Valve’s Steam Controller reviewed

The Steam Controller has had me scratching my head since it was announced near the end of 2013. Valve touted its controller as the answer to PC gaming in the living room, and it wasn’t too hard for me to believe that the PC-centric developer could make something that would outdo a traditional controller in that arena.

To me, however, Valve was pitching a solution to a problem I felt Logitech had solved three years previously with the introduction of its M570 Trackball. You see, I grew up using trackballs, and I’ve gamed on Logitech’s thumb-driven models since the Logitech Trackman Stationary Mouse made its appearance in the early ’90s. I spent even more time using the Trackman Marble and then the Logitech Trackman Wheel Optical up until the M570 came out.

I should also point out that I generally hate trackpads, and until a few years ago I’d spent almost no time with a modern dual-stick controller. My dream controller—the REvolve Controller—never came to pass. Those preferences left me feeling apprehensive about Valve’s twin-touchpad design for the Steam Controller.

Despite that apprehension, there were a few things that ultimately motivated me to pull the trigger on the Steam Controller. The first was simply that I wanted to see first-hand what the folks at Valve had actually cooked up. The second was this video from Steam Dev Days in early 2014 where Valve explained the decision to use a trackpad instead of a trackball, and the third was the great video Valve released of Steam Controllers being assembled.

I’ve used the controller for a few weeks now, and I’m still scratching my head over it. My first impressions of the controller’s build quality were positive, especially once the batteries were installed in the hand grips. The controller is balanced well and comfortable to hold. The default setup for desktop use puts the touch pads in control of your cursor and scroll wheel, the primary triggers become mouse buttons, and the paddles underneath are assigned as back and forward buttons for browsing. For the nitty-gritty details of the controller, though, I’m going to talk about the right and left sides separately.

Buttons, joysticks, trackpads, and paddles

For my right thumb, the button cluster opposite the thumb-stick isn’t comfortable for me. Pressing the A button in particular required me to stretch my thumb beyond a comfortable angle. Compared to an Xbox 360 controller, where my right thumb naturally rests right on top of the A button, it was clear from the start this was a problem I’d need to address.

It wasn’t all bad news for my right thumb. The trackpad works as advertised, and the haptic feedback from the (slightly noisy) actuators underneath is surprisingly good at making you think you’re rolling a ball instead of swiping a trackpad. This is where all those years of using a thumb-driven trackball came in handy. I had no learning curve whatsoever when it came to making quick and precise movements using the trackpad. The paddle button on the right grip feels natural to trigger with my middle and ring fingers, and it could make up for the less-than-ideal location of the A button.

The paddle button under the left-hand fingers allows for further reassignment of the right thumb buttons if you find them to be uncomfortable. The convex thumb stick cap did make my left thumb slip around some—not comically so, but enough that I was aware of it and had to reposition my thumb from time to time.

Both trackpads on the Steam Controller are clickable, but only the left one is embossed with a d-pad shape to give you a tactile awareness of where your thumb is located on the pad. In a word, I’d call the d-pad solution “serviceable.”

Setting things up

Before we delve into my gaming experiences, we should take a look at some of the controller’s configuration options. The first thing to know here is that the Steam Controller is all about Steam’s Big Picture Mode. All of the changes you’ll make to the settings and mappings happen in the Big Picture interface.

Big Picture contains a mountain of configuration options including, but not limited to, the standard templates for various game types, official profiles for specific games, community-created controller profiles, and levels of fine tuning that would impress owners of high-end motherboards. In addition to button mappings, Valve lets owners configure a variety of trackpad sensitivity, feedback, and mode options. Users that really want to get the most out of the Steam Controller will spend a lot of time in these menus.

The versatility of the hardware and software is obvious, but it’s also clear that unless a developer perfected an official profile for a game, there’s a good chance you will have to hunt around for a workable community profile or take matters into your own hands. If that sounds like a good time, Big Picture offers a consistent interface for setting up the controller, and each custom profile can be saved per-game.

 

Gaming impressions

To give the Steam Controller a spin, I chose four games that each use considerably different control schemes and perspectives: Rocket League, Team Fortress 2, Just Cause 3, and Helldivers.

Rocket League

I managed to not completely embarrass myself.

I’ll start with Rocket League, a favorite of mine and a game I have a lot of hours into using an Xbox 360 controller. I expected this to be the most straightforward of the games I tested. Rocket League has relatively simple controls, and the Steam Controller’s layout seemed pretty similar to what I was used to. As it happened, my muscle memory backfired. The aforementioned stretch to reach the right-thumb buttons proved too much, and despite multiple attempts I just couldn’t hit the correct buttons consistently. This inaccuracy typically resulted in me using boost instead of jumping, and reliably power-sliding was completely out the window.

The mix-up between what I thought I was triggering and what actually happened in-game was so bad that it actually left me nauseous, forcing me to quit playing on multiple occasions. I’m sure this is an extreme case, but it cemented my initial impression that the location of the thumb buttons wasn’t ideal. After this experience, I looked for games that relied on those buttons a lot less.

Team Fortress 2

Next up was Team Fortress 2. As a game straight from Valve, I expected it to work great with the Steam Controller. I wasn’t disappointed. While I prefer to play TF2 with a keyboard and mouse, I found it much easier to play this game with the Steam Controller than with an Xbox 360 controller. General movement and aiming using the default settings felt good, and with no preconceived notions about what buttons should do, I was able to become fairly proficient with the game’s less finicky classes in short order.

I think it would take many hours of practice with the controller to become anything resembling competitive, though. One reason is that pulling the trigger to fire seemed to affect my aim. The way the grip of the controller sits in my palm meant that pulling the trigger caused my thumb to change position on the trackpad. That slight change in position resulted in unintentional camera movement. Maybe that issue is something I could adapt to over time, or I might also be able to address it by adjusting sensitivity settings, but I think it’s worth noting. Also worth noting is that the traditional controls of the Xbox 360 controller avoid this problem entirely. Overall, the Steam Controller would still be my pick for TF2.

Just Cause 3

Just Cause 3 gave me a chance to see how the Steam Controller interacts with a third-person game that also has plenty of vehicles. JC3 was also the first game I tested that didn’t have a baked-in Steam Controller profile. That absence of official support hurts. I think the potential is there for JC3 to play well using the Steam Controller, but I feel like I would have to spend an undue amount of time with it to get there.

I started with Valve’s pre-baked “high-precision camera” template and made a couple tweaks to it so aiming was even more responsive. Even so, I never really got to the point where I was satisfied with the accuracy of looking and aiming. I’m confident that a superior community-made profile is out there somewhere, but I chose JC3 as the title I would adjust myself. Driving, boating, and flying all worked great, though. The extra buttons available on the Steam Controller were a good match for JC3’s rather complex controls when compared to the Xbox 360 controller, too.

Helldivers

What can I say about my Steam Controller meets Helldivers experience? It was so bad that I don’t really want to talk about it. I’ll forge ahead and share some observations, though. I think this is another game that one could probably play respectably on the Steam Controller with a lot of practice, but Helldivers highlights another instance where a traditional thumb stick maintains an edge over the Steam Controller’s trackpad.

In Helldivers, you can precision-aim while moving slowly if you move your right thumb to aim while running. This works great on an Xbox 360 controller because you can leave your thumb resting on the right thumb-stick while running and it only puts you into aiming mode when you actually move it away from center. 

On the Steam Controller, though, almost any contact with the right-side trackpad puts you into this aiming mode, since the featureless surface doesn’t have an easily discernable center. The mistakes that hair-trigger sensitivity produced killed me a lot. Instead, it’s best to lift your thumb completely off the pad when you’re running around in this game.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a way around this somewhere in the depths of the controller settings, but even if there is, this behavior is one of the Steam Controller’s unique characteristics that can cause issues in specific games. To be fair, there is an official profile for Helldivers, but when I first started playing my game picked up a community profile without telling me. Switching to the official profile lessened my aiming troubles, but it didn’t eliminate them.

Conclusions

I’m left with mixed feelings about gaming with the Steam Controller. On one hand, I applaud Valve for creating a sophisticated piece of hardware with comprehensive customization options. On the other hand, I feel like the company is relying too much on the community to put the final polish on the Steam Controller’s user experience. Even with the template system to build from, it would be nice if Valve created official game profiles for the controller to start with, or convinced more developers to make some of their own.

I also hope that Valve and other developers explore some possibilities with this thing that extend beyond basic controls. The haptic actuators are capable of impressive feats and deserve to be used in creative ways, especially when coupled with the gyro feature. Heck, I’d be happy just to use this controller in Fishing Planet so I could feel a bite on the line and set the hook with a quick tug. That could be extended by reeling in a fish while controlling drag with the trackpads.

Games developed specifically with the Steam Controller in mind would give me a reason to use Valve’s gamepad instead of the other options I have at hand.  Right now, though, the Steam Controller doesn’t do anything that my HTPC’s smorgasbord of a Logitech M570 trackball, wireless keyboard, and Xbox 360 controller doesn’t do better.

If all that hardware hodgepodge isn’t your style, and you don’t mind spending time tweaking individual game profiles to perfection, then the Steam Controller is certainly worth a look. There’s nothing else quite like it out there, and it’s likely to get more useful with time.

Colton Westrate

I post Shortbread, I host BBQs, I tell stories, and I strive to keep folks happy.

Comments closed
    • Shoki
    • 4 years ago

    I think I’d be a convert if it also had a right thumbstick.

    • Anovoca
    • 4 years ago

    I am mostly curious as to the ergonomics of this controller after prolonged game play. You mentioned it feeling unnatural stretching your thumb out to hit the buttons, but I typically find the knuckle in my thumb gets soar very quickly remaining bent to press the buttons on an xbox controller.

    • aspect
    • 4 years ago

    The green hand looks pretty weird. It doesn’t need to be a hand model, just clean and clipped finger nails.

      • Chrispy_
      • 4 years ago

      But DrFish is a fish (with a doctorate); he uses a mannequin with green rubber gloves because fish don’t have hands.

        • drfish
        • 4 years ago

        There were a number of reasons for the glove. The one I’m sharing publicly is that it was an attempt to improve the visual quality of the gif by removing some of the colors from the pallet.

    • hasseb64
    • 4 years ago

    “I grew up using trackballs”
    These are the same people that have full-tower cases with 5 x 5 1/4″ external slots 2016!!
    Please fire this writer!

      • Krogoth
      • 4 years ago

      Nice try, but I give it a 1/10 .

      • Chrispy_
      • 4 years ago

      Personally I wish trackballs had won the battle of the mobile pointing device.

      Sure, they take up a bit more space than a touchpad, but they’re an order of magnitude more accurate and anyone who hasn’t used one needs to realise that they’re valid alternatives to a mouse.

      You can game on a trackball, no problem.
      You just can’t game at all on a trackpad. That’s why valve has put so much effort into haptics to make the Steam controller feel like a trackball, and also why they’ve included an analogue stick as a backup.

        • Krogoth
        • 4 years ago

        Trackballs suffer the same issue as the old balled mice. You have to constantly clean the ball and rollers from dust and other body gunk.

        Trackballs are awesome for accuracy which is why they are still commonplace in CAD and computer artist shops. They are also better for ergonomics and RSI-types swear by them.

          • drfish
          • 4 years ago

          The nice thing about a modern trackball like the M570 is that the tracking is optical so there aren’t “rollers” exactly, the ball rolls on points more like the Teflon pads on the bottom of a mouse. Of course you need to clean them but it takes all of about 10 seconds a couple times a week to pop out the ball and flick the crap off in order to keep in rolling smoothly. The ball itself almost never needs cleaning.

        • eofpi
        • 4 years ago

        The trackpoint is a happy medium between the two (compact enough for mobile, but precise enough for an FPS), but seems to have been abandoned by pretty much every laptop maker in favor of multitouch trackpads. Only a few business-line laptops seem to have them anymore.

    • APWNH
    • 4 years ago

    One use case that makes up 90% of my time with the Steam controller.

    HTPC Windows desktop use from the couch. You see I have installed a 65 inch 4K Sony TV in my office and went ahead and plugged it in to my main PC.

    I use AutoHotKey in combination with a very customized Steam Controller binding for the desktop. AHK allows for my buttons/keys to gain application-specific capabilities.

    This means I can surf the internet comfortably with buttons at my fingertips to zoom in to make text larger if necessary, switch between tabs, and scroll around.

    I also get a lot of use out of VLC for watching movies, and it’s very easy to make AHK binds to micromanage video players with this controller.

    You see all this stuff nowadays, my TV, my console all have these web browsers and dumb crap like that. No, if you want to surf like a boss you have some options. But I know of none more elegant than putting your Windows PC on the TV and doing it with a Steam Controller.

    I also have the new Apple TV and AirPlay works great on it. But I don’t use it because my PC with a full blown Nvidia GPU is capable of a lot more.

    As of a few weeks ago the on-screen keyboard functionality was added, all you do is ensure Steam Big Picture is running and minimized and click in the thumb stick. Now you can even type with this crazy thing. I type 100-120wpm on a proper keyboard but I can only manage maybe 20wpm on this. I haven’t had much practice with it, but once you get muscle memory for the positioning of each letter I think its possible to type quite quickly.

    I have only extensively played Rocket League with the controller. I tried playing Super Meat Boy but the fancy controller config I tried was nearly impossible to get used to. Perhaps it is the Super Mario Bros. muscle memory, but the only proper way to play is with the B button to dash…

    Anyways my point is that the configurability of this controller is pretty impressive already and it is continually being improved.

    • UberGerbil
    • 4 years ago

    [quote<]You see, I grew up using trackballs, and I've gamed on Logitech's thumb-driven models since the Logitech Trackman Stationary Mouse made its appearance in the early '90s. I spent even more time using the Trackman Marble and then the Logitech Trackman Wheel Optical up until the M570 came out. I should also point out that I generally hate trackpads, and until a few years ago I'd spent almost no time with a modern dual-stick controller. [/quote<]This makes you a niche within a niche. I'd wager there are [i<]very[/i<] few gamers with this combination of experiences and preferences. Given how subjective input devices are in general, and how much muscle memory informs game-pads (and other gaming I/O devices) in particular, your evaluation of a game pad -- any game pad -- is going to be interesting but not necessarily prescriptive for the gaming masses at large. Kudos for putting this disclaimer in at the start, but it makes me want to read the impressions of others who are maybe a more representative sample. (I'm even less representative, as someone who has picked up a gamepad maybe twice in my life; I wonder if I would find Valve's design easier or harder to adapt to than the folks who have been clutching them since childhood)

      • drfish
      • 4 years ago

      I agree with you. I thought the context/perspective was important to convey up front. I do feel my conclusion would remain more or less the same though, ultimately I tried to express that I was [i<]generally[/i<] a fan of the product/concept but that I probably wouldn't continue using it personally unless a specific compelling reason came up (like a game that required it and/or something in the Valve VR space). To clarify, I've spent plenty of time using a normal mouse, over the years I've gone from Logitech MouseMan Dual Optical -> Logitech G5 -> Corsair M60 just to name a few I can specifically remember. Generally I try to mix things up from PC to PC to help avoid RSI, recently I switched from an M570 at work to [url=http://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B00BIFNTMC<]this guy[/url<] for example. I still use a M570 with my laptop and HTPC though. Game pad wise, as primarily a PC gamer, my console companion has always been from Nintendo. Obviously their controllers buck tradition a bit themselves but I'm not against traditional game pads by any means in case that wasn't clear. In fact, since I'm not keeping the Steam controller around, I've been eyeing an Xbox One controller for my main PC so I can leave the wireless 360 adapter in the HTPC all the time.

        • sweatshopking
        • 4 years ago

        GREAT REVIEW. seriously. You were clear about your usage, and the article was great. Keep up the good work (at the same time you’re reminding them how amazing it would be if i was writing too)

    • Disinclined
    • 4 years ago

    I’ve had mine for a while, and it does what I want to do. Play indies, older rpg, rts, etc from the couch. Darkest Dungeons, FTL, Mass Effect, Witcher.

    Some games I just cannot get a comfortable setup, and usually it’s with camera control such as Dragons Dogma. However the configuration options are robust enough that I’m certain there is a setup I will like. Just a matter of sitting down for a few hours and tooling around.

    As for the layout the button – analogue swap really wasn’t too bad. However I absolutely hate the L&R top buttons. I’ve never been an index + middle finger top button + trigger person because I find it uncomfortable. The steam control wants to force you into this position. Firstly the top buttons are angled in such a way that your fingers will want to naturally slide off of them. Secondly the top buttons are a hard trigger that take considerable force to depress.

    • torquer
    • 4 years ago

    Why does this thing exist?

      • auxy
      • 4 years ago

      Because Valve wants Steam to be as easy as a game console. Keyboard and mouse is a huge barrier of entry for many people, and it’s also less convenient to use while sitting 3 meters from a big TV.

      Steam controller is not trying to be better than a gamepad or better than a keyboard and mouse. It’s only trying to be good enough at both. I think it succeeds at this. The goal was to make a controller which can play every game. It comes awfully close.

      I actually prefer it for certain types of games now.

        • torquer
        • 4 years ago

        Hey if it works better for people, by all means. I tried one my friend bought and I guess I just don’t get it. I vastly prefer the Xbox One controller. A wireless keyboard and mouse for a PC on a TV is suboptimal though for sure.

      • sweatshopking
      • 4 years ago

      because valve is getting distracted and lazy. They’re enjoying a monopoly, and starting to lose sight of what they should actually be working on, like customer support and improving the terrible performance of steam.

        • HisDivineOrder
        • 4 years ago

        To be fair, even when Valve was NOT a monopoly, they were easily distracted and one might even call lazy. Though I’d probably use “easily distracted” and possibly even ADHD-kid-like.

        They’re the dog from Up. They’re in the middle of telling you how awesome cards are going to be when–

        “SQUIRREL!”

        When they were making Steam, we said, “Why are you doing this to us, Valve?” Steam isn’t a monopoly because it’s horrible. It’s a monopoly because it exceeds what most want from it and it brought a level of consistency that PC gaming had lacked. (Shame on you, Microsoft.)

        So when Valve begins work on a standardized control scheme that doesn’t rely on Microsoft’s good graces… well, I can’t say I blame them.

        It’s just the Steam controller doesn’t go far enough in really breaking away from the controller OR it doesn’t give you enough of the controller to really replicate that, either.

        I think it’s better if PC gamers just use a kb/m for games that suit those controls and a controller for games that suit controllers. And a wheel for driving games and a flightstick for flight sims and a fightstick for fighters.

        That is, the greatness of PC is that it can accept just about any kind of controller you want to hook up.

        The Steam controller appears to be Valve trying to cut the ties to Microsoft. Just as the Steam Link, Linux support, and SteamOS all try to do, too.

        Imagine you’re Valve. One day, Microsoft tells everyone that Metro is the future, that all Metro apps are walled behind the Windows Store, and can’t be installed without going through their store.

        Suddenly, you realize that games on Windows could become something gated always behind the Windows Store. Just at the flip of a switch. And what can Valve do? If they don’t have a backup strategy, an emergency escape hatch, they have nothing.

        And so everything Valve has done since Windows 8 and Metro has been about securing their future going forward. Even the threat of Valve marching away with hundreds of thousands of gamers who buy the highest of the high end PC’s has Microsoft rushing back to PC gaming.

        And Valve having these options for building a future without Microsoft are required to keep Microsoft honest.

          • torquer
          • 4 years ago

          Or it could be that arrogance and a religious hatred of Microsoft by Gabe Newell has driven them to all of the things you’ve mentioned. People forget that corporations are often reflective of the people who run them, subject to arrogance, ego, and emotionalism. In the end none of us know for sure, but I find it hard to take Valve as an objective and shrewd player when Gabe seems so preoccupied with disdain for the very company indirectly responsible for him no longer living in his mother’s basement eating cheetos and drinking Mt Dew. Just sayin.

    • Captain Ned
    • 4 years ago

    Obligatory Steam Controller reference:

    [url<]http://www.cad-comic.com/cad/20130930[/url<]

    • DoomGuy64
    • 4 years ago

    [url<]http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA1PK3RC5474[/url<] [url<]http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA7252RC6190[/url<] Problem solved.

    • sreams
    • 4 years ago

    Still my favorite controller outside of keyboard/mouse:

    [url<]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SpaceOrb_360[/url<] I still have one and have a little box that translates the 9-pin signal to USB. Love it.

    • ronch
    • 4 years ago

    Gamepads were conceptualized at a time when all games were 2D sprites moving left/right/up/down across the screen. As time went on 3D graphics came in and somehow the gamepad just felt awkward with some kinds of games, particularly FPS games and strategy games where a mouse pointer needs to go where it needs to go quiickly, and selecting objects onscreen is important and must be done quickly. There, a mouse is infinitely better than a trackpad, trackball (oh those horrible things!), gamepad, or joystick.

    • ronch
    • 4 years ago

    One of the reasons why I have an affinity for PC gaming is the use of KB and mouse. Why would I want to consolize my PC?

      • Firestarter
      • 4 years ago

      because many games are just plain better with a controller, joystick or wheel

        • Klimax
        • 4 years ago

        Nope. It requires particularly atrocious code to cause that and its fixable (Dark Souls). For me there is no such thing as controller. Only KB+M. Gamepads are just unusable idiocy… (Note: For flight/space sims joystick)

          • ahmedabdo
          • 4 years ago

          “Gamepads are just unusable idiocy”. Some games are simply better with a gamepad (PES, FIFA). Calling people idiots because you have a limited perspective on things they do is… idiocy.

            • Klimax
            • 4 years ago

            For one, I have not called anybody idiot. Just reviewed my comment again and don’t see that. I only called gamepads idiocies…

          • Firestarter
          • 4 years ago

          well ok, but just so you know: You are missing out

            • Klimax
            • 4 years ago

            Not really. Tried it few times and abandoned as such. So far the only missing games on my list are sports and racing. (Well, got few racing games, but not yet even tried)

            And do I have number of TPS or similar. (Batmans for example)

          • DrDominodog51
          • 4 years ago

          Someone clearly hasn’t tried driving in GTA or really any racing game with a keyboard and mouse

            • Klimax
            • 4 years ago

            I don’t really play racing games. (Have still few, but…) Last time was Grand Prix Unlimited under DOS. As for driving in GTA, can’t be any worse then in other games. Which one particularly? I have almost all (except V) For now the only driving experience I remember is Mako in Mass Effect. Liked it…

            Note: I have more then 700 games on my Steam account. (including number of TPS) Biggest problems I have are badly coded games with bad controls. (Like inability to remap, incorrect/wrong On Screen labels assignments or keys) Worst case of coding was IIRC in Dead Soul where mouse movement was massively wrong. Got fixed by community. (Apparently direct port of gamepad code which is wrong for mouse)

            Although truthfully, I was thinking about adding racing games as second exception to original post like I did with space/flight simulations. But in the end left them out, didn’t really change my point. If I were to drive racing games, I wouldn’t use crappy gamepad but use proper controller. (wheel) Which is very specialized piece of equipment unsuitable for any other type of games.

          • Klimax
          • 4 years ago

          Sorry people for forgetting to respond earlier…

        • travbrad
        • 4 years ago

        Yep it’s about using the right tool for the job. A screwdriver is more of a precision tool than a hammer but it doesn’t do much good if you are using nails. Mouse+kb is much better for FPS, RTS, or MOBAs. A gamepad is usually better for sports, fighting, 3rd person action/adventure games (especially if the game is designed around gamepads), and 2d platformers/console emulators. Gamepad tends to be better for racing games too, although wheel+pedals is better than both.

        A gamepad allows lazy couch gaming on a big TV too. Some people sit at a computer all day for their job and don’t always want to do the same thing at home, but do want the other benefits of PC gaming (better graphics, better frame rates, modding support, PC exclusives, etc).

      • baobrain
      • 4 years ago

      If you’re racing, a game pad is much superior to kb+m. When I’m doing flying in a game, kb+m is clunky and a controller is much easier.

      Point being, different scenarios are suited to different tools. If I’m playing bf4 then it’s a no brainer to use a kb+m.

      • superjawes
      • 4 years ago

      I’ve been playing [i<]GTA V[/i<] on PC recently, and the non-vehicle controls are fine, but the flight controls are just terrible. Driving is okay (manageable) with a KB, but it's definitely easier with a joystick. Sure, a KB is--in general--more functional and flexible than a controller, but I've only seen one Kickstarter for an analog alternative, and zero successful products (so far). Until the keyboard can improve to allow for analog goodness, a controller is useful in some games. Also, some people don't want to touch consoles at all, but still want to game on the couch. Step 1: build media/living room PC. Step 2: acquire controller for games.

      • alrey
      • 4 years ago

      Fighting games is the main reason.
      Racing is better on wheels.

    • bthylafh
    • 4 years ago

    Has someone tried this controller with an emulator? Most of my gamepad use is in NES and SNES emulators.

      • travbrad
      • 4 years ago

      I think a Xbone or PS4 controller is better for that because they have decent DPADs. Steam controllers “Dpad” area is too large and clumsy to use for that IMO. That being said the Dpad on the 360 controller is atrocious too.

      The couple NES emulators I tried don’t recognize it as a gamepad to assign buttons to either, so you basically had to assign the emulator to keys on your keyboard, then make a Steam controller profile linking the correct buttons to those keys.

        • sweatshopking
        • 4 years ago

        i agree entirely. The xbone dpad is [i<] slightly [/i<] better, but still not great, and the placement of it is subpar.

        • DoomGuy64
        • 4 years ago

        The [i<]original[/i<] 360 dpad. The updated version with the transforming dpad is fairly decent.

      • auxy
      • 4 years ago

      It works well. It takes some getting used to — you’ll also want to set the left touchpad to be “Requires click: no” — but these days I prefer the steampad’s touchpad-as-D-pad to a real D-pad, especially for fighting games.

      • Dysthymia
      • 4 years ago

      I’ve had better luck with my Logitech F710 than the Steam Controller in emulators so far. The worst has been Katamari Damacy on the PS2 emulator — you really need two analog sticks for that. But the directional pad is just better on other controllers for emulators.

      With that said, I don’t regret the purchase of my Steam Controller — it still works great for playing certain games like Darkest Dungeon, or picking it up for short driving stints in GTA V.

    • chrcoluk
    • 4 years ago

    To me the obvious flaw is the new button layout, e.g. I have an issue using a PS3 or PS4 controller since I am used to the xbox layout, and I believe the xbox layout to be the best as to me it makes sense to have the 4 primary buttons lined up with the left analgue stick.

    Really all the manufacturers need to have uniformity in the basic layout and then only differ maybe on extra features like extra buttons and build quality. This will probably be the biggest barrier to success for the steam controller, and of course the new problem will be if it does become so successful to the point of relegating xbox controller users to a minority we may start to see games drop support for the 360 controller which would be a disaster to make me drop pc gaming. But I dont think that will happen.

      • Laykun
      • 4 years ago

      It’s all just muscle memory tbh. You get used to the face layout on the steam controller with prolonged use. I don’t really find any, layout to be better or worse than others, only more familiar. The thing about the steam controller, for it to be good, is that it requires you to be OK with breaking the norm and accepting change.

    • Laykun
    • 4 years ago

    One might think that putting aiming on the analogue stick and movement on the right trackpad would have been a good solution to the helldivers problem, sure it takes a bit to get accustomed to but certainly a good solution.

    I started out not really likely the production steam controller but I’ve grown to love it, particularly for it’s plethora of configuration options available in big picture mode. Lately I’ve been playing through Dark Souls II on it at my desktop PC, and I’m most the way through the game (I’ve gathered all the great souls). Going back to a traditional controller, particularly for camera control, is tough.

    • anotherengineer
    • 4 years ago

    I think it would have been cooler if done”by” said drfish, instead of Colton, but that’s just me 😉

    • TwoEars
    • 4 years ago

    What I’ve seen some youtubers do is that they use the pad to make big directional changes and then use the gyro function to make smaller adjustments on top of that.

    So let’s say you’re playing and fps and a bad guy is sneaking up behind you, then swipe the pad to turn around and then tilt the controller left or right to fine tune your aim. It seems a bit weird and one guy was saying it took him two weeks to get the hang of it but that now he likes it a lot better than a standard controller, and that it’s almost as good as a mouse and keyboard.

    So… steep learning curve but maybe worth it for “hardcore couch potatoes”?

      • sweatshopking
      • 4 years ago

      TWO WEEKS?! THAT’S TOO LONG FOR A VIDEO GAME CONTROLLER

        • TwoEars
        • 4 years ago

        well.. two weeks for Americans. An hour for 6-year-olds and Asians.

          • baobrain
          • 4 years ago

          Can confirm as an Asian with a steam controller.

      • travbrad
      • 4 years ago

      This is the best method I’ve found for FPSs, but it was still horrible in Planetside 2. After 10 hours of playing with it I wasn’t improving at all. PS2 probably isn’t the ideal FPS for this though since it requires very precise aiming at longer ranges, and you’ll often be hitting your class ability button at the same time. Strafing back and forth quickly is very common in PS2 also, which is hard to do with the analog stick and hard to track accurately when the enemy does it. On top of all that PS2 has much longer “time to kill” than something like Counter-Strike.

    • byaafacehead
    • 4 years ago

    It seemed like most of the games you tested (except TF2) were originally made with a console controller in mind. I recall one of the selling points for the steam controller was its ability to play mouse and keyboard games so I’m curious how a game like Civilization or Dota would feel with the controller. Console controllers already exist and do an excellent job so having the steam controller for me would be to play traditionally KB+M games on the couch.

      • UndrState
      • 4 years ago

      ^ This.

      • sweatshopking
      • 4 years ago

      DOTA!?!? GTFO NOW WAY THAT GAME IS WORKING COMPETITIVELY WITH THIS THING.

        • byaafacehead
        • 4 years ago

        Yeah.. Dota’s a bad example. I don’t see this controller replacing any sort of competitive gamer’s keyboards and mice anytime soon, especially for mobas. The controller definitely seems more suited to more relaxed, ‘couch friendly’ single player games.

          • drfish
          • 4 years ago

          It would totally work with Civ (obviously one of Valve’s favorite games to demo it with) but even on the TV I’d rather go for my trackball/keyboard combo. If that’s not an option though it would be great. A MOBA or RTS, probably not so much.

      • travbrad
      • 4 years ago

      It’s not good enough to be a mouse+kb replacement for competitive multiplayer games, but it’s better than a xbone or 360 controller for aiming in something like Fallout 4. It’s terrible in Planetside 2 and there was just no way to make it competitive. I get 1/10th my normal KDR. The best way to aim with shooters tends to be using a combination of trackpad+gyro. Gyro to make precise movement and compensate for recoiil, and trackpad for larger movements.

      It’s fine for Civ 5. It’s actually pretty nice for navigating UIs, although still not as good as a mouse. RTS would be okay in single player, but I think you’d have trouble in multiplayer doing stuff fast enough.

      The controller part of It works well for most controller games though. It has more of a playstation layout than a xbox layout so that will come down to personal preference. It works well in Rocket League or Dark Souls. The triggers feel pretty good for Project CARS, and you can tweak the curve the analog stick uses which is nice. It doesn’t really have a great DPAD if you need to play console emulators or 2D indie platformers, but it’s good enough for navigating menus and stuff.

        • byaafacehead
        • 4 years ago

        I do like the idea of using motion controls (gyro) for fine tune adjustments. When I used to play Killzone 2 on the PS3, if you were scoped in with the sniper rifle, the aiming would move if you jerked the controller (using the accelerometers in the controller). It was sort a cool immersion thing (like you need a steady hand to shoot) but I actually found I liked using it to make last second corrections. When squeezing the controller to pull the trigger, it was easier to move my hands as a whole then use the joystick, kinda like a similar issue to the one this review brought up, albeit with a joystick instead of a trackpad.

        And yeah I’m guessing the controller is serviceable for most console games but since I already have a controller and keyboard+ mouse it seems the only reason to get this is by filling a new niche, that is keyboard games on the couch, as, in my opinion, a controller or keyboard is simply better for the particular tasks they are built for.

      • kamikaziechameleon
      • 4 years ago

      The dream would be to have a DOTA 2 get a controller update that streamlined some of the more absurd UI elements… but that is impossible because nearly half the heroes rely on the keyboard and mouse for Super odd play styles.

      I would love nothing more than the tactical and strategic depth of DOTA 2 captured in the UI streamlining of a good controller. but I doubt I’ll see that in my lifetime.

      • Goofus Maximus
      • 4 years ago

      Personally, I think he should have tested the most important and widely played game on Steam, which is — Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale 😉

        • drfish
        • 4 years ago

        Actually not a bad idea, one of my wife’s favorite games.

    • Forge
    • 4 years ago

    You became physically ill because the buttons weren’t in the same place, and you couldn’t find and use the deadzone configuration for the touchpad.

    I’m sorry, but as someone who didn’t use gamepads much before (but owned an Xbox and two 360s), I didn’t have anywhere near the issues you did, and both of my children adapted to the Steam Controller very well, my daughter actually wants me to get her one of her own.

    On the other hand, you missed some major oopses on Valve’s part, like two Steam Controllers on one machine don’t show up as two controllers correctly, at least on the setups I’ve been able to test. This made split-screen unworkable, and I could see giving points off in a review for such a major issue. Button placement causing vomiting seems a little subjective in comparison.

      • drfish
      • 4 years ago

      Yeah, it’s a bit embarrassing but I’ve gotten motion sickness from games before so I know I’m susceptible, just didn’t expect it here. Good thing TR readers appreciate the details, right? 😉

      Thanks for pointing out the two controller thing, I only had one so I had no idea.

        • SHOES
        • 4 years ago

        This worries me some… I also have specific motion sickness tendencies.

    • tipoo
    • 4 years ago

    It kinda sounds like most of these are settings tweaking issues, not fatal flaws. It’s definitely not for people who want the 360/XBO controller experience on PC where you just plug it in, Windows detects it, and 99% of new games work with it perfectly, and it’s fine to want that.
    This is definitely something that needs more tinkering, and over the coming months the best community derived profiles should bubble to the top more,making the less-tweaky side of it better as well.

    I have a few friends who got it and swear by it now for many game types. I hope to give it a swing eventually too (so uh, how much do you want for that totally useless steam controller you hate? 😛 )

      • drfish
      • 4 years ago

      Sorry, I have a nephew in line for it next, he said something about using it with Dark Souls?

        • tipoo
        • 4 years ago

        Oh god! Someone’s a masochist, lol

        • UndrState
        • 4 years ago

        The force is strong with that one!

      • DPete27
      • 4 years ago

      Except if you’re using a wireless Xbox 360 controller. I’ve NEVER had any system detect the wireless receiver. I’ve tried two different receivers, on 5+ systems, mix of AMD and Intel boards, Windows 7, Windows 10. Doesn’t matter. You always have to go through a complex series of steps that is NOT user friendly to tell the computer what this “unknown device” is and locate the driver manually to get it working. I have to google it every time.

        • Ryhadar
        • 4 years ago

        I’m wondering if you have the Chinese knockoff wireless receiver that was sold when Microsoft stopped selling the receiver individually.

        It’s virtually identical to the official receiver except for the problems you’ve described. I have the official one (purchased it in a bundle) and Win 7, 8, and 10 have all been plug and play. No looking for drivers and no connectivity issues of any kind.

      • Concupiscence
      • 4 years ago

      I’m pretty keen on mine, too. The configurability’s incredible, and bodging together a custom configuration isn’t particularly labor-intensive within the Big Picture mode’s interface. I’ve already downloaded configs for a couple of sidescrolling platformers, and made configurations from scratch for The Binding of Isaac Rebirth, Ikaruga, and the Nestopia emulator I added to Steam. The 360 controller’s a great set-and-forget solution, but I can just [b<]do so much[/b<] with the Steam Controller that it's eclipsed the 360 for my day to day usage.

    • Srsly_Bro
    • 4 years ago

    THANKS GABE!!!!!!!!!!

    excuse me….

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