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Valve shows off latest Steam Controller design

Valve shows off latest Steam Controller design

Valve's latest Steam Machine controller design ditches the innovative central touch area, previously downgraded from a display, altogether in favour of traditional button layouts.

Valve has once again redesigned its innovative Steam Machine controller, designed as the first gamepad suitable for playing titles more readily associated with a keyboard and mouse, but in doing so has arguably lost much of what made it unique.

When Valve first announced its Steam Machine plans, it did so with the promise of a dramatically different controller. While its twin concave touch surfaces, in place of analogue thumbsticks, were the main talking point, the company also promised a central touch-sensitive display which would be split into four controllable areas. Later, likely once Valve saw how much it would have to charge for such a controller, this was revised to a quadrant-based touch pad with no display functionality - the same design as enjoyed by the lucky few hundred Steam Machine beta testers since late last year.

Now, however, Valve has redesigned the controller once again - and the central surface has gone for good. In its place is a layout far more in keeping with something Sony or Microsoft would come out with: four face buttons in a diamond configuration at the right, and four direction buttons in the same configuration on the left. Start and Select buttons are also included, along with a glowing Steam logo which likely acts as a hot-button for the Steam overlay while paying a game - similar, fans may note, to the logo button featured on Microsoft's Xbox controllers.

According to Valve's statement on the redesign, the new face buttons feature analogue pressure sensitivity - something the original Xbox controllers had, but that was ditched due to a lack of interest from developers for the Xbox 360 and its successor the Xbox One. The two track-pad areas - designed to offer a similar velocity-sensitive control system to a mouse - remain present on the left and right sides of the pad.

As with its previous redesigns, Valve has shown no indication that the new pad exists outside computer-generated renders. With the first Steam Machine consoles due to go on sale later this year, however, the race is on for the company to finalise its design and begin mass production.

11 Comments

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AlienwareAndy 17th March 2014, 11:07 Quote
And in the end we will basically have a 360 controller with crap bolted on, because the 360 controller is quite simply the best controller design ever and M$ must have sweated it like Valve are doing now.

Why do Valve insist on wasting money on a formula that doesn't bloody work? Just stick to the basics, the controller is THE most important part of any gaming experience.
GeorgeStorm 17th March 2014, 11:20 Quote
They probably know it's important, which is why they're trying to improve it?

I personally don't like the sticks for anything first person related, so I'm going to try and keep an eye on these.
Maki role 17th March 2014, 11:38 Quote
I'm just still wondering how the whole touch sensitive system is going to work when exposed to non-ideal conditions. The beauty of analog sticks is that they maintain the same no matter what crap you have on your fingers. Now I know for hygiene reasons you should really wash your hands each time before handling a controller, but does that really happen? No. At LAN events people's hands get covered with dorito flavour powder, drinks, sweat you name it (like sausages, probably not worth thinking about what goes on there), wouldn't these things heavily affect a touchpad interface?

I'm mostly going off how this does affect devices like phones or laptops with those kinds of input. The surface can become slightly sticky if your hands are a bit tacky (like after playing a few rounds of intense multiplayer for instance) which means you lose dexterity. It probably won't be a big issue, but even if it's minor it would push somebody towards an xbox controller since they are really very good.
Corky42 17th March 2014, 11:39 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by AlienwareAndy
And in the end we will basically have a 360 controller with crap bolted on, because the 360 controller is quite simply the best controller design ever and M$ must have sweated it like Valve are doing now.

Why do Valve insist on wasting money on a formula that doesn't bloody work? Just stick to the basics, the controller is THE most important part of any gaming experience.

Even though I'm reticent over the removal of the touchscreen as i can see arguments both for and against having it, i have to disagree that "we will basically have a 360 controller with crap bolted on" as touchpads and thumb sticks are distinctly different in the way they allow you to control what happens on screen.

I previously transcribed an explanation that one of the Valve developers gave on the differences between the two in an old article Gareth published on the Steam Controller.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corky42
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.
ChaosDefinesOrder 17th March 2014, 11:42 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by AlienwareAndy
And in the end we will basically have a 360 controller with crap bolted on, because the 360 controller is quite simply the best controller design ever and M$ must have sweated it like Valve are doing now.

Why do Valve insist on wasting money on a formula that doesn't bloody work? Just stick to the basics, the controller is THE most important part of any gaming experience.

Analog sticks were the best option for the available technology at the time, but let's face it, for twitch aiming (i.e. moving ONLY a small distance quickly and accurately) analog sticks SUCK while mouse is great so this is good for a thumb-pad where movement of thumb = movement of aim directly translated. You only have to look at very short clips of in-game footage of a controller vs. KB+M to see the difference direct-feedback-aiming makes. Controller footage will show moving while mostly looking in one direction and smooth turns only, while mouse movement will be constantly looking around all the time. It's subtle, but noticeable.

I for one REALLY want an Xbox 360 controller with touchpads instead of thumbsticks with direct response for the right pad (like a mouse) and relative movement for the left pad (like a joystick) but without the ridges and discomfort from using an actual stick for the sections where the left stick is locked at full extent.

This, therefore, makes me a perfect customer for the Steam Controller, and accordingly I REALLY REALLY WANT ONE
dyzophoria 17th March 2014, 14:27 Quote
im just gonna wait for a lot of reviews (both community and sites like bit-tech) before even trying these, for non-fps games, I have to admit the 360 controller, and now the xbox one controller, is really the ideal one for me, if I'm gonna play an fps, i'd get out of my console and switch to my pc cause nothing is really gonna beat a keyboard and mouse for my likes :D
Sloth 17th March 2014, 15:37 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Article
According to Valve's statement on the redesign, the new face buttons feature analogue pressure sensitivity - something the original Xbox controllers had, but that was ditched due to a lack of interest from developers for the Xbox 360 and its successor the Xbox One
Is this the same or similar to what you'd find on a PS3 controller (and PS2 iirc, maybe PS1)? I'd thought that was a pretty standard feature.

Anywho, no surprises on the change. Valve has quite a bit riding on their system, just playing it safe now. The thumb touch pads are the real selling point.
Gareth Halfacree 17th March 2014, 15:45 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sloth
Is this the same or similar to what you'd find on a PS3 controller (and PS2 iirc, maybe PS1)? I'd thought that was a pretty standard feature.
It was, as the article says, introduced on the Xbox but discarded on the Xbox 360. The PlayStation DualShock had digital face buttons, with the PS2's DualShock 2 introducing analogue buttons across its entire face bar Select, Start and Analog (oh, the irony) while L3 and R3 were digital. The PS3's DualShock 3 kept this design, including analogue pressure-sensitive buttons for the D-Pad. However, the PS4's DualShock 4 drops the analogue face buttons, just like the Xbox 360 did; all face buttons, including the D-Pad, are one-bit digital switches with no pressure sensitivity. The L2 and R2 triggers, meanwhile, remain analogue - just as with the Xbox 360 and Xbox One controllers.

So, in short, it's not a standard feature any more, no.
Sloth 17th March 2014, 16:22 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree
It was, as the article says, introduced on the Xbox but discarded on the Xbox 360. The PlayStation DualShock had digital face buttons, with the PS2's DualShock 2 introducing analogue buttons across its entire face bar Select, Start and Analog (oh, the irony) while L3 and R3 were digital. The PS3's DualShock 3 kept this design, including analogue pressure-sensitive buttons for the D-Pad. However, the PS4's DualShock 4 drops the analogue face buttons, just like the Xbox 360 did; all face buttons, including the D-Pad, are one-bit digital switches with no pressure sensitivity. The L2 and R2 triggers, meanwhile, remain analogue - just as with the Xbox 360 and Xbox One controllers.

So, in short, it's not a standard feature any more, no.
Oh my, thanks for the detailed answer! I suppose it make sense with the addition of triggers. I can't think of a game made after their introduction that used (at least noticeably) pressure sensitive face buttons. Bit of a shame both sides dropped it on the D-Pad, though, as that's where it seemed most often used.
Gareth Halfacree 17th March 2014, 16:30 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sloth
Oh my, thanks for the detailed answer! I suppose it make sense with the addition of triggers. I can't think of a game made after their introduction that used (at least noticeably) pressure sensitive face buttons. Bit of a shame both sides dropped it on the D-Pad, though, as that's where it seemed most often used.
The original Xbox controller had both analogue face buttons and analogue triggers, as did the PS2's DualShock 2. It was common to see the analogue face buttons on both PlayStation and Xbox used in racing games, for those who preferred to use the face buttons for accelerate and brake with the triggers for gear shifts. One of the most infamous games to use the analogue functionality on the Xbox was the original Dead or Alive Beach Volleyball, which is the reason the game never made it onto the backwards compatibility list for the analogue-button-less Xbox 360; its Xbox 360 native successor, DoA:BV2, changed the games so they no longer required pressure sensitivity.

It's true, as mentioned in the article, that pressure-sensitive face buttons were largely ignored by developers. This got worse when Microsoft dropped 'em from the 360, as it meant that cross-platform titles developed for both the PS3 and Xbox 360 couldn't make any real use of the functionality on PS3 without having to rethink those sections of the game for the Xbox 360. (See also: the reason why Sixaxis motion control is either ignored or badly tacked-on on all but, or arguably all, first-party PS3 games - why spend time adding a feature into your cross-platform game that only half your audience will be able to use?) This, coupled with "bollocks to backwards compatibility, buy new games you cheapskates" is undoubtedly why Sony has followed Microsoft's lead and dropped analogue face buttons from the PS4's DualShock 4.
ChaosDefinesOrder 18th March 2014, 11:53 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree
The original Xbox controller had both analogue face buttons and analogue triggers, as did the PS2's DualShock 2. It was common to see the analogue face buttons on both PlayStation and Xbox used in racing games, for those who preferred to use the face buttons for accelerate and brake with the triggers for gear shifts.

I certainly remember using the analog face buttons of the PS2 for driving in GTA: San Andreas!

It's going to be interesting to see how useful the finger grip triggers on the Steam Controller will be; both in terms of which actions work best when mapped there, and also how they fair in heated combat... I often find myself pressing the stick buttons when trying to move in a heated fire-fight ('cos of locking and holding the damn sticks in full extent)
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