Valve's unconventional but intriguing new game pad, the Steam Controller, has a difficult challenge ahead of it. Not only does it need to play Valve's library of first-person shooters, like Half-Life, Left 4 Dead and Counter-Strike, it needs to play PC games that weren't designed with controllers in mind, like Dota 2.
But Valve thinks it can get complex games like Dota 2 playable on the Steam Controller, alongside the thousands of other games, both new and old, working with a game pad.
"[Dota 2] is a really complex game that uses a good half of the keyboard," Valve's Jeff Bellinghausen told Polygon in an interview at CES. "And it's a real challenge, but would also be really exciting. To be able to play Dota from the couch is a really neat opportunity.
"It's also something that's pushing the performance and resolution of the trackpad."
Some Steam Machine beta testers have already shown that games like Dota 2 and Street Fighter 4 can be played on a Steam Controller. But those early users are playing those games in "legacy mode," in which Steam Controller inputs are bound to keyboard commands and mouse movement. Legacy mode will enable Steam Controller support for much older games, like Quake and System Shock 2, for example.
The real solution will come with the roll out of Steam Controller API support in Steamworks, an update Bellinghausen said Valve plans to give developers soon — and talk in detail about at next week's Steam Dev Days. With proper controller integration, Valve believes it can make even the most complex games playable on Steam Controller.
"For a game like Dota, we're probably not going to be able to match it perfectly," Bellinghausen said. "You're not going to take [pro player Danylo 'Dendi' Ishutin] and have him play at his level with the controller, but that's not really the goal. That's true of the controller in general.
"Certainly something like Dota has a sophistication to it that is going to be challenging. We're thinking we'll get 90 percent of the way there."
While Valve is working hard to update its own games to support Steam Controller, it's not something the company sees as a replacement for other control methods, like the favored keyboard and mouse combo.
"Team Fortress 2 players who are really happy with their mouse and keyboard, we're in no way saying that's changing or going away," he said."What we're trying to do is find a way to get close to that performance, but kick back on your couch. That's the goal, to get close to that performance level."
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