Valve Releases Steamworks API for Steam Controller

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | December 19, 2013 - 03:42 AM |
Tagged: valve, Steam Controller

The Steam Controller is a gamepad where touch replaces analog joysticks. Developed internally at Valve, its design focused on being a comfortable gaming accessory which did not compromise on the accuracy allowed by an absolute position-based input device (ie: a mouse). Velocity-based inputs, such as thumbsticks, have the hand-eye and/or timing problem where we need feedback to know when to cease giving input to actually stop. It is a lot easier to make a good estimate of how far to move your hand (or finger, or eye) and perform that action without further feedback necessary.

It is just how we behave.

steam-controller_bindings.jpg

Valve is very confident in their design and believes that it is accurate enough to emulate a mouse. In fact, most games (if and until the Steam Controller gains traction) will be operating in "Legacy Mode" which emulates a mouse and keyboard. They are requesting that the community develop many shared profiles, on a game-by-game basis, to give a large catalog of known configurations by the time the device ships publicly.

But what about the not "Legacy Mode"? The main announcement is that Valve has shipped the controller's Steamworks API to allow developers direct access to its hardware. In other words, rather than emulate a mouse and keyboard, the developer can use the hardware in the way they see fit. Of course this will be most useful for the touchscreen (if a blank 4-quadrant button is insufficient) and the haptic feedback but can also mean new methods of emulating the velocity-based input of a gamepad.

Remember, I said velocity input is less accurate for things like rapid rotation between randomly oriented targets. Flight games often prefer long continuous input which are great for joysticks and thumbsticks. Simply put, traditional gamepads are "better" at certain things (driving games, flight games, third-person games where accuracy is not important but quickly pressing one of four-or-so commands is, etc.). Many developers will want this controller to solve those problems, too.

Keep an eye out at Steam Universe for more updates like these; they occur rapidly as of late.

Podcast #273 - Corsair 750D, a XSPC Watercooling Kit, the Steam Controller and more!

Subject: General Tech | October 17, 2013 - 06:35 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, corsair, halloween, costume, contest, XSPC, watercooling, radiator, steam, SteamOS, Steam Controller

PC Perspective Podcast #273 - 10/17/2013

Join us this week as we discuss the Corsair 750D, a XSPC Watercooling Kit, the Steam Controller and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

 
Program length: 1:10:56
  1. PC Perspective Halloween Hardware Giveaway - Brought to you by Corsair and Gigabyte

  2. Week in Review:
  3. This episode is brought to you by Carbonite.com! Use offer code PC for two free months!
      1. Skylake (2015) reportedly not affected
  4. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
  5. podcast@pcper.com
  6. Closing/outro

 

Valve's Steam Controller Demonstration... 001... .avi?

Subject: General Tech, Systems | October 11, 2013 - 06:36 PM |
Tagged: valve, Steam Machine, Steam Controller

Jeff Bellinghausen, former Chief Technology Officer at Sixense, currently works for Valve with their hardware initiative. He will be provide the voice over for today's controller walkthrough video. Four very different games are shown with very input configurations.

As a little background, Sixense partnered with Valve and Razer to develop the Hydra motion controller. I had a strong feeling that this technology would form the basis of the Steam hardware experience when first rumors of "The Steam Box" circulated. Clearly, either I was wrong or Valve dumped the prototype for their current (slightly more standard) gamepad.

Yet at least one of the engineering minds behind it kept with Steam OS.

The first and third games shown are Portal 2 and CounterStrike: Global Offensive, respectively. Portal 2 is operating in keyboard and mouse "legacy mode" where sliding your right thumb emulates the movement of a mouse and the left thumb activates a virtual D-Pad. This input method seems to have some sort of throw velocity when you quickly swipe your thumb across the pad and release although I obviously have not directly experienced it.

On the other hand, CounterStrike does not require auto aim.

Civilization V has the left thumb pad bound to map scroll and the right thumb pad controlling mouse movement. While precise, I could see speed being a problem for a game such as Starcraft 2. It seems to be slightly slower than a mouse. I would like to see someone learn the controller and attempt to ladder for a relevant amount of time.

Speaking of speed to complement precision: Papers, Please blends both thumbs into a single mouse movement. This highlights what, at least I guess, is the entire point of the new controller: allow new schemes to be tested.

Certainly, there are a bunch of possibilities even before the design leaves Valve's hands.

Source: Valve

Podcast #271 - Hawell NUC, MSI X87 XPOWER Motherboard, the Steam Controller and more!

Subject: General Tech | October 3, 2013 - 02:32 PM |
Tagged: Z87 XPower, z87, video, steam os, Steam Controller, Steam Box, steam, podcast, nuc, msi, haswell

PC Perspective Podcast #271 - 10/03/2013

Join us this week as we discuss the Hawell NUC, MSI X87 XPOWER Motherboard, the Steam Controller and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano, and Scott Michaud

 
Program length: 1:24:00
  1. Batman: Arkham Origins keys anyone??
  2. Week in Review:
  3. News items of interest:
  4. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
    1. Allyn: Dual Power eSATA USB 2.0 Power combo to 22Pin SATA cable (on eBay)
    2. Scott: Teksavvy Internet (Not USB Hubs)
  5. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  6. Closing/outro

 

Fill out the Form Below to Enter for the Batman: Arkham Origins key!!!

Valve Hardware Pt. 3: Steam Controller

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling, Systems | September 27, 2013 - 02:42 PM |
Tagged: SteamOS, Steam Controller, reverse-consolitis

Steam Controller is the third, and final, announcement in the Steam Hardware event. Sure, the peripheral looks weird. It looks very weird. The first thing(s?) you will notice, and likely the driving influence for the iconography, is... or are... the touch pads which replace the expected thumbsticks. The second thing you will notice is the "high resolution" (no specific resolution or dimension was provided) touchscreen.

steam-controller.jpg

The most defining aspect of the controllers, as previously stated, is its pair of trackpads. This input method might actually stand the chance of precise controls while maintaining comfort for a couch. To start, I will quote Valve:

In addition, games like first-person shooters that are designed around precise aiming within a large visual field now benefit from the trackpads’ high resolution and absolute position control.

The emphasis was placed by me.

Last year, almost to the date, I published an editorial, "Is the Gamepad Really Designed for Gaming?" In it, I analyzed console controllers from an engineering standpoint. I blamed velocity-based joystick control for the need to enable auto-aim on console titles. Quoting myself, which feels a little weird to be entirely honest:

Analog sticks are a velocity-oriented control scheme where the mouse is a relative position-oriented control scheme. When you move a joystick around you do not move the pointer to a target rather you make it travel at some speed in the direction of the target. With a mouse you just need to move it the required distance and stop. It is easier to develop a sensitivity to how far you need to pull a mouse to travel to the target than a sensitivity to how long to hold a joystick in a given direction to reach a target. Joysticks are heavily reliant on our mental clocks and eye coordination.

Each trackpad can also be clicked, like the thumbsticks of current controllers just probably more comfortably, to provide extra functionality. From a User Experience (UX) standpoint, I can envision a first-person shooter which emulates a (velocity-based) joystick when the right trackpad is pressed (assuming it is very light to press and comfortably to rub your thumb against while pressing) but switches to position-based when touched but not pressed.

The implication is quick rotation when firing from the hip, but positionally-based targeting when precision is required. Maybe other methods will come up too? I find the technology particularly exciting because Valve, clearly, designed it with the understanding of position-based versus velocity-based control. This challenge you rarely hear discussed.

steam-controller_bindings.jpg

The touchscreen is also a large clickable surface. The controller recognizes touch input and overlays the contents of the screen atop the user's screen but it will not commit the action until the touchpad is pressed. This is designed so the gamer will not need to look at their controller to see what action they are performing.

Personally, I hope this is developer-accessible. Some games, as the WiiU suggests, can benefit from hiding information.

Haptic feedback also ties into the trackpads. Their intent is to provide sensations to the thumbs and compensate for loss of mechanical sensation with thumbsticks. Since they are in there, Valve decided to offer a large, programmable, data channel to very precisely control the effect.

They specifically mention the ability to accept audio waveforms to function as speakers "as a parlour trick".

The devices will be beta tested, via the Steam Machine quest, but without wireless or touchscreen support. Instead of a touchscreen, the controller will contain a four-quadrant grid of buttons mapped to commands.

Thus wraps up the three-pronged announcement. Valve directs interested users to their Steam Universe group for further discussion.

Source: Steam