The Odyssey Part 3: Check your Controller Requirements
General Introduction and Thoughts before Embarking on the Quest:Before you start on your journey towards your perfect gaming controller, start with the requirements you have.
First you have to face it, there is no perfect controller which can cover everything. With every input scheme there is a tradeoff in other games.
The perfect example is the Valve Steam controller, an excellent controller which is heavily misunderstood and neglected by the gaming crowd due to never change a running system mentality many gamers have nowdays. Its main aim was to enable keyboard/mouse combo games at a couch.
Valve tried to achieve that by using high precision touch-pads for the mouse/keyboard control and an excellent mapping software.
Was it good, yes especially with its integrated gyro sensors and trackball emulation it got a small but dedicated fan base. But in the end two factors prevented it to become a huge success.
With every universal control scheme there were certain tradeoffs:
- Being a first generation device there were several small design shortcomings like the a/b/x/y button positions and haptics.
- Given its universal design it did not work as well as dedicated devices for certain games
- It came close but was not as good as a mouse keyboard combination for first person games (but it beat every traditional gamepad in that area)
- For third person games it often was a little bit subpar in the camera controls compared to a classical controller, however it was superior on a handful of games which supported a combined mouse look gamepad support. In those games you really could see how good this controller could be
- You had to learn this controller. This is an absolute no go nowadays where people just want to pick up the controller and start to game and where every AAA game basically is the same or a rehashed sequel of last years game with added graphics and loot boxes. Or to sum it up, the controller maybe was 10 - 20 years too late in its arrival.
Consider the Input OptionsSo if you start to build a controller, really think hard upfront on what you want to achieve and what games you want to play with it. You basically can group the games into several groups:
Third person 3d games:The best input scheme for those is a classical gamepad
There it really depends on the type of game. Especially early arcade games often have by nowadays standards very exotic control schemes.
By the 1990s the input schemes mostly have consolidated due to the lack of innovation in gameplay in the arcades (the consoles were slowly taking over and the real innovation happened on the home computer and PC side at that time, where the input schemes and requirements were not that rigorous anymore)
So Here is a List of Examples of what you can face:1990s:
SHMUPs and Brawlers and racing games. The three dominant games about all of the games revolve around those three genres with an occasional laserdisc game or 3d game using arcade guns being thrown in.
For Shmups and Brawlers a classical setup of a fight-stick will suffice, however there might be newer stick designs which fit better to Shmups but are basically useless for brawlers. It mostly will come down which stick you want to choose and which buttons. Any classical 1 digital stick 6-8 button layout will do.
Racing games… the best bet here is a steering wheel setup. I cannot say how a PC racing steering wheel might perform on those games, I have yet to try it (using my own steering wheel mostly for dirt rally), another option would be a steering wheel top on top of a classical spinner on those games.
Light-gun games. There weren't too many options for years except getting an old arcade and try to get the light-gun out of it. Thankfully some vendors have filled this hole by now and you can get light-guns and usb controller boards for those via the internet .
1980s late 1970s:
The decades where in my opinion the real innovation on the arcade side happened. Especially in the early eighties the golden era of the arcade every game tried to be different (well lots of tried) and that came with the tradeoff or advantage, depending on how you see it, of various standard and in some cases weird control schemes.
And thats where things become somewhat complicated and where a standard arcade stick setup often does not cut it anymore.
Here probably are the main categories
- Early ball games like pong:
- Games with analog controls:
Star Wars. This one used a control yoke, which was for many decades close to impossible to get, but thankfully a vendor is now selling replicas which try to come as close to the original as possible (see this link for further info)
Battlezone, i think this machine used a two stick/two yoke setup
There might be a handful of other machines, however analog controls were not that prevalent in that era like they are now.
- 2 way / 4 way controls:
The good news is, any 8 way control stick is able to emulate a 2 and 4 way control, thats also how early consoles and home-computers dealt with arcade ports. After all, 4 ways and 2 ways are only a subset of 8 ways. The bad news however is, having 8 ways causes a little bit of a headache due to misdirections once the joystick is steered too much towards the diagonals.
Rotated 4 ways: Only a small number of games using a diagonal perspective are using that. Some of those can be coped with with a trackball and mouse as control alternatives. However either you live with 8 ways for the other or there are newer specialized joysticks which can cope with those on a software base. More to that in a later blog post.
- Homecomputers and Consoles:
You need 4 digital inputs in all cases but also analog ones for the newer consoles.
Add to that that in the home-computer era the keyboard many times was used to select the number of players/and or difficulty level or generally as input,
and often it varied from game to game, and you have a huge mess on your hand to support all that.
So the best bet is to really think hard upfront on what games you want to play, to save money.
Or you go in full force and try at least to support most of the games if not all of them and use plugged in controllers for the rest .
The choice is up to you how far you want to get, but remember, as I said in the beginning, there is no perfect controller, and you will not be able to support everything with one controller.
(all images wikimedia/wikipedia ... creative commons)