Valve's Steam Box prototypes going out in the next four months

Gabe Newell says Valve is still trying to finalise specs of the upcoming machine, but there's still no news on anything to do with Half-Life 3.

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Valve's upcoming Steam Box will see prototype models in the next "three to four months," according to company boss Gabe Newell.

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"We're working with partners trying to nail down exactly how fast we can make it," Newell said to the BBC before last night's BAFTA awards. "We're also working hard on the input side to try to take a step forward in terms of the kinds of games you can play. So very much on the development side, and we'll be giving out some prototypes to customers to get their reactions, I guess, in the next three to four months."

Newell added that the machine's biggest challenges are noise and heat but that most gamers already understand the concept behind the device. "I think your average gamer has a pretty good idea of what it'd be like," he said. "The openness and flexibility of the PC, yet done in a way that makes it work well in a living room, so there are noise issues and heat issues. Being able to do that while still offering a powerful enough gaming experience is the challenge in building it."

Steam Box prototypes would come with a few different controllers so Valve could gauge how its users would be using the equipment; the company is looking into biometric sensors as a way of monitoring players, for instance. Left 4 Dead was used as an example of how understanding heart rates could make a more effective horror game.

"You need to actually be able to directly measure how aroused the player is--what their heart rate is, things like that--in order to continue to offer them a new experience each time they play," he said.

Valve's biometrics work will be seen away from the Steam Box, too. "You'll see [biometrics] outside of Steam Box as well; we're working with general PC controller manufacturers."

No details about price were mentioned. Earlier this year PC manufacturer Xi3 unveiled its own unofficial Steam Box, code-named the Piston.

While Newell wouldn't mention anything along the lines of Half-Life 3, he did briefly ruminate on how the games industry is heading towards PC-style development. "The nice thing is all the consoles are moving in the direction of PCs," he said.

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