The Look, Feel and Navigation of Big Picture
I'll admit when I first began hearing about Big Picture, I wasn't all that thrilled. I first thought that Valve were just trying to play catch up with the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 by offering a TV friendly UI, but it's so much more than that.
My initial apprehension of Big Picture comes from my childhood of first-person shooters, like Quake and Unreal. I grew up in a time when FPS games were born, and the technological advances were huge every twelve months - I never really gamed too much outside of the FPS genre apart from some RTS and driving games here and there.
Once I was out of that frame of mind - I saw that Valve could achieve a great deal by offering a user interface for the TV, that wasn't just "Steam for the TV".
Diving into Big Picture, it looks great - it slides into operation, providing us with a splash screen of the Steam logo, and then we're greeted by a menu with three options - STORE, LIBRARY and COMMUNITY. Each of these sections are self-explanatory. Up the top left we have your personal profile (I hope you enjoy my profile picture), your DOWNLOADS, INBOX and in the top right we have SETTINGS and EXIT on the right.
Sitting in the bottom left is a critical piece of Big Picture, WEB. Steam has, for a long time now, an included web browser - but BPM's web browser is much, much better. We'll get into that a little later.
The feel of the UI is amazing - it's fluid, crisp and fast. Shift-TAB will bring you out of your game and into Big Picture, just like it would take you out of the game and into the Steam overlay before Big Picture launched. You can access everything from here, from the web browser to purchasing games or chatting to friends - it really feels like an entire Steam OS is overlayed, but in a very beautiful fashion this time around.
When dragging your mouse cursor over a highlighted item - which could be a friend or a game - it enlarges in size, a benefit of Big Picture for your TV. Normally I wouldn't like this much magnification, but for a TV, this is great. For Valve's first shot at something like this - amazing.
I've also taken a quick video so you can see me navigate through the menus, to get a feel for Steam's Big Picture mode.