Valve Announces Steam Controller
The last timer has counted down, and final step Valve is taking to have Steam conquer your living room is a new controller.
Valve has announced that they are making a controller for use with the entire Steam library of games. It was revealed through the Steam Living Room website yesterday. The new controller is a little bit weird, with the look of an Xbox controller, the touchscreen of a PS4 controller, and some new things that Valve says, “offers a new and, we believe, vastly superior control scheme, all while enabling you to play from the comfort of your sofa.”
For starters, the gamepad doesn’t have sticks. Instead it has two trackpads. Valve says that the pads offer higher fidelity than current controllers and has a resolution that nears that of PC mice. Because of these trackpads, “whole genres of games that were previously only playable with a keyboard and mouse are now accessible from the sofa.” You can now play RTS games, sim games, indie games, and many more genres from your couch without a keyboard strewn across your stomach and draping your mousepad over the sleeping dog/child that is nearby.
Next up is force feedback. Using trackpads is a lot less visceral than using sticks, and while doing research Valve found that rumble is a good thing, too. But they didn’t want to use the old rumble method (a spinning, lopsided weight in the handles of the controller), so instead their using haptic feedback and something called “dual linear resonant actuators.” They’re small, weighted electro-magnets that are stuck on the back of the trackpads capable of doing all kinds of force feedback things and allowing precise control over frequency, amplitude, and direction of the movement. They can also deliver all kinds of information to players that can’t be delivered with current controllers and can even turn the trackpads into speakers.
Like I said above, the Steam Controller has a touchscreen which, according to Valve, “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.” Speaking of buttons, the screen is also clickable like a giant button. This means that players can swipe through options of something and only select the one they want by clicking it. And you won’t have to keep looking down at the controller to see the options on the screen. When touched, the information on the touchscreen is overlayed on the main screen.
There are 16 buttons on the Steam Controller, each one of the carefully placed based on usage, precision required, and comfort. Half of these buttons are accessible without lifting your fingers off of the trackpads. The controller was also designed to be completely symmetrical, so it’s usable by both lefties and righties. The button configuration is also completely customizable, letting you figure out the best way to translate mouse and keyboard control to the Steam Controller. Think you found a great way? Then you can share it with the Steam community for everyone to use. Can’t think of one? Then choose from a list of the most popular configurations from the rest of the Steam community.
As a final thing, the controller is completely hackable, like all the Steam Living Room stuff. Tools will be released that will let users customize the controller in every way, and share what they come up with with the rest of Steam.
The Steam Controller will be shipping to people who are accepted into the Steam Machine beta later this year. At the same time, the Steam Controller API will be released to developers. It will be available commercially some time in 2014.