Hog the living room TV as well as the PC.
Anyone who knows anything about PC gaming always knew you could run your video out to your TV, but you’ve never done it like this. Steam is currently beta testing a new type of interface that is specifically designed for PC gamers who like controllers, and playing their games on a big screen. Recently we had a chance to check out Steam Big Picture mode and this is what we saw.
First you’ll be greeted with a Dashboard that looks something like the one pictured above but, and reminds me of the days when the Xbox Dashboard was all about games and much less about advertisements and other video services. The whole interface is, in fact, designed with an Xbox 360 controller in mind, as you can see from the button labels.
From the Dashboard you can access a streamlined version of the store, your game library; in a clever scrolling picture menu and the Community menu which will have your friends list on it. You can still use your mouse and keyboard quite easily while in big picture mode, and will still need to for some games of course, but it’s easy to tell that Valve had a controller in mind when they designed this interface.
Most notably is the input method you’ll use any time you need to enter any text. You’ll be presented with a wheel that has a number of points on it and there will be four letters in each. Each letter corresponds to one of the face buttons on your controller. It takes a little getting used to but after a while it was easily the best on-screen keyboard I’ve ever used.
Lastly, Steam Big Picture mode includes a pretty slick little web browser. If you’re using a keyboard and mouse, it will operate just like any browser. When using a controller, however, the experience will be much different. Each web page becomes a floating object that you can move around so the controller’s cursor is always in the center. It again takes some getting used to but I think you’ll really enjoy it once you use it for a little bit.
Steam Big Picture mode doesn’t do anything you couldn’t do before, but it makes it look a whole lot better than it used to. If you want to give it a try yourself, login to Steam and select to take part in the Beta from the settings menu. Let us know what you think, and whether you’ll be using Big Picture mode yourself.