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Valve unveils the Steam Controller

Valve unveils the Steam Controller

The Steam Conroller

Valve has revealed plans for a new game controller - the Steam Controller, that's designed to work with the company's SteamOS and Steam Machines.

The device looks similar to a typical console controller but instead of thumbsticks for controlling movement it uses trackpads, a move that Valve thinks will offer "a new and, we believe, vastly superior control scheme, all while enabling you to play from the comfort of your sofa."

In particular Valve sees the new controls as being much better for "RTS games. Casual, cursor-driven games. Strategy games [and] 4x space exploration games."

The device will also feature sophisticated haptic feedback to create a more immersive control system. It achieves this usiing "dual linear resonant actuators. These small, strong, weighted electro-magnets are attached to each of the dual trackpads. They are capable of delivering a wide range of force and vibration, allowing precise control over frequency, amplitude, and direction of movement."

The third string in the Steam Controllers bow is a clickable touchscreen. This allows for a multitude of controls to be replicated onscreen.

In terms of more conventional controls there will also be trigger controls on the back edges.

As with Valve's two other announcements from earlier in the week, the Steam Controller is being designed with openness in mind, with Valve making available tools that will allow users to "participate in all aspects of the experience, from industrial design to electrical engineering."

The Steam Controller follows the announcements of SteamOS and Steam Machines. The former is a gaming-centric operating system based on Canonical's Ubuntu Linux that will allow the full catalogue of Steam games to be run on - in particular - living room PCs. The latter is the broad term for the hardware devices that will be commercially available that will run SteamOS. Valve is designing the first Machines but is also allowing other system builders and hardware manufacturers to make their own versions.

Valve unveils the Steam Controller

All three announcements also follow last year's release of Big Picture mode, which was Valve's first move towards living room gaming with a game controller-friendly interface for standard Steam installations.

SteamOS will be available soon as a free download while the official Steam-designed versions of Steam Machines and Steam Controller will be available to 300 lucky people. To be in with a chance of receiving one these users will have to complete a set of Steam related tasks, as laid out here, with entry closing on 25 October.

43 Comments

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Dave Lister 27th September 2013, 23:30 Quote
It looks and sounds expensive, I hope the steamboxes will be compatible with 360 pads. Also it looks like your thumbs would get sore if your doing a long gaming session, rubbing those pads all night.
PCBuilderSven 27th September 2013, 23:48 Quote
Finally a pad with a bit more accuracy, I hope it's compatible with PCs as well. I reckon I'd still prefer a keyboard and mouse, though, as I agree with Dave that it looks rather tiring over longer sessions, much more so than just using a mouse. Could be fun over shorter sessions though.
SighMoan 28th September 2013, 00:31 Quote
I like the idea but as a 360 Pc user the competition is stiff unless they are competing the the Xbox One Pc controller which I assume MS will launch.
AmEv 28th September 2013, 01:58 Quote
I also hope it's Android-compatible. Who knows, Valve may just have an Android market up their sleeves, and some games (HIB/HAB, anyone?) are already on Android.
jrs77 28th September 2013, 02:55 Quote
Doesn't work with those trackpads, atleast not like you want it to. To center the pads you either need to loose contact to them, or you're guessing about the center. Same goes for the directions and the amount of how much you want it to go into a direction.

Springloaded thumbsticks are the way to go for gamepads. End of story. Anyone who has played more advanced games on a touchscreen (smartphone, tablet) can tell you, that you simply lack alot of fine-control with those touchpad-controls.
siliconfanatic 28th September 2013, 03:34 Quote
^this^ On sooo many levels, ^this^.

Thumbsticks are the only way to go for their application on a controller, while touchscreen/pads aren't. IMHO I find that a small touchscreen/pad would be perfect for use in a similar manner to the PS4 controller.
Corky42 28th September 2013, 05:01 Quote
Seems odd for people to be slating something that no one has tried yet, especially as they mention, higher fidelity input for the trackpads, resolution approaches that of a desktop mouse, built around a new generation of super-precise haptic feedback delivering in-game information about speed, boundaries, thresholds, textures, action confirmations.

While i to have reservations about trackpads and the whole touchy feely nature of the controller, i am at least willing to entertain the idea, that if done right it may work very well, if not better than a standard controller.
siliconfanatic 28th September 2013, 06:32 Quote
You forget, no matter how high-res the trackpad, there's the one crux of all finger-based touch devices: Fingers
Fingers, especially thumbs, negate the resolution.
Meanmotion 28th September 2013, 06:46 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by siliconfanatic
You forget, no matter how high-res the trackpad, there's the one crux of all finger-based touch devices: Fingers
Fingers, especially thumbs, negate the resolution.

I see where you're coming from but I really can't see how you can be see dismissive of an untried approach. Moreover, this is valve we're talking about, a company known for honing things to near perfection before release. Why would it risk its reputation if it didn't strongly believe this approach would work.
fluxtatic 28th September 2013, 08:16 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Lister
It looks and sounds expensive, I hope the steamboxes will be compatible with 360 pads. Also it looks like your thumbs would get sore if your doing a long gaming session, rubbing those pads all night.

Won't be as bad as when I got my NES and I played Mario until my left thumb developed a monster callus.
d_stilgar 28th September 2013, 08:44 Quote
I think this article about the controller is well worth a read. Should calm fears and get people at least curious if not excited.

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/201195/Select_game_developers_used_the_Steam_Controller_Heres_what_they_said.php
Fracture 28th September 2013, 08:46 Quote
I didn't think I would be interested, but I actually have high hopes for the Steam Machine. I respect Valve for trying something different with their game controller, as I did expect much the same as is the trend with other console manufacturers. Who knows if this will work or not but it certainly shows promise and this is Valve we're talking about. If they are satisfied with the controller, I would bank on other gamers being just as satisfied. Valve is taking a really big risk which could either prove to be a master stroke and massively profitable, or it could be a big loss for the company. I for one will be watching this one closely.
Dave Lister 28th September 2013, 09:46 Quote
I really hope the pads will be as good as the gamasutra article suggests, I still have doubts about them and the cost of the controller though. I mean it was £40 for my 360 controller and receiver which are rather basic in comparison.

ALSO... I'm very upset that yet again there was no Half Life news !
Corky42 28th September 2013, 10:10 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by d_stilgar
I think this article about the controller is well worth a read. Should calm fears and get people at least curious if not excited.

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/201195/Select_game_developers_used_the_Steam_Controller_Heres_what_they_said.php

Nice find, and a good read.
I also found this on the same site.
http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/TommyRefenes/20130928/201219/My_time_with_the_Steam_Controller.php

I think if Valve want assuage peoples fears over using trackpads instead of sticks they have to give as many people as possible the chance to test them, beyond the 300 being sent out with the beta test program.

EDIT:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Lister
ALSO... I'm very upset that yet again there was no Half Life news !
I wouldn't give up hope, I'm expecting something to be announced when they set a date for public release.
Ande 28th September 2013, 10:26 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by siliconfanatic
You forget, no matter how high-res the trackpad, there's the one crux of all finger-based touch devices: Fingers
Fingers, especially thumbs, negate the resolution.

This is true when attempting to click a specific object on a tiny mobile phone screen.

This won't be true for the steam controller though. Its just accepting the movement of your thumbs. The sensors will read the 'thumbprint area' and subtle movements of this area and it will be mouselike accuracy.

Do this: Turn your laser/infrared mouse over - move your thumb over the sensor hole (careful not to shine the laser in your eyes!). Perfect accuracy even though your thumb is big... This is kindof what the steam controller will do.
d_stilgar 28th September 2013, 10:42 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Lister
ALSO... I'm very upset that yet again there was no Half Life news !

Imagine this . . .

Steambox Hardware Release
Official Steam OS Release
Steam Controller Release

With Valve's own AAA launch titles . . .

Left 4 Dead 3
Portal 3
Team Fortress 3
And Halflife 3

All running on . . .

the Source 2 engine.

That would make my day, year, and decade.
Phil Rhodes 28th September 2013, 12:00 Quote
Oh good. Steam, the last best hope for PC gaming, has gone all console.
longweight 28th September 2013, 12:07 Quote
I love threads like this, a piece of new and untried technology gets bashed and shouted down. Seems to be the same with any innovation these days.
Sentinel-R1 28th September 2013, 13:01 Quote
For the very casual lounge gamer and maybe kiddie games, I think it's innovative. However, like others, I'm skeptical if it'll work well. My thumbs are huge and I'm not really sure how something with as much surface area as mine will translate to an accurate, reliable track on screen. I also have to agree with other comments on friction issues. Long gaming sessions would be rather uncomfortable I should imagine.

I'm not even going to comment on how poor I think it'd be for FPS games, although I see Valve didn't mention FPS as a likely use. Are you supposed to use this new one for cursor driven games and have a traditional stick setup for FPS? I don't see the point when sticks do it all already...

Ten out of ten for innovation but it seems a bit like they're developing this to fill a gap in the market that doesn't need filling. I'd have rather seen them release a well engineered pad with steam specific features and traditional sticks.
Corky42 28th September 2013, 13:17 Quote
Stick and FPS just don't work, its why (afaik) there has never been a game that has controllers vs K+M as it would be seen as a unfair advantage.

As for long gaming sessions and friction, there is always KY jelly ;) or some other lube

The link posted by d_stilgar makes for good reading if you have doubts like most people myself included, but unlike some im willing to wait until we get some more feedback from the beta testers. Speaking of the beta testers has anyone on the BT forums applied to take part ? it would be great to get some direct feedback and answers to questions.
dactone 28th September 2013, 13:47 Quote
This looks amazing. I sit in front of my tv playing pc games with a 360 pad ,I love using a mouse but hate using a keyboard so This will be an upgrade for me :P
jrs77 28th September 2013, 15:00 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corky42
Stick and FPS just don't work, its why (afaik) there has never been a game that has controllers vs K+M as it would be seen as a unfair advantage.

Dust514 on the PS3 has native USB keyboard and mouse support and you're playing against people using controllers. And yes, people with gamepads get slaughtered by the keyboard+mouse players :)

Anyways, to those who are saying that we bash the new controller without experiences....

I've played alot of games on my iPad recently and I can tell you, that there's simply no finetuning possible on a touchpad, especially not when you're using your thumbs.
Your index-finger is a totally different thing, and hence the touchpads on a notebook do work well, but when you're covering half the touchpad with your thumb, than there simply isn't any finetuning possible.
With thumbsticks that's different, as the stick underneath is very thin and springloaded giving you the needed precision.

But yeah, believe in marketing-crap and sponsored articles on gamasutra etc. This device won't work for the majority of gamers, especially when talking about FPS-titles.
Corky42 28th September 2013, 15:05 Quote
So we are writing it off as a dud before anyone has had the chance to use it ?
siliconfanatic 28th September 2013, 15:13 Quote
Yep, you know the rules. We've gotta have our time to hate on something new, THEN some of us will try it
Porkins' Wingman 28th September 2013, 22:33 Quote
Call me naive, but from the little I know of Valve, why would they bother putting something out there that wasn't going to live up to their promises? It would die an embarrassing death and tarnish their image. I'm certainly willing to wait and see...
dyzophoria 29th September 2013, 03:49 Quote
waiting to see what comes out of it as well, but I will be honest and I say I won't be surprised if this is gonna take some time before it comes out (or cancelled).. cough.... HL3... cough...
d_stilgar 29th September 2013, 08:25 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corky42
Speaking of the beta testers has anyone on the BT forums applied to take part ? it would be great to get some direct feedback and answers to questions.

I've signed up for the beta and I live close(ish) to Seattle, WA. Maybe that will help. I've also participated in some of their betas before. I've never submitted anything through the steam workshop though, which I guess is supposed to give you a leg up.
Corky42 29th September 2013, 10:26 Quote
I wish you the best of luck, i think they are only picking 30 based on their past community contributions. Goes without saying if you need any help ;)
Guinevere 29th September 2013, 10:51 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil Rhodes
Oh good. Steam, the last best hope for PC gaming, has gone all console.

Let me fix that for you...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil Rhodes
Oh good. Steam, the last best hope for PC gaming, has gone a bit console.
smc8788 29th September 2013, 11:24 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil Rhodes
Oh good. Steam, the last best hope for PC gaming, has gone all console.

http://i.imgur.com/1ncArjo.jpg
forum_user 29th September 2013, 22:00 Quote
The huge difference for me (never being a controller fan) is that there is no opposing force. I think Valve have conquered that by removing the sticks, and I think it will be much easier for me to use and get more accurate movement control.

I booted Great Giana Sisters plus a controller in BigScreen mode, just to complete my entry in the draw for testing the hardware (god, please!!). However, using keyboard gave me so much more satisfaction. My Logitech 510 pad felt waaaaaaaaaaay too 'opposing'.
siliconfanatic 29th September 2013, 22:05 Quote
Frankly I've got so used to it that not having some sort of resistance throws me WAY off. I'm willing to at least try it once it comes out(if ever ), and if it works well enough it might just join the legion of mouses, keyboards, headphones, joysticks and controllers peripherals that I have. Until them I'm content with hating on it b/c it's "new" :D
Snips 29th September 2013, 22:31 Quote
Really not a fan of controller gaming but this does look interesting. Maybe the "haptic" side of things will give a slight improvement over traditional game pads.

Since some have mentioned it already, I don't think they will go release exclusive with HL3. Value has by it's very nature plugged their openness and limiting it to just their OS goes completely against their values.

Of course, ANY news on HL3 open or closed would make it good day all round.
slothy89 30th September 2013, 00:38 Quote
How has no-one mentioned the obvious use for this controller? Nerds everywhere can finally rub virtual nipples O_o
siliconfanatic 30th September 2013, 01:31 Quote
Those who can't manage to get the real deal. (you know who you are)
theshadow2001 30th September 2013, 02:03 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by slothy89
How has no-one mentioned the obvious use for this controller? Nerds everywhere can finally rub virtual nipples O_o

Nipples with haptic feedback....
d_stilgar 30th September 2013, 07:24 Quote
Gabe Newell just gave an interview where he talks about the Cleveland Steam Box. Definitely worth a watch.

UdSKWKZFdrU

NSFW warning on language.
theshadow2001 30th September 2013, 11:08 Quote
Can't watch the video right now but shouldn't someone tell Gabe what a Cleveland Steamer is? Perhaps he'll call the next box the dirty sanchez.

Edit: Ah, just watched the video. Suddenly it all makes sense. Glad I didn't watch it at work!
ChaosDefinesOrder 30th September 2013, 11:46 Quote
All those talking about lack of tactile feedback/resistance, isn't that what the inner raised "ring" on the trackpads are for?

Presumably the trackpads will have two modes, one for "relative" mode simulating analog sticks in which case the inner ring would simulate the dead zone so you can feel with your thumbs when you're not central (my personal issue with touchscreen controls!) and movement is the relative position of your thumb to the centre. Also, those talking about locking to full extreme of stick movement, that would be the outter ridge ring (slide thumb until you feel the ring, that's "full tilt" of the "stick"). Looks to me like they've already considered the tactile feedback aspect...

The second mode, which I get the impression from all the press releases about FPS and RTS is the intended use, I'll call the "absolute" mode (for lack of a better name at this time) where it is the same as a laptop track pad. In this case, a stationary thumb will do nothing and only moving your thumb will cause a movement the same as a mouse. In this mode, there is no "deadzone" and there is no need for resistance because it is the movement of your thumb rather than the position.

For me, the biggest issue I see with this controller is that of games like DmC and Dark Souls etc. where the face button "diamond" is more crucial than right analog stick. If you can set the four corners of the trackpad and "button" combined to be the face buttons (touch top and press = Y, touch left and press = X etc.) and then have the right analog stick configured to movement across the surface like my "absolute" mode above then it could work...

It depends on how customisable the controller and interpretation of input is on the final design. If it works like I would want it to, then I can certainly see myself picking one up; I've been wanting a controller with a trackpad in place of right analog stick operating in "absolute" mode for ages!
Corky42 30th September 2013, 12:09 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChaosDefinesOrder
It depends on how customisable the controller and interpretation of input is on the final design. If it works like I would want it to, then I can certainly see myself picking one up; I've been wanting a controller with a trackpad in place of right analog stick operating in "absolute" mode for ages!

From my understanding its very customisable, everything from the amount, type, and where the feedback happens. The article originally linked by d_stilgar says...
Quote:
He said areas on the trackpad can be configured to have multiple button inputs. For example, the very top edge of a trackpad can be mapped to the keyboard's Shift+W, making your character in a first-person game run.

Tabar said the configuration map for the controller allows you to do "pretty much anything." For example, developers can slice up a pad into quarters, each one representing a different input, or even into eight radial sections, again, each section representing whatever you want, mapping to key combinations, or to the mouse.
My guess is once they release the API for the game pad we will have thousands of different configs being published by users covering most peoples different preferences, and if not you could tweak a config more to your liking.
ChaosDefinesOrder 30th September 2013, 21:52 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corky42
My guess is once they release the API for the game pad we will have thousands of different configs being published by users covering most peoples different preferences, and if not you could tweak a config more to your liking.

Sounds good to me! As long as the controller input is not ONLY governed by the game and can be freely configured by the user by an additional menu or configuration utility (like Synapse - possibly bad example, but you get the idea!)

Guidance by the developer is fine, as they would have a good idea of how they want it to run in a way that fits with the world they're trying to create, but they don't always get it right for everyone and flexibility is pretty much the whole idea behind the announcements!

Just had an interesting thought of a possible use-case: circular motion around the rim of the trackpad for steering in driving games...
Corky42 12th October 2013, 10:41 Quote
Valve developer running through using the controller.

eeAjkbNq4xI
forum_user 14th October 2013, 19:35 Quote
The controller looks great in use.
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