Watch these lucky beta testers put the Steam Controller through its paces

Credit: Source: Steam

It's been a couple of weeks since Valve sent out prototype Steam Machines and Steam Controllers to beta testers. At the same time they released SteamOS to anyone who cared to download and install it.

The community is starting to share their thoughts on Valve's grand experiment. I haven't seen a lot of discussion about the Steam Machine itself, and most SteamOS talk seems to be coming from Linux fans. I'm guessing the lack of feedback is due to the OS being so early and the fact that there's just not a lot of content available for it yet. That's understandable of course, and in fact Valve seems to be, if anything, trying to dissuade average gamers from bothering with SteamOS this early.

There are a few testers who are posting videos of the Steam Machine prototype in use, like droobie21 who posted this "first boot" video (among other SteamOS related clips):

There's a lot more talk about the Steam Controller itself; this is probably because it'll work with Windows, as well as with SteamOS (and I assume, Steam on Linux) so there's a lot more to do with it.

I'm a lot more interested in the Controller than I am in SteamOS or Steam Machines at this point, so I've been checking out some of these videos. Let's stick with droobie21 and watch him play FTL using the Steam Controller:

And here's Trial By Game playing Civilization 5:

One of my on-going concerns with PC gaming on the couch (I have an Alienware X51 hooked up to my living room TV) is something that you may have picked up on in the FTL video, and that the Trial By Game dude specifically mentions: the interfaces in these games are designed to be read on a monitor 18" from your face. If you're young and have good eyesight you'll be fine playing these games on the couch, but those of us less fortunate are going to have issues reading the smaller bits of text on-screen.

Assuming Valve's plan to bring PC gaming into the living room succeeds this will probably be a short-term problem as future games will have a scalable UI, but for now it's something to keep in mind.

I want to thank Joystiq for bringing Trial By Game's videos to my attention because a second video of theirs caught my eye. In this one they were playing Bastion. I liked this video because the player needs to spend some time tweaking the controls and we get to see how that all works:

Of course, Bastion plays perfectly nicely using a traditional controller, so this is more or less an academic exercise.

One thing I was really interested to hear about is playing a FPS with the Steam Controller. I don't think any control issue is as polarizing in gaming as mouse & keyboard vs game pad when it comes to first person shooters. Can the Steam Controller convince the mouse & keyboard set to leave their desks and hit the couch for some FPS action?

Let's go back to droobie21, who is playing Metro: Last Light using the Steam Controller:

I don't want to put words in droobie21's mouth but my sense is that he's finding the Steam Controller a step up from a traditional gamepad but still not as good as mouse and keyboard. Of course he hasn't had a lot of time to get used to the Steam Controller yet, either.

Here's the Trial By Game dude playing the same game. He seemed generally more upbeat about the Steam Controller:

The fact is, you and I probably won't know how good a fit the Steam Controller will be for us until we get our hands on one. Valve hasn't offered any kind of a ship date, but I'm assuming it won't be before spring or early summer. I'm excited to try one out. How about you?

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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