Valve’s Steam Controller isn’t just designed for new games. Unlike other controllers, it’s designed to be backwards-compatible with as many games as possible — even ones designed for keyboard and mouse controls. To make the controller work with a game, you may need to tweak is controller profile.
The Steam Controller works on Windows, Mac, Linux, and Valve’s own Steam OS, so this is useful on any gaming computer running Steam. Valve is trying to offer an alternative to the Xbox controllers so many PC gamers opt for.
Launch Big Picture Mode
Connect a Steam Controller with Steam in desktop mode and you’ll be told to enter BIg Picture Mode to make the controller work as well as possible. Click the controller icon at the top-right corner of your Steam window to enter big picture mode.
You can also just press the “Steam” button on the center of your controller to launch big picture mode.
Choose a Configuration to Start With
Each game in Steam has its own controller profile. When you launch a game, Steam will use the settings you’ve configured for that game. You don’t have to manually remap the controller’s buttons systemwide each time you want to play a new game.
Navigate to the game you want to play in your Library. If you’ve selected a game that wasn’t designed for the Steam Controller, you’ll see a yellow warning banner saying “Controller Configuration Required” on that game’s page. This only appears if you’re using the controller, not if you’re navigating Big Picture Mode with a keyboard and mouse.
Launch the game and you’ll be prompted to select a configuration template. If you’re lucky, this is the easy part.
If the game has a “Recommended” configuration, you’ll probably want to look in that category and choose that one. If you don’t want to mess with button mapping yourself, you can also try the “Community” category and choose a button mapping scheme another Steam user has created.
Valve wants to simplify this process, and you’re encouraged to share your button mapping profile publically. Over time, the most popular, approved controller profiles will come to the top, and this shouldn’t be quite as necessary.
If the game doesn’t have any recommended or community-created controller profiles, you’ll need to choose the “Templates” category and select either “Gamepad with Precision Camera/Aim”, “Gamepad”, or “Keyboard (WASD) and Mouse”. The first is ideal if the game was designed for a gamepad but also supports a mouse, the second is ideal if a game already has support for Xbox 360 controllers or another type of gamepad, and the last is designed for games which were only developed with keyboard and mouse controls in mind.
If you’re not sure which to choose, just pick your best guess. You can change it later.
Modify Your Controller Profile
You can modify your controller profile afterwards. To do this while the game is running, press the “Steam” button at the center of the controller and select “Configure Controller” in the on-screen menu that appears. To do this while the game isn’t running, navigate to the game’s page in your library, select “Manage Game”, and then select “Configure Controller”.
Either way you launch the controller configuration tool, the same interface will appear. If you’re not happy with the template you chose earlier, press the blue “X” button on the controller from here to browse available configuration templates and select a new one.
To start modifying the selected template, select one of the items on the screen with the controller and press the green “A” button to start customizing it.
You’ll be able to configure a wide variety of settings — everything from mapping buttons on the controller to specific keys on the keyboard and mouse buttons to choosing the level of haptic feedback. For the touchpads and joystick, you can choose whether they should function as a directional pad, button pad, mouse, joystick, trackball, touch menu, or something else. Triggers can be customized in a variety of ways — you can choose different actions for soft and hard pulls, customize sensitivity, and choose any number of other settings.
Explore the interface and configure the controller to your liking. Remember, you can do this while the game is running in the background and leave the interface to test your new settings before customizing them again.
When you’re done, press the red “B” button to leave this interface or press the yellow “Y” button to save your new profile. You can save it as a private profile accessible only to you, or make it publically available to the larger Steam community.
The sheer amount of options available for configuring your Steam controller can be daunting. Many games should play okay with one of the default templates, however. And, as more game developers and gamers get their hands on the Steam controller, Steam should eventually fill up with recommended profiles for a larger number of games. This will make it easier to start playing without tweaking the Steam controller to work well with a specific game. But those tweaks will always be there for you to use.