The keyboard and mouse setup has been the primary way to control games on the PC for a while now; yet, there has been a recent trend where newer games can also be played with a controller. This allows those who want that same experience they get on a console with the often superior graphics and performance found only on the PC. Furthermore, the Steam controller seems to be following this transition, though changing it up a bit. Ultimately, it’s not the traditional controller we’ve always known, and on Friday, we got to see it in action for the first time.
Announced on their community page, Valve shared a link to a Youtube video titled, “Steam Controller Demonstration.” In the video’s description, they specify it as “a quick look at some games being played with the prototype version of the Steam Controller.” The games played are Portal 2, Civilization 5, Counter-Strike, and Papers, Please respectively. The video runs at four minutes and twenty six seconds with a voice-over from Valve engineer Jeff Bellinghausen, which leads the viewer through what’s seen on the screen. It consists of a picture in picture with the controller being handled in the smaller screen in the bottom left hand corner and the gameplay footage taking up the larger background.
In the video, we see how the controller handles without thumb sticks, as the thumbs are instead placed on trackpads found on each side of the controller. Jeff explains that these can be configured independently to fit the style of play within each game. The controls seem to work quite well in Portal 2 with the unmodified mouse and keyboard configuration. The left trackpad acts like a D-pad, and the right trackpad acts as a mouse for “one-to-one” looking around, allowing the game to be controlled effortlessly. Like Portal 2, Counter-Strike, the third game in the video, looks pretty fluid for the most part, and Jeff mentions that with the controller you can play first person shooters without auto-aim turned on. The final game in the video, Papers, Please, a mouse pointing game, also controls quite well since the left trackpad can be used to help move the mouse with appropriate precision across longer distances on the screen. The only game in the video that did not seem to work quite as well was Civilization 5, a real-time strategy game. It is less smooth and natural because of the constant swiping with the right trackpad, which acts as a “one-to-one” mouse pointer, showing that some things will still need to be tweaked to make it just right. Still, the game is definitely playable.
Overall, this video definitely helps to get a feel for what each game is going to be like with these non-traditional trackpads. We also see that some games work better than others at this stage. While it’s not perfect, this is just a prototype, and it’s great to finally see how games will be played with this controller. There will be more demonstrations to follow this one, and future videos will show games from other developers as well. If you have any questions about what is seen in the video or want to see certain games played with the controller, Jeff tells viewers to post in the video’s comment section.