Alright so I’ve been using this since yesterday and by god do I love this thing!
‘Steam big Picture’ went open beta yesterday and after using it for a while I ADORE the thing. Now besides my simple English and lack of wanting to use a thesaurus to break up the words I use. I have a lot to say about this and “Big Picture” has certainly got a lot to tell us about making a good controller interface!
And if you don’t know what Steam big picture is, it’s essentially Steam made to work with a controller and therefore work on a large TV in your living room (obvious association with the name). And if you’re in the beta then simply click the “Big Picture” icon on the top right of Steam and pick up your controller.
A Killer Start
I expected the UI to work, but not this well, essentially nothing is difficult or out of the way, and anything that is accessible is easily accessible.
From launching the ‘Big Picture’ interface from regular Steam, this snazzy blue interface animates it self to your screen. I expected the UI to work, but not this well
Using only one button at a time on this screen you have access to, The web browser, friends, and the store. Two buttons takes you to your favorite web page, your games library, and a chat with a logged in friend. I found this AMAZING, i don’t even think I’ve encountered smart phone interfaces that work this fast. I haven’t seen this kind of quick access on any platform than MAYBE On Live.
I expected the UI to work, but not this well
For instance The PS3, unless you’re playing the immediate disk (and don’t have “Whats New” enabled) it takes 3 buttons presses to reach friends and 5+ to reach chat, 3 presses to the web browser and 5 to your favorites, you kind of hit a lot of bulk through the store.
Here your friends and chat is immediately accessible in less than 3 presses every time(give or take scrolling through the list you popular bastards). Your games library showing all your recently played games and with a couple of button presses one of your set categories.
Even store access is fast, with all the deals and featured games right there in your face. Then once you click on a game all video an screenshots are there and videos immediately play as you shift through. I even recently discovered that the shop is mostly button free, you can literally use the analog stick for everything from changing categories to getting back where you started.
Right now everything is quick and simple, and honestly I hope it stays that way…
A browser that gets gamers, and everyone else
I was most impressed by the browser and keyboard input though, both really intuitive, fast and clean. My favorite feature being that you navigate a webpage like a shooting game.
You see you kinda just fly around the page rather than use some awkward mouse, and while you can zoom in with the left analog stick tapping ‘Y’/'Triangle’ cause I use a PS3 controller makes for insta-zoom on some page content. Now i will say this needs to be improved to better recognize content, but it is effective and you can quickly adjust it.
The highlights though, is that it’s not confusing, flash works, its doesn’t crash at the first sign of ‘actual things to load’ but best of all, I’m not itching for the keyboard. And here’s why…
They text input might not be the most minimal thing ever, but by god does it work! After years and years of radial interfaces WHY HAS NO ONE DONE THIS. Better than rapidly tapping the d-pad like a nut trying to type as fast as you can on a keyboard, it don’t work well dude. All you do here is rotate the analog stick and push one or two buttons to get your letter number or smiley face! Well wait i guess that does make it minimal…sweet.
I also must mention that while in ‘Big Picture’ mode the exact same interface works in-game too (+screen caps), depending on how hard you’re pushing your hardware you might experience some slow down but you’re losing no functionality here while in-game. Even Screen cap works with ‘Home Button + R2/RT’.
A word out to other developers
Compared to this, Sony, Microsoft, and anyone else making a platform made to work with a controller ‘need to fix their shit’. We know you gotta have a music player, ads(Microsoft), tons of different media players, and customization. But you can do better than that. We know you can, you have TONS of money to do so.And you know what TV manufactures Samsung & LG, you guys need to take note too, your interfaces SUCK compared to this.
Steam likely had only a small team working on this, but the time and care they put into the interface shows, the seamless integration with all that is Steam right there in game or not. I don’t know if they had a huge focus group to test this out on or if they just had common sense, but it works, and works very well. And I look forward to seeing more with it (Netflix integration please…i know it’s too much to ask but…).
Now I can’t close this without acknowledging some flaws, and they are there, its beta so I saw glitches and I couldn’t input text on Disqus through the web browser and the d-pad does not work (yet), but this is a killer interface and other people need to take note.
For more info or to post Bugs or make feature request check out the links below.
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