Steam Spy announces it’s shutting down, blames Valve’s new privacy settings

In light of Internet and social-media privacy landing at the top of major news outlets this week, another major online service announced its own privacy-policy updates on Tuesday. The latest change comes from Steam, the Western world’s largest online PC game seller. According to Steam’s creators at Valve, an updated settings panel will soon let gamers more clearly decide how their use of the service is communicated to approved friends and the public at large.

Within hours of this announcement, one company confirmed the policy change’s collateral damage. Steam Spy, the world’s most comprehensive game ownership and play estimator available to the public, announced that it “won’t be able to operate anymore” thanks to Valve’s official policy change.

“Valve just made a change to their privacy settings, making games owned by Steam users hidden by default,” the site’s operators announced on its official Twitter account. “Steam Spy relied on this information being visible by default.” In answering questions from fans, Steam Spy creator Sergey Galyonkin suggested that the site will only remain as an “archive” from here on out.

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Poorly selling Steam Machines finally removed from Steam store front page

Valve is no longer highlighting Steam Machine hardware through the front page of its online Steam store, seemingly putting a final nail in the coffin of Valve’s partnership with third-party PC builders.

While you can still access a Steam store page linking to four remaining Steam Machine partners through a direct link, Steam Machines no longer show up under the drop-down menu for “Hardware” on the main Steam store page. Promotional language and images for Steam Machines were also previously featured prominently on a hardware-focused landing page on the store (archived version), but that page now redirects to a simple search results page for the store’s “hardware” category.

The marketing change seems to have happened around March 20, according to snapshots from The Internet Archive. Fan site Gaming on Linux was among the first to note the change publicly over a week later, though, perhaps highlighting just how little interest there has been in SteamOS-based hardware of late.

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Steam will now auto-scale VR resolution to max out your GPU

Just before the launch of the SteamVR-powered HTC Vive in 2016, Valve released a hardware testing tool to establish a minimum GPU power baseline for virtual reality. Now, with the impending release of the higher-resolution Vive Pro, Valve is updating SteamVR to ensure that higher-end headsets will work well at a variety of GPU power levels.

The auto-resolution scaling system, as described in a Steam Community announcement today, measures “how many ‘VR megapixels per second’ we believe your GPU is safely capable of for the majority of applications available.” That number is then used to calculate the appropriate native resolution for the VR app being run, regardless of the display resolution of the attached VR headset.

That means systems with high-end GPUs will automatically see VR apps “up-res’ed” to “fully utilize” the power of the graphics card, Valve writes. The effect of that change will be most apparent on high-end headsets like the upcoming Vive Pro (which includes two 1400×1600 resolution displays) and certain Windows Mixed Reality headsets, but this kind of native “supersampling” can improve the clarity of VR apps even on years-old, “low-end” headsets like the Vive and Oculus Rift (which both have dual 1080×1200 displays).

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Oculus Rift is now the most popular VR headset on Steam

When the HTC Vive launched in 2016, one of its major advantages over the competition was supposed to be its integration with the Steam platform through Valve’s SteamVR standard. Last month, though, Valve’s regular Steam user hardware survey found that Oculus Rift users now outnumber HTC Vive users on Steam for the first time.

The Rift now represents about 47 percent of all VR headset users on Steam, according to the survey, sneaking just past the Vive at about 45 percent. Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality initiative, launched late last year, accounts for just over 5 percent of the VR users on the platform.

Oculus Rift usage on Steam started shooting up last summer, right around the time Oculus slashed the price of its Rift-and-Touch-controller package to $399 in July (the HTC Vive would later drop from $799 to $599 in August). Reported Rift use on Steam climbed from 35.7 percent of VR users in July to 46.9 percent in September after the price drop. That jump also followed a July update to Oculus Home that let Rift users launch SteamVR apps directly via Oculus’ platform rather than going through the SteamVR interface.

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Counter-Strike co-creator arrested over alleged child sexual exploitation

Jess Cliffe, the co-creator of Valve’s popular online shooter series Counter-Strike, was booked into a Seattle jail on Thursday morning over allegations of sexual exploitation of a child.

Seattle ABC affiliate KIRO-7 broke the story on Thursday after discovering Cliffe’s booking record into King County jail. Seattle police detective Patrick Michaud confirmed to Ars that Cliffe was arrested at the jail itself, which public records show happened at 1:17 am Pacific Time, and that no charges had yet been filed.

No bond has yet been set, and a bail hearing is expected to take place later on Friday. Police did not immediately confirm any other details about the arrest to Ars.

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‘Bridge Constructor Portal’ Launches on Mac App Store for $9.99

Headup Games today announced that its Portal spin-off game “Bridge Constructor Portal” is now officially available for players to buy on the Mac App Store for $9.99 [Direct Link]. The game first launched on December 20 on the iOS App Store, Google Play Store, and Steam.

The Mac App Store version of the game is priced to match the other $9.99 desktop version on Steam, coming in at $5 more than the iPhone/iPad app’s $4.99 price tag [Direct Link].

Bridge Constructor Portal is a fusion of the Bridge Constructor and Portal franchises, tasking players with building bridges to connect pathways in order to safely traverse large pits and avoid falling to their death. These puzzles are blended with Portal’s Aperture Laboratories setting, items, and characters. Elements from Portal include the companion cube, repulsion and propulsion gels from Portal 2, and GLaDOS’s narration through all of the player’s successes and failures.

As a new employee in the Aperture Science test lab, it’s your job to build bridges, ramps, slides, and other constructions in 60 test chambers and get the Bendies safely across the finish line in their vehicles.

Make use of the many Portal gadgets, like portals, propulsion gel, repulsion gel, aerial faith plates, cubes, and more to bypass the sentry turrets, acid pools and laser barriers, solve switch puzzles, and make it through the test chambers unscathed.

Now that the game is available across mobile and desktop devices, Headup Games, ClockStone Software, and Valve are looking toward its release on Nintendo Switch, PS4, and Xbox One “very soon.” You can visit the Mac App Store today to download Bridge Constructor Portal [Direct Link], and it can also be downloaded for Apple computers through Steam.

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YouTube launched a VR app on Steam, but it’s broken

Google has released its YouTube VR app, previously available on Daydream, on SteamVR. The app allows users to browse YouTube videos through an interface in 3D, 360-degree space, and watch any of the innumerable 360-degree videos available on YouTube. It also allows for virtual big-screen viewing of standard format YouTube videos, in a setup similar to that found on, say, the Hulu app for PlayStation VR.

You can download it for free right now and try it out.

Unfortunately, the YouTube VR app doesn’t seem to be working for many users, who have taken to the app’s Steam community page, reviews, and discussion forums to complain about crashes and other problems. Users are posting their hardware specs as they report that it crashes on startup every time. Additionally, users have complained that it makes poor use of only one of the Vive’s controllers, that quality is low, and that many SBS stereoscopic 3D videos are not working—which is obviously a huge omission

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Your Bitcoin is no good here—Steam stops accepting cryptocurrency

When Valve first started accepting Bitcoin as an option for Steam purchases last April, the cryptocurrency was trading around $450. Today, with Bitcoin surging past $12,000 per coin, Valve has announced that “Steam will no longer support Bitcoin as a payment method on our platform due to high fees and volatility in the value of Bitcoin.”

Transaction fees charged to customers using Bitcoin have surged throughout 2017, Valve says, peaking at $20 last week from a starting of about $0.20 when Steam first started using the currency. With Valve unable to control these blockchain-linked costs (passed on from third-party Bitpay), the company worried that it was leading to “unreasonably high costs for purchasing games when paying with Bitcoin” (though apparently these are costs Bitcoin users as a whole have been willing to shoulder of late).

Bitcoin’s extremely volatile valuation has also gotten in the way of its usefulness for Steam users, Valve said. With Bitcoin values changing so rapidly, the amount of Bitcoin needed to cover a purchase can change significantly between the time a purchase is initiated and when it’s completed. Fixing this situation with a quick refund or a request for additional payment incurs more of those high transaction fees, Valve says.

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