Valve has revealed the first pictures and details of the new Steam Controller, a gamepad the company claims will make it possible to play PC games on a game pad without much of a sacrifice.
This is the third announcement from Valve this week, all of which revolve around the company’s stated goal of removing the PC from its image as a desktop-only, Windows-based platform.
The Steam Controller makes use of two touchpads where traditional controllers place analogue sticks, and Valve claims this input system already approaches the fine control available from a mouse.
To compensate for the relative lack of feedback as compared to thumbsticks, the Steam Controller makes use of high-precision haptic feedback that Valve says can be used by developers to convey a variety of information to users.
The Steam controller also makes use of a touch-screen display in the center of the controller in about the same position as Sony’s DualShock 4 controller.
Rather than mimicking the touch-screen controls popularized by the iPhone, the user navigates by touch, then clicks by depressing the entire screen.
The hope is that this will result in fewer accidental button presses than on current touch-interface devices, giving users greater control.
As with all three of the products revealed this week, Valve is advertising the Steam Controller as a hackable, customizable device, and encourages users to make their own modifications to see what can’t be improved for future generations.
The Steam Controller is part of the Steam Machine beta test, so the 300 selected for that test will also receive a prototype gamepad. The beta version won’t have the touch screen in the center though, and in its place Valve has included four additional square buttons to compensate.
The API for the Steam Controller will be made available the day the beta test prototypes ship, and to make sure the gamepad works with current Steam games Valve has included a legacy mode that makes the Steam Controller register as a keyboard and mouse.
Though there are many questions still floating around about SteamOS, Steam Machines, and the Steam Controller, Valve has promised to keep a steady stream of updates coming until launch, with detailed specifications for SteamOS due next week.
Those interested in following the latest news from Valve can check out the Steam Universe community group.