One Month On: Valve’s Steam Controller Tweaks

Cara’s gone for a wee nap (we’re full of Christmas cheer), so I’m free to talk about something secret without ruining the magic: where toys really come from. We saw Elf on Wednesday (and Krampus last night – it’s good!) but, turns out, toys are not made by Will Ferrell at the North Pole. Valve have made a video showing where Steam Controllers come from, which is pleasing in a How It’s Made way, while also explaining how they’ve improved the pad since launch – when it was a bit a bit Marmitey. We should make Graham report back with revised impressions. Graham. Graham. Graham! He can’t hear me, all the way down in London. GRAHAM. He’s not listening. GRAHAM!

That’s delightful that, isn’t it? I’m unreasonably pleased – and slightly mesmerised, merry as I am – by videos of mechanised production lines. Any time I’m in the US of A, I do end up entranced by How It’s Made, watching the manufacturing of everything from gum balls to bowling balls. That said, my dream job is probably turning a wheel endlessly like Valtiel in Silent Hill 3.

But, probably of more interest is Valve’s update of what they’ve learned and done since launching the Steam Controller a month ago. Given how weird a piece of hardware it is, it’s no surprise that the public have come up with ideas and suggestions Valve hadn’t thought of. It’s interesting to see how much they’ve tweaked through updates, and how they’ve followed feedback. Software updates won’t fix some of the physical complaints Graham had (small buttons and some awkward placements) but I do wonder what he might make of it now.

GRAHAM!

Oh for

GRAHAM!

49 Comments

  1. All is Well says:

    Almost related: link to youtu.be
    I like watching watchmaking. All the pieces are so ridiculously tiny.

    • islipaway says:

      I have no interest in watches, (the only watch I use is a £10 casio one I found on the street) but that was awesome.

      • Premium User Badge

        IJC says:

        You had to pay £10 for something you found on the street?

        • Premium User Badge

          DelrueOfDetroit says:

          The legends of London’s money sucking properties are true!

    • seamoss says:

      Watch porn!

      • All is Well says:

        At first I thought you were just encouraging me to watch porn, which was sort of surreal. But to address what you actually meant: yes!

      • Buggery says:

        Yo you don’t need to yell. I already do.

  2. rocktart says:

    now I just have this in my head

    GRAHAM
    link to goo.gl

  3. FreeTom says:

    Very happy with the Aperture Laboratories branding on the robot arms. I propose that all manufacturing everywhere be Portal themed from here on out.

  4. Tiffer45 says:

    Fantastic. Always makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside to think of all the human work that is truly on show in a video like that.

    Millions & millions of hours of science, electronics, chemistry and engineering creativity required to produce a controller that can be sold at a profit for $50. We have come a long way.

  5. trjp says:

    Things can’t be going as swimmingly as they want us to believe.

    Their UK supplier – GAME – has no Steam Links/Controllers in the stores I’ve been to and none on their website (like not even “Out of Stock” – just nothing)

    I emailled them and they said the “deal I was looking at was no longer available”.

    Admittedly they forced you to buy Steam Credit which was a bit dubious but as-is there’s no UK supplier for these things (other than going to Valve directly which is pricey postage and dubious consumer support in the event of an issue)??

    Not a good start – rule 1, make your things buyable

    • guy15s says:

      If Steam has the controller available, that sounds more like a distribution issue on GAME’s end. Maybe they were just selling better on Steam’s platform or people were willing to pay the shipping and they wanted to centralize the Steam Controller’s availability. It doesn’t mean the Steam Controller isn’t performing well.

      That being said, I completely agree as far as Steam’s substandard shipping preferences and customer service, though. It was a complete chore trying to get mine delivered correctly and I had to bend some rules to even get it to my door. But we need to actually see sales numbers to know how the controller is doing. It being out of stock at one place could mean dozens of things.

      • trjp says:

        Not sure if my furious typing woke GAME up but after checking yesterday (nothing available) I checked again tonight and they’ve restored the items into their store.

        With one small change – if I want to buy a Controller I have to buy £50 of Steam Credit with it – FIFTY POUNDS is more than the controller costs (£39.99) – that’s my cheapest way into a controller with GAME.

        • stemitchell says:

          If you go in a store, they will sell you one by itself (link or controller). You just have to ask. Which is worth it, as you don’t get stung by Steam postage costs…but..still. GAME are a bit shitty for trying it on.

          • trjp says:

            They don’t have any in the three stores I checked – furthermore, the staff there had NO IDEA what I was asking for indicating they’d NEVER had any!?

    • Menthalion says:

      Valve has a local distributor, for local people, pain local postage.

      • trjp says:

        I’m SUPER dubious of Valve, all their offices in Europe are outside the EU (tax avoiding/regulation avoiding) and I strongly suspect controllers will be shipped in a way which avoids the need to offer the mandatory 2 year warranty the EU would place on such items.

        Even if they had to cover it tho, I don’t trust their support to the point you’d be ABLE to return the fucker.

        £7.40 is the postage cost – that’s WAY too much to send an item within the UK (you can post bricks for that money) – it’s coming from somewhere outside the EU, I’m willing to bet money on that.

        • spacedyemeerkat says:

          Mine came from Holland (I am in the UK).

          • trjp says:

            So all you have to do is get Steam Support to respond and then send it back there – should be dead simple then ;0

            Corsair used-to-require stuff to be sent back to Germany for a while – one of their keyboards is pretty weighty so it cost a fortune – controller may not be so bad but it’s not ideal is it?

          • alms says:

            It could be something like BorderLinx (or eBay, too?), so you’re effectively buying from a US business and the transaction happens outside the borders of UE, hence UE terms do not apply.

            (Just speculating)

    • Orix says:

      NOOOO, YOU GOT ME STARTED ON “GAME” AND THEIR FREAKING DELIVERY OF STEAM GEAR. ARRRRGH!!!

      /deepbreath

      So, yeah, through GAME’s website I pre-ordered a Controller, Link and £20 Steam credit as a bundle (for roughly the the same cost as it takes to send it from America through Steam, minus £20 credit on Steam, so win-win there).

      It was “shipped” I waited 3 weeks for it to arrive, it never came. Called up GAME, they said it had been sent via Royal Mail instead of a courier, which it shouldn’t have. Never mind, so they “sent” another one, except they didn’t, they just refunded me, but didn’t tell me that’s what they did, I waited again for a few weeks, until I checked our bank statement, and noticed the refund.

      So, yeah, ordered again, this time it finally arrived after about a week and a half. But god damn, considering I pre-order this stuff, two and a half months later I finally get it.

      Still, not I’ve got it, I’m rather happy. The controller needs getting used to, but my fears over it’s build quality have been allayed, it’s rather nice, and the Steam Link can stream any old thing going on on my computer, all them games I added to Steam as non-Steam games, it look like it Streams those too, so, going to try playing SWTOR using Steam Link and see how it goes ^_^

      I love a happy ending. No, not that type.

    • PancakeWizard says:

      UK user here. Why wouldn’t you just order from Steam? I had no issue getting mine in time for release day when I pre-ordered.

      • DanMan says:

        Delivery- and potential, future RMA-costs.

        • trjp says:

          Pretty much that and even if you ignore the RMA cost, an item shipped from another EU country has no UK consumer support so if they choose to ignore you, there’s not a lot you can do about it…

          If they want to sell me a controller, they need to put it into a shop or supply it via a more trusted/reliable middleman such as Amazon (I know – but still better than GAME!!) or whatever.

          I don’t believe they’ll sell enough of these to make an impression in the market until it’s actually for-sale in shops and stuff – hell, it should in the local supermarket (they have 4 types of XBOX controller, 3 types of PS4 one and so on!?)

  6. subedii says:

    There are already quite a few videos out now talking about the Steam Controller and how to configure it for different things.

    Saw this one today about using it in HotS and thought it was a decent illustration of some of the things you can do with it.

  7. Calculon says:

    Wow.

    Interesting the take-away’s we all have. Im just thinking ‘look at all of that work no longer done by people – sad’

    • subedii says:

      When we first started designing hardware at Valve, we decided we wanted to try and do the manufacturing as well. To achieve our goal of a flexible controller, we felt it was important to have a similar amount of flexibility in our manufacturing process, and that meant looking into automated assembly lines. It turns out that most consumer hardware of this kind still has humans involved in stages throughout manufacturing, but we kind of went overboard, and built one of the largest fully automated assembly lines in the US. Our film crew recently put together a video of that assembly line, showcasing exactly why robots are awesome.

      Having worked in a tech production environment, let me tell you, I’m actually kind of glad that things like testing are automated instead of being done by someone that has to do the same repetitive motions whilst sitting staring at a screen for 8 hours. It’s easy for a person to quickly get blind to the very flaws they’re looking for.

    • Press X to Gary Busey says:

      There are better things to do than putting people in unskilled, repetitive sweat pits when machines can do the same things quicker, better and cheaper.
      The sucky part is that a lot of people still have to work in worse dead-end sweat pits that can’t yet be automated. And the lack of any real benefit to larger society when a sector is automated.

      • Premium User Badge

        Don Reba says:

        I doubt someone with better options would have opted to work at a conveyor belt.

    • icarussc says:

      You and I had similar thoughts, Calculon, though I then immediately reflected on how fiendishly difficult and complex an issue it was.

    • Konservenknilch says:

      OTOH, my uncle is a retired manual watchmaker, and a lifetime of sitting hunched over, squinting and twiddling with teeny tiny things absolutely killed his joints and spine.

    • DanMan says:

      Same for me. But then again, that’s why we have machines in the first place – to do the work for us.

      Support link to basicincome.org and we are free to automate all the things!

  8. liquidsoap89 says:

    I liked the little knob that tested the analogue stick.

  9. Moonracer says:

    For those looking for config tips I recommend “woodsie” on youtube. He has quite a series dedicated to that.

    If Valve end up making considerable hardware changes to the controller I hope they offer some sort of discount to us early adopters. So far it has been a massive learning curve and I still am not comfortable with the device. It’s amazing, but I can’t recommend it to anyone.

    • Foosnark says:

      I find myself using it for Rocket League, Dirt Rally, and (oddly) Bejeweled. I gave up trying to use it in any sort of FPS.

  10. alms says:

    You don’t have How It’s Made in the UK? I must have misread that.

    I find it and its clones, to be an excellent watch when doing dishes or generally being in the kitchen.

    • spacedyemeerkat says:

      It’s viewable on one of the satellite/cable channels here in the UK (think it’s Discovery, could be wrong) so the article is incorrect, assuming Alice has access.

      • alms says:

        Maybe it’s just her routine? Like, feeling like doing or remembering something only when you’re in a certain situation, like a definite place or time of the year and so on.

      • Malibu Stacey says:

        It’s on Quest which is like channel 38 on Freeview so no satellite/cable subscription required.

        It is on late at night though, past midnight usually.

  11. Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

    Hey Alice, you know they do repeats of How it’s Made at about 5 in the morning on Sky right?

  12. MattM says:

    I’m surprised at the level of automation used in the construction. I work at a company that makes $200k machines, but since we only make around 100 a year, if you did a video like this all you would see is a bunch of people assembling everything by hand with a screwdriver and a crimper.

  13. Alegis says:

    Awesome, the portal music is a perfect fit.

    • Josh W says:

      It also works pretty well to “love and machines” by Martyn.

  14. frightlever says:

    I was kinda surprised to learn that Valve actually set up an entire, fully-automated factory in Illinois to make this thing.

  15. DanMan says:

    Silence!

    You’re waking up Cara, dontya know?

  16. Spuzzell says:

    A wee nap sounds messy.