The third and final announcement in the series of announcements by Valve is finally here and guess what? It’s a brand new…. Controller? This comes as a huge surprise, in fact I was so ready for an announcement of a game specific to the Steam Box hardware, I never even considered the idea of a controller until just now, but I digress.
Valve has come to the realization that we’ve been stuck in a rut with traditional gamepads and says we’ve been “forced to accept compromises” but these compromises are no longer. With the superior performance and control scheme of the Steam Controller Valve aims to bring native controls instead of trying to trick the games into thinking your controller is a keyboard and mouse.
One of the first things you should notice is the dual trackpads. Initial impressions brought up questions of, “Where are the sticks” and Valve’s answer to that is, they aren’t here. The new Steam Controller features two circular trackpads which are meant to be controlled by the player’s thumbs. Each of the trackpads has one high-resolution sensor in it’s base while still allowing users to click within the trackpad. this keeps the function of the L3, and R3 buttons usually mapped to the clicking of the sticks. While Valve has accepted it’s not as accurate as your typical desktop mouse, they say that the “Steam Controller’s resolution approaches that of a desktop mouse.” There are games out there that just didn’t have controller support and some games that just seemed better with a keyboard and mouse. But now these games will now be accessible from your couch.
Just like any trackpad you’ve used, they are by nature less physical than thumbsticks. So to balance this they have bypassed the easy way out of just throwing in a rumble feature and have actually built a new super-precise “Haptic feedback” This essentially means that there are small weighted electro magnets attached to the trackpads that are capable of alerting you via force and vibration through frequency, amplitude, and direction of moment.This haptic feedback requires a higher-bandwidth channel than any other consumer product and are even capable of playing audio waveforms and function as a speaker.
In between the two trackpads you’ll see a touch screen which contains a high-resolution screen. Valve says “The screen allows an infinite number of discrete actions to be made available to the player, without requiring an infinite number of physical buttons” The screen can be used like a typical touch screen to scroll and swipe, but you also have the ability to click it down to confirm choices so there’s none of that accidental tap selection you experience with current smartphones.The buttons are placed on the controller based upon frequency of use, the precision required, and ergonomic comfort.
There sixteen total buttons on the controller and half of those can be used without lifting your thumbs off the controller. They even looked out for lefties, where the controller has been designed symmetrically which makes switching handedness as easy as checking a checkbox.
Looking for an FAQ? Well check out the official Steam Controller page.