Subject: General Tech | March 6, 2015 - 01:54 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: valve, Steam Controller, peripheral, gdc 2015, gdc 15, gaming, controller
Valve has given the elusive (vaporous? heh, I'll leave the good puns to Scott) Steam Controller a release date and several refinements to the design. Slated for a November 2015 launch, the Steam Controller will ship with most of the Steam Machines offered by OEMs. Users will also be able to purchase controllers directly from Valve (via Steam) for $49.99.
The final controller features a curved design with lots of rounded edges (no sharp angles here), large handles and dual circular programmable trackpads. The four button d-pad has been replaced by an analog stick while the four A, B, X, and Y buttons sit where a second thumb stick traditionally resides.
A circular Steam button and two smaller buttons finish out the face controls.
The two large (and despite my impressions from photos apparently ergonomic) handles each host two dual stage (analog and/or digital) triggers on the top and a button on the underside of the controller.
The Steam Controller is powered by two replaceable AA batteries and is wireless.
Users will be able to create and save custom configurations to their Steam profiles as well as share those custom settings with other Steam users. This should make adoption a bit easier since you will be able to jump into games with a recommended configuration that other users report works well. Or at least it will be a better starting point for your own custom settings rather than being thrown to the wolves with a new and unfamiliar controller. I think it is going to take practice to get good at this even with the jumpstart on suggested configurations though.
It will be available in November (Steam Store page link) for $49.99 which is just cheap enough that I will likely pick one up just to try it out and see what the hype is about. If it is as comfortable as some writers (who have gotten hands on time with them at GDC) are claiming, I’m willing to give it a shot now that it includes a thumb stick (I think I need to be eased into this dual trackpad setup).
Engadget has several more photos from the GDC show floor that are worth checking out.
What do you think about the final Steam Controller?
Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | June 15, 2014 - 01:51 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: x86, SteamOS, Steam Machine, Steam Controller, steam, mobile, handheld, E3 14, E3
To be doubly clear, if the title was not explicit enough, this announcement is not made by Valve. This company is called, "SteamBoy Machine team". If not a hoax, this is one of the many Steam Machines which are expected to come out of the SteamOS initiative. Rather than taking the platform to a desktop or home theater PC (HTPC) form-factor, this company wants to target the handheld PC gaming market.
If it comes out, that is a clever use of SteamOS. I can see Big Picture Mode being just as useful on a small screen as it is on a TV, especially with its large font and controller navigation. The teasers suggest that it will use the haptic feedback-based touchpads which Valve are expected to base the Steam Controller on. It will also include a 5-inch touchscreen.
The Escapist got into contact with the team and received a few more specs:
- Quad-Core CPU (x86)
- 4GB RAM
- 32GB built-in storage
Even if this company does not make good on their expectations, companies will now be considering portable SteamOS devices. This is the sort of outside-the-box thinking that Valve was pushing for when they wanted to create an open platform. Each party will struggle to win in their personal goals, yet they can also rely on the crowd (other companies or individuals) to keep up in areas where they do not want an edge.
Philosophy aside, the company is targeting 2015 with a "Standard Edition" supporting WiFi and 3G. It would make sense to have a WiFi-only model, but who knows.
Subject: General Tech | April 11, 2014 - 03:37 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: valve, Steam Controller, gdc 14
At the Game Developers Conference last month The Tech Report had some one on one time with the Steam Controller and walked away with a less than positive impression. It would seem that the learning curve for this device is rather steep, especially when they tried Portal 2. Fine aiming, circle strafing and other tasks which come naturally to those used to a keyboard and mouse were quite difficult to accomplish on the new controller. When asked, the Valve rep admitted it took them about 8 hours to familiarize themselves with the Steam Controller. Is that too steep a learning curve or is it simply part of the fun of playing with a new type of console and controller?
"Valve's Steam controller looks great on paper. It promises not just greater accuracy than conventional console gamepads, but also support for point-and-click titles that traditionally required a mouse and keyboard. There's a downside, though. As TR's Cyril Kowaliski learned first-hand, the Steam controller has a pretty steep learning curve—steep enough, perhaps, to put off some potential converts."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Cheat Win XP DEATH: Little-known tool to save you from the XPocalypse @ The Register
- Microsoft kills off Windows XP with side-scrolling shoot-em-up @ The Inquirer
- Pocket-sized robotic mobile printer debuts on Kickstarter @ The Inqurier
- Hacking Your Linux Keyboard with xkb @ Linux.com
- BlackBerry not afraid to throw its mobe biz under a bus, says CEO Chen @ The Register
- Google Chrome 64-bit @ NGOHQ
Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling, Shows and Expos | March 15, 2014 - 01:44 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: GDC, gdc 14, valve, Steam Controller
Two months ago, Valve presented a new prototype of their Steam Controller with a significantly changed button layout. While the overall shape and two thumbpads remained constant, the touchscreen disappeared and the face buttons more closely resembled something from an Xbox or PlayStation. Another prototype image has been released, ahead of GDC, without many changes.
Valve is still in the iteration process for its controller, however. Ten controllers will be available at GDC, each handmade. This version has been tested internally for some undisclosed amount of time, but this will be the first time that others will give their feedback since the design that was shown at CES. The big unknown is: to what level are they going to respond to feedback? Are we at the stage where it is about button sizing? Or, will it change radically - like to a two-slice toaster case with buttons inside the slots.
GDC is taking place March 17th through the 21st. The expo floor opens on the 19th.
Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling, Shows and Expos | January 16, 2014 - 03:19 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: valve, Steam Dev Days, Steam Controller, CES 2014, CES
Valve has always been a company based on experimentation and it looks like the Steam Controller is not the lighthouse which guides SteamOS through the fog. Just a week after presenting the prototype at CES, a 3D mockup of a new one makes not-insignificant changes. Gone is the touchscreen and the first revealed button placement. Frankly, just about the only things untouched on the front face are the twin touchpads and the palm grips.
Image Credit: Leszek Godlewski (Twitter)
To fully understand the breadth of the changes, the announcement image is included below. There is basically no discussion about the back so that aspect might be untouched.
The changes were apparently made to assist compatibility with games ported from more traditional input schemes. Looking at the original prototype, there was no obvious mapping from a Sony or Microsoft-based controller to those buttons spread out for both the left and right thumbs to access. The new setup is the typical four face buttons on the right and four more buttons on the left as a surrogate directional pad. If they continue to iterate down this path I hope that the directional pad is more effective than most from the last two generations. It looks like the four directions are separated from one another which does not inspire confidence.
There are two stories which entangle on this one. The first is that Valve is willing to perform rapid iteration until they achieve what they consider a maximum. That is the method to quickest success especially since it allows cross-pollination between designs.
The second is that it also makes the public a little bit nervous.
Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | January 9, 2014 - 02:21 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: CES 2014, CES, valve, Steam Controller
Valve has garnered a lot of hype leading up to this CES. This event was the launch of Steam Machines from their OEM partners. The line-up for their keynote speech was intense, Ryan tweeting in the crowd a whole half of an hour before the speech. Finally, at 7:59 pm EST, Gabe begun to speak... and taking questions by 8:02. Included below is a dramatization of the event.
Yes, I know, "Simpsons did it..."
... South Park probably did it too.
As previously reported, thirteen OEM designs were presented and available to discuss their product. Steam controllers came up during the question period and brought out a pretty big detail: while Valve will be making the Steam Controller, other manufacturers will be allowed to make their own. Currently release date and expected price are still unknown.
Some journalists actually got their hands on the official Steam Controller and they, naturally, shared their thoughts. Kyle Orland of Ars Technica was one of them and his opinion was quite literally split down the middle. On the one hand, pun fully intended, aiming felt about as comfortable and effective as a mouse. On the other hand, movement in legacy mode was aggravating without any tactile feedback signaling where any of the eight directions (up, down, left, right, and the diagonals) start and end.
Again, this opinion only stands for shooter-style games in "Legacy Mode". Developers can use the controller more effectively when they design their title for the actual API. Legacy mode maps controller input to mouse and keyboard events and signals.
He also had other comments (positive and negative) about the button layout and other aspects of the controller. It might be worth checking out if you keep in mind: it is early times and he only had a few minutes to base his opinion.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: Systems | January 7, 2014 - 05:08 AM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: CES, steam os, Steam Machine, Steam Controller, small form factor, dual boot, Digital Storm, CES 2014, Bolt 2
Today Digital Storm has announced the Bolt 2 small form factor computer. This little number is marketed as a “Steam machine”, and for very good reasons. This particular number packs in quite a punch in a very small space.
The custom designed case has a very effective and logical layout. It really is quite small, but it is very strong and robust. It can handle a micro-ITX board, multiple drives, and a dual slot graphics card. The system I saw was decked out with a GTX 780 Ti along with the Intel i7 4770K. It includes Digital Storm’s proprietary lighting and cooling module which of course controls the lighting… and cooling fan speed for the system.
Cooling is primarily based on the Corsair H100i dual fan unit. This portion takes air from one side/top of the case (depending on orientation) and then vents it through the rest of the chassis. The graphics card takes air from the other side of the case and routes it out the back. This cooling solution allows a fair amount of overclocking to be attempted by the end user, but it does have limitations as compared to a larger system with more airflow.
The design utilizes a 700 watt power supply, which is pretty impressive considering the space constraints that Digital Storm has to deal with. A lot of work with partners has allowed them to include this very small unit with a pair of 30 mm fans at either end. One would expect such fans to produce a LOT of noise. This is happily not the case. The design is good enough, and efficient enough, that at higher loads (including overclocking) it stays very quiet.
The system is very accessible, far more than most would expect. Anyone that has worked on an older small form factor case will testify as to how annoying and contorted setting up hardware (or swapping it out) can be. Digital Storm again took their time with the design to make sure that installation and the changing of components is as simple as possible. A person armed with a screwdriver can get to any major component in a few seconds. Swapping out the video card would take the amount of time of removing four screws, unplugging the power, and making sure not to rip out the PCI-E 16X ribbon connecting the card to the board.
Prices for the unit start at $1500 and go above $2500, depending on component choices. When Valve finalizes the Steam OS and has it ready for prime time, Digital Storm will be including the Steam controller with the build.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | December 19, 2013 - 03:42 AM | Scott Michaud
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.
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.
Subject: General Tech | October 17, 2013 - 06:35 PM | Ken Addison
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!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
- iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the 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
Week in Review:
This episode is brought to you by Carbonite.com! Use offer code PC for two free months!
Skylake (2015) reportedly not affected
Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
Jeremy: CastAR Goes Live on Kickstarter
Subject: General Tech, Systems | October 11, 2013 - 06:36 PM | Scott Michaud
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.