#1 Posted by jArmAhead (308 posts) -

We've been seeing a lot of reactions to the new generation of controllers being pretty great. And they are true. Mostly.

This weekend at the Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle, I had a chance to get some more hands on time with the Xbox One controller and the DualShock 4. I'll confess; it's the first time I've had time on with either of them since last year's convention, and while they were pretty nice, I couldn't help but notice some issues that I couldn't quite call minor.

My first issue arose with the DualShock 4, and it was during the demo for Bloodborne that it came up. I noticed that every time I tried to roll backwards, I was rolling back and to the left at about a 45° angle. I nearly bit the dust a few times because of it, and was about to ask my buddy, standing next to me at another demo station, what the hell was wrong with the game. But looking across to him, I noticed that my issue wasn't the game, it was how close together and low on the controller the analogue sticks were. As a result, what felt like "back" was actually 45° back towards the left of the stick.

The sad thing is, I actually love the sticks other than that. The tension is pretty good, maybe a touch too light but better than the Xbox One's gamepad. The top grip is a super smart design that works great and is very comfortable to use. The triggers are a lot more functional and the whole thing has a lot less "squish."

But it just isn't quite perfect. Now, this seems a little silly to complain about but the controller is one of the few constants we have when interacting with the mechanics, worlds, and concepts of the games we play. The far from optimal placement of the controller's analogue sticks immediately impacted my game experience, because it went against years of formed habits from using the Xbox 360 and PS3 gamepads. Honestly, I felt the position of the sticks was off enough that I couldn't quite overcome it with use.

All in all the controller felt really nice. But not quite right. It reminded me of the analogue drift of the 360 sticks, or the triggers of the DualShock 3. It never quite broke the experience, but I was always left wondering why the thing I experienced these games through for years on end hadn't quite met my expectations.

I had a few more experiences with the DualShock 4 that weren't quite as negative, but mostly because directionality wasn't quite as important, or at least not as easy to detect. The issue was still there though, irking it's way into my awareness occasionally.

Unfortunately, my experience wasn't exactly that different when I got my hands on an Xbox One controller once again. First time I got to use it this year was at Forza Horizon 2's booth. I played the original game for 24 hours while watching Tested.com's "Octobercast" charity event, and loved the new take on a favorite franchise of mine, so as you can imagine I was pretty excited to see what the new generation could bring to the sequel. Especially with the new features and improvements to the controller.

But my first reaction wasn't exactly super positive. Sure, the sticks were in a much more natural position. The triggers were great, and were complimented very cleverly by the bumpers. The Dpad was pretty good, about as good as they get by modern standards.

There's a pattern here though. Once again, the sticks just weren't what I was looking for. It's a criticism you've probably heard: the tension on the sticks is just way too loose. Now, tension is a weird thing. Make it too high and you risk fatigue and over-compensation. Too loose, as is the case with the Xbox One, and you make precise, small adjustments difficult and you give less feedback to the player.

Once again, it's not to say that this controller was in any way bad. But it wasn't up to the standards I'd hope it'd be. Considering the prices we pay for these devices; $60 for either option, I think it's reasonable to expect the analogue sticks won't wiggle within a significant dead zone, that the sticks be positioned in a way that is familiar and comfortable, and have a healthy amount of tension. These devices are so key to how we experience games and I have to say I wonder why they keep turning out with these not inconsiderable (at least to me!) flaws.

Of course, this all probably translates to the fact that there is no "one size fits all." But I can't help but feel that at least some of these issues come from a lack of quality in the product, and maybe a bit of arrogance. On that last bit, I have to wonder why the PS4 controller has it's sticks where it is, other than a compromise of the new form and the old form. The PS4 controller has made huge strives on the comfort side of things but I can't help but feel that the positioning of the sticks, which was already too close together for some people's tastes, has suffered because they aren't willing to let go of the last 30% of DNA from the last design. And with the Xbox One controller, I feel like they have taken a few of the criticisms directed at the 360 gamepad a little too seriously and over corrected somewhat, an attitude I feel has gone a long way to driving the Xbox One's name down in the eyes of consumers.

Do people feel that there's opportunity to have a "perfect" (or close to it) controller that comes in the box? Or is it just an issue of personal preference that makes the margin of error too great to overcome? What would it take for either of the existing gamepads to be "perfect," for you?

#2 Edited by Jeust (10655 posts) -

Perfection like beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and the controller is also very specific to the size and shape of your hand. So there will never be an universally loved one.

#3 Posted by isomeri (1280 posts) -

Your body is the perfect controller, Kinect is the answer.

Seriously though, like @jeust said people have different preferences based on the size and shape of their hands. And different controllers complement different games in different ways. I preferred playing fighting and platforming games on the DualShock 3, but went with my Xbox 360 pad for pretty much everything else.

#4 Edited by MB (12429 posts) -

I feel like my 360 gamepad is just fine, really. I have used both the Xbox One controller and DS4 quite a bit and didn't feel like either one of them improved enough on the 360 design to warrant an upgrade, although I have to confess that I already have what I consider to be the perfect controller...

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#5 Posted by Casey25 (139 posts) -

We already have.

Look in the mirror.

You are the controller.

#6 Posted by MOAB (377 posts) -

@mb said:

I feel like my 360 gamepad is just fine, really. I have used both the Xbox One controller and DS4 quite a bit and didn't feel like either one of them improved enough on the 360 design to warrant an upgrade, although I have to confess that I already have what I consider to be the perfect controller...

QFT

I've been spoiled by precision.

#7 Edited by Nightriff (5085 posts) -

We did, it's name.....The Wavebird.

Marvel in its BEAUTY!

Glorious.

(Other answers I will accept are the S-Controller and DS4.)

#8 Posted by TheAcidSkull (439 posts) -

The X-box controller is perfect for me.

#9 Edited by Zeik (2444 posts) -

No, because everyone has different preferences. I for one never thought the 360 controller was that great. It's a perfectly decent controller, but I'll generally take a dualshock over it any day. The stick placement is partly the reason why. And by extension, the d-pad placement, which I consider just as important as stick placement.

I honestly think it would be a terrible idea to make all controllers one uniform design, because that only allows for one type of person to be satisfied. Anyone who prefers something different would be shit out of luck.

#10 Edited by Ezekiel (453 posts) -

Not until they allow more than four digits to be used in a normal grip (Or lack thereof. Maybe they should lay flat.) and have good aiming. A thumb (stick) has far too little reach compared to an arm (mouse).

#11 Posted by ripelivejam (3980 posts) -

Ds4 form factor/sticks, Nintendo dpad, larger than even the 360 pad, maybe even close to the duke size. Aww yiss...

#12 Edited by 71Ranchero (2772 posts) -

So good it doesn't need analog sticks. I would take a Saturn Model 2 controller over a fightstick any day.

#13 Edited by RonGalaxy (3170 posts) -

#14 Posted by Sterling (2322 posts) -

You know which controller I've always hated. The NES controller. And the best controller to ever be invented is the the DS4. Deal.

#15 Posted by AndrewB (7621 posts) -

After years of using the Xbox 360 controller and feeling like it was just about perfect (or as good as controllers were going to get at the time), I've been using an Xbox One controller (mostly on PC, funny enough) for awhile now, and all I can say to you is that you get used to it. You're going to hate it for awhile because it feels different from what you're used to, but (speaking to the Xbox One controller as my only personal reference point) it's still improved in every way. Not quite sure the value call of "perfect" can ever be realized until it's achieved, but in reality there aren't a whole lot of gamepads with universal support out there, and so you deal with the best that currently exists.

Specific call to the stick tension - I felt the same way in getting used to the Xbox One controller, but over time I feel like I'm able to make more precise movements than I could previously because of the design and and, again, spending the time to refine the muscle memory.

#16 Posted by ll_Exile_ll (1709 posts) -

@mb said:

I feel like my 360 gamepad is just fine, really. I have used both the Xbox One controller and DS4 quite a bit and didn't feel like either one of them improved enough on the 360 design to warrant an upgrade, although I have to confess that I already have what I consider to be the perfect controller...

The idea of a "perfect controller" would imply that it is the best possible option for every game imaginable. While keyboard and mouse is certainly superior for many genres, the fact that many others types of games are better suited for other types of controllers means it's not really "perfect."

#17 Posted by GunstarRed (5191 posts) -

The Xbox 360 pad is easily my favourite controller ever. The triggers on the PS4 don't even compare. I have no idea about the One's controller though.

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#18 Posted by LackingSaint (1816 posts) -

It's just way too subjective, and there are so many different ways that certain games handle that it's going to be almost impossible to have a "perfect" controller. I have friends that swear the PS3 controller is better than the 360 controller. I prefer using a 360 controller to using a Keyboard & Mouse to play FPS games. I think people who think the N64 or Gamecube controllers feel good are insane.

#19 Edited by billymagnum (828 posts) -

i use 360 controllers almost exclusively except for anything d-pad related. i also have some homemade acrade sticks for specific applications. ive always liked the playstation controllers but when it came down to needing PC pads, they were not supported so i went with microsoft. i still enjoy different controllers and their respective feel/pros/cons but for PC the 360's have been a no-hassle-no-brainer.

just got one of these new off of ebay fo $10. in the PS1 era, this was my favorite controller ever. one important feature was it let you use the sticks even if a game didn't have native analog control. it still feels amazing. juts gotta get me a usb adapter....

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#20 Posted by MasterBrief (222 posts) -

We did, it's name.....The Wavebird.

Marvel in its BEAUTY!

Glorious.

(Other answers I will accept are the S-Controller and DS4.)

Love that thing, still got mine. I have to say I side with this kind of design with the sticks set up like that. I think what they get wrong a lot is the curves and handles.

#21 Posted by AdequatelyPrepared (544 posts) -

It's a very subjective thing you're talking about here, not only because of personal preference, but also because of different hands. Some people are disabled, the perfect controller for them is probably incredibly different from what I would use. As a personal thing, I love the DualShock series of controllers, though I would have to put the DS2 above the DS3, if only because of how the R2/L2 buttons are positioned. The little time I've had with the DS4 tells me that I will probably like that one more than the DS3 once I get a PS4. The 360 controllers I use for my computer aren't bad either, but I don't like the positioning of the left analog stick, especially for fighters.

#22 Posted by MooseyMcMan (11039 posts) -

I dunno, I feel like, for me, the DualShock 4 is way better than any other controllers I've ever used. Well, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but I think it's pretty darn good.

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#23 Posted by kagato (920 posts) -

So good it doesn't need analog sticks. I would take a Saturn Model 2 controller over a fightstick any day.

Best controller ever! I do play a lot of fighting games though...

#24 Posted by Stonyman65 (2711 posts) -

I really liked the DualShock 2 controller. I think if Sony just kept that for the PS3 but added the (shitty) sixaxis controls on the DualShock 3 along with wireless, I think that would be the best. I haven't had the chance to mess around with the DualShock 4 or the Xbox One controllers yet, so I don't know how those stack up.

Also the 360 controller was really good too. My only problem with it is that the sticks can be a little loose, and it sucks for fighting games. Sometimes it's hard for me to use both the trigger and the shoulder buttons at the same time since there isn't enough grip for me to keep a solid hold of it. Also I greatly prefer flat buttons over the dome shape that Microsoft uses on the face buttons.

#25 Posted by jArmAhead (308 posts) -

@mb said:

I feel like my 360 gamepad is just fine, really. I have used both the Xbox One controller and DS4 quite a bit and didn't feel like either one of them improved enough on the 360 design to warrant an upgrade, although I have to confess that I already have what I consider to be the perfect controller...

-INSERT MOUSE AND KEYBOARD PICTURE HERE-

The idea of a "perfect controller" would imply that it is the best possible option for every game imaginable. While keyboard and mouse is certainly superior for many genres, the fact that many others types of games are better suited for other types of controllers means it's not really "perfect."

True. They should really just sell Dark Souls 3 with a 360 pad to fix that problem.

Although, honestly I think that comes down to some games just not having good mouse support. Even something like Dark Souls would work on a mouse and keyboard assuming it had controls designed for that system. Witcher 2 plays controls just fine with a mouse and keyboard and it has a similar gameplay loop.

I think outside of games that play best with very specific controllers (driving and flying games basically), Mouse and Keyboard support can be implemented in better ways than any other controller. That is my honest feeling on the matter.

On a sort of related note, I played Far Cry 4 on DS4 and wanted to kill myself. It was awful. 30fps shooters with a gamepad is just terrible coming from 2400 dpi mouse control at 144hz.

It's a very subjective thing you're talking about here, not only because of personal preference, but also because of different hands. Some people are disabled, the perfect controller for them is probably incredibly different from what I would use. As a personal thing, I love the DualShock series of controllers, though I would have to put the DS2 above the DS3, if only because of how the R2/L2 buttons are positioned. The little time I've had with the DS4 tells me that I will probably like that one more than the DS3 once I get a PS4. The 360 controllers I use for my computer aren't bad either, but I don't like the positioning of the left analog stick, especially for fighters.

There will always be exceptions, of course. But I feel there's still a universally comfortable approximate form factor that would work best for the overwhelming majority of people. Like if the DS4 was a little bigger or at least the grips were a bit longer I feel like it'd be pretty much perfect, but it seems to favor the smaller form instead of finding a good middle point. I dunno, maybe I'm just crazy but I feel like my PS3 controller is way better about stick placement and stuff than the DS4, almost like all the ergonomics they added ended up pushing the sticks further together/down on the controller.

@andrewb said:

After years of using the Xbox 360 controller and feeling like it was just about perfect (or as good as controllers were going to get at the time), I've been using an Xbox One controller (mostly on PC, funny enough) for awhile now, and all I can say to you is that you get used to it. You're going to hate it for awhile because it feels different from what you're used to, but (speaking to the Xbox One controller as my only personal reference point) it's still improved in every way. Not quite sure the value call of "perfect" can ever be realized until it's achieved, but in reality there aren't a whole lot of gamepads with universal support out there, and so you deal with the best that currently exists.

Specific call to the stick tension - I felt the same way in getting used to the Xbox One controller, but over time I feel like I'm able to make more precise movements than I could previously because of the design and and, again, spending the time to refine the muscle memory.

I suspect you're mostly right about the controller for the Xbone's controller, but I just can't shake the worry that it will never quite be perfect. I will however say that the stick felt much smoother to use than the ones on the 360.

I'd be curious what sort of games you play with it though. You look at something like Halo and Call of Duty you rarely need to make especially small adjustments. But with something like Forza, you need to be able to make very controlled, very specific, very minor movements with absolute control over where you're putting that stick. You're already trying to fit the entire turning radius of a wheel onto an analogue stick, making it looser makes that potentially harder to master. I felt like the DS4 hit a nice sweet spot of having less tension than the 360 gamepad, but more than other controllers that have been criticized for a lack of tension, and I wish the Xbox One controller had stuck to it's guns with a decent amount of tension on the sticks.

#26 Posted by CorruptedEvil (3407 posts) -

I have tiny hands and the DS4 is pretty much perfect for me.

#27 Posted by gokaired (534 posts) -

We did, it's name.....The Wavebird.

Marvel in its BEAUTY!

Glorious.

(Other answers I will accept are the S-Controller and DS4.)

And it's coming back for SSB as well :)

#28 Posted by T_wester (194 posts) -

A controller being perfect at anything is pretty unlikely. They might get as far as acceptable at most things fx. the 360pad, (haven't tried the newer ones yet so I can't say how they perform.) but I would rater use a mouse keyboard or a specialized peripheral: flight stick, fighting stick, racing wheel etc.

#29 Posted by Shortbreadtom (782 posts) -

Everyone's hands are different, everyone's preferences for button placements are different, not all games can be controlled well with a controller.

So probably not, but for me I think the DS4 comes damn close

#30 Posted by ASilentProtagonist (38 posts) -
#31 Posted by Rafaelfc (1348 posts) -

To me, the Dualshock 4 is the perfect controller.

I still have a deep fondness for the Snes controller, though. It just feels right.

#32 Posted by Demoskinos (14842 posts) -

Dualshock 4 is the best controller I've ever used. I'm really unsure what you mean about the sticks in relation to blood borne. I've never once felt like the sticks caused me to make a mistake.

#33 Edited by Sin4profit (2935 posts) -

As someone who grew up playing in the arcades i feel like hardware dictates software design. The wiimote was the "perfect" controller for wiisports, arcade sticks are the "perfect" controller for arcade/fighting games, and a steering wheel is the perfect controller for racing sims. I also don't believe a traditional console controller will ever be the "perfect' solution for VR games.

As far as creating a universal controller, those things happen in fragments, the original playstation didn't have analog sticks but after bolting them on, dual analog has become a standard. Sony seems to keep up with experimental solutions ( pressure sensitive buttons, built in motion controls, touchpads ) but, yes, i do agree that sticking to the brand iconography of the Duel Shock design is a drawback for them especially considering the original Duel Analog design was a shoehorn solution.

#34 Posted by Corvak (1080 posts) -

You may see a 'perfect' controller eventually. But for everyone to agree on that? Never.

#35 Posted by Brendan (7811 posts) -

@casey25: Are you saying... I'm beautiful? Just the way I am?

#36 Edited by MonkeyKing1969 (2775 posts) -

Somehow the video above reminds me of this question. Sometimes design can go too far, sometimes we try to over engineer things to be too logical, to simple, too easy. The "next logical step" is often not what we think it is often the next logical step is madness.

I think nothing will really even be better than a joypad for controller most games. I think in teh future we will still hold joypads, but hopefully teh sensors used in consoles will see where our eyes look and other body ques will be used in subtle ways.

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#37 Posted by chiablo (930 posts) -

We did, it's name.....The Wavebird.

Marvel in its BEAUTY!

Glorious.

(Other answers I will accept are the S-Controller and DS4.)

Other than the X and Y buttons and lack of a bumper over the left trigger, the Wavebird is amazing.

#38 Edited by Maddman60620 (132 posts) -

There is only one Perfect controller..........

Hail to the King baby!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

#39 Edited by ninnanuam (281 posts) -

I still prefer the 360 controller over the two new ones. The Xbone's triggers don't have enough tension. The DS4 triggers are too small and have even less tension than the Xbone's.

Love dat 360.

#40 Edited by crithon (3271 posts) -

it's already been here for the past 25 years.

#41 Posted by ericdrum (405 posts) -

@maddman60620: The Duke was my personal favorite. I have large hands and they just fit the Duke perfectly.