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Valve can't seem to make up their mind when it comes to the Steam Controller, the handheld control device that will be bundled in with the official Steam Machines that are due for release in 2015. Just recently a new image has leaked showcasing yet another redesigned take on the now infamous controller.
Eurogamer picked up the image from the ValveTime forum, where we see that the newly reconstructed controller has made yet another shift in its architectural design.
As indicated by the main image above, the controller now has what looks like a D-pad (or a directional pad) in the center of the left analog. Effectively, this means that the left analog is no longer a trackpad (given that it would be next to nigh impossible to use a D-pad on top of a trackpad) or the trackpad has indented directional buttons on it (and that would still make it terribly inconvenient to use.)
The comment section kind of exploded over the change, most recognizing that a D-pad in place of a trackpad for the left analog is neither convenient nor efficient. I don't know if the image is just to throw people off or if Valve really does have intent to go forward with it.
My hope is that the controller doesn't just turn into a DualShockbox 4U controller. I liked the idea of the original trackpads for the controller because there's nothing else out there like it at the moment. Remember, the whole point is not to emulate console controls but to emulate PC controls. Anyone with an Xbox 360, PS3, PS4 or Xbox One controller will be able to deal with any console game with partial or full controller support. However, it would be a real pain trying to play RTS, PC-exclusive shooters or strategy games using a standard right analog stick. Why? Because they're not precise enough. I use the Kontrol Freek extenders on all my controllers – mostly just the right analog sticks – in order to increase precision and efficiency for first and third-person shooters. However, even when using software emulation to get Xbox 360 controllers working with PC-exclusive games, the analogs usually fail miserably in the precision department.
Trackpads are actually a perfect supplement for mouse controls. I actually find that trackpads are more accurate and stable than typical mice, which is why I used to use trackpads for FPS or mouse-controlled shooters because they were only as responsive and quick as your finger reflexes. In other words, there was no adjustments required for DPI, tracking or wrist precision. It's all in the digits.
The digital pad on the left analog stick is nothing new in terms of out-there modifications to the Steam Controller. Previously the company replaced the touchscreen controls in the middle of the controller with a traditional start and select button. They also replaced the four digital buttons on the lower left-hand side with an analog stick.
I don't even know if the pressure-sensitive triggers that used to be on the bottom of the controller are still there.
Anyway, Eurogamer notes that Techradar was told by Valve that the company will be showcasing their Steam Machines and the new controller at the upcoming GDC 2015 in March. The company will be skipping the Consumer Electronics Show in early January.