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Valve demos Steam Controller

Valve demos Steam Controller

Valve's Steam Controller proves its chops in a demonstration video, as developers begin to mull Linux ports of triple-A titles.

Valve has released a demonstration of a prototype Steam Controller, showing how the twin-touchpad system can work with unmodified PC games, even as some big-name developers hint heavily at Linux support for their future titles.

Part of Valve's SteamOS initiative - an Ubuntu-based Linux distribution designed to make playing PC games as accessible as playing console games, and the central pillar of its Steam Machine push - the Steam Controller is designed to address the issues with playing games designed for a keyboard and mouse in the living room. To launch with a multi-function touch-screen in the centre flanked by two concave touch-sensitive surfaces where the direction pads and buttons would normally be found, the Steam Controller is certainly eye-catching.

Valve has claimed the design of the Steam Controller can truly take over from a keyboard and mouse for many games, however, and to prove it has released a video showing the controller being used on a variety of games from turn-based strategy titles to first-person shooters. Although its prototype isn't fully refined yet - the promised touch-screen represented by four more sedate buttons - it's a good indication of how the system will work, and whether it can truly offer an alternative control system that won't have PC gamers throwing the pad across the room in frustration.

The release comes as Valve updates the beta builds of its Steam digital distribution platform to include code for game streaming, a feature that will allow gamers to play Windows-only titles on a Linux-based Steam Machine by streaming the video from a remote PC - a handy solution for those who don't want their bulky and noisy gaming machine in the living room, and who can't afford a dedicated gaming-capable HTPC build.

At the same time, publishers are increasingly putting their weight behind triple-A gaming on Linux: DICE creative director Lars Gustavsson recently told Polygon that 'we strongly want to get into Linux,' while Creative Assembly's brand director Rob Bartholomew confirmed to PCGamesN there was 'absolutely no reason' it couldn't bring its games, including Rome: Total War II, to the platform.

Valve's demonstration video is reproduced for your delectation below.

30 Comments

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Jimbob 15th October 2013, 12:27 Quote
Looks kinda difficult to fine aim in FPS's.

Frankly the more I hear about what Steam have been up to the less I'm interested. Steam Box just appears to be a HTPC, Steam OS is just another Linux distro and this is just another controller type. I'm not disappointed they tried, I just don't get the whole point.
Corky42 15th October 2013, 12:38 Quote
Well if you don't want to relax on the sofa while playing games there isn't much reason to care.
dyzophoria 15th October 2013, 13:21 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jimbob
Looks kinda difficult to fine aim in FPS's.

Frankly the more I hear about what Steam have been up to the less I'm interested. Steam Box just appears to be a HTPC, Steam OS is just another Linux distro and this is just another controller type. I'm not disappointed they tried, I just don't get the whole point.

its quite obvious they just want to make a point to microsoft to loosen up on the Windows App store, by the easiest way possible producing your own OS to support games. I'm still skeptical to if steamOS will catch up with everyone, but atleast hopefully Microsoft sees the point
Corky42 15th October 2013, 13:32 Quote
You really think ploughing huge amounts of money and time into designing and making new hardware and software is an easy way to make a point to Microsoft that you don't like the app store ?
GuilleAcoustic 15th October 2013, 14:00 Quote
I once had a Microsoft dualstrike gamepad, and while it was not as fast as a KB + mouse combo, it was still a viable solution for gaming (not for fast fps though, like unreal tournament or quake 3 arena in its time).

http://www.thestrong.org/online-collections/images/Z006/Z00650/Z0065068.jpg

Those tactive command look nice, but I like to feel what I use (maybe the concave shape will help).

As a Linux user, I'm happy that studios are considering it as a viable solution, but I'm not dreaming too much ... most games still won't appear on my beloved OS.
Panos 15th October 2013, 14:50 Quote
Funny bit, while yesterday AMD released drivers for linux that give 90% performance boost!!!

http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=article&item=amd_linux312_major&num=1

Interesting time ahead :D
sotu1 15th October 2013, 16:05 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corky42
Well if you don't want to relax on the sofa while playing games there isn't much reason to care.

Not trying to argue, but I can't physically 'relax' when playing most games. Heck, Candy Crush got me so riled up I had to delete it.

The only game I've found therapeutic and kick back to is the free drive mode in NFS, where I can drive the roads without worrying about anything at all, not even racing.
Gareth Halfacree 15th October 2013, 16:10 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by sotu1
The only game I've found therapeutic and kick back to is the free drive mode in NFS, where I can drive the roads without worrying about anything at all, not even racing.
I used to love Test Drive Unlimited on the Xbox 360 for that, and I don't even like driving games. Just pootling along a lush island, minding my own business. Mind you, that was after I'd figured out how to stop randoms appearing on my island, trying to ram me...
GoodBytes 15th October 2013, 16:16 Quote
I how they don't show actually a person playing the game, just move around.
The video shows exactly what people thought.. 2 touchpads. You need to swipe multiple times to move.

The only game that seams to be working fine is Civ5.. but try and read the small UI text from your TV... won't be on a relaxing position on the couch, as you'll be trying to read and point and click on items, especially that if you press a direction, you cant' jump to menu items, like you can using the arrow keys on a keyboard or the directions of a controller.

As much as I like Valve, this spells failure.
We can't be always perfect, and we always fail at some point in time. I would suggest Valve to realize this now, and fix it, like Sony did with the original PS3 controller.

http://pressthebuttons.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/ps3.jpg
Corky42 15th October 2013, 18:37 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by sotu1
Not trying to argue, but I can't physically 'relax' when playing most games. Heck, Candy Crush got me so riled up I had to delete it.
I like a good argument ;) but im totally with you on not finding games relaxing, but millions of console owners cant be wrong can they :?
Quote:
Originally Posted by GoodBytes
The only game that seams to be working fine is Civ5.. but try and read the small UI text from your TV... won't be on a relaxing position on the couch, as you'll be trying to read and point and click on items, especially that if you press a direction, you cant' jump to menu items, like you can using the arrow keys on a keyboard or the directions of a controller.
It seemed to me that Portal was working well, and CS:GO although he was pausing when selecting targets it seemed to work OK. I would like to see how it fairs in a more pressurised game though, something like TF2 on a pub server.
As the pads can be configured how ever you like, you will be able to map keyboard arrow keys or any other keys, and isn't being able to read small UI text very dependent on the size of the screen vs the viewing distance ?
josephlck 16th October 2013, 01:12 Quote
Ultimately, I'm not convinced that 2 touch pads are any better than the two thumb sticks on a standard console controller...
Griffter 16th October 2013, 09:06 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by josephlck
Ultimately, I'm not convinced that 2 touch pads are any better than the two thumb sticks on a standard console controller...

point noted, but do you remember when the first thumb sticks came about, i and (forgive my presumption) many others where saying, "what they hell is this, you cant control the guys that well", and still used only the d-pad for a while till we grown accustom to them and now arguing for them...
markwalker84 16th October 2013, 10:32 Quote
There simply aren't enough buttons surely?

4 shoulder buttons...

Crouch, jump, aim & shoot

Reload?
Change weapons?
Pick up?
Throw?
Action?
etc
etc

Mapping them to a touch screen sounds awful - especially as it will be in the centre of the pad.

Don't see ow this is going to work to be honest.
Corky42 16th October 2013, 11:10 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by markwalker84
Don't see ow this is going to work to be honest.

Well going on these mappings...

http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/images/13/sep/cont1.jpg

I count 20+ different mappings, you use more ?
By the look of it each track pad can have 9 mappings if not used for mouse look.
Saivert 16th October 2013, 22:14 Quote
To me it looks like Valve is using some algorithms to smooth the touchpad input and give it a bit of inertia reducing the need to tap so much to move the cursor over long distances.
Good algorithms can fix many of the issues commonly found with touchpads (a reason many laptop users still bring a mouse with them even if not gaming).
Sloth 16th October 2013, 23:40 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by josephlck
Ultimately, I'm not convinced that 2 touch pads are any better than the two thumb sticks on a standard console controller...
The ability to track movement distance, rather than just velocity+direction, seems like a huge advantage over a thumb stick. It's far more similar to a mouse and should be more intuitive and precise for KB/M focused games.
SirFur 17th October 2013, 01:31 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sloth
Quote:
Originally Posted by josephlck
Ultimately, I'm not convinced that 2 touch pads are any better than the two thumb sticks on a standard console controller...
The ability to track movement distance, rather than just velocity+direction, seems like a huge advantage over a thumb stick. It's far more similar to a mouse and should be more intuitive and precise for KB/M focused games.

Point well made.

It looks interesting. It's in beta. And it's def a step in the right direction. I'm loving it! If I can use it on my PC then I'll be def trying it out, as I won't be moving to my couch anytime soon, if ever, for my gaming but I'm def interested in using or trying a gamepad.
jrs77 17th October 2013, 03:20 Quote
These controls look pretty awkward to me, as you constantly have to reassure yourself where your thumbs are positioned, constant scrolling and theres no automatic centering.

Don't fix what's allready working perfectly fine like the current PS3 and XBox-controllers.
Yslen 17th October 2013, 05:13 Quote
Controller looks interesting, but the Steambox idea is still terrible. Valve would have to take heavy losses on the hardware in order to make it even worth considering.
forum_user 17th October 2013, 09:14 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by jrs77
Don't fix what's allready working perfectly fine like the current PS3 and XBox-controllers.

PS, Wii and Xbox controllers are unintuitive and unresponsive, giving sweeping motion in FPS games. Valve are trying to make controllers more intuitive and responsive.

From the demo of movement offered in FPS games, I believe Valve have created the console Controller 2.0 and resigned the old style of controllers to the history books.

I would also put money on you not being able to compete in an FPS against someone using Valve's controller and you using one of your dusty old fashioned PS3 controllers.
Corky42 17th October 2013, 09:50 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by jrs77
These controls look pretty awkward to me, as you constantly have to reassure yourself where your thumbs are positioned, constant scrolling and theres no automatic centering.
Last time i checked my thumbs are positioned where they have always been, on my hands :)
Not sure why you would need to be constantly scrolling or even want automatic centering. Do you have to constantly move your mouse or center it ?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yslen
Controller looks interesting, but the Steambox idea is still terrible. Valve would have to take heavy losses on the hardware in order to make it even worth considering.
Good job Valve is making any Steam box's (outside of the beta) then isn't it
Gareth Halfacree 17th October 2013, 09:54 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by forum_user
I would also put money on you not being able to compete in an FPS against someone using Valve's controller and you using one of your dusty old fashioned PS3 controllers.
I can't compete now, so I can't imagine changing controllers would make a difference. :p
jrs77 17th October 2013, 13:58 Quote
Gosh you people. Controllers will never be able to compete with mouse+keyboard. Look at the PS3 which has native USB mouse+keyboard support and the games that enable it like Dust514. We mouse+keyboard-users totally smoke those with controllers and this controller from Valve won't change that.

FPS-games are simply not ment to be played with a controller, and games like Fifa don't profit from this Valve-controller at all.
Corky42 17th October 2013, 20:01 Quote
@jrs77, Then how would you propose to enable people to play PC games on the TV in the living room, sitting on the sofa ? SteamOS, machine, and controller isn't meant to replace the K+M, its meant to give people the option of playing PC games without being tied to a desk. :(
Sloth 17th October 2013, 20:33 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corky42
@jrs77, Then how would you propose to enable people to play PC games on the TV in the living room, sitting on the sofa ? SteamOS, machine, and controller isn't meant to replace the K+M, its meant to give people the option of playing PC games without being tied to a desk. :(
As Gareth was kind enough to confirm in another thread, Steam Boxes will have KB/M support as well for those who are comfortable using them in their setup.
jrs77 18th October 2013, 02:36 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corky42
@jrs77, Then how would you propose to enable people to play PC games on the TV in the living room, sitting on the sofa ? SteamOS, machine, and controller isn't meant to replace the K+M, its meant to give people the option of playing PC games without being tied to a desk. :(

It depends om the type of game you want to play, and there's tons of games that play perfectly fine with the current controllers.

FPS-titles though are simply not ment to be played with a controller imho. Controllers have a fixed turningspeed, which is the reason why a mouse is allways better.
The issue lies within the hardware as a controller can't measure turningspeed based on distance/time moved, like with a mouse. Therefore you can be very accurate and fast as hell at the same time with a mouse, while a controller is limited to a preset speed.

So to answer your question: If you want to play a FPS, then get the hell on a PC and play with a mouse and keyboard.
Gareth Halfacree 18th October 2013, 09:43 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by jrs77
FPS-titles though are simply not ment to be played with a controller imho. Controllers have a fixed turningspeed, which is the reason why a mouse is allways better.
No they don't. Well, back in the days of digital controllers for the Master System, maybe, but modern console controllers typically include dual analogue thumbsticks. These include (number pulled out of you-know-where, but likely approaching true) 256 levels of accuracy across both the X and Y axis which allows for multiple different 'speeds.'

It's here, in fact, that a dual-stick controller can offer better control for selected games, in particular those that rely on stealth. While a keyboard and mouse combo allows for fast and accurate aiming, you have two movement speeds: walk, holding the W key, and run, holding the W key and a modifier like Shift. That's it. Two speeds. Possibly more, if your game has different positions - holding the W key while prone will make you move slower than if you were standing - but control-wise, two speeds. An analogue stick for movement, on the other hand, gives you (again, made-up number but likely true) 256 movement speeds. You can creep forward to look around a corner, or run full-tilt across the battlefield.

I'm not trying to claim a dual-stick controller is better for twitch-gaming than a mouse, but it certainly has its advantages over a keyboard.
forum_user 18th October 2013, 10:38 Quote
@jrs77 - I think you made the mistake of suggesting Valve are wasting their time reinventing the wheel. However they have innovated the wheel into modern times. It may not be perfect, it may trigger gasps of "BLASPHEMY!" - but it is very clear to see how this device is trying to provide everyone with a better controller with a greater freedom of movement within games.

Anyone who remembers trying to move a cursor around the screen in console games without overshooting the target, will massively benefit. (I assume! Clearly I am a fanboi ;) )
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree
I can't compete now, so I can't imagine changing controllers would make a difference. :p

Hehe I am the same. I have been spoilt by keyboard and mouse for far too long to contemplate using controllers for FPS games. But this new Valve thing makes me think that the playing field is a little more even now, and watching the demonstration proves that a much more fluid and natural movement matching keyboard and mouse is now achieveable.
Corky42 18th October 2013, 10:49 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by jrs77
So to answer your question: If you want to play a FPS, then get the hell on a PC and play with a mouse and keyboard.
And for those who don't want to spend £1000+ for a half decent gaming PC, or spend another £1000 for a decent HTPC so they can play games in the living room, or don't want to be tied to a desk, or how about Want to play PC on TV, room with PC and TV far apart.
Quote:
Originally Posted by jrs77
The issue lies within the hardware as a controller can't measure turningspeed based on distance/time moved, like with a mouse. Therefore you can be very accurate and fast as hell at the same time with a mouse, while a controller is limited to a preset speed.
Have you even watched the video posted in this article ?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Transcribed from the video
We use the right track pad to do a one to one view control mode. Its important to distinguish between a joystick, that does a relative or velocity based movement and this one to one mode were we can move our thumb a fixed amount of distance on the pad, and the view will correspond to this fixed amount of distance.
In other words not like a joystick, but like a mouse.
Maki role 18th October 2013, 13:14 Quote
I can't be the only one who's wondering how this controller will hold up when stuff gets on it? It's a fact of life that things get messy, so how would that affect the controller's trackpads? I'm not thinking about sensitivity, it's 2013, I doubt that would be an issue any longer. But what if, say, you get something sticky on the pad? Surely that would make fluid movement much harder?

It's not an outlandish hypothetical either. Think about the lazy moments when say you've got some friends over, there are some snacks, drinks etc. and there's naturally stuff on your fingers. With a standard analogue input this isn't much of an issue, but with trackpads and touchscreens it's a nightmare. I've had it happen with laptops and phones before, a teeny bit of grease makes it much harder to do anything with any degree of accuracy.

Then even if you're very cleanly, what about simple sweat? I don't have sweaty hands (poor finger circulation and large hands helps with that) but after an intense match, things can get a little clammy still. That would simply be annoying on a trackpad, as it would cause your thumbs to stick a tiny bit.

I can imagine they've seen to this, but it does make me wonder how.
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