Steam Link/Controller – The Couch MMO Solution?

Oh, hello there! It’s been a while! No, I’m not dead or lost, just inundated with work and parenting (like many of you!). That said, there’s always time for a game or two, right?

Which brings me to this point: It’s hard to play MMOs with little kids in the house! These days, I find that my time is far more precious than ever before. During the day, I teach third grade, plan and grade after dismissal, come home for an hour or two of daddy time, another hour of husband time, and then you can stick a fork in me because I’m done. Maybe somewhere in there, I squeak in a half an hour or so of game time, but not every day. And friends, the whole late night gaming thing — you know, Game By Night — just doesn’t work as well as it used to.

Enter the Steam Link and Steam Controller. I convinced my wife that the Link was a worthy birthday present at the beginning of the month and Fedex tells me it should arrive tomorrow. The controller is backordered, so it looks like December may be more likely for that end of things.  Amazon actually sold it to me “in stock” and notified me today that it was sold out, which was a bummer but so is life. I’m just happy that my library of Steam games will finally be available! More importantly, I’m excited to be able to play MMOs from the couch. RPGF-Oct31-4The Steam Controller has the neat ability to emulate a mouse and keyboard. The track pad can be customized to act like a trackball or touch pad with a mass of different customization options. The other buttons can be programmed to act as stand ins for key strokes. Using mode switching, you can hold one button and assign the rest a whole second set of commands. It’s imperfect but certainly workable for many games. I do worry that the action bar heavy may prove to be a bit much, but couch MMOing is a viable option now!

Obviously, there are drawbacks. I’m not convinced of the Steam Controller’s keyboard interface for text chat. It looks workable but also more than a little confusing. There’s also the obvious issue of having too few buttons, so game choice is more limited. Initially, I thought MMOs like World of Warcraft would be totally off limits, but it seems someone has developed a controller addon to fix that problem. With mode switching, there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 buttons that can be programmed. When you factor in basics like clicking, jumping, and navigating the interface, it’s probably closer to 15. Still, with some trade-offs, or a willingness to simply use the mouse to click on interface panels, that’s enough for many, many MMOS!

I can’t wait to try this out. I have visions of Wildstar or SWTOR on my TV. If it all works out, I’ll be back in the MMO world full bore by Christmas! We’ll see what game but, at this point, I’m thinking Wildstar!

PS: If you haven’t heard, I write for MMORPG.com now. You can check out my weekly RPG column here.

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