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Valve ditches touchscreen in favour of face buttons for Steam Controller

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
News
Tags:
PC games, Steam Controller, Steam Machines, Valve

Valve ditches touchscreen in favour of face buttons for Steam Controller

Valve have announced a few little updates for their riotously obtuse Owlface curious Steam Controller. Originally, Steam Controller gamepad featured a touchscreen between the two circular touchpad controllers, with fiddly little triangular face buttons dotted around the periphery.

Evidently someone at Valve realised that idea was bonkers, and pretty much everything apart from the two haptic-feedback circular pads has been shifted and tweaked, including the complete removal of the central touchscreen in favour of a D-pad and standard face buttons.

It's not quite all been finalised just yet, but Valve produced a mock up (see above) to demonstrate what they're planning. As well as acknowledging that touch inputs are a little divisive, Valve also noted that this shift would allow for more widespread backwards-compatibility.

The controller will still run on AA batteries, it'll sport gyroscopes, and the API will support up to 16 players simultaneously, but it's unlikely that Valve will be looking for biometric feedback from the device as apparently hands aren't really the best place to measure such things.

Also announced at Steam Dev Days was the news that the Alienware Steam Machine will be launching this September, and will incorporated Intel Haswell and Nvidia chips, that Steam now has 75 million active users, and that Valve are planning on getting rid of Greenlight, "not because it's not useful, but because we're evolving."

I'll be honest, though Carl and Jon have expressed excitement at the Owlface, I've only really ever seen an uncomfortable, impractical controller that I'm almost certainly going to never want to use. But these changes do bring it slightly more in line with existing accessories, though it does lose something in terms of owlish charm. But what do you think dear readers? Are these changes for the better? Do you crave a Steam Machine now that the controller has been revamped? Will you be lining up to drop a grand or two on the Alienware Steam Machine come September? [SteamDB]

Add a comment5 comments
Late  Jan. 16, 2014 at 10:58

Most of my interest disappeared when it became likely I'd have to pay around £500-£700 to get onboard rather than the £250-£300 they'd previously indicated (for a relatively basic model but capable of rendering/processing on it's own rather than just streaming from a more powerful pc elsewhere in your house).

The new design for the controller isn't as pretty as the old one, but definitely seems much more practical.

DivideByZero  Jan. 16, 2014 at 11:12

Makes no sense having the buttons up top.

If your thumbs are on the scratch pads, they can't be on the buttons while you have 4 fingers gripping the controller underneath.

JonLester  Jan. 16, 2014 at 12:23

Hmm... that's a shame IMO. Rather than something new and exciting, the Steam controller now appears to be exactly the same as the regular gamepads we already use, only swapping sticks for pads.

This might sound good for some people, except that its potential lies in bringing previously tricky click-heavy genres to a gamepad - 4X, RTS etc - something that current controllers struggle to do with their limited inputs. A touchscreen allows the controller to adapt to any specific game, providing the inputs we need, especially if Valve made the API freely available to all (fans and devs alike).

Well done for adding a D-Pad, though. Playing something like Spelunky on a touchpad seems... bizarre... in my mind. Just can't picture it.

I can't see the controller being particularly disruptive now, if it ever was before - and I can't help but think that it needs to be radically different to the status quo to be worth worrying about. I guess I'm saying that I'd rather see it try something totally insane and fail rather than iterate and modestly succeed, so arguably ignore everything I just wrote.

SteamOS is already compatible with Xbox 360 controllers, though, so never mind.

Last edited by JonLester, Jan. 16, 2014 at 12:33
Anarchist  Jan. 16, 2014 at 15:35

Hmm... that's a shame IMO. Rather than something new and exciting, the Steam controller now appears to be exactly the same as the regular gamepads we already use, only swapping sticks for pads.


Playing devils advocate (perhaps), but maybe the 'traditional' format joypad is the favoured design, because it is the most flexible and usable form of portable controller over a complete range of game genres.

There's something to be said about reinventing wheels.

Rubisco  Jan. 16, 2014 at 21:55

Kinda disappointed on a superficial level, but in practice that screen would have drained more battery than it was worth. Good move.

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