Watch Valve's Insane Steam Controller In Action

Here's our first live-action look at the joystick-free Steam Controller, being used to play games like Portal 2 and Civilisation V. Valve says they've got more live-action demos planned over the next few weeks and months.

Valve's Steam Controller, announced two weeks ago, might be one of the most interesting elements of the company's living-room-takeover initiative. It's the first mainstream controller to use haptic feedback instead of thumbsticks, which is an unorthodox choice to say the least.

It does look bizarre. I imagine this will require some mental adjustments to use.

The controller will ship with prototypes of Valve's Steam Machine computer when the company begins their 300-person beta test later this year.


    It seems interesting but I'm wondering how my brain will process using my thumb as a mouse like that. In something like Portal that shouldn't be too far from how I play a FPS. However when I use the mouse in something like Starcraft I'm not constantly lifting it and re-centering it, I process it more like the mouse pad is the size of the screen. It would be like having a really low DPI mouse. A thumb stick works closer to how I move a mouse in those games (it's just painfully inaccurate and slow).
    Getting those no go for console games like Starcraft working is probably going to be a key victory for Steam Machines so I think a lot hinges on this controller being creative and flexible enough to do it.

    Lost me at having to continually move the right thumb to the right and left to turn a direction. Its just a touch pad by any other name. Ugh.

      Sounds about right, but it has the flexibility to mimic a thumb stick which is handy (to a degree, can't really imagine how it'll feel like a thumb stick). I get the impression you'll be able to set it up to work like an analogue stick in the center circle and then a track pad on the outer stuff. So you do precise aiming in your center circle and turn with broader swipes. That could bridge the gap, maybe.

      I'm flipping back and forth on this. I keep thinking about it and then coming to dead ends where it doesn't do well enough to rival a keyboard and mouse, but then I'll think of recombining the applications in a new way that gets me thinking about it again.

    "Pass" heh :smug:

    In-depth commentary there!. It's fascinating to see the controller in action and I think it looks like a great solution for playing games when sitting on a lounge or reclining back in a chair.

    I use a 360 pad + chatpad + Pinnacle profiler to replace my keyboard/mouse but I've always wanted finer mouse control with a trackball or equivalent.

    Is it just me or does the person struggle to aim having to correct with Counter Strike? Sorry but I think I'd get better accuracy with an actual mouse.

      No durr? This isn't mean to be a mouse replacement, it's meant to be a middle ground between controller and precision of mouse.

    I'll give it a try, probably get one for my HTPC

    Last edited 12/10/13 12:18 pm

    I'll have to try it - but I wasn't impressed. It's like playing a game using a laptop touch pad (which is crap) - sure you can customise it, but I'm with the above comments - swiping left and right in an FPS, isn't going to work.

    I'm surprised by peoples reactions. I actually thought about this idea years ago when playing first person shooters on console, and thinking how could they make this better for aiming, say as accurate as a mouse (without having to play it on PC), and this is what i thought they could do. Surprised it hasn't been done years ago.

    I think most negative comments are coming from PC gamers who see this as a controller downgrade... and not from console gamer perspective, which will be a controller upgrade.

      Agreed. There's a lot of people commenting who are massively missing the point. The point is to make couch gaming better. Whether you hate using kb mouse on the couch or you do not like console controller inaccuracy, this is a good thing. The rest of you are absolutely irrelevant to the target market. This is positive innovation to a major sticking point for both sides of the fence.

        Well keep in mind a slight upgrade isn't going to sell a Steam Machine. Steam Machines need the advantage of being able to properly play games consoles simply can't or else there's not really much of a point to owning one of them over a console or a PC hooked up to a TV and a game pad. I hate to say it without getting my hands on one first but the controller presented here appears to offer at best an ok way to play those games. Nothing much better than what I can do with XBOX 360 controller and game pad mapping software like PGP.

        I'm also assuming Steam Machine games will be playing multiplayer against PC gamers, so the game pad is going to have to be good enough to not put you at a disadvantage in Team Fortress 2.

        I'm not trashing the idea, like I've said in other comments it's at the very least an interesting idea and I want to get my hands on one before saying it definitely can't do this stuff, it's just it has to be more than a middle ground or else there's no point. We can already do middle ground on a traditional game pad and it's almost universally agreed upon that it can't handle the sorts of precision inputs used in the games that Steam Machines are going to rely on as draw cards.

        All that said I've been rallying for a standard for controllers on PC games for years. If all we get out of Steam Machines is reliable, decently planned game pad compatibility on more PC titles I'll be very happy.

    So where's the XYAB or Triangle, Circle, Square and X keys?

      It's a substitute for a mouse, not for a console-style controller. It's designed to work with games that are expecting mouse input. For games that are optimised for controllers you'll be able to plug in a 360 controller (or any other you prefer) just like you've always been able to do.

      The claims are that the left (or right) pad can be programmed to mimic a set of buttons, and - reportedly - it works really well. Tommy Refresne played Super Meat Boot with it and said he had no trouble pulling off the more advanced moves. As for dual analog games, that's a different question ... but I'm sure there's a workable solution.

      They're the triangular buttons between the circle pads and what will be the controller's screen. Since there aren't analogue sticks being used it looks like the buttons should be fairly easy to reach. There are also buttons behind the "prongs" of the controller

    Doesn't look good. Stick with 360 controller for 3rd person/platform games and wireless K/M for everything else. When I hook my PC to my TV I just take my keyboard tray from my desk and use that when I'm on the couch, it's the best solution to this "problem" not a weird looking controller.

    Happy to give it a crack. I'm predominantly a console gamer these days so this looks aimed directly at me. Where will this be sold? Via Steam or local retailers?

    I was cynical at first and then hopeful because I figured if anyone could pull this controller off it would be Valve, but now I've settled in the middle...

    It's an interesting idea, but it feels like a weird half way point between controller and keyboard/mouse and I'm not sold yet that it's something I would want to use...

    I don't even need to watch the video (and I haven't, yet). I'm already sold on the concept of what they're trying to achieve. If the haptic feedback works as advertised I genuinely think this controller will change things.
    Can't wait to get my mitts on it. I just watched the vid. This thing looks fucking amazing.
      You're more than welcome to disagree.

        It looks brilliant.

        Imagine if that thing worked right now on current gen consoles, people using traditional xbox/ps3 controllers would not even remotely be able to compete against the Steam controller without auto-aim. Think about that - this controller might actually allow FPS games to drop auto-aim, that shitty feature that HAS to be put in to console FPS because traditional controllers are so useless at aiming.

        Of course a KB/M is more accurate, but we're talking about a console experience here - sitting on the lounge passing around controllers is not the natural habitat of mouse aiming.

        I think it's possible that people who are saying 'pass' are coming at it as PC gamers, and not thinking about how much better this could be for a console gaming experience.

        Last edited 13/10/13 6:44 pm

          I agree completely. If I was sitting at my desk, daresay I'd still prefer the old faithful mouse. But as a predominantly console gamer frustrated with analog sticks, and their lack of accuracy when I want to play exclusives I KNOW I should be better at ... This thing looks brilliant. I would legitimately shift from console to PC to use this controller.
          If ... as I keep saying ... The haptic feedback works as advertised.

            I come from only playing fps's on pc for the past 15 years, been playing cs since 1.6 etc....
            I was watching my mate play COD on console about a year ago and he was nailing shots left right and centre. I'm like "Man, I give you cred... I can never aim properly with thumb sticks". As I watched more and more I realised what was going on with auto-aim. MY MIND WAS BLOWN... A whole generation of gamers are accustomed to this, it's pure insanity.

    People are underrating and hating on this too soon and too fiercely. No hope for the human race.

    Having to repeatedly stroke the right pad to do what can be done as a single motion on a mouse or a single move and hold on an analogue stick looks like a really great way to accelerate a case of RSI. I kind of skimmed the video but if that's the only method of controlling the mouse, then this is a very disappointing design decision on Valve's part. I was hoping that it would be more like an analogue control for the acceleration of the mouse.

      While an analogue stick can aim with a single motion, that's not actually how most people use it when playing FPS's - the sensitive is just too low, your thumb can't control it to enough of a degree to aim properly like that, so people tend to actually make lots of small jerky adjustments, nudging the stick to line up their shots. To make an analogue stick usable in a single motion aiming style, you have to put the sensitivity down really low, so turning and aiming takes forever. Increase it to be high enough to be playable, and people nudge their sticks because they can no longer properly control it ... And even with that, it still takes forever to do a 360 turn, with some games actually requiring a dedicated "turn 360" button combo just to get around this. If you think you don't nudge nudge nudge with an analogue stick, it's probably because the generous auto-aim is kicking in and tracking your shots for you.

      Also, lots of regular small motions is also exactly how mice are used. Most people play with a low enough sensitivity that they need to constantly lift the mouse back into the centre while playing.

      Although back when I was playing Quake 1 multiplayer, that was a point of pride almost, to see who could play with the highest sensitivity and do the most 360 turns while not leaving the mouse pad AND also having the precision to stop with your crosshairs on an exact pixel - loved that game.

      But having said all that, you're probably right that RSI could potentially be more of a problem with this setup. Our poor thumbs never expected to do all of this gaming! :D

      Last edited 14/10/13 1:15 am

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