What games will be playable on the Steam Box?

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The Steam Box is Valve's big hardware shake up this year. Sure it has some possible VR goggles in the works too and there's always that wearable computing it hinted at last year, but ultimately, the Steam Box is the big get. We'll be seeing a load of different versions over the next few days at CES, with different hardware, cases, styles and certainly price tags, but they're all offering the same basic thing: the functionality of a PC, with the convenience of a home console.

However what is pretty different about the Steam Box is its controller. It's not a mouse, it's not a keyboard, or a touch screen, or even a (traditional) controller: it's a mix of them all, which means – theoretically at least – it should be good at playing just about any game possible.

In the past consoles have always excelled at things like racers, beat 'em ups and third person RPGs, but have struggled with the likes of RTS titles and anything else that has you controlling the action with precision from a distance.

I'd argue here that FPS games aren't that suited to consoles either, because a keyboard and mouse will trounce a controller any day, but the success of games like CoD on the Xbox and PlayStation seems to prove me wrong.

So can the Steam Box and its shiny, touchpad-thumbstick controller play just about anything? That's what we're going to look at today as we scour the reports of others who have had some time with the controller, to see what games and perhaps more importantly genres, you'll be able to play on your new Steam Box, should you decide to buy one.

Surprisingly, RTS games seem to work pretty well – in some senses comparably to a standard mouse and keyboard. While normally you might need to move to the edge of the map to move the screen, here you can have one trackpad for moving the mouse and the other for moving the screen/camera. This makes it fast and intuitive, though it does apparently get a bit weird using your left hand to left click.

That said, you aren't going to be internationally competitive with this system. There's no Starcraft pro that is going to ditch his mouse and keyboard for a Steam Box controller because it gives him better micro-management – at least for now – there just aren't enough buttons for all the necessary hotkeys.

Sensitivity is certainly comparable to a relaxed gamer's mouse control though, so there's some potential for future tweaking. The bottom line too, is that it's playable, which is a step up from every RTS on every other console I've played in the last decade.

What about something a little less grand? How about a MOBA like DotA 2?

Again, it plays well enough, but as this Youtube reviewer says it's clunky enough to lose a lot of the fun. There's also no way you're killing other players that are using a mouse/keyboard set up. Without enough quick touch hotkeys, there's just no way to play properly or even remotely be competitive. There's also not quite enough accuracy to last hit minions, or deny.

You can remap controls, which is something that everyone who has tried this has found necessary to make it at all playable, but even with some big changes, it just doesn't seem nuanced enough.

This is obviously a big shame since DotA 2 is a Valve product, but it might just be that the genre isn't suited to a controller set up, no matter how sensitive or touch pad enabled. While ironically the mouse has always been the thing that you missed when trying to play games with a controller in the past, here it's the keyboard, with its many, many simple inputs within reach that you find yourself pining for.

With that in mind, it's no surprise that Typing of the Dead, isn't a game that works well on the Steam Controller at all. It's playable funnily enough, because the game seems to pause every time the player pulls up the typing wheel, but without that, there would be no way to survive more than a second or too.

So far then, the Steam Controller seems far from revolutionary. Its functionality isn't that much improved over a traditional controller and it's still not quite up to scratch when compared to a keyboard and mouse

But what about something that consoles have been fine (depending on your point of view) at, like FPS games?

This guy takes a look at Metro Last Light and he finds it works pretty well. It probably won't replace a mouse and keyboard any time soon, but it's a lot more sensitive and accurate than a traditional controller, which means you can drop the auto-aim that comes pre-packaged with a lot of console shooters.

If anyone has tried early release hardware before, you'll understand when I say that most Steam Controller enabled games require some sort of configuration. Usually that's as simple as a remapping of the keys, but sensitivity tweaks might also be required.

So the Steam Controller as it stands, isn't ideal and it isn't going to suddenly give you an edge in console shooters, but it is making it possible to play games that previously were a complete chore on a console – now you can at least enjoy them.

The big thing as well which everyone is noting, is that there's a learning curve with the Steam Controller. It's very different from controllers you've used in the past, so even if it turned out to be the best method of input for a certain genre of game, it's going to take a while before we see someone using it to its full potential.

What games would you guys like to try the Steam controller work with?

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Steam Machines are at the top of my to do list this year. I'm excited about the controller, especially now that all of my early worries and complaints are proving to be correct. Wait what? Yeah you read that, true. Why is that good? Because Valve listens. When I first saw the Steam controller I said it needed more buttons. The reason is because looks at how many the keyboard has, and hotkeys are THE reason keyboard setups are preferred for PC games. Current controllers just don't have enough, that's why omnibuttons like those from Gears of War and Uncharted are becoming so common, also why they're becoming such a problem. Games are becoming more and more complex, but we aren't pairing these games with controllers which compliment this increased complexity. I can't even count how many times I died in Uncharted because I rolled when I wanted to reload or reloaded when I wanted to roll. On the subject of controls, I'm getting tired of PC players dogging on FPS on console. I prefer it, specifically for the auto aim. I don't care if there are players so good they might as well be computers playing, good for them. I"m a casual core gamer. I used to like playing games on line, but FPS games got crazy a few years ago. Most of the time you're dead before you even spawn. Console FPS helped balance this crap with snap aiming (when you hold scope/aim you snap to the nearest target) and that's awesome. If you want something to be picked up as a sport (eSports) it has to be something anyone can enjoy but only a few can excel. Snap aiming enables casual players to play and have fun, not just be cannon fodder to a few elite players, but it also can be disabled by super players who don't want it. FPS online gaming on the PC is all but dead to me, it's just a mash of insta-death. Though CoD suffers this BAD now regardless of platform, other console FPS games are still really on the ball. In the end though I don't think the mouse/keyboard will ever be replaced entirely. At least not for a LONG time when the method of interaction changes entirely. Valve is smart though by enabling both the controller AND mouse/keyboard on the system. They just need to add more buttons to the controller and get some wireless mouse/keyboard combos available for the Steam Machine. The biggest hurdle for Valve though will be getting everything on Steam to run on the Steam Machine.

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