Stratus XL LS Glitches

I'm a games developer excited for the new Apple TV.  In anticipation for the Nimbus, went ahead and got the Stratus XL to start preparing my game for a Steelseries MFi controller.

Well the Stratus XL is great-- except for one MAJOR flaw.  The Left Stick (LS) glitches randomly.  I first noticed this in my builds on iOS, then trying it on Shadowgun on iOS, then finally watching the inputs on Joystick Show ( https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/joystic … 6877?mt=12 ) on Mac OS X.  For example, in Shadowgun, you can be pressing perfectly forward and suddenly you start running BACKWARDS.  Watching it on Joystick Show, the analogue values seem to randomly fire or even completely flip and go fully on, independently!

I downloaded Stratus XL firmware update software from Steelseries's website (under Legacy software) and it says to connect the Stratus XL via USB... but I cannot find a USB port on the thing!  I'm assuming this is for the Windows / Android version only, though they don't bother to say it-- but if that's true, then why would they make updater software for Mac?!  Did they depreciate shipping a prior version of Stratus XL that had a USB port?  Their Steelseries 'Engine 3' software requires plugging in the devices apparently, and they only list support for the Stratus XL Windows / Android version, not the Mac / iOS version.  WTF.

Anyway, in reading the review on this site, it sounds like Kevin had experienced a similar glitch, but on the trigger.  The triggers are fine for me-- it's the LS.  I tried turning off Wi-Fi, going into Airplane mode even thinking maybe it's interference... nothing seems to help.

Since Apple has endorsed the Nimbus by Steelseries for the forthcoming Apple TV (which is what I'm aiming for), I really hope they don't have any super-obvious glitches in the firmware of that!  This glitch is so serious it's made the gamepad worthless-- and now knowing other people will likely experience similar glitches, I can't trust Steelseries to deliver a gamepad viable to design for!

And because Apple (stupidly, infuriatingly) has yet to just make their own official Mac/iOS/tvOS universal gamepad (even if it were optional), I cannot count on anyone having a gamepad for tvOS that will work at all... until we finally get our hands on the Nimbus and see if it passes the "don't screw up your own basic functionality" test.  If this is a headache for a developer, how can any developer count on this being a good experience for general gaming customers?  We can't.  Which is why we need a standard universal Apple controller that looks exactly like the PS4 (to include a touch pad).  The Stratus XL could have been the next best thing, but this glitch has negated its entire existence.  Fingers crossed for the Nimbus...

Steelseries, you had one job.

Any advice for any of this?  Any MFi alternatives to recommend for game designers needing analogue sticks?

—Xander
http://www.xanderdavis.com

Last edited by XanderDavis (Sep 18 3:28 PM)

PS: after reading the Steelseries CEO interview on VentureBeat and learning Apple and Steelseries developed the Nimbus together, that's very encouraging that the Nimbus might end up finally giving us an MFi gold standard after all.  We can only wait and see...

http://venturebeat.com/2015/09/11/steel … -apple-tv/

Last edited by XanderDavis (Sep 18 3:55 PM)

Hey, welcome to the site!

Seems like quality control on the Stratus XL is definitely not up to par. The analog sticks were entirely non-responsive on my first unit, SteelSeries then shipped me a review unit that developed a sticky A button after a month. Then I bought a replacement unit that exhibits a similar analog "twitch", but only when I go to the bottom-right diagonal.

All my units have extremely oversensitive triggers. After opening up one of them, it's obviously a poor design - the triggers are held in place by a single weak spring that bends in a semi-circle.

However, I am very much optimistic about the Nimbus. As bad as the Stratus XL was in some ways, it was also far better than the first Stratus. If they make as big an improvement over the Stratus XL as they did over the first Stratus, the Nimbus is going to be great.

But anyways, the only bluetooth controllers I've had no issue with are the Mad Catz and Hori models. I probably prefer the Horipad for personal use, but I know way more people own the Mad Catz, so it's probably worth grabbing one of those as a test device. Check out my review here if you're interested!

Hi there!, Agree with Kev, From what we've seen on in the Nimbus it should raise the bar again for Controller manufacturers.
.
BTW here's a pic of where the USB port is on the Stratus XL.

USBPort_zps0fg3npdz.jpg

Thanks for the insight guys!  I'll give the Horipad or the Mad Catz a try just so I can at least have a controller to develop with that doesn't glitch out while we all wait for the Nimbus!

And yeah that photo of the USB port was super helpful!  Can't believe it's behind the batteries! haha.... ugh.  I even checked the manual and there was no mention of it at all!

Then I tried updating the firmware only to find out... "No update necessary."  Ha!  I beg to differ, Steelseries! lol

Quick update-- so I did the nuclear option and got a second Stratus XL, a Stratus, a Mad Catz CTRLi, and a Horipad.  The results?

The Stratus XL's Left Stick had problems AGAIN.  This time it would randomly fire all the way to the left.  This at least made gameplay playable (whereas the first Stratus XL I got would fire to the south and make you reverse direction abruptly and continuously!).  So I'm pretty convinced SteelSeries generally failed on the Stratus series.

I didn't even try the normal Stratus as a result.

(Also of note, this is actually the THIRD Stratus XL I had purchased in a week.  I bought the first one directly from SteelSeries with rush 2-day delivery.  They did not ship it on time or notify me of any delay.  I had to contact them directly by replying on my invoice-- you can't contact them on their contact form because they require a serial number.  If you don't have your product yet, you can't even raise a flag that they failed to ship it!  I got fed up and ordered the second one off Amazon Prime with next-day delivery.  Later that day Amazon confirmed shipment and SteelSeries still had not even replied to my message to their ZenDesk nor had they shipped the controller, three days late now and a day past the 2-day delivery I paid extra for.  Finally they did reply and it took them a day to confirm they were having warehouse issues and could stop my shipment from now going out.  They caught it just in time at the last minute, and then issued a refund per my demand.  It was a pretty bad experience overall... especially then to try out two other Stratus XL's and find them defective!)

Then the Mad Catz CTRLi.  It felt lightweight, cheap, flimsy, but no random firings-- so it was already ahead of SteelSeries.  However, firing the RT was unreliable and moving the RS was difficult, making fine aiming in a shooter impossible at times.

So I was holding my breath for last but not least-- the Horipad.  It was definitely the best.  It looks and feels the nicest, has some good weight to it.  In terms of design, it's like if the DualShock and an Xbox gamepad had a baby.  The RT was the most responsive and effective of any of the gamepads, as reliable as mapping shooting onto a BAXY button like X.  The twin sticks felt good.  And it was the only gamepad that allows you to charge it via USB-- no batteries!

So I managed to get returns on all other gamepads and keep the Horipad.  That should tie me over until trying the Nimbus, hopefully the same day the new Apple TV comes out and not delayed.  At least the Horipad is a solution that fully works, the only one in my experience with these.

Thought you guys might find this useful info.

Hey XanderDavis,

Thanks for posting your results here!

Seems to corroborate the Stratus XL being a piece of crap. It looks good, but it just doesn't work right. Bad quality control, bad design.

I'm legitimately surprised you had issues with the Mad Catz pad, though. I have a regular C.T.R.L.i and Micro C.T.R.L.i, and both are just about flawless. I'm also surprised you consider the C.T.R.L.i to be light in weight, as it seems to weigh the same as the Horipad in my hands - are you sure you didn't get the Micro version?

Your results with the Horipad match mine perfectly. Easily the most underrated controller out there. And the only one (aside from the Gamevice) without a terrible d-pad.

The Horipad's only real weakness is the lack of a phone clip. This makes it a bit of a non-starter for iPhone gamers. Though obviously for Apple TV and iPad Pro gamers, this is a non-issue.

Even though the Stratus controllers aren't great, I have high hopes for the Nimbus. Still,  if it ends up sucking, I'll have no qualms at all about making the Horipad my Apple TV controller recommendation!

Yeah the Mad Catz gamepads were viable-- those issues I was having were enough to be problems for me but I could see someone getting by just fine with them.  I really liked how it had the iPhone mount.  The Horipad just felt great and worked perfectly though, to the point that it clearly beat all others for me, for the types of games and experiences I'm going for.  It was like 'ahhhh, finally'.

Also of note, for every gamepad, I had a series of MFi games (apart from also my own prototypes) that I would test in the same progressive order.

1) Halo: Spartan Strike (top-down action shooter)
2) Shadowgun (3rd person action shooter)
3) Final Fantasy VII (classic 3D RPG)

The above were done systematically on each gamepad.  The thinking was to test each one against progressively more console-like experiences, even though all of them were in general.  Other test games included Bastion, Oceanhorn, Lilly, Metal Slug, etc... but those were done just out of curiosity.

Playing these on a TV with a gamepad really changes their feel dramatically-- they really feel like full-blown console experiences at that point.  Pretty amazing this all can run on our phones now!

Thanks for your insight guys!  It was helpful!  Also nice to share my testing process and experience here. 😊

Hello XanderDavis,

Your website (linked in your profile) says you worked on Darksiders 2. It also says you worked for Petroglyph (many of whom were involved in the original C&C games?). Excuse me, while I have a nerdgasm chatting with such an experienced developer, that worked on such awesome games.

Calming down, back on topic ...

Have you tried the HoriPad with any racing games? Does it allow you to accelerate and brake well with the pressure pads? How are you hooking up the TV? Does it feel laggy or fairly responsive?

Personally, I mainly play twin stick shooters, but I have a nephew coming over, for a long-term visit, that is totally enamored with racing games on his PS4. So I'm frantically figuring out a way to keep him entertained while I work. I don't have a game console. I started reading about the MFi standard then found this website. There is hope! I am considering a game controller + TV hook-up and voila instant game console. Is it that simple?

I suppose I could wait for this Nimbus controller to come out, but I've been reading complaints about poor build quality with every MFi controller minus the HoriPad and Gamevice. I don't know if a company will magically shift its manufacturing process simply because Apple is a partner. I'm wondering if I should wait or not.

Last edited by escapedturkey (Sep 22 12:53 PM)

Haha- yep!  Now I've gone indie! 😊

As far as racing games, I haven't tried those yet, but will add that to the list.  Wipe'Out" made such a huge impact on me, to the point that it largely set me on a course into graphic design and games development as a UI Designer initially that I could see a futuristic racing game part of my indie to-do-list at some point! 😜  So much to do...!

As far as getting iOS games on TV there are two main ways-- AirPlay with an existing Apple TV or get the Lightning-to-HDMI converter, which is what I did.  Its only downside is it heats up your phone quite a bit!  But it works like a charm:

http://www.apple.com/shop/product/MD826 … 897272c818

Hope that helps!

XanderDavis,

I personally think one the best UI's for an iOS game can be found in "Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions Evolved".

https://appsto.re/us/af2R2.i

I'm also curious how well it performs with the HoriPad.

😊

Hey guys, I'll chime in here a bit

escapedturkey wrote:

Hello XanderDavis,

Your website (linked in your profile) says you worked on Darksiders 2. It also says you worked for Petroglyph (many of whom were involved in the original C&C games?). Excuse me, while I have a nerdgasm chatting with such an experienced developer, that worked on such awesome games.

Calming down, back on topic ...

Have you tried the HoriPad with any racing games? Does it allow you to accelerate and brake well with the pressure pads? How are you hooking up the TV? Does it feel laggy or fairly responsive?

Personally, I mainly play twin stick shooters, but I have a nephew coming over, for a long-term visit, that is totally enamored with racing games on his PS4. So I'm frantically figuring out a way to keep him entertained while I work. I don't have a game console. I started reading about the MFi standard then found this website. There is hope! I am considering a game controller + TV hook-up and voila instant game console. Is it that simple?

XanderDavis wrote:

Haha- yep!  Now I've gone indie! 😊

As far as racing games, I haven't tried those yet, but will add that to the list.  Wipe'Out" made such a huge impact on me, to the point that it largely set me on a course into graphic design and games development as a UI Designer initially that I could see a futuristic racing game part of my indie to-do-list at some point! 😜  So much to do...!

As far as getting iOS games on TV there are two main ways-- AirPlay with an existing Apple TV or get the Lightning-to-HDMI converter, which is what I did.  Its only downside is it heats up your phone quite a bit!  But it works like a charm


That is a very impressive resume! Looking forward to seeing what you're working on for iOS - we need more people with premium game development experience on this platform! 😊

Regarding racing games,

Definitely check out AG Drive on iOS. No, it's not as good as Wipeout, but its a very impressive display of what is possible on iOS. Great graphics, smooth 60fps, and perfect MFi controls.

I have issues with Gameloft, but Asphalt 8 is a pretty good game. Ridge Racer is another don't-miss, even if it isn't as good as the console classics in the series.

Jet Car Stunts 2 is a fun racing game / stunt driving game with some crazy course design.

Table Top Racing is reminiscent of the old Micro Machines racing game for the PlayStation, as well as several others in the genre. It's a bit limited but worth a look.

Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing Transformed is about as close as iOS gets to Mario Kart. The 30fps cap kills a lot of the fun for me, but your mileage may vary.



Regarding video output,

The important thing to keep in mind is that whatever output method you choose, your iOS device has to compress the video to H264, beam it to your TV either wired or wireless, then decompress the compressed video and play it back.

All of this takes time and processor power, which equates to lag. How much lag depends - the Lightning-to-HDMI cable only has 2-3 frames of lag on most devices, whereas AirPlay lag can be significant on older iOS devices, with everything before the iPad Air running 5 frames behind at a 30fps cap.

At the same time, Bluetooth controllers introduce a small amount of lag. In my testing, no one controller exhibits noticeably more lag than any other. But the problem comes when you combine Bluetooth lag with video compression lag - they compound to make an experience that can border on unplayable, depending on the device you have and the game you're playing.

Something else to keep in mind: which Apple TV you have can have a huge impact in the quality of your video. It might not be enough to have a version 3 Apple TV - Apple silently updated the version 3 Apple TV to support Peer-to-Peer Wifi, which greatly increases AirPlay reliability.

Lastly, your iOS version affects your video output quality. Basically, iOS 9 makes everything that came before it look like garbage. Quality, stability, and responsiveness are all greatly improved, both wired and wirelessly. Upgrade immediately if you like playing iPhone games on your TV.

Anyways, as for my advice:

On devices with an A7 chip or below, your best video quality with lowest lag will be achieved with the Lightning-to-HDMI adapter. AirPlay is laggier, drops more frames, and looks visually degraded.

On devices with an A8 chip or above, you have a more difficult decision. A Lightning connection might still result in a slightly sharper and less compressed image, but there is no noticeable lag reduction. A brand new Apple TV costs a mere 10 dollars more than the Lightning adapter, and provides a heck of a lot more functionality, with a VERY minimal loss in visual quality.

Additionally, you have a free Lightning port. A Lightning connected controller such as the Gamevice might actually result in less lag over AirPlay than a Bluetooth controller would over HDMI - sounds crazy, but Apple put some crazy powerful Wifi radios in these latest iOS devices.


escapedturkey wrote:

I suppose I could wait for this Nimbus controller to come out, but I've been reading complaints about poor build quality with every MFi controller minus the HoriPad and Gamevice. I don't know if a company will magically shift its manufacturing process simply because Apple is a partner. I'm wondering if I should wait or not.

Well you can always pick up a Nimbus for player 2 😜

All I know is the Horipad is a great controller. I would guess that the Nimbus will be, but based on SteelSeries track record, I'm giving them a MASSIVE benefit of the doubt.

escapedturkey wrote:

XanderDavis,

I personally think one the best UI's for an iOS game can be found in "Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions Evolved".

I'm also curious how well it performs with the HoriPad.

Performs great for me! Again, whenever you combine video output with bluetooth controllers, you compound the lag situation. But I find no particular issue with running this game out over Lightning or Airplay - everything plays great. Those who are more sensitive to lag may have issues, but I have no complaints.

The problem with these controllers has nothing to do with firmware. If it was firmware then power cycling would not fix it. The way I fix my controller is literally by smacking it and if it were firmware that wouldn't fix it either.  The only reason I know is that I used to run across very similar problems with my old PlayStation controllers after they get all old and beat up. The problem is the PCB also known as the printed circuit board. When controllers get beat up a lot or put together incorrectly the PCB becomes a little twisted. This can make buttons register as being pressed even if they are not. The outside of the controller looks really nice but I would imagine the inner guts are kind of a mess and not put together properly. There's no firmware  in existence that can fix terrible work. are also the kind of problems you might run into if you bought a refurbished controller and find out its broken. You'll be lucky if the steel series Stratus XL isn't broken right out of the box. Mine was and I didn't even realize it right away and now its too late to send back the the manufacture. Also the right trigger button started making a funny spring noises after only 3 hours of play. Now I'm stuck with a broken controller that was obviously broken right out of the box. These things look nice but there just not made well at all. If I had to guess... I would say a large batch of them got broken somehow either in storage or in transit. Either that way there's an entire Factory building them wrong. Either way the result is the same. I got mine from Best Buy but I've been reading that even people ordering straight from the manufacture having the exact same problems so I'm guessing it's just bad work at the factory or they knowingly put broken controllers in boxes and sold them to people. Neither would surprise me since there've been several companies caught using substandard products, selling secretly refurbished equipment as new and just downright lying and tricking their customers.... Electronic Arts GameStop Activision just to name a couple. Suffice it to say this is my first and last steeleseries product.

Last edited by Bayharbourhoody (Yesterday 2:44 PM)

So I was having issues with my Stratus XL controller having either hyper sensitivity or no sensitivity on the right trigger,the "support" people at stratus are no help,dont even bother trying to ask them for any. I bought a brand new Stratus XL controller,right out of the box,never been used only for it to then tell me it needed a "critical firmware update" and to insert a micro USB into the controller and then into the computer only to find,oh,big surprise it didnt COME with the cable that I apparently NEED for this update so my lovely $50 controller will work properly. I did however find out today that this is an issue nobody with a PS4 will ever have to deal with since the cable used to charge the PS4 controllers is conveniently a micro USB. SteelSeries,get your act together and stop sending out products that need updating out of the box only to make us spend more money to buy the cables we need.