Valve controller gets hands-on impressions from devs

A handful of developers have been allowed to try out the Valve controller that debuted last week, and have shared their impressions of the mappable interface and ease-of-use for new games.

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On Friday, Valve showed the culmination of its living room initiative with its own controller. It replaces regular button- and analog-based inputs with mappable trackpads, but the throngs of the Internet (including our own) seem unconvinced. Fortunately, some developers actually have gotten hands-on, and they seem much more positive.

Ichiro Lambe of Dejobaan Games explained how it felt to Kotaku. "This sounds weird, but it's almost like rolling two weighted trackballs that are too large to actually fit into the controller," Lambe said. "For camera controls, slide one thumb to the right, and you'll feel this ticking, like you're turning a physical control. Flick your thumb quickly, and this imaginary physical thing reacts like something with weight to it--the 'trackball' continues to roll for a bit, eventually coming to a rest. And since it's all controlled through the software, the same trackpad then becomes more like a mouse or a laptop trackpad when you're navigating through menus."

Dan Tabar of Cortex Command developer Data Realms told Gamasutra that it's particularly flexible, since trackpad zones can be mapped to have multiple button inputs. For example, he said, the top could be mapped to Shift+W, making it the run function like holding an analog stick at the top. Or, one of the pads could be split into quarters or even eight sections to emulate a multiple button interface. He noted that the devs invited played Borderlands using the controller, which hadn't been optimized for the controller yet. Other than strange behavior from the haptic feedback thanks to the lack of optimization, though, it seemed to work.

Chris Remo of Double Fine added that they were allowed to play two of their own games: The Cave and the upcoming Broken Age. "We just plugged it in, and it worked," he said. "We didn't have special support for it or anything. It worked really, really well. I was really impressed with the mouse imitation. It doesn't feel like a trackpad."

Tommy Refenes of Team Meat gave his own impressions on his blog, saying that it worked well enough in Spelunky and his own Super Meat Boy, but still had a few reservations about a controller without physical buttons. He noted that he sometimes lost track of where his fingers were on the trackpad, and floated the idea of small nubs to signify placement. "If you were to ask me if I would play games with the Steam Controller... I would say yes. If you were to ask me to choose between Steam Controller and a 360 controller, I would choose 360," he concluded, as it's more familiar. "Great Start, needs some improvements, but I could play any game I wanted with it just fine."

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  • reply
    September 30, 2013 7:45 AM

    Steve Watts posted a new article, Valve controller gets hands-on impressions from devs.

    A handful of developers have been allowed to try out the Valve controller that debuted last week, and have shared their impressions of the mappable interface and ease-of-use for new games.

    • reply
      September 30, 2013 8:30 AM

      cool.

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      September 30, 2013 8:49 AM

      Wanna try one. Looks like forward thinking.

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      September 30, 2013 10:02 AM

      http://i.imgur.com/uGwpzG9.jpg

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      September 30, 2013 10:23 AM

      Well if Chris Remo says so I have no reason to doubt it.

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      September 30, 2013 10:34 AM

      I kind of want to hold it and try it myself

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      September 30, 2013 11:01 AM

      Has anyone tried it with an FPS yet? Or a third person shooter?

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        September 30, 2013 11:09 AM

        Exactly this. That's what we need to find out.

        Play a FPS and an RTS and see how it goes, then come talk to all of us gamers about it. :)

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        September 30, 2013 11:11 AM

        The Gamasutra article linked played it with Borderlands 2.

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        September 30, 2013 11:20 AM

        It says they used it with Borderlands, but it wasn't optimized for some reason (which seems ridiculous). Read elsewhere, and it is briefly mentioned here, that the haptic feedback was all over the place because of the lack of optimization. Somewhat suspect that there is such a lack of detail regarding that playtime.

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          September 30, 2013 11:43 AM

          I don't understand why it's ridiculous that it wasn't optimized. I would wager the point of that demo would be to show how well the controller works with games that haven't been added to the controller's support library. I'll also point out that there wasn't much detail about ANY game's play session; pretty much everything quoted in these write-ups is just broad impressions. And considering how early this is in the controller's software development process, it's very likely that you'll be able to configure your own haptic feedback preferences for games without official support, including just turning off haptic feedback altogether, though I imagine that they'll have sets of predefined behaviors that users can choose from to compose an ad-hoc profile for any arbitrary game.

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            September 30, 2013 11:48 AM

            I would agree if the controller had performed well under those circumstances. Knowing the haptics wouldn't work well, they should have optimized it and at least shown a perfect example of how great the controller can be if developed for to get more people on board on that side.

            Yes, it sounds like you can configure everything about the controller, but if they want the attention of console gamers they need to show the simplified version first, playing really well. The PC folk will figure out you can do all that awesome stuff with it anyway.

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              September 30, 2013 4:05 PM

              You are really reading that as negatively as you can.

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      September 30, 2013 11:08 AM

      What's worrying is the last guy who talks about it in terms of relating to a console gamepad rather than if it works as a really good mouse replacement.

      That tells me (to some extent at least) that it's probably not going to be a very good mouse replacement if users are mentally connecting it to being more like a gamepad.

      Sigh.

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        September 30, 2013 11:16 AM

        I think for the type of game he was playing, that particular comparison makes more sense. If I were playing a side scroller, I'm most likely going to want a console-style controller in my hands vs a m+kb in the first place.

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        September 30, 2013 11:29 AM

        Have you ever played Super Meat Boy? That game's controls are as NES as it gets. It's not surprising that the developer talked about it in terms of a gamepad.

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        September 30, 2013 11:46 AM

        Uh, I guess, but considering it IS a gamepad, and considering the guy who made that comment is a developer of platformers designed to be played with gamepads, I think it's pretty natural that he would make that comparison.

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          September 30, 2013 11:46 AM

          Yeah, what the guys above me said. Should have read more before replying.

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        September 30, 2013 4:06 PM

        So I guess you just ignored the guys who said it really made a good mouse replacement.

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      September 30, 2013 2:55 PM

      I was amazed that the Shack seemed to think Valve came up with this controller without testing it at all.

      Come on. If it was a piece of shit they would never have brought it this far.