Super Meat Boy creator talks of hands-on time with Steam Controller

"I could play any game I wanted with it just fine," says Super Meat Boy creator Tommy Refenes on the recently unveiled Steam Controller.

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.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

Did you enjoy this article?

Sign In to Upvote

martingaston

Martin Gaston

Hi! I'm Martin, for some reason or another I have managed to convince the people who run GameSpot that I am actually wor
Super Meat Boy

Super Meat Boy

Follow
175 comments
spikepigeo
spikepigeo

It's Valve. They will pull it off. They never release something unless it's great. That's just a fact. So either they have completely changed as a company (not happening while Gabe is still around) or they have yet again created something fantastic. 

Can't wait to get my hands on it, not because I'm a Valve fanboy, but because I'm skeptical and want to be blown away by how well this ugly thing works.

Garm31
Garm31

Apparently the Steam controller screams "Johnny Five STILL ALIVE!" when turn on.

barleybosh
barleybosh

I just want to play Command and Conquer Red Alert 1 & 2, Generals, and Company of Heroes on console.

drybones41
drybones41

Huh, sounds pretty good. Still a bit worried about the touchpad stick things and the button layout though. I need to get my hands on one sometime xD

FaeLKuN
FaeLKuN

The button layout looks very, very awkward. Imagine playing Street Fighter on that thing. Having to do a QCF and press the punch button with the same thumb... weird, really weird.

eze_sl89
eze_sl89

looks very lame and weird, but if someone can play super meat boy, its going to be an awesome controller to buy.

faizanhd
faizanhd

If the one of the creators of SMB can play SMB on it , you can bet this is a good controller. SMB is easily one of the most accuracy demanding platformers out there.

schu
schu

for tldr, the controller needs nipples

RobDev
RobDev

this reminds me of controls of an IOS device. He's right, without that tactile feedback it's difficult to use just touch controls.

rays_of_light
rays_of_light

reminds me of when the nintendo ds was just announced. there were a fair amount of naysayers but in the end it did turn out to be a huge hit. i am fairly certain this controller will do well

Evanrocknuma
Evanrocknuma

Trash or not, it's interesting and this may be the first time I'll ever be an early adopter.  Mainly because I'm quite irritated with the array of control options currently available on PC.

obsequies
obsequies

I swear that if this controller came from any other company the internet would go crazy on it.

SeanD1972
SeanD1972

No .. just no, no and NO !  

I say NO to that controller !

OneHundredPunks
OneHundredPunks

A lot of couching of his statements, doesn't exactly sound like a ringing endorsement. But I would still like to get my hands on one to see if I like it. Just need one more steam friend. . .

SavoyPrime
SavoyPrime

I just can't see this being comfortable to use. But I'm an old man that prefers his analog sticks. XD

quickshooterMk2
quickshooterMk2

INSTEAD OF PUTTING WORDS, THEY SHOULD SHOW US A GAMEPLAY FOOTAGE OF THE CONTROLLER 

i'm so sick of those paid articles written by nobody and copy pasted by a gamespot "journalist" 

5529319
5529319

So, a controller review then? In a sense.

apophis32
apophis32

my goal is to get all systems (not Wii) so I can play all games (that I want) but that controller looks really hard to use. Im going to start with X1 and PS4 and wait one year to get the steam , when the reviews and stuff come in and know which one is the best.

nate1222
nate1222

This is the kind of interview that matters. Tommy Refenes is someone who specializes in creating games that often play best with a controller/gamepad. So his take on it goes a lot further than that of a typical journalist.

bunchanumbers
bunchanumbers

as long as its cheaper than a Ouya or a gamepad from Wii U I will most likely buy this. This and the Steam OS and I'll be ready for their ideas for next gen. 

i_like_space
i_like_space

when playing video games, the only time I have had a problem knowing for sure what button I am pushing is on my phone, so I would rather stray away from any touch-screen-based buttons.

spindie3
spindie3

No way i would use this rediculous device

when playstation 4 comes out i am not going to purchase it but i am surely going to purchase a ps4 controller to use with my PC

Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

Several questions about it:

1. Can you play a FPS as well as you can using a mouse?  The answer is likely no.

2. Can you play a RTS game and not have it feel like crap?  Again, probably no.

3. Do you have difficulty playing games that require the use of more than 3 buttons?  Consider that the 360 and PS3 have 5 available to your right thumb (stuff like the N64 had even more) in addition to the right analog stick.  The Steam controller is bafflingly symmetrical.  No other controller is symmetrical except the Wiimote, sorta.  The buttons on the left side are confusingly placed.  Are you really going to take your thumb off the left trackpad (primarily the movement one in all controller configurations) to press those buttons?  I know they wanted it to be left hand accessible equally, but left handed people like myself have long adjusted to using a mouse in the "wrong hand" or a controller where the movement stick is on the left and the buttons are on the right.

I'm sure it works for some games, but will it work for all?

kalipekona
kalipekona

@obsequies 

No, I'm actually surprised at the amount of hate it is getting. Valve is getting far more flack for this than is deserved. Sure, it's something different, but I can easily see the potential in what they are doing. I'll reserve final judgement for my own hands on use of the controller, but so far it looks fantastic. 

Deugar
Deugar

 Wait, because it's different? How is that a bad thing? Valve is actually experimenting on a different controller design. For a solid decade, we've had controllers with analog sticks, with little discernible difference between them. The difference between the 360 and PS3 controller is the placement of the analog stick. Aside for a weight difference, that's it.

Now Valve are actually trying something new, designed for a different purpose, for which traditional controllers have proven themselves time and time again not to work (RTS games and other complicated UI driven video games), and you are writing it off already? How exactly is this product a threat to anyone? You don't HAVE to play any game on steam with it, that's the point.

If Valve can pull this off in conjunction with their steambox, they could end up at least partially bridging the gap between the relaxed console couch experience, and the PC crowd. Imagine playing Civilization V in co-op on your couch.

I think there's more potential here than with the Ouya.

kalipekona
kalipekona

@SeanD1972 

I say YES to that controller. I've been waiting for something like this. It looks great.

sephsplace
sephsplace

@SavoyPrime and another trait of being old is not being acceptable to new idea's, go play pong, and remember the good ole days of video games :)

RobDev
RobDev

@quickshooterMk2 if the company wanted game play footage out in the market they would have released some. interesting how a game developer is a nobody, please send us the link to the game you have designed and marketed and we can compare.

MHzBurglar
MHzBurglar

@i_like_space

It's a major problem in the industry today.  So many people seem to (misguidedly) think that "touch is the future" that these crappy touch controls keep getting rammed down our throats at every turn.  Why the war on buttons?  Why can't they leave well enough alone?

kalipekona
kalipekona

@spindie3 

The PS4 controller looks like the same old crap we have been using for over a decade. 

There is so much room for improvement in game input and control. What Valve has revealed so far about the Steam controller sounds really good.

deth420
deth420

@Thanatos2k 

they did cover these topics in the announcement.

while i cant speak two your first 2 questions (as i have yet to use the controller,) the third question(s) the controller was made to be "symmetrical," so lefty's and righties can both use the controller.

they did say they are "trying"  make it work with the precision of the mouse...

MHzBurglar
MHzBurglar

@ggregd 

Haptic feedback is used in most mobile phones and is usually nothing more than the phone vibrating when something on the screen is touched.  Vibrating when a flat surface is touched does not a tactile target make.

I'm seriously skeptical about this "haptic feedback" because so far every implementation I've seen of it in any other device has been complete bullshit..  And even if it works, it'll never be as good or reliable as a real button or stick.

godzilla_hiper
godzilla_hiper

@kalipekona Right! I'm REALLY curious about how it feels in our hands. If there's a company who can redefine gaming controllers, it's Valve.

schu
schu

@kalipekona 

I like the controller as well. As long as they give it some kind of physical feedback that is intuitive and comfortable I think its gonna be good.

Kunasha
Kunasha

@kalipekona @SeanD1972 And at the end of the day SteamOS and Ubuntu is an open platform that works with mouse/keyboard, Steam controller, and XBox 360 controller. So everybody is happy. Except the developer... maybe... :P

josh7845
josh7845

@kalipekona @SeanD1972 I don't think it looks, aesthetically  speaking, nice. The buttons seem awkward to reach and the touchscreen appears to be there for the sake of being there. This is all of course a subjective opinion, but I just don't see myself buying it. The best controllers I've used are the Gamecube, the PS1/2 and the 360 controllers.

kalipekona
kalipekona

@MHzBurglar @i_like_space 

Rammed down our throats? Uh.. you can either choose to buy or not buy. Nobody is ramming anything down our throats. Especially not Valve with the Steam controller. You can also use a keyboard and mouse or any of a variety of gamepads.

Personally I'm excited by the potential I see in this controller. The haptic feedback stuff sounds incredible. I also think trackpads with haptic feedback have the potential to be a more accurate and more comfortable way to game than traditional mechanical analogue sticks.

Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@deth420 @Thanatos2k Uh yeah, I already said that.  I'm saying a symmetrical controller is still a bad idea.  No other controller is symmetrical.  Keyboard mouse is not symmetrical.

kalipekona
kalipekona

@MHzBurglar @ggregd 

The rumble in modern gamepads could also be considered haptic feedback. But the haptic feedback in the Steam controller is vastly superior to those simplistic implementations. Read Valve's information on the contoller, as well as hands on reports. It is obviously using haptic feedback in ways never before seen.

This line of thinking reminds me of the ignorant people who try to compare the Oculus Rift to the Virtual Boy. Since VR wasn't successful with the Virtual Boy it supposedly won't be successful with the Oculus Rift...herp derp. Nevermind the vastly different technology involved. Nope, they can both be labeled "virtual reality" so they must be equivalent.

MHzBurglar
MHzBurglar

@kalipekona

You really read into my comments too much...

I wasn't referring to Valve doing the throat ramming (lol) it's more the mobile market.  There was a time when I had the choice of an (Android) smartphone physical keyboard or touch-only.  Being that touch screens and I don't get along, I always chose the physical keyboard.

Such phones have since been phased out and if there are any anymore, they're always relegated to the super low-end lines which are phones that will not meet my needs.  As such, I feel I was forced into using touch-only devices.

As far as the trackpad is concerned, my issue was never with it replacing the analog controls, but rather the digital ones.  I always found analog sticks to be sloppy, with touch control being the only sloppier option.  If they can make a non-sloppy touch control, more power to them.  But touch buttons (and no D-Pad) are where I draw the line.

Nobody's forcing me to use it... yet.  But what about down the line if this replaces the Xbox 360 pad as the 'standard' controller?  For games that suck with kb+m and need a gamepad, It'll be the smartphone thing all over again.

MHzBurglar
MHzBurglar

@kalipekona

I read Valve's description right when they announced it.  It didn't instill me with confidence.  It's a marketing page, so they'll talk it up whether it really works as described or not.  I will remain skeptical of it and consider haptics to be bullshit until this thing is released and can prove otherwise to me.

I don't consider my assessment based on existing technology to be ignorant when that's all there is to go on at the moment.  Especially since I never once said I wasn't willing to try the controller when it's released to see if it really works.

But right now, current haptics = bullshit and physical buttons > touch controls.