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Talking Point: How Will the PS4's Controller Change the Way That We Play?

Posted by Sammy Barker

Input innovations

If anything was going to leak, it was always going to be the controller. Speculation regarding the PlayStation 4’s refreshed input device has been mounting over the past couple of weeks, with the rumours culminating in last night’s leaked image. Sources have since confirmed that the peripheral pictured is real, albeit a prototype subject to alteration. But what can we learn from the first photographic evidence of the next generation, and how will it change the way that we play?

Initially, the device doesn’t appear to be a huge departure from the DualShock 3, but it is packing some interesting additions that are immediately noticeable in the above sneaky snapshot. The touchpad in the centre of the unit has been a subject of discussion for a number of months now, but the LED light on the top of the handset has been largely overlooked in leaked reports.

Its purpose is not entirely clear, but given its immediate comparisons to the PlayStation Move controller, it’s not hard to assume that it may be used for some form of motion tracking. However, we’re not altogether convinced. Sony’s motion peripheral works so well because the orb shape at the apex of the wand allows it to be tracked from almost any angle. The flat bar of the leaked PS4 controller would not allow the same kind of luxury, limiting its use in games. Theoretically, you’d only be able to move the controller up and down, forward and backward, and from side to side – any more complex manoeuvres would block the light from the tracking device.

As such, we’re not entirely sure what the purpose of the addition is, but we do have some theories. While the primary use of the PlayStation Move’s illuminated orb was to track movement, it also worked well as a ‘mood’ piece in selected titles. For example, Need for Speed: Most Wanted included a feature where the light would flash red and blue when you were being chased by police, while Sorcery switched colours depending on your active spell. It’s possible that the platform holder may be using the LED bar to add an additional layer of immersion to games, cycling through colours as you play to give some added context and feedback to your actions.

Just as prominent is the touchpad in the centre of the device. As previously hinted, this has been implemented in place of the ‘Start’ and ‘Select’ buttons, which have either been removed entirely, or relocated elsewhere on the pad. Regardless, the two-point surface’s purpose seems to be a bit of a mystery at this stage. Scrolling through menus and web pages would perhaps feel at home on the interface, but outside of that we’re struggling to think of a compelling use case. Perhaps it will allow you to write and draw messages similar to the Wii U, though the solution doesn’t seem as compelling without the screen for immediate feedback.

There’s no doubt that Sony will encourage its teams to use the touchpad, but it’s going to be interesting to see what they come up with

There’s no doubt that Sony will encourage its teams to take advantage of the feature, but it’s going to be interesting to see what they come up with. Like the PlayStation Vita’s rear touchpad – which has mostly been used for superfluous extras up until this point – we can’t imagine that the surface will be getting a whole lot of support in the years to come. If nothing else, it could add a couple of ‘virtual’ buttons to the unit which may help game designers who are in need of an extra input or two for their game. Reaching over to tap the touchpad to throw a grenade or switch gears in a racing game wouldn’t be particularly offensive, we suppose.

Beneath the touchpad is what appears to be a speaker but, as has been rightly pointed out on forums overnight, it could also be a microphone. If it is an audio emitting device, expect similar uses to the Nintendo Wii remote. Game sound effects could be played out of the controller, bringing a new layer of immersion to the experience, particularly telephone conversations. Alternatively, a microphone could be used for communication online without the need for a headset, or for Siri-esque voice recognition features. Previous games that have experimented with voice commands have largely been flawed, but there’s still plenty of potential for the feature.

Perhaps the most non-descript element of the controller – not even spotted in our initial story – is a small button to the left of the touchpad. It’s likely that this is the unit’s infamous ‘Share’ button, which some recent rumours have cautioned may not exist. There’s never smoke without fire, though, and considering how much we’ve already heard about the social button, we have to imagine that it’s real.

Pushing the input will supposedly allow you to capture screenshots and videos on the fly, which you’ll then be able to share with friends, presumably through the PlayStation Network and third-party channels such as Facebook and YouTube. We already speculated how the ‘Share’ button could be used to dramatically evolve the PlayStation Vita’s excellent LiveArea environment. It’s clear that, if real, the functionality is going to be a big bullet point on the PS4’s features list, and will probably be a prominent topic of conversation during the platform holder’s 20th February press conference.

There are other more subtle elements to the controller that will have an impact on the way that we play games, too. The previously segmented d-pad appears to have been replaced by a design similar to the Vita’s. Furthermore, the analogue sticks have been given ridges, presumably to help with comfort. The whole chassis looks a little bit broader, with the entire top-section of the controller reworked. This is presumably to accommodate the unit’s redesigned triggers, which have been a source of speculation over the past couple of weeks. There are no changes to the famous face buttons, which is hardly surprising.

There’s more of course, that we may not be able to infer from the image. Sony filed a patent for a biometric controller back in 2011, which could still be implemented into the PS4. There’s been no mention of it in recent rumours, but the technology would have a huge impact on the way that we play games, potentially manipulating mechanics based on heart rate and other external factors.

Sony’s likely to show an updated version of the controller during its press conference on 20th February, where we’ll almost certainly get to learn a little more about the device’s functionality and features. In the meantime, though, we want to hear your thoughts. What do you think of the prototype peripheral’s design? Which features are your favourite? What would you change about the layout? Let us know in the comments section and poll below.

What do you think of the prototype PlayStation 4 controller? (35 votes)

Absolutely love it

26%

I'll get used to it in time

37%

It looks ok, I guess

26%

Eww, what is this atrocity?

11%

Please login to vote in this poll.

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User Comments (28)

get2sammybAdmin

#2

get2sammyb said:

@SimonSiThornton Yeah, to me it seems so limited. The Move worked because it gave you the freedom to move the controller about freely, all while being fully detected. I'm not sure how this is a viable solution for playing a tennis game, for example...

hydeks

#3

hydeks said:

i was just looking at the controllers touch pad screen thingy there and I thought to myself that it would be really cool is the touch pad did display certain things on the screen that you than touched, anyways, I'm starting to see possibilites with this new look on a classic controller.

Cirno

#4

Cirno said:

To be fair, I don't really think that the screen will make a good touch screen. The wii U worked because it had a large touch screen that can give you a lot of space (Some of the art on miiverse is a good example of what a large touchpad can do). I hope that they go on more of a Dreamcast VMU sort of thing, where they use it to keep the screen clean of HUD. The controller looks ok though and It is doing more to change than the admittedly rather unexiting (but still great) Dualshock 3.

Gemuarto

#5

Gemuarto said:

I think this will work great with Taiko no Tatsujin or Metal Gear Rising, in which you will be able to cut everything by finger. And if there are some LED light under touchpad, it will work even better... =)

BornOfEvil

#6

BornOfEvil said:

I still think they should include cross controller support to their games. But, this could work out pretty well, if it's implemented correctly. I'm still waiting to see what it's purpose is and whether it looks gimmicky or not.

Sanquine

#8

Sanquine said:

A place to put my headset in? ! YES! It looks bulkier:D I like that:D Better triggers and it is a deal. My hands hurt when i play on the ps3, but damn the exclusives are so good:D

Sanquine

#9

Sanquine said:

BTW: The touchscreen on the controller >>> playstation mobile ( For touch games). And things like little big planet vita could work on the ps4 ( vita version was the best of the series)

ThreadShadow

#10

ThreadShadow said:

I don't think it's meant to replace Move, I think they've just added Move abilities to the regular controller. There will probably be Move 2.0 available aswell.

charlesnarles

#11

charlesnarles said:

Yeah maybe we can use the touchpad for upscaled/smoothed vita games on the big screen. And maybe the light is for peaking out from behind corners in fps and stuff, with more responsiveness in regards to where the controller is in space and not just a sixaxis accelerometer

BlueProxy

#12

BlueProxy said:

I was actually hoping for something like this. Nothing drastic, but improved under the hood, better grip, triggers, and a few new features.

Zombie_Barioth

#13

Zombie_Barioth said:

Charlesnarles wrote:

more responsiveness in regards to where the controller is in space and not just a sixaxis accelerometer

Thats what I was thinking, that the panel at the top is meant to improve on the motion controls in the dualshock, sorta like Nintendo did with the wii remote+.

I like the overall design but I hope they make it a bit sleeker and more uniform looking for the final product.

antdickensAdmin

#15

antdickens said:

I hope they aren't trying to cram too much stuff into the single controller... it could become a total Frankenstein! It does need an update though, I'll be surprised if they refine the shape much, it's so iconic. Not long until we find out!

rjejr

#16

rjejr said:

Here are a couple of my older posts regarding the touchscreen and the Move top - you people aren't trying hard enough:

"I can probably think of lots of reasons for the touchscreen but here's just a couple off the top of my head -
XMB navigation - is there anybody out there who's really good at using the PS Move on the XMB cause that thing sucks
Okami - self explanatory
Chick Chick Boom - 1 of the best games on Wiiware, it looks like a PSN game
almost any (3)DS(i) game ever made
any Move game that requires you to wipe off or scratch off stuff from the screen (god how I hate those)
faux lottery tickets (Nathan Drake will be scrathcing off one of these in UC4 if this controller becomes a reality)
dribbling a basketball or bouncing deBlob around if the "touch" is sensitive enough
a thumb "scanner" for any spy or stealth games or Metroi dlike games - it doesn't actually have to "read" your thumbprint, it just has to feel the pressure of a thumb
I realize many Sony fans consider themselves too "hardcore" to play Wiiware, DS, or Move games, but that doesn't mean a touch screen wouldn't have it's uses"

So no, an entire game will not be played with that tiny touchscreen, but it can enhance the experience in many ways.

"For anybody left in the world who still hasn't used a Wii - that light on top could make the XMB navigation SO much better. I HATE HATE HATE using the Move on the XMB. The Wii and it's "sensor bar" that is simply 2 red LED lights works so well out of the box. And since Move sucks anyway but "Shooting" games seem to work Sony may have finally merged the Wiimote ad DS in a way that's actually useful."

"Having KZ4 as a launch title would work with the idea of a PS Eye in every PS4 box. I've always thought the "Move" worked better as the "Point". I bet Sony sold alot more of those plastic guns than they did that horrible horrible steering wheel.
So yeah, if they want to promote the Eye, do so with a shooter."

The Wiimote works fine as a pointer, you don't need an "orb" to point or shoot. Nobody cares about motion, it's all about FPS.

So Sony just invented the "kitchen sink" controller. KS4.

Valky

#17

Valky said:

Looking good, hopefully it will have a smoother design once final (I absolutely hated the first prototypes of the Wii U Gamepad, but they polished it enough and it looks fancy now)

I would ask if the PSVita could still be used as a primary controller for PS4, because if that's so, I would choose that all the day.

FullbringIchigo

#18

FullbringIchigo said:

you know i like it has the classic look and feel but also brings in something new and if that bar at the top is just a light for added mood effects that could be pretty cool too

also if that is a speaker on the pad that's good too i like that speaker on the Wiimote or if it's a mic then that means no need for headsets and maybe some form of voice control ala kinect honestly i like how this is shaping up i just hope that the L2 and R2 buttons curve outwards if they are still going to be trigger like much more comfortable to use then

overall it's looking good

Scrible

#19

Scrible said:

Who cares about the flashing light, are you really going to look down away from screen to see what its doing, so lame and pointless

murder1show

#22

murder1show said:

I have to have something big and fat in my hands
When I'm playing all night ..
Sony™ could learn something from Microsoft™

Valky

#24

Valky said:

Yeah I like the look, unfortunately it seems a mock-up, it looks smaller and there are lots of new functions with the integrated display/touchpad

rjejr

#25

rjejr said:

@Valky - I thought it was established that the screen was a laptop like mousepad, not a "screen". If they made it a viewable screen Sony would have to give out sandpaper for our fingertips ;-)

Flashman

#26

Flashman said:

Imagine how expensive its gonna be to replace one of these when the current Dual Shock is about £45.

Valky

#27

Valky said:

@rjejr If you look closely, the touchpad looks darker, I see some kind of reflection and the whole thing seems to take evident space with rough lines in the front and upper sides. The kind of edges I espect putting together one kind of material with another, in that case, plastic and display.
I wouldn't be surprised if that prototype is one or two years old, being nothing else but a very rough idea of the finished product.

It is true that a touchpad in the front would be difficult to reach without the need to move your hand a bit. I think the touchpad of the Vita is a good example on how to place a touchpad in a controller, that's because you don't need a constant visual contact with it.

PJRandall

#28

PJRandall said:

I dunno about the touchpad yet. I wasn't sure about it on the Ouya and I'm not sure on the PS4.

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