This is Ferrish07 with my first article (Ever, so please be gentle!) about my latest project “Steam Box”
As my day job of a computer systems technician it’s my job to keep on top of IT and tech news updates as well as fixing anything and everything IT related. This involves a lot of tinkering and playing around with new ideas and what not. It’s great as this is what I do in most of my spare time and while at work so win win!!!
Adam2Marsh came to me after hearing about my creation of a Steam Box, I’ve been FAR more into PC gaming recently than console; don’t get me wrong I’m still game for consoles but prefer the PC. The one thing the PC can’t beat is the comfort of console gaming in the lounge and the speed of booting a console (to an extent!).
So with Linux users now having a Steam client and big picture mode looking interesting I decided to make use of my spare rig and install Ubuntu 12.10 and prepare the Steam Box. This can be done with a windows PC but I chose Ubuntu as the start-up is usually quicker and it is easier play around with applications etc. As it is pretty much open source.
To see if Ubuntu is your cup of tea you can choose to try it as part of the live CD function which wont make any changes to your computer set up.
The rig that was going to be my project “Steam Box” consists of the following set up:
• Dual core Pentium CPU
• 4Gb of RAM
• 250Gb Hardrive
• NVidia GeForce 9800 GT (Roughly 1Gb graphics card)
• MSI motherboard (not sure of the model)
• Corsair 450W PSU
• Official wired Xbox 360 wired controller
• Keyboard & mouse
To those who might find Ubuntu and Linux daunting and difficult before even starting I can truly say that it is not the case. Ubuntu is very user-friendly in a way it will ask if you want to install and use the whole hardrive or install alongside Windows (I opted for using the whole disk) and after entering some user info you’re done!
Next was installing the software and configuring Ubuntu to work as a console firstly and most obviously go to Steam and install the client once logged in head to the steam tab, hit settings and hit the interface tab. Tick run steam when computer starts and start steam in big picture mode.
Now the job to tell Ubuntu to log in automatically and start steam, similar to windows Ubuntu has a start-up function which is easy to use but finding the application path can be tricky if you’re not used to the file structure. There are 2 ways of doing this:
1. Using the “start-up applications” program where you map instructions to tell what applications are going to start on boot.
2. Using settings in Steam to tell it open on log in and to start in big picture mode.
I tried both options to see which was easier and to see which worked better. They both did what I need them to do but using Steam settings was easier than searching for the correct file path and execution in start-up applications. There are still a few bugs I found with the start-up method, which is understandable as this is using the Ubuntu and the steam client is still new and big picture mode is still in Beta as far as I’m aware while writing this.
Ubuntu boots up, logs straight n and launches Steam in big picture mode and logs into my account = great start!
But as you have to tell Steam to open on log in it sends me straight back to the store menu page of the Steam client! Annoying but this was never going to be fool proof! I’m sure with more tinkering it CAN be done!
So with that relatively working well I looked through my library of 205 games to try out and because I’m running this on Linux I have 2! Team fortress 2 and Amnesia: Dark Descent. As I haven’t got round to playing Amnesia (along with the rest of my pile of shame!) I opted for TFT2
Unfortunately this had partial controller support, which works well if you only plan on moving around and not shooting or jumping etc. so had to use the trusty old keyboard and mouse combo.
It worked well and I’m glad I tried project Steam Box but help but think that the steam box idea with a few modifications and future support is going to become a reality in most gamer’s homes under their TV with a smaller case and a better graphics card a steam box is going to be a much more affordable way to incorporate next gen gaming for the same price as the not yet announced next Xbox or PlayStation which on release if I remember correctly were £400-£500 which in a matter of fact you can out together a really nice looking PC/Steam Box that will run at the same graphics if not better.
This was in no way a dig at console gaming, I still very like to play games on consoles I just think with what looks like gaming coming to a digital download age, the introduction to cloud gaming/game saves and with the end of a long current console generation more and more people are trying out PC gaming after all it happened to me!
What’s next for my project Steam Box?? I might give it a go on a windows PC just for comparison and hoping to upgrade the Steam Box to a beefier machine and to house it all in a smaller case for a slim chance the good lady to let me have it under the TV in the lounge!!
Please leave any comments or questions and I would be happy to answer any techy questions about people’s ideas for steam boxes or PC gaming in general.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did putting this together.