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Valve announces Steam Controller

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Valve have released their third and final announcement for the Steam Controller, a new proprietary controller.The controller is unique in employing dual trackpads as opposed to the more traiditional dual analogue sticks:

Driven by the player’s thumbs, each one has a high-resolution trackpad as its base. It is also clickable, allowing the entire surface to act as a button. The trackpads allow far higher fidelity input than has previously been possible with traditional handheld controllers. Steam gamers, who are used to the input associated with PCs, will appreciate that the Steam Controller’s resolution approaches that of a desktop mouse.

 

Whole genres of games that were previously only playable with a keyboard and mouse are now accessible from the sofa. RTS games. Casual, cursor-driven games. Strategy games. 4x space exploration games. A huge variety of indie games. Simulation titles. And of course, Euro Truck Simulator 2.

 

In addition, games like first-person shooters that are designed around precise aiming within a large visual field now benefit from the trackpads’ high resolution and absolute position control.

Another innovative feature is the centralised touchscreen:

 

In the center of the controller is another touch-enabled surface, this one backed by a high-resolution screen. This surface, too, is critical to achieving the controller’s primary goal - supporting all games in the Steam catalog. The screen allows an infinite number of discrete actions to be made available to the player, without requiring an infinite number of physical buttons.

 

The whole screen itself is also clickable, like a large single button. So actions are not invoked by a simple touch, they instead require a click.

Another feature includes specialised haptics within each touchscreen:

This haptic capability provides a vital channel of information to the player - delivering in-game information about speed, boundaries, thresholds, textures, action confirmations, or any other events about which game designers want players to be aware. It is a higher-bandwidth haptic information channel than exists in any other consumer product that we know of. As a parlour trick they can even play audio waveforms and function as speakers.

Thoughts

A bold move from Valve to try and reinvent the controller and make it more accessible for traditional mouse-based games. However I'm a little bit confused about how the controller will function with Xbox/PlayStation titles, especially as the 8 face buttons are effectively gone (4 D-pad buttons, 4 face buttons) and have been replaced by the centralised buttons near the touchscreen. Many games may require extensive remapping for them to work as intended, which defeats many of the plug and play advantages of say, using an Xbox 360 controller.

 

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My initial thought was "Trackpads? Really", but I can't harsh on it too much without trying it myself. The mirroring a mouse and keyboard is pretty cool.

 

I guess for console games, they can just imitate the dpad on the touchscreen.

 

Hey, if it can perfectly immitate an xbox 360 in both functionality and driver support, I may just give it a try.

 

Final thought, I hope it's bluetooth 4.0 so I pair it with my phone if I so desire.

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Since Dark Souls was a game that basically made me buy X360 controller, the game I spent most time playing on a controller and as a result - change my thoughts about owning and playing on controller in general... all I can think of now, seeing this design is - how the hell am I going to configure this "thing" for Dark Souls. This is weird... for a something that is meant to make playing on a TV easier - when I think of Skyrim, or Dishonored - yeah, that such design may solve some problems, but I really doubt it's going to be better at "anything".

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I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of Half-Life fans cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.

 

This controller excites me a lot. The ability to play all games "past, present, and future" is amazing and unexpected. I was afraid the controller would be gimped by a lack of games, but that doesn't look like it's going to be the case. I wonder, though, how it will handle games like Morrowind or Deus Ex which require a huge amount of buttons, potentially more than the controller has. Preferably we wouldn't have to use the touch screen for a button/buttons.

 

EDIT: Just read the touch screen section because I'm dumb, they seem to have thought through everything.

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Fucking awesome. The high bandwidth haptic feedback system is what I'm excited about. Tactile feedback has been sadly under-utilized in games so far.

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