For the last week or so Steam have been talking about something called Big Picture, which supposedly makes the venerable online store/community/gaming client friendlier for TVs.
My initial thoughts were that this was related to the rumored hardware Valve may or may not be working on, alas it’s just a redesign of the interface. Basically, it entails hooking up your gaming PC to a “regular” TV via HDMI rather than to your classic PC-only monitor. I’ve already been doing this for years: my desktop is plugged to a 24″ 1080p LCD TV by way of HDMI, so for me this is nothing new.
However, the main idea is that the new interface works with “controllers”, i.e the Xbox controller in 90% of cases as of this writing. While the controller works fine with most new PC titles, it is true the Steam interface and install phases don’t support controller input, so I guess this makes the controller-based experience more complete.
Steam may be hyping this up a little: right now Big Picture is just a redesign that works very similarly to Windows 8/Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 interfaces. It converts everything from the classic Steam look to big tile-like graphics that move around and make sounds when you click on them. Plus it comes with what Steam are calling the world’s first first person browser, but as far as I could tell all that means is that there’s a zoom function via the controller.
I guess if you have your HTPC in your living room and it’s powerful enough to run games in good detail then this mode might be for you. Also, if you have something like a G75 you could output it to a big screen and use Big Picture mode. In general, I would recommend this mostly for gaming notebooks, because they can be moved easily. For HTPC, I suppose this mode is fine if everything you do on it occurs on that big TV and doesn’t require working away from the couch. It could also work with any desktop assuming you have a wireless mouse/keyboard for non-Steam/non-game applications.
This is a nice option to have, though for the classic PC gamer who sits in front of the screen via a chair/desk setup, this isn’t really helpful. I do believe this is merely preparing the target audience for something much more significant.
Below you’ll see a few pics I snapped off my screen to give you an indication of what it looks like on a live gaming desktop PC.
This is the main interface via Big Picture mode. Everything works very smooth and fast, that is true.
And here we have the part everyone loves most about Steam, the store. Except it’s been completely redone. You can see the prompts for the Xbox controller (LT, A, X, RT etc.).
The library has also been redesigned, and now looks like a Windows 8 app/smart TV interface, with tiles and side scrolling. Locating games is very easy, and I’m sure many will find this style appealing.
So, what do you think of all this? And how many of you have your desktop/gaming PC connected to a TV via HDMI anyway?
Let us know!