An often overlooked advantage of PS4: The Touchpad

Avatar image for spaceinsomniac
#1 Posted by SpaceInsomniac (5780 posts) -

I wrote this a little over a week ago:

If I could either navigate a somewhat complex menu with a touchpad or do the same thing with an analog stick, I'd rather use a touchpad. Analog control of a cursor never feels very good.

But I can do better than that. Ever play Skyrim? Imagine the touch pad acting as another button, and when pressed it brings up the in-game map. Now imagine that you can scroll around that map just by moving your finger. In an instant, you can scroll from Solitude to Riften. Start by touching the upper-right corner of the touchpad, and when you open the map you'll be looking at the area around Winterhold. Start by touching the left-center of the touchpad and you'll immediately jump to the area around Markarth.

If this can be done, then it follows that the pad could be used for additional commands that otherwise might not fit on the controller. Imagine the touchpad divided into four, six, or eight "buttons" for somewhat common, but less frequent commands.

So yeah, I'm sure people are going to use it for plenty of stupid "wipe the dust off this coffin, so you can see what's written underneath" gimmicky crap like that, but I hope you also see how smart developers could--and likely will--end up doing a lot more with it.

And today, I saw this.

I don't think people fully appreciate how many additional controller functions developers will be able to map to this thing.

Avatar image for agnosticjesus
#2 Posted by AgnosticJesus (547 posts) -

Sounds about as enjoyable as touch controls on my Vita.

Avatar image for jaytow
#3 Posted by Jaytow (793 posts) -

Sounds about as enjoyable as touch controls on my Vita.

Avatar image for you_died
#4 Posted by YOU_DIED (712 posts) -

It has a lot of potential. I think it's more reasonable to expect developers to have ideas for utilizing a touchpad than it is a camera or some other detached peripheral.

Avatar image for zombie2011
#5 Posted by zombie2011 (5490 posts) -

So instead of scrolling with analogue sticks use a touchpad, also more buttons? Not that amazing.

Kinect voice commands do that, and before we start crying about how Kinect sucks, they seemed to have improved the voice feature a lot from the previews.

Avatar image for ez123
#6 Posted by ez123 (2141 posts) -

Eh, it's looked an appropriate amount. The controller overall still seems amazing.

Avatar image for pillclinton
#7 Posted by PillClinton (3508 posts) -

So instead of scrolling with analogue sticks use a touchpad, also more buttons? Not that amazing.

Kinect voice commands do that, and before we start crying about how Kinect sucks, they seemed to have improved the voice feature a lot from the previews.

Honestly, I'd rather move my finger a few centimeters than yell out, "Xbox zoom map!" especially when playing at night.

I think the touchpad has the potential for as much functionality as a touchpad on a PC, that is, A LOT, especially if web browsing and multitasking are going to be much more of a thing this gen. It's a cool idea because it integrates a very familiar, widely used, and useful control method into an older existing model that severely lacks precision.

Avatar image for lord_xp
#8 Edited by Lord_Xp (648 posts) -

I'm pretty excited to see what that touch pad will do in games. Sixaxis was a neat idea, but it just got annoying and I always turned that option off. I have a good feeling this touch pad will be a better addition to the controller and system.

Avatar image for theninjamonke
#9 Posted by theninjamonke (37 posts) -

@zombie2011: Yes. Also the ability to not let you watch TV because your friends are watching, record what you say, and see you in the nighttime. Sounds great. Cant wait to let microsoft reps watch me

Avatar image for addfwyn
#10 Posted by Addfwyn (2006 posts) -

The bombcast guys already talked about selecting secondary abilities with a directional swipe on the touchpad in Killzone, and how it seemed to work pretty well.

Avatar image for pweidman
#11 Posted by pweidman (2586 posts) -

A touch screen between analog sticks makes no sense to me except as a power button I guess. Sounds awkward...and gimmicky. But I guess we'll have to see how devs utilize it down the road.

Avatar image for andorski
#12 Posted by Andorski (5481 posts) -

Touchpads vary in quality. Using the touchpad on a Macbook Pro is almost equal to using a mouse. Using a touchpad on a crappy HP laptop is another story. I doubt that the touchpad on the PS4 is of high quality, and the small surface area would make it all the harder to navigate menus.

Avatar image for yapapanda
#13 Edited by YapaPanda (174 posts) -

@andorski: Adam Boyes on the GIant Bomb E3 Day Three stream mentioned that the touchpad is 1900x1800 touchpad that can detect which corner is clicked in. I'm not knowledgeable about touchpads (so correct me if I'm wrong) but that sounds pretty high for such a small area? I tried looking up how high the Apple trackpads are but couldn't find it when I google'd it.

Just thinking of the top of my head, mouse gestures at the game or os level that does certain commands like in chrome or firefox would be cool. Like a quick save/load for games like skyrim would be super awesome. That would cut like hours of non-gameplay off my playtime (fiddling with menus).

Avatar image for pandorasbox
#14 Posted by pandorasbox (329 posts) -

"Overlooked" implies that it's the userbase who is overlooking it. If people aren't talking about the touchpad, it's because Sony hasn't made a big enough deal about it. The cursor didn't make a noticeable impact at either of the two press conferences and to my understanding less than three games that were on the show floor at E3 had any implementation of the cursor at all. It's fairly easy to overlook something that isn't in plain sight.

Avatar image for jimbo
#15 Posted by Jimbo (10462 posts) -

Flicking through >2 weapons would be neat.

Or think about something like Skyrim, you could be using sword and shield in your hands, while flicking through a hud wheel of your other abilities (bow symbol, fire symbol, ice symbol, heal symbol etc.) to prepare what you're going to go to next (without cycling it through the characters hands or pausing), then click it when you're ready to swap. Like a button you can customise on the fly.

It'd be good for team orders: swipe up to Attack / Follow me, Down to hold position, Flank left, Flank Right etc.

Lots of great stuff they can do with this. Touch gestures are a proven and intuitively understood idea at this point.

Avatar image for mortuss_zero
#16 Posted by Mortuss_Zero (744 posts) -

I agree it has potential, but until I've seen some of that potential I'm not going to get excited. If they use it well, then good on them.

Avatar image for isomeri
#17 Edited by isomeri (2651 posts) -

The trackpad could be great for web browser use, but honestly I don't see it being implemented all that much beyond first party games since an equivalent input method is not found on the Xbox One. Sort of the same thing that ended up happening with the Sixaxis. Even first party games in the Wii U don't often take advantage of that touchscreen.

As far as controllers are concerned I'm far more interested in the Xbox One impulse triggers.

Avatar image for spaceinsomniac
#18 Edited by SpaceInsomniac (5780 posts) -
@mortuss_zero said:

I agree it has potential, but until I've seen some of that potential I'm not going to get excited. If they use it well, then good on them.

I watched the E3 Day 3 Bombcast after making this post, and they talked more about the touchpad. Turns out it clicks like a button, and can tell where on the pad you're touching. Just using the corners alone, that's four more buttons right there.

In a time where Mass Effect 3 multiplayer uses the same button for reviving a downed character that it uses for taking cover, this is an exciting development. The alternative is "Xbox, revive teammate!" or taking a hand off the controller and waving your arm around in a specific way. As far as I'm concerned, that is a HUGE advantage for the PS4 that almost no one seems to be talking about. Not Sony, not journalists, and not even many gamers.

Avatar image for geirr
#19 Posted by geirr (3261 posts) -

I love the idea of the touchpad and can see a myriad of uses for it!

Avatar image for mercutio123
#20 Edited by mercutio123 (527 posts) -

I'd like to see it used for maps, just swipe down on it to see a map then swipe back up to get rid of it etc.

Avatar image for djou
#21 Posted by djou (895 posts) -

The touchpad could have some interesting applications for navigating the UI. It doesn't look like the redid the on screen keyboard and typing with that thing using face buttons and sticks was a pain. I hope they find something better using the touchpad, maybe something akin to the Steam Big Picture lotus flower. Maybe swiping gestures to bring up Twitter, Facebook, streaming side panel. Honestly if it stays out of the games I wouldn't be heartbroken.

Avatar image for phampire
#22 Edited by phampire (294 posts) -

It is overlooked, and could be a potentially nifty little feature. It all depends on how the devs will implement them, in my book it's another means of control that doesn't seem to interfere or take away from what we expect from a modern controller. So it's cool. I think.

Avatar image for thekramer89
#23 Posted by TheKramer89 (481 posts) -

How about just using the trackpad for camera control rather than the right analog stick? I don't know if it would be comfortable ergonomically, but it would be much quicker and more precise than a stupid stick.

Avatar image for wuddel
#24 Edited by Wuddel (2413 posts) -

I own an OUYA, which controller has a touchpad. I can tell you it is a godsend for anything concerning UI navigation. But everyone with a smartphone can tell you that.

Avatar image for liquidprince
#25 Posted by LiquidPrince (16839 posts) -

Could be pretty cool. Have to see it in person to see how useful it is though.

Avatar image for starvinggamer
#26 Edited by StarvingGamer (11304 posts) -

With the Kinect the entire world is a touchpad!

Avatar image for tourgen
#27 Edited by tourgen (4568 posts) -

It's actually a really cool feature, and yes I think it has been overlooked a bit.

At the very minimum it is high enough resolution to give you the same function as a touchpad on a laptop. although I don't have a good feel for how large it is. If it's at least 2 1/2" - 3" across it should be big enough.The really cool thing about it is that it's not a gimmick. It's a useful and proven feature that we use on laptops today. And it's in about the right spot for light usage - some basic GUI stuff and maybe serving as 2 extra buttons in-game (L and R sides of pad).

Avatar image for reisz
#28 Edited by Reisz (1621 posts) -

I'm really looking forward to seeing what developers can (choose) to do with it. At least it seems more fun/dynamic/practical than sixaxis.

Avatar image for clonedzero
#29 Edited by Clonedzero (4206 posts) -

I think it can be used very well. If i can slide my thumb across it to the left and right to cycle through weapons, that ALONE is pretty awesome. No more of this two weapon bullshit.

Its got several "clicky" locations that can be mapped to different things, effectively giving you extra buttons.

Even if its just a glorified weapon slider to make games allow you to have more than two weapons, that alone is worth it.

Just think of it as a mousewheel on a controller. If they use it like that, then YES.

Avatar image for thrice_604
#30 Posted by THRICE_604 (217 posts) -

If all devs use it the way Killzone is then its a great feature. Eliminating the need for a radial menu and putting it just as a swipe on the controller is great. Its a system most of us are at home with on our smart phones and we're used to quick swipes to achieve tasks. If devs keep it to simple systems it won't go the way of sixaxis. Third parties will never go anywhere near it but thats to be expected thats the case with any unique platform feature and third parties. This is what dooms every Nintendo console because the system it completely hinged on one gimmick or another that makes it difficult to move entire games unchanged on to their platforms.

This edit will also create new pages on Giant Bomb for:

Beware, you are proposing to add brand new pages to the wiki along with your edits. Make sure this is what you intended. This will likely increase the time it takes for your changes to go live.

Comment and Save

Until you earn 1000 points all your submissions need to be vetted by other Giant Bomb users. This process takes no more than a few hours and we'll send you an email once approved.