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Valve shows off the Steam controller with haptic feedback

Prepare your living room
Mon Sep 30 2013, 09:04

GAMING ON DEMAND OUTFIT Valve has given expectant gamers a first look at what a Steambox controller will look like.

The firm has slowly been delivering information about its Steambox consoles and spent a lot of last week poring over the possible hardware and software possibilities. It offered a staged announcement, in three parts, presumably so people might assume that one would be Half Life 3.

The last stage was announced this weekend and is the Steam controller. Valve faces stiff living room competition in the console space, and looks to be taking a different direction to rivals like the Xbox One and PS4. Its controller has trackpads, as opposed to thumbsticks, and haptic features, meaning that it can feed sensations back into the user's fingers.

This means that it should appeal to, and work with, those games and gamers that use a mouse and keyboard for control.

"The Steam Controller is designed to work with all the games on Steam: past, present, and future. Even the older titles in the catalogue and the ones which were not built with controller support. (We've fooled those older games into thinking they're being played with a keyboard and mouse, but we've designed a gamepad that's nothing like either one of those devices.)," said Valve.

"We think you'll agree that we're onto something with the Steam Controller, and now we want your help with the design process."

Valve said that its controller is more sophisticated than the alternatives and will use the haptic feedback to improve the feelings that users get. It dismissed rival options.

"Trackpads, by their nature, are less physical than thumbsticks. By themselves, they are "light touch" devices and don't offer the kind of visceral feedback that players get from pushing joysticks around," it said.

"As we investigated trackpad-based input devices, it became clear through testing that we had to find ways to add more physicality to the experience. It also became clear that "rumble", as it has been traditionally implemented (a lopsided weight spun around a single axis), was not going to be enough. Not even close."

Touch does not end there and the Steam controller has a touch screen in the middle, that's the thing with the Valve logo in the middle.

"The screen allows an infinite number of discrete actions to be made available to the player, without requiring an infinite number of physical buttons," said Valve.

"In order to avoid forcing players to divide their attention between screens, a critical feature of the Steam Controller comes from its deep integration with Steam. When a player touches the controller screen, its display is overlayed on top of the game they're playing, allowing the player to leave their attention squarely on the action, where it belongs."

The controller has 16 buttons, and Valve has provided a map of which ones do what. They replace mouse button features, and other more traditional gamepad functions.

Valve will send out 300 hardware units to lucky registered punters who have expressed an interest in testing its console. The controller will join them, minus its touchscreen. µ


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