One of the most heated topics in the world of technology has always been ‘which is better, Gamepads or PC Mouse and Keyboard Combo?’ But since both offer something very different from one another it usually comes down to preference. However Valve decided to do something about it and came up with the Steam Controller which in their opinion ‘Will combine the best of both worlds’. But does this controller really close the gap between the precision of a PC’s mouse keyboard combo and comfort of a controller? Let us find out.
The Design and the Features
The Stream Controller was designed in a way that it would work with all games on Steam including many older titles that originally did not have any controller support. Valve claims that the controller offers a ‘Vastly Superior control scheme with high precision input technologies and low latency performance’. The controller is build around the idea of ‘Super precise haptic feedback’, the haptic feedback works by using the weighted electro magnets attached to each dual track pads in order to provide a wider range of pressure, movement and vibration. Steam controller allows users to modify each touchpad to be configured differently, this means you can assign one of the touchpad to work as a joystick while the other can act similar to a track pad and move with your fingers in order to give you precise movement as well as better rotation abilities. This of course will vary for different genre of games but the idea remains the same with two touchpad’s you can do things that would be much harder to achieve via a standard controller. Finally there is the high resolution touch screen in the centre of the controller that supports all games in Steam and using it you can control your steam profile as well perform other actions similar to the Steam application available on PC.
The Steam Controller buttons
The Steam controller sports a total of sixteen buttons, which may confuse our reader on how they will work in harmony with the touchpad’s. According to steam every button and input zone has been placed according to the frequency of use, precision as well as ergonomic comfort. They are placed symmetrically making left or right handiness suitable via software configuration checkbox. Also 8 of them buttons will be accessible to users while using the touchpad’s while the remaining ones are in the touchpad’s themselves , so in order to use them you will need to lift your fingers up and then press the desired button. This decreases the chance of misplaced buttons as well as give the users multiple ways to approach a certain action.
Steam Controller, how well does it perform?
At first we were sceptical of how the dual touchpad design of the Steam Controller will fair in practical usage, but Valve recently showcased a video demonstrating how the steam controller is supposed to work in different games, naturally we analysed this video and what we found out was that the controller can handle some areas of the FPS and RTS games as well as any standard controllers if not better, due to the wider area of controls you have you can use the device to perform more controlled movements as well as faster inputs. The touchpad’s should also result in less strain on the users hand and fingers allowing users longer sessions of entertainment. Overall cursor driven titles in general seem to work better on Steam controller than on a standard controller. The Steam controller’s touchpad makes it equally usable for left handed users as well, which was a rising issue among standard controllers. Sudden rotations and proper angling required to play at a competitive level would still be better on a PC’s mouse and keyboard combo, but for average users the steam controller might prove to be a viable option. The Steam controller is also hackable, so custom developers can use tools that will soon be provided by Valve. Attention from custom developers can go a long way for a new device.
So far the Steam Controller has shown a lot of potential, but it is not without its flaws. There seems to be a complicated learning curve and people shifting from standard controllers as well as from PC’s mouse and keyboard will find it uncomfortable at first, the controllers design is far from being perfect and would require constant user customization in order to be perfectly used in various genres of games. Also despite Valve’s claims the precision and ease of movement do seem inferior to PC’s mouse and keyboard combo. But all that being said, it does offer many improvements over the standard controllers and can be considered a viable option for mainstream gamers out there, though it all will comes down to the customization options that the final version will offer.