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Valve looks beyond gaming with Steam Controller update

Building the Steam Controller
Valve released the first major firmware update for the Steam Controller Thursday, adding a litany of new features, including increased functionality outside of Steam, the company announced via their websiteThe update, according to Valve, responds to many concerns users have raised over the hardware since launching last month.

To make the Steam Controller more usable outside of gaming, the update adds extra options so players can set up a configurations to navigate their PC, including play/pause and volume control buttons. With the new Steam Client beta, which also launched Thursday, the controller gains compatibility for non-Steam games.

To facilitate co-op play, the Steam client beta also adds “configuration traveling,” which saves and transfers a controller’s settings when connecting to new devices, even when using a different Steam account.

Other features meant to enhance gaming seem focused on accommodating players who prefer using a mouse and keyboard to a controller. “Mouse-like joystick mode,” serves as a more PC-friendly alternative traditional joystick-based camera movement. The “Mouse region,” allows players to hotkey a certain section of the screen so they can, for example, easily switch between using a minimap and the main action. The controller now also features a system-level hotkey menu.

For FPS players, the update adds gyroscopic aiming, which allows players to combine the controllers mouse-like d-pad with physical movement to aim more accurately.

“Relying on the trackpad for large scale turns, and the gyro for fine tuning,” Valve wrote in the update, “community members found they were much more competitive than they were expecting.”

Separately, Valve released a video showing how Steam controllers are made. The company claims its automated assembly line in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, is one of the largest in the US.

“When we first started designing hardware at Valve, we decided we wanted to try and do the manufacturing as well,” Valve said in the release. “To achieve our goal of a flexible controller, we felt it was important to have a similar amount of flexibility in our manufacturing process, and that meant looking into automated assembly lines. It turns out that most consumer hardware of this kind still has humans involved in stages throughout manufacturing, but we kind of went overboard, and built one of the largest fully automated assembly lines in the US.”

If you watch closely, you can see that many of the machines feature the Aperture Science logo. The film crew didn’t get access to the test chambers, though. (Just kidding… I hope.)

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Mike Epstein
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Michael is a New York-based tech and culture reporter, and a graduate of Northwestwern University’s Medill School of…
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