Sounds like playtesting gamepads is as tricky as playtesting games
"Nobody knows what they want, and everybody wants something different."
- Razer's Chris Mitchell, speaking to Kotaku about the process of designing video game controllers.
These days most people play console games with something that looks, at least vaguely, like a gamepad. Two sticks, maybe a directional pad, some face buttons, and some shoulder triggers.
So how do you improve on that?
That's one of the core questions of a new Kotaku feature on video game controllers, which includes comments from folks at Microsoft as well as video game peripheral makers Scuf and Razer.
It's an interesting read, not least because there's a few parallels between how manufacturers fine-tune new gamepad designs and how developers figure out what works (or what doesn't) about new games.
"Nobody knows what they want, and everybody wants something different...it’s just a lot of iteration," Razer's Chris Mitchell told Kotaku. "A lot of people will not be able to sit there and say, the reason it’s not comfortable is because the curvature of this has to be rounder, or whatever it is, right? They sit there and say, ah, ‘This is not comfortable.’ Or, ‘I don’t like this.'"
Sounds a bit like the playtesting process for games, which often challenges devs to take feedback from playtesters (like "this part isn't fun") and try to interpret what, if anything, should be done to address their issues.
The article doesn't delve too deep into the development process for new controller prototypes, though it does touch on the topic of controller patents and suggest that gamepad makers take a lot of cues from the way elite players in games like Call of Duty use their controllers. They also evidently take cues from each other.
"Competition is so very very useful,” said Mitchell. “Because everyone is experimenting with new things, and then we see what is well-received, what isn’t well-received, and that makes it into every controller like half a year or a year later. And then we keep going."
The full article touches on everything from the value of paddles (on a gamepad) to the history of the saxophone, and is well worth a read over on Kotaku.