Valve’s Steam Machine Prototype is Revealed

SteamMachine

Word of Valve’s brand new Steam Machine has people interested in the general future of gaming as well as the capabilities of online streaming. Now, Valve has revealed what the Steam Machine prototype looks like with the new controller which was revealed earlier. Valve plans on shipping 300 Steam Machines to lucky beta testers this year, and while there’s nothing too spectacular about the specs, the Steam Machine will eventually become a full customizable device since it will carry components for any normal PC, but it will still be able to fit inside of your entertainment center.

The case is designed so each part can breathe individually with the CPU releasing air at the top, the power supply out the side, and the graphics card out of the back. Apparently nothing shares airspace inside the case.

While Valve will still be tweaking the final design of the Steam Machine, but they plan to produce and sell the Steam Controller by itself. The controller is an interesting design that tries to incorporate the precision of a mouse and keyboard with the versatility of a gamepad, creating a device that truly personifies the future. Valve obviously wants something that will fit and work in the living room.

As someone who is more familiar with traditional controllers, particularly the PlayStation controller, I’m interested in seeing just how accurate the Steam Controller will be. Apparently, while the controls are unfamiliar, they are still surprisingly accurate. The Verge stated that the touchpads “make first-person shooters and other mouse-friendly games far more accessible than any analog stick can afford. You can sweep your thumb across the pad to turn on you heel, then move it a tiny bit more to line up a headshot without having to compensate for a joystick’s return motion.

“You can push a thumb to the very edge of the pad to keep moving continuously. You can even use both touchpads simultaneously in cursor-driven games to move the mouse cursor faster than with either alone.” What is interesting is the fact that Valve is crowdsourcing controller profiles for every Steam game which will allow players to vote up the best sets of controls. Players will also be able to tweak the settings after.

Look for different versions of the Steam Machine to drop in mid 2014. Prices will differ according to the size and initial capabilities of the machines. As someone who is interested in shifting over toward PC gaming, buying a Steam Machine might eventually be a nice alternative and introduce a wider ability of play. Besides… my leather couch is pretty comfy. Abandoning it for pure PC gaming would be tough.

[Source]

Living Up to the Legacy

Whenever I encounter a comic book that has been adapted from a video game, it feels like there are two sides of me who are arguing in the background.  One side is the comic book fan, who is excited to get his hands on a new issue or series.  While not every comic will be his favorite, he appreciates the time and effort that went into each panel, and it certainly gives him something to discuss with his friends.  On the other side of the fence is the video game purist, who scoffs at any piece of media that falls short of the original gaming masterpiece.  He has set an extremely high bar for adaptations of his beloved pastime, and anything that doesn’t live up to this standard is immediately dismissed and derided.

Normally, my two halves will balance one another, leading to a critical yet appreciative view of video game comics.  However, there are certain game series that cause a total fracture between these two sides; beloved franchises that give me a case of rabid fanboyism.  As a series that shows up several times on my “favorite games” list, Castlevania tends to be one of those franchises.  So when I first heard that there was to be a five-issue comic series of my beloved Castlevania, I was filled with the cautious optimism of a man divided.

Castlevania1

It was in 2004 when IDW Publishing released the first issue of The Belmont Legacy.  At the time, Castlevania was one of several video game series from Konami that was being adapted by IDW.  Founded in 1999, Idea and Design Works was initially known for their strong horror titles such as 30 Days of Night, but the company rapidly focused on creating comics for licensed properties.  Now a publishing powerhouse, IDW has produced comics based on numerous properties from several media forms, including Doctor Who, Transformers, and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.  For their Castlevania comics, IDW approached Marc Andreyko And E.J. Su to handle the story and art respectively.

Castlevania2When writing The Belmont Legacy, Andreyko decided to focus on the protagonist of the first two Game Boy games, Christoper Belmont.  As a character with very little impact on the main Castlevania timeline, Christopher and his adventure provided a mostly blank slate from which a new story could be told.  The comic begins in 1576, at time when the Belmont clan is already established as accomplished vampire hunters.  Christopher Belmont is soon to be married while yet another group of would-be blood groupies conspire to resurrect Count Dracula.  After a successful ritual, the ancient vampire proceeds to take revenge on the Belmont line by terrorizing the nearby villages and kidnapping Christopher’s new bride.  Determined to fulfill his role as vampire killer and save his bride, Christopher sets out to slay Dracula and his evil minions.

Castlevania3As a single piece of media, the comic is a satisfactory horror tale in the vein of classic Hammer films.  The characters have sufficient motivations and personalities to move the story along (family-related destiny, ancient vendetta, desire of power at any cost).  Some of the dialogue is a bit clichéd, but it serves the purpose of keeping the story light in spite of all the dark subject matter.  There are some solid action scenes, most of them involving battles with the undead, and plenty of dramatic moments to keep readers engaged.  But for fans of the video games who are looking for traditional Castlevania elements, this comic is rather lacking (save for the whole, “Belmont versus Dracula” thing).  Nearly all of the recurring enemies are absent from the comics, with only zombies and vampires showing up as obstacles on the way to Dracula.  The castle itself, which is normally has a strong presence in the video games, just serves as a bland horror set-piece for a brief final battle.  Dracula is quite different from his usual overly-dramatic court nobleman.  Instead, he is portrayed as a demonic, half-bat creature, who never wears clothes and maniacally feeds on anyone who gets in his way.  Save for the title and a handful of quick references, there is nothing to distinguish this as a Castlevania story rather a random horror comic.

Castlevania4For the artwork, E.J. Su follows a more traditional comic book style, using a shading technique that would be right at home with classic DC works.  The character designs are well done, with plenty of practical costuming and realistic weaponry for your average vampire hunter.  The character proportions are reasonable, which is a nice change from the usual hulking beast men and hourglass exaggerations that pass for women in most horror comics.  Bright, single color backgrounds are used to highlight each character’s actions, and there is quite a bit of comic book onomatopoeia at play in the panels (lots of “whap” “snap” and “thunk”).  Overall, the art style fits the look of older Castlevania games quite nicely, looking rather similar to the front covers of the NES and Game Boy titles.  But for fans who are more used to the hyper-detailed work of Ayami Kojima on the newer games, the comic book art may seem a bit plain by comparison.

As I expound on my frustrations with The Belmont Legacy, I do appreciate the difficulty in adapting a video game to comic book form.  As a writer, why would you want to retread the same old story in the exact way that an established game already has?  It makes sense to take an older video game, which was limited in its narrative by the technology of the time, and expand the tale into a detailed work that can stand on its own.  Unfortunately, even on its own, The Belmont Legacy is an unremarkable comic that relies on horror movie tropes to build a work that is mostly unlike its source material.  I guess my Castlevania purist side was right to be alarmed by the lack of reanimated skeletons and floating Medusa heads.