PS4 Controller Prototype: Taking it Further
Whenever some new information wiggles its way onto the internet the press are always there to peck it to pieces and, most of the time, they leave no crumbs. However every now and then something goes unsaid, perhaps because they missed a vital piece of info or perhaps it would be too much like conjecture for them to comment. Whatever the case, this is usually the time I like to take out my fork of journalistic 'integrity' as well as my knife of wild, presumptuous conjecture and take a little stab at the facts myself.
What I believe, in the case of the PS4 prototype controller, is that the internet has neglected to provide me with theories as to what the possible uses for all the tech sellotaped strategically to Sony's new sweat collector could be. It could be that I have simply missed the information out there, I don't claim to read everything on the internet, or maybe they are hard at work as I speak making stuff up like I'm about to. Either way here's my best guesses:
First of all lets look at the picture again...
...you get that? Good, now let's start with the touchpad/screen on the front.
With a touchscreen capable of displaying anything there comes a wonderful world of context sensitivity that opens doors to all kinds of fantastic things. However, the first thing people seem to have jumped on is it's size, which seems too small to be used as a second screen. While I agree it would be next to pointless to stream movies on that thing (unless you hold it 5cm from your eyeballs), there are a number of uses that spring to mind.
1 - Shortcuts
While in PS4's OS (whatever it may turn out to be) the screen could simply be a handy shortcut to lets say: movies, games, friends, messages etc. Complete with customizable icons that change with your theme.
2 - Message display
Whether in game or not, a message from a friend could be displayed across the screen for easy reading without having to pause or exit a game or whatever you're up to.
3 - Media Controller
Song/movie lists, artist search, the usual play/pause/FF etc. All these things could be controlled from the display with greater ease than figuring out which button on the controller brings up the onscreen menu. On a side note, the mic on the controller could also be used here for voice commands.
4 - Keyboard
Yes, full qwerty keyboard use without an ugly add-on. I can't understate how important this will be in the generation of 'social' consoles. It's uses are pretty obvious so I'll let you mull them over yourself.
5 - The many in-game uses
This will be down to developer discretion but here's a few uses that come to mind: Gesture input, quick inventory, weapon selector, rear view mirror, maps, quest log, emotes, hints, save games, touch puzzles, object manipulation, QTEs, communicator, health bars, speedometer, bullet count. That's all I can think of right now but I'm sure game makers will be much better at it than me.
Right, what's next on this magnificent contraption? Let's take another look...
...Hmmm. The 'Move' light seems the next most obvious addition but we kind of already know what things to expect here. However, there may be some interesting ways in which the Move controller could be used that haven't been implemented or wouldn't work in Move's current wand like condition. Here's what popped into my head.
1 - Object manipulation, I touched on this in the touchscreen part of this blog, however I feel that Move's sub-millimetre precise motion tracking would work best here. Take Tumble as an example, for those of you who don't know Tumble is a Move game in which you have to stack building blocks (or blow them up) http://www.youtube.com/watc... Now imagine having that level of control over in-game objects, just thinking of the possible puzzles that could arise from this makes my head spin.
2 - Scrolling
This sounds relatively boring compared to the last one but bear with me. If you've tried browsing the internet on a console before you'll know that scrolling around webpages is a bit awkward with a controller, however the mouse-like movement of Move could be put to excellent effect here. It could also be useful in games with long passages of text or for scrolling around a map.
3 - Quick Time Events
I can feel your collective sighs as the reasonable but predictable gamer in you takes control, forcing you to dismiss all QTEs on the grounds that most are awful or poorly done. I'd like to politely ask you to keep an open mind and remember that not all QTEs are evil. Take Heavy Rain for example, while it's obviously not everyone's cup of tea, it is a hugely successful title that manages to do QTEs very well indeed. Also, with a later patch, Move control was implemented that added yet another subtle layer of immersion to an already captivating experience. My point being that QTEs can actually be done right and with Move they can be even more enjoyable.
4 - Indicators
The Move does this already in certain games, it changes colour to indicate various effects, spells, modes, players etc. There's no reason the PS4 controller won't do this as well.
Can't say much else for Move implication and, again, it's up to developers to take advantage of this. However, my interest is piqued as I always believed Move had a lot of potential, most of which remains untapped, and now that everyone may have a Move 'out-of-the-box' it's likely we will see this potential come to fruition.
Now we come to what most people have assumed is a mic/speaker setup of some kind, which looks like a grille in the centre of the controller and a mysterious input at the bottom. There has been a lot of talk surrounding this so I'll just make one quick point. I hope Sony have 'copied' Microsoft here. Now I don't really believe implementing something that works as copying I'd describe it as 'evolving in parallel' but I know some will jump at the chance to cry foul here. What's important is that MS's setup works, it's easy to use and conveniently placed, so why not have something similar as an option alongside bluetooth headsets.
Well that just about concludes everything I dare talk about given the relatively little information I have and we've yet to see the reverse of the controller. The triggers are still a mystery, although I'd assume they were more closely related to the Move controller triggers, which are excellent. The obvious size difference will be pleasant news to those who complained the DS3 was too small and the spacing of the analog sticks looks further apart which was another sore subject for some.
All in all I kind of like the prototype, it's pretty ugly in it's current state but it seems to be typical Sony, chock full of tech and well built. Form follows function is a principle associated with modern architecture and industrial design in the 20th century and this controller looks like it knows that very well.