Team Meat Co-Founder on Steam Controller

Original author: Tommy Refenes
When I started making Super Meat Boy, I knew that the right controls could create a game or destroy it. I am very picky about managing games, to the extent that if a game is not managed well, I will drop it, no matter what the game is, and who made it. I am often asked what formulas I used to make movement, friction, air resistance, etc. in Super Meat Boy. In fact, there were no formulas ... but just a big hack. I spent two months making SMB management perfect. Everything from the strange “friction” that you experience when changing direction in the air, to the delay of 200 ms that occurs when you break away from the wall, is all based on what I feel during the game. None of these formulas are based on physical laws; they are one hundred percent built on sensations.

When it comes to devices, I, again, am very picky. Shannon recently bought a Razer controller with strange buttons that click strangely. I refuse to play it. I didn’t like playing on the PS3 when it was just released because the Sixaxis gamepad is too light due to lack of vibration. I didn’t really play a single game on the PS3 until I bought DualShock 3. I don’t even look at the Ouya gamepad, because other people complained about problems with the response, and I know for sure that I will also encounter them.

I need to press the button, feel good how it is pressed, and see the corresponding reaction on the screen. In general, ladies and gentlemen, I think you will agree that I am sensitive to game manipulators.

This Steam Controller (or whatever it's officially called there) is weird. Where the thumbs usually lie, there are two small round touch panels that you saw in the pictures. In the center are the buttons A, B, X, and Y that surround something that, as I was told, will eventually become a touch screen. There is no display yet, so I can’t say anything about it. Apparently, the A, B, X, and Y buttons around the display will play a role similar to the “Back” button in the normal configuration. Consider that these are not buttons A, B, X and Y, but additional buttons for some functions. Of course, you will not perform the basic actions on these buttons. To do this, there will be left and right touch panels.

On the top of the controller are standard bumpers and triggers, they work and feel exactly the way you expect. On the back there are two additional triggers that you press if you just squeeze your hand, but they are not too sensitive to trigger when you just hold the gamepad.

I had a functional prototype in my hands, which was printed on a three-dimensional printer. It is thicker than the Xbox 360 controller in the place where the sides of the controller lie in the palms of your hands. Weight is about the same. I didn’t feel that the gamepad would be too heavy or too light. I noticed that the controller is massive, but only in comparison with the PS3 controller I recently played on (in GTA V) and the Xbox 360 gamepad on which I play on a PC. Its size does not bother me.

After getting to know the controller, I started playing Meat Boy. Muscle memory helped me, so I used advanced techniques (sliding along the wall, controlling the jump curve, and so on). When I noticed a significant lag, I thought: “Oh shit, I have to tell them that their controller is bad and slow.” I was told that the delay was very low, and I found out that the TV was to blame. With the "game mode" turned off, it is completely impossible to play games that require a quick reaction. Of course, I got into the TV settings and turned on the game mode, and then the real game started.

The configuration of the buttons they set was straightforward. The left round panel worked like diagonal keys, and the right one like one huge jump button. The problem with touch panels and screens is that you never know exactly when you hit the button or pressed it. Valve tried to fix it with an adjustable tactile feedback, which turns on when you touch one of the round panels. This helped, but did not solve the problem completely.

The round panels were configured to respond to touch. A very strange feeling when the game responds to input without the familiar clear touch. That is why touch panels can be configured to touch and click. You can make Butcher run to the right by touching the panel, but he will move when your fingers are just on the touchpad. This did not happen too often, but enough for me to notice. I pointed out this problem to one of the engineers (Forgive me for not remembering your name, it’s sad for me to have names ... I used to call my ex-girlfriend Jessica instead of Lindsay. Jessica's name is her sister. It’s all because I don’t remember and pronounce names ... I could describe your hatchet and clothes to the creator of the photobot, and the cops would catch you in a couple of minutes ... that's what my memory is for ...), he returned to his desk and updated the software so that the gamepad would respond only to pressure. As soon as he did this, the controller began to feel like a controller. Pressing the diagonal buttons began to feel, and I began to feel much better control.

The only drawback of vague physical buttons is that your fingers need tactile contact so you know exactly which button you are pressing. When we discussed this with the engineers, I came up with the idea of ​​small pimples on the panels, which would be palpable enough to be felt with fingers, but not too annoying so as not to interfere with using the controller as a touch panel or mouse. It turned out that the same idea had already visited them, but it was not embodied in the gamepad that I used. I insisted that these pimples must be added. Maybe after my response they will appear in one form or another, so ... Valve and their customers, please always.

In SMB, the button setup worked quite well, and I got to the Salt Factory without any difficulty. I was able to disrupt the battle sequence with CHAD, reaching the buttons before it could attack me. At the second level of the Hospital, I was even able to pick up the patch in the superfast way, as shown here (however, I did not stay on the platform above the patch, I always fly straight down).

I could play Meat Boy the way you can play this game at an advanced level (and I haven’t trained for a long time). The right round button was responsible for the jump, and we set both triggers to run - just like on a regular Xbox 360 controller. We also set the trigger to trigger on the back of the gamepad, which I already mentioned. They worked great, but they drove their hands a little. Rather, due to the way the run button is used in Meat Boy, and not because of the controller device or buttons.

But this is Meat Boy. I was interested to experience the gamepad in a game with more complex controls. Of course, I asked for Spelunky. Spelunky requires buttons for a whip, jump, bomb and rope. We configured the controller as an Xbox 360 controller. The left round panel was again used as diagonal keys, and the right panel was used as buttons A, B, X and Y in the same order as on the Xbox 360 controller.

I played Spelunky, and the controller performed very well. While I was playing, I described to the guys the abrupt movements that underlie the game. Who played it, knows what I'm talking about, but I will explain. In Spelunky, it often happens that you panic and have to keep your balance. Let's say you jump onto a platform, under it are spikes, and a bat above you. If the bat hits you, you will die because you will fall on the spikes. If you try to jump onto the mouse, then after that you will fall and possibly die. In such situations, you jump, balancing yourself in the air to hit the bat with a whip, but land on the same platform. The Steam controller does a great job of this. The pimples that I mentioned above would make the platform game clearer, and, again, they can be added to the final product. I got to the Ice Caves а потом тупой Скелет столкнул меня с платформы, и я умер… Тогда я попытал счастья в Ежедневном испытании Spelunky и сразу же умер… Почти что стандартный летсплей по Spelunky.

If you ask if I will play games on the Steam controller ... I will say, "Yes." If you ask me what I choose: Steam Controller or Xbox 360 gamepad, I will answer that I choose the latter. Do not take this for neglect of the Steam controller: here it is more a matter of habit, not of functionality. I will choose the Xbox gamepad because I spent several thousand hours with it; but if tomorrow all the game controllers suddenly disappear from the face of the earth, and the only choice is the Steam controller, I think it will not be so bad. I don’t think that gaming will lose anything. I look forward to when it will be possible to try the final version of the device, because I believe that the new generation of controllers will be something else, but no less pleasant.

TL; DR: A great start, some improvements are needed, but I can safely play any game I want.

Steam Controller was introduced on September 27th. You can find out what other game developers think about him from the translation of the habereuser AraneusAdoro.