Tommy Refenes is the man behind Super Meat Boy’s spot on controls. He “spent two months on the controls for SMB to get them perfect.” The man knows his way around a controller. Valve brought him in to test their recently announced Steam controller during its early prototype stage.
He breaks down the controller’s current pros and cons. In short, he’s a fan but not as much as the 360 gamepad, though for reasons of “familiarity” not “functionality.”
Super Meat Boy’s a game that requires a pitch perfect controller. It can’t be too sensitive nor unintuitive else you will die. Often. At first Refenes found the Steam controller was not grand, the controllers two track pads were an issue. “You could make Meat Boy move right by pressing on the pad, but he would also move when my thumb rested on the pad. This naturally didn’t happen often, but did happen enough to be noticeable.”
This is where one of the controller’s other features came to the rescue. “Once I pointed this out one of the engineers he went back to his desk and updated the firmware to only react on press. Once this happened the controller felt like a controller. Pressing directional buttons made sense and I felt a greater sense of control.” The controller can be easily configured to react to different inputs.
The Steam community are able to share their own layouts, so soon the best way to control a game will be hit on, and rise to the top of the pile.
After the update to the controller, Refenes “was able to play Meat Boy the way Meat Boy can be played on an advanced level (and I’m rusty at it).”
He had a shot at Spelunky, too. A game which requires multiple face buttons and extreme precision. It worked well.
Refenes ends his report saying “If you were to ask me if I would play games with the Steam Controller…I would say yes. If you were to ask me to choose between Steam Controller and a 360 controller, I would choose 360.” Although he qualifies that saying “it’s more about the comfort of familiarity over functionality. I would choose a 360 controller because I have several thousand hours experience using it, however if tomorrow all game controllers were wiped off the earth and the only option was the Steam Controller, I don’t think this would be a bad thing.”
Steam’s controller has a mountain to overcome when it comes to changing up the familiar – the lack of face buttons and joysticks will be a tad bizarre at first – but it does work. Still, this is a report of the controller being used with platformers. Valve claim the controller can be used to command games that were never meant for gamepads. I want to see how it works with an RTS.