Valve has announced Steam Controller, "a different kind of gamepad."
The controller features two circular trackpads. As explained by Valve, "Driven by the player’s thumbs, each one has a high-resolution trackpad as its base. It is also clickable, allowing the entire surface to act as a button. The trackpads allow far higher fidelity input than has previously been possible with traditional handheld controllers. Steam gamers, who are used to the input associated with PCs, will appreciate that the Steam Controller’s resolution approaches that of a desktop mouse."
The idea is to make "whole genres of games that were previously only playable with a keyboard and mouse" easier to play on a TV. "In addition, games like first-person shooters that are designed around precise aiming within a large visual field now benefit from the trackpads’ high resolution and absolute position control."
The Steam Controller also features "a new generation of super-precise haptic feedback, employing dual linear resonant actuators. These small, strong, weighted electro-magnets are attached to each of the dual trackpads. They are capable of delivering a wide range of force and vibration, allowing precise control over frequency, amplitude, and direction of movement."
Valve continued by explaining that haptics provide "a vital channel of information to the player - delivering in-game information about speed, boundaries, thresholds, textures, action confirmations, or any other events about which game designers want players to be aware. It is a higher-bandwidth haptic information channel than exists in any other consumer product that we know of. As a parlour trick they can even play audio waveforms and function as speakers."
The center of the controller also featured a touch screen, which Valve calls "critical to achieving the controller’s primary goal - supporting all games in the Steam catalog. The screen allows an infinite number of discrete actions to be made available to the player, without requiring an infinite number of physical buttons."
"The whole screen itself is also clickable, like a large single button," the site explains. "So actions are not invoked by a simple touch, they instead require a click. This allows a player to touch the screen, browse available actions, and only then commit to the one they want. Players can swipe through pages of actions in games where that’s appropriate. When programmed by game developers using our API, the touch screen can work as a scrolling menu, a radial dial, provide secondary info like a map or use other custom input modes we haven’t thought of yet."
When players touch the screen, "its display is overlayed on top of the game they’re playing, allowing the player to leave their attention squarely on the action, where it belongs."
Valve explained that the buttons on the controller have "been placed based on frequency of use, precision required and ergonomic comfort. There are a total of sixteen buttons on the Steam Controller. Half of them are accessible to the player without requiring thumbs to be lifted from the trackpads, including two on the back. All controls and buttons have been placed symmetrically, making left or right handedness switchable via a software config checkbox."
The controller can also be used to replace a keyboard and mouse, with the following example showing off how the Steam Controller could be used to play Portal 2:
Like most of Valve's recent initiatives, the controller is "designed from the ground up to be hackable," and Valve plans "to make tools available that will enable users to participate in all aspects of the experience, from industrial design to electrical engineering. We can’t wait to see what you come up with." Valve assures players that it "won't abandon" players who prefer traditional PC controls, as "we love mice and keyboards, too."
The Steam Controller will work with any version of Steam, and its API will be made available to developers later this year. The controller will be available to players participating in the hardware beta, but the prototype version will not include a touch screen and won't be wireless (instead requiring a USB cable).
Source : ign[dot]com