Antichamber for PC Might be My Next Portal

I started playing Antichamber last night with a friend. It’s quite possibly the most mind-expanding experience I’ve had since I played Portal for the first time.

Whilst infuriating and difficult at times, the game itself isn’t the challenge presented. The mind of the player is the challenge; your brain must be wired a certain way in order to complete the game.

Absolutely amazing. I can’t wait to finish it.

From its Steam Store page:

Antichamber is a mind-bending psychological exploration game where nothing can be taken for granted. Discover an Escher-like world where hallways wrap around upon each other, spaces reconfigure themselves, and accomplishing the impossible may just be the only way forward.

Several years in the making, Antichamber received over 25 awards and honors throughout its development, in major competitions including the Independent Games Festival, the PAX10, IndieCade and Make Something Unreal.

This quote from Rock, Paper, Shotgun nails it:

“Even as the developer told me what the game was doing to mess with my brain while I was playing it, it still succeeded in messing with my brain.”

Valve: an Outside Contender for the Future of “Console” Gaming?

In a somewhat impromptu interview with Kotaku’s Jason Schreier, Gabe Newell, the head of Valve, discussed the next steps for Steam:

Newell said Valve's current goal was to figure out how to make PCs work better in the living room. He said the reaction to Steam's TV-friendly Big Picture interface has been “stronger than expected,” and that their next step is to get Steam Linux out of beta and to get Big Picture on that operating system, which would give Valve more flexibility when developing their own hardware.

Gabe is certainly pushing Linux heavily at the moment. I imagine this must mainly be due to a combination of two things:

  1. Windows 8 is much less friendly to third party game developers and distributors like Valve. The Windows App Store is direct competition to Valve’s Steam Store.

  2. The more control any software company has over hardware, the more tightly integrated the two can become. If Valve controls the hardware and the operating system, it seems logical that the Valve gaming experience could greatly improve. Whether it actually improves is a question of execution.

It makes sense for Valve to design a “Steam OS”, built on Linux and optimised for Steam’s distribution methods and catalogue, with a focus on optimising the entire gaming experience. This seems to be what’s happening:

Newell says that he expects companies to start selling PCs designed for the living room next year — with Steam preloaded — and that Valve will create its own.

Is control over hardware and software important for Gabe? It seems so:

“Well certainly our hardware will be a very controlled environment,”

People no longer want to manage all the cruft which comes along with PC gaming: graphics cards, drivers, updating and worrying about frame rates are nothing but headaches and relics of the past. If Valve released moderately powerful hardware, bundled with a “Steam OS” and took away the hassles associated with PC gaming, they could be on to a winner. Having this level of control over hardware and software would likely give Valve the ability to create a better gaming experience, either in the living room or on a PC device.

Amazon has taken a similar approach with tablets and it seems to be doing quite well for them. Amazon took stock Android as a foundation, designed their own shell and shipped custom hardware running it. Valve will take desktop Linux, customise it as they see fit, and package the software in hardware approved by them.

Existing PC users who are unwilling to lose control of custom hardware would likely be satisfied with the third party hardware Gabe said would be available—although I find it hard to believe that third party hardware will be as well integrated as Valve’s own.

I wonder if existing console manufacturers even consider Valve a threat to their business today. Perhaps they should.