Thoughts on the Steam Controller

During the summer sale on Steam, Valve decided to put their hardware offerings on discount, and I’ve thought about purchasing a Steam Controller for a while now. Honestly, I dislike the Xbox controller very much, and always have. I know that is probably the most commonly used controller for PC gaming, but my distaste for it meant that I ended up buying a Logitech controller that was sort of a hybrid of an Xbox and Playstation controller. It has the same A,B,X,Y button layout as an Xbox controller, but instead of the skewed sticks, they are in-line like the PS setup. It was a fine controller and still works, but it is wired and the D-pad is shit. I found that I didn’t use it all that often, but some games simply feel better with a controller rather than keyboard/mouse.

I realize that you are able to use Playstation controllers on PC, but the last time I tried that you had to keep it wired, and I assume that is still the case so it’s not optimal. The Steam Controller is made for PC gaming, and made for Steam specifically (where most of my game collection is found outside of consoles) so I figured it was a good investment, and for $35 (on sale) it’s cheaper than buying most of the other AAA controllers on the market.

The controller finally arrived the other night, and I finally got around to giving it a whirl. It came packed in a nice box that you can see above, and here’s what comes inside:

I swear at some point I read that you are required to have the Steam Link to use the controller, but that isn’t the case. The Steam link is similar to an Nvidia Shield or other streaming device that just puts the display from your computer onto a TV in another room. Great concept, but not needed for me, so I just got the controller. It is battery powered and comes with a USB dongle that enables wireless usability. Installing the batteries was easy enough, and I assume if you use rechargables, you’d be able to charge them via the USB cord, but I could be wrong about that. Outside of installing the batteries, there was no other setup required, just plug in the dongle and start up steam. It will update the firmware automatically and then you’re good to go.

Big picture mode is not required though it makes navigating Steam a bit easier with the controller. Overall I like the construction of the unit and the feel of it in your hand. It feels like a great controller. In practice, it takes some getting used to.

I started off by checking out steam controller supported games in my library, and the first one I tried wouldn’t work with the unit. The second game I tried worked well, but it was a platformer and only used the one stick and buttons. The trackpads feel great, but they are hard to use in the case of FPS games. I tried one, and it didn’t feel very good to move the camera with a trackpad. Apparently you can push on the trackpad and swing the controller in various ways to help with the camera control, but I didn’t really figure that out until watching a video later on. People rave about the controller being great for any game, but I feel like it’s best saved for slower paced games or more simplistic ones. Those that require twin sticks will definitely require some practice, but I want to put in that practice because I made the investment. We’ll see how that develops over time.

My final verdict? It’s worth the sale price. It feels and looks great. Most games that you would traditionally think about using a controller for (fighting, shmup, beat-em-ups, side-scrollers, and platformers) are going to benefit. Those that use twin-stick camera and movement controls might irritate you at first, but I think once you get past the learning curve it can be great. I’d buy it if you dislike Xbox controllers and want something built for the PC.

Storage Space Upgrade Project

File this under “spur of the moment weekend projects.” 

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No lack of space here.

This weekend I’ve been pretty productive. I managed to edit and post a podcast, catch up on making the video versions of the podcast (had to make 3) and even wrote a blog post. I did some chores, and I decided to back up all of my files to my external 1 TB hard drive as well. A little bit of everything, I suppose you could say. While doing my backups, I noticed that I basically filled up the 1 TB external drive, and recently I had noticed that all of my drives in my PC were getting pretty full as well. I’ve got no shortage of hard drive bays in my case, so I had been toying with the idea of picking up another drive, just to spread my data around more evenly, and also to free up the external for only extremely important files. Previously, I had it set up so that the SSD was a boot drive only, a 500 GB Blue drive was for system images and personal files, and my 2 TB Black drive was for games. I used the external to mainly backup the personal files, but managed to fill it up with things that aren’t super important. The new drive solves this problem, so I can have everything organized just the way I want it.

I had a feeling when I bought my PS4 that the 500 GB hard drive included with the system wasn’t going to be enough space. When I first picked up the console, it seemed that I’d be able to make due with the space for a while, until I started digitally purchasing AAA titles that are 50-60 GB a piece. At that point, it was clear that I was going to need an upgrade. After doing some research, I found that there were two options that would allow me to expand my storage space for the console. Option one involved removing the hard drive from the system and replacing it with a larger capacity one. This sounds good, until you do a little more research into option 2, and price differences. Option two involves buying a HDD Data Bank from a third party company called Nyko, which then allows you to use “nearly any” 3.5 inch hard drive. Further disclaimers state that the PS4 firmware only supports hard drives up to 2 TB. The difference here, is that the internally installed hard drive in the PS4 is a laptop hard drive, whereas with the data bank you basically install a pass-through that allows a standard PC sized hard drive to be mounted externally. Both options are equally viable, though a 2 TB 3.5 inch HDD will run you considerably less money than a 2 TB laptop drive. Particularly when you get said hard drive on sale.

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Having these thoughts for some time now, it came to a head earlier today when I finally decided to start doing the research to figure out what it was going to cost me and what sort of effort it was going to take to complete the project. It was also preferable to knock out two birds with one stone. Thankfully Fry’s was running a special on Western Digital Blue hard drives, and 2 TB models were going for $64 a piece. They were supposed to also have the Nyko Data Bank in stock as well, but that ended up being procured from Gamestop instead. I was lucky to even get the hard drives, as I managed to pick up the last two they had on the shelf. When all was said and done, the hard drives cost me $128 and the data bank was $40. Not bad for space upgrades, considering a single 2 TB black would have cost me $130 by itself, and a laptop hard drive that was 2 TB was going for around $150. Sure, Neo might be coming soon, but hopefully this will be compatible, and even if it isn’t, I can always throw the hard drive in my PC for further storage — which I wouldn’t be able to do with a laptop drive.

I chronicled the upgrade via pictures, in case any of you end up wanting to do the same with your console. The prep and installation was a breeze. The worst part is having to download all of the games over again, but that will happen over time and it’s not that big of a deal. The first thing you’re going to want to do is get a flash drive and plug it into the console. There is an option under settings>system that allows you to create a backup file of your saves, trophies, settings, and captures in one step. Once that’s completed, get on your PC and plug the same flash drive in. Head to Playstation support and download the latest firmware update. Throw it on the flash drive and shut down the console. Unplug the HDMI and power cables, and get it on a flat surface.

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From there, you’re going to want to remove the case from the smaller portion of the console (when facing the console, it’s the left side). You should also unpack the data bank so that you have everything ready to go.

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This is where the hard drive is installed. Removing a small screw that holds it in place with the provided screwdriver and sliding it out of the bay is easy-peasy.

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Next, you’ll slide the adapter into the hard drive bay. This looks just like a laptop hard drive, but has a plug on the top. Once in place you’ll secure it with a screw. Then, you take the new cover piece, that includes the new 3.5″ bay, and slide into place where the original cover once stood. A small connector will fit through a slot in the cover, and you’ll connect that to the adapter that you had just installed.

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After that, sliding the 3.5″ drive into place is a snap. The power for the hard drive plugs right into the back of the console, and creates another pass-through for the system’s power cord.

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Slide the plastic cover over the front end of the data bank, and we’re done! That wasn’t so hard was it?

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Plug the power cord and HDMI back into the back of the PS4, and make sure, BEFORE you power the system on, that you first plug in the USB cord to both the console and the controller, and also plug in your flash drive with the firmware and backups. Hold the power button for 7 seconds and the system will enter safe mode.

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You will be able to select “initialize PS4” and this will install the latest firmware (system software) update. Once the Playstation has done its thing, you can then get started with restoring your settings, and downloading all of your games. The remainder of my project is just that — downloading games, and re-organizing my PC hard drives as well. This wasn’t how I was expecting to end my weekend, but it was fun nonetheless!

#E32016: Most Anticipated

I’ve made a tradition of sorts to nerding out about E3 for the past few years. In that spirit, I present to you now, my ten most anticipated games that I saw come out of E3 this year. It was near impossible to narrow down this list, and there were games that I didn’t know about that sort of snuck into this top ten. Other games I’m looking forward to I already discussed in yesterday’s podcast, and there are many other titles that I wanted to put on this list. But for now, let’s dive into the games I’m most looking forward to after E3 2016.

Oh, and yeah I know that Nintendo hasn’t even done their stream yet, but I’m not a Nintendo guy anymore, so I already know there isn’t anything I’m looking forward to out of that.

Titanfall 2

I knew about Titanfall 2 already, but after having seen the above trailer plus the multiplayer trailer, I was instantly sold. I really enjoyed the first one, which I played on my friend’s Xbox and later on my PC, so I was already fairly certain I’d go for the sequel as well. The addition of new animations, improved graphics, and a single player campaign, I think this one is going to knock it out of the park. How can you go wrong with mechs?

Horizon: Zero Dawn

Speaking of Mechs, how about Mechanized dinosaur robots? The first time I heard of this game I wasn’t as excited for it as others I know (Like Eri). After seeing this gameplay footage, I was aboard the hype train. I’m pretty sure this one is a Playstation exclusive as well, which is good news for me, but might force some people (like Eri) into buying the console after all. Regardless, this game looks ridiculous, and I can’t wait to play it!

Prey

Coming out of left field (sort of) is Prey. Apparently there was a game by this name some years ago, and I never heard of it. Then there was a sequel in the works that was canned, and now the game has been rebooted. Eri mentioned it to me prior to the announcement, but after seeing this trailer, I am so psyched to check it out. Psychological Horror and Thrillers both make me giddy, so I’ll definitely be checking this one out, but not until next year it seems.

Resident Evil 7

Speaking of Horror, one of my favorite franchises has finally revealed a sequel, and this one seems to be worthy of the title. The trailer was in first person, but I’m not sure if that’s how the game will play or not. Apparently there will be the option to play the entire game in VR mode, so I assume first person it is. This one looks super creepy, didn’t show any of the original cast members, and might be something completely original. Time will tell.

Death Stranding

Another title from one of gaming’s most recognizable names, featuring a recognizable actor from that one show we all watch. The trailer leaves us with more questions than answers, and there was clearly no gameplay, but at least we finally know what Kojima Studios has been up to. I’m looking forward to finding out more, but these sorts of teasers don’t give me the same sort of hype as the gameplay trailers do.

Mass Effect: Andromeda

Continuing with the theme of no gameplay in our trailers, comes another teaser from Bioware. We saw some artwork with the last announcement about the game, and now we’ve got some in game assets. Perhaps in the coming months we’ll see more, but I highly doubt they’re going to meet that original December 2016 release window. Still, it’s Mass Effect, so we know it’s going to be good. I can’t wait for more information!

Skyrim Special Edition

We talked about the Skyrim remaster on the podcast, and it was a known thing prior to E3 that the remaster was coming. No, we didn’t get any Elder Scrolls VI announcement. There were other bits from the universe, in the card game and more stuff for the MMO, but no TES6, alas. Before seeing the above trailer, I thought that the Skyrim remaster was sort of a crap idea, but now seeing the ridiculous difference between the two, I’m sold on the idea. It was also announced that those of you who bought Skyrim and all of the DLC (or GOTY bundles) would get the upgrade for free. It’s unclear though, in the case of someone like me who bought the game on PS3 along with all of the DLC, will get the PS4 version for free (same goes for Xbox 360/One users). This version brings mod support to the consoles, along with a bunch of graphical improvements. It’s been pointed out that you can already make Skyrim this pretty with mods and a decent PC, but once the upgrade comes along it looks like it’s easier to switch mods on and off, so that’s a plus for you too. Now I’m trying to decide if I should just buy the Legendary edition on PC prior to this release and get the upgrade that way, or wait and see about the console edition. Either way I think running through Skyrim again would be fun. It’s been a couple of years since the last time I played it.

Final Fantasy XV

I’m surprised by Final Fantasy XV. I haven’t really paid attention to the series in a long time. I’ve played most of the classic titles, though few to completion. VII was the first I actually finished. I loved IX. I recently bought that again when it was released on Steam, with the intention of finishing it this time around. I’m hyped about the FFVII Remake. But after IX, I stopped caring about Final Fantasy. I never played X, XI, XII, and when I saw XIII in action I was turned off. I also didn’t really care for XIV. However, XV has that open world feel, amazing graphics and actually looks like a really fun game. It will be interesting to see what they’ve done with the battle system, and to see how that might correlate to the FFVII Remake. Either way I plan to check this one out.

God of War

God of War is another surprise on this list. I never played a GoW game. I missed it on PS2 because I was playing MMOs. I didn’t pick it up on PS3 because I was late to the party and didn’t care. I’ve seen a few other iterations over the years and have even watched them played but never really felt like it was the title for me. This trailer sold me on this new reboot, which seems to be moving from whatever mythology used in prior titles to a more Norse oriented one. And I like that shit. That is all.

X-Wing VR 

I had to include at least one VR video, because this conference actually sold me on the concept. They’ve been talking about Occulus, Vive, and other smart-phone based VR for a while now, and I’m not typically an early adopter when it comes to these sorts of things. VR hasn’t really looked that good until very recently. Seeing the announcement for Sony’s Playstation VR (formerly Project Morpheus) has opened up the possibility of VR for me. Occulus is $600 or so, Vive is $800, and I’m sure both would require hardware upgrades. The Playstation VR is only $400, and is said to work with existing PS4 hardware, meaning it won’t be necessary to upgrade to PS4.5/Neo. Seeing the above video along with several others during the presentation really sold me on the idea. I’m sure that in the future, better tech will come along and will be less money, and it will be more affordable to get the hardware for PC, but I think now I’m heading in the direction of VR on the console.

What games were you most excited about this E3?

PC Upgrade #1982

It’s been a while since I’ve done a hardware post, and as most of you know I’m not really a keep up with the Joneses kind of guy. I try not to skimp on PC components, but I also recognize a good deal when I see one, even if it is on something that some might consider mid-range. I’m okay with not having the best thing money can buy, because it will be on sale sooner or later. And sometimes, you hit gold on something that fits your budget. I feel like that is the case with my most recent upgrade.

The Corsair Strafe Keyboard

I was coming home from visiting a friend last night, and there’s a Fry’s Electronics along the route I was driving, so I thought I’d just pop in to answer some questions that have been floating around in my head for a while. I told myself I was just going to check out their selection of monitors because I have been thinking about getting one. I’m running on an LCD TV at the moment, so it doesn’t have the best refresh rate, nor can it display anything more than 1920×1080 resolution. I was toying with an upgrade to at least a 2k monitor with a decent refresh rate, and relegating the trusty old 32″ to PS4 duty (which it’s perfect for). That would allow me to stream things in the background off the PS4 and dedicate my PC to gaming or whatever other projects I’m working on. I really want that two screen experience. But I digress. That purchase was not made on this day.

I looked at all kinds of goodies. I found some really cool custom fighting game controllers for the PS4, and other various accessories that I might invest in at some point. I have a good idea now of what I’ll probably end up spending on a new monitor when the time comes. I checked out Podcast microphones (they did have the Blue Yeti in stock!), hard drives I could potentially use to expand upon my PS4’s capacity, even tablets. I think I’m leaning more towards a new monitor over a tablet, though either solution would give me the two screen experience. Finally, I found myself looking at mechanical keyboards.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s no real reason for this upgrade, but man am I glad I made the decision to go for it. My Corsair Raptor K30 was a fine keyboard, and has handled 2+ years of blogging, school work, and gaming use. But it was showing signs of wear, and one of the support legs in the back had broken so it would wobble at times and that was rather annoying. To be fair I guess it was time to buy a new one, but my cheap as could justify keeping it for a while still. Somewhere along the line though I decided that I wanted to upgrade to a mechanical keyboard, but when I was looking at the prices of the K70s and comparable models, I was swallowing hard at the price tags. There was a rather neat Logitech (G910 I think it was?) that had a dock for your smart phone, and a mobile app that integrated with the keyboard to work similarly to other keyboards with built in screens, providing in-game data. It was also almost $200 and for a keyboard that feels rather steep.

So I went with the Corsair STRAFE (non-RGB). I’m fond of the company, having had one of their keyboards prior to this one, along with using a Corsair mouse and water cooler. It was half the price of some of the higher end models, but at $100 I can’t complain one bit. It has Cherry MX Red keys, individual per key lighting, some animations/effects for the keys, and programmable keys and lighting schemes. It’s a plastic shell, unlike the K70 which is aluminum, so that’s part of where the reduced cost comes in. It also lacks a wrist wrest, and dedicated media keys. That is the only aspect that I miss from my old keyboard, but having to hold the FN key and then hit a function key to control the media isn’t that big of a deal. It’s less convienient sure, but it’s not a huge deal. The keys are smooth plastic, but the space bar is textured. Optional keys were provided for FPS and MOBA set ups. Since both use most of the same keys, I used all that were provided, so Q-R and A-F are all grey faced now, along with being curved directionally apropriate. I played a couple of Rogue-likes earlier and got a feel for playing a WASD focused game, and it felt fine. I’m planning on playing a game of League to see how it feels after finishing up this post, but I wanted to see how typing on it felt, and I have to say that I rather like it. I feel like I can type a bit faster when I get on a roll, but I’m not quite used to the key placement and touch that goes along with a mechanical keyboard. It’s getting easier the further I get into this post, but I can tell that after a month of using this I’m going to be typing 100 WPM. Maybe not, but it still feels that way!

So yeah, if you think spending $150-200 on a keyboard feels silly, I humbly recommend the Corsair Strafe. It’s a budget priced ($100) well constructed gaming keyboard that has already exceeded my expectations.

My Gaming Space

I’m not sure who started this up as a writing prompt, but I know earlier in the month I saw quite a few people write about their personal gaming spaces, and thought I’d use this to get through the tail end of the month. So here’s what my desk area looks like:

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In this picture you’ll see:

A couple of decent upgrades happened between my initial build and now.  I ended up taking out one of the 500 GB hard drives and replacing it with a 2 TB. The video card was also upgraded a bit from the 750ti to the 770 GTX, which gave a noticeable performance boost. I will probably upgrade this again in the future, especially if I get a new display. I wouldn’t mind trying 2k resolutions. I do enjoy having the ability to swap between my console and computer on the fly, but I really want to get a second monitor for a number of applications, and intend to get on that sometime in the near future.

So there you have it, my humble setup.


There’s no daily run today, as I went on a trip out of town for the weekend to see family. My sister is moving out of state and I wanted to see her one last time before that happened. I have scheduled this post and the last of the month ahead of time, and there’s no way to do that for those dailies. I had originally planned to only do them for the entirety of Blaugust, but I think I might try and keep it going into the future. I like doing it, and so I’m going to continue as long as that stays the case. Expect a new run on Tuesday most likely.