Steam Controller impressions: A case of love-and-hate-at-first-sight

One of my hands is in game control heaven, the other, game control hell.

While getting to hear co-founder Gabe Newell talk about a bunch of PC cases for ten minutes or so was nice, the most appealing part of tonight’s rare Valve press event for me was the opportunity to actually get my hands on the mysterious Steam Controllers that Valve unveiled in late September. After spending 20 minutes or so putting a prototype controller (still missing the central touchscreen) through its paces on four games (Portal, Trine 2, Metro: Last Light, and Starbound), I find myself almost split down the middle, hating one half of the controller while loving the other half. Which is odd, because those halves are kind of identical, on the surface.

I’m talking primarily here about the Steam Controller’s two circular, concave thumbpads, which are by far the most striking differences between it and existing handheld controllers. When used as a kind of virtual trackball, as most games did with the right pad, it was a revelation. When used as a virtual d-pad, as it was on the left pad, it was an exercise in frustration.

Thumbs up to the right thumbpad

Let’s focus on the right pad first. There’s definitely a learning curve to using this side of the pad properly; years of muscle memory had me trying to use it like an analog stick (minus the stick) at first. It only really began to click when I started swiping my thumb over the pad, as I’ve seen in previous videos (there was no one on hand to really explain the controller to me, so I was left figuring it out on my own, just like a new Steam Machine owner).

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via Ars Technica


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