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back to article Valve aiming to take the joy(sticks) out of gaming with Steam Controller

Gaming house Valve has completed its trio of announcements for the week with news of a planned wireless game controller that replaces the traditional thumb-controlled mini joysticks with two force-feedback touchpads and a programmable screen. Steam Controller The touchy-feely future of gaming? The two touchpads will give …

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Wall•E's evil brother.

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Anonymous Coward

I'd buy it just because it looks as though it has come from the Dark Side.

Competitors beware......

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Anonymous Coward

Sorry...

"Gordon Freeman needs to come out of stasis one more time"

Sorry but he died. So forget about it.

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Re: Sorry...

Strange, he seemed very much alive the last time I saw him.

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Re: Sorry...

It was a pretty long time ago though...

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Re: Sorry...

I think you will find it was Dr. Breen's voice actor who died.

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Re: Sorry...

There should be an icon for missing the joke

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Bad. Very bad.

Keyboard + mouse is superior to controls in every way.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bad. Very bad.

For some games - But you miss the point in that a Keyboard + mouse + lounge don't make a comfortable combination. Since this is intended for a lounge gaming and entertainment center, this is the superior option.

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Re: Bad. Very bad.

"Keyboard + mouse is superior to controls in every way."

So your existing keyboard and mouse is superior to all new input methods now and forever? How do you know that? It wasn't that long ago, when the mouse was new, and joystick users looked at the mouse and said there is no way a mouse could be used for serious gaming.

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Re: Bad. Very bad.

"Since this is intended for a lounge gaming and entertainment center, this is the superior option."

That depends. After all, I can run ZX Spectrum games on an android tablet. But it turns out that most of them are unplayable even with virtual keyboard / kempston emulation. I expect the same will hold true for lots of legacy PC games played through this controller.

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Re: Bad. Very bad.

Do you roll the mouse around on your knee and have the keyboard perched on the arm of the sofa?

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Re: Bad. Very bad.

Hopefully Valves's Levitating Mouse will be ready for Big Picture v2.0

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Re: Bad. Very bad.

"Keyboard + mouse is superior to controls in every way."

Most likely true... for all the FPS/third-person view/etc action games it is definitely the case, especially if you play it the original way (Doom or Duke3D), Forward being on the RMB, Primary Fire on the LMB (switch weapon is being on the scroll) so you can go, turn and even shoot (+switch weapon) with one hand, leaving all the tricks to be performed with the second hand (with Back being on the Space)...

...however here I'm stil hoping Valve finally hit the nail on the head - we're definitely seeing something innovative, something we haven't seen since Nintendo introduced Wii with its motion-controllers (no, Kinect was not much of an innovation and MSFT just acquired it anyway, they didn't have anything to do with any innovation.)

For us older (age 40-50) people the lack of time defines what we play when we manage to set aside some free time - in my case they are mostly FPS (usually NOT the super-dumb twitch-shooter junk like CoD-series or BF3/4 etc.) For FPS I think KB+M is a must so the key in any new controller is the placement of the RMB as Forward - it has to be just as transparent to use otherwise KB+M will reign supreme for another 20-30 years for me (well, I'm hoping to live long enough to see my kids as adults.)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bad. Very bad.

I was wondering when the Microsoft bashing would start in this thread.

For your information, Microsoft acquired the infra-red depth sensing camera in Kinect, but all the body tracking, voice recognition and other capabilities were developed by Jamie Shotton and colleagues at Microsoft Research.

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Re: Bad. Very bad.

Actually, when I want to use the projector display for my PC I have the keyboard on my knees, or on a cushion on my knees, and my steelseries mouse mat on a cushion (or two) next to me, which raises the mouse to a perfect height AND gives my arm a comfortable resting point. I've played solidly for days like that...

It really isn't all that hard to use a keyboard/mouse on a sofa, not if you have a teeny-tiny bit of inventiveness and £10 for a hard mouse mat.

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Re: Bad. Very bad.

What might be would be cute for PC FPS are support for two mice.

One for moving&selecting and one for looking&shooting.

No extra hardware needed and doable as a patch to existing games.

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Re: Bad. Very bad.

Just as expected, Anonymous Coward MSFT-troll has arrived, only to spew more false propaganda - FYI they definitely didn't do jack about motion tracking as entire body tracking & translation feature comes built-in with its camera system, supplied by PrimeSense, an Israeli company: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PrimeSense

Another day, another failed propaganda attemp by another anonymous MSFT-troll, too bad.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bad. Very bad.

ust as expected, Anonymous Coward MSFT-troll has arrived, only to spew more false propaganda - FYI they definitely didn't do jack about motion tracking as entire body tracking & translation feature comes built-in with its camera system, supplied by PrimeSense, an Israeli company: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PrimeSense>

(incidentally, this is a different anonymous microsoft shill)

The body tracking absolutely does not come built into the Kinect/PrimeSense device. This can be trivially deminstrated by looking at the output of the various 3rd party drivers and hacks which can grab depth/ir/rgb image streams from the camera... there's no skeleton data there at all. Why do you think that there was no skeleton tracking available on 3rd party devices once drivers were available? Hint: because the hardware didn't do the skeleton tracking.

Microsoft's Kinect software, and PrimeSense's OpenNite code process the depth images to fit a skeleton to the video stream on a host PC (or XBox). The original XBox kinect, newer Kinect for Windows and OpenNite skeleton trackers are all slightly different even on identical source video streams, because they each do their own slightly different skeleton fitting.

The camera is just a camera. The next gen Kinect camera for the XBone is also just a camera, it uses quite different technology from the original and wasn't made by Primesense. You can still get skeletons, because the depth video stream from the new camera can be used with the old software.

The core work for Kinect was done by MIcrosoft Research Cambridge, and PrimeSense had to wait some time under the terms of their non-compete agreement with MS before they could independently develop their own skeleton tracking code (which, notably, tracks rather fewer joint positions. Because the software is different. Get the message yet?)/

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Anonymous Coward

I'll stick with my Keyboard and Mouse thanks, Joypads are for targets.

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Anonymous Coward

re: Joypads are for targets.

Joypads are for gamers who've grown up and don't think first person shooters are the only games. They're not, in fact they're probably the least interesting of all the genre games.....

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Re: re: Joypads are for targets.

BWAH?! Ever tried playing a proper strategy or RTS with a gamepad? You'd get toasted by a K+M user.

The two thing joypads excel at - FPS games and action-adventure (usually 3rd person). Once you need fine motor control and fast, truly precise movement you need a mouse, and if you want to be any good at games like RTS's learning the keyboard shortcuts beats everything else hands-down - especially when coupled with that fine mouse control.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: re: Joypads are for targets.

Mouse beat touch screen for RTS? Don't think so.....

Joypads don't excel at FPS games silly, mouse and keyboard is better for that. In fact you've listed 2 genres, FPS and RTS. (You know the S in RTS stands for strategy right?), games are redefining these little boxes you like to put things in all the time.

For example, a lot of games these days don't involve "toasting" anyone.

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Re: re: Joypads are for targets.

Hah!

Joypads are shit in most respects. Handy for console/TV gaming, but being a *true* gamer, you cannot rival a keyboard and mouse. The exact opposite of what you said is true. The more I've grown up, the more I've come to understand this is so.

As for the FPS thing, they are far from the least interesting. You appear to be thinking on terms of CoD.

This pad looks pretty interesting though! Would love to get my hands on one to have a feel - looks like it could at least give mice a run for their money with the touch-sens thumbpads.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: re: Joypads are for targets.

"...but being a *true* gamer..."

"The more I've grown up..."

Ha ha

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Anonymous Coward

Re:being a *true* gamer

Ah, good old reliable "true scotsman" argument!

I'm not a *true* gamer, I'm just someone who plays games pretty much every day.... And none of that activity involves using a mouse and keyboard because gaming on PC is just too much hassle for me to be bothered with, so I use the PS3 or my 3DS (I know, *false* platforms for *false* games).

This article is about a controller for a console, and as you say "Handy for console/TV gaming", exactly what Valve are aiming for.

The start of this conversation was some blinkered AC saying that this new controller could never beat mouse and keyboard, and probably for a small set of FPS games they're right. However anyone with a bit of common sense knows we won't know what it's like until we're gaming with it!!! And surely any *true* gamer welcomes a new control method and the potential for new experiences it brings....

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Good. Very good.

Allows something close to the precision of a mouse for those who prefer to play games in the living room.

(Not that I'll be using it, but I have heard that some people use "consoles" with "controllers", so I can only assume that this is an act of charity by Valve to try to improve their lives.)

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Re: Good. Very good.

It's not close to the precision of mouse. Games must be specifically designed for hand controls, to compensate for the inaccuracy, that's why console games have autoaim and the character goes through complex maneuvres at the push of a single button. Hand controls are also much slower than mouse+keyboard, which is why game tempo is so much lower today than it was before consoles became the dominant game platform.

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Re: Good. Very good.

Except we're not exactly talking joypads here. These are touchpads, actually, and while they CAN be geared to simulate joypads, they don't HAVE to. They can be more like the touchpads on laptops, which can act more like trackballs than joypads, and if set sensitive enough can allow very rapid motions with just a flick.

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Re: more like trackballs than joypads

So why not just use hi-res trackballs. Personally I hate touchpads, but having a trackball on the right would be awesome. (Obviously left handed peeps would not like this, so also a track ball on the left as well). Go spinny balls of doom, go. (erm it's a mechanical thing).

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Re: Good. Very good.

>It's not close to the precision of mouse.

Sometimes precision isn't what's wanted. Its probably more fun to play a driving game with a steering wheel, even if a mouse is more accurate.

You might also have a game which utilises rate of change as an input, rather than end placement. In that case, neither keyboard nor mouse are superior.

I'd still like to see an analogue joystick as your fingers can stick to them without impeding movement, but top marks to Valve for bringing back controllers to the PC. I look forward to a resurgence in 80's and 90's-style games on the big screen. Monkey Island and King's Quest anyone? I'd like to see Wii's Cow Race on the PC. Worms would be good, as would Scorched Earth. The big screen is for simple games with popcorn as an excuse to get together and chat on the sofa instead of sitting silently gawping at the latest unlikely escapades from Hollywood or interminable recaps of who said what to whom on some idiotic unreality show.

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Re: more like trackballs than joypads

Because trackballs can get stuck due to a buildup of dust, dog/cat fur, biscuit and popcorn crumbs, not to mention the various oily residues from said snacks and even fingers.

While I do prefer using a trackball for shooters, nothing pissed me off more than having to pause or seek cover in the middle of an intense battle because either I had forgotten to clean it out before I started, or because I had been playing for so long the gunk had built up during play.

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Coat

Re: more like trackballs than joypads

MrDamage trackballs can get stuck due to a buildup of dust, dog/cat fur

You really should make the dog use the keyboard. The cat, of course, will prefer to use the mouse.

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While I am also perfectly happy with wsad and mouse look (which valve was good enough to acknowledge -- but why they getting up in my grammar?) I'm very interested in trying this controller. I think its great that they're trying something new with a form factor that hasn't changed significantly since its inception. And no, I don't consider these 'analogue' joysticks to be something new. Just a bad implementation of a design that predates controllers by a couple of decades. Also, I guess you haven't heard but hl3 will be a launch title for when this thing is finally released. Honest!!

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While it may be written in jest, HL3 would be a good crowbar to get people buying Steamboxes.

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HL3 steambox exclusive

Could well be the plan. At the very least it'll be Steam exclusive.

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Re: HL3 steambox exclusive

Probably the only person on the planet, but I actually thought that the story, (and execution), in HL2(*), was actually rubbish. (The engine, however, has given me hours, days, months of pleasure on other games which use it).

(*) CS/Source and DOD/Source are, gameplay wise, not as good as the originals) - will probably have to live in a cave after this statement.

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Anonymous Coward

Looks like the dog's danglies in more ways than one.

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Wrong solution to the right problem

So Valve are trying to replace a mouse and keyboard with trackpads so that you can play RTSs and Diablo and other PC games in the living room?

And they've taken inspiration from Smartphones, just like the Wii U did.

But... a mouse and keyboard aren't just superior for 'clicking' games because they are more precise than trackpads. The position of the users body sitting at a desk with the screen 30cm away and his elbows and forearms rested on the table is a big part of the useability. This is the reason why people don't just use a wireless keyboard and mouse in their living room.

The problem is that we currrently have one computer (a laptop/desktop) on a desk in our study/bedroom/kitchen table for work and PC style clicking games, and another (a console) sat under our TV for games not involving precise clicking that benefit from the larger screen.

I thought Valve got this, and were going to come up with some solution to use the steam box to power both screens from the one processor. Maybe some special lag free wifi (if such a thing is possible?) or some extended HDMI cable that is easy (without a professional install) to plumb through from your bedroom/study wall to the living room wall behind your TV(again if this is actually possible?).

That way when you want to play Diablo/Rome Total War/World of Warcaft you just use the screen, mouse, and keyboard sat on the desk in your bedroom hooked up lag free to the steam box under your TV, and when you want to play a console style game on your bigger TV screen you do that on the couch in your living room with a Xbox One controller.

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Re: Wrong solution to the right problem

Still not going to solve the problem of needing so many controllers for different types of games. (And the fact that there is so little Linux big picture supported games that are not god awful Humble Indie Bundle mandated ports - Football Manager 2014 is going to support it natively which may be a sign things will change).

A windows embedded steam box with 2 fightsticks (King of Fighters XIII only good version - other than the arcade version which is warez / a fightpad (Super Meatboy or any 2D games that only really support a 360 pad / 2 xbox one controllers (Any other shoddy console port) would be what I would need but I cannot imagine it would be anything but hassle with detection.

Have to see what happens a known hardware config might help optimization.

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Re: Wrong solution to the right problem

"A windows embedded steam box with 2 fightsticks (King of Fighters XIII only good version ..."

Of course, because embedded Windows is the *obvious* choice for a fighter. MS lost the embedded market years ago, so put down the koolaid as it is starting to come out of your ears.

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Re: Wrong solution to the right problem

"Of course, because embedded Windows is the *obvious* choice for a fighter. MS lost the embedded market years ago, so put down the koolaid as it is starting to come out of your ears."

Oh? You should see what runs Taito's Type X line of arcade machines. They're all PC based and ALL run a form of Windows (Either XP Embedded or Embedded Standard 7, X3 can use the 64-bit version), and there's a pretty long list of games that use the architecture, including current games running on Type X, including the Street Fighter IV series and King of Fighters since 2012.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Wrong solution to the right problem

Not just Taito, seen quite bit of Arcade kit that uses it. Just go into an arcade when they are powering it all up. I was quite surprised myself.

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9 years...

9 / 3 = 3

3...

HALF-LIFE 3 CONFIRMED!

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The chicken and the egg

For a long time game support on linux has sucked because there's no market, since the majority of PC gamers run window, 'cause that's where most of the games are. Here's hoping the steambox is popular so it does for linux what the xbox does for windows - gives devs a platform/market to aim their games at. That you'll be able to run games on linux is happy side-effect. It would be funny if Valve managed, in one foul swoop, to gain more mainstream popularity for linux than all of the pious open source advocates have in years of haranguing.

As for these controllers, I imagine their main problem is the same as touch-screens - there's no tactile feedback to tell where your fingers are without looking away from the game you're playing. The controllers won't be as bad because their curved shape give you some idea (unlike the flat rectangle of most phones). It'll be interesting to see how it works out.

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Headmaster

Re: The chicken and the egg

I think that might be one fell swoop

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Re: The chicken and the egg

or fowl coup?

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Pint

Re: The chicken and the egg

Right you are, Mr Woods. For some reason I had this vision of a swooping chicken in my head at the time. How exactly that came to be, well, I'm not even so sure myself.

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Re: The chicken and the egg

And now it occurs to me a chicken would be 'fowl'. Yeah, I think I'll just quit while I'm... err, something.

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Re: The chicken and the egg

Touch screen controllers on phones and tablets are mainly pants, no tactility means no real control.

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