Super Meat Boy co-creator Tommy Refenes has written a blog postdetailing his hands-on experience with Valve's recently unveiled touchscreen controller prototype.
Last week Valve announced its new proprietary controller, which features two touchscreen sticks with haptic feedback and pledges to be a high-precision, low-latency device.
"The Steam Controller (or whatever it’s officially called) is strange," started Refenes, who pointed out that he was particularly sensitive to game controller and latency.
Using the Steam Controller to play Meat Boy after becoming familiar with the device, Refenes said, "the configuration they had set up was simple enough. 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."
"One drawback to undefined physical buttons is that your thumbs need tactile contact in order to accurately know what button you are pressing. As the engineers and I were talking about this, the idea of little nubs being on the controller that would be noticeable enough where your thumbs would find them, but not so abrasive that the circle pads couldn’t comfortably used in mouse / trackpad mode came about. They had been thought of prior to my being there, but weren’t on the controller I was using. I expressed that they needed to be put in. They might show up in some form after my feedback…so…you’re welcome Valve / Valve customers."
Overall, Refenes said "the button configuration worked fine for SMB" and that "I was able to play Meat Boy the way Meat Boy can be played on an advanced level."
Refenes added that, after playing Super Meat Boy, he wanted to play a game that required more inputs and opted for Spelunky--and said "the controller worked great" with Derek Yu's randomly generated platformer.
"As I was playing I was describing to the engineers the twitch movements that go into Spelunky. Anyone that’s played it knows what I’m talking about, but to explain further there are often times in Spelunky where you will find yourself in a situation where you will panic and need to compensate. For example, let's say you are jumping on a platform, below it are spikes, above you is a bat. If the bat hits you, you’ll die because you’ll fall into the spikes. If you try to jump on the bat, chances are you’ll hit the bat and fall and possibly die. So in situations like this you find yourself tap jumping with air compensation to whip a bat while still staying on this one tile platform. The Steam controller handled this just fine. The nubs I mentioned above would have solidified the platforming experience better, but again, those might get thrown in as they approach final hardware. I got to the Ice Caves and then a stupid Skeleton knocked me off a platform to my death…then I attempted a daily run and died immediately…pretty much the standard Spelunky play through."
Refenes said that he'd play games using the Steam Controller, but "if you were to ask me to choose between Steam Controller and a 360 controller, I would choose 360" because of his familiarity with the device.
"Don’t take that as slight to the controller though because it’s more about the comfort of familiarity over functionality. I would choose a 360 controller because I have several thousand hours experience using it, however if tomorrow all game controllers were wiped off the earth and the only option was the Steam Controller, I don’t think this would be a bad thing. In fact, 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."
In conclusion, Refenes said Valve's new controller was a "great start, needs some improvements, but I could play any game I wanted with it just fine."
For more information about Refenes' time with the device, check out his full post.
Valve will launch its new controller along with its SteamOS in 2014.