Steam Input Triggers: How Can I Do More with These Things?
Before we delve into the more complex aspects of Steam Input, I thought it would be good to approach the Triggers first. The triggers don't have as many options as other features of Steam Input and the hardware is already well-known to most users so working with the Triggers first will introduce some of the software's complexity in a more familiar environment. As with all of my videos in this series, I'll walk through each aspect slowly in order to provide comprehensible yet easily understood information.
Before we jump in you need to understand that the software can read the triggers as both analog and digital inputs. While most consoles have done this for the last two decades, it usually isn't something that is handled by the user so I'd like to get everyone up to speed on this. Digital input is either pressed or not. When you press the punch button in a fighting game, the character does the same action regardless of how soft or hard you press the punch button. Analog input reads percentages of input. When you use a trigger to control a car's acceleration you can alter how fast you accelerate by changing how far you pull the trigger. With that said, let me lay down some terminology. When a trigger is fully released, as in the user isn't touching it at all, that is 0% pulled. Pressing the trigger down all of the way is 100% pulled. Everything in between ranges from 1-99%. Hopefully this will prevent any confusion regarding the topic.
And lastly, I have to mention that the Steam Controller's Triggers are different from the Dualshock 4's and both of the Xbox controllers. Whereas the latter are completely analog, the Steam Controller actually has a digital button at the end of its trigger which is both heard and felt. For Steam Controller users, any time that I mention the analog output of the trigger I am only referring to the free movement space. This does come up in the software so I figured I would get it out of the way.
So let's jump into the software. When you select either trigger from the main menu of SICS you'll be greeted with this screen. It looks like a lot but lets take it one column at a time, starting with the middle one. This column is all about binding an analog output to your trigger. Currently this only outputs an XInput Trigger -- which is a way of saying that it will look like an Xbox trigger to the game. From the drop down menu we can select for this to either be disabled -- by using None -- or either the Left or Right Trigger.
The two Trigger Range bars are for determining any deadzone on the trigger. Trigger Range Start is for setting the deadzone at the lower percentage of the trigger while Trigger Range End is for the higher percentage. If you visualize both of these bars overlapping then everything between the two dots would be the percentages of your trigger that actually sends input to the game. Using a mouse, you can hover over the dot to see the exact value set by the bar. While Steam uses values zero to one for these settings, I prefer to think in zero to 100% as I find it easier to visualize. (And honestly, while zero to one makes more sense in programming, zero to 100% makes more sense for most people and Valve should multiply the tooltip values by 100). Anyways, by default anything less than 3.1% pulled doesn't send any input and any input that is 97.7% or greater will send a full 100%.
The final option for analog output is the Trigger Response Curve, found in the third column. This alters the ratio between the percentage pulled to the output percentage. Linear, the default, is a 1:1 ratio. This means that when you pull the trigger 35% of the way, the game will see a 35% output. Aggressive sets a higher ratio, the game will always see a higher value than what you have pulled. Relaxed, Wide, and Extra Wide all have varying values of lower ratios where the game will see a lower percentage than what is actually pulled. When choosing a curve, keep in mind that Linear is the only, well, linear "curve." Aggressive, Relaxed, and both Wide curves are all exponential curves which means that the difference between actual percentage pulled and what the game sees will be smaller at the ends (0% and 100%) and greater in the middle. I mentioned this earlier, but for the Steam Controller users, something to keep in mind while tweaking these settings is that the Full Pull is not part of the analog output. It only consists of the movement of the Soft Pull.
Analog Input has only one use: to use analog controls in games that support XInput. Most commonly this will mean that it is only used in games with vehicles that already have native Xbox Controller support since it will allow for gradual acceleration, braking, banking, etc. If a game doesn't have native Xbox Controller Support than this option will do absolutely nothing. Furthermore, most games with native Xbox Controller Support treat the triggers as digital buttons anyways -- such as putting shoot or crouch on them -- so using Analog Output actually inhibits your ability to customize your triggers.
Next up is the digital aspect of the triggers. This uses just the left column of options: Full Pull, Soft Pull, Soft Pull Trigger Style, and Soft Pull Point. The Full Pull and Soft Pull Actions are your bindings for the Trigger. When you select either one of these you will be shown the usual binding screen of the mouse, keyboard, and Xbox controller. The difference between these two are how they are activated. Rememeber how the Steam Controller has a digital button press at the end of the trigger? That's the Full Pull. The Soft Pull is all of the free space, or the analog input, of the trigger. Now, this works with the Dualshock and Xbox controllers as well, substituting the physical button for simply achieving 100% pulled. Surprisingly, this works very well especially after adjusting this next setting.
The Soft Pull Point sets a minimum threshold for activating the Soft Pull Binding. By default this sits at 30.5% so you’ll need to pull the trigger 30.5%, or about a third of the way, before the Soft Pull Binding will activate. If you feel like you are having to pull farther than expected to initiate the Soft Pull then reduce this value. Likewise, if the Soft Pull feels too sensitive then increase it. So to better understand the Soft and Full pull, I'll use the default Soft Pull Point value of 30.5% to explain. With the default values, when you pull your trigger from 0 - 30.4% nothing will happen. Any value from 30.5-99.9 will activate the Soft Pull and when you pull it 100% (or press the button on the Steam Controller) it will activate the Full Pull.
Now you may have noticed that in order to get to the Full Pull, you will have to activate the Soft Pull, which sounds like it could be a detriment in many situations. This is where the Soft Pull Trigger Style comes into play. This is the most powerful setting for the triggers, as it has the ability to make and break configs. It not only has great influence over the feel of your trigger settings, but these styles can be difficult to understand. Now Valve has done a fantastic job of technically explaining these settings but the paragraphs of information is more likely to scare away casual users than inform them. To state it simply: this setting determines how and if the Soft Pull Binding activates. That's it. And regardless of which Style you select, the Full Pull Binding will always activate when you pull your trigger 100%. With that explained, lets get into each individual style.
We will start with the most basic one, the Simple Threshold. The Soft Pull binding will activated and deactivate based on the Soft Pull Point. It won't activate until it passes it and it will remain activated until it drops below the Soft Pull Point. This is a basic, no-frills style that requires the least amount of mental acrobatics to use while in game. When you pull a little bit you will get your Soft Pull Binding and when you fully press the trigger you will get your Full Pull Binding. While this has the benefit of being easy to understand it has the disadvantage of always activating the Soft Pull before the Full Pull. This makes it best used when the Full Pull is a secondary function of the Soft Pull. Some good applications of this style are pulling up your sniper scope on Soft Pull and zooming in further on the Full Pull. Or putting your car's acceleration on the Soft Pull and putting the turbo boost on the Full Pull. This style excels in situations where the Full Pull binding can only be used after the Soft Pull has been activated.
Next up is the Hair Trigger and it functions similar to its namesake. The Soft Pull binding will activate after passing the Soft Pull Point but will deactivate as soon as the trigger has been released by the slightest amount. This is great when you need to quickly activate the Soft Pull repeatedly. A good use of this is for semi-automatic weapons with the Soft Pull being bound to Shoot. This will enable you to fire the weapon quickly without moving your trigger finger much. It also works well for any situation that requires quick, consecutive button presses such as quick time events or clicker games. Full Pull for this style is circumstantial but I would usually advise against it.
Just like I stated earlier, the drawback of both of these styles is that the Soft Pull must be activated in order to activate the Full Pull. So these next two styles exist for users who want more control over their triggers.
Hip Fire gets its name from modern FPS games that have both aiming with sights and well, hip firing. Like Simple Threshold, the Soft Pull will activate after the Soft Pull Point and will deactivate when the trigger has been released past the Soft Pull Point. The difference is that the activation isn't instant. Instead, there is an activation window that determines if the Soft Pull binding is activated or skipped. For example, if the window were .5 seconds then the user would have to press the Full Pull button within .5 seconds of crossing the Soft Pull Point in order to skip the Soft Pull activation. Stated simply, if you pull the trigger from fully released to fully pulled quickly, then it will skip over the Soft Pull binding and go straight to the Full Pull binding. The length of this window is determined by the style. Hip Fire Aggressive gives the shortest window for activation while Hip Fire Relaxed gives the largest window. Shorter windows provide more responsive soft pulls but could result in accidental soft pull activations. Larger windows are more forgiving when wanting to skip the soft pull but can seem a bit delayed. This style is best used when you have two actions that can be used together but don't have to be. The obvious example is putting aim down sights on the Soft Pull and shoot weapon on Full Pull. You can delay your trigger pull a bit to aim and then press the full pull to fire your weapon or you could do a quick pull and fire without aiming. Another use would be for 2D platformers with a run and a jump button. Soft Pull for running and Full Pull for jump. This would allow the user to individually run or jump but a running jump would be a natural extension of pulling the trigger completely while running.
The final style is Hip Fire Exclusive. This functions quite similar to the other Hip Fire styles except that once a binding has been activated the other cannot be activated until the trigger has been completely released. This is best used when two actions are completely independent of each other and no scenario would see them used in tandem. I like to use this for crouch on Soft Pull and jump on Full Pull. I can activate the Soft Pull and even if I tense up and accidentally press the Full Pull the jump won't activate. Unfortunately there aren't any additional timing window styles for Exclusive. It feels close to Hip Fire Normal's window length though.
And that is all of the settings. It is still quite a bit to absorb but I hope I've increased this area’s approachability. As with my last video, I’m going to end this with some tips to help you get started while avoiding common mistakes.
First, the analog and digital aspects aren't exclusive. You could put a binding on all three parts of the trigger -- though I'm sure the result would be more chaotic than helpful. However, we can use this to create smarter bindings. I mentioned in the Simple Threshold section that, for a racing game, you could put acceleration on Soft Pull and turbo on Full Pull. While it does work, it provides a digital acceleration which doesn’t work in racing sims. Instead, if the game supports Xbox Controllers, you could put Right Trigger on the Analog Output and turbo on the Full Pull. This would give the same result but you would get analog acceleration out of it.
While this can be used for good, it also creates issues. A common problem I've seen is that users will put bindings on the Soft and Full Pulls but when they play their game the trigger is doing something completely different. Many times this is because the Analog Output is bound to a trigger as well. This happens often for games with Xbox Controller Support if the user simply edits the default configuration -- which is usually a Gamepad Config and those have the Analog Triggers enabled. The user will bind their Soft and Full Pull and completely glance over the Analog Output menu -- I'm guilty of doing this as well so no judgment here.
Here is a tip for finding the right Hip Fire style for you. Start with Hip Fire Aggressive and try to skip the Soft Pull Binding. Do this several times. If you are consistent with your ability to skip the binding then keep it, otherwise move up to Hip Fire Normal. If you are still inconsistent then try Hip Fire Relaxed -- which should definitely be good for you. As you get better acquainted with the Hip Fire style you'll be able to be more consistent with smaller windows and can continue to adjust your config as you see fit.
So there is everything you need to know regarding Steam Input's Trigger Settings. They are a versatile feature and the ability to bind two actions to a single trigger has completely spoiled me. Seriously, I gave up on the original Destiny on PS4 after the hundredth time of halfway pulling the right trigger to aim and accidentally firing my weapon instead. So while it isn’t as natural to put two actions on a trigger -- especially after decades of only having one action per trigger -- experiment a little and see what comes of it. Once you get used to configuring the triggers and using them in games, you’ll quickly find yourself wondering how you ever played any other way.