Team Meat’s Tommy Refenes had a chance to demo the Steam controller, and he’s very particular about his controllers.
“We have a Razer controller that Shannon bought a while back that has strange buttons that click weird,” writes Refenes on his blog. “I refuse to play with it. I hated playing the PS3 when it first came out because the SixAxis had no DualShock in them and were too light. I didn’t fully play any PS3 games until I bought a DualShock3 SixAxis controller. I didn’t even bother with the Ouya controller because if other people are reporting latency problems, I know for a fact I will experience them.”
Considering that he’s half of the duo that created Super Meat Boy, which is all about control and precision, his pickiness isn’t surprising and makes his feedback on controller hardware extremely valuable.
Refenes had some hands-on time with Valve’s new Steam Machine controller and had over a few thousand words worth of things to say about the experience. The controller, rather than having traditional joysticks and buttons, features only two trackpads.
“After becoming familiar with the controller I started to play Meat Boy… The configuration they had set up was simple enough,” he writes. “The left circle pad acted as the directional buttons, the right acted as a big giant jump button. The big problem with touch pads/ touch screens is you never know when you are actually over a button or pressing it. Valve has tried to rectify this by having some adjustable haptic feedback fire when you press one of the circle pads. Throughout my play session the haptic feedback helped with the problem, but wasn’t enough to solve it.”
Not having physical joysticks and buttons means not having tactile feedback. Refenes suggested to Valve engineers a solution: small nubs on the controller that would function in a simliar way that the small tabs on the F and J key do on a keyboard.
Refenes tested out the controller with both Super Meat Boy and Spelunky and found the experience satisfactory enough. “If you were to ask me if I would play games with the Steam Controller…I would say yes,” he says. “If you were to ask me to choose between Steam Controller and a 360 controller, I would choose 360.”
He admits that his choice isn’t due to the fact that the 360 controller is superior. It’s simply that the 360 controller is something that’s a little more familiar. However, if “all game controllers were wiped off the earth” and only the Steam controller remained, Refenes doesn’t believe it to be a bad thing. “I don’t think gaming would miss a beat. I’m excited to see what final hardware feels like because I think with the upcoming iterations of the controller we’ll see something that is different, but still feels good.”
His conclusion? “TL;DR; Great Start, needs some improvements, but I could play any game I wanted with it just fine.”