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.