Vote for Omij

Posted by on Mar 18, 2014 in Blog | 1 comment

UPBOATSOmij is now on the Steam Workshop and ready for your votes. If you’d like to see the official Jimo ward added to the Dota 2 store login to Steam and select the rate button. If accepted the revenue earned will go towards improving my guides.

A OWL

Collaborating with Red Moon Workshop has been an incredibly fun experience and I look forward to working with them in the future on some guides. Big thanks to Bounch, Helenek and Oroboros for creating such a fantastic ward and making my vision come to life. I owe each of you multiple beers the next time we meet up.

I also wanted to thank everyone who has supported my writing. I’m looking to the future and I can’t wait to see what it brings.

Omij, Sentinel of Knowledge

Posted by on Mar 14, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

Introducing Omij, the Sentinel of Knowledge, a Dota 2 ward created by Red Moon Workshop and myself inspired by my guides. We began collaborating on this project earlier in the year and now that development is in full swing I’m happy to share more information and the thought process behind the design.

This is the first concept. We decided on design B as we felt the silhouette was better suited for a ward.

This is the first concept. We decided on design B as we felt the silhouette was better suited for a ward.

We set out to create a ward that symbolizes wisdom. Wards are static objects which are placed in the game to provide vision to team members in otherwise obstructed areas of the map. Owls are observers and are commonly associated with knowledge in many fantasy novels. Keeping with the theme of wisdom, we included books to the base of the owls pedestal  which represent guides, the main inspiration for the item.

The finalized concept.

The finalized concept.

The ward is still a work in progress and will be ready for the Steam Workshop soon. Be sure to follow RedMoon Workshop on Twitter and Facebook for more updates from Oroboros, BounchFX and Andrew Helenek. You can also join my Steam Group for more updates from myself.

SteamOS In-Home Streaming

Posted by on Mar 11, 2014 in Blog, Steam Hardware Beta | 3 comments

Since my last update two great features have been added to the Steam Hardware beta which improve the overall experience. Steam Music and the long-awaited in-home streaming. At first I couldn’t find much a use for in-home streaming as most of the games I play on Steam are cross-platform compatible. However after a few patches support was added for streaming non-Steam games, including those which use launchers. This opens the door to games from developers such as Blizzard who create popular titles like Hearthstone, WoW and Diablo which all use the Battle.net launcher.

Wireless adapter which came with the Steam Machine.

Wireless adapter which came with the Steam Machine.

I decided to give Diablo 3 a try wirelessly to see how it performs in preparation for the upcoming expansion. I had a few issues at first getting everything working as games with launchers can be a little awkward to setup with the in-home streaming feature. I had to keep going back and fourth to make sure the game was running on the computer in Big Picture mode before selecting stream on the Steam Machine otherwise it wouldn’t show up. It worked relatively well once I worked out the kinks, however with my router sitting roughly 20ft  away between three walls there is some noticeable latency due to obstruction and distance. Without taking a look at my router settings I was streaming Diablo 3 at 1920 x 1080 at around 30ms average, although I’d frequently get spikes bringing it to anywhere between 90 and 200ms. It’s not ideal and I’m still investigating solutions to try to make things smoother.

Reaper of Souls time! Almost...

Reaper of Souls time! Almost…

I feel Steam Music is a step in the right direction for inclusive SteamOS entertainment. The feature is very early beta and has a lot of room for potential. I would love to see support for popular licensed online radio stations such as Digitally Imported and BBC Radio 1. It would also be nice to be able to link your iTunes  and Google Music library over your network allowing you to stream music from your home computer to the Steam Machine without being in an existing game streaming session.

Shameless self-promotion.

Shameless self-promotion.

SteamOS seems to be steadily progressing and I’m excited to see these two features be expanded upon in the coming months. If you’re interested in learning more about the Steam Music feature checkout the guide I created below.

Guide to Holding Dog Leads

Posted by on Mar 6, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

Nobody has ever sat me down and said “James, this is how you hold a lead”. They shouldn’t have to because it’s common sense. Well apparently common sense doesn’t apply to me. The other day my Springer Spaniel-Lab mix, Magnus, managed to fracture my knuckle. How? Well apparently I wasn’t holding the lead correctly.

Incorrect.

Incorrect.

Correct.

Correct.

I was walking Magnus when I got distracted talking to somebody. Magnus saw another dog and charged at full force towards it. Before I could react I lost grip of the lead and the only finger left in the loop took the full force of the pull. The bone cracking sound I heard will most likely haunt me for the rest of my life.

It's pretty easy to tell which finger is having problems.

It’s pretty easy to tell which finger is having problems.

The bone fractured through the knuckle, resulting in me needing surgery due to the fact that I couldn’t move it at all. I had to have multiple permanent screws placed into the bone so I’m now partially metallic, which is kind of cool.

Hes too cute to be mad at.

Hes too cute to be mad at.

So let that be a lesson to all of you inexperienced dog owners. Hold the lead correctly or your finger could end up like mine.

First Month with the Steam Machine

Posted by on Jan 27, 2014 in Blog, Steam Hardware Beta | 1 comment

It’s been just over a month since I received the prototype Steam Machine from Valve.

In my first update I talked about the Steam Controller and my initial struggles with it. I’ve been using the controller rather frequently and I have certainly improved with it over time. I’ve found that typing with the daisywheel is now going a lot faster and general navigation comes more naturally to me. It still takes me quite some time to configure the controller for every game I play, however now that developers have their own Steam Controllers from Steam Dev Days  it’s only a matter of time until titles start to have proper support for it.

Prototype Steam Controller.

Prototype Steam Controller.

After reading reports from Steam Dev Days I’m excited to see what the future holds for the controller. The second prototype looks promising and seems like a big improvement over the current model. I’ve also heard talk of more customization options being opened up as time goes on which will help a lot. The biggest problem I’m having with the Steam Controller right now is playing competitive FPS games such as Counter-Strike and Team Fortress 2. Seeing as the Steam Controller sits within the world of PC gaming I find it frustrating playing these types of games against people with a keyboard and mouse. It makes me want to return to my desktop whenever I fail in a situation I would have usually found trivial.  This is more of a personal problem as opposed to an issue with the device although I’m sure other people will share a similar view at first.

The Steam Machine itself has been great. I’ve reported a number of bugs and SteamOS is frequently getting updated showing improvements all the time. The machine has become a lot more attractive to use since in-home streaming is now an option. Steam has a large library of Linux titles but some of the more popular single player games are Windows only. I’ve had minimal issues with the in-home streaming and it works great even over wireless. I really like that they give you the option of streaming non-steam games also, making it possible to play games such as Diablo 3 or World of Warcraft from your sofa.

Front of the prototype Steam Machine.

Front of the prototype Steam Machine.

Testing continues as usual and I hope to share more content in the coming months as more functionality is added to both SteamOS and the controller. If you’re interested I did an interview with KritzKast on my experiences with the beta and I have also written two Steam guides which give you insight on customizing the Steam Controller binds and getting started with the SteamOS beta.

SteamOS and Voice Chat

Posted by on Jan 10, 2014 in Blog, Steam Hardware Beta | 1 comment

Most PC gamers use some form of external software to communicate with friends while they game. Some popular examples of this would be Mumble, Teamspeak and Ventrilo. If the idea of the Steam Machine is to make PC gaming more accessible in the living room I can imagine there being a demand for this type of software.

So the question is what does SteamOS use? SteamOS has a built in voice chat function available to anybody using any form of the Steam client. While this option is convenient it has some drawbacks. Steam voice chat suffers from poor audio quality and unlike people using the Steam client you’re unable to join or invite multiple users to a group chat session. It also suffers from quite a bit of latency compared to the more popular options.

Blue Snowflake

Blue Snowflake

So the question that a lot of people have been asking is can you install third-party voice chat software? I’ve been using Mumble for years so I decided to give it a go. After reading through some documentation and knowing that SteamOS is built on Debian, I thought I could just run this single command in the terminal and be done.

sudo apt-get install mumble

Of course it was not that easy. The terminal told me it couldn’t find the package and I was going to call it a day until I came across this thread on the Steam forums. After spending some time typing commands into the terminal and editing configurations I had successfully added the Debian repository and I was now able to install Mumble using the previously used command. This was tricky, and for somebody who is inexperienced with Linux it was rather daunting.

After a reboot of the Steam Machine my USB microphone was detected and I was able to access a Mumble server. The microphone sounded great and everything was going well.

If it wasn't for my friend Robert Butler I probably couldn't have got this working.

If it wasn’t for my friend Robert Butler I probably couldn’t have got this working.

I like to use Push-to-Talk when using Mumble, so I assigned a shortcut key with the initial thought that I could bind a controller button to that key to activate Mumble in-game. Once everything was setup I exited the desktop and returned to the SteamOS main menu. It turns out inputs sent from the SteamOS interface to the desktop side don’t register, meaning you’re unable to activate Push-to-Talk. The only workaround to this is using voice activation or open mic which is not practical for a living room environment. I tried testing this from the main menu, with a keyboard instead of the controller, and while playing a game. I had no luck despite my best efforts.

The bottom line is yes, you can install third-party voice chat software. It’s not easy to do right now and there are issues, but it’s a beta for a reason. I feel there needs to be a lot of improvement in this area before release in regards to making it easier to obtain and use for the average user. Considering that Steam is one of the largest digital distributors in the world I have faith that some form of solution for this will eventually come. It would be nice to see more free software like Mumble come to Steam and a way for the two to co-exist simultaneously on SteamOS.