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October 15, 2017 3:40 PM   Subscribe

The Quest To Make A Better Video Game Controller [Kotaku] “Next time you play a video game, look down at the controller in your hand. Is it comfortable? Does it work well with the game you're playing? Are your fingers all being used efficiently? If you could change one thing, what would it be? About 10 years ago, after permutations ranging from Atari 2600 joysticks to Sega Genesis "C" buttons, console game controllers arrived at something resembling a standard. A modern console controller must have: Two clickable sticks and a D-pad, four face buttons, a pair of triggers, a start and options button, and a pair of shoulder buttons. That configuration has held steady for at least one full console generation. The modern PS4 controller, Xbox One controller, and Nintendo Switch Pro controller all have more or less the same functionality as their predecessors. Of course, some people still think it's time for new ideas.”

• A Guide to the Worst Video Game Controllers Ever Made [Waypoint]
“Our enjoyment of this always progressing medium, this uniquely interactive entertainment, is often dependent on our hand-to-eye coordination, and our ability to map to memory a wide array of commands triggered by a selection of color- or shape-specific buttons. We have to connect what we see on the screen to what is in our hands, and back again, feeding into and from the pixels and polygons that leap and bound at our whim—assuming we're not repeatedly tripping our avatars into an another-life-lost chasm of fiery death. For some, this comes easy, and games makers understand that what works for one title will fit others, too—which is why reload is so often where it is on first-person shooters, whatever the developer, and why those left and right triggers aim and fire accordingly. Others can never get to grips with even the best video game controllers around, and in the current console generation we've one of the greatest ever produced with the Xbox One's wireless controller. ”
• 25 bizarre videogame controllers [Den of Geek]
“Before we begin, we should note a couple of ground rules. First, these controllers are, or were commercially available. We're not going to include custom made one-offs or prototypes, and these have to be finished, retail units. Second, we're not going to focus on the less tasteful area of controllers, such as the myriad sex-toy devices available in Japan and elsewhere. They're bizarre, yes, but really? Do we need to go there? We'll steer clear of these thankyouverymuch. Oh, and the Virtual Boy is not a controller, it was a console, so doesn't count, so you won't find it here (but yeah, it was very, very bad). With that out of the way, let's begin with the good, and not so good gaming controllers.”
• The next video-game controller is your voice [Engadget]
“While games that use the voice have cropped up over the years -- Seaman on Sega's Dreamcast, Lifeline on the PlayStation 2, Mass Effect 3 on the Xbox 360's Kinect -- their commands were often frustratingly clunky, and audio input never seemed more than a novelty. That may be coming to an end. [...] Simply: If voice assistants become the next major computing platform, it's logical that they will have their own games. "On most new platforms, games are one of the first things that people try," says Aaron Batalion, a partner focused on consumer technology at venture-capital firm Lightspeed Venture Partners. "It's fun, engaging and, depending on the game mechanics, it's often viral." According to eMarketer, 35.6 million Americans will use a voice-assistant device like Echo at least once a month this year, while 60.5 million Americans will use some kind of virtual voice assistant like Siri. The question is, what form will these new games take?”
• Why Game Accessibility Matters: Meet the people pushing to make video games more accessible to those with — and without — disabilities. [Polygon]
“She gives an example of a father and son she met at an accessibility booth at the Orlando Science Center's Otronicon in 2011. "The son, who was probably a preteen, ran over to check out a demo while his father talked about the controllers with me," Voelker says. "When I got to the one-handed controller, he became very interested and started talking with his hands, which had been in his pockets during the entire conversation up until this point. He had lost all of the fingers off one hand in some sort of work accident and kept his hand covered because of that. "As I told him where to order the controller, he started to cry. He and his son had always played video games together. That was their thing. But after losing his fingers, he assumed he could never play anymore because he had issues holding the controller and using the trigger buttons. For this man, he had thought he lost something that he actually still had." Accessibility matters. Simply offering remappable controls could have made all the difference for this man, without him necessarily even needing to buy (and become aware of the existence of) an expensive third-party custom controller. ”
• Watch 60 Years of Video Game Controllers in 60 Seconds: A Brief History of the Video Game Controller [YouTube]
“For their video, the YouTube channel Super Deluxe has condensed 58 years of controller designs into less than a minute's worth of animation. They hit all the classics, like the Atari Pong pad of 1975 and the Nintendo 64 controller of 1996, as well as a few examples that likely haven't made it onto your radar. The NES Hands Free released in 1989 allowed disabled players to control characters with their mouths, and the Wu-Tang controller was created for the rap group’s infamous 1999 Playstation game. Only time will tell if 2016’s entry, the Oculus Rift, will join the icons or the flops of gaming history.” [via: Mental Floss]
• The Evolution of Video Game Controllers [Infographic.jpg]
“Chances are you've got some old video game controllers sitting in your closet somewhere. A good-old PlayStation Dual Shock, maybe a N64 controller, or some Donkey Konga Bongos. And you'll never use them again. So clear out that space and preserve their memory with a comprehensive controller family tree. The new Evolution of Video Game Controllers poster from Pop Chart Labs offers a truly comprehensive index of all the controllers you did and didn't own, from the very first Tennis for Two block to the Playstation Dual Shock 4 you've never even seen in person yet. That's 179 specimens from every console ever, each leading into the next like a river of thumb-memories.” [via: Gizmodo]
posted by Fizz (78 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm compelled to add links to Episode 49 and Episode 50 of the classic Hypercritical podcast, where ubernerd John Siracusa goes on a detailed and deep dive into the history of game controllers.
posted by SansPoint at 3:49 PM on October 15, 2017 [7 favorites]


Previously (self promotion)
posted by selfnoise at 3:51 PM on October 15, 2017 [2 favorites]


I hate, hate, HATE clickable thumbsticks! I always wind up clicking them accidentally during tense moments, so I’ll (for instance) wind up in sneak mode when I’m really trying to just run away as fast as possible, or zooming out into third person mode when I’m trying to fight someone in first person. I first noticed this playing Munch’s Oddysee on the original XBox, and it has continued unabated since then. Damn you, clickable thumbsticks!! Damn you to Hell!! ::am unable to damn thumbsticks to Hell because I’ve accidentally initiated crouch mode::
posted by ejs at 4:00 PM on October 15, 2017 [26 favorites]


I'm using the X-Box One Elite controller and the paddles really do add something more to the standard controller that has been around for the last two console generations. Those extra paddles underneath the controller really change how you play a game.

With a game like Cuphead, where you need to constantly hold down an attack bottom. Using your fingers underneath to hold down one of the paddles, frees up your thumbs to work other buttons on the front. I hope that these paddles start to become more mainstream. They're still very much a premium kind of controller option.
posted by Fizz at 4:02 PM on October 15, 2017 [2 favorites]


Over a decade later I still think the GameCube controller - specifically the Wavebird - is the peak of controller design.
posted by Itaxpica at 4:22 PM on October 15, 2017 [12 favorites]


I remember unearthing our old C64 with monitor and joystick, realizing that the Atari-compatible joystick and the Genesis had the same physical I/O, and realizing that after the title screen, Sonic the Hedgehog only needed one button. It was surprisingly fun playing Sonic with a joystick.
posted by infinitewindow at 4:26 PM on October 15, 2017 [6 favorites]


Original Dual Shock attained perfection... sin é.
posted by kersplunk at 4:31 PM on October 15, 2017 [4 favorites]


Also, that Jaguar controller looks a lot like the ColecoVision controller, with the ambitious, clunky number pad below the main controls.
posted by infinitewindow at 4:32 PM on October 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


I really liked the shape of the Wavebird face buttons, but I have to admit to possessing the boring opinion that the stock Xbox One controller is currently the best.

I do think there's a lot of potential in split wireless controllers (like the joycons and Vive controllers) and I want to see if some of the VR controller research trickles back to the general population.

One thing I really do want to invest in is a controller specially for 2D digital movement games... I've been eyeing the Hori Fighting Commander.
posted by selfnoise at 4:36 PM on October 15, 2017


Every time someone talks about the Atari 5200 or ColecoVision controller I want to hit them over the head with my Intellivision.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 4:42 PM on October 15, 2017 [7 favorites]


Back in my day we didn't have to charge our controllers or change their batteries. We just plugged them right into the consoles and they worked! Kids these days don't know what they're missing.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:45 PM on October 15, 2017 [2 favorites]


I hate, hate, HATE clickable thumbsticks!

The PS3 controller was REALLY bad about this. Just one of its many adorable foibles.

My Xbox One controller requires enough additional force that the issue is mostly gone for me. I use the thumbclick in Rocket League to switch camera modes.. yes I know this is perverse.
posted by selfnoise at 4:47 PM on October 15, 2017 [2 favorites]


voice controlled shit in games is the fucking worst, it NEVER WORKS why do they do this

lol actually i bet they only test it with male voices so it doesn't even recognize my speech as giving commands
posted by poffin boffin at 5:10 PM on October 15, 2017 [16 favorites]


The accessibility article reminded me of watching halfcoordinated's run of Nier: Automata (SLYT) which led off Summer Games Done Quick this year. "half" has hemiparesis, which means he can only use a controller with one hand: at the end of his run, he made a point of thanking the developers for allowing so much flexibility in the controller configuration, making it possible for folks with disabilities to not just enjoy games, but excel at them.
posted by jackrational at 5:12 PM on October 15, 2017 [7 favorites]


Voice control? It's been done!
posted by moonmilk at 5:23 PM on October 15, 2017


My personal favorite bizarre controller is the Un-Roller Controller by Roklan, which was compatible with the Atari 2600 and computers that used its pinout. It looks like the top of a giant trac-ball in a far-too-small case, but instead the yellow ball was stationary and clicked about a millimeter in eight directions to register movement. The mind boggles as to who would use it or why.

I grew up using the much-maligned Intellivision controller (sixteen-position disc, 12-button keypad, four side buttons). It had its issues with some genres but in general I welcomed the game complexity that it enabled.

Now, the classic controller that got away was the Bally Astrocade controller, a little marvel. It looked like a slot car controller with a trigger grip, with a rotary knob on top that doubled as an eight-way joystick. This combined, essentially, the Atari joystick and paddle controllers into one unit. For example, if you played Gunfight, your cowboy could aim in one direction while moving in another and fire independent of movement, whereas the Atari equivalent locked aim and movement together.

As for the arcade, someday I am going to put together a MAME box that supports a rotary knob (think Tempest), a rotary joystick (the eight-position one common to games like Ikari Warriors, Heavy Barrel, etc.), and (my holy grail) the knob-and-joystick combo used with games like Mad Planets.
posted by delfin at 5:55 PM on October 15, 2017 [8 favorites]


VR has been very productive on the weird controllers front. Valve loves putting touchpads on things, which on one hand I approve of the willingness to experiment, but on the other I feel like a normal spring-loaded thumbpad would be better.
posted by Pyry at 6:20 PM on October 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


I was struggling to find articles on one-handed controllers. I wanted to find out more about how gamers with accessibility needs play games. If anyone has any good articles/interviews on that subject, please share.
posted by Fizz at 6:27 PM on October 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


I haven't seen eXistenZ since the original theatrical run but now I want to check it out again. Every controller needs little clit nubbin things.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:30 PM on October 15, 2017 [3 favorites]


I remember quite liking the N64 controller when it was the only "next gen" controller I had ever really been exposed to, beyond joysticks and rectangles. I honestly can't even remember how I ever played Goldeneye or Perfect Dark on it though. I guess the thumbstick was for looking about and movement was done via the D-pad, which...does that stand for "direction-pad"? Oh god.
posted by turbid dahlia at 6:32 PM on October 15, 2017


Is this where we complain about every controller created after the Sega Genesis? No? OK, I'll see myself out. I hear some kids on my lawn.
posted by goatdog at 6:33 PM on October 15, 2017 [7 favorites]


The N64 controller appears to have been designed with the assumption that games would either use the d-pad (d for digital, i.e. on or off movement in defined directions) OR the analog stick. Probably thought of as a 2D versus 3D split.

GoldenEye, as other FPS of its era uses the same stick for movement forward and back and turning left and right. Strafing was done separately and IIRC you could change into "aim" mode and aim vertically but not move at the same time.
posted by thegears at 6:44 PM on October 15, 2017


thegears: you can use two controllers in goldeneye for twin stick/trigger functions. It's actually pretty amazing once you get used to it. Also, even the single controller options are closer to other games past the default. With left handed options for each!
posted by lkc at 6:51 PM on October 15, 2017


That claw technique looks agonizing. Anything to avoid M+KB, I guess.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:07 PM on October 15, 2017


lol actually i bet they only test it with male voices so it doesn't even recognize my speech as giving commands


ELEVEN!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:36 PM on October 15, 2017 [2 favorites]


None of the worst can compare with the Quicksilver Atari-style joystick. Mercury tilt switches gave no feedback, and made your computer trash pile a hazmat site.

Konix Navigator 4 lyfe.
posted by scruss at 7:54 PM on October 15, 2017 [2 favorites]


My big complaint about controllers today is they are too complex for new people. They LOOK intimidating and take a lot of time to learn. 360 controller: I've got two sticks, a d-pad, four face buttons that are obvious, two hard to click sticks, and four triggers. PLUS three more bonus face buttons. Instead of trying to make games more intuitive with wonky motion controls, you drop the stick clicking, and cut it down to say, four buttons total, face AND shoulder, and say drop the d-pad? Then the controller looks less intimidating, and is easier for new people to give it a try.
posted by Canageek at 7:57 PM on October 15, 2017 [4 favorites]


I was struggling to find articles on one-handed controllers. I wanted to find out more about how gamers with accessibility needs play games. If anyone has any good articles/interviews on that subject, please share.

I thought I remembered a post on the blue about a recent game that was designed with a one-handed mode so that people in net cafes in Asia could play with one hand while eating/drinking/smoking with the other, and how it wound up being a huge boon for disabled players, but now I can't seem to find it. Anyone else remember what I'm taking about?
posted by Itaxpica at 8:07 PM on October 15, 2017


My big complaint about controllers today is they are too complex for new people.

My problem with controllers today is almost the exact opposite and doesn't have to do with the hardware design as much as it does with game design. If I have a controller with forty-seven distinct buttons then how come the function to reload my gun has to be mapped to the same button as the one that swaps it out with the inferior weapon laying on the ground?

I managed to roll away to dodge this enemy's attack, but I think I just tossed a grenade as well. Now where did it---
posted by dances with hamsters at 8:14 PM on October 15, 2017 [9 favorites]


I don't want to say that I'm *glad* that devices like kinect haven't really caught on (call me a conspiracy nut but I don't like the idea of normalising a permanently-on internet connected camera in every living room), but I'm glad people recognise that a controller is still one of the best ways to get immersed in a game. I can honestly say that I've never come home from a long day at work wanting to run around the room holding my arms out like I'm aiming a gun. I want to sit on the couch and relax.

That said, I was playing Mass Effect 3 on a mate's Xbox a few years back, and in the middle of a gunfight I yelled out "Get out of the way, Liara!" and the kinect picked up on that and she said "roger!" and got out of my way. That was pretty cool.
posted by gronkpan at 8:15 PM on October 15, 2017 [5 favorites]


I can't remember if it worked on Goldeneye (I'm pretty sure it did), but I know in Perfect Dark you could set it up to always move with the d-pad and always aim with the analog stick, and you could also turn auto-aim off in order to facilitate pure aiming through this same control scheme. It wasn't the default scheme though. You had to page through several different schemes before arriving at this.

I know because that's the way I played it from day 1 and I reigned absolute hellfire on all my mates for years until they finally skilled up enough to hold even and eventually beat me. But damn it was fun while it lasted.
posted by glonous keming at 8:17 PM on October 15, 2017


All I remember from Perfect Dark multiplayer was that damn gun that could shoot through walls killing the fun for all but one player.
posted by gronkpan at 8:21 PM on October 15, 2017 [2 favorites]


I use a Steam Controller, and it's pretty great.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 8:31 PM on October 15, 2017 [5 favorites]


Any game that requires a controller with two sticks, I'm right out. I'm not that coordinated. (Frankly any first-person game where my body direction and my head/looking direction are controlled separately will guarantee I get stuck under a staircase somewhere or fall off a bridge and then get shot 47 times while struggling to figure out why my dude is staring at the sky or bumping a wall repeatedly while I spin in circles, so I guess not that many two-stick games are terribly appealing to me to start with.)

I can make my hands do two DIFFERENT things (like the fingering and bowing on a string bass, or one hand with buttons and the other with a stick or a D-pad), or I can make them MIRROR each other and do the same thing at the same time but in opposite directions, but I find it EXTREMELY difficult to make them do the same type of action but each slightly different, like playing a piano piece where both hands have melodic lines at the same time instead of the left playing chords while the right does melody, OR WORKING TWO FUCKING CONTROLLER STICKS AT ONE TIME. It literally makes my brain hurt and it seems like a sick psych experiment designed to frustrate the subject and watch their brain spin out as they fail repeatedly at an unnatural task.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:17 PM on October 15, 2017 [2 favorites]


Do you play first person games on PC? What control scheme do you prefer there?
posted by Pyry at 10:12 PM on October 15, 2017


I can't speak for EM, but I share her attitude to two-stick controls. On the PC I use a mouse and keyboard for first or third person 3D gaming. The difference is that there the physical actions of each hand are quite distinct, as opposed to two similar versions of stick twiddling.
posted by col_pogo at 10:39 PM on October 15, 2017


*lights lighter and waves it above head*

Waaaaaaavebird!
posted by Literaryhero at 11:22 PM on October 15, 2017 [4 favorites]


Clickable thumbsticks. That was how me and my friends could tell if we were flapping while playing GTA. HONK! It became our shorthand for panic.
posted by gnuhavenpier at 11:24 PM on October 15, 2017 [3 favorites]


The true horror is the NES/SNES-like USB controllers with awful / imprecise d-pad buttons.

Nintendo clearly went to a great deal of trouble to engineer very precise and relatively ergonomic controllers.
posted by b1tr0t at 11:41 PM on October 15, 2017 [2 favorites]


Yes, this is why I asked in another thread what the best USB controllers for SNES are.
posted by infinitewindow at 11:44 PM on October 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


Konix Navigator 4 lyfe.

Oh, man, I loved that thing.

The Commodore 1311 joystick gets my vote for worst. Rubbery, unresponsive, uncomfortable, and flimsy. Terrible.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 12:04 AM on October 16, 2017


The accessibility article reminded me of watching halfcoordinated's run of Nier: Automata (SLYT)

That link should probably go here.
posted by fleacircus at 12:24 AM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


which...does that stand for "direction-pad"?

d for digital, i.e. on or off movement in defined directions

galaxy brain: D stands for D
posted by fleacircus at 12:31 AM on October 16, 2017


We just plugged them right into the consoles and they worked!

After I upgraded to the playstation where you didn't have to have the cable plugged in all the time I didn't realise for some time. How I cursed them for the ridiculously short cable they provided.
posted by biffa at 1:46 AM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


I really liked the Wii nunchuk controller. Hold your hands more than six inches apart! It seems like such a sensible development. But presumably I’m outnumbered, since it didn’t catch on.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 2:51 AM on October 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


The Wii nunchuck thing does solve what is an otherwise all but insurmountable issue: people's hands vary in size, a lot. I cannot use a dualshock for any length of time before my hands cramp up holding the tiny, tiny thing, and there's awful thumb clash if I'm using both sticks. An Xbox style controller is perfect for me - I hold it in my hand, not sort of suspended by the middle of each finger, and my thumbs and forefingers find their buttons nicely, naturally. Meanwhile, those controllers are far too big for a lot of my friends to use comfortably. The nunchuck seems to work pretty well for everyone.
posted by Dysk at 4:11 AM on October 16, 2017


To me the Steam Controller is... okay. I like the paddle buttons on the back (useful for shifting in driving games, which is all I use the Steam Controller for anyway). The touchpads are honestly kind of weird and I'd rather have a second stick and normal D-pad though.

To this day I still confuse LT/RT with LB/RB on that style of controller. Muscle memory is fine, but if something says "press LB" I'll be sitting there in confusion for several seconds.
posted by Foosnark at 4:29 AM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


To this day I still confuse LT/RT with LB/RB on that style of controller.

Yes! The Sony style L1/R1 and L2/R2 naming is just so much clearer and quicker to intuitively grasp for me.
posted by Dysk at 4:33 AM on October 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


Also just wanted to say that the "do Nintendo think you have three hands lol" criticism of the N64 controller is tired and wilfully obtuse. Do keyboard manufacturers think you have 104 fingers? Or a third hand for the numpad, and a fourth for the mouse? No, they're multi purpose input tools, and different tasks require different combinations of buttons and inputs, and will have you positioning your two hands differently to achieve that. Having the analogue stick out of the way is excellent for fighting games or 2D platformers - use left and right. For 3D platformers, you want the analogue stick, but don't also need the d-pad - middle and right (there's even a trigger on the middle to compensate for giving up the left shoulder button). Not having anticipated the move toward dual stick input schemes was a mistake (though easy to understand, given how it literally wasn't a thing when it was launched) but the c-pad made that kind of input totally possible - it's not like WASD + mouse gives you analogue movement either. It's a multipurpose device, with different configurations and grips being most relevant for different tasks. You don't need to be able to press every button at once, and it's super weird to me how people laugh at the N64 controller for not enabling that, while uncomplainingly using computer keyboards, cars, musical instruments, etc. all the time where it isn't feasible or practicable to reach all the controls at the same time either.
posted by Dysk at 5:08 AM on October 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


I personally struggle with Nintendo's L/R/ZL/ZR, since they're the opposite of the Gamecube's Z button placement. (I suppose I should think about the N64 controller instead; L and R are the shoulder buttons and the Zs are the triggers on the back of the controller.)

As someone with small hands, I've never found any controller as absurdly comfortable to hold as the Gamecube's. I pick up any other game controller and I'm holding a controller that's maybe comfortable, maybe not. I pick up the Gamecube controller and -- ahhh, my hands are finally at home again. It's truly a shame that its D-pad is so woefully inadequate.

Of the other controllers I've spent the last 15 minutes comparatively fondling, the Steam Controller has the nicest grips, but then ruins that with its button placement - I can't reach the face buttons without leaving that comfortable "home" position. The Wii U Pro Controller has the best button/stick/D-pad ergonomics, but doesn't get the grips quite right. The N64 actually is close to perfect in D-pad-grip mode, though the start button is kinda unreachable; give it a proper start/select pair and it'd be my SNES-type controller of choice.

My PS1 Dual Shocks never fail to make my hands miserable in like three different ways.
posted by NMcCoy at 5:19 AM on October 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


The original Famicom controller had a microphone with limited voice input capability. Yelling into it would kill the Pol's Voice enemy in the Legend of Zelda. In America, the NES controller lacked a microphone, so Pol's Voice was made weak to arrows instead.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 6:32 AM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


Damn you, clickable thumbsticks!! Damn you to Hell!! ::am unable to damn thumbsticks to Hell because I’ve accidentally initiated crouch mode::

That's right! Kneel! Kneel and worship the clickable thumbsticks! Kneel and submit!
posted by sexyrobot at 7:17 AM on October 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


I get kinda disappointed when a PS4 game doesn’t avail itself of the clickable thumbstick.

Everyone should have to learn a new controller every year or so anyway. Keep those old neural pathways working.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:31 AM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


I actually like the Switch's puppy face controller dock. It's small but it feels nice in the hands. The biggest negative is the minus button is hard for the left thumb to get at without jostling the left stick.
posted by fleacircus at 7:37 AM on October 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


WASD and a mouse rules.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 8:22 AM on October 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


Not when I’m chilling in my gamer chair.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:26 AM on October 16, 2017


Keyboard and mouse is lovely for shooters and minecraft and stuff, but racing games suck that way. It was Rocket League that finally convinced me to get ahold of a knockoff xbone controller for PC use. Years of Battle Cars on the PS3 just made the keyboard controls unusable for me.
posted by Dysk at 8:34 AM on October 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


WASD and a mouse rules.

If you like being able to move in only one or two speeds, yeah. Thumbsticks are nice if you're already in the scope and want to move juuuust aaa leeeeeedle bit to the left to clear some obstacle.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 8:51 AM on October 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


I am baffled by the way an xbox controller has a nice comfortable pistol grip with your index finger on the analog trigger, but then puts another button above that, so you either have to awkwardly shift your index fingers up and down (or shifting the entire controller) or you have to position the controller uncomfortably so your middle fingers are on the analog triggers. Who the hell wants to pull a trigger with their middle finger? And even if you are such a madman, why don't you shape the grip to naturally position your middle fingers there?
posted by straight at 9:58 AM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


Personally I've been a fan of the Playstation controller since the first time I picked it up. I have never had a single complaint about them until the stupid uncustomizable, always-on light on the back of the PS4's - having a light pointing at your screen kinda really sucks when you're using a projector.

One subtle thing that some controllers miss out on is people with long fingernails. Every XBox controller has given me a bit of a problem with my nails ramming uncomfortably into the underside when I hold it; the very open design of the PS4's controller means this is a lot easier to avoid. That's not as bad as one controller I tried when visiting a gamedev friend's office, though: it was a Genesis-style one, with the face buttons in a little indentation. The top of this indentation was a very abrupt cliff, and it was physically impossible for me to press a button, as my thumbnail would run up against the plastic of the controller before I could get the button down far enough to make contact.

I may have to try that Scuf controller in the Kotaku article, though. I used to have a MadCatz PS1 controller that duplicated the L/R buttons on the underside (is this prior art for their patent? who knows) and it was my go-to controller for playing R-Type Delta.
posted by egypturnash at 10:05 AM on October 16, 2017


I like the XBox controller largely because of its trigger design. The triggers on the Playstation controllers don't seem to have a sufficient amount of something in them--leverage or range of motion or action or something. All I know is that the XBox ones feel right in my hand the way the Playstation ones don't.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 10:52 AM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


i have broken 5 ps4 controllers in 3 years so i would like a more sturdy one i guess

(not from flinging them around, shrieking tantrum diaper baby style. it's because my left hand's grip strength is highly variable due to nerve damage and sometimes it feels like i'm not holding it securely when in fact i am crushing it to death)
posted by poffin boffin at 11:02 AM on October 16, 2017


Game controllers are pretty much why I never play console games. The complexity is overwhelming.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:19 AM on October 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


"Do you play first person games on PC? What control scheme do you prefer there?"

Not a ton of them, but I prefer mouse and keyboard most of the time when I do. It's also a lot easier for me if I can a) lock the camera to whatever direction the guy is facing and just never mess with the camera (thus removing the need for the second control stick in many cases) and/or b) choose to put the camera "behind the shoulder" or over the head or otherwise just slightly behind my dude, so that I can see my dude a little bit, it helps me a lot with not ending up spinning in circles while flailing in random uncoordination. I can at least see what's going wrong! But the game will still involve a lot of me walking, and then stopping and looking around, and then reorienting the camera for a long time, and then walking, and then stopping and looking around, and so on.

(I'm actually also terrible at old-school PC games where you use WASD to drive your tank and the arrows to aim your turret and you can drive and shoot in two different directions but you have to control both at once! GAAAAAAAAAAH! Brain breakdown!)

Not every game is going to work for me, which is okay, there are a lot of games and not everyone has to like or be able to play every sort of game. But the two-control-sticks method does leave me out of entire consoles in some cases, which is kind-of shitty and kind-of a dumb market decision. And I do appreciate game publishers who give you a lot of control options so that I can set up the camera and controls in some way that works for me, even if it makes the experience of the game less than ideal. I am also totally cool with not being able to get the good achievements or whatever because the way I'm playing is too easy! But so often game studios clearly thought, "Well, we COULD allow people to adjust the controls/create an easy mode/let people turn off this incredibly difficult to use functionality, but then they'd be playing the game in a way that's not the Platonic Ideal of complicated teenaged dude games, so we'll just exclude all those gamers so they don't sully our game with their inadequate play style." Well, no, I guess they didn't CLEARLY think that, but they do think that anyone who wants to play their game should play like a teenaged gamer with a lot of hours to dedicate to it and infinite fast-twitch skills and the patience to learn YET ANOTHER control scheme, I've been playing video games for 35 years, it's not so easy to map YET ANOTHER control scheme onto my brain even when the controller works intuitively! Anyway, their market is one type of consumer and instead of thinking about how they could expand the market to many more consumers, they shrug and figure if we want to play games we will and otherwise it's not their problem.

So, it doesn't bother me a whole lot -- sometimes I see a cool game that I wish I could play but is clearly not going to be within my skillset, so I watch someone else a bit and say, "Man, I wish I could play that! It looks so cool!" but it's okay with me that not every game is for me. But now that my kids are getting into prime video gaming age and starting to play more complicated games and they want me to play with them, it does make me a little sad and frustrated that there are so few games my kids can share with me because they're so. fucking. complicated. and I would like to be able to at least have an easy mode so I can accompany my kids on adventures!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:20 AM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


I really liked the Wii nunchuk controller. Hold your hands more than six inches apart! It seems like such a sensible development. But presumably I’m outnumbered, since it didn’t catch on.

The nunchuk concept came back for the Switch: the left and right Joy-Cons are basically a wirelessly-linked remote/nunchuck combo, with a matching complement of joystick + buttons on each side. The ability to effectively "rip" two paired Joy-Cons into two separate controllers improves on one of the Wii/WiiU's weaknesses -- the inability to play 2-player games without investing an additional $50 or so on controllers.
posted by Strange Interlude at 11:43 AM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


The joy cons are just TINY in my hands though. I guess they are sized for kids hands?
posted by Canageek at 11:46 AM on October 16, 2017


Valve loves putting touchpads on things, which on one hand I approve of the willingness to experiment, but on the other I feel like a normal spring-loaded thumbpad would be better.

The touchpads on the Steam Controller make no sense until you find a configuration and game pairing that makes great use of the touch menu -- radial or otherwise -- and then it's life-changing. I mean, it's less of a game controller for games that are designed to be used with a controller and more of a game controller for games that nobody ever expected to play with a controller. Like, it's actually really nice to use with Cities: Skylines or Stellaris.

Really my main complaint about the SC is that it reminds me too much of trying to set up my old F-16 FLCS for new games back in the bad old days of the 90s. Like, when I'm encountering a new game, I really just don't know what the best button configuration is. And even when there's a good community profile or an official developer profile, it's just not as immediately intuitive as grabbing my keyboard and mouse and playing with the input devices that the game was obviously designed around. My big hope is actually that putting those neat little touchpads onto game controllers catches on outside the SC, I guess for the next "real" console generation, so that design conventions are forced to develop around the idea.
posted by tobascodagama at 12:23 PM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


I remember quite liking the N64 controller when it was the only "next gen" controller I had ever really been exposed to, beyond joysticks and rectangles. I honestly can't even remember how I ever played Goldeneye or Perfect Dark on it though. I guess the thumbstick was for looking about and movement was done via the D-pad, which...does that stand for "direction-pad"? Oh god.

My standard for these articles if they dare say the N64 controller was bad, which it certainly was not. As we continue to see today with the Switch, Nintendo puts a ton of thought into their controllers. With the N64 controller, you held it one of two ways depending on the kind of game it was. It if was a 3D-focused game that needed analog control you held the center prong in your left hand and the right prong in your right hand for the buttons. Then the under-controller Z-button became like your L-button would otherwise be. For games that used the D-pad, you held the left and right prongs in your left and right hands.

All well-designed N64 games understood this, and it worked very well in practice. It helped guard the player against control confusion, which is something I struggle with very badly with current games, where I press a jump button when I mean to attack or similar. (Please remember that I play Nethack!) Basically, if a game uses the control stick, it *never* uses the D-pad or L button.
posted by JHarris at 3:42 PM on October 16, 2017


Is this where we complain about every controller created after the Sega Genesis?

I remember liking that controller for most games. But, after a friend and I had had some fun playing Street Fighter 2 on my SNES, he decided to get the game on the Genesis. Only three buttons, you say? No worries...just hit the Start button to switch between punches and kicks. And the start button isn't really near either thumb, especially when Chun Li is destroying you with a million kicks.

Just looked up a manual for the game and it's right here on page 7 of this pdf. I'm not sure what a better solution would've been, but that game was unplayable on a 3-button Genesis controller. I think he finally convinced his parents to get him a 6 button controller, but he always hogged that when we played against each other....
posted by msbrauer at 3:50 PM on October 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


The ability to effectively "rip" two paired Joy-Cons into two separate controllers improves on one of the Wii/WiiU's weaknesses -- the inability to play 2-player games without investing an additional $50 or so on controllers.

True, but replacing your joycons, or using a second pair in case you're going to play 4 player local Bomberman, will run you $80.
posted by JHarris at 3:51 PM on October 16, 2017


Any game that requires a controller with two sticks, I'm right out.

What? You're selling yourself short there. It's really about the overall complexity. Games that primarily use the two thumb sticks feel really good and organic too me but, that's just how I roll.

Mrs. VTX started playing Katamari Damacy after seeing it recommended in this ask.me. She found it very accessible and was rolling around confidently pretty quickly. It's mostly the two sticks and I found it very intuitive. Just about all the other buttons do something (even clicking the sticks) but it's mostly tricks and special moves that you really need most of the time. The game does well by introducing those moves gradually.

I'm still better at it than she is and she's still put in more hours than I have. The reason is that I've been playing video games since 1989 and this was basically the first one she had played. My first console was an 8-bit Nintendo with it's d-pad and A/B buttons, then a Sega Genesis that added 4 more buttons and then every generation of Playstation with increasingly complex controllers and games to match. I've been practicing with these things for a long time and the complexity has been slowly ratcheted up so learning the controls for a new game is usually NBD.

That said. I think clickable thumb sticks suck but I think it's mostly the design of the tops of the thumb sticks that's the problem. The smooth, round domes don't have a lot of traction so you have to press down too hard especially off straight forward at partial strength. I have a USB xBox controller for my PC that has ridges on top of the concave thumb sticks and I never seem to have a problem with them.
posted by VTX at 5:05 PM on October 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


My brother and I ended up getting a pair of 3rd party Genesis controllers with the full six buttons just so we could have fair matches in Street Fighter.
posted by VTX at 5:09 PM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


VTX: about 10 years ago, Sega made official reissues of their second gen Saturn controls, which were just nicer genesis controls, 6 face buttons, quality d-pad, start and 2 shoulder buttons. I got them off ebay for like 6 bucks each. Best for emulators.

Other than that, I have a wired 360 controller, which works on just about every modern game, and a madcatz arcade tournament stick, which was pricey, but lasted 10 years so far, and has all standard arcade buttons, etc. Too bad I suck at fighting games now. Great for old school JAMMA style games, though, or Neo Geo.

Also, the DS line is about as good as handhelds get.
edit: disagreeing with auto correct.
posted by lkc at 6:40 PM on October 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


Joycons are pretty nifty. They feel small at first, but there's no problem reaching all the buttons. After countless hours playing botw, the ps4 controller felt huge. I actually don't use the expanders though I wish the edges were smo£other. Plus they work as well as a presentation clicker as the wiimote without being awkward.

Also did anyone notice that joycons don't have the classic D-pads? Seems a step back.
posted by pwnguin at 12:11 AM on October 17, 2017 [1 favorite]


Genesis SF2 could've been worse. The PC-Engine (JPN TurboGrafx) version of SF2CE was very good, but its default controller had _two_ action buttons; you had to use its Run (Start) button as an action button and Select to toggle between punches and kicks. Anyone sane bought an Avenue Pad 6, of course.

Though the PC-Engine's biggest controller quirk was that the system only had one port and you needed an adapter to use two or more simultaneously...
posted by delfin at 7:41 AM on October 17, 2017


Razer just unleashed this beast of a controller: Razer Wolverine Ultimate [Kotaku]
“After several years of wired Xbox and PC controllers named after cats, Razer turns to the family Mustelidae for its latest model, and it seems to have paid off. Foregoing the large, grip-dominating logos of its fore-kittens, the Wolverine is a much more modest piece of tech, all black and matte and lovely. Yes, there is strip of Chroma RGB lighting forming a border around the Xbox guide button, but it can be turned off. It’s a marked improvement over last year’s Wildcat and its garish neon green sticker grips.”
posted by Fizz at 1:08 PM on October 17, 2017


Wow, another game controller, this time for people with smaller hands.

There's Now A PS4 Controller For Tiny Hands [Kotaku]
“Sony has licensed Japanese peripheral company Hori to make a new controller for the PS4 called the Mini Wired Gamepad. It’s designed for kids (and adults with small hands, I guess?), and I am very upset it wasn’t called the Kidsaxis.

Like the name suggests, it’s wired (with a 10ft cable) and is 40% smaller than a DualShock 4. It also ships in a very nice shade of PlayStation blue.”
This actually looks really good. Very Nintendo-esque.
posted by Fizz at 7:03 PM on October 18, 2017 [1 favorite]


The Nintendo Switch now supports Gamecube controllers. So now your Mario Kart Deluxe games can support 4p locally without springing for another pair of Joycons. Because I know you all already own gamecube controllers.

And now I'm wondering if it supports Wii controllers, because that seems like it'd be just as easy.
posted by pwnguin at 1:30 AM on October 25, 2017


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