Docstoc

Why did the

Document Sample
Why did the Powered By Docstoc
					                                    Videogame Controller Design 1




The Evolution of Videogame Controller Design:
From Necessity to Functionality to Works of Art
                Anthony Cortest
        Human Computer Interface Design
               IS8120, Section 01
              Professor P. Dembla
                1 November 2007
                                                                                         Videogame Controller Design 2

                                                     Table of Contents



Abstract ............................................................................................................................... 3
Necessity is the Mother of Invention .................................................................................. 4
  Early Improvements ........................................................................................................ 6
    Keeping Score ............................................................................................................. 6
    Separation Anxiety ...................................................................................................... 6
    Going wireless ............................................................................................................ 8
The Button Dilemma......................................................................................................... 10
  The Nintendo Revolution............................................................................................... 10
    Enter the D-Pad ........................................................................................................ 10
    Taking Control .......................................................................................................... 10
  Number of Buttons: How many is too many? ............................................................... 11
    Diamonds are a Gamer’s Best Friend ...................................................................... 12
    Button Layout: Lefties vs. Righties ........................................................................... 13
Analog versus Digital Control: What‟s the Difference? ................................................... 14
  Analog Joysticks............................................................................................................ 14
  Analog Buttons .............................................................................................................. 16
    Triggers ..................................................................................................................... 17
  Shoulder Buttons ........................................................................................................... 17
  Hybrid Buttons .............................................................................................................. 18
Ergonomics: The Shape of Things to Come ..................................................................... 19
  Now These Feel Good ................................................................................................... 19
  Looking Good................................................................................................................ 20
Conclusion ........................................................................................................................ 21
  Where Controller Design is Heading in the Future...................................................... 21
References ......................................................................................................................... 23
                                                            Videogame Controller Design 3

                                         Abstract


       I wish I could have focused on one or two companies all the way through the

entire design history of the video game console controller. Unfortunately, the early

pioneers in the industry, such as Atari, are no longer around or in the case of Magnavox,

are no longer in the video game business. Also, the current leaders in this field are

relatively new players in what used to be a very niche market. By not being around

during its infancy, the current leaders in the marked had the luxury of learning from the

many mistakes of early pioneers in this field. Microsoft, for example, although not a new

company, only entered the video game console business in November of 2001 with their

first version of the Xbox console.

       Some of the pioneer companies I will focus on include Magnavox, who released

the very first home video game console in 1972, and Atari, who followed close on their

heels and was the dominant player in the market for ten straight years, up to the great

video game crash of the Mid-80‟s. Nintendo single-handedly resurrected the home

videogame industry in 1985 with their Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and its

successor, the Super NES. With these consoles and their respective controllers, Nintendo

made several of the greatest advancements in controller design functionality in this

industry‟s history. Along with the great successes, several great failures in controller

designs will be pointed out that were sometimes abandoned, but usually, ended up

leading to even more innovative human computer interface (HCI) designs. Subsequent

advancement in new control schemes, such as hybrid digital-analog controllers and new

button layouts paired with recent artistic and ergonomic advancements in shape and

force-feedback design, will round out the remainder of the discussion.
                                                           Videogame Controller Design 4

                            Necessity is the Mother of Invention


       The videogame joystick or more primitively, the videogame controller, was

originally derived as a necessary requirement in game design since the very first

generation of videogame consoles. It was a necessity which would allow humans to

participate with stand-alone interactive computer game consoles, which have evolved

into today‟s modern media-based video game consoles.

       The first video game consoles were stand-alone. These early consoles were not

media- based, meaning they did not have interchangeable media such as cartridges, or

optical media such as CDs or DVDs. In other words, the games that the machine could

play were hardwired, or built into the console, and could not be upgraded. Although most

early consoles had buttons or switches which would allow the user to select from among

several variations of the same game, the games that came in the box with the system were

all that it would ever play. In order to allow the consumers to play these games, a human

interface device (HID) was required as part of the console‟s design. The earliest consoles

had the crudest, most rudimentary HIDs you could possibly imagine. The earliest

example of bad design is the fact that the HIDs were actually part of the console itself.

       One of the earliest video games converted to a cheap home videogame console

was Pong (see Figure 1) and just about every electronics manufacturer released their own

variation of the enormously popular game.

In case you are not familiar with the premise

of the game, players assume control of a

rectangular bar of light on the television

monitor called a paddle, and depending on

                                                  Figure 1. Super Pong(Wikipedia, 2005)
                                                              Videogame Controller Design 5

which way the game designer set up the playing field, either horizontally or vertically, the

players simply moved their paddle either up and down or left and right, but not both. The

game was set up like a tennis court or ping pong table, hence the name, whereby players

must move their paddle in order for it to make contact with the ball (even though in most

cases, it was a square representation of a ball) in order to send it back toward the other

player‟s side of the table or court. If a player missed, and the ball traveled past their

paddle and off the screen, the other player scored a point.

       The earliest way designers attempted to provide the control of this paddle to the

players was to give players some sort of a knob or dial to turn. The dial was directly

connected to a potentiometer housed inside the game console, which allowed the user to

position their on-screen paddle with great speed and accuracy. This first physical

controller design was aptly named a paddle also, and could be moved slowly in very

minute increments or the dial could be rapidly twisted from one extreme to the other,

causing the virtual paddle on screen to whip from one side of the screen to the other just

as fast. Some designers opted for another type of analog control in the form of a lever that

players could slide up and down or side to side, but not both. Either of these two designs,

the rotating dial or the single action lever, gave players what is referred to as a single axis

of control. In other words, the player could make their on-screen movements along either

a horizontal X-axis, or along a vertical Y-axis, but not both.

       Some early Pong consoles did not even allow players to time their serve of the

square representation of a ball. Once the game started, the ball was randomly served to

one side or the other. After an opponent scored a point, the console would briefly pause

to let players tally the score and catch their breath before being randomly served the next

ball. This was the early 70‟s and this type of entertainment was extremely new and
                                                             Videogame Controller Design 6

considered very fast-paced and exciting for its time. Some very clever (and nice) console

designers added a button to the console which allowed either the winner or the loser of

the last point to decide when they wanted to serve the ball, and could even put some

english or spin on the ball by moving their controller when they served.



                                       Early Improvements

Keeping Score

       Believe it or not, the earliest game systems were so primitive that they did not

even have the ability to even keep score on a simple game like Pong. After realizing how

much game players disliked having to keep track of their own scores in their heads, on

paper, or via some kind of abacus-style sliding scale on the console itself, early game

designers quickly added computerized scoring to their consoles. Although not an outright

improvement of what would become the modern controller per se, computerized scoring

was the first attempt at something that even modern game designers strive for: the player

being able to access all functions of the game or console without ever taking their hands

off the controller. Computerized scoring did exactly that.



Separation Anxiety

       The first big innovation in

game console controller design was

actually detaching or separating the

controllers from the console itself.

It may sound ridiculous now, but

early videogame players had to sit
                                           Figure 2. Magnavox Odyssey 100 (Reed, 2005)
                                                          Videogame Controller Design 7

side by side on the couch, down on the floor, or hunched over a coffee table where a tiny

game console was sitting. Take a look at the six-player Magnavox Odyssey 100 in Figure

2 and you will get a good idea of the nightmarish problem here. Imagine six players all

trying to keep their hands affixed to the console mere inches from one another.



        Single-axis control was fine for games like Pong and the plethora of clones which

quickly followed, but this was the heyday of the video arcade and the new goal for home

videogame console manufacturers was to bring the most successful arcade games into

people‟s homes. By the early 1980‟s, most arcade games were a little more complex than

Pong, requiring 4 or 8-way joysticks and

usually more than one button to play. Game

console designers at Magnavox and Atari both

started using dual-axis control in their

controller design starting with their first

cartridge based consoles: The Magnavox               Figure 3. Atari 2600 Controller
                                                          (Sock Master, 2004)
Odyssey 2 and the Atari 2600 (see Figure 3).



        Dual axis control allowed players to move items such as a character or a

spaceship on the game screen up and down as well as left and right. Essentially, a game

could now be created whereby the player could traverse the entire breadth of the

television screen. Also, it was common at this time for home console controllers to have a

single button (commonly referred to as a Fire button) on the controller. Although the

predominant game console manufacturers of the late 70‟s now detached their controllers

from the console, the folks at Magnavox decided to keep their controllers firmly tethered
                                                           Videogame Controller Design 8

to the console itself, where as the innovative folks over at Atari did something very

different. They came up with the radical idea to make the controller a peripheral to the

game system, something that could be plugged into or unplugged from the console as

needed. This allowed several new markets for the home video game industry.

        First, it allowed families to replace broken or worn out controllers much more

cheaply than replacing an entire expensive game console or sending the entire unit in for

repair. It also allowed individual companies who produced unique games for the console

to also make their own specialized controllers for their particular game program. Some

common game-specific controllers included keyboard controllers for educational games

(math, spelling) or steering controllers for driving games. This trend has continued

through even to today‟s modern game consoles. Some extremely common third-party

controllers today are light-gun peripherals for shooting games, and musical instruments,

such as guitars and microphones, for music-based video games. (Controllers not

produced by the same maker as the console are referred to in the industry as third-party

controllers.)



Going wireless

        Another revolution which was first pioneered by the folks at Atari was the idea of

having a remote control or wireless video game controller. The problem with their design

at the time was that wireless technology was very bulky, which made the large square

base of an already uncomfortable controller almost double in size. A clunky monstrosity

such as this was far too cumbersome for the typical user to handle effectively.

        Other factors which contributed to the abandonment of wireless controllers at this

early stage in development were that wireless technology was still extremely expensive
                                                             Videogame Controller Design 9

and the battery life for the devices was extremely short. Also, since the wireless

technology was not natively built into the console, the user would have to attach what

looked like an amplified television antenna to the console, which required its own power

supply. Today‟s wireless controllers must meet certain standards by the game console

manufacturers. Having the wireless technology already built into the came console is the

first step, which all three major market players (Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo) currently

have. Also, current wireless technology is extremely compact and is now built into the

controller‟s original design. In fact, there is no physical difference in the size or weight of

the wired and wireless versions of controller for the Xbox 360. Microsoft is currently the

only company who offers both a wired and wireless version of its controller for the their

game console.

       Lastly, the battery life of current wireless controllers is extremely long compared

to some of the early attempts. In their most current system, Sony decided to integrate the

rechargeable battery into their newest controller. Most console manufacturers still opt for

replaceable batteries. While the folks at Sony may view the idea of having the battery

hard-wired into the controller as being extremely convenient, most users would prefer to

have the option to swap out the battery if need be. Also, if the battery dies and you need

to recharge the controller, you better know where the USB charging cable is. Otherwise,

you either won‟t be playing your game system for a while until you find it, or else you

will be making a trip to the store and shelling out $10 for another one. Another reason

why hard-wiring the battery might be considered a bad design decision is that once the

recharge capability of the battery has dissipated, you have no option but to throw out the

now useless controller and buy another one, which is currently priced at $50. Most users

would prefer to replace alkaline AA batteries at $2 a pair and be able to play for 30 to 50
                                                            Videogame Controller Design 10

hours. Their other option would be to splurge on a more expensive set of rechargeable

batteries for the same purpose, rather than have to spend another $50 for a new controller

simply because it won‟t hold a charge any longer.



                                  The Button Dilemma

                                  The Nintendo Revolution

Enter the D-Pad

        Nintendo revolutionized the future design of controllers in several ways. The first

thing they did was introduce the gaming world to a fully digital controller, minus the

actual joystick. Still retaining the same 4-way/8-way direction scheme of the original

Atari joystick, they hid the four direction buttons inside the controller underneath a single

piece of hard plastic in the shape of a plus (+) sign. This control type is referred to as a

directional pad or D-Pad. The D-Pad is perhaps one of the greatest advancements in

controller design since it has been a staple of every single home video game console‟s

controller design since its introduction by Nintendo on the NES. Although it is currently

paired with an analog joystick on most controllers, and usually used more for menu

selections or other ancillary functions (and not used all that often for actual control any

more), it is still omnipresent.



Taking Control

        The other advancement that Nintendo made with their NES controller was having

just the right amount of buttons necessary for the technology at the time. It‟s hard to

imagine now playing a game console with only two fire buttons on the controller, but two

buttons were all that was really needed for most games during the late 80‟s. (Remember
                                                           Videogame Controller Design 11

also that third-party manufacturers were always releasing special controllers for games

that required more specialized control.) Besides the two fire buttons, the NES controller

had two additional buttons located midway between the D-pad and the “A” & “B” fire

buttons. These two buttons were for functions previously reserved for the game console

itself. They gave the player the ability to make game selections and start and stop (or

pause) the game directly from the controller, again letting the players keep their hands on

the controller. Select and Start buttons are also now considered staples on all future game

console controller designs.



                       Number of Buttons: How many is too many?

       It was recognized soon after the advent of the first home video game consoles that

one single fire button was probably not suited for any future console controller designs.

Some third-party game manufacturers even introduced add-on peripherals for the Atari

2600 which gave the controller an additional button for games that required at least a

second button. Atari‟s second and third consoles (5200 and 7800 respectively) both had

two separate fire buttons, as did the next console which pretty much put Atari out of

business with its release in 1985: the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).

       During the late 80‟s and early 90‟s, fighting games became extremely popular in

arcades. The trouble with porting these types of games to home consoles was that the

arcade games typically had four to eight buttons used for different strengths and different

types of attacks. A typical combination of buttons would be weak, medium and strong for

both punch and kick, and usually some kind of a block and/or special attack or throw

button. It wasn‟t long before new controllers were being released with six buttons on the

face of the controller and two shoulder buttons at the top in order to provide all of the
                                                           Videogame Controller Design 12

same control that was necessary in the arcade versions of these ported games. The

problem with this configuration is that trying to accurately hit one of six or eight small

buttons with any type of accuracy is extremely difficult. There were definitely hardcore

gamers who became very proficient at this type of control, but most casual gamers found

this a little too overwhelming.



Diamonds are a Gamer’s Best Friend

       Enter Nintendo again with their third most widely adopted advancement in

controller design. They configured their Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)

controller with same number of buttons as their competitors, but the layout was

completely different. They positioned four of the buttons on the face of the controller in a

diamond shape and put the other two buttons across the top of the controller. The four on

the face were accessible by the right thumb and the two across the top by the left and

right forefinger. The beauty of this new layout was that some specialized arcade games

required players to use two joysticks simultaneously which was previously not possible

on home systems. By having the fire buttons laid out in a diamond pattern, the buttons

were in the same exact configuration as the hidden D-pad buttons inside the controller.

This allowed players to do simultaneous moving and firing and, if the game programmers

built the option into the game cartridge, the player could even choose to switch the

control scheme (say if they were left-handed) and use the fire buttons to move and use the

D-pad to do the directional firing. Although this is currently not done with the digital

buttons or D-pads any more, using two analog joysticks on modern day controllers is still

the preferred way to accomplish this control scheme.
                                                           Videogame Controller Design 13

       One strange twist to the diamond pattern layout. Every game console

manufacturer since the 1991 release of the SNES had adopted the diamond pattern for

their fire buttons, except for, brace yourself, the most recent Nintendo game console, the

Wii, which was released in November of 2006. That system‟s wireless controller comes

in two parts: one half which contains the joystick, and the other half containing the fire

buttons. Both halves are connected by a cable and as a whole, resembles a nunchuk

weapon. (A nunchuk is an ancient oriental weapon cosisting of two wooden sticks

connected by a short piece of chain or rope). This beauty of this design is that it allows

lefties or righties to use the controller on whichever side feels most comfortable.

However, shortly after the launch of the Wii, Nintendo did release an additional

controller with the diamond pattern fire buttons and twin analog sticks that everyone is

familiar with and seems to like on other consoles.



                             Button Layout: Lefties vs. Righties

       As previously mentioned, most controller layouts in the early days were

configured for right-handed players only. It was not unreasonable that early controller

designers targeted the right-handed majority in their deisgns since 70 to 90 percent of the

population is right-handed (Onion, 2005). Now with modern controllers utilizing the

diamond pattern layout of fire buttons and the adoption of twin analog sticks on

controllers, games can be played just as easily by righties or lefties. Also, if you take into

account the ability to re-map controls (which is very common in most games today), or

being able to switch controller halves between the player‟s hands as with the Nintendo

nunchuk control design, right-handed players no longer have the upper hand in gaming.
                                                            Videogame Controller Design 14

             Analog versus Digital Control: What‟s the Difference?

       The next revolutionary enhancement to controller design came with the advent of

analog buttons. The debate over whether or not analog joysticks or buttons are better than

digital ones still rages today, but the consensus is that they will remain paired together as

one cannot simply have one or the other. They both are necessary for today‟s game

consoles and the variety of games played on them.



                                      Analog Joysticks

       One of the earliest innovations from primitive controller design which has

survived several generations of evolution is the functionality of an analog joystick. A

joystick which is strictly digital uses some type of switch that is activated when certain

directions are pressed on the stick. The only variation other than Up, Down, Left and

Right on a digital joystick would be the possibility of using diagonal directions. Using

diagonals essentially doubled the number of directions made possible with the joystick by

combining one of the directions on the x-axis (Left or Right) with one of the directions on

the y-axis (Up or Down). This now gave the player a total of eight directions with which

to move their on screen persona. Mattel went one step further in 1979 when they released

the Intellivision (short for Intelligent Television) with their innovative controller. It used

a flat disc as a replacement for a joystick which could be pressed in a total of 16

directions by acknowledging and taking advantage the space in between the original four-

direction joysticks and the four “true” 45 degree diagonals. This was still a digital control

scheme, but gave the game player just another extended degree of control. This is

considered another forerunner of the current analog controller which gives almost infinite

degrees of dual-axis control to the player.
                                                           Videogame Controller Design 15

        At this time, however, game console designers, and their consoles and controllers,

were getting more advanced and bold in their designs. Even though sales of the Atari

2600 were still strong, Atari released their second console, the Atari 5200 in 1982. (Just a

bit of background information: the model number of the first Atari console was the 2600.

The model number of their second console was the 5200, which is simply double the first

model‟s number. This was a trend which would continue with the release of their third

console, the Atari 7800 in 1986.) Continuing their tradition of detachable controllers with

their new console, the 5200 sported extremely futuristic controllers compared to its

predecessor (see Figure 4). Controllers for the 5200

included the first true analog joysticks and a total of

19 buttons on the face and sides. (Some buttons, such

as the two fire buttons on the side, were merely

duplicated on the other side to accommodate both

righties and lefties.) This was quite a dramatic jump

from the simple four direction, single button design of     Figure 4. Atari 5200 Controller
                                                                 (Sock Master, 2004)
its all digital predecessor.

        While this controller‟s design was a little easier for the gamer to handle, the

Achilles heel of the new design was the fact that the controller‟s joystick handle,

although small and compact, would not re-center itself automatically. A flimsy rubber

boot surrounding the base of the joystick was supposed to handle the job of centering the

stick but it failed miserably, as did the console‟s sales. Having learned from Atari‟s

failure in controller design for their second home system, all future game console

designers now acknowledge that having a spring-loaded, self-centering joystick is a

staple in good analog controller design.
                                                           Videogame Controller Design 16

       Another key flaw with the 5200‟s controller design, which thankfully led to future

improvements, was with the buttons themselves. Instead of having rugged, digital,

switch-type buttons, akin to the lone button on the 2600‟s controllers, the 5200 sported a

phone keypad type layout with soft rubber buttons layered over a membrane keyboard.

Membrane buttons, they are extremely thin and flat, essentially two thin film membranes

layered with metal which, when pressed together, form a complete circuit. This

comprises the button‟s switch mechanism. The problem with these membrane-type

buttons was that they often became corroded or simply wore out to the point where they

were no longer were responsive, even to extreme amounts of pressure. At least one more

good learning opportunity for future controller designers came of this failure: make

buttons which are responsive and will last a long time. Some modern game controllers

are tested and rated for a button-mashing life of up to a million presses.



                                      Analog Buttons

       It was a long time before someone stood up and said, “You know, analog

controllers turned out to be a pretty good idea, why don‟t we make some buttons analog

as well.” On the original Microsoft X box console, the four main buttons on the face of

the console were in fact analog. If, for example, you were using two of them for gas and

brake in a racing game, the harder you pressed the gas button, the faster you would go.

The same went for the brake button. Two separate problems arose with this design of

analog button, both based on the same issue: sensitivity. The first of these is that not

everyone can press these types of buttons with the same amount of pressure. Not only is

trying to hold a steady pressure on them extremely difficult but, after pressing these types

of buttons for an extended period of time, they can be fairly uncomfortable. The second
                                                            Videogame Controller Design 17

problem is, how does a player know if the button is maxed? Maxing out a button refers to

pressing the button all the way down to its extreme limit. This caused many sore thumbs

and many broken controllers from users trying to press on them too hard.



Triggers

       Although the afore mentioned type of analog button has pretty much been

abandoned, one attempt at a true analog button which is thankfully here to stay is the type

that has come to be known as triggers. They are essentially miniature versions of the very

first single-axis analog controllers. The only difference is that they are spring-loaded so

that when released, they extend all the way back to their default position (not pressed in).

This solves the problem of the previously mentioned analog buttons being maxed. When

someone pulls the trigger and their finger now rests against the body or shell of the

controller, the trigger cannot be pulled any farther and they know it is maxed. Spring

loaded triggers are usually placed on both the left and right side of the controller on the

underside, generally where a gun trigger is located. This allows the player to use them

with either their index or middle finger without disrupting the use of their thumbs on the

upper or face controls.



                                      Shoulder Buttons

       Up until now, game players now had a good handle on holding onto their

controllers and pressing directional pad (D-pads) and buttons using only their thumbs. It

starts getting a little difficult to press six or sometimes eight separate buttons with a

single thumb, so when the folks at Sega and Sony got ready to release their new game

systems (the Sega Saturn and Sony Playstation respectively) in 1995, they added a new
                                                          Videogame Controller Design 18

type of button to their new controllers. Enter the shoulder button. Resting along the top

edge of the controller, the shoulder button allowed game players the additional

functionality of reserving their well-trained thumbs to more common tasks in the games,

such as fire or accelerate, and assign secondary tasks to their underutilized index or

trigger fingers, such as shifting gears, changing views or changing weapons.



                                      Hybrid Buttons

       The designers at Nintendo actually included hybrid analog/digital shoulder

buttons on their Nintendo Gamecube controllers. The button functioned much like a

standard trigger button (explained earlier), but instead of just ending when the movement

to the extreme limit was reached, a firm click was felt when the button finally pressed in

the recessed digital button. While this controller addition was fairly innovative, the

design has yet to be duplicated (probably due to copyright infringement laws), and it was

not utilized by very many software developers. The final, digital “click” after maxing this

type of button can only be activated when the trigger is fully depressed, however any

game developer wishing to institute some type of control on that button press can do the

same thing just as easily when the limit of the standard analog trigger button press is

reached. One good example of this would be applying thrust to a jet plane you are flying

and then having the afterburner kick in when the limit is reached, or having the

afterburner kick in when the digital button clicks at the extreme limit of the button press.

Either way, the same thing happens, so this approach has not been pursued further by any

game console designer — not even by Nintendo on their latest console, the Nintendo Wii.

       Below is a table showing some of the milestone advancements in game controller

design and as you can see, hybrid controller design schemes are becoming the norm.
                                                                 Videogame Controller Design 19

Year      System Name            Joystick Control Scheme                     Button Scheme

1972   Magnavox Odyssey      N/A (control via rotating dial)       N/A

1977   Atari 2600            Digital                               Digital

1982   Atari 5200            Analog                                Digital

1985   Nintendo NES          Digital                               Digital

1995   Sony Playstation      Digital                               Digital

1995   Sega Saturn           Analog or Digital (selectable)        Hybrid (Digital+Analog Triggers)

2000   Sony PlayStation2     Hybrid (Analog + Digital)             Digital

2001   Microsoft Xbox        Hybrid (Analog + Digital)             Analog+Analog Triggers

2005   Microsoft Xbox360     Hybrid (Analog + Digital)             Hybrid (Digital+Analog Triggers)

2006   Sony PlayStation 3    Hybrid (Analog, Digital + Motion)     Hybrid (Digital+Analog Triggers)

2006   Nintendo Wii          Hybrid (Analog, Digital + Motion)     Digital




             Table 1. Videogame Controller Evolution Chart. (Cortest, 2007)



                      Ergonomics: The Shape of Things to Come

                                       Now These Feel Good

       Finally after several implementations of combinations of thumbpads and

thumbsticks and the addition of shoulder buttons and trigger buttons, the design of the

video game console controller was beginning to start looking uniform again. Not wanting

their controllers to be just like everyone else‟s, designers finally started tackling the long-

standing issue of making controllers that were extremely comfortable to hold. I‟ve not

been able to confirm this hypothesis, but judging by the shape of most modern game

controllers, it almost seems to me that console designers handed a soft ball of clay to a

panel of test subjects and said, “grab this ball of clay in the most confortable way you can

and that‟s what we‟ll design the next controller to look like. Not surprisingly, the Sony
                                                           Videogame Controller Design 20

DualShock, and it‟s predecessor, the original Playstation controller, were pretty much

right on target with their design. In fact, it is because of consumer love of the shape and

design of the original Playstation controller (sans thumbsticks) that Sony has kept the

shape of the Playstation 3 (PS3) controller virtually identical.

                                       Looking Good

       Some console manufacturers, such as Microsoft, have hired artists to produce

special versions of their comfortable, ergonomic controllers. There is no difference in the

controller‟s design or functionality, only the outward physical appearance. Gamers have

already embraced aftermarket or third-party customization of their consoles appearance,

therefore the first-party manufacturers such as Microsoft have hired comic book artist

Todd McFarlane (creator of the Spawn comic book series) to design custom artwork for

their controllers. Some gamers like them so much that they are willing to pay the extra

$10 or $20 for a simple aesthetic or artistic improvements (see Figure 5).




    Figure 5. Special Todd McFarlane Edition Halo 3 Controllers (Bluevenom, 2007)
                                                           Videogame Controller Design 21

                                       Conclusion

       This paper has shown specifically how the design of the controllers has evolved

from strictly a necessary function, with no though to HCI, into works of art with many

aspects of HCI taken into consideration into their design. It‟s interesting how, in their

infancy, older game systems merely had to have a way to control a basic paddle either up

and down, or left and right, sometimes both, using only rotating knobs or bi-directional

levers. Atari standardized having four or eight-way directional control and a single

button. Subsequent systems having the same directional control added a second button

(as per the NES in 1985) or a third, as per the Sega Genesis in 1989. Atari introduced the

world of console gaming to true analog control starting with their second console, the

5200, but because of a very poor design, analog control wasn‟t truly adopted until Sony

introduced the dual anolog joysticks on their second generation Playstation controller.

       Sony‟s design however was revolutionary and has become the defacto standard

which has been adopted by nearly all game console manufacturers since its release.

Sony‟s innovative design has withstood the test of time and besides trivial changes such

as color removal of the wire in their newest wireless version, the outward physical design

has not changed in 13 years. Other companies cannot copy Sony‟s specific shape design,

but the dual analog thumbstick functionality and shoulder button design have been

emulated by competitor‟s worldwide.

                    Where Controller Design is Heading in the Future

       Now that a concensus has been reached by most manufacturers in regards to what

makes a good controller design, I see game console deisgners focusing more on the

newest advancements in motion sensitive controls which are currently very crude and

unreliable in their responsiveness. New controllers for Sony‟s Playstation 3 and
                                                         Videogame Controller Design 22

Nintendo‟s Wii both have motion sensing technology built-in and the Wii‟s wireless

controller (aptly named the Wiimote) also has a small speaker built in which gives audio

feedback. These are just a few hints at the new innovations that designers have in store

for us in regards to the HCI design in future gaming console controllers.
                                                        Videogame Controller Design 23

                                         References


Bluevenom. (June 15, 2007). Techfresh.net. Xbox360 Limited Edition „Halo 3‟ Wireless
      Controllers. Retrieved November 1, 2007, from http://www.techfresh.net/gadgets/
      game-systems/xbox-360-limited-edition-halo-3-wireless-controllers/

Harris, Craig. (February 21, 2006). IGN Entertainment. Top 10 Tuesday:
        Worst Game Controllers; Some brilliant ideas came out of game designers.
        Retrieved on Feb. 23, 2007, from http://pc.ign.com/articles/690/690450p1.html

Onion, Amanda (February 17, 2005). ABC News. The Left-Handed Advantage: They
       may have higher health risks, but lefties enjoy element of surprise. Retrieved
       November 1, 2007, from http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=498707

Reed, Steve. (2005). SteveR’s Classic Cartridge Page.
       Retrieved October 18, 2007, from http://www.steverd.com

Sock Master. (2004). Sock Master’s Game Console Controller Family Tree. Retrieved
      October 18, 2007, from http://www.axess.com/twilight/console/index.html

Wikipedia. (2005). Pong. Retrieved October 30, 2007, from
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pong

				
DOCUMENT INFO
Shared By:
Categories:
Tags:
Stats:
views:6
posted:7/21/2011
language:English
pages:23