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Valve introduces joystick-less Steam Controller

Valve is making a strange new controller for its strange new world of living room gaming. The company revealed the last new star in the Steam Universe today, a gamepad meant to play any kind of PC game--from RTS to FPS--in comfort, on Steam Machines and any other Steam-running device.

The Steam Controller eschews joysticks in favor of two circular, clickable trackpads. Like the rest of the device, they're placed symmetrically and hold much more than meets the eye. Their input resolution approaches that of a mouse, Valve says, and both pads sit atop dual linear resonant actuators: a new generation of precise force feedback.

Rather than simply rumbling a little or a lot, the actuators can deliver force and vibration of varying frequency, strength, and even direction. This gives physical feedback without physical joysticks, and offers a new way to deliver feedback about in-game textures, thresholds, and speed.

Between the owl-esque trackpads lies a clickable touchscreen. This can be used both to navigate Steam and as a bespoke interface for each individual game--though Valve remains skeptical of second-screen gaming, as the controller's display is overlayed on top of the main monitor when touched.

Sixteen traditional buttons complete the package, with two triggers on the top, two clickable grips on the backside, and an assortment of face buttons positioned around the trackpads.

The controller's first prototypes will be distributed with the Steam Machines beta this year, so follow those instructions if you're interested in trying it out.

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32 comments

  • dlam - January 28, 2014 9:14 a.m.

    valve is #1 the best joysticker -_-
  • Shinn - September 30, 2013 2:27 a.m.

    I have rsi in my wrists, using trackpads will probably end up hurting more than thumbsticks would; as they lack the resistance and will make me use my thumbs more. I'd be happy to try this controller, and even happier if it's easier for me to use than a mouse and keyboard or regular controller, but I doubt I'll be able to stand using it for longer periods of time.
  • CitizenWolfie - September 28, 2013 10:15 a.m.

    Obviously none of us can comment on how good it is in practice and I have faith in Valve knowing what they are doing but of all input functions I can think of (not just for gaming), track pads rank near the bottom. It reminds me of the sort of third-party controller you would give to your friends if they came to your house for a game of Bomberman.
  • Rub3z - September 27, 2013 11:26 p.m.

    It looks... like a silky smooth, concave set of breasts. Thus I begin to wonder how David Houghton would describe the sensation of using it.
  • TreyTable - September 27, 2013 8:04 p.m.

    Turbo Touch 360 Rises From The Grave.
  • NOPROBLAMMO - September 27, 2013 9:55 p.m.

    Jesus, I still have nightmares of trying to use that thing.
  • GOD - September 27, 2013 7:36 p.m.

    I'm fine with how it looks, but the technical layout... seems off. First, the Y and B buttons seem like I'd really have to reach for them, and if not then that would mean the touch pads aren't in a spot where my thumbs would naturally rest so one of those things has to be off. It's like asking me to touch select on a PS controller for what would be a frequently used action. The things you use most should be arranged in a like a pie slice from each thumb, so that they're all the same distance for my thumb to go, just farther one way or the other on the pie slices edge, if that makes sense. The other thing is the clickable grips, as you can see if you look closely at the bottom of the controller, and that where I sometimes want to firmly hold my controller so I would surely click those by mistake more often than I'd like. Lastly it doesn't seem like there are enough tactile buttons to press. With the amount of buttons it has right now it's essentially a PS3 controller with out a D-Pad, which is four less functions. Although games like DMC and FFXIV show that because you can chain together triggers with face button inputs for increased controller input that's actually even more limiting. I prefer physical joysticks but maybe their new fangled vibrating touchpads are really better (although I'm just not a fan of touchpads as a main control because it means they're tracking what they feel as the center of my thumb, which isn't necessarily what I think is the center), but that doesn't change that they should have at least met the current quota of physical inputs for a standard controller. If anything I would've expected Valve to come up with a controller that had more inputs than a standard controller, not less. Wouldn't the whole point of a Steam controller be that is has more inputs than a console controller akin to a keyboard?
  • garnsr - September 27, 2013 3:58 p.m.

    Has there ever been a good controller that didn't come from Sega, Sony, Microsoft, or sometimes, Nintendo? The controllers for all the other consoles that have come along and not lasted all seem to be pretty crappy.
  • winner2 - September 27, 2013 2:57 p.m.

    Why do people care about how "pretty" the controller looks? Maybe it'll end up feeling great and isn't that what's most important?
  • usmovers_02 - September 27, 2013 2:07 p.m.

    Oh wow. This is a joke, right?!? The placement of the A B X Y buttons is absolutely HORRIBLE! I never thought I'd be saying this about Valve but at least with the SteamBox they seem to be completely out of touch with their fans.
  • ParagonT - September 27, 2013 5:03 p.m.

    Amen there. They should at least have them surrounding the right pad so that the placement can at least feel somewhat familiar.
  • Cwf2008 - September 27, 2013 1:53 p.m.

    Saying that thing looks atrocious is too nice
  • PlainLikeVanilla - September 27, 2013 1:52 p.m.

    Ah yes the return of the TURBO TOUCH 360.
  • mbavalo - September 27, 2013 1:27 p.m.

    Interesting... but I wouldn't say convincing. Call me old school but I like having me some joysticks What happens when you use this with oily fingers?
  • Sinosaur - September 27, 2013 12:49 p.m.

    This doesn't sound like it would be very good to use (I already hate trying to use trackpads on laptops), and having an actual stick is like using a physical keyboard vs. an on-screen keyboard: physical is always superior. But I can't really say for sure if it would be all that bad since I've never even thought of using something like this. Right now I use a 360 pad for most games where a controller makes sense and it's an excellent option. It would be interesting to see how it feels to play with this pad.
  • ParagonT - September 27, 2013 12:34 p.m.

    It needs to fix the button layout. The idea for the pads and touch screen is fine, but are they really trying to reinvent something that has been held in common with nearly all controllers? Put those dang buttons together on the right side. The more digits that have more than one primary function to do, the more complex and less accessable to new players and existing ones. Its like they take a step forward then take a step back. There's a nice spot to put the buttons to the left of the right track pad to the right of the right pad. Then put the buttons on the right of the left pad to the left of the right pad. Then each button would be the minimal distance from your right thumb when reach for them. Thus improving efficiency, reliability for those with large hands, and increase ergonomics. Also, it would keep the same placement that most controllers have. Jesus, I mean really?
  • shawksta - September 27, 2013 12:27 p.m.

    Interesting indeed, but I don't see how it will work with Fps but that's what waiting is for.
  • GamesRadarCollanderCooper - September 27, 2013 12:21 p.m.

    All this Valve news this week has elicited a giant yawn from me. Who gives a fuck. Announce Half-Life 3 or shut up
  • slimjim441 - September 27, 2013 12:05 p.m.

    To be expected. Looks promising, too. I've never seen using a gamepad as a viable option for PC gaming, but this might actually be an ideal control scheme.
  • opeth784 - September 27, 2013 11:50 a.m.

    wow the haters amaze me, this looks wonderful. when was the last time valve actually disappointed any of you? (asides from obvious examples of them disappointing people by NOT MAKING GAMES)

Showing 1-20 of 32 comments

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