!!! – Valve Releases Video Of Steam Controller In Action

By Nathan Grayson on October 11th, 2013 at 8:10 pm.

We’ve heard tell of the Steam controller‘s ins and outs (and ups and downs and lefts and rights and Bs and As and starts) from many a developer, but still skepticism reigns. And with good reason: Valve’s haptics-powered Franken-pad is kinda bonkers. But now, at the very least, we can see – with eyes or echolocation – how it functions moment-to-moment. Go below to see it power through Portal 2, Civilization V, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Papers Please.

Seems solid, no? It’s definitely versatile. I’ll give Valve that much. It’ll definitely take some getting used to, but I could see myself piloting my way through the future with one of those if a mouse-and-keyboard setup isn’t readily available. That’s my big concern, really: this all looks nice enough, but each demonstration made my brain scream, “YEAH, BUT MOUSE AND KEYBOARD WOULD FEEL SO MUCH BETTER.” Sorry about the caps. It’s all screaming up there.

Then again, these are legacy mode games, so of course mouse-and-keyboard is preferable over thumb-warring them into submission. But then, the Steam controller is supposed to be a substitute for our setup of choice, so I don’t really see it getting the upper hand in many genres. Does it look better than a standard gamepad? Definitely. I’m still skeptical about the effectiveness of haptic feedback, but you can’t argue with that precisio, and we haven’t even what the touch screen’s capable of yet. My issue is that Valve’s pretty obviously trying to get dyed-in-the-wool PC gamers aboard its living room Steam engine first, but I don’t really see any compelling reason to modify my current setup. Not yet, anyway.

I suppose I might be interested if I played more games that tangibly benefited from a drive-in-movie-theater-worthy screen and – yuck – other nearby humans, but there aren’t many of those on PC these days. That said, Valve plans to release videos like this regularly, so I’d love to see one that includes, say, TowerFall and Samurai Gunn. Or Nidhogg. Or Divekick. Or or or… OK, maybe we’ve got some good living room games after all. But I would argue that Steam’s living room conquest still lacks a mighty leader – a killer app to stand at the head of the charge – so it’s a tough sell for me. Does Valve have something else up its sleeve? Time will tell. (And also it’s probably Half-Life.)

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196 Comments »

  1. JamesTheNumberless says:

    Playing Civ like that looks painfull, I can move the mouse pointer to any part of the screen I choose to, in one motion which can be as smooth or a quick as I like. The choice at the moment for playing strategy games seems to be between sitting in my comfortable office chair at my PC with a comfortable mouse & keyboard. Or sitting on my comfortable sofa in the living room with an uncomfortable controller.

    • LionsPhil says:

      For that kind of game, you can also sit on your comfortable sofa with a USB extension cable and a mouse (or trackball) on your leg and a wireless keyboard to one side for the rare bits of typing.

  2. newprince says:

    I’m not down with the notion that designing around keyboard and mouse is bad design. The evidence I can point to is not new, but we have indeed 25 years of very popular controller-based consoles to point to. Was designing around controllers bad design? Furthermore, did this two decades of controller-based gaming so obviously prove itself superior to kb+m, that kb+m is dead? Far from it.

    The simple fact is that you design around the input you anticipate. Giving people precision “aiming” or, giving people accurate, FAST orientation in the X Y axis, has never been bested by the mouse. The keyboard is all digital, but offers an almost unlimited set of buttons or macros to allow interaction or bringing up more in depth submenus (and thus saving time digging through submenus through a UI, for example).

    On the other hand, designing games around controllers can offer a “satisfying” movement in 3D space via analog control. And both D-Pads and analog sticks in general feel better than WASD for non-first person games.

    Why the Steam controller is “good” is because it addresses, if only incrementally, the weaknesses of controllers. But as everyone is quite right about, it will never beat the mouse in terms of fast, precise aiming. That doesn’t make it useless, it just makes it better in certain situations than other controllers, and offers an interesting use case if you are on the couch and don’t want to deal with kb+m.