, he's building a fricking Steambox because Ballmer waved his flabby ass in GabeN's face with the whole

      • My mouse already has two buttons on each side of the mouse (although the two on your non-mouse hand are hard to press so I don't usually map anything to them).

        Plus, Valve games already do weapon switching via the mouse wheel. Just make sure you turn on fast weapon switching or it'll drive you mad (you mean I have to click the primary mouse button before it'll switch weapons?!)

        • I know because no company would EVER make a mouse with direct input on the side... OH WAIT...

          http://www.ncix.com/products/?sku=74357&vpn=910-002864 [ncix.com]

          • Yes, exactly... why don't you own one of those?

            I opted not to get one of those when last getting a new mouse... too many buttons for my taste.

          • That's not really a good design IMHO.

            You want to use spatial memory and touch feedback to help guarantee the player won't over-shoot the side thumb buttons. i.e. There is an optimal balance between minimizing the number of buttons and maximizing the number of buttons.

            I've found 3 side thumb buttons to be great. Another post in this thread suggested a D-Pad for the thumb -- I think that would work even better yet. Any more then that though and you are now starting to incur penalties.

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          Drive you mad?
          Needing another key press to swap is the whole point. You run with the knife select the M4 and switch when you get there or Galil if you are a T.

          • I guess that makes sense in games where one weapon makes you move faster.

            I'm used to playing TF2. Melee weapons don't make you move faster in TF2*. There are really only a handful of weapons in the entire game where you'd want to have a weapon selected but not switched to, out of something like 200 unique weapons in the game.

            * There are two exceptions:
            1. The Gloves of Running Urgently [teamfortress.com] make the Heavy (one of the two slowest class in the game) move at nearly the speed of the standard classes, but the Heavy

        • > My mouse already has two buttons on each side of the mouse (although the two on your non-mouse hand are hard to press so I don't usually map anything to them).

          I highly would recommend customizing your settings; it is well worth it.

          I use my thumb buttons for voice communication. Having to type is so archaic.
          ThumbForward - Push-To-Talk
          ThumbMiddle - Use key
          ThumbBack - Teamspeak / Ventrilo

          > Valve games already do weapon switching via the mouse wheel.
          Having played FPS for year, using the mouse wheel to

          • edit:
            Having played FPS for ~ 20+ years

          • Valve games already do weapon switching via the mouse wheel.
            Having played FPS for ~ 20+ years, using the mouse wheel to select weapons is incredibly slow compared to keyboard since you need to cycle through them to get to the right weapon. It is significantly faster to just press a single key to select the correct weapon.

            I've been playing multiplayer FPS games on and off since the original Doom in 1993 (10Base2 coax LAN ftw). However, I took a break from them from sometime in 2003 (I know because Unreal Tournament 2003 was out, but 2004 wasn't) to 2008 when I picked up Team Fortress 2. Unfortunately, when I came back to them is when I picked up the habit of using the mouse wheel.

            I've played TF2 for the past 4.25 or so years. Unlike most games, TF2 has you start out with all the equipment for your class (Loadouts [teamfortress.com] aren't i

            • > I've been playing multiplayer FPS games on and off since the original Doom in 1993 (10Base2 coax LAN ftw)

              Same. :-)

              In TF2 I usually play medic and don't usually need to worry about keybinds, but when I do play other classes you're points about TF2 I agree with. :-) Valve has done a nice job of streamlining the numbers of weapons each class needs by striking a good balance between not enough and too many. Maybe I just suck at playing Spy but for some reason I find the keybinds not to be as intuitive as

      • by hawguy (1600213)

        How unenlightened, I've always wanted to put a d-pad on the thumb side of the mouse for easy weapon switching instead of reaching keys in odd spaces. Even with keyboard customization distributing the load to a hand that is more idle (the aiming hand) that merely only moves the mouse increases efficiency.

        So why don't you already have such a mouse? It's not like multi-button gaming mice don't exist.

        Here's a 17 button model:

        http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16826153064 [newegg.com]

        (not exactly a thumbable d-pad but you could use those 12 thumb buttons as a d-pad if you wanted to)

        And here's a more modest 13 button mouse:

        http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16826104377&Tpk=g700 [newegg.com]

        If there's something magic about a pure D-pad on a mouse, then design it, find a chinese manufacturer to make i

        • by nschubach (922175)

          They already make mice with d-pads... but they are designed for use with the consoles.

          I have the predecessor (non-elite) to this one for the PS3: http://www.amazon.com/Aimon-PS-Elite-PC-PS3/dp/B0044B6WYE [amazon.com]

          It works pretty well.

          • That isn't a dpad it has buttons in similar orientation of a dpad, not only that the orientation of the buttons are off and the side of the mouse is too sharp (straight). More importantly the buttons are not aligned properly, and my 'dpad' meant variations on d-pad like design. Not just cutting and pasting parts I had something specific and custom designed in mind.

        • http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16826153064

          How the hell are you going to chord on that?!! useless.

      • You're a bit too late for thumb buttons on a mouse [winarco.com]. Even my eight year old Logitech wireless mouse has two thumb buttons, GNOME maps them to the Back and Forward for web browsing, I prefer copy/paste. I map them to weapon selection in games, and use the mouse wheel and its middle click for inventory selection and use. Also I have a keypad / joystick combo. [izideal.com] Hell, I even have a "key-board" where each key can be removed and placed anywhere on the surface. [ergodex.com]

        You know what all the really radically "innovativ

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      There were/are many alternative controllers, they just never became popular because keyboard+mouse works just fine.

    • Design requirements (Score:5, Interesting)

      by zooblethorpe (686757) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @02:12PM (#41225475)

      Even basic input, the keyboard and mouse, haven’t really changed in any meaningful way over the years

      Maybe the reason for this is the basic form works. The design of the wheel hasn't changed much in a 5 thousand years either. I wonder why.

      I beg to differ. The basic design requirement of a wheel is that it's round and rolls, and I'll certainly grant you that this aspect of wheels hasn't changed. However, a rough-hewn wooden round, such as used in the simplest of carts, bears very little other resemblance to the three-spoked carbon-fiber performance bicycle wheels I see with some frequency on my morning bicycle commute. Sure, both are round and roll, but otherwise, there's thousands of years of difference between them.

      So what are the design requirements for computer input? You could start by looking at the requirements of a keyboard and a mouse: 1) Must have all the keys required to input at least ASCII. 2) Must have some kind of pointer-device control, ideally with at least two buttons.

      So sure, you can have your basic flat keyboard, and a basic mouse. Or you could have something quite different, like this [disabledonline.com], or this [disabledonline.com], or this [artlebedev.com], or this [alphagrips.com] (what I'm actually using to type this message).

      And that's not even looking into other possible input schemes, such as voice recognition [google.com], eye tracking [enablemart.com], etc.

      I applaud Valve's efforts to look into better ways of doing things. This kind of exploration is exactly what leads to new and better things.

      Cheers,

      • by hawguy (1600213)

        I beg to differ. The basic design requirement of a wheel is that it's round and rolls, and I'll certainly grant you that this aspect of wheels hasn't changed. However, a rough-hewn wooden round, such as used in the simplest of carts, bears very little other resemblance to the three-spoked carbon-fiber performance bicycle wheels I see with some frequency on my morning bicycle commute. Sure, both are round and roll, but otherwise, there's thousands of years of difference between them.

        Right, that's so unlike the mouse where the first mouse:

        http://www.techdigest.tv/The%20First%20Mouse.jpg [techdigest.tv]

        Looks exactly like a modern gaming mouse:

        http://tbreak.com/tech/2010/08/madcatz-shows-off-cyborg-r-a-t-9-gaming-mouse-at-gamescom/ [tbreak.com]

      • by jones_supa (887896) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @02:36PM (#41225803)

        Or you could have something quite different, like this [disabledonline.com], or this [disabledonline.com], or this [artlebedev.com], or this [alphagrips.com] (what I'm actually using to type this message).

        Please, don't put just "this" in every link. Let me FTFY...

        Or you could have something quite different, like Ergodex DX1 [disabledonline.com], or Win Mini [disabledonline.com], or Optimus Maximus [artlebedev.com], or AlphaGrip iGrip [alphagrips.com] (what I'm actually using to type this message).

        Better?

      • by Missing.Matter (1845576) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @02:41PM (#41225863)
        You seem to be missing the point. Valve seems to be saying that they're not seeing the kind of innovation they want in the computer hardware space, and point to the keyboard and mouse saying "Look! These aren't changing to therefore there is no innovation."

        The obvious answer is they're not changing because they don't need to. It's like pointing to the wheel and saying "It's still the same shape, there's no innovation there!" Yes, in 5 thousand years we've adding on whiz-bang features and materials, but its circumference is still pi*d because that's what works best. Anything else is sub-optimal.

        For the mouse, perhaps it's not exactly *optimal* for for our current user interfaces its pretty much the best input we have. I think for any change in the input, we're going to also need a change in the software. History shows this to be the case, as the mouse didn't really do much until we needed it for a GUI. You point to voice recognition and eye tracking, and a whole slew of other input devices, yet you neglect the fact that all these things exist yet no one uses them. Again, I believe the reason is because the deviate from the optimal input device for our GUIs (mouse), and in order for some of these alternative inputs to become as mainstream as mouse, we're going to need a user interface to compliment them. That is to say, while voice command sucks for navigating our current 2D GUI, mouse would suck for navigating a voice-centric UI.

        On a final note, I as well applaud Valve for looking into a better way of doing things. I just want to be cautious and say I hope their efforts are not misguided, and that in their quest to find a better mouse or other input device, they don't instead just invent something different for the sake of being different.
        • by tlhIngan (30335) <(ten.frow) (ta) (todhsals)> on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @03:23PM (#41226373)

          The mouse has evolved, and natural selection has killed the old style mice.

          I mean, we have mousewheels now which seem to be essential (try using a mouse without one - they get annoying quick). But you have mice that have tried other things - IBM used to put their red nubs on them for scrolling, Apple put a touchpad on them, etc. And we have mice, trackballs, and touchpads (which have evolved greatly from their useless postage-stamp sized days to the acres of surface on the Apple ones).

          Hell, there were laptops with built-in mice (not trackballs or touchpads or eraser points, but actual mouse).

          Innovation may have stopped because they've matured, and we've reached a stage where they're really not much you can do that hasn't been tried before and natural selection killed it. Plus, considering a basic mouse is usable, costs probably $5 assembled tops, and is good enough (not a far cry from Jobs' demand that the Mac mouse cost $20 tops, though Apple makes terrible, horrendous mice (and always have), perhaps that's why they use touchpads).

          Keyboards, again you see a bit, but there's only so much you can do with the key layout before people can't type on them anymore. Maybe if you made it a key pad for gaming or something.

          Maybe a joypad can be improved a bit - though something like the Xbox360 one is pretty damn comfortable to use and definitely one I use for playing games on the PC with...

    • But you're wrong... it doesn't work. The current mouse/keyboard only works when sitting at a desk. Try it on your couch and you're screwed. The Gamepad works on the couch but is severely limited in its function. We need the easy of use of one with the advanced functionality of the other. And this is just 1 component. Sounds like valve wants to look at more than just keyboards...
      • But you're wrong... it doesn't work. The current mouse/keyboard only works when sitting at a desk.

        That's like saying the wheel doesn't work unless it's rolling on the road. Try flying with it and you're screwed. The keyboard and mouse have been optimized to accomplish work on our desktop GUIs, and our GUIs have been optimized to work with mouse and keyboard. To point at this and say (as Valve is) "Things haven't changed much, there must be a problem with innovation" seems to sidestep the question of whether there is any real problem we have for which we need to innovate a solution.

    • by DragonTHC (208439)

      I'm pretty sure they're referring to the novint Falcon 3D.

      Steam has supported this for a long while. I's love to see hardware come from valve. The whole company is a skunk works of sorts. Their hardware would be no different.

    • Even basic input, the keyboard and mouse, haven’t really changed in any meaningful way over the years

      Maybe the reason for this is the basic form works. The design of the wheel hasn't changed much in a 5 thousand years either. I wonder why.

      Actually, the design has changed. We don't make them out of stone anymore, we pay special attention to friction, and plenty of other attributes. It's the the overall idea that hasn't changes; "being round".

  • by aaaaaaargh! (1150173) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @01:53PM (#41225209)

    Keyboard and mouse haven't changed significantly over the years because they work well. Until we have mind control , I doubt anybody will come up with something better than keyboard and mouse anytime soon.

    As for built quality, well, that's another thing. Arguably, the quality of keyboards has constantly declined since Model M except for remakes like Unicomp and keyboards with Cherry switches. It would be great if Valves console had a great keyboard but somehow I doubt it...

    • by Baloroth (2370816)

      They do work well. But something else might work better, especially for gaming which is where Valve is interested. Lots of 3rd party tools try various little things, like built-in displays, but without a standardization and widespread support they are mostly just gimmicks. The wheel example is an interesting one. Wheels work just fine for moderately light-weight vehicles traveling over relatively smooth terrain. But tanks use treads, not wheels, because that is better for what they need. We won't know if so

      • by tepples (727027) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {selppet}> on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @02:22PM (#41225593) Homepage Journal

        console controllers, for example, are actually better for some games, such as platformers or racers, though not for FPS or RTS games

        As I tried to type a long post on my Nexus 7 tablet a few days ago, I realized something. Pressing buttons on a keyboard or a gamepad is like touch typing, as the player memorizes where the buttons are relative to his thumbs' resting positions and uses the feel of the edges of the buttons to adjust his hand positioning. Using a mouse or touch screen, on the other hand, is like hunt and peck: see something on the screen, move your mouse, and click. Aiming in FPS and selecting units in RTS are nearly ideal hunt and peck tasks; platformers and fighting games need touch typing because movement is relative to the player's current position.

        I've written more about this [pineight.com].

  • Maybe they can forget all this crap that no one REALLY wants and just finish Half Life 3.
  • by rasmusbr (2186518) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @02:11PM (#41225467)

    "Even basic input, the keyboard and mouse, haven’t really changed in any meaningful way over the years. There's a real void in the marketplace, and opportunities to create compelling user experiences are being overlooked"

    Yeah, aside from the Wiimote and Kinect and every other product that has changed the input in a meaningful way.

    It sounds to me like Valve is interested in developing a gaming laptop with Kinect-like functionality built in. That is an interesting idea, but it's nothing particularly revolutionary. Successful products are seldom revolutionary, so that's not a bad thing. Good luck Valve, with whatever it is you're doing!

  • I am one of those geeks who bring their own hardware to the office simply because I point blank refuse to work with cheap shit. In other industries this is perfectly normal, chefs, bakers, carpenters they all got their own tools and only a fool would try to come between a pro and his tools.

    Yet in the office, people work behind the cheapest monitors that some boss could find and mice and keyboards that would be overpriced if they were free, which they were and which they are.

    It seems people just think a penn

    • by Fwipp (1473271)

      A penny a day? So if I save for 10 years, I'll be able to buy a $36.50 monitor?

  • And this is news?! (Score:4, Informative)

    by tibit (1762298) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @02:21PM (#41225583)

    Come on. Jeri Ellsworth [wikipedia.org] is working for them. I doubt she's writing PC games, duh. There was a hackaday article [hackaday.com] about that a quarter ago. I don't follow this industry and even I've known about it for a while. Sigh.

  • by vlm (69642) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @02:22PM (#41225595)

    Even basic input, the keyboard and mouse, haven’t really changed in any meaningful way over the years.

    The trackball? The joystick (which seems to almost be dead hardware compared to a decade ago)

    I'm more of a old-school RPG / military strategy guy but for FPS I've occasionally wondered what a right hand joystick left hand trackball FPS interface would be like. Foot pedals would be interesting for a FPS interface, not some annoying wii-type thing where you have to jog to force exercise, but just constant pressure to move or jump or strafe or whatever.

  • Perhaps one arguable reason for the lack of innovation compared to periods in the past is the expense. I don't mean to frame this exclusively as a monetary issue. Dealing with patents and the current litigious climate I imagine it to be extremely difficult for the smaller guys to get a foothold who have traditionally been the ones to drive innovation. I realize this isn't the entire picture or else we wouldn't have exciting things happening on KickStarter. None the less I'm pleased to hear Valve taking an i
  • by Sta7ic (819090) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @03:21PM (#41226343)

    Speculation:

    A mouse that has a dedicated scroll wheel for hats.
    Extra buttons for hat-based emotes: tip, straighten, salute, decapitating throw.
    Two- and three- factor authentication.
    Age recognition scanners to auto-ban 13-year-olds.
    Hat-shaped controllers with force feedback.
    Tickle-Me Companion Cube with lifelike 'clunking' sounds.

  • by Frogg (27033) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @04:07PM (#41226873)

    ...after recent comments from Valve re. developing on Linux (easy to port to, better performance than DirectX, ability to work with / feedback commits to driver devs, etc) — plus Gabe Newell recently calling Windows 8 a catastrophe — I would not be at all surprised if we saw a Valve-branded Linux-based games console in the near future.

    But maybe that's just wishful thinking on my part?

  • Jerry Ellsworth, Jeff Keyzer and a few other hardware devs were sucked up by Valve months ago.
  • by Osgeld (1900440) on Tuesday September 04, 2012 @07:58PM (#41229487)

    You wanna make a game computer, super great, but I don't see their reasoning

    "We're frustrated by the lack of innovation in the computer hardware space"

    what? video cards keep getting more powerful and add hardware accelerated features, CPU's as well, monitors get bigger and sometimes more pixels and you the developers have damn near infinite amounts of ram and storage. Its not the lack of innovation in hardware, its YOU damn developers who wont get past your XBOX360 specs from over a half decade ago and never looking at anything else.

    "'Even basic input, the keyboard and mouse, haven’t really changed in any meaningful way over the years."

    Cause for many types of game it works very well

      "There's a real void in the marketplace,"

    Where? Its not in computer hardware, you just ignore that it exists, Its not in computer input cause you can get or adapt any type of controller imaginable for a PC, the only void I have seen is that theres not that much software thats little more than an after thought console port.

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