Jamie & Adam's Will & Norm's Steam Controller Hands-on

#1 Edited by joshwent (2112 posts) -

Just found this nicely in-depth overview of the Steam Controller from the most trusted of sources at CES 2014.

The consensus between them is that it's interesting and does some things well, but gives a bad first impression, has a really big learning curve, and the set up for certain actions is frustrating. To sort of sum it up, Will says:

"The aiming's better than a gamepad. The movement's twitchy."

Will also makes the telling point that Valve seemed to only be demoing the contoller with FPSs, not mouse required games like Civ V or Starcraft 2, the games that ostensibly this controller will excel at.

To get in before the inevitable Valve bashing in the comments, I'd like to start the conversation off by saying, even if Steam Machines are a total failure and this controller sucks and disappears, I'm sure that the experimental things it does do well will influence controllers of the future far more than the new XOne and PS4 iterations. Valve is willing to take risks. And even if they're stupid risks that won't pan out, I think it's pretty damn exciting for the industry as a whole.

#2 Posted by Slag (3995 posts) -

The face button location is interesting (inside the directional pads?) and they seem very small.

I'm cool with risks, just doesn't seem like a very comfortable controller to use at first glance. Of course until I hold one, I can't really know. Maybe those pads could eventually replace thumbsticks, but I'm not sure the rest of it is that great.

But yeah sure why not? Never hurts to try something new.

#3 Edited by Korwin (2825 posts) -

Everyone seems to come away with a similar opinion, that it has potential but they need more time with it. I guess that's always going to be the problem with hardware that comes with a learning curve.

Still keen to pick one up and see how it goes, will be great for those games where developers seemingly leave out game pad support out of spite (Mass Effect on PC for instance).

#4 Edited by crithon (3076 posts) -

will smith "I don't think the PC needs a savior"

Amen, amen

#5 Posted by development (2066 posts) -

Maybe I just need to get my hands on it, but those face buttons look terrible. I can imagine having no idea if my thumbs were in the right spot, and it seems I'd have to really crank my thumbs back uncomfortably to hit a couple of them. The paddles on the back are interesting, too; I can see them going both ways.

I think the "inertia" idea sounds terrible, and can imagine that being forgotten about and everyone just using the more traditional direct input option... but who knows!

#6 Posted by believer258 (11630 posts) -

I still just don't know.

I want to see someone who is experienced with it play a full round of Counter-Strike with people online and do well, and then I want to see a bit of Civ V, Starcraft, and Diablo 3 or Torchlight 2 played with it for more than 30 seconds. I mean a good, meaty, fifteen minutes or more of uninterrupted play just to answer the question "can this thing play games with the speed and accuracy that I need it to?"

Outside of that, though, Will and Norm kept mentioning the amount of buttons that Steam wants to fit on this thing but I can't help but question button placement. Reaching those face buttons isn't going to be easy and I'm not sure about buttons under the controller.

Online
#7 Posted by Andorski (5189 posts) -

With the circle pads constantly giving you tactile bump feedback I have to imagine that the battery life would be terrible if they make this controller wireless (which I think is still the plan).

In regards to having a default controller layout for games, a great idea would be (if Valve doesn't want to require developers to make control schemes) to have a list pop up every time you boot up a new game with the top 5 controller bindings from the community. This would allow the community to organically form a general default layout without developers having to specifically design their game with the Steam controller in mind.

#8 Posted by MB (11969 posts) -

@andorski: It's wireless, this was addressed at the end of the video. I think the haptic feedback power consumption issue has been largely solved by the use of electromagnetic linear actuators versus the use of a more traditional motor with an unbalanced weight attached to it. This type of solution should consume far less power.

Moderator
#9 Edited by Sooty (8082 posts) -

This won't be good for StarCraft II at all. It will let you play the campaign on easy, that's about it.

Definitely going to be fine for something easy going or turn based like Civ.

I'm interested in the controller but if people think it's gonna let you play StarCraft well, you are gonna be mighty disappointed. You need a keyboard for that too.

As of now I'm just not convinced it's gonna be worth using over a conventional pad for many games because the lack of a keyboard still impedes the gameplay of many RTS games and management ones which are the only places a 360 pad is unusable for. They need to do some wizardry to overcome that.

@believer258 said:

I still just don't know.

I want to see someone who is experienced with it play a full round of Counter-Strike with people online and do well, and then I want to see a bit of Civ V, Starcraft, and Diablo 3 or Torchlight 2 played with it for more than 30 seconds. I mean a good, meaty, fifteen minutes or more of uninterrupted play just to answer the question "can this thing play games with the speed and accuracy that I need it to?"

Outside of that, though, Will and Norm kept mentioning the amount of buttons that Steam wants to fit on this thing but I can't help but question button placement. Reaching those face buttons isn't going to be easy and I'm not sure about buttons under the controller.

I don't know why people are using Civ V as some sort of benchmark. That game isn't strenuous nor does it require fast or precise aiming.

StarCraft however...yeah that's never ever getting played on this controller. Diablo would be doable, but let's be serious a mouse is only one part of what's required to play StarCraft at any sort of pace above snail speed.

#10 Posted by AMyggen (2536 posts) -

@sooty: Yeah, a controller will never be "good enough" for fast paced RTS games like Starcraft II, or MOBAS. There's just no way you'll get enough speed and precision just using your thumbs, and there's the issue of lack of hotkeys too. That said, it at least looks a lot better than a regular controller for such games.

I think the controller has a lot of promise, but it's difficult to say how good it'll be for various games without testing it yourself for a good amount of time. My impression is that it at least looks terrible for shooters, so keep a DS4/Xbone/360 controller around for that at least.

The controller is what I'm most excited about when it comes to the whole Steam Machine experiment. It's cool that someone is trying to make a new kind of controller.

#11 Posted by Fattony12000 (7040 posts) -

#12 Posted by Amafi (526 posts) -
#13 Edited by Seppli (10251 posts) -

I love those paddles on the bottom-side of the gamepad. I expected something along the lines of those buttons on the Dualshock 4 and new Xbox controller. Alas - no such luck for me.

Not quite getting the whole touchpad angle. How does the need to reset my thumb every so often result in higher fidelity control overall? It doesn't. It can't.

Other than that, I definitely want to get my hands on one of these. Eventually I will buy a Steampad, just because I'm curious about what it does.

#14 Edited by Humanity (8808 posts) -

I like the idea of the paddles on the back. Modern controllers already have a lot of buttons on them but they're almost all operated by your thumbs. I was hoping the next generation would introduce more drastic changes to our existing pads, allowing for more versatility where you can operate both thumbsticks without having to take your thumbs off them to interact with the face buttons. People claim the controllers we have now are perfect but I think we have a long way to go. Recently playing Black Flag I was constantly finding myself in a situation where I'd get surrounded by enemies and had to struggle with orienting the camera while fending off incoming attacks. Not sure how I feel about the rest of it. For a touchpad feeling I keep thinking those circular pads should have been in the back and operated by your pointing fingers rather than in the front by your thumbs. Time will tell.

#15 Posted by Cirdain (2996 posts) -

On a side note: THE VERGE'S CES HANDS-ONS IS SHITS.

#16 Posted by RazielCuts (2926 posts) -

@fattony12000: Man, I love that controller. It's so badumb its good. Only in Japan folks.

Looking at it now at that angle it's almost like the proto Wii U controller. Normal controller split apart with big content thing in the middle.

#17 Posted by Fattony12000 (7040 posts) -
@amafi said:

@fattony12000: Man, that's beautiful.

Try THIS on for size!

This is the Black Label Neo Geo arcade stick from Analogue Interactive, hand crafted from cocobolo wood. This will set you back about $444, as part of a $1884 package of one matching console + two sticks.

#beauty

#18 Posted by joshwent (2112 posts) -

@humanity said:

Recently playing Black Flag I was constantly finding myself in a situation where I'd get surrounded by enemies and had to struggle with orienting the camera while fending off incoming attacks.

Two buttons on the bottom of any controller even to just pan a camera right and left would make so many games play better. The N64 controller had a good idea with the yellow buttons being dedicated camera controls, but they were placed too awkwardly to use easily, especially while you were doing other things. Those weird underbelly buttons could be used as a cool implementation of that idea.

#19 Posted by Amafi (526 posts) -

@fattony12000: I was seriously considering getting the analogue consolized MVS not too long ago. Luckily I came to my senses.

#20 Posted by RonGalaxy (2869 posts) -

Thread title made me lol. More like Adam's Will and Norm's. When was the last time Jamie even took part in the site? I don't follow them religiously like I do with GB, but it seems like its been a long time. I think his occulus reaction video was the last one.

#21 Edited by Humanity (8808 posts) -

@joshwent said:

@humanity said:

Recently playing Black Flag I was constantly finding myself in a situation where I'd get surrounded by enemies and had to struggle with orienting the camera while fending off incoming attacks.

Two buttons on the bottom of any controller even to just pan a camera right and left would make so many games play better. The N64 controller had a good idea with the yellow buttons being dedicated camera controls, but they were placed too awkwardly to use easily, especially while you were doing other things. Those weird underbelly buttons could be used as a cool implementation of that idea.

Yeah totally. A simple left/right pan on those could make so many games a lot smoother. It's strange nobody has thought of a controller where the thumbs are left to tend the sticks while the remaining three fingers under the pad are used for auxiliary button inputs.

..and a scroll wheel! Give us a scroll wheel dammit!

#22 Edited by xyzygy (9891 posts) -

Man, having buttons over by the left trackpad is definitely what makes me not like this controller. How are you supposed to walk and hit one of those buttons at the same time? I think it makes more sense to group all the buttons together like all controllers do so that they're all in one spot and you have one thumb dedicated to the left trackpad. But those trackpads are so damn big that there's not really much else room to put them.

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