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Valve offers a "different kind of gamepad" with Steam Controller

Valve's touch-centric controller offers new ways to play all your favorite Steam games

Valve's last announcement in its push into the living room is the Steam Controller, a touch-enabled controller that is the result of a year of experimenting with input technology.

"Traditional gamepads force us to accept compromises," reads the Steam Controller website. "We've made it a goal to improve upon the resolution and fidelity of input that's possible with those devices. The Steam controller offers a new and, we believe, vastly superior control scheme, all while enabling you to play from the comfort of your sofa. Built with high-precision input technologies and focused on low-latency performance, the Steam controller is just what the living-room ordered."

Instead of the dual analog sticks we've come to expect, Valve has decided to go with dual trackpads on its controller. The high-resolution trackpads mean that the controller works for games that normally require analog sticks, but they also work on games built around mouse control, like strategy and 4X titles. The trackpads also feature haptic feedback powered by "small, strong, weighted electro-magnets," which will give players "a wide range of force and vibration."

The center of the Steam Controller has a high-resolution touch-screen that also acts as a clickable button. Valve will be offering an API for the touch-screen, so developers can support it directly with custom functions within games. The API will be available to developers when the prototype Steam Controllers ship to beta users. Valve has also decided on a fix for the problem of dual-screen gaming with a television: when a player uses the touch-screen, its display is mirrored on the TV screen.

Sixteen buttons are on the controller and Valve is proud of the fact that half of them can be activated without moving your thumbs from the trackpads. The controller is also built for right- or left-handed use.

The Controller is intended to be the way that players interact with Steam Machines, so Valve has also added a legacy mode where the controller presents to systems as a keyboard and mouse. Steam users can create custom bindings for games (example shown above), and share them with the community. The Steam Controller is also usable with any version of Steam, so PC and Mac players can use it as well.

Valve is still working on the hardware, so beta users won't get the final Steam Controller.

"The first 300 or so beta units won't include a touch screen, and they won't be wireless," the company says on the website. "Instead, they'll have four buttons in place of the touch screen, and they'll require a USB cable."

On the site, Valve also announced that it will be presenting detailed specs of its SteamOS-powered prototype hardware next week.

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Mike Williams avatar
Mike Williams: M.H. Williams is new to the journalism game, but he's been a gamer since the NES first graced American shores. Third-person action-adventure games are his personal poison: Uncharted, Infamous, and Assassin's Creed just to name a few. If you see him around a convention, he's not hard to spot: Black guy, glasses, and a tie.
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