Valve Demo Steam Controller

by on October 14, 2013

Valve have released a video that shows the Steam Controller prototype being used to control a handful of games.

The controller received a lot of puzzled feedback upon its reveal, largely due to its use of trackpads instead of traditional analogue sticks.

While it’s impossible to truly form an opinion on the control method from a video, it does go some way to calming fears, and even shows a glimmer of the potential fidelity of this control method.

The main thing you’re looking for in the video are examples of the swipe. This is a moment when the player moves his thumb across the pad quickly and removes it, the crosshair/mouse will continue to move after the player removes their thumb, as if the player had used their digit to set a ball in motion, with the aim/pointer coming to a stop either after decelerating naturally or when the player replaces their thumb on the pad to ‘stop’ the swipe motion.

What’s more the trackpad allows the player to move the crosshair to rather specific points in the local vicinity. The aimer reacts precisely to your thumb’s position, aiming exactly where your thumb is. This is opposed to a stick where you have to ‘nudge’ the crosshair around.

This is actually identical to the way Kid Icarus: Uprising handles aiming via the 3DS touch screen, in that it reacts to swipes and taps. Anyone that got a handle on Pit in that game will likely attest to the speed and accuracy that this kind of control can imbue, and I’m genuinely interested in testing the Steam controller’s fidelity against that of a traditional analogue pad.

Where does the Steam Controller not look so good? That would be Civilisation V. Watching the player retracing their thumb over the trackpad just to move the mouse from one side of the screen to the other looks like an unnecessary effort, and the idea of ‘walking’ by using both the left and right pads sounds somewhat unusual.

The apparent issues with speed in Civilisation aren’t such an issue, but it does point out that this pad is unlikely to work well with the likes of Starcraft. Hopefully we’ll see more games demoed soon, as I’d be interested to see how the likes of DOTA 2 handle with trackpads.