Valve Explains Why Its Latest Steam Controller Has an Analog Stick

Valve Explains Why Its Latest Steam Controller Has an Analog Stick

steam controller redesign

Steam Controller testers are having trouble making the switch from traditional thumbsticks to its unique dual trackpads, says Valve.

You may have noticed that the Steam Controller has gone through quite a few changes in its development process, which has led to the device being delayed from its original November release date to early 2015. Last we heard, the folks at SteamDB pulled out some "leaked" pictures of another redesign, this time featuring a single analog thumbstick. Steam neither confirmed nor denied the new prototype, but earlier this month, I was granted a tour of Valve's headquarters in Seattle, where I was able to confirm that this analog stick prototype indeed exists.

While I was furiously scanning each room the tour went through for any instance of the number "3", I noticed a Valve employee using what appeared to be a fully-functioning prototype of the analog stick Steam controller. I spoke with one of the machinists working on the project, and he offered me some insight onto how the analog stick came to be.

First up, he admitted that adjusting to the radical dual trackpads of the Steam controller is the biggest problem new users have. While he (and pretty much everyone else at Valve) swear that the dual trackpads are absolutely necessary, and that they really do make all the difference, it's not as easy to convince people who've never used them.

The machinist said that the new prototype's analog stick was tied to movement, in order to "ease new players in" to using the two trackpads, by starting them off using just one for aiming. While he said that the prototype had been successful, and that players were eventually able to transition to the dual trackpad layout, its big disadvantage that the controller's d-pad had to be cut to make room for the stick.

When I asked if an analog stick would make the final cut, he told me he wasn't sure, and said that the controller has been through a whole bunch of revisions already, and will probably have quite a few more before its release.

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I, for one, am looking forward to how this will turn out in the end. Because I still want it.

An analog, i like that... Although, if theres no D-pad then how are they going to emulate the keyboard's 1-9?

Ylla:
An analog, i like that... Although, if theres no D-pad then how are they going to emulate the keyboard's 1-9?

Agreed. it needs a d-pad more than it need an analog stick. If you want to emulate a keyboard you need more buttons. Sure, most games these days are made with a controller in mind, but the main reason I want a Steam controller is so that I could play older games with a controller.

Thing is, there's still the possibility that future versions of the Steam Controller will forgo the analog stick and return to only the buttons and track pads. There's even the possibility that, once established, later models will include the original touch-screen design.

Valve hinted at this first consumer model not being the only model set for release. They spoke of this first build as a sort of "entry-level" consumer build with the possibility of more robust, feature-rich versions releasing for varied pricing models.

Whatever the case, I'm glad they're including a healthy dose of community feedback into this thing's design. Though, I hope they aren't giving too much stock into all of the communities ideas. Else we might just end up with some Playstation or Xbox knock-off.

Still, I'm not sold on the analog stick inclusion. Having not tried one I can't really judge it yet but I preferred the conceptual design of the previous build.

Seems like their uncertainty is coming from not knowing entirely what audience will actually be using the controller. The analog stick is there to make it more friendly to new controller users, but their biggest audience will probably be more adventurous users who are willing to spend on a niche (sort of) product and spend the time getting used to it. Unless they're marketing it towards gamers with less time on their hands to learn it seems strange not to keep the more useful D-pad.

Vigormortis:
Thing is, there's still the possibility that future versions of the Steam Controller will forgo the analog stick and return to only the buttons and track pads. There's even the possibility that, once established, later models will include the original touch-screen design.

Valve hinted at this first consumer model not being the only model set for release. They spoke of this first build as a sort of "entry-level" consumer build with the possibility of more robust, feature-rich versions releasing for varied pricing models.

Whatever the case, I'm glad they're including a healthy dose of community feedback into this thing's design. Though, I hope they aren't giving too much stock into all of the communities ideas. Else we might just end up with some Playstation or Xbox knock-off.

Still, I'm not sold on the analog stick inclusion. Having not tried one I can't really judge it yet but I preferred the conceptual design of the previous build.

It would certainly be interesting to see game stores selling "FPS" controllers next to ones designed for "Platformers" next to "Fighters", etc etc.

Just say you're scraping the thing at this point Valve.

Infernal Lawyer:

It would certainly be interesting to see game stores selling "FPS" controllers next to ones designed for "Platformers" next to "Fighters", etc etc.

Fighting game pads already exist and have for some time.

Couldn't they just make it modular so that you can swap out the thumb stick for a d-pad?
Hell, if Mad Catz can make modular controllers (even if they do seem to get poor reviews), then Valve should be able to come up with something.

A track pad and an analog stick seems redundant, it needs a D-pad more.

You know, the more I think about keyboard and mouse games and how the mouse is really precise with aiming while you have to hit some buttons (hopefully) around WASD to adjust your character's speed(run, walk, sprint, crouch), the more I wish someone would make a keyboard with an analog stick[1] to the left of the keys with some programmable ones in case a game puts critical keys away from the stick. Those secondary left hand keypads, however nice they may be in certain situations, just add clutter without really solving the analog issue. Hopefully, this controller will really work even if most people prefer the analog stick for movement over the trackpad.

Nuvo:
Couldn't they just make it modular so that you can swap out the thumb stick for a d-pad?
Hell, if Mad Catz can make modular controllers (even if they do seem to get poor reviews), then Valve should be able to come up with something.

That's what I wish Valve would do, someday. If they either had the bottom off the middle section pop of with thumbscrews or just the stick's area pop up with a bayonet lock, that would make it some much better for guys like me that play a good mixture of 2D and 3D games. And it would be much less painful in the wallet region if we only had to buy 1 controller and an inexpensive module to go with it. And Valve wouldn't let some POS out into the market unlike some third party hardware.

[1] My idea do not steal. :) (Unless some obscure keyboard was already made like that.) Also, I know many games give you gamepad or keyboard mapping but not a combo, so setting up the analog stick in one of those would be difficult without a patch.

We already have movement in the trackpads, an analog stick just takes away from the numerous buttons needed to properly emulate the many keys on a keyboard. I want to play old(er) PC games on my TV with this controller, I already have a DS4 for the other games.

While I obviously can't know with 100% certainty, not having tried it out, I'd still prefer that this is a feature that doesn't stick.

Maybe they could make different versions that cater to different things, one standard x-input (or whatever) controller and one PC controller.

Ylla:
An analog, i like that... Although, if theres no D-pad then how are they going to emulate the keyboard's 1-9?

'

the track pads become buttons.

So much for "you dont need analog sticks cause these trackpads are much better"... Wonder if the current beta hardware testers have to send their hardware back.

QuadFish:
Seems like their uncertainty is coming from not knowing entirely what audience will actually be using the controller. The analog stick is there to make it more friendly to new controller users, but their biggest audience will probably be more adventurous users who are willing to spend on a niche (sort of) product and spend the time getting used to it. Unless they're marketing it towards gamers with less time on their hands to learn it seems strange not to keep the more useful D-pad.

I seriously wonder if they ever actually sat down and asked/decided who this was intended for. At best, it looks like they're trying to merge two bases. The problem is that they literally can't please everyone, and this looks like they're further trying to compromise.

If the track pads did their jobs as advertised, I don't think this'd be necessary, though. And TBH, while I'm a fan of controllers, I'd rather have the earlier model.

Zachary Amaranth:

I seriously wonder if they ever actually sat down and asked/decided who this was intended for. At best, it looks like they're trying to merge two bases. The problem is that they literally can't please everyone, and this looks like they're further trying to compromise.

If the track pads did their jobs as advertised, I don't think this'd be necessary, though. And TBH, while I'm a fan of controllers, I'd rather have the earlier model.

I think it looks just fine as well, and by all accounts once you get used to it then it's supposed to work great. The problem is with those two user bases your talking about is that one of them is extremely stubborn. It's kind of anecdotal, but I've always had the impression that the typical gamer starts on console gaming as a child/teen, then move onto PC gaming somewhere around leaving high school & going to college. So then the problem is that the recent 'graduates' they've basically grown up playing with a single controller, either Xbox or Playstation, have deemed it perfect and don't want to use anything else.

I could be wrong but I certainly don't remember the kb+mouse vs gamepad on Steam being a thing 5 years ago, and this is the crowd complaining about the Steam controller... which is kind of stupid since you can still use a standard gamepad.

As someone who tested the other design, it's not becasue we aren't used to dual trackpads, it's because track pads can get fucked for gaming. I have a trackpad on my laptop, and a legit mouse is waaaay better.

Meh, whenever I game with a controller on PC, I think I'll just stick to my Xbox360 controller. I don't use it all that often, and I don't have any problems with it. Don't see a need to change.

RandV80:

Zachary Amaranth:

I seriously wonder if they ever actually sat down and asked/decided who this was intended for. At best, it looks like they're trying to merge two bases. The problem is that they literally can't please everyone, and this looks like they're further trying to compromise.

If the track pads did their jobs as advertised, I don't think this'd be necessary, though. And TBH, while I'm a fan of controllers, I'd rather have the earlier model.

I think it looks just fine as well, and by all accounts once you get used to it then it's supposed to work great. The problem is with those two user bases your talking about is that one of them is extremely stubborn. It's kind of anecdotal, but I've always had the impression that the typical gamer starts on console gaming as a child/teen, then move onto PC gaming somewhere around leaving high school & going to college. So then the problem is that the recent 'graduates' they've basically grown up playing with a single controller, either Xbox or Playstation, have deemed it perfect and don't want to use anything else.

I could be wrong but I certainly don't remember the kb+mouse vs gamepad on Steam being a thing 5 years ago, and this is the crowd complaining about the Steam controller... which is kind of stupid since you can still use a standard gamepad.

I dont get this comment are you implying that controller fans are the stubborn ones?
I thought everyone was complaining in general.... Except console only gamers, because they aint getting the Steam controller.
And in PC its too easy to choose between a gamepad and m&k; competitive games are simply better with m&k and thats it, everything else is up to the player.
btw i started gaming on PC, moved to consoles and most recently came to back to PC and now im looking forward to get a PS4. And then of course the console population concentrates in the 30-35 years range so...

Overall, skeptical, but still interested. I agree that they need to keep those trackpads. Without those, I fail to see any reason to continue this special controller project. I'm not saying it wouldn't be good, but what's the point of doing all this if you don't keep the one thing that makes this controller stand out from the rest. Aside from that, I'm fine with most any revision.

That being said, i am hoping the touch-pad comes back at some point. I also hope they leave the buttons on the back of the handles there as I like the idea of putting buttons back there and giving my other fingers something to do. I just worry about the idea of devs utilizing them in stupid ways because they're and they need to do something with every button. Hoping they keep it simple.

Why can't people just use the joystick as a D-pad? Is that really so insane?

Has anyone here played Metroid Prime with a Gamecube controller? Do you remember how you switched between weapons? You used the C stick. It wasn't a problem. If anything I would think a joystick could work better with 8 directions instead of just 4.

Seriously, how stuck in our ways are we that we?

Edit: Also, has anyone played Trauma-Center for the Wii? The Game Grumps are playing it right now and it uses the Wii Joystick for selecting from the games 8 tools. It works perfectly fine. Make the joystick a button as well and you now have buttons 1 - 9 accounted for.

Reaper195:
As someone who tested the other design, it's not becasue we aren't used to dual trackpads, it's because track pads can get fucked for gaming. I have a trackpad on my laptop, and a legit mouse is waaaay better.

But aren't these trackpads supposed to be better by providing tactile feedback and stuff? I agree that no touchpad I've ever used has been as good as a mouse, but I'd also say it's better than using a joystick.

I get the idea that they are trying to ease new players in with the analog stick, but wouldn't that mean that they will become used to the analog stick and will not move to a pure trackpad anyway? I mean, people will see no need to change using the trackpad for movements when they have the analog stick.

Olas:
Why can't people just use the joystick as a D-pad? Is that really so insane?

Has anyone here played Metroid Prime with a Gamecube controller? Do you remember how you switched between weapons? You used the C stick. It wasn't a problem. If anything I would think a joystick could work better with 8 directions instead of just 4.

Seriously, how stuck in our ways are we that we?

Edit: Also, has anyone played Trauma-Center for the Wii? The Game Grumps are playing it right now and it uses the Wii Joystick for selecting from the games 8 tools. It works perfectly fine. Make the joystick a button as well and you now have buttons 1 - 9 accounted for.

If you can't see the merit of a D-pad then you've never played super meat boy, street fighter, mortal kombat or other 2D games. Doing dragon punch or scorpion's spear is infinitely easier and more enjoyable on a D-Pad. But it doesn't matter, there are many controllers in the market with a d-pad (I wonder why? hmmm).

Hairless Mammoth:
You know, the more I think about keyboard and mouse games and how the mouse is really precise with aiming while you have to hit some buttons (hopefully) around WASD to adjust your character's speed(run, walk, sprint, crouch), the more I wish someone would make a keyboard with an analog stick[1] to the left of the keys with some programmable ones in case a game puts critical keys away from the stick. Those secondary left hand keypads, however nice they may be in certain situations, just add clutter without really solving the analog issue. Hopefully, this controller will really work even if most people prefer the analog stick for movement over the trackpad.

Nuvo:
Couldn't they just make it modular so that you can swap out the thumb stick for a d-pad?
Hell, if Mad Catz can make modular controllers (even if they do seem to get poor reviews), then Valve should be able to come up with something.

That's what I wish Valve would do, someday. If they either had the bottom off the middle section pop of with thumbscrews or just the stick's area pop up with a bayonet lock, that would make it some much better for guys like me that play a good mixture of 2D and 3D games. And it would be much less painful in the wallet region if we only had to buy 1 controller and an inexpensive module to go with it. And Valve wouldn't let some POS out into the market unlike some third party hardware.

Sadly, few games support multi-controller support. Regardless, an analog stick on the keyboard wouldn't be usable. It'd be even harder to use then a 3DS circle pad.

[1] My idea do not steal. :) (Unless some obscure keyboard was already made like that.) Also, I know many games give you gamepad or keyboard mapping but not a combo, so setting up the analog stick in one of those would be difficult without a patch.

ExtraDebit:

Olas:
Why can't people just use the joystick as a D-pad? Is that really so insane?

Has anyone here played Metroid Prime with a Gamecube controller? Do you remember how you switched between weapons? You used the C stick. It wasn't a problem. If anything I would think a joystick could work better with 8 directions instead of just 4.

Seriously, how stuck in our ways are we that we?

Edit: Also, has anyone played Trauma-Center for the Wii? The Game Grumps are playing it right now and it uses the Wii Joystick for selecting from the games 8 tools. It works perfectly fine. Make the joystick a button as well and you now have buttons 1 - 9 accounted for.

If you can't see the merit of a D-pad then you've never played super meat boy, street fighter, mortal kombat or other 2D games. Doing dragon punch or scorpion's spear is infinitely easier and more enjoyable on a D-Pad. But it doesn't matter, there are many controllers in the market with a d-pad (I wonder why? hmmm).

None of the games you mentioned require the precision of a mouse, which is what this controller is meant to provide. So just use a regular controller, this isn't meant to be a one size fits all controller for every scenario.

For the record I have played Meat Boy, and Super Meat Boy, and I'd recommend WASD over a D-pad any day.

Rozalia1:
Just say you're scraping the thing at this point Valve.

Infernal Lawyer:

It would certainly be interesting to see game stores selling "FPS" controllers next to ones designed for "Platformers" next to "Fighters", etc etc.

Fighting game pads already exist and have for some time.

Not to undermine or ignore your point, but do they also exist for the other genres I've suggested?

Olas:

Reaper195:
As someone who tested the other design, it's not becasue we aren't used to dual trackpads, it's because track pads can get fucked for gaming. I have a trackpad on my laptop, and a legit mouse is waaaay better.

But aren't these trackpads supposed to be better by providing tactile feedback and stuff? I agree that no touchpad I've ever used has been as good as a mouse, but I'd also say it's better than using a joystick.

Aparently. TO me, it just felt like using track pads with my thumbs. They have no place with gaming. If I want some accurate shots in an FPS, I'll use a mouse. If I want some mint controls for driving, I'll take a 360-esque controller. It's not that people aren't ready, or aren't used to track pads...it's that they don't want them because they aren't better than what we have. The saying "Don't fix what isn't broke" comes to mind. I'll also change it a bit and say "Don't imrpove on what doesn't need improving on.". And certainly "Don't replace something good with something worse."

ah, yes, people who only know the old want more of the old and have difficulty adjusting to the new. solution - lets just uninvent everything that was interesting about out controller. right now there is absolutely no point in this controller even existing. You may as well just take a Dualshock instead.

Oh... so it has to be that we're too dumb/stupid to transition and not that we simply prefer a joystick for control? Look, I translated from atari controllers to nintendo controllers all the way back up to the behemoths we have today. Gamers aren't bad at transitions. Track pads just don't translated well into several games. They've effectively solved the RTS issue of control that consoles traditionally have and I'm sure some other game types will benefit as well. But the track pad just isn't good enough for some other game types without turning the sensitivity WAAAAAY up which drops the accuracy down on so small a pad.

But seriously, difficulty in controller transitions have never been an issue. Anyone who went from the SNES to N64 would punch these guys in the throat for such a comment. Don't get me wrong, I love Valve, but this is fairly pretentious to put the onus on the customers and not your product.

frak the analog stick! give me something new and exciting!

I wonder if Valve has accounted for people (mostly girls) with long fingernails.
I don't think a trackpad will work very well for those people.

Olas:

Reaper195:
As someone who tested the other design, it's not becasue we aren't used to dual trackpads, it's because track pads can get fucked for gaming. I have a trackpad on my laptop, and a legit mouse is waaaay better.

But aren't these trackpads supposed to be better by providing tactile feedback and stuff? I agree that no touchpad I've ever used has been as good as a mouse, but I'd also say it's better than using a joystick.

"Supposed to". Rev3 Games did a hands on video with the model before this one and came to the conclusion that the trackpads suck for any game that needs quick reaction. Like Towerfall and basically any action title that has an aiming mechanic. It's good for playing games like Civ 5 and Broken Age on the couch though. The trackpads were the main "feature" and they've become an anchor.

Methinks Valve needs to end this thing.

AzrealMaximillion:

Olas:

Reaper195:
As someone who tested the other design, it's not becasue we aren't used to dual trackpads, it's because track pads can get fucked for gaming. I have a trackpad on my laptop, and a legit mouse is waaaay better.

But aren't these trackpads supposed to be better by providing tactile feedback and stuff? I agree that no touchpad I've ever used has been as good as a mouse, but I'd also say it's better than using a joystick.

"Supposed to". Rev3 Games did a hands on video with the model before this one and came to the conclusion that the trackpads suck for any game that needs quick reaction. Like Towerfall and basically any action title that has an aiming mechanic. It's good for playing games like Civ 5 and Broken Age on the couch though. The trackpads were the main "feature" and they've become an anchor.

Methinks Valve needs to end this thing.

I don't know how bad they can be frankly. I've played first person shooters with the touchpad on my laptop before without any real issues. Even if it's fundamentally no different than that I'd still prefer it over a joystick, and will still buy it. The fact that people still use joysticks at all to play FPS should be a source of embarrassment really. They just aren't designed for it.

From this thread and threads about Occulus Rift I get the impression that people just don't want anything new or experimental, and will dismiss new ideas before even trying them. It fucking pisses me off how utterly cynical some people are. Why get excited for some new idea when we can just dismiss it and stick to the same boring, limited control scheme we've been using for 15 years.

 

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