Valve Announces the Steam Controller

Valve's third and final "big announcement" for this week is a new controller designed to work with Steam OS and its SteamOS-based hardware. The controller features two trackpads (instead of thumbsticks) that uses haptic feedback, a touch-enabled surface with a high resolution screen similar to what Sony is offering on the PS4 controller (which can also be used like four separate clickable buttons), shoulder buttons, four face buttons, and three buttons below the touch enabled surface.

"The most prominent elements of the Steam controller are its two circular trackpads. 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."

Valve says that the unique nature of the track pads make it so that genres that were previously difficult to play using a controller are now supported such as RTS games.

As for the touch-enabled surface at the center of the controller, Valve says that it is required to support all the games in steam's vast catalog of games.

"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."

Valve also claims that every button on the controller has been placed based on "frequency of use, precision required and ergonomic comfort."

All told, Valve claims that there sixteen buttons on the Steam Controller, half of which 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."

Finally, the controller features a "Legacy Mode" to support older games.

"In order to support the full catalog of existing Steam games (none of which were built with the Steam Controller in mind), we have built in a legacy mode that allows the controller to present itself as a keyboard and mouse. The Steam Community can use the configuration tool to create and share bindings for their favorite games. Players can choose from a list of the most popular configurations."

You can learn more about the new controller here.

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  1. 0
    Longjocks says:

    The legacy mode certainly has me interested for those games without native controller support. I do have Xpadder for this, but I don't think it mimics mouse input, just keyboard (I haven't really played with it enough). If I find one for the right price I might give it a try.

  2. 0
    hellfire7885 says:

    I couldn't' play Minecraft on a tablet because the touchscreen felt so awkward, so I doubt I would play games with this. Plus I like looking for make sure I hit the right buttons.

  3. 0
    MechaTama31 says:

    Woah, be careful, Zippy.  Someone is downvoting everything that's even slightly critical of this.  You better be prepared for some thumbs-down action!  😉

  4. 0
    ZippyDSMlee says:

    Its more non standard than the WII mote+numb chuck much more so to the point its worthless on most FPSs or action games like Batman AA/AC/AO or 2d fighting games…… it seems like a really dumb move.

  5. 0
    locopuyo says:

    They are saying they are different but I am skeptical.  If there is any input lag at all like with normal touchscreens there is no way I would use it. 

    I'll definitely have to try it out before I consider buying it.  But it does have me interested.  

  6. 0
    jedidethfreak says:

    Touchpads instead of sticks?  Don't they realize the "virtual thumbsticks" on touch screens suck?  I don't care if it's got haptic feedback – it's a crap design.

    I'll stick with my Xbox 360 controller, Gabe.  Thanks anyway.

  7. 0
    MechaTama31 says:

    I hope they arrange to have demo units put out somewhere, because I'm way too leery of the touchpads-in-place-of-thumbsticks to drop any dough on this without getting a feel for it.

  8. 0
    Zen says:

    Fighting games are one of the reasons I would have issues with this though.  No d-pad or actual "stick" to work with along with face buttons being spread in the center.  Plus to hit some of the buttons you would either have to move your right thumb across the center to hit them, or take your left thumb off of the "pad" in order to hit them which will affect combos and the like.  I can see it working "well" for some games…but it just seems off to me.  

  9. 0
    Slipperman says:

    Awesome to hear. I just got the PC edition of Skullgirls on Steam this week, and the controls are a bit daunting to play on a laptop keyboard (especially with the game's more complicated special moves). A controller like this would come in pretty handy for games like that.

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