If you’ve happened to play a video game on the PC anytime in the last ten years, there’s a pretty good chance that you were doing so on the massively popular Steam platform, created by Valve as a gaming library and community base. Last year, Valve finally announced the release of their long-awaited Steam Controller, a state-of-the-art trackpad-based controller that had been in the works for years. Now, the Valve team is looking towards their community of gamers to help enhance this controller with 3D design and 3D printing technology.
After doing a bit of research on Valve’s involvement with emerging technologies like 3D printing, I’ve discovered that the gaming company has been openly discussing the benefits of 3D printing since the 2014 Games Developer Conference. The shift of their focus towards 3D printing seems to have taken place around the same time the Steam Controller hardware was being designed and prototyped, which to me at least, hardly seems like a coincidence.
Looking for a community-based approach to creating new accessories and redesigning components for their gamepad controller, Valve has released the CAD files for the Steam Controller under a Creative Commons license, allowing anyone to freely download, modify, and accessorize the base controller model. Whether you want to bring back a retro feel to the controller for older style games, enhance its efficiency for new titles, or even craft a device for the differently abled, the official design files are fully compatible with both 3D modeling software and printers. The files will include every externally visible part that makes up the Steam Controller, giving gamers and Makers full design power over the way their controller both looks and functions.
“The archive contains several eDrawings viewer files: from Creo Express and native Modeling, to neutral exchange and 3D print files – for compatibility with a wide variety of your design tools,” says Pierre-Loup A. Griffais, a writer for the Steam Community blog.
To get this innovative community-based project going, Valve has already released a couple of unique, alternate designs for the controller’s Battery Door. The newly released variants will allow you to stow your USB wireless receiver within the controller, which will help to extend both the life and utility of the Steam Controller, while also getting the community excited and involved in this new project.
Now, it is possible to sell your design ideas with the Steam community, but Valve is asking that all users contact them for approval before attempting to do so. For those who don’t yet own the Steam Controller, it can be purchased from the Steam storefront for $50. The Steam platform has always been known for their well-integrated community of gamers, and are proving their loyalty by giving their users the tools to create and enhance the Steam Controller in whatever way they see fit. One wonders what sort of community work might be implemented in the soon-to-be-available HTC Vive, made in partnership with Valve.