updated 02:04 pm EDT, Fri September 27, 2013
Trackpads, clickable touchscreen feature on Steam Machine controller
Valve Software has completed a trilogy of announcements, by revealing a new game controller. The Steam Controller, said to be designed to work on SteamOS and with all games on Steam, uses a pair of clickable circular trackpads instead of the dual joystick configuration used on other controllers, which Valve says provides a "far higher fidelity input" than in other versions.
Between the two trackpads lies a high-resolution touchscreen, which can be used by developers to provide more control options, a menu system, and even maps. The screen is also clickable like a "large single button," allowing players to touch or move around the screen without accidentally committing to an action. When the touchscreen is used, its display overlays on top of the main screen the game is being played on, so as to no draw the player's gaze away from the action. A total of 16 buttons on the back and front are used, with half accessible without needing to remove thumbs from the trackpads, and can be configured through a "legacy mode" in Steam itself.
Valve also reveals that it has a "super-precise haptic feedback" which uses dual linear resonant actuators rather than the usual "lopsided weight spun around a single axis." Small and weighted electromagnets are attached to the trackpads, and can be controlled by the game in terms of frequency, amplitude, and direction of movement. This could lead to games using the controller providing more information physically, and have been found to "play audio waveforms and function as speakers" in testing.
Just as for the Steam Machine game console beta, Valve will be sending out 300 prototype units to its testers. While it will have a touchscreen on release, the first 300 units will not use one, and will be wired rather than wireless.