Steam Controller

The first non-prototype Steam Controller has reached the press and users who pre-ordered it early. PC Gamer has their first impressions. Here’s PC Gamer’s Wes Fenlon describing the touchpads that replace a more traditional set of analog sticks:

I know that learning to use the Steam Controller is going to take time. I’ve been using controllers shaped and designed like the Xbox 360 pad for more than a decade, and that analog form factor and face button layout really dates back further than that. The trackpads are a very different thing. But my early reaction to playing games with the controller is resigned disappointment: the feeling that Valve may have taken on an impossible task. Years of engineering effort went into making something better than a gamepad, something that could fill in for a mouse… and this was what they came up with? There really wasn’t a better way?

Perhaps there wasn’t, but I’m not sure this is the solution I want. In Left 4 Dead 2, aiming with the right trackpad felt labored and inaccurate, like using mouse aim at an extremely low sensitivity. I know that could be improved by adjusting sensitivity and familiarizing myself with the control method more. I can absolutely get better at it, but I don’t think I’ll ever like it as a form of input.

It sounds like the trackpads are just as unusable for most games as on the prototype. I’d really like to try them in something mouse-focused like Cities: Skylines. Meanwhile, Linux users on Ubuntu are stuck having to manually edit text files to get their systems to identify the controller for now.

Steam Machines, Controller, Link up for Order

In addition to refunds, we have pre-orders available for the first three pieces of Valve’s Steam-appointed hardware.

Steam Machines. They’re from third parties like Alienware, they run Valve’s SteamOS variant of Linux and play games on Linux via Steam or can stream games from a Windows desktop in another part of your home. If you pre-order you can get one a month early on October 16th The machines available for pre-order today a range of prices from $450 to $1,419. Everyone else can get them when they’re released November 10th.

It’s still ridiculously awesome to see hardware manufacturers shipping a Linux-based gaming computer. After buying boxed games over a decade ago for Linux, watching it all burn down only to be resurrected through downloadable ports via Valve and the Humble Bundle. Not since the days of Civilization: Call to Power have Linux gamers had this much reason to be hopeful for the future. The Linux-based computers are almost as strange as the fact that some of the pre-orders are being handled through GameStop.

The second item in the pre-order lineup isn’t as hopeful. For those that want to spend far less and just want to stream from another gaming computer in their home to their TV there is the Steam Link. At the moment though, people who order the Link won’t be running any version of SteamOS’ Linux and won’t be downloading Linux games. Maybe in the future it’ll seem like a better option to get a Steam Link and stream games from a more powerful Linux machine. The Link is $50. Just like with the Steam Machine, the Steam Link can be pre-ordered for arrival on the 16th of October. Everyone else has to wait for the tenth of November.

Finally we have the controller. I’ve had the prototype model along with the Gigabyte Brix Steam Machine for over a year. This controller design looks incredibly different from the prototype and I don’t know what to expect at all in terms of usefulness. The prototype ended up being fun to try for a while but was only a stepping stone to this final design. The Steam Controller is $50 and has the same mid-October availability for pre-orders and November for not-pre-orders.

Sensing the potential for maximum confusion at the Steam Controller’s presence in a world dominated by 360, Xbox One and Playstation 4 controllers, Valve has created a trailer for potential controller purchasers to make up their minds. I don’t recall ever watching a trailer with this much production expense having gone into it just for a controller. Unless they were up for crowd funding. Almost more ridiculous than Valve’s foray into the living room involving Linux is that these cross-platform supporters still require Adobe Flash plugin in Apple’s Safari web browser to watch videos or you get this unplayable mess:

Steam controller flash failure

Valve’s SteamVR and Steam Controller Hands On

Ben Kuchera got a chance to try Valve’s Steam VR headset system using the just announced Vive hardware from HTC as well as an updated version of the controller for Steam Machines.

On the VR System:

The hardware is clearly a work in progress, and the fit and finish needs to be improved substantially before launch. The two controllers, one held in each hand, feature buttons on the grips; they feature triggers too, and a touchpad on the front that also works as a button. It’s an intense amount of hardware. We were told that to run the demos we were playing, you’d need a high-end video card and a very competitive gaming PC. Nothing about this sounds like a mass media product.

So that’s the bad news. The good news is that the hardware is incredibly fucking cool.

Read the rest of his article, his experience there sounds fantastic. Mark “Gaming Jesus” MacDonald also described the Steam VR experience Valve was demonstrating last year on this week’s Giant Bombcast.

On the controller:

The Steam controller is a big part of what makes a Steam Machine a Steam Machine; we were told that running SteamOS and being packaged with the controller were two of the main things that need to be included to use that branding. The controller itself has gone through a number of revisions, but we were able to use what Valve is calling the final version during GDC.

The old Steam Controller given out at dev days was obviously a stepping stone to get somewhere else, I haven’t used it in months, and I can’t wait to try this new one. It’s particularly interesting how this newer iteration has the exact same X/Y/A/B button layout down to the color as the Xbox One controller. It’ll be $50 when it’s released this November. No price on theVive yet.