Valve Launches Steam Big Picture Beta

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Valve made available today, in beta form, its Big Picture interface mode for Steam. Announced last year, Big Picture mode brings the Steam Store and all of your Steam games into the living room. The new interface is designed for television screens and is streamlined for easier navigation through a controller-friendly interface, though mouse and keyboard inputs work just as well.

The interface itself is easy to access once a user allows beta updates in the program settings. After updating, the Steam interface appears largely unchanged except for the addition of a large clickable area at the top right corner of the application window that reads “Big Picture”. Upon launching Big Picture mode, you are presented with a short animation of pixels and the Steam logo. This animation seems to be less than optimized as it runs poorly on the three computers I tested. Thankfully, that introduction only lasts a few seconds and you are soon presented with the home screen. The home screen is an elegant mix of simple geometry, text, and floating animated background tiles.

The overall design of the new Big Picture mode seems to bring together the best parts of other software and services that you may be familiar with such as Windows 8, Windows Media Center, Netflix on PS3, Amazon Prime, and Hulu. Though, those similarities may simply be reflective of an industry shift towards simpler interface designs emphasizing basic geometric shapes and text. Overall, the Big Picture interface seems to take the best parts of interfaces you have already experienced, which I posit reduces the learning curve greatly.

Big Picture mode comes at a time when rumors of a Steam console-type device are being reignited after the company posted a job listing for a hardware engineer. While Steam has denied such rumors, the availability of Big Picture mode now adds more fuel to the fire. Even their Big Picture introduction video emphasizes the accommodations made for controllers. Whatever Steam may have planned, Big Picture mode should entice PC gamers to bring their rigs into the living room.

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