Sections

Celebrating employer excellence in the video games industry

8th July 2021

Submit your company

Falcon Northwest skips Steam OS because of "limitations"

Software can't currently match Windows 10 in high end machines, says firm

Falcon Northwest was one of the higher-profile manufacturers to pitch its Steam Machine line when specs and pricing were announced in March, partly thanks to offering the highest price point of all the smaple models: a $4,999 beast of a machine with a custom granite base to stop it falling over. Now, the company has revealed that it won't actually be making a Steam Machine in the first round, blaming "limitations of SteamOS with high-end PC builds" for the change of heart.

Speaking to Venture Beat, Falcon Northwest president Kelt Reeves said that his firm had been in discussion with Valve regarding the restrictions of the new operating system, and had made the decision on amicable terms, hoping to address the problems in the near future.

"We met with Valve about our reservations concerning the limitations of SteamOS with high-end PC builds, and they agreed they were not issues that could be overcome in time for us to launch a Steam Machine this year," said Reeves. "But they were genuinely interested in working to address them in future SteamOS builds. So the option for us to produce a Steam Machine is still open, and our Tiki PCs have been in production for years as Windows systems and are always ready. But for now, we've put our plans to offer a Steam Machine on hold."

Although Reeves diplomatically declined to go into further detail, many of Steam OS's problems seem to lie with the non-optimal nature of graphics drivers for the system's underlying progenitor: Linux. Lacking the efficiency which comes from several years of tweaking for Windows systems, Linux graphics drivers simply haven't been the target of so much professional attention, leaving them lagging behind. In fact, recent tests by ArsTechnica show that a dual-boot machine runs games noticably more slowly when running under Valve's software than Microsoft's.

Whilst Valve continues to push the hardware this week, having launched its Steam controller and Steam Link systems recently, only three manufacturers are featured on the Steam site, Alienware, Syber and Zotac Nen. More are coming, says Valve, but at the moment, the launch is feeling rather flat. With Windows 10 having launched more smoothly and to a better reception than some expected, Valve could be facing an uphill battle.

Celebrating employer excellence in the video games industry

8th July 2021

Submit your company

More stories

Valve's SteamSpy snub will only hurt smaller developers

And thus begins a rant about digital data

By Christopher Dring

Valve: Steam Direct submissions could be "somewhat higher" than Greenlight

Steam Direct is now live, Valve talks "more transparent and predictable" system for new developers

By Matthew Handrahan

Latest comments (9)

Chris Thornett Editor at Future Publishing 5 years ago
It's not just graphic drivers. Performance also takes a hit from the wrappers being used to make DirectX games run on the platform. Games are also often ported to Mac first, which means dialling down a games graphical spec, and then finally, to Linux. So by the time many games get to Steam OS they are often a weak and pale reflection of their original selves.
3Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 5 years ago
Performance also takes a hit from the wrappers being used to make DirectX games run on the platform.
Not too knowledgeable about all this, so do correct me if I'm wrong, but this'll be why there's a push from Valve and others to using Vulkan (or at the very least OpenGL 4), right? So that it's less about shoe-horning DX features into non-native-DX OSs, and more about using a platform-agnostic graphics API? Though Vulkan seems to have been shunted to the side since Windows 10/DX12.1 released a few months back.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Curt Sampson Sofware Developer 5 years ago
I read that Ars Technica article with great interest and, while Linux having poorer performance on games doesn't surprise me in the slightest, there's some really dodgy stuff in the article that they should have followed up upon. The Geekbench benchmarks showed not-insignificant differences in pure CPU performance, and even a difference in memory bandwidth; the only reasonable explanation for those differing between two competently written OSes is that "something in our test configuration that shouldn't be there is affecting the performance of our machines." (Or, "the benchmark is broken.") Whatever the problem there was, you'd want to fix that before doing further benchmarking.
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Show all comments (9)
Adam Campbell Product Manager, Azoomee5 years ago
Though Vulkan seems to have been shunted to the side since Windows 10/DX12.1 released a few months back.
It always take some time for a new OpenGL standard to be finalised, so to be honest I don't think the excitement surrounding DX12 had much of an impact.
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany5 years ago
I don't get how this could happen...
Just to make sure I understood this; steam machines were designed to take the best from consoles: A dedicated gaming machine, with all the hardware use advantages that it has (like being able to run a game with less powerful hardware than in PC). Doesn't this beat the purpose almost completely.

Just asking out of curiosity. I'm open minded to this machines but I'm still skeptical; people who did choose a PC over a console (and vice-versa) know the pros and cons of each one. Others (like me) play almost equally on both. Some other people prefer Mobile gaming. Who is this hardware for?
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Tudor Nita Lead Programmer, Gameloft Romania5 years ago
Who is this hardware for?
Valve. They seem to be the only ones making a direct gain from this push.

However, indirectly, this will affect the consumer facing side of Linux, which is still, despite all efforts, in its embryonic stage. Additionally, if Valve's statements are to be accepted at face value, it might, somewhat, alleviate the virtual monopoly MS has over the PC gaming sector.
6Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Tom Keresztes Programmer 5 years ago
It always take some time for a new OpenGL standard to be finalised, so to be honest I don't think the excitement surrounding DX12 had much of an impact.
OpenGL can be made fast or as fast as DX, developers hardly make an effort nowadays to optimise anything - optimise seems mean it makes use of, instead of making efficient use.

This is from the Steam dev days sessions :
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bCeNzgiJ8I

Another note for the benchmarks : X11, like OSX always composites into a a surface (texture for a window), which is lot more flexible and system friendly (on OSX all the GUI is GL accelerated) but inherently slower for games. Valve replaced the compositor on SteamOS though.
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Adam Campbell Product Manager, Azoomee5 years ago
@Tom I wasn't talking optimisation or speed, but the actual release and adoption of of Vulkan. As the next version OpenGL, it doesn't surprise me its not here, because it always takes some time for them to be finalised and to become mainstream.

I'm aware that GL is potentially just as fast or faster than DirectX, because I've used it, but there could definitely be significant gains with this API in any case seeing as reducing overhead is one of its main purposes.
2Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Robert Mac-Donald Game Designer, Lethe Games5 years ago
steam machines were designed to take the best from consoles: A dedicated gaming machine, with all the hardware use advantages that it has (like being able to run a game with less powerful hardware than in PC). Doesn't this beat the purpose almost completely.

Steam machines/SteamOS were created to compete against Windows and to promote Linux. This all started back then when Gaben was concerned that windows 8+ would force everyone to install games/software only through an App, like on mobile. SteamOS is meant to keep the PC ecosystem open as it has always been (edit: and of course, that means Valve can stay #1 as the digital distributor, instead of a Windows service). And I figure a steam machine is a way to sell a hardware that comes pre-installed with Linux, to make its acceptance come even faster.

http://store.steampowered.com/search/?show_all=1#sort_by=_ASC&category1=998&page=1
There are currently 6938 windows games on Steam. (make sure you filter games only). It shows on the bottom of the page "showing1 - 25 of 6938"

When you tick Linux, it has 1636 games. A big portion of those games were ported recently with the announcement of steamos/machines

Hopefully in a few years that gap will close, having both Steam and GoG promote linux. And more importantly, maybe we'll see more new releases coming to linux on day 1

Basically, after mobile stores and NSA scandals, there are many people who want to stop using Windows altogether.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Robert Mac-Donald on 17th November 2015 11:40pm

0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply

Sign in to contribute

Need an account? Register now.