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Input Devices Games Hardware

The Game Controllers That Shaped the Way We Play 103

Posted by timothy
from the fond-memories-of-atari-paddle-controllers dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Neal Stephenson's ambitious sword fighting Kickstarter Clang has run into financial troubles, and part of the reason is down to new controller that was required — the extra investment reportedly scared away investors. Sometimes though, games can help usher in a whole new type of controller, and create new ways to play. From Pong's easy dials, which helped bring the video game into the home, to Ape Escape's twin thumbsticks and Doodle's Jump savvy use of the accelerometer on the iPhone, some games have hit the critical mass necessary to establish a new input as a way to play. So what's next?"
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The Game Controllers That Shaped the Way We Play

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  • by itsme1234 (199680) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @10:22AM (#45108311)

    when a friend was playing some adventure game and at some point he got stuck because he was looking for a "mouse" and for a "stick of joy". That is because one of the F-keys allowed him to select mouse for example and then it said "mouse not found".

  • Short term, I think Valve is next. http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/13/10/12/0013251/valve-shows-how-steam-controller-works-in-real-life [slashdot.org] Innovative, versatile, cheap and open.

    Long term, I think we will go controller-less before too much longer. Between touch and "connect-like" systems, they will go away.
    • "Long term, I think we will go controller-less before too much longer. Between touch and "connect-like" systems, they will go away."

      Maybe so. But the controller market illustrates that fad (and money) can win out... not necessarily the best controller. Much like the old VHS vs Beta market.

      The greatest game controller yet invented was the Logitech Cyberman 2 [maximumpc.com]. It let you easily do with one hand what other controllers do with 2 separate joysticks, leaving the other hand free to push buttons. And it was very intuitive... no big learning curve like there is with the X-Box style controllers. (Many people insist that there is no big learnin

      • Clarification: 6 degrees of freedom means it could move on 6 different axes. A joystick has only 2 axes. So with one control you could do all that you can with 2 joysticks and still have 2 axes left over.

        So you could use the one control for both looking and moving around in a FPS, for example, as well as jump and crouch. (Which worked very well, by the way. It was my go-to controller for the Quake series.) Then you still had 8 buttons for other functions such as shoot, inventory, etc.
        • by vux984 (928602)

          A joystick has only 2 axes.

          3 axes.

          Main joystick, +twist, +thumbstick

          5 axes if you include the: hat (thumbstick at the top of the joystick)

          In practice the hat was usually implemented usually as 4 buttons (that usually supported 8 directions N/W/S/E + NW/NE/SW/SE) instead of actual true axes but that was more a limitation of what the old game port could take than anything else.

          In any case the old jet fighter games did allow for pitch, yaw, roll while they were often setup to use the hat as a way of looking le

          • Although I have seen a few joysticks with twist, I was referring to the more typical "joysticks" found on mainstream game controllers. But it's true that some joysticks were quite nice.

            The hat doesn't count as "more axes". It was merely one "joystick" mounted on another. Just like an XBox controller, you still just have 2 x 2-axis sticks (or buttons). Again granted, some joysticks had a little more but buttons don't count.

            Thrust axis is a separate control that may be analog but it doesn't add an "axi
            • I retract what I wrote earlier: a separate slider could be considered an "axis", but it is a very limited one. It requires a separate hand to operate it and it is usually meant to be set somewhere and left there.

              In RC systems, a slider or 3-position switch is often afforded the distinction "channel", while "on-off" switches are often called "half channels", because of the amount of control they give. This is independent of the actual number of channels the radio has. So a transmitter with 2 normal sticks
            • by vux984 (928602)

              The hat doesn't count as "more axes". It was merely one "joystick" mounted on another. Just like an XBox controller, you still just have 2 x 2-axis sticks (or buttons). Again granted, some joysticks had a little more but buttons don't count.

              The key difference to an xbox controller, and the reason it relates to your original post is that all 5 axes (hand joystick x/y/twist + thumb joystick x/y could all be controlled with a single hand.

              As I recall the genuinely good ones also cost upward of $100

              Supply and d

              • "The key difference to an xbox controller, and the reason it relates to your original post is that all 5 axes (hand joystick x/y/twist + thumb joystick x/y could all be controlled with a single hand."

                Yes, that's true.

                "Supply and demand. I'm confident the $100 sticks would easily have been in the xbox controller price range had they been ubiquitously sold with a major console like that, in those kinds of numbers."

                Also probably true. I wasn't criticizing, just making an observation. I used to drool over some of those nice joysticks, but it wasn't a budget priority at the time.

                "I recall the old microsoft sidewinder was a pretty decent controller for that game as well. find this on google..."

                It wasn't bad, but IMO it was overly complicated to use. My objection to the X-Box style was overcomplication, too. Too much coordinated effort needed from both hands.

                I'm not saying there aren't other good controllers. But I stick by my assertion that Cyberman 2 was still the best overall controller out there.

      • But in VHS v. BETA the better format did win out...

        • "But in VHS v. BETA the better format did win out..."

          It's a matter of opinion. Beta had a lot of advantages. Even in the beginning, you could pause a Beta with a clear picture; you could not do that with VHS. You could speed up or slow down the video; you could not with VHS. The tapes were smaller, and many people (it depended on who you talked to) claimed it had a better picture.

          True, those features did come along on VHS players... but quite a while later.

  • by Danathar (267989) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @10:33AM (#45108353) Journal

    As somebody who grew up in the early to mid 80's I was raised on the joystick. When the industry moved to gamepads I simply could not play as effectively anymore (and rarely play consoles as a result).

    Wrist coordination and speed is fundamentally different from thumb coordination. I suppose many people are better at fine finger coordination then wrist, but for me the switch from wrist to thumb controllers ruined consoles for me.

    • Agreed. I had it even worse, growing up on pinball. However, one revolutionary input device not listed in the summary was quite to my liking -- the trackball. Centipede was responsible for an arcade revolution in no small part because of its baby trackball. Missile command also required and showcased it.
    • by JanneM (7445)

      I agree the physical joystick has gotten the shaft lately (sorry). The binary stick, the analog stick and analog with feedback are all among the best devices ever invented for direct control. Ask any pilot of a current airplane or drone, and see if they'd not rather use a touchscreen or joypad.

    • Point....but your APM (actions per minute) are abysmal with a full size joystick. You have to move your entire arm instead of a flick of your fingers. Imagine trying to type your term paper with a set of joysticks rather than keyboard. The only games that benefit from a joystick over a Dpad or tiny analog thumbsticks are going to be flight and driving sims....and only those because it gives more natural and granular control to the operation of your virtual vehicle.
      • by tepples (727027)
        There is something smaller than a flight sim joystick but bigger than a thumbstick: an arcade-style joystick. In things like Street Fighter series, are quarter circle motions (Hadoken) and Z motions (Shoryuken) easier on a D-pad or analog thumbstick than on an arcade style joystick?
    • by antdude (79039)

      Ditto. Especially when it had one or two buttons! I can't use those fancy joysticks and gamepads. I am OK with clicky big keyboards and mice. I just don't like holding controllers due to my disabilities. :(

  • Wii or a Kinect? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by angel'o'sphere (80593) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @10:41AM (#45108377) Homepage Journal

    What is wrong with Wii as a controller? Or a kinect and youse a real sword (wooden sword)?

    As someone who has kenjutsu experience I really wonder how a sword fighting 'game' should work at all.

    E.g. without something that has the weight and feel of a sword in your hands, and nothing to actuall block your blow etc.

    To have a sword fighting game you would need a robot, at least with a sword arm and a torso to hit at.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      The issue of holding nothing seems like the biggest issue here. If you're holding enough to have a memorable experience, you can't really play in your living room.

      Seems like another one of those ideas ahead of its time. Until overlay glasses become common and inexpensive, it doesn't make sense. If you had a smartphone with stereo video HDMI out (possible on the micro connector? no idea) to some decent glasses with a gyro in them then you could reasonably play a game like this.

      • You still had trouble to model this situation:
        I aim with a strike for the head of my opponent, perhaps he wears a helmet, when I hit my sword stops there.
        Is he moving away, my sword goes through him and is now elsewhere.
        My next possible action depends uppon where my sword is.
        (Still raisednin head hight, or already pointing down to the ground)

        • Depends on if you want 1 on 1 tracking, or 1 on 1 movement.
          1 on 1 tracking means you have a problem if you have a sword game, and you hit something: You either need for the character to get a cooldown why moving the object to the correct position, or find a clever solution.
          1 on 1 movement is more simple. Slashing or stabbing in all directions just works.

          • I guess you mean, regardless where your virtual sword "should be" you can attack any position of the opponent.
            But how should he then be able to deflect/block your sword if it just comes out of nowhere?

            • Why would the character model not have any sort of swing delay, animation model, or anything?
              I don't think you understand game design.

              • What has swing delay etc. to do with the question where my sword is? We don't talk about "a game" but about a "simulation" that implies it somehow accurately "simulates" handling and fighting with a sword.

      • Nah, there are several issues of equal importance. You'll never be able to jam your opponent or be jammed yourself, since your movements will always be unrestricted. You can't simply try to overpower defenses since the computer won't be able to gauge strength applied. Reacting to a small opponent on a TV is way harder than to a full sized one. Also, evading or getting out of striking distance is, even if perfectly emulated, unintuitive due to lack of spatial references.

    • Safety is a major concern. You have all kinds of kids and even adults who get so engrossed in the game that all kinds of bad things could happen. Even a casual and aware gamer might have an occasional accident.

      Imagine if you were using a real sword, 70cm long or even larger. The potential for damaging your surroundings, or poking another person in the eye is very high.

      Perhaps it is something that could work in an arcade or arena where there is dedicated staff to ensure a safe environment, but definitely not

    • You know, most games have already only meaningless feedback. Sure it does not feel at all like the real thing, but did Guitar Hero need to feel realistic to be good? Does an arcade car racing game need a $300 Logitech force feedback wheel to be playable? Do I need to feel pain to play an FPS?
      Sure, it feels awkward the first time you play the second Zelda on Wii and you move your vibrating wiimote around, but the game experience is not really affected. No feedback is not such an issue as you can think. You
      • The problem with the controller and sword fighting is, that depending how the opponent reacts my sword ends in a certain position. And my next move has to happen from that position.
        I was not really talking about 'force feed back'. But that is an aspect.
        I strike four your head:
        a) I hit (your helmet?): my hands are relatively hight, in front of me, the sword tip is at the hight of my head (where the opponents head is)
        b) the opponent moves away and I cut through the space where his head was: my hands are down

        • I guess it depends on game design. Force stance to stance, where there is.... 5-6 stances, and each can go into each, and the attack varies depending on which transition it is.
          Or other more clever solutions.

    • by Dabido (802599)

      What is wrong with Wii as a controller? Or a kinect and youse a real sword (wooden sword)?

      I was thinking they could use something like a bamboo blade with the ribbon sensors from an Otomotone on each bamboo section. Then, if something gets hit, like a robot or other person, it will register the hit without registering the hit on the other bamboo blade. A sensor to ensure the hit isn't too low would also eliminate a false hit from the blade hitting the floor. It's just a matter of making it robust enough that the ribbon sensors don't get ripped apart easily. Then, simply a matter of gearing u

      • Sure, if two fight each other that system would work.
        But I guess they either want one to fight against an computer opponent or two to fight each other via the internet.
        So the problem is to get your "real" sword into interaction with a virtual sword/enemy.

    • I love the Power Glove. It's so bad.

    • i loved the max and hated the advantage.
    • by SeaFox (739806)

      The NES Advantage was better because of the rapid fire being adjustable. In some games you were only allowed to have a certain number of projectiles on screen at once or the maximum fire rate was lower than the highest rate the controller supported, so you could use the dial to slow the rapid-fire rate to what was best for the game.

      I actually used the slow-mo mode a few times (muted the TV audio so I would be hearing the pause chime continuously sound).

    • by oKtosiTe (793555)
      This is what I started reading the comment section for. Now I can go back to what I was doing. Thank you.
  • The article is bullshit. Ape Escape was nothing new. SM64 had camera control with right thumb (C buttons) and movement with left thumb (analog stick). Ape Escape just used a stick for the cameras. Doodle Jump? Seriously? What a load of fluff.

    • It sure is. Super Mario 64 wrote the book on 3D platforming. Sony then rushed to retrofit control sticks into their controllers (and did a terrible job that was only fixed for the PS4). They just added an extra one because they couldn't find a place to fit a single one and took the opportunity to try to outdo Nintendo.

      Claiming that Ape Escape (and by extension the dual analog) was more innovative than Super Mario 64 (and by extension the N64 controller) is simply absurd.

      • by drsquare (530038)

        Mario 64 was a terrible 3D platformer. The camera was an utter joke.

        The only 3D platforming that is remolely competent is in the FPS genre, because you have a first-person perspective, eliminating camera concerns, as well as good air control.

    • You have no idea what you're talking about. Ape escape used the right stick to control the items, and the left stick for movement. It worked like the twin stick "asteroids" style games out now.

      Twin stick control was an entirely new concept for console players at the time. Forget about 4 way buttons -- this took getting used to. After a few years, game developers then seemed to hit upon the idea of using the stick for the camera.

      By now, we're all accustomed to this convention. But in 1998-1999, using a stick

  • Neal Stephenson is just working his way up to building the metaverse. Soon.
  • by martyb (196687)

    In a word: Voice.

    1.) Playing sudoku on my pc, it would be nice (and faster) if I could just SAY "one" or "seven", instead of trying to select it from a menu or scroll my trackwheel until that number is selected.

    2.) One step further, though, instead of just "words" use custom sounds. Make the initial sound of saying the letter "T". Each time that sound is "heard" fire the (currently selected) gun.

    3) I'm sure that even a small vocabulary of sounds could provide rapid access to select and use different a

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      voice control has inherent lag.

      btw if you wanted you could without too much trouble configure your pc to press shoot button on saying pew pew. but you'd get your avatars head shot off.

      • by martyb (196687)

        voice control has inherent lag.

        That's a good point and I agree there is lag. There is, say, intrinsic lag, in the need to receive enough sound to reliably distinguish one "command" from another. Then there is the lag required by the computer to make that discernment.

        The summary asked "what's next?" and I would think current processing limitations, the discernment part, could be mitigated by advancements in processing power and algorithms. We may not be there, yet, but I could foresee a time when we wou

        • There is no lag in voice commands if you us Kiai.
          You are only limited in actions as you have to restrict yourself to a limited set of Kiai.

  • by sclark73 (1969844) <iam@seanclark.net> on Saturday October 12, 2013 @11:44AM (#45108707)

    1) The Nintendo N64 controller was the first to introduce the analog joystick. This was a huge stage of controller evolution. This should have had its own section before PlayStations dual shock. And this goes into my second point.

    2) The environment that was mentioned for Ape Escape was already introduced in the super Mario world for the N64. The dual shock control did raise the bar for thumb sticks by having two, but the N64 controller already was doing the environment the dual shock was allowing. Nintendo did this with the combination of the thumb sticks and the four directional butons. Play golden eye for N64 and you will see Nintendo forced PlayStations hand in creating the dual-shock controller

    IMO
    When it comes to controller ergonomics the dual shock was a step backwards in controller design. The thumb sticks do not sit in a place where you thumbs would natural rest. Making the thumb sticks awkward to use. The 2nd generation Xbox controllers perfected the dual thumb stick controller.

    my 2 cents

    • Playstation controllers from the Dual Analog to the DualShock 3 are an ergonomic disaster. It's a good thing the PS4 controller has been improved.

      By the way, what kind of genious thought that it was a great idea to have analog face butons? Most useless "feature" ever.

    • by Agripa (139780)

      They skipped the game controllers used by personal computers as well. The Apple II predated the N64 by almost 20 years and used analog joysticks. Console controllers took a long time to even catch up to that.

    • It's messy and artibitrary. Why the WuTang controller and no CharacteriSticks [segaretro.org]? Both are novelty shapes that did nothing to advance the state of the art. Why no mention of the Konix SpeedKing [retrogamer.net], the first home computer stick that I'm aware of to face the reality of living room gaming, and get rid of the sit-on-computer-desk design (although the later Cheetah bug was much better)? And then there's huge gaps in the heredity, implying the joystick was invented independently several times.
  • Is someone getting paid to post ads for Steam disguised as articles????
  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @02:15PM (#45109609)

    Kickstarter investors are just as much investors as anyone else. There's no way Clang would have reached the goal they did without proposing the custom hardware.

    I've written off Clang as a loss, which is fine - the more ambitious a project is, the more that is possible. But in the future I'm not sure I'd back a game project with custom hardware asking for less than a million or so, or with a very clear plan on how they are delivering on the hardware.

  • The PS3 already has the move controller - basically a microphone shaped device with several sensors in it that does a pretty good job of imitating a sword pommel. Gaffer tape a stick to the end of one of those and you have a sword made with tape, legacy controllers and a fucking stick! :p Seriously, it's do-able.

  • arteaga candela
  • eagerly waiting for it...

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