Game devs go hands on with Steam Controller, here's what they think

By on September 30, 2013, 10:26 AM
valve, sega, xbox 360, pc gaming, double fine, game, steam machines, steam controller, steam controllers

Valve announced its Steam Controller as the final part of its 3 stage announcement last week. Reports came in over the weekend that a number of developers have been hands on with a prototype version of the controller for some time now.

The prototype version is very much like the version Valve unveiled last week, although it appears that the clickable touch screen in the center of the final version has 4 hard buttons in its place, as you can see in the image below. The reports are suggesting that this prototype will be the version of the controller that ships to the 300 lucky beta participants later this year, as we expected.

Like many of us most likely assumed, Valve is testing out the Steam Controller on various developers, and now those game makers are starting to speak publicly about what they think.

While some still prefer the Xbox 360 gamepad, the impressions seem to be generally positive. Sega Director of Digital Distribution James Schall said that "the touch pads are incredibly responsive and I would imagine that once used to it, it could deliver higher performance for the gamer." Even Team Meat co-founder Tommy Refenes, who prefers the 360 gamepad, suggests that this is likely due to the thousands of hours he has put on it, as opposed it simply being a better controller. Refenes played his own game, Super Meat Boy, and the very difficult and precision focused Spelunky saying, "the controller worked great."

But the most interesting topic surrounding Valve's new controller is the way it attempts to emulate a mouse and keyboard. While many will always believe that there is no way to replace the traditional PC set-up, some developers seem to believe in the Steam Controller's capabilities. Ichiro Lambe, Dejobaan Games president said, "We primarily develop our games for mouse and keyboard, and when we think about adding gamepad support, it's a matter of mitigating loss of control. For instance, WASD+mouselook excels over a traditional gamepad for precise camera control or when navigating complex user interfaces. The Steam Controller largely does away with a gamepad's weaknesses there."

Double Fine designer and writer Chris Remo, who also had a chance to go hands on with the Steam Controller, seconds Lambe's thoughts on the input device's mouse emulation. "We just plugged it in, and it worked," he told Gamasutra. "We didn't have special support for it or anything. It worked really, really well. I was really impressed with the mouse imitation. It doesn't feel like a trackpad."

While only time will tell if the Steam Controller can actually replace, or at least be a decent alternative, to the mouse and keyboard, it certainly seems to be headed in the right direction. Some of the negative comments have been surrounding the lack of analog sticks and the inherent (positive) limitations they provide to gamers along with what appears to be a general hesitation with how well the controller will be able to handle hardcore strategy/RTS experiences.




User Comments: 13

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2 people like this | SantistaUSA said:

I can't wait to give it a shot, the looks is really weird for what we are used to, but as long as it easy to use it that I'm all for it.

3 people like this | fimbles fimbles said:

Same here, Looking forward to trying it out for myself.

Was thinking about starting a steam greenlight for my new game " nipple simulator" and this seems like just the right tool for the job.

Sorry

4 people like this | Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I've been contemplating this controller over the weekend (I know, I need a life), and I'm torn... I have a sneaking suspicion that it'll be a bit tighter accuracy for the controls than typical console style gamepads - and some of the "hands-on" reviews have backed this up. But, whether it will be easy for PC gamers to use is going to be another matter entirely. As I was running around in Borderlands 2, I was observing how often I perform multiple-finger maneuvers on the w-a-s-d side of my keyboard. During a run and gun firefight, I'm often strafing, moving forward, reloading, popping a grenade, jumping, maybe switching weapons... And Borderlands 2 is rather tame compared to some of the more hardcore FPS games out there. So, how will that level of control apply with a thumb pad and very limited finger buttons? If you have to lift your thumb off of the pad, you have just removed your fine control in the heat of battle...

My worry is, if this gamepad becomes popular, and compatibility gets pushed hard, we'll see a general dumbing down of PC game controls. I would hate to see PC game control schemes becoming just straight console ports. One of the Saints Row games was like that (2 I think?), and it made it unplayable for me with mouse/keyboard. In my (and many other gamers' opinion, the mouse/keyboard control is one of the aspects that makes PC gaming a superior experience. Hoping we don't see any of that lost along the way here.

1 person liked this | JC713 JC713 said:

I cannot wait to get my hands on this!

Guest said:

Actually, the ultimate FPS experience was Resident Evil Wii edition. Light gun + numchuck is unmatched in zombie killing goodness.

1 person liked this | Acespaces Acespaces said:

Quality looking controller, hope its made of quality material to make it feel good in the hand.

3 people like this | St1ckM4n St1ckM4n said:

I'm still not convinced that friction burn won't be a problem.

Arris Arris said:

I'm with St1ckM4n. After many Tekken blisters and sores I'm not convinced a touch interface for left and right sticks is the way forward. With Leap montion controllers, Kinect and Sony's own eye/camera setup is this really the way forward?

Ravey Ravey said:

This is the part that bothers me the most:

"We primarily develop our games for mouse and keyboard, and when we think about adding gamepad support, it's a matter of mitigating loss of control. For instance, WASD+mouselook excels over a traditional gamepad for precise camera control or when navigating complex user interfaces. The Steam Controller largely does away with a gamepad's weaknesses there."

That last sentence above is key to what the developers really think. It might be just me being pessimistic but the word "largely" used in this context reminds me of words like "almost" and "nearly". So it almost does away with a traditional controllers weaknesses, but not quite.

The whole review is based on how Valve's controller is better than traditional controllers. Not how it's better than a keyboard and mouse.

I'm sorry Valve but if you want to win over PC gamers, you need to build a controller that will compete on an even level with a traditional keyboard and mouse and not a traditional controller.

The next step is to borrow a few unbiased pro gamers to go head to head. Controller vs KB + Mouse

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Sorry, couldn't help myself. lol

I'm sorry Valve but if you want to win over PC gamers, you need to build a controller that will compete on an even level with a traditional keyboard and mouse and not a traditional controller.
They are releasing a controller for their console to be used in the living room. The sole purpose is not to replace the keyboard and mouse but to be more accurate than the traditional controller for console use. But since most Steam games are designed for PC, the controller needs to be able to natively replace the keyboard and mouse functionality.

Skidmarksdeluxe Skidmarksdeluxe said:

I'm still not convinced that friction burn won't be a problem.

If it becomes a problem for me I'll just coat them with cyanoacrylate. :/

SantistaUSA said:

I'm still not convinced that friction burn won't be a problem.

That's is first concern that came to my mind, I remember playing SF2, Mortal Kombat etc back in the day and sometimes I would get friction burn, I wonder how this one compares.

St1ckM4n St1ckM4n said:

The next step is to borrow a few unbiased pro gamers to go head to head. Controller vs KB + Mouse

KB + mouse will always win and you know it.

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