Steam released another look at the new Steam controller, now without the 3 buttons at the bottom and the center screen, and instead opting for the more traditional 4 directional buttons and 4 action buttons. However, more changes could be in store since official release is still months away. When the Steam controller was first introduced to the public, the public and press made a huge hoopla about how unique and original it was; however, I always had reservations about the revision and still do with this latest revision. I predicted early on that it would have problems with adoption by the masses because losing all the buttons that we were so accustom to would not only make it difficult to learn and use, but would in essence alienate so many titles that were based on commonly accepted controller designs.
Mistakes of the Past
As an early adopter of technology, I've had enough wow-factor, supposedly next-gen technology purchases that turned out to be useless. It's not that the functionality wasn't truly profound, but no matter how much I tried to adapt and adopt the new functions I was so set in my ways that unless the transition was smooth it was going to discourage me from investing any more time into it. The Wii Controller, as cool as it is, limits its proper functionality with so many games. At times the functionality was forced and comfortable. That's why I opted for plugging in my old Nintendo Game Cube controller and using that as a default. If you played Super Smash Bros or Mario Kart you know exactly what the difference is and you also knew that people would fight over that old controller to avoid ending up with the Wii Controller. I've come to realize that as much as we want new, we still want some hint of the old that we can slowly grow into the new comfortably.
Some Tradition Is A Good Thing
Luckily, we can all be happy to see that Valve has pulled back the overzealous design a bit to bring us back to something a little more familiar by adding back the traditional 4 directional buttons and the 4 action buttons. It's a little closer to something that will work with both traditional titles, as well as new titles. Even with this change, there are a few questions that need to be asked. First; what are the directional buttons primarily used for? If it's for menu navigation then that's fine, but for anyone who games regularly, we know that we don't really use the D-Pad for actual game play. Also, the individualized button designs, although aesthetically pleasing won't work for gaming. Try to use any sliding D-Pad fighting game skill combo on those and you'll probably fail. It's just my opinion, but these days, most gamers would probably opt for an analog stick over the D-Pad for menu navigation . Therefore, replacing the D-Pad or directional buttons with an analog stick would make better sense. It satisfies both the need for analog control in traditional games for people who aren't quite ready to move up to the haptic-feed back control areas, while also allowing a more effective menu navigation controller.
My bet is that we'll probably see another version that will bring back the analog stick to replace the directional buttons. Also, if they want to keep the new version inline with the overall design aesthetics, it will need to be something more similar to the mini stick found on the PSP and PSP Vita. Minimal, but still functions just as well with a much smaller foot print. I guess we'll just have to wait and see, since this could very well be some press baits to keep the Steam controller machine running at full speed.