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Sony's Marks: 'Doesn't Make Sense' To Ditch Traditional Gamepad
Sony's Marks: 'Doesn't Make Sense' To Ditch Traditional Gamepad
March 16, 2011 | By Staff

March 16, 2011 | By Staff
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    19 comments
More: Console/PC



In 2006, Nintendo took a big risk and introduced the motion-controlled Wii, ditching the standard gamepad for a wand and a nunchuck.

While the subsequent Wii craze is well-documented, don't expect Sony to make such a drastic change to the next PlayStation's standard controller.

Asked if the PS3's follow-up would consider ditching a more traditional gamepad for something along the lines of the newer, wand-like PlayStation Move controller, Sony Computer Entertainment America's Dr. Richard Marks replied in a new Gamasutra feature interview, "I don't think that makes sense."

He added, "I said that pretty much from the beginning that we're not trying to get rid of the gamepad. The gamepad is a really good abstract device. It can map to so many different things. It doesn't map one-to-one to those things, but it doesn't need to for a lot of game experiences."

Marks is R&D manager of special projects at SCEA, having worked on PlayStation cameras EyeToy and PlayStation Eye, and more recently the PlayStation Move, viewed as an answer to the Wii's accessible and successful control scheme.

But game companies are realizing that traditional gamepads and their many buttons are a turnoff for the mass market -- two clickable thumbsticks alone can be intimidating, let alone d-pads, shoulder buttons and face buttons.

"[The traditional controller] is still intimidating to some audiences, some people," admitted Marks. "And so, those people might like Move better. So, I think having both offered to people kinds of people that want to play is the right choice right now. I think the DualShock, it's just better for some experiences, but the Move is better for other ones."

As for Microsoft's competing Kinect for Xbox 360, Marks said he supports any innovation happening in the market. But he said camera technology still has a way to go before having the preciseness of other control offerings.

"You need a lot more fidelity [in camera technology] to get the kind of control that you can already get out of the gamepad or Move even," he said. "I think to do some of the more subtle things, it's just not possible right now. And I think it might be a ways off because buttons are very exact. They know exactly what the person intends, they push a button or they don't. And that's a tough one to replace with some kind of other gesture."

For more from Marks on his background in robotics and aeronautics, as well as his thoughts on the Kinect and what exactly an R&D manager does during the day, read the full Gamasutra feature, available now.


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Comments


Ujn Hunter
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Good call. I'm left handed and hate the Wii for splitting the controls into separate hands. Having the option to use a traditional controller instead would allow me to enjoy those games again. Options are always best.

Todd Boyd
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Can't you just hold them oppositely?

Maurício Gomes
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Several Wii games don't work holding the controller in the opposite way, specially if they rely also on accelerometer.

Carl Chavez
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If that's true, it's a problem with developers and not the hardware...

Peter Young
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@Mauricio - I'm not really sure how this is even possible. AFAIK, the Wii Remote does NOT do absolute position tracking i.e. it has absolutely ZERO idea of where it is in space. With this in mind, how can it matter which hand you use to hold it?

Chris Tarczon
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Not surprising for a company who has barely changed their controller since 1994. It's not nearly as comfortable as the 360 controller, people are just used to it. Sony goes through the motions while Nintendo and Microsoft truly innovate (Wiimote -> Move, Achievements -> Trophies, Xbox Live -> PSN, N64 analog/rumble -> Dual Shock)

Charles Stuard
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Guess I'm just "used to it"... but I far prefer the Sony controllers. It likely matters as to game preference, but I love the accessibility of the D-Pad as well as how the shoulders are laid out. I hate the huge separation of the shoulders on the X-Box controllers, as well as the general "clicky-ness" of the buttons. Plus it makes my hands feel confined, the way my fingers have to wrap up "inside" those little coves on the controller...



But really, I think there's a place for both... I don't mind if they stick with their current controller design.

Maurício Gomes
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I also hate the 360 controller, it feels "wrong" on my hands.





Now, SNES style and children (including PS controllers... that if you look are exactly like a SNES controller with 2 extra shoulder buttons and in newer ones the 2 analogs) are just plainly superb.



No wonder, that I don't own a console, but I have a couple of PS2 controllers for PC gaming...





I only need now to find a MegaDrive (6 button) style controller :D Maybe find a clone of the (good, not the crap) Saturn controller with USB...

Victor Reynolds
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I like the 360 controller much more the the ps3/2/1 controller. I guess my big hands need a bigger controller?

Charles Forbin
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I have all three consoles, and jump between the three controller types with relative ease. Geez, learn to adapt, people. ;-P



If I had to pick a favorite, I'd go with the X360 simply because that gets played the most. And I have one of those little keypads on it that light up when I type. They are way cool. :)

Kamruz Moslemi
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As long as buttons and sticks provide the most accurate, reliable and responsive means to interface with games then they will never go away, it is as simple as that really. Long time gamers have a known low tolerance for gameplay mechanic that only sometimes produce the desired results, calling them broken, so why would they ever tolerate the same abuse from a control interface that will carry that handicap over to all games being played using it?

Wyatt Epp
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Hah, I remember when we were saying this same thing about keyboards and mice. Which are still around. How about that. :)



All together now: Different people have different needs in their hardware and software.

Jeferson Soler
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@ Wyatt - Good point!

Joe McGinn
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>>As long as buttons and sticks provide the most accurate, reliable and responsive means to interface with games then they will never go away, it is as simple as that really

This. Motion controls will remain on the fringes of gaming for the foreseeable future.

Aaron Truehitt
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It's all about feedback for me. I hate touch screen controls as well as motion control because of this. Heck, I wouldn't even like "mind control" because theres no feedback. Maybe I'm weird, but I'm a button man.

Kris Graft
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You're not weird. We talk about sensing brain waves in the full feature, and Marks explains why he's not too keen on that kind of control for games.

Christopher Enderle
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Just wait until those games can send brain waves back!

James Burrows
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I personally think motion controlling is great for most games, especially FPS games. Have you played KZ3 with the Sharpshooter? It's awesome.



I suppose I should say the Move controller is awesome. I don't care for the Kinect. In that respect he's right, controllers allow for way more precise and intricate movement than the Kinect.

Brian Tsukerman
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I'm of the opinion that the goal of a controller is to provide easiest translation of intent with ease of motion. It's why variations of the classic setup are still so common despite the surge of movement technologies, since the movement required to input commands into a classically set up controller takes significantly less effort and accomplishes what needs to be done quickly with less room for error.



For now, the classic controller does this by requiring only minimal hand and finger movement to access almost 20 buttons, all while positioning your hands and arms in a fairly comfortable position.



So I suppose the only thing that could take it's place is something that's better at accomplishing the goals. Maybe future controllers will just be in a similar shape, but with a customizable touch-surface? Or perhaps we'll have a better model of glove-like controllers, that can sense differences in finger positioning so it can function as either a classic control scheme or a motion-sensing aid.


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