The search for the 'Perfect Gamepad'

Fellow Grouvee members (Grouvii? Grouveeee? Grouveers?),

I have been on the search for the perfect gamepad for as long as I could remember. I’m not super picky when it comes to ergonomic or aesthetic needs, but my main gripe is functionality. This great controller that I have brewed up in my mind is small enough for me to carry on my travels, but most importantly, it has enough buttons. Why do I need so many buttons? Emulation really, but also the convenience of having your buttons where you want them when you want them is also kind of a big deal.

So far the only controller that has come close is this beauty right here, that is discontinued. I happen to purchase one before, and I can’t find any anymore. If you look closely you’ll notice that the middle triangle has a J, K, and M mode. That means Joystick, Keyboard and Mouse. This little beast can switch to a mode that remaps all buttons to keyboard letters. You heard right. No more Direct X gamepad compatibility issues. Sure you could spend your time fiddling around with Joy2Key, but now you don’t have to! And the mouse mode remaps the left dpad and analog to mouse control, letting you left and right click with the right side’s face buttons. You can switch between games without ever having to put down the controller, or you can deal with managing downloads or browse the web with it while you are playing too. It’s one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. The one gripe I have with it is that the HK buttons do nothing. Well, they maybe do something, but I can’t seem to figure it out. Everytime I press them I end up switching to Mouse or Keyboard mode. I supplemented my button needs with L3 and R3. Other than that it has been a pretty perfect laptop companion.

What I’ve also been looking for, for a long time is a controller with a button underneath the controller, normally where your ringfinger and middle finger would go if you were holding a controller normally, like in this picture. It isn’t super important, but it just makes sense! Why don’t we have these buttons yet? What are we waiting for? Can you imagine how seamless and easy certain games would be if we allowed ourselves to take a little responsibility off of our thumbs? Jerk reaction melee attacks in FPSs, the ease of putting up your guard in a fighting game will free your face buttons up for more opportunities, and dare I say it, a more advanced branching of reactions and possibilities.

I dunno if it is just me who feels this way, but it must be seeing as how there are so few controllers out there doing what I am looking for, the majority of them are DIY projects. I guess that is the route I’ll have to be going until someone in a development team hears someone like me.

How do you feel about your controllers brethren? Are you pleased with the recent gamepads in this next generation? (PS4, XBONE, WiiU?) Do you have a special gamepad that has served you well among the years? I’m curious as to how others feel about this problem, whether it be a problem for them at all or not.

Most games are designed for a specific control layout (i.e. gamepad v. mouse/keyboard). Dragon Age: Inquisition comes to mind; everything controls much more intuitively with a gamepad than how it’s mapped across a keyboard. I’m not confident that there will ever be a hybrid gamepad that truly does justice to a mouse and keyboard layout. Shudders at thought of Steam Controller

I actually like that games have become more complex over time while keeping roughly the same control configuration since the SNES days. You could definitely make an argument that streamlining a game’s control scheme makes the gameplay feel mindless, but I think overall it enhances player experience. There’s definitely a limit to this philosophy–QTEs do not feel empowering at all.

Take PS1-era Tomb Raider versus Assassin’s Creed (admittedly, it’s unfair to compare games released a decade apart). Check out Tomb Raider’s controls: Tomb Raider 1 Controls - Stella’s Tomb Raider Site. In Assassin’s Creed, the majority of your movement and parkouring is mapped to a single button. Not surprisingly, I frequently wrestled with the controls in Tomb Raider, whereas mobility in Assassin’s Creed came much more naturally.

This generation, I feel like the Dualshock 4 nailed it. It retains the elegant layout of the previous Dualshocks, but is far more ergonomic. I still have a special place in my heart for the WaveBird, and desperately wish Nintendo will build off its design in the future.

I hear what you’re saying. Overcomplicating a controller may be offputting to people who are picking it up for the first time. What is this thing and why does it have a thousand buttons on it?

And you’re right, QTEs are not empowering. QTEs are such a huge thing now. Why? It isn’t fun man. Who is putting all these QTEs in our games? Go back and play Dragon’s Lair if you like that stuff.

But in regards to Tomb Raider’s control scheme versus Assassin’s Creed, the controller has barely changed at all and Assassin’s Creed’s control scheme being easier (and I guess we can say with a bit of bias, better) has little to do with the controller itself, and more to do with how a developer programs the controls for their own game. Which I guess is what you just said.

The majority of games do not require more buttons than there already are. Most games only need about 4. Some take 2, others could benefit from extra back buttons. Games like Armored Core, Virtual On, Tekken, Syphon Filter, Left for Dead (its the perfect place for a talk button!), and other games where at any given moment multiple options to quickly react with are a big deal. It would help with articulation of commands like in a fighter or mech sim. Like I said, I hope the next generation of handhelds have a button or two on the back of the controller. Think about how people felt about shoulder buttons at first. We’re wasting valuable controller space and finger availability!

I dont have a ps4 myself but I’ve held the PS4 controller a few times at a friend’s house. You’re right. It feels pretty awesome to hold. I flipped when I saw that the touchpad in the front clicks inward mechanically, which made so much sense. Before I had thought they just put a plain old touchpad and any clicking would have to be done by double tapping.