During Steam Dev Days this past week, Jeff Bellinghausen of Valve & Lars Doucet of Level Up Labs provided new insight to the future of the Steam Controller. Lars Doucet outlined Valvs API for the Steam controller and why developers should consider using it when building games. For developers, Valve has positioned this API as an opportunity to take the burden of directly programming controls and controls for multiple systems off the developer. This can reduce the risk of common control problems in games including too many inputs, too much context, or control glyphs not matching.
“We’re adding support for all major controllers, so you can worry less about drivers and more about your game. We’ll even provide ready-to-use in-game hint glyphs.”
You might be wondering why that’s important to you as a player? The answer is that Valve wants to give the power of control to the players. Many PC games have allowed players to rebind their keys to customized layouts for years. This gives players the ability to optimize their experience. Some console games have offered similar but limited ways to do the same. The notable exception being the new Xbox One Elite controller, which offers players a unique level of controller customization.
Lars explained that the API will focus on actions and action sets rather than inputs. This, according to Lars, simplifies the games understanding of player actions. Steam interprets and communicates with the game rather than game having to incorporate a multitude of control parameters. Players will have complete control over their actions, developers only need to be aware what they are.
This approach also helps to simplify controls rather than have the player lost in a “sea of buttons”. Over binding actions and featuring complicated controls is something both PC and console titles have been guilty of from time to time. Cleaner, more intuitive controls are something both gamers and developers can be excited about. Giving developers this new freedom is great news, but it extends past just the Steam Controller. They will extend controller compatibility with Steam to the PS4’s DualShock 4 controller. This will include the Dual Shocks 4 gyro, touchpad, and motion control features. The PS4 controller currently has very poor support among Steam titles, but the DualShock 4 will have the same compatibility with any title through Valve’s API. Developers will access the API rather than the controller directly and not have to worry about the minutiae of the DualShock 4.
More controllers will be included in the future, although Valve did not want to comment on when.
You can read the details of the presentation on Gamasutra. What do you think, Do you use a controller with your PC? or are you excited to bring your Dual Shock 4 over to your PC?