Remember the Steam Controller?

I’ve been using one with Dynasty Warriors 9, and it’s great, as is the software platform backing it up.

I bought a Steam controller yesterday, and it’s actually a better controller solution for the PC version of Dynasty Warriors 9 than the DualShock 4 I’d been using previously.

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Koei created dedicated configurations for the DualShock 4, Xbox One controller, and Steam controller inside Steam’s amazing controller configuration system.

If you’ve never used this tool, it launched alongside the Steam controller back in 2015, and recently expanded to fully support the PS4 and Xbox controllers. You can access the controller configuration tool through the Steam overlay, or from the options menu in the client.

Once inside, you’ll find a whole bevy of options. Users can create, customize, and share controller layouts through an easy-to-use interface. You can assign any button on your gamepad to do just about anything you want. You can mimic mouse movements, you can set up multiple toggles, and you can change the behavior of the analogue sticks, among many other options.

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Using a DualShock 4 in Dynasty Warriors 9 with the official configuration was broken for a few days when the game originally launched. Essentially, the right stick wasn’t functioning at all. But they patched that. I still noticed that moving the right stick felt a bit fiddly and janky compared to that same motion on the Xbox One version of the game.

None of those problems exist with the Steam controller. The default configuration has nice, smooth camera movement (once you get over the learning curve of using a big haptic touch surface instead of an analog stick), and the in-game buttons more or less line up with those on the controller.

The whole thing got me thinking about so many questions.

Why do developers often only implement the Xbox button icons into PC games? For multiplatform releases, they’ve usually already done the work to create PS4 button icons, so it’s weird not to at least include those on PC. Or keyboard and mouse icons for that matter.

Why isn’t the Steam controller more of a standard on the PC? I know several PC gamers, but outside of myself, I don’t personally know any other Steam controller owners. Maybe the initial launch put people off? I owned one right after launch, and even though it was cool…it had more potential than it had worth. Now, several updates later, it’s quite robust and even after a day I already prefer it to any other solution.

Is the Steam Hardware initiative more or less dead? Steam still promotes the controller and the Steam Link through their storefront, especially when they’re on sale…but both pieces of hardware are still their initial designs. A new iteration, even if it were just to add some new colors, could make a big impact.

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And what about those desktops? Does anyone remember Steam Machines? Yeah, I don’t blame you for saying “no.” It was so bizarre when Valve essentially launched that program, then backpedaled at the last minute, leaving big partners like Dell to sell their boxes without the Steam branding for several months. And then they launched it again and no one seemed to care.

Gabe Newell used to talk very openly and publicly about how he thought Linux and Steam OS would be the future of gaming…but now he’s probably just rolling in Dota dollars and other Steam royalty/fee money.

The expansion of the Steam Controller configuration tool to the PS4 and Xbox One controllers was both a cool new thing and, a little more depressingly, a strangely reluctant admission of defeat. “Okay, we know all you guys are just using these other controllers…at least we didn’t build this software for nothing!”

I’m probably the only person who’s actually bummed out about that at all.

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I actually thought the original design of the Steam controller, which didn’t have any analogue sticks and focused almost exclusively on re-programmable touch surfaces, was a really cool idea. It doesn’t get any more “flexible PC gaming platform” than having an entire controller surface you can tweak to your heart’s content. The stick and buttons on the current iteration are very useful…but they also make it feel like Valve was hedging their bets on this thing before they even released it.

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