Steam What?

In order to test a game that I’m developing at the moment I built myself a budget Steam Box (because what’s the point of building a high-end box when I want my game to be accessible for everyone?) The all-in cost came to less than £200, using a 1.6GHz quad core Athlon processor, and I’m far more impressed with it than I thought I would be.
Having built my box, I took it for a test-drive. Some things work amazingly well (power frugal games like Braid, for example, but big hitters like Brütal Legend are very playable too), but let’s back up a moment…
First of all, what doesn’t work? Well, I couldn’t pair my bluetooth game controller and some games displayed only a black screen. The latter is a known issue with ATi graphics cards, and will be fixed. The former, I’m sure, will be sorted out at some point in the future.
Some things kind of work, if you aren’t too fussy about a dictionary accurate definition of the word ‘work’. With ATi graphics cards, sound is crackly and breaks up quite badly. Again, this is a known issue and will be fixed in a future release. Knowing that it will be resolved makes me quite sanguine about it – it’s fine, and I can live with it for now.
The problem, as I see it, isn’t with Steam OS. It’s with the games that run on Steam OS. Many work perfectly but many have been so cack-handedly developed that they require a keyboard and mouse to be played. On a console. This would be forgivable if it only affected games like Civilization (although I’m sure that Civilization could be developed to work well with a game pad, given a little thought), but it doesn’t. Even games like Worms, which work perfectly with a gamepad on other consoles, require a keyboard and mouse on Steam OS. I don’t know if the official Steam game controller will ease the situation, but I fear it won’t.
As I see it (and please note that I’m not a massively enthusiastic games player, so what do I know?), Steam OS stands a chance of being a revolution in gaming if the Games publishers step up and make their games controller compatible. If they don’t then we’ll be asking ‘Steam What?’ in a few years time.

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