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DIY thumbsticks and clay creations: How Google designed its Stadia gamepad

DIY thumbsticks and clay creations: How Google designed its Stadia gamepad

October 11, 2019 | By Chris Kerr

October 11, 2019 | By Chris Kerr
More: Design, Business/Marketing

What goes into designing a new gamepad? Given most of them share a striking number of similarities, you'd be forgiven for thinking the answer to that question is 'not much.' Stick the thumbsticks in the middle, toss in a d-pad and some round buttons, add a few bumpers and triggers, and voila, one brand spanking new controller. 

Naturally, the actual process isn't quite that simple. Google design director Isabelle Olsson found that out for herself when tasked with creating the controller for the Google Stadia. Detailing her process in an interview with Popular Science, the design guru revealed that while the Stadia pad might look similar to others on the market, getting to that end-point took months of careful iteration. 

The final product is actually the result of hundreds of prototypes, some of which were actually molded by players using clay and then scanned by the team, and others that were created by watching reams of video footage showcasing how people interacted with a variety of different designs.

"We put out rigs of cameras and filmed roughly 6,000 hours of gaming time to observe how people were holding different controllers," commented Olsson. "When you get feedback on projects, it’s about listening to what they’re saying, but you also have to watch what they’re doing.

"When someone picks up the Stadia controller for the first time, they start rotating it around in their hands to feel the curves -- you can learn from that."

The team also asked testers to place certain elements like thumbsticks onto mock-up gamepads in a bid to understand what the consensus is when it comes to comfort. All of that feedback went into the final product, but as the picture below shows, plenty of prototypes were sacrificed along the way so the Stadia gamepad as we know it could live. 

Check out the full article on Popular Science for more on Olsson's creative process.

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