Hangout Friday Dec 4: Steam Controller!

By Shamus Posted Monday Nov 30, 2015

Filed under: Notices 56 comments

No Diecast this week, due to a bunch of excuses that aren’t worth presenting. Also no column, because of the holiday last week and also because I really didn’t have anything to write about.


Before you slam that back button and look for greener pastures, note that this coming Friday we’ll be doing a hangout. This time around we’ll be streaming… the Steam Controller? Somehow? I think the plan is just to play games that normally require a mouse, but using Steam Controller. We’ll see how it goes. Josh and I both have one. It’s a daring, strange, ambitious little device.

The hangout is at 10PM GMT on Friday. That’s 5PM on the east coastI can’t tell you which continent. It’s a surprise!. Josh and I will be there. Other people might show up. Twitch might actually work and let us stream to you! It’s a universe of possibilities!

Here’s a widget to countdown to the event, which make or may not work based on noscript / adblock settings:

When the time comes, the stream will be here:



[1] I can’t tell you which continent. It’s a surprise!

From The Archives:

56 thoughts on “Hangout Friday Dec 4: Steam Controller!

  1. Bornio says:

    Have they patched in significant support for the steam controller since launch?

    Also Shamus, I think you ment “Dec 4”.

    1. Jarenth says:

      This Hangout, Shamus unveils the secret of the Steam Controller… its time travel engine.

    2. MichaelGC says:

      This time around we'll be steaming… the Steam Controller?

      And I’m pretty sure there’s an ‘r’ missing there.

      This time around we'll be steaming… the Stream Controller?

      That’s better.

      1. MrGuy says:

        Don’t cross the stream controllers.

        That would be bad.

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Do starcraft 2 2v2 tournament.That way,no one will know if you suck or if its the controller that sucks.

    1. Loa Vecre says:

      Seconding this, because I want to see the APM you can reach with a controller like that.

  3. The Rocketeer says:

    Oooh, the antici

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Will you manage to be punctual and leave the first comment this time?

  4. Ninety-Three says:

    You’ll be steaming the Steam controller? Typo or bad pun?

    1. MichaelGC says:

      Whoops, my bad. Neglected my page refresh protocols.

  5. MechaCrash says:

    I would suggest practicing with and calibrating the controller first, unless streaming the learning curve and resulting hilarious failures is going to be part of the show.

    I’m pretty happy with my Steam controller. I can’t get mouse precision with it, but that’s a matter of practice, since it behaves like a trackball. I know I like it way better than a regular controller for things that require precise aim. It also requires fiddling around to get it working and feeling right, but it’s pretty good when you do.

    The biggest problem with it, however, is that it has a lot of buttons and sensors, but because most games are designed for conventional controllers, there’s more buttons than available things to map to them. You can probably find enough stuff to occupy the stick, the D-pad, the right trackball/stick touchpad thing, the four face buttons, the two extra buttons, two triggers, two shoulder buttons, two paddle buttons, and six-degree gyro sensor if you play a space sim that wasn’t meant for or ported to consoles, like Elite: Dangerous or X3: Albion Prelude, or other games that are meant to give you something to do with big fancy stick and pedal setups, but the paddles and gyros are mostly for comfort and redundancy in most of the games I have.

    1. Wide And Nerdy â„¢ says:

      I’m having similar experience. I have a feeling that its precisely those sorts of things you talk about (the ported space sims and such) that are where this controller will truly shine.

      Though I haven’t used mine much yet, I can already tell that I’d have a much better chance of being able to use this well for a game like Fallout 4 than I would my XBox 360 controller. I can’t tell how anybody plays modern third person over the shoulder or first person games with a controller but then I wasn’t around for the years when this style of play rose to dominance and when I came back it made sense to game on what I had, a reasonably high end computer and KBM. I still think KBM is better for that sort of game whereas controllers remain superior for the styles of gameplay they were originally designed for back in the 80’s and 90’s, platformers, side scroll shooters, etc.

      Since I still need a computer to play a Steam game, I’m having a hard time justifying to myself the effort it would take to relearn modern gaming on a modern controller, even a Steam controller. The main advantages would be being able to sit back on my couch with my hands in a more comfortable position and possibly being able to adapt a few things that are a little harder on KBM setups like quick switching between weapons and such (I always go to the menu for that now, I hate wheeling through my options in a live fire situation). But I’m used to the discomfort of PC gaming.

      On Previously Recorded, Rich Evans had a great moment when he said he solved the problem of bringing PC gaming to the living room. He pulled out a board, put his keyboard and mouse on that and sat it on his lap. He joked about having beat Valve engineers who had spent years on this problem.

      1. The Rocketeer says:

        Or, if you’re like me, you wrap a wooden cutting board in an old t-shirt, call it a mousepad, and use a wireless mouse to game on your couch with your laptop.

      2. Aitch says:

        Expectations set to “Spork”.

        The stream should culminate in an equally skill matched game between the Steam controller and mouse and keypad on a board.

        I’d also dig a versus with a trackball mouse and / or bare laptop.

        1. Wide And Nerdy â„¢ says:

          I think when they compared it to a spork that was perhaps a little unfair for a couple of reasons.

          1) It does seem to function as well as other controllers (or in my case, a little better so maybe ideal for KBM users who want to shift to a controller experience). Its just the replacing the KBM part that is a little lacking. This is like a spork that is somehow great at being a fork and ok at being a spoon.

          2) The controller is highly configurable and you can share configurations. Among other things, you can designate a key to act as a shift key almost doubling the number of keys on your controller (I think this is an especially good use case for the flappers), which is great for any games that are designed for KBM only or if you don’t want to fool around with context sensitive mappings (Fallout 4 would be a great place for that. Some of its context mappings are terrible).

          3) Its probably easier to design a game for this control scheme than to design a food to be spork optimized. It might be something indies could tackle.

          Spork Optimized is the name of my Devo cover band.

          1. Lachlan the Mad says:

            In my experience, most sporks are okay at being spoons and good at being forks.

            1. Supahewok says:

              My experience is the exact opposite.

              This can only be settled by a Spork Duel.

              1. droid says:

                Sounds like you are using a foon.

            2. Wide And Nerdy â„¢ says:

              The point of the comparison on Previously Recorded was to say the controller could perform somewhat like a controller or KBM but that ultimately it wasn’t as good as either one at its own thing.

          2. Aitch says:

            I agree in the sense that it wasn’t fair as a professional review. Though I do think it did a reasonably good job at showing off the first few hours of what it’s like for the average 30 something to start using one.

            Regarding your points –
            First, I would hope and expect that it functions at least as well as a standard controller, because that’s exactly what they packed into the center real estate of the thing. It’s an analog stick next to four buttons with shoulder triggers. It should act like a controller, albeit a really small one with no right analog stick or proper directional pad. I know, people scoff at the ancient d-pad, but when you need an exact input of one of the 4 directions (or 8) it helps not to have a full 360 degrees of possible signals. And I guess if you want a right analog stick you can mode-switch the trackpad and have something resembling it. So it’s pretty much almost all the functionality of a standard controller, maybe minus the comfort of having it all fall naturally under your thumbs neutral setpoint.

            Second, the configuration options are great – it seems to be where the Steam controller really shines. I’d like to know, though, if there’s an option to use it without Big Picture Mode. Or if it’s possible to double map buttons. Like if you’re playing an fps, and say right trigger cues up iron sights. Could you have it switch the right trackpad to a different sensitivity or tracking mode while the trigger is being held? Also, can you save a general custom profile and be able to load it across different games, or do you have to configure each game separately similar to keybinding?

            Third, that’s something that kinda worries me. A lot of indies can barely keep it together between standard controller and mouse & keyboard control options. And sometimes that’s on top of having to port it from (or to) phone touchscreen control. That something as niche as the Steam controller would find its way to the top of that priority heap I have to wonder. I hope it’s easier for the controller to adapt to the games rather than relying on the devs to adapt to the controller.

            And because I have yet to hold one,
            From what I’ve seen the texture of the trackpads looks more textured than slick – does it wear down your thumbs after a while? Can you switch the trackpad surfaces out? Say if you wanted them smooth instead, or the texture gradually wore down?
            How does it feel using the analog stick and buttons? It looks like they’re positioned kind of low and narrow, but I have no idea if it feels strained to use for long periods.
            Speaking of strain, do your thumbs get tired from having to mouse around with them? Is there a setting where the center will work just like a trackpad, but the edges will continue to scroll in that direction if you hold down there?
            And do you ever find yourself hitting the back paddle rocker accidentally? It was the first thought I had on seeing the contraption.

            The more I think about it, I’m not sure I want a controller that can emulate keyboard and mouse so much as I’d want a keyboard with an analog stick on it. Or a mouse with an analog stick on it. Or both. Or an extended keypad / numpad with an analog stick on the thumb side of it, maybe even a pressure sensitive trigger for the index finger above that. Man, I wish I had the skill and capital to build something like that on a whim.

            Still, the idea of a controller that can do more than just be a controller by lending some of the functionality of kb&m to the equation really does pique my interest. But it has to be more than either or. I guess I’m just way too cautious to get one before I see how it shakes out and how many developers start optimizing for its use.

            And really, don’t feel obligated to answer all of this jazz. Maybe I’ll get lucky and Shamus / Josh will end up figuring some of it out just as a matter of course during the stream.

            Btw, if you ever get a chance to throw some Spork Optimized tracks up on Soundcloud I’m sure I’d dig it. Maybe I can even post up a few tracks from my Charlie Parker on upright bass electro solo project, Diaphanous Spife.

            1. MechaCrash says:

              The Steam controller can be used for anything a regular controller can. You can set it so that the right pad acts like a stick, but I found doing this to feel a little weird. It’s workable, and if you practice then you can certainly learn to use it that way, but if you don’t have a conventional controller to plug in, then it can certainly work. I haven’t tried playing around with anything where using the D-pad as an actual D-pad matters yet, but my initial feeling is that if you’re playing something where it’s important, like Super Meat Boy or whatever, then you’re better off using a PS4 controller or something. But if you’re using it for another button bank, as most modern console games do, then it’s perfectly fine for that. You can set it so that it accepts input when you touch it or when you click it in.

              There is currently no way to use any of the custom settings on this thing without Big Picture Mode, and if I had to pick the controller’s biggest failing, that’s it. It’s a software thing, so it’s not like they can’t fix it, the question is if they will. Buttons can be double mapped in the way you describe, and the triggers have various settings (pull slow to make it do one thing, pull fast to make it do another thing, have it do a third thing entirely when you pull it until it clicks), but for “make it less sensitive while the left trigger is held down” type stuff, I don’t know. It’s possible it can do that and I don’t know how, though. I do know that you can set it so that the gyro controls are less sensitive when a button is being held, though. Unfortunately, the pad must be configured on a per-game basis. If there’s a way to set some defaults to assume for everything, I haven’t found it.

              For Steam Controller specific stuff, I wouldn’t worry about it. A lot of games have 360-style button prompts, and the Steam controller uses Legally Distinct From 360’s Button/Color Layouts (the 360’s right button is red with a white B on it, the Steam controller’s is black with a red B, completely different), so you shouldn’t have to worry about that too much. There’s usually a big honkin’ pile of community made configurations, you can always find one and tweak it.

              The trackpad for the right thumb is actually very smooth, to the point that trying to use it feels weird if you don’t set the haptic feedback to at least Low. Once you do that, you feel a very subtle rumble under your thumb, almost as if it were textured. Not enough to actually impact how it feels, but enough for how it feels, if that makes sense. When I use it for Fallout 4, I have the virtual friction set to Low, so if I want to turn quickly, I can just flick it and then put my thumb down to stop it, just like a physical trackball, although you can set it for “when my thumb is on the edge, assume I’m still scrolling,” with where “the edge” is and how fast it scrolls being configurable. The stick and buttons are lower and closer than I’m used to, but that’s just a matter of holding your thumbs at a different angle. If you’ve ever held a Wii U Pro Controller compared to a regular Wii U game pad, it’s the same kind of deal, where my thumb winds up resting/landing on Y/B, instead of in the middle of the four buttons. I’ve used it for many hours in a row with no strain or fatigue. I do hit the paddles on the back by accident rarely, but it’s no more of a risk than accidentally bumping the triggers of a conventional game pad.

              But from what you described about a keyboard with a stick on it, I would suggest looking into the Razer Nostromo (which I own and really like), or the Logitech G13 (which I can’t vouch for one way or the other). There’s also the Saitek Cyborg Command Unit, but I found its ergonomics to be poor and its software to be lacking.

              1. Aitch says:

                That was all so much more helpful to figure out the nature of this controller than any of the other info I’ve run into so far, by far. I really appreciate you taking the time, cause a lot of it I feel like I’d have had to buy it first to find out if not trawl through endless ads and review schlock.
                Never thought I’d be leaning towards getting one, but it sounds better thought out than I’d imagined. Really, thanks for this.

                Quick edit – just checking out the Nostromo, it looks awesome. Almost exactly what I was thinking of, and now I have two peripherals that I’m looking towards getting, haha. Had no idea they’d already done something like this. Again, thanks and appreciation for the heads up.

        2. … it’s possibly the best utensil for eating fried rice with? :/

    2. Abnaxis says:

      So, this is my one data point of experience.

      At home I’ve been using a keyboard and mouse from my couch for the last four years, but I played Fallout 4 on my brother-in-law’s XBone all holiday weekend, and I’m terrible at it. I bought Fallout 4 when I got home (had some birthday money burning in my pocket, since my birthday was Thanksgiving), and oh holy crap it was so much better than the dual-joysticks once I finally got it good and adjusted (high sensitivity, low friction, little tilt on the axis, and a tiiiiiny bit of edge scroll for picking locks). Like, I went from emptying half of any given clip into the air to head-shotting radroaches with iron-sights at two-hundred meters.

      Tonight, I’m going to see what I can do when I configure it for keyboard mode instead of controller mode in F4, so I can use ALL the buttons!

      After that it’s on to GW2 and Don’t Starve, with a short stopover for Civ:BE.

      Now, maybe I can find someplace to stick the ole KB&M so it doesn’t constantly get in my way/get trounced on by the cats…

      1. Abnaxis says:

        So, I tried Fallout 4 with keyboard mode instead of controller mode…

        Seriously, screw whoever it was at Bethesda that decided that 90% of the interface can’t be remapped. If I remap ‘E’ during normal gameplay, either remap it everywhere or give me the option to remap it myself everywhere, instead of screwing me over when I want to use the Pip Boy or a crafting table.

        On a related note, I wish I could map more than one mode-shift on the D-pad. I actually ran out of buttons once I hit about the 20th un-remppable function that bound to yet another keystroke

    3. Josh says:

      I’m of two minds on whether or not to practice/set up the controller beforehand.

      I’ve messed around with it a bit in shooters (specifically, Fallout 4), so I have some idea of how to configure the thing, but I’m thinking it might be interesting to see the process of figuring out how to configure the controller for a particular game and see how long that actually takes and whether that learning curve is enough to turn me off of the controller.

      On the other hand, this could just be terrible and tedious to watch, so I’m decidedly undecided.

      1. MichaelGC says:

        Well, going in unpracticed worked well for Kerbal, but there of course you had the likes of Shamus et. al. ready to provide good (if purposefully untimely) advice.

        So, er, I’m no help at all.

      2. Get someone Shamus to preconfigure it for one game that you know works, and then keep that as a backup option if the stream gets too boring. That way we can see the whole setup process, and hopefully, what the end result should be.

        1. AileTheAlien says:

          Ditto! That sounds like the best of both worlds. :)

        2. Abnaxis says:

          If nothing else, hilarity will ensue as Josh tries to cope with Shamus’s alien y-axis-mirroring blasphemy of a configuration, cuz that’s how you play Descent with a trackball ;p

          (I kid, I kid…)

      3. Daemian Lucifer says:

        On the other hand, this could just be terrible and tedious to watch,

        So basically like all of your streams.

        1. Josh says:

          In all things, I endeavor to be “the most boringest.”

          1. MichaelGC says:



  6. somebodys_kid says:

    Since there’s no diecast this week, could I politely request a second helping of Mass Effect Retrospective in its place? I’m very much enjoying that series, as well as looking forward to your thoughts on the steam controller. I’ve been considering picking one up.

  7. cold_blowfish says:

    Oooh, what’ll you be playing? Dishonored, Wolfenstein, EU4, Civ 4, bloodborne?

    1. Peter H. Coffin says:

      Farming Simulator 15. :D

      1. MrGuy says:

        I don’t see how. The fertilization schedule alone would seem to be a complete nightmare to set up with anything other than a keyboard and mouse. To say nothing of the combine harvester front-end alignment procedure.

  8. cold_blowfish says:

    Waitwaitwaitwaitwait, with that many buttons, would it be possible to play Jedi outcast or Deus ex with all the force powers/augmentations in easy reach? Because that’d be awesome.

    1. AileTheAlien says:

      But playing Deus Ex will summon Robot Satan again. It’s hard watching the stream when he’s corrupting it… ^^;

      1. cold_blowfish says:

        Only if shamus plays, for his computer is the spawn of Beelzebub, father of misery.

  9. Ninety-Three says:

    Will there be Spoiler Warning this week? And relatedly, does the Spoiler Warning schedule get announced anywhere? I’ve never been able to figure out what weeks will or won’t have an update, and I can’t tell if there’s a really obvious schedule posted somewhere I’m missing.

    1. Shamus says:

      It’s complicated:

      This weekend, we did not record SW.


      The weekend BEFORE that, we DID record SW, which is still waiting to be posted. (Didn’t want to post over Thanksgiving.)

      So yes, there will be SW this week.

      No we don’t do anything organized like announce it anywhere. It’s pretty ad-hoc.

    2. Supahewok says:

      There is no schedule posted anywhere. But there is never a week of Spoiler Warning without the Diecast (because the Diecast is easier to do with fewer people available). So definitely no SW this week. Edit: Unless the blog author ninja’s you to refute your statements. Knew I shoulda refreshed :/

      There’s very little pattern to whether a given week will have updates. This week is actually an exception; holidays usually prevent recording, and last week had one of the bigger holidays of the American year. Otherwise, it just depends on what each host is doing on Saturday night, which is when they record both the Diecast and Spoiler Warning. That really comes down to the cast’s personal lives, which is too diverse and, frankly, private to be able to predict for much into the future.

      Just remember: no Diecast, very little chance of SW. Small Diecast, medium-ish chances of SW.

  10. krellen says:

    Provided I don’t work late on Friday, I might actually be able to make this one.

    You have failed at your scheduling plot to thwart me! MUAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    1. Bubble181 says:

      Dear krellen,

      This is your boss. I’m sorry to inform you that, due to a technical and clerical error, you will have to come in early and stay late on Friday. Hope this doesn’t cause any issues.

      1. krellen says:

        If you really were my boss, you’d know my work schedule is such that Wednesday is the absolute earliest I would know whether I was doing a long day on Friday. :)

        1. Bubble181 says:

          Remind me to reply here on Wednesday :P

  11. SpaceSjut says:

    Please tell me this will end up on youtube.
    Because I did the same last weekend – play-testing a bunch of games on this.
    I expect hillariousness.

    1. Josh says:

      Unless something goes horribly wrong (such as leaving Rutskarn in charge of archiving the stream) then yes, it’ll be on youtube a few days later.

      1. krellen says:

        Rutskarn’s good at archiving. It’s his roommate that fails at it.

  12. James says:

    i really want to see Josh try and play something menu centrist like EU4/CK2 with the steam controller.

  13. Hermocrates says:

    I nominate trying the controller on Kerbal Space Program. Then people can come into the stream and be really confused about which month this is.

    1. MichaelGC says:

      Seconded. Also, leave the stream title on Twitch alone so it still says SpoilerWarningShow playing E3 2015 for maximal confustication.

  14. Humanoid says:

    In terms of the least sensible option possible, I nominate Surgeon Simulator.

  15. cold_blowfish says:

    You guys should do a keep talking and nobody explodes run.

  16. Kalil says:

    I got a Steam Controller a bit ago. I have kind of mixxed feelings about it. I definitely prefer the dual-analog playstation-style controller for ergonomics and camera control, but…

    The major reason I wanted a Steam Controller was that I was beating my head against a wall trying to get my Logitech dual-stick controller to cooperate with many games. Some games, you could use those modified directinput .dll’s, but some (FFXIII, I’m glaring at you) wouldn’t even cooperate with that. The Steam controller promised to solve all those compatibility issues. And lo and behold, it does exactly that. So I’m pretty happy about that.

    It was also kind of fun using it as a ‘mouse’ when I plugged my laptop into the TV to watch some anime.

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