Valve is releasing its own controller alongside the Alienware Steam Machine and the Valve Steam Controller combines the customizability of PC gaming, the precision of a mouse, and the comfort of a traditional controller into one device. Below are five of the best features the Steam Controller has to offer.
1. Dual Trackpads
Certain genres, such as strategy and simulation games, have long been viewed as unsuited to consoles, namely because controllers are missing the pinpoint precision of a mouse. The dual trackpads on the Steam Controller solve this issue, allowing 1:1 input to better control your favorite city builder. They seem awkward and unusual at first, and they are definitely better for some genres than others, but these trackpads are real innovations that make a new field of games playable from the comfort of your couch. The left pad is superior to a normal directional pad, and can be configured with up to 11 unique inputs, while the right pad can act as the second analog in games that require twin-stick controls.
2. HD Haptic Feedback
You may be familiar with haptic feedback from your smartphone, the technology responsible for making your screen buzz and vibrate on touch, but the Steam Controller takes it to a new level. The controller’s advanced version of this tech is included in the trackpads, as well as the triggers and other inputs, providing enhanced feedback you can really feel. It’s able to create the sensation of a virtual trackball you can feel spinning, which helps make this unconventional controller more intuitive. When gaming, it goes a long way in providing meaningful feedback, letting you know your scrolling finger is having an impact. Further, it can even be configured by game, allowing you to customize just what kind of feedback you want in each title.
3. Fully Configurable Buttons
Not every game will fit the same button layout, and Valve has made it as simple as possible to remap the function of every button. A third-person RPG and a first-person shooter won’t benefit from the same layout, and so the Steam Controller allows you to swap on a game-by-game basis. There are presets for setups like a traditional mouse or keyboard and mouse, and even better, the Steam community can upload profiles for specific games to save you from customizing each button yourself. There are dozens of possible combinations and configurations with modifiers, making this much more robust than a traditional controller.
4. Back Paddles
The Steam Controller includes two paddle buttons tucked in the back of the handles, which serve as two more programmable buttons. This type of input is popular with high-end aftermarket controllers often used by professional or hardcore eSports players, providing an always-accessible trigger than doesn’t mess with your aiming thumb. If you’re not playing a shooter, the paddles can still be mapped to any frequently used function you’d like for convenience. While a mouse and keyboard still win for accuracy on a PC, this is a nice extra to have included if you’re playing from your favorite armchair on a big screen.
5. Pair Four Controllers
The Steam Controller comes with a wireless USB dongle, used to pair the controllers with your system. Four controllers can be connected at once, which has always been standard for consoles, but has positive implications for PC gaming. Rarely would anyone gather around your computer with four controllers to play a local multiplayer game, but the option is suddenly much more plausible if you’re playing on a TV through your Steam Machine. Wireless connectivity streamlines the process further as opposed to messy wires, and so those games’ unused multiplayer features of the past might become a lot more appealing.