On January 15 and 16, Valve is holding a special event. I'm not invited. You're probably not either. It's called "Steam Developer Days", and it's a two-day conference designed to showcase Valve's upcoming living-room-centric PCs, the Steam Machines.
During the conference, which will feature guest speakers from companies like AMD, Oculus, and Nvidia, attendees will get to test out Valve's hardware initiative, which includes a bizarre new controller and Linux-based PCs designed to be used on a big-screen TV.
To quote Valve:
Steam Dev Days is a two-day game developers' conference where professionals can meet in a relaxed, off the record environment. Developers will share their design and industry expertise, participate in roundtable discussions and attend lectures by industry veterans on topics ranging from game economies to VR, Linux/OpenGL, user-generated content and more. Developers will also have direct access to Valve's Steam Team, and will be given a chance to test-drive and provide feedback on Steam OS, prototype Steam Machines and Steam Controllers.
So, yes. This is an exclusive event. No regular ol' gamers allowed. No press, either. Just developers, publishers, and other gaming professionals that Valve decides to invite behind the ropes.
Late last week, Valve asked if I'd like to shoot over some questions for an e-mail interview with their marketing/business dev manager DJ Powers. Although they wouldn't answer some of my questions — specifically the ones about just what kind of Steam Machines will be available next year — Powers did give a few interesting answers. Here's the full conversation:
Kotaku: You guys say you're looking for developer feedback on SteamOS and the Steam Controller - do you anticipate either of those things changing significantly over the next few months? What sort of stuff are you married to, and what would you be willing to change due to overwhelming feedback? For example, would you ever consider getting rid of the trackpads in favour of joysticks, or something that drastic?
Powers: We are running the test to find out. If we do get overwhelming feedback to change something on the prototypes, no matter how big it is, it will be looked at and considered. As with our software, we have developed these to a stage where we have a lot of faith in the foundation of the work. But we know from experience that there's incredible learning that comes when something is put into the hands of larger audiences. This event is just one of many places for us to gather that sort of feedback.
Kotaku: What sort of feedback have you already received from developers on SteamOS, the Steam Controller, and Steam Machines?
Powers: We've had some comments on the surface of the Controller. For example, Tommy from Super Meat Boy suggested having raised bumps on the controller for him to land his fingers on where traditionally buttons would be when playing a platformer. And we have built a prototype for him to test. Other than that, partners have been very positive and are eager to get their hands on the API and start creating for it.
"If we do get overwhelming feedback to change something on the prototypes, no matter how big it is, it will be looked at and considered."
Kotaku: Will [readers] have any way to see or hear what's going on at this event?
Powers: The larger, formal presentations will be recorded and made available after the event. However, the smaller and more intimate breakout sessions will not be captured or replayed. One of the reasons we are encouraging everyone who can to attend is that we expect some of the most useful exchanges will be those happening developer to developer, publisher to publisher in the less formal, more spontaneous portions of the event.
Kotaku: Valve has mentioned that the company isn't interested in SteamOS exclusives, but given that you guys are holding an event like this, are there any plans to partner with any outside developers for software built specifically for Steam Machines?
Powers: No. The goal of Steam has always been providing a platform that puts developers and publishers in the best position to make their customers happy. The goal of this event is for us to share information about our recent and coming additions to Steam. And, perhaps more importantly, is the value that will come from providing a forum for Steam developers and publishers to share information on the problems and successes they've had working with Steam.
"The goal of Steam has always been providing a platform that puts developers and publishers in the best position to make their customers happy."
Kotaku: Many developers still believe that there's no market for games on Linux - how do you plan to convince them that this is the right place to direct their time and energy?
Powers: It's something that we are attacking on every front, and realise there is both more work and some convincing to do, that's one of the reasons we are holding this event. On one front, we are doing a lot of work with hardware manufacturers to boost driver performance on Linux games. And folks will have a chance to speak with representatives from AMD, Intel, and Nvidia about that work. On another front, we have done a lot of work bringing our own games to Linux and are sharing the tools and processes we've found helpful in streamlining the process. These folks will be speaking at the Dev Days as well. These things, and others, are helping make the move to Linux and SteamOS easier and more fruitful. We believe it will only get better as we continue this work, and the Steam Dev Days are part of that effort.