Valve hiring electronics engineer for ”new platform hardware”

There’s a lot of buzz today about a new job posting on Valve Software’s website. The posting is for an electronics engineer, and clicking it reveals talk of "new platform hardware" and "whole new gaming experiences." Take a look:

For years, Valve has been all about writing software that provides great gameplay experiences. Now we’re developing hardware to enhance those experiences, and you can be a key part of making that happen. Join our highly motivated team that’s doing hardware design, prototyping, testing, and production across a wide range of platforms. We’re not talking about me-too mice and gamepads here – help us invent whole new gaming experiences.
Duties:

  • Work with the hardware team to conceive, design, evaluate, and produce new types of input, output, and platform hardware

Valve wants applicants to be familiar with "embedded systems/microcontrollers," and it demands some experience with "high speed serial interfaces," "schematic entry," and "circuit simulation," among other things. "ARM / X86 system design" is a plus, as well. Considering the company has both feet planted firmly in the software market today, that’s noteworthy indeed.

Some are taking this as evidence of that Steam console rumor we all heard about several weeks ago. But I’m not so sure. When Valve’s Doug Lombardi discussed the rumor with Kotaku last month, he said:

We’re prepping the Steam Big Picture Mode UI and getting ready to ship that, so we’re building boxes to test that on . . . We’re also doing a bunch of different experiments with biometric feedback and stuff like that, which we’ve talked about a fair amount. . . . All of that is stuff that we’re working on, but it’s a long way from Valve shipping any sort of hardware.

Steam’s Big Picture mode has been in the works for some time; it’s supposed to let folks play Steam games on "more screens throughout the house," including TV screens. So, it sounds like this might all be about bringing PC gaming into the living room, not introducing a new platform to supplant it—still exciting, no doubt about it, just not in quite the same way.

Comments closed
    • merryjohn1
    • 8 years ago
    • jackbomb
    • 8 years ago

    I’ve successfully manipulated the input and output hardware of three different calculator platforms to display the word boobless. Time to dust off my resume!

      • CuttinHobo
      • 8 years ago

      However, “boobless” is a terrible selling point!

    • Bensam123
    • 8 years ago

    For the love of god Gabe, please not a steambox!

    Like Cyril said, this does look a lot like they’re attempting to further development of a living room setting. I wouldn’t be surprised if what they’re designing is actually a peripheral and monitor forwarder. So all you have to do is power on a box in your living room to connect to the wireless and it streams a video signal from your PC as well as peripheral input. This actually fits the ‘steambox’ rumor quite well, but not in the traditional sense.

    I don’t know of a good solution for either of these besides running long cables, which is not a very elegant for a HTPC. There is one USB network adapter on Newegg, but it’s rated very poorly. Alternatively you can build a HTPC for your living room, but that’s going out of the way and digging into savings for a lot of people.

    Personally this is a perfect case of why I think ethernet should take over everything as the universal interface. All you’d have to do is plug your TV and your peripherals into a wireless bridge or switch, then pair them with your PC.

    • eitje
    • 8 years ago

    Apple TV + iTunes meets SteamBox + Steam. I’m thinking intra-network streaming ala OnLive.

    • sschaem
    • 8 years ago

    It would make sense for Valve to license or built its own ‘onlive’ or ‘gaika’ type tech… Easy then to offer features like ‘play your games library anytime on anything’, along with all the other perks.

    Valve also got mountain of cash from taking a large cut from all the sales, and its relatively more silly then Apple. Valve got allot of money from buyers/developers this way,so it would be nice if they re-invest that for the benefit of the PC community..
    Because if Valve dont re-invest, the cash cow named Steam, might just run out,when the PC gaming market wither further.

    I expect the next gen console to take a HUGE byte out of PC gaming.

    • alphacheez
    • 8 years ago

    Jeri Ellsworth, who tweeted about working on this project, is awesome. She built a Commodore 64 hardware emulator for one of those “console in a controller” that were popular a few years ago. She basically recreated the hardware which is amazing and taught herself everything she didn’t know to get it done. Subsequently she’s done a lot of work with circuit design and had been doing a lot with FPGAs. She’s also a pinball enthusiast and she owns a bunch of machines that she also refurbishes so she knows a bunch about old-school analog circuits.

    You can check out her youtube channel:
    [url<]http://www.youtube.com/user/jeriellsworth[/url<] and she's made a couple of appearances on the TWiT network: [url<]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4NLQATllnY[/url<] [url<]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GkyfxefDJR4[/url<] These are worth watching if you want an idea of who is working on this Valve project. I look forward to what she'll be able to bring to the table. Maybe Half Life 3 will be a pinball machine 😛

      • NeelyCam
      • 8 years ago

      You’re crushing on her just a little bit..?

    • Sargent Duck
    • 8 years ago

    I wish it read “The posting is for an [s<]electronics[/s<] Half-life engineer"

      • BobbinThreadbare
      • 8 years ago

      I hear Black Mesa is looking for theoretical physicists.

        • willmore
        • 8 years ago

        That was a joke.
        Ha-ha, fat chance.

    • yogibbear
    • 8 years ago

    Definitely more along the lines of new input format… i.e. maybe something to succeed the kb+mouse. Not console/PC/platform. This makes a lot of sense especially when you read all the gabeN interviews out there.

    • kvndoom
    • 8 years ago

    I can make lights blink on a 9S12… sign me up!!!

    • Silus
    • 8 years ago

    I find it funny that a company that ignores their fans, that plea for the next installment of Half Life 2 for years (the one that was ramping up quickly in 2007 – [url<]http://www.gamefront.com/valve-speaks-on-half-life-2-episode-3/),[/url<] has so many of them. It's just like Apple that blames their own consumers for problems in their products, yet those consumers still love them. With news such as these, I would expect people to say something like "Come on Valve, enough is enough! All we hear from you is everything and anything NOT related with Half Life 2/3 that you PROMISED would be released in less time". But nothing of the sort happens. Valve's own RDF I guess...

      • rxc6
      • 8 years ago

      Completely agree! After all, all that Valve has ever done is the Half Life series. NOTHING more….

      Sigh…

        • Silus
        • 8 years ago

        Although the Half Life series did get worse and worse (nothing compares to the first game), Valve’s other game pale in comparison to that Half Life series and IT IS Valve’s defining game. It made Valve what they are today and they ignore their fans.

        Never quite understood what goes in the head of fan that gets ignored by those they “worship” yet they still show reverence for them…Hence the comparison with Apple and their RDF.

      • TakinYourPoints
      • 8 years ago

      It’s a shame that Valve only has a dozen employees and that they can only work on one project at a time

        • Silus
        • 8 years ago

        Definitely! I actually think they are less than a dozen given how much they actually do…

        Steam is actually run by monkeys which get their salary in bananas…

      • Silus
      • 8 years ago

      It’s confirmed that it’s a RDF and Valve is getting tips from the creators:

      [url<]http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-57414161-1/apple-ceo-tim-cook-seen-at-valve-hq-sending-rumor-mill-spinning/[/url<]

    • TurtlePerson2
    • 8 years ago

    They seem to want an electrical engineer that is trained in everything. They list:

    RF
    DSP
    HDL (for use with FPGA)
    X86 Design
    UL Certification

    These are all from different disciplines of electrical engineering. The guys who know how to do UL certification aren’t going to know how to do DSP design. I don’t know anyone who can do all of these things and I’ve met a lot of really smart electrical engineers.

    I would conclude that they’re looking for a lot of people to make a team of engineers.

      • mako
      • 8 years ago

      Yeah, it’s a very broad range of things. Valve’s sitting on a pile of money, so they can afford to hire a bunch of people after all.

      • NeelyCam
      • 8 years ago

      A lot of job posts are like that. What was it that I saw somewhere… “10+ years of experience in PCIe Gen3 design”?

      Hilarious.

        • Deanjo
        • 8 years ago

        Ya I remember seeing “now hiring” ads in 1996 specifying 5 years of java programming experience required. HR people are not code monkeys.

      • Bensam123
      • 8 years ago

      That’s what Valve does. They’re a lot like Google in that they only higher geniuses for their nirvana setting.

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 8 years ago

    Sadly there is no cross platform driver implementation for OSX, IOS, Windows, Linux, and Android. 🙁 HTML 5 likes to say it will play nice with everyone but that isn’t DX11 and never will be. Microsoft should consider changing their product strategy as they are loosing market share every day.

      • albundy
      • 8 years ago

      DX is MS’s only reason for Winblows staying afloat. If they have it play nice on cross platforms, they are done for.

        • Malphas
        • 8 years ago

        “DX is MS’s only reason for Winblows staying afloat.”

        No, it’s not. It’s because it’s the mostly widely used PC operating system for a variety of reasons with no serious competition.

        • Sahrin
        • 8 years ago

        DirectX already plays across platforms to Xbox; and MS is already transitioning away from Win32 based API’s to .NET managed code (even for display, which is transitioning to WPF and WDDM). .NET runs on every major platform (OSX, Linux).

        The idea that MS is using API’s as a special source of lockin is laughable; beyond technological necessity Windows does more to allow software to run on multiple platforms than any other platform.

          • Deanjo
          • 8 years ago

          [quote<].NET runs on every major platform (OSX, Linux).[/quote<] Ummm, ya about that, have you ever tried to get more advanced .NET code running on those OS's? If you had you would rethink that comment.

      • FakeAlGore
      • 8 years ago

      Microsoft Windows has seen a consistent increase in market share since January of this year.

      Source: [url<]http://www.netmarketshare.com/os-market-share.aspx?qprid=9[/url<] There will never be a cross-platform driver implementation. Device drivers are written with a particular kernel in mind. A device driver written for the Linux kernel will never be able to run on a Windows kernel. They are completely different in almost every way. What you are probably wanting is something like WebGL which is already supported either natively or via plug-in in all major web browsers.

    • tviceman
    • 8 years ago

    If it weren’t for the PC’s 3rd party reliance on OS’s (windows or mac), I think Valve would have already came out with their own console. As it stands now, if Valve wanted to create a console that gave current users full access to the library of steam games they already own, they would either have to go with option #1 a Windows OS (which would be really stupid, IMO, since windows has a large performance overhead and is reliant upon Microsoft aka competitor to every other console on the market) OR option #2 create their own OS with streaming capability so that, at the very least, current steam users could stream games they had previously purchased on their PC before the steam console came out. But streaming seems to be a turn off (at least with the current tech and average bandwidth) for most PC gamers, so even then if Valve were to create a console with option #2 it would not be an entirely win-win situation.

    I don’t know if it would be technically feasible, or viable, if Valve could somehow integrate direct X into their own OS, and just pay Microsoft a smaller royalty fee for using just direct X (as opposed to licensing windows at a higher fee).

      • FakeAlGore
      • 8 years ago

      Pray tell, what exactly do you mean by Windows having a “large performance overhead”? The overhead from Windows is negligible.

        • swaaye
        • 8 years ago

        -Game developers and the video card engineers have their complaints with how Windows video drivers and game APIs work. Drivers are hard to profile because they behave unpredictably with unknown workarounds and unexpected results with different functions.
        -Windows itself has some performance quirks with file access overhead.
        -Windows sucks down a lot of RAM for itself, because it’s a general purpose system and has to run a lot of background stuff to please everybody.
        -Apparently video memory contents are duplicated in system memory, because you might Alt-Tab at any moment, and video memory would need to be reloaded when re-entering the game.

        That’s what I’ve seen mentioned by people who write the games and the drivers.

          • Deanjo
          • 8 years ago

          If they were to build a console that used windows:

          The video drivers would be largely a moot point as they could optimize the snot out of the drivers because they would be worrying about one hardware combination. Using standard DX API’s also allows them to draw from a larger talent pool of programmers then one that has a specialized API (although that would still be an option for console running windows).

          Second, every file system has overhead. Some much worse then what is found in windows. Again they can optimize the hell out of that.

          Third in a console system they would not have to suck down a lot of ram as on a console many of those services would not be needed and a stripped down version becomes a lot easier on the memory requirements

          Fourth, again in a console setting video memory contents would not have to be copied to system memory when you are building a console designed to run one application at a time.

            • swaaye
            • 8 years ago

            I have a feeling what you describe would require a lot of money. Consider that Xbox is essentially what you defined there, and how much money it has taken to refine that into what it is today.

            What would be interesting with this Valve/Wintel game box is what kind of shenanigans MS would try to pull to curtail Xbox competition.

        • tviceman
        • 8 years ago

        Hardware that is several orders of magnitude more powerful than an xbox 360 is often only able to run games with identical graphical settings (except for 2-4x the pixels due to increased resolution) at similar frame rates and not massively higher frame rates.

          • no51
          • 8 years ago

          Yeah, that’s it. Totally not the crappy porting job. It’s overhead.

          [quote<](except for 2-4x the pixels due to increased resolution)[/quote<] Cause you know, all games run at the same framerates whether its at 320x240 or 2560x1600. TR should stop benchmarking at different resolutions because it has no impact on framerates.

      • Kurotetsu
      • 8 years ago

      [quote=”tviceman”<]I don't know if it would be technically feasible, or viable, if Valve could somehow integrate direct X into their own OS, and just pay Microsoft a smaller royalty fee for using just direct X (as opposed to licensing windows at a higher fee).[/quote<] Or they can just use OpenGL. I think OpenGL's biggest problem is that it is being largely driven by scientific/engineering needs. If a noteworthy name like Valve comes along and starts asking for gaming-centric performance considerations, then OpenGL can be made more competitive to DirectX in that area. I think thats a better long-term solution than paying money to a competitor (read: Microsoft).

        • eofpi
        • 8 years ago

        The choice of OpenGL or DirectX for any particular game engine has been dictated by a variety of historical and technical reasons. Now, though, there’s little reason to choose one over the other on Windows, so inertia and crossplatforminess dictate the choice.

        While Valve’s own games will work in OpenGL (the Source games already have to for Mac support, and the GoldSrc games inherited it from the Quake 1 engine), as will anything else with a Mac, Linux, or Android version, Steam still has a ton of DirectX Windows-only games. Mac users may be willing to tolerate having to boot into Windows to play most of their Steam library, but ValveBox (or whatever they’ll call it) users will probably be console veterans, used to everything just working when they press a button. They could grey DirectX games out in the library and hide them by default from the ValveBox store browser, or something, but there would still be frustration at not being able to play all their Steam games on their ValveBox.

        It would certainly be technically feasible for Valve to write their own DirectX runtime layer that translates it into OpenGL/AL/CL calls, but Microsoft would either sue or extract an annoyingly high license fee (a clean-room reimplementation of the API will get around copyright and trademark issues, but not patents).

        In light of that, Valve’s best bet with the ValveBox may be to simply use Windows and strip it down to the parts actually needed to run games.

          • d0g_p00p
          • 8 years ago

          So basically a XBox? After all the XBox is called DirectXBox for a reason. My understanding is the XBox OS is a NT based kernel with DirectX features. MS learned a lot when it was working with Sega on the DreamCast WinCE based OS.

      • Bensam123
      • 8 years ago

      Why?

      Steam was built off the already existing PC gaming market… MS and Sony aren’t competitors of Steam, they’ve said it before, that’s why they try to get their distribution platform on theirs and why Sony agreed to it. Why would they go out of their way to turn themselves into a competitor with two big brands?

        • just brew it!
        • 8 years ago

        It seems pretty clear that they want a piece of the console (hardware) market. Delusions of grandeur, perhaps… but it sounds like they intend to compete in that space.

          • Bensam123
          • 8 years ago

          I don’t think they’re planning on walking into that territory as I wrote in my original post. Originally it did, but with what they’re looking for and denying claims of making a steam box, I think it might be along the lines of a easy to use USB/monitor network forwarder. Allowing people to easily hook up their computers in their living room without ever having to move them. It would perfectly compliment what they already have in place and where they’re looking to go with the big icon version of Steam.

          I’ve seen companies leap after the dollar signs before, but I’m pretty sure, Valve is smart enough not to do that.

    • superjawes
    • 8 years ago

    BRB, posting my resume…

    • BobbinThreadbare
    • 8 years ago

    This sound more like making controllers or something than a SteamBox.

      • NeelyCam
      • 8 years ago

      You don’t need experience in “high speed serial interfaces” for making a controller. And, X86 system design for a controller is a bit of an overkill..

      I think a Steambox would be more likely.

        • BobbinThreadbare
        • 8 years ago

        What would you need experience in serial interfaces to hook up a computer to a TV for?

        And wouldn’t you want that experience if you were writing a driver?

          • FakeAlGore
          • 8 years ago

          How would you connect a controller to a PC? You would typically do so via USB. What is USB? USB is a high-speed serial interface.

            • NeelyCam
            • 8 years ago

            Game controllers really need to be wireless these days… (except maybe for charging).

            The age of wires is pretty much over. (Maybe that’s why the job post mentioned RF…)

            • BobbinThreadbare
            • 8 years ago

            Wouldn’t the connection from the RF receiver to the rest of the system still be a high speed serial interface?

            • NeelyCam
            • 8 years ago

            Depends on what you consider to be [i<]high speed[/i<]

          • just brew it!
          • 8 years ago

          DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort are all serial at the hardware level. So is USB for that matter, so you’d need to know about high speed serial to make a USB-based controller too! Everything is serial these days…

          Drivers for high-speed devices typically don’t deal directly with the “serial-ness” of the physical interface; that’s hidden by the hardware. There’s no way software can deal directly with serial bits moving at rates in the millions or billions per second.

            • BobbinThreadbare
            • 8 years ago

            Thanks for the reply.

            I guess what I’ve learned is that Valve shouldn’t really need a high speed serial interface expert for anything we would expect them to do.

            • just brew it!
            • 8 years ago

            …but given that (contrary to previous expectations) they’re clearly planning to get into the console and/or peripherals business as a designer (not just a rebrander), hiring someone with high speed serial interface experience [u<]is[/u<] a logical step.

      • TurtlePerson2
      • 8 years ago

      The post says “We’re not talking about me-too mice and gamepads.” How can you think that they’re talking about controllers?

        • yogibbear
        • 8 years ago

        Cause a controller doesn’t have to be a mouse or gamepad. 😛

        E.g. mind powered controller. Or hooking up dots all over your body to control something.

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