Steam Controller
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The Steam Controller is a
game controller A game controller, gaming controller, or simply controller, is an input device used with video games or entertainment systems to provide input to a video game, typically to control an object or character in the game. Before the seventh generation ...
developed by
Valve A valve is a device or Heart valve, natural object that regulates, directs or controls the flow of a fluid (gases, liquids, fluidized solids, or slurries) by opening, closing, or partially obstructing various passageways. Valves are technical ...
for use with personal computers running
Steam Steam is a substance containing water in the gas phase, and sometimes also an aerosol of liquid water droplets, or air. This may occur due to evaporation or due to boiling, where heat is applied until water reaches the enthalpy of vaporization. ...
on
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,
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,
Linux Linux ( or ) is a family of free and open-source software, open-source Unix-like operating systems based on the Linux kernel, an kernel (operating system), operating system kernel first released on September 17, 1991, by Linus Torvalds. Linu ...
,
smartphone A smartphone is a Mobile device, portable computer device that combines Mobile phone, mobile telephone and Mobile computing, computing functions into one unit. They are distinguished from feature phones by their stronger hardware capabilities ...
s or
SteamOS SteamOS is a Linux distribution developed by Valve Corporation, Valve. It is open source with some closed source components and is the primary operating system for Steam Machine (computer), Steam Machines and the Steam Deck. The initial versio ...
. The controller was designed not only for games developed for controller users, but also for games traditionally played with keyboard and mouse controls so that they can be played through the controller. It was released in November 2015 along with Valve's Steam Machine and discontinued in November 2019.


Features

The Steam Controller features two clickable trackpads (as opposed to the more typical thumbsticks on modern console controllers), and fourteen buttons, including face, shoulder, and undergrip buttons. The trackpads include haptic feedback; Chris Kohler of ''
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'' described using the controller while playing '' Civilization V'' at a Valve press event, and noted that as he used the trackpad to move the mouse cursor, electromagnets within the controller created audio and tactile feedback as if he were using a trackball. Although the controller is designed for the Steam Machine platform, it can also be used with Steam on existing PCs. The controller also included gyroscopic sensors to detect the relative orientation of the controller. The controller is presently designed to be used within Steam's Big Picture mode; this enables the player to access detailed options for setting up the various features of the controller on a per-game basis including button/trackpad mapping and sensitivity as well as accessing other users' shared controller configuration to use themselves. The Steamworks API provides means for developers to provide more detailed settings for the Steam Controller when in Big Picture mode. Outside of Big Picture mode, the controller otherwise behaves as a standard two-stick controller, though Valve does plan on updating Steam to allow retaining the previously set Big Picture mode per-game settings.


Development

The original design of the controller was to include a touchscreen in the center of the unit. The touchscreen would have acted like a mousepad and allow players to perform actions that typically are not capable on controllers, operating directly with Steam or SteamOS and overlaying the touchscreen display onto the players' screens to allow manipulation of the game without diverting attention from the screen. However, at the January 2014 Steam Dev Days event, Valve revealed they have since dropped the touchscreen concept from the controller, rearranged existing face buttons to be more compatible with existing games. Valve went through several iterations for a controller that would be able to mimic keyboard and mouse controls, using prototypes made with
3D printing 3D printing or additive manufacturing is the construction Construction is a general term meaning the art and science to form Physical object, objects, systems, or organizations,"Construction" def. 1.a. 1.b. and 1.c. ''Oxford English ...
to test ergonomics. Early versions of the controller design included a trackball embedded in the controller to simulate mouse functionality but opted eventually for trackpads to give more customization functionality to developers including the ability to simulate the motion of trackball by tracking a finger's motion on the trackpad. The trackpads and controller design were made to minimize the amount of contact that a player's thumbs would have on the trackpad when holding the unit. As opposed to their plans for the Steam Machine to be produced by multiple third-parties, Valve planned to be the sole producer of the Steam Controller; Valve's Greg Coomer stated that this decision was based on achieving the best implementation of the Controller and Valve's vision for the device, noting that "we didn’t think that it was really going to be possible to outsource the design for manufacturing and the finishing of the controller in a way that would allow third parties to take from us an idea or a reference design and bring it to market soon enough". Valve did clarify that they would open up specifications for third-party controllers to be developed (which was done publicly as of March 2016). , Valve was working with Flex robotic assembly line in
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to assemble the machines; jokingly, the machines have been given Aperture Science branding, the fictional company from Valve's '' Portal'' series, presumably until the products later discontinuation.


Updates

Valve has pushed out updates aimed at increasing user customizability. Valve has added improvements to the controller's capabilities based on public feedback following its launch, including movement and aiming controls schemes using its internal gyroscope, the ability to trigger actions that enable cursor movement limited to certain regions on a UI (such as to manipulate a game's mini-map), a quick-access popup for 16 commands that can act similar to hotkeys for keyboard-and-mouse games, cloud-based controller configuration saving, and support for non-Steam games that otherwise can be played through the Steam Overlay. Several updates were introduced in June 2016. One update enabled users to create actions using the Controller to switch between two or more different configurations on the fly. This update also enabled the ability to customize the motion-sensing controls to be used for
virtual reality Virtual reality (VR) is a Simulation, simulated experience that employs pose tracking and 3D near-eye displays to give the user an immersive feel of a virtual world. Applications of virtual reality include entertainment (particularly video g ...
games. A second update in June 2016 enabled buttons to be 'Activators' which can respond differently based on the type of input on the button, distinguishing between a single short tap, an extended hold, and a double-tap, for example. These so called 'Activators' can also be used to simulate the constant holding of a button with a single press, such as often used for the action of crouching in many first-person or third-person shooters. Valve afterwards worked on supporting similar controller customization features and user interfaces to other compatible controllers, and released the first such update in the Steam software for Sony's
DualShock 4 The DualShock (originally Dual Shock; trademarked as DUALSHOCK or DUAL SHOCK; with the PlayStation 5 version named DualSense) is a line of gamepads with Haptic technology, vibration-feedback and analog controls developed by Sony Interactive Enterta ...
controller in December 2016, and beta support for other controllers including
Xbox One The Xbox One is a home video game console developed by Microsoft. Announced in May 2013, it is the successor to Xbox 360 and the third base console in the Xbox#Consoles, Xbox series of video game consoles. It was first released in North Amer ...
in January 2017. Support for the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller was added in May 2018. While other controllers can be used on Steam through basic operating system functionality. On March 23, 2016, Valve announced it would be publicly releasing computer aided design geometry for the Steam controller. The CAD geometry was released under a Creative Commons license. In May 2018, Valve updated the controller to enable its
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communications, allowing it to pair with mobile devices. This allows the controller to be used alongside the Steam Link app which replaced Steam Link hardware.


Release and reception

The Steam Controller was publicly released in November 2015, alongside the release of Steam Machines. By June 2016, over 500,000 had been sold and by October, nearly one million had sold, including the controllers bundled with the Steam Machines. In October 2016, Valve disclosed 27,000 controllers were in "daily active use". In September 2018, Valve disclosed new figures showing approximately 1.5 million Steam Controllers have connected to Steam, with about 14% of those having connected to Steam within the month the survey was performed. For comparison, the most popular controller used with Steam is the Xbox 360 controller, at around 27.2 million connections and 14% of those connected within the month of the survey. Valve announced in November 2019 that it had discontinued further production of the controller and sold off its remaining inventory at a significantly reduced price.


Ironburg Inventions Lawsuit

A lawsuit was filed against Valve by Ironburg Inventions in 2020, asserting that Valve knowingly had violated their patent with the inclusion of the rear-face buttons after learning about Ironburg's patent in 2014. The jury trial started in January 2021. The jury found Valve had willfully infringed on the Ironburg patent and awarded Ironburg in base damages.


References


External links

* {{Valve Controller Game controllers