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Steamworks Documentation
Valve Steam Controller

Overview

This is the device most commonly known as the "Steam Controller."
Since many devices can now be used with the Steam Controller Configurator, this documentation refers to this specific hardware device with the term "Valve Steam Controller" (VSC for short) to avoid any ambiguity.

Steam Controller

The VSC is distinguished from standard XInput devices in several ways:

  • Two haptic touchpads
  • Two digital "grip" paddles on the back
  • An internal gyroscope
  • One analog joystick instead of two
  • Haptic pulses instead of traditional "rumble"

What follows is a detailed breakdown of the VSC's physical inputs.

Face buttons

Digital
The A, B, X, and Y buttons follow the physical layout and coloring of the XInput standard seen in devices like the XBox 360 controller.

steam_controller_face.png

Joystick

Analog, 2 axes (+ digital "click")

The analog joystick is essentially identical to a traditional controller's, including digital "click the stick" functionality. The only difference is the VSC only has one.

steam_controller_joystick.png

Back and Start

Digital
The Back and Start buttons are on either side of the Steam "home" button. Unlike the Steam button, they are not reserved by the system and can be freely used by games & applications.

steam_controller_back_start.png

Steam "home" button

Reserved

The central Steam "home" button is reserved by the system and can't be used by games & applications. Pressing this button during a game will invoke the Steam Overlay.

steam_controller_home.png
NOTE: Invoking the steam overlay will not pause your game! It is up to you to detect the overlay and pause your game yourself.

You can detect the overlay by calling ISteamUtils::IsOverlayEnabled

Shoulder buttons

Digital
The shoulder buttons are pretty standard.

steam_controller_shoulder_buttons.png

Shoulder triggers

Digital
The analog triggers on the VSC have a distinct digital "click" at the end of the normal analog range distinguishing a "full pull" from a "soft pull", similar to the Nintendo GameCube controller's ZL and ZR triggers.

steam_controller_triggers.png

Haptic Touchpads

Analog, 1 axis (+ digital "full pull")
The haptic touchpads are perhaps the defining feature of the VSC, as well as the most versatile physical inputs on the device. They feature a high resolution touch surface with programmable haptic feedback, as well as digital click functionality on each. These can be used to generate direct analog motion with many different user settings, but they can also be made to emulate other devices, such as mice, joysticks, trackballs, etc. Some of their most powerful features come from using them in concert with the Steam Overlay to create on-screen radial menus and touch menus (see Input Source Modes). The left touchpad features an embossed D-pad shape, but is otherwise entirely identical to the right touchpad in terms of functionality.

steam_controller_touchpads.png

Gyro

Analog, 3 axes
Last but not least, the VSC features an internal gyroscope for motion sensing. The gyro is fully able to detect all three axes of motion (pitch, yaw, and roll), and has been put to great use as an aim device in first-person shooters, among other applications.

steam_controller_gyro.png