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The Steam Controller Is Valve's Third Announcement

Trackpads? Haptic feedback? Euro Truck Simulator support? This is all so weird.

The Steam Controller, which we're almost kind of possibly sure isn't Half-Life 3.

After Valve announced both SteamOS and the Steam Machine gaming PCs earlier this week, most people logically believed that the company's final announcement for the week would end up being a controller. They were right. It's totally a controller.

That said, I don't imagine most people were expecting the controller design we've been given. Titled the Steam Controller, this new device features a form and function that would be considered "nontraditional" by most modern gaming standards. Most notably, there are no analog sticks anywhere on the device. In their place are a pair of clickable trackpads, which Valve believes will offer a high fidelity input akin to a desktop mouse. For those who might lament the lack of physical interaction one would have in absence of actual sticks, Valve explains that it has included a new type of "haptic feedback" that...well, here, let's just read their explanation.

The Steam Controller is built around a new generation of super-precise haptic feedback, employing dual linear resonant actuators. These small, strong, weighted electro-magnets are attached to each of the dual trackpads. They are capable of delivering a wide range of force and vibration, allowing precise control over frequency, amplitude, and direction of movement.

This haptic capability provides a vital channel of information to the player - delivering in-game information about speed, boundaries, thresholds, textures, action confirmations, or any other events about which game designers want players to be aware. It is a higher-bandwidth haptic information channel than exists in any other consumer product that we know of. As a parlour trick they can even play audio waveforms and function as speakers.

In addition to all of that, the controller features a clickable touch screen in the center, and is designed to be entirely "hackable," in that Valve plans to "make tools available that will enable users to participate in all aspects of the experience, from industrial design to electrical engineering." Most importantly, the announcement goes out of its way to tout support for Euro Truck Simulator 2.

The controller will go out alongside the 300 Steam Machine beta units that Valve plans to release to selected testers this year. However, the version in this beta won't include the touch-screen (it'll have additional face buttons instead), and won't be wireless.

This has been an interesting week, hasn't it?

Alex Navarro on Google+
432 Comments
Posted by flasaltine

Do you have to scroll the trackpads like a laptop or can you just hold in a position?

Edited by SlashDance

"It's better than actual sticks, honest!"

edit: it might totally be by the way, we shouldn't judge this thing before trying it.

Posted by JamieOD

No idea what to expect until I use one so I'm willing to give it a shot.

Edited by DonPixel

yeah... looks overly complicated for Mass Market appeal.

Posted by Overbite

This thing looks so silly

Online
Posted by JSwan13

sweet boombox

Posted by the_messenger

Either it'll be amazing or feel insane. I'll give it a shot, what the hell.

Edited by Darson

Oh.

Edited by elitefury

All for it. Good to see them try something different.

Posted by buft

they double as speakers,it always seemed to be a great idea on the wii but it never really got much play.

Posted by stryk187

That thing looks like Wall-E and Johnny-5 had a crackbaby.

Posted by Hailinel

And I thought trackpads on laptops were annoying.

Posted by Sin4profit

@flacracker: pretty sure it works just like virtual thumbsticks but as a trackpad it could be programmed to go either way..or even run you finger around the rim of it for driving games and such.

Posted by Vuud

I think you plug it into your brain via your datajack and you can hack the matrix.

Posted by Forcen

This sure looks like the controller to play mouse driven games with. Civ 5 with this could really work.

Posted by stunik101

Sounds totally ridiculous ..but if it works it could be awesome

Edited by Synekal

I'm cautiously optimistic.

I trust Valve (probably too much), but we've seen controllers like this in the past. Hell, the NES had something similar to this. And they've all just felt weird.

But, if anyone can make weird things like this work it's Valve. Having it completely open and hackable is a nice touch too. (GET IT?!?!)

Edited by owack6

It looks like someone made a controller out of a tiny Boom-Box.

Posted by SikNastiWitIt

I think it's awesome that they're doing something interesting. If you don't like it, the 360 controller still works...

Posted by rk

Can't remember the last time Valve did something wrong, so I'm optimistic.

Posted by xatmos

All 3 announcements were clearly trolls, here's Half Life 4.

Posted by PimblyCharles

At this point I doubt we'll ever see another Half-Life :(

Edited by SpaceButler

Very interesting. That controller might be excellent for certain games and horrible for others. I'll be looking forward to first-hand accounts.

Edited by porjos

"Traditional gamepads force us to accept compromises," writes the company. "We've made it a goal to improve upon the resolution and fidelity of input that’s possible with those devices."

Hopefully, this levels the playing field with controller vs mouse/keyboard in multi-player shooters.

Posted by wrecks

Hell yeah, that could work.

Posted by exfate

I think it seems pretty great conceptually. It's far enough removed from a typical controller though that it's impossible to really judge without getting your hands on it.

It also sounds expensive...

Edited by composite

It looks like a bad design. I can't believe it doesn't at least have some form or face buttons or d-pad/joystick. You have four buttons you can press without lifting your thumbs of one of the trackpads. If you lift off one, you have 6 buttons, but those two surrounding the touchscreen look awkwardly placed at best. If you lift of one of the sticks on a regular controller, you have 8 buttons that you can be pressing while stick being able to move/aim. I think touch implementations of joysticks are bad, even with all the haptics and physical contours. I don't know, was super excited about the Steam Machine, but this controller seems like a miss.

Posted by The_Laughing_Man

That looks stupid as shit.....I LOVE IT!

Posted by MarkHawk

The super-precise haptic feedback sounds pretty interesting. Valve has been speaking out against traditional controller inputs for sometime and their lack of practicality. It'll be interesting to see if Valve's can really come up with a new way that's more intuitive.

Posted by Superkenon

What the fuck is that thing.

Posted by kishinfoulux

No analog? LOL. No thanks. I use controllers instead of mouse/keyboard for a reason.

Posted by Yesiamaduck

Good thing Euro Truck sim is a fantastic game.. I think I'll stick with my 360 controller (and soon XBONE controller and windows for now)

Posted by Beomoose

@jswan13 said:

sweet boombox

Cannot un-see, thanks

Posted by TheRealMoot

It looks more like a tiny stereo...

Posted by Colourful_Hippie

I would try it

Posted by thefriend

@kishinfoulux: I can't tell if you're trolling. A mouse is far superior compared to analog sticks.

Posted by Morningstar

Looks like shit. Hopefully it plays better than it looks.

Posted by Nitrocore

I see that they went for the "Wall-e" design.

Posted by Rasgueado

Heck yes! Let's try something *different* for a change.

Edited by PresidentOfJellybeans

What's the worst part of a laptop computer? The track pad?.. Let's make a controller out of that! Brilliant!.. Kinda surprised Microsoft didn't think of this first.

Edited by Tennmuerti

Huh, well. At least it's something new and interesting.

We will see how it will function and if it will work out to be a great way to control things or not. But uh as Hailinel mentioned track pads on laptops suck, especially for gaming. Even tho this is mostly trying to replace analog sticks rather then a mouse, unlike a trackpad.

Time will tell.

Posted by michaelferrari

I'm sorry, but this is just another classic scenario where Valve does something that had anybody else done, they would be getting torn to shreds. Nintendo releases a controller with a built in tablet? "That's so stupid!" These guys make a controller with touch-pads, and "Oh hey, ya never know!" I love Valve, but this is getting out of control.

Edited by kpaadet

Somebody kill it with fire!

Posted by dr_mantas

For people like me, who play games sitting at their PC, this changes absolutely nothing.

The entire Valve push into the living room is incredibly weird.

Edited by masterpaperlink

If they can give me the same precision and speed i get with a mouse on my thumb this could be amazing, gabe was of the opinion that the most efficient form of input came from the fingers. we will see, i want one real bad.

Posted by mrfluke

lmao

Posted by MondyofAus

What the FUCK is that.

Cautiously optimistic, just because I trust Valve. They've given nobody any reason not to.

Posted by Ketchupp

I'm in.

Posted by benu302000

Wait.

What?

Posted by iAmJohn

If Valve wasn't behind this thing, no one would give it any benefit of the doubt whatsoever. There's a good reason for that.