Since gaming has started there has always been a PC vs Console argument, and Valve is trying to play the peacekeeper. Previously this month, Valve launched their Steam Controller, a controller that allows for PC gaming in a living room setting with a controller.
While PCs have adopted controller support for many games, the Steam Controller makes it easier and more effective. Previously, if a PC game didn’t have controller support, you would have to download 3rd party software like JoyToKey to program the controller. Now, Steam has a built in solution in their Big PIcture Mode. Big Picture Mode acts as a Dashboard for all of your games. Not only can you do Steam things like browse community forums, vote on workshop items, or sell skins on the TF2 market, but you can launch games, play videos, and play music. One of the best features of Big Picture mode is it allows you to customize your controller the way you want it without 3rd party software AND allows you to try premade configs by the community.
The Steam controller looks different than most standard controllers and includes 2 touchpads, a joystick, and set of X, Y, A, and B Buttons. The controller also features shoulder buttons, trigger buttons, and 2 extra buttons on the back.
The real winner with the Steam controller is the software to remap what all the controller inputs do. Launching any game in Big Picture mode will allow you to make many custom remaps for your games. The software will allow you to not only program any of the buttons/track pads to be any key press, but also allows you to press multiple buttons at once. Another huge advantage the Steam Controller has is the ability to change all buttons based upon someone pressing a button. This is called Mode Shifting. Mode Shifting allows you to press a button and create a control scheme on the fly. With Mode Shifting you could make over 20 different button presses on one side of the controller. The Steam controller allows a player to also program in turbo, which is excellent for moments in games like quick time events.
With knowledge of scripts and mods for games, players can utilize the Steam controller to do even more. I decided to try out Team Fortress 2 with the Steam controller, as many of the classes have a variety buttons to press. I was able to turn destroying a sentry and placing a new one into one button press compared to the 5 button presses normally required with just the combination of button remapping and scripting.
The Steam Controller emulates mouse and keyboard inputs, and can work with 3rd party devices. Big Picture mode attempts to launch programs full screen as it is intended to play on a TV. If you use Microsoft’s Ease of Access options for options such as the on-screen keyboard, you will have to manually select “Run in window”. At the time of posting, there is no easy way to remap the controller outside of running the game in big picture mode other than editing the game’s config files. Right now, the Big Picture mode button remapping is only available for Steam Controller users . If you plan on using any other controller or mouse and keyboard, all of these awesome features won’t be available to you.
The Steam controller and Big Picture mode can be a great tool for accessibility. With Steam not only allowing you to create your own control scheme, but allowing a community effort in the creation of presets, you should be able to download and tweak the controls to your liking. Valve has been issuing weekly updates to the software and controller that should enhance the experience over the years. If you’re thinking of picking one up to try out for yourself, use this Amazon Referal Link and help out the work of AbleGamers and UnstoppableGamer.