Some developers offer hands-on opinions on Steam Controller

Valve made some waves on Friday when it revealed its upcoming Steam Controller, which will replace the normal thumbsticks found on regular gamepads with trackpads with advanced haptic support. Now some independent game developers are offering their opinions on the Steam Controller, based on playing prototypes of the device.

Gamasutra reports that Dan Tabar of game developer Data Realms claims that the trackpads on the controller should not be thought of like normal trackpads like the ones made for a laptop. He stated, "It just feels good. It's a challenge to verbally describe it. When [your thumb] moves toward the outer zone of the trackpad, you can feel that. [The zones on the trackpad] are independent of each other."

Tabar also stated that the trackpads can be configured to have several different keyboard button setups. He said the Shift+W key that is used in first person shooter titles to make a character sprint faster can be configured to be used on the top edge of a trackpad in the Steam Controller. Each pad could be set up to be sliced up into four or even eight sections, each of which can be configured to a normal keyboard or mouse button.

Chris Remo of developer Double Fine also got a chance to play with the Steam Controller on a couple of his company's own games. He stated, "We just plugged it in, and it worked. We didn't have special support for it or anything. It worked really, really well. I was really impressed with the mouse imitation. It doesn't feel like a trackpad."

Valve plans to give 300 people who are picked to test out their prototype Steam Machines their own Steam Controller this fall, although it will not come with the final version's touchscreen display.

Source: Gamasutra | Image via Valve

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40 Comments

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Looks like it has potential. Thankfully Valve did this vs XB1 because Sony would have gone nuts with that "We have actual joysticks on OUR controller" and so forth. I'd still like to have something like this for a FPS maybe.

The problem with thumb accuracy improves with time. I'm sure the first time on 360 I was hopeless but you soon start getting used to the amount of waggle necessary.

I'm sure the smart phone generation don't even realise that thumbs are less accurate.

The only reason anyone is able to hit anything on the 360 is because console games have a heavy amount of auto-aim turned on. On console, you aren't really aiming your weapon, just suggesting a direction, and the game takes care of the rest.

Compare to PC gaming with a mouse and keyboard, and you actually have to aim the crosshairs with the mouse. No auto-aim.

I love the idea of this controller! I hope it will also work on Windows Computers and not just SteamOS. I am all for SteamOS but I personally don't have a need for another OS just to play games when they already work now.

I actually think this might work. My main concern is cost because a high res touchscreen on a controller probably aren't cheap. Hopefully it comes in at under $60.

Asmodai said,
I actually think this might work. My main concern is cost because a high res touchscreen on a controller probably aren't cheap. Hopefully it comes in at under $60.

I doubt. High quality gaming mouses and keyboard are often 100$.

I'm well aware of what niche high end controllers cost but if this is supposed to be the controller for their console they're going to need some base model for the console. If they price their console's main controller like a Razer product then they're severely limiting their market.

Precision is probably better than the thumb 'sticks' on current controllers, but there's still a limitation with thumb muscles.

A mouse's precision comes from 4+ fingers, wrist, and even arm muscles - the precision of a thumb track pad is limited to just what your tiny thumb muscles can do, and those muscles were not designed to be precise on their own.

The Steam controller does nothing to fix the real* problem with thumb gaming.

I think it's more it has a much wider range of motion and it stays in one place without effort. The old IBM joysticks didn't spring back but people didn't really like that for games.

Edited by Screw this Nazi Site, Sep 28 2013, 3:00pm :

Jahooba said,
Precision is probably better than the thumb 'sticks' on current controllers, but there's still a limitation with thumb muscles.

A mouse's precision comes from 4+ fingers, wrist, and even arm muscles - the precision of a thumb track pad is limited to just what your tiny thumb muscles can do, and those muscles were not designed to be precise on their own.

The Steam controller does nothing to fix the real* problem with thumb gaming.

Yeah, nothing will replace a keyboard and mouse, but this seems so much better than current controllers. Also, the fact that this doesn't require any modifications to games at all, and the fact that you can easily set up a wireless keyboard and mouse to use with a Steam box (and again, with all the games running on it) is what's really amazing.

You can easily setup a wireless keyboard and mouse with any Windows game system. The only thing this proposed Steam OS is I lose the ability to play the games on all my other systems. I'd rather just see a Windows 8 system with the Steam big picture as the default display but the whole system available.

Spicoli said,
You can easily setup a wireless keyboard and mouse with any Windows game system. The only thing this proposed Steam OS is I lose the ability to play the games on all my other systems. I'd rather just see a Windows 8 system with the Steam big picture as the default display but the whole system available.

Why would you lose the ability to play games on other systems. Valve are not retarded, Windows will be the number one OS for Steam for years to come, I really doubt we'll see much, if any SteamOS exclusives. I mean, a "SteamOS exclusive" in itself makes no sense as it would just be a Linux version of the game.

Jahooba said,
Precision is probably better than the thumb 'sticks' on current controllers, but there's still a limitation with thumb muscles.

A mouse's precision comes from 4+ fingers, wrist, and even arm muscles - the precision of a thumb track pad is limited to just what your tiny thumb muscles can do, and those muscles were not designed to be precise on their own.

The Steam controller does nothing to fix the real* problem with thumb gaming.

The point is finding some sort of middle ground here. If PC gamers can find it more enjoyable than the standard control pads, then success they shall find. Otherwise, we'll just end up using a PS4/XBO controller.

Spicoli said,
Pass. Valve is really setting them up for a big flop.

Your gonna have a few along the way but no way to find out until the risk is taken. I think there is potential here but we just have to wait and see.

Of course but this just looks like trying to be different for the sake of being different. It's not unlike Intellivision way back but gamers showed they like to hold their sticks.

Spicoli said,
Of course but this just looks like trying to be different for the sake of being different. It's not unlike Intellivision way back but gamers showed they like to hold their sticks.

That was then and this is now. Players change and evolve and every new generation introduces new challenges.

Enron said,
If it actually does that, I'd buy one!

Their site actually states the haptics on the touchpads can be used as a speaker for a parlor trick and the touchscreen is configurable via their API so it probably CAN do that.

HawkMan said,
There's one dual axis haptic a for the entire controlled. Not for the pads.

No, the site clearly states there are two linear resonant actuators attached to each of the dual trackpads.

GreenMartian said,
I read that they said it would emulate keyboard & mouse (by sending keys & clicks).

So I'll have to configure mouse sensitivity settings on every damn game? Also wouldn't games that support analog sticks to offer several degrees of movement become horrible to play with such keyboard emulation? That would be like using a nintendo pad.

francescob said,

Also wouldn't games that support analog sticks to offer several degrees of movement become horrible to play with such keyboard emulation?

Quoting from their website, "we've fooled those older games into thinking they're being played with a keyboard and mouse". So I'm guessing the k&m emulation is for older games that only support them. With the 2 pads being hi-res trackpads, I'm sure they'd do the job of analogs nicely for games that support analogs.

It's good to hear some positive feedback from developers. Valve couldn't have competed with a traditional controller, so it's great to see an attempt to achieve the accuracy expected by PC gamers. Whether it will be successful is another matter but as long as it is priced sensibly I'll almost certainly be getting one, as I will an Xbox One controller for PC.