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Valve's New Steam Controller Will Work With All Games

By - Source: Valve Software | B 29 comments

Here's the final piece to the Steam (Box) Machines puzzle.

As expected, the final announcement from Valve Software on Friday was a Steam controller, not the speculated Source 2 engine. The company calls the new device a "different kind of gamepad", sporting dual circular trackpads, superior haptic feedback, a touch screen, and several well-placed buttons. The controller was designed from the ground up to be "hackable" as well, and the company plans to release tools so that users can help shape the peripheral's evolution.

"We set out with a singular goal: bring the Steam experience, in its entirety, into the living-room. We knew how to build the user interface, we knew how to build a machine, and even an operating system," Valve states. "But that still left input — our biggest missing link. We realized early on that our goals required a new kind of input technology — one that could bridge the gap from the desk to the living room without compromises. So we spent a year experimenting with new approaches to input and we now believe we’ve arrived at something worth sharing and testing with you."

Valve's new controller will work on all games listed on Steam, even the older titles not designed for controller support. The company says that it has "fooled" these older games into thinking they’re being played with a keyboard and mouse. This indicated that Valve has developed mapping software within SteamOS and the Steam client that allows users to, for example, place the mouse left-click function to the controller's left trigger button.

The face of the controller provides two huge circular trackpads, replacing analog sticks. The touchscreen sits in the middle, with triangular "X" and "Y" buttons mounted on the left of the screen, and "B" and "A" buttons on the right. There are two trigger buttons on each shoulder, and three buttons lined along the bottom of the touchscreen/trackpad group. The touchscreen and trackpads are also clickable, reducing the need for three extra buttons on the surface.

"Every button and input zone has been placed based on frequency of use, precision required and ergonomic comfort," the company says. "There are a total of sixteen buttons on the Steam Controller. Half of them are accessible to the player without requiring thumbs to be lifted from the trackpads, including two on the back. All controls and buttons have been placed symmetrically, making left or right handedness switchable via a software config checkbox."

The new controller is built around a new generation of super-precise haptic feedback, the company claims, using dual linear resonant actuators. These weighted electro-magnets are attached to each of the dual trackpads, and are capable of delivering a wide range of force and vibration. This in turn delivers in-game information about speed, boundaries, thresholds, textures, action confirmations, or any other events.

"In the center of the controller is another touch-enabled surface, this one backed by a high-resolution screen," the company says. "The screen allows an infinite number of discrete actions to be made available to the player, without requiring an infinite number of physical buttons. Players can swipe through pages of actions in games where that’s appropriate. When programmed by game developers using our API, the touch screen can work as a scrolling menu, a radial dial, provide secondary info like a map or use other custom input modes we haven’t thought of yet."

The new controller will be part of the Steam Machines beta program. Versions shipping to the 300 participants won't have touchscreens, and won't be wireless, requiring a USB connection. The company also says the peripheral works with the Steam client, meaning it will be compatible with any machine with the client installed.

"We’re done with our announcements, and we promise to switch gears now and talk specifics over here in our Steam Universe community group," the company says. "Also we’ll talk soon about the design process and how we’ve arrived at our current prototype."

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  • 13 Hide
    lpedraja2002 , September 27, 2013 11:23 AM
    Where's HALF-LIFE 3!>!>!> >:o 
Other Comments
  • 13 Hide
    lpedraja2002 , September 27, 2013 11:23 AM
    Where's HALF-LIFE 3!>!>!> >:o 
  • 1 Hide
    eklipz330 , September 27, 2013 11:24 AM
    that looks so awesome. i wonder if it can replace my xbox 360 controller too, although i highly doubt it
  • -1 Hide
    rwpritchett , September 27, 2013 11:54 AM
    No analog sticks? I dunno...
  • 1 Hide
    wmalinowski , September 27, 2013 12:02 PM
    Nice in theory,but I don't see people giving up the keyboard/mouse combo for this controller.
  • -2 Hide
    Traciatim , September 27, 2013 12:15 PM
    All of the other announcements I was firmly in the "Shut up and take my money" camp... this though... meh. I guess it's another choice considering the whole platform is so open, but I can't see touch pads as being better that d-pads and sticks (and I'm a PC gamer, not console).
  • -7 Hide
    JD88 , September 27, 2013 12:17 PM
    The big question is going to be what kind of performance can be expected on these things VS say a Windows PC running the same game.

    To build a PC with comparable performance from what one could expect from the new consoles is going to cost north of $700 (more if you include Windows).

    So, can the optimizations of the Steambox and the more efficient Linux OS make up say $200 worth the difference so these things can be priced between $400-500? If they can, and the developer support is there, this is a winner. I would almost rather see Steam self branding one of these things and selling it at cost or maybe even a loss with hopes profits will be made up through game sales. OEMs are going to want to make some profit off hardware sales which will drive up consumer cost.

    Keep in mind, the new Consoles are also starting out with even less games than are currently available on Steam for Linux. This means pretty much an even playing field on the console front. What's even more interesting is the fact that all of the consoles will be based on x86 and likely either Mantle or OpenGL all of which are supported by Linux. This goes without mentioning that the PS4 is running a version of FreeBSD which is very similar to Linux. All of these factors mean porting games between these platforms should be relatively simple.







  • 1 Hide
    Traciatim , September 27, 2013 12:24 PM
    Quote:
    The big question is going to be what kind of performance can be expected on these things VS say a Windows PC running the same game.

    To build a PC with comparable performance from what one could expect from the new consoles is going to cost north of $700 (more if you include Windows).

    So, can the optimizations of the Steambox and the more efficient Linux OS make up say $200 worth the difference so these things can be priced between $400-500? If they can, and the developer support is there, this is a winner. I would almost rather see Steam self branding one of these things and selling it at cost or maybe even a loss with hopes profits will be made up through game sales. OEMs are going to want to make some profit off hardware sales which will drive up consumer cost.

    Keep in mind, the new Consoles are also starting out with even less games than are currently available on Steam for Linux. This means pretty much an even playing field on the console front. What's even more interesting is the fact that all of the consoles will be based on x86 and likely either Mantle or OpenGL all of which are supported by Linux. This goes without mentioning that the PS4 is running a version of FreeBSD which is very similar to Linux. All of these factors mean porting games between these platforms should be relatively simple.


    An OS built from the ground up to prioritize input, video, and audio performance will probably perform slightly better than a general purpose OS on the same hardware. Also, since the OS will be free and downloadable you could still build a 700 machine and get better hardware, and that makes it a no brainer.
  • 0 Hide
    IndignantSkeptic , September 27, 2013 12:59 PM
    I don't see how Windows would be slower than another OS; I think that as long as you put lots of effort to disable all maintenance processes so that you don't get interrupted when you are using the computer, then you are already getting full performance. Also I think, at any time, Microsoft could just stop being jackasses and could just implement a feature that doesn't allow your computer to be interrupted when you are using it so then you don't have to spend ages fiddling with settings to prevent that from happening.
  • 1 Hide
    Bloob , September 27, 2013 1:01 PM
    Quote:
    Nice in theory,but I don't see people giving up the keyboard/mouse combo for this controller.

    For games like Trine I'd much rather have a good gamepad. While I usually hate trackpads and their kind, somehow, of all the things Valve announced, I feel like this will benefit me the most.
  • 2 Hide
    CaedenV , September 27, 2013 1:11 PM
    The console is not for me, but is a great idea. The OS is not for me, but again it is a great idea. But a controller for games with what is essentially dual hybrid analogue d-pads? seems a bit crazy to me, but I'll withhold judgement until I can play with one.

    If the controller ends up being any good, and they include support for steam games on Windows then they will at least get a sale from me there, but I don't think I am going to buy into a proprietary 'game' OS or console box ever again.
  • -2 Hide
    shikamaru31789 , September 27, 2013 1:45 PM
    I don't know about this. Looks difficult to get used to, and even then it may not be as precise as a controller with analog sticks.
  • 0 Hide
    teh_chem , September 27, 2013 2:16 PM
    I'll try to give this the benefit of the doubt, but I am very, very skeptical about touchpads for controllers.

    Would, of course, prefer a keyboard and mouse.
  • 3 Hide
    smokeybravo , September 27, 2013 3:27 PM
    Steam and Valve have done more for gamers than any other companies. I'm on board with this.
  • 0 Hide
    raydog , September 27, 2013 3:31 PM
    This is awesome! There are some games you just wanna play on the sofa w/ a controller like the Batman series. I know I know..."well just hook up a controller"...yeah but then u still need an input device to navigate windows. " Well u can use xpadder"...well I don't wanna go through all that crap. I just want it to work, and w/ a Steam os it will. This is great news! "KB and M is better"...yes it is but I'm sure you'll get used to the controller and it's designed to work on ALL steam games even those w/o controller support.
  • -2 Hide
    fulle , September 27, 2013 4:31 PM
    Well, that crazy looking thing isn't what I expected to see. Looks absolutely terrible to be perfectly honest. No analog sticks, just touchpads, only 1 set of triggers, triggers seem digital, lack of a usable button layout.... I looks unusable.

    Meanwhile the PS4 and Xbox One controllers both look amazingly well designed.
  • 4 Hide
    Izman Quaasalmy , September 27, 2013 4:51 PM
    looks great, probably need to get used, but i think i can imagine using this on FPS game, i believe this could be better than using analog stick
  • -1 Hide
    tomfreak , September 27, 2013 5:32 PM
    Skeptical, need to try this on sample in retail store next year b4 decide it is good or not
  • 0 Hide
    shin0bi272 , September 27, 2013 9:50 PM
    I hope that this isnt the only thing they approve for use. You'd think valve with all their PC gaming pedigree would ENABLE KEYBOARD AND MOUSE SUPPORT. That being said the touchpads are kinda cool replacements for the analog sticks but where are all the other buttons? Eh I'll keep my kb and mouse and my pc thanks.
  • 4 Hide
    radiovan , September 27, 2013 10:12 PM
    Finally. A company had some foresight to get away from the silly analog stick; these touch pads should give a lot nicer control of the game. Looking forward to the user experience reviews of the beta testers. One way or another, this should be interesting.
  • 1 Hide
    elexor , September 27, 2013 10:26 PM
    I can picture now all the console fags crying over this. valve why you no give us our inaccurate and unresponsive thumbsticks that we have been using since the n64!? How dare you innovate valve!
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