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Talking Point: How Will the PS4 Controller's Touchpad Be Used?

Posted by Sammy Barker

Rub-a-Dub

We’ve already established in previous articles that the PlayStation 4’s refreshed controller is a thing of beauty. The analogue sticks feel sturdier than a body builder’s biceps, the triggers melt under your fingertips like a Mini Milk in the microwave, and the light bar looks snazzier than Chewbacca donning Dolce Gabbana shades. One thing that we haven’t spent too long talking about, though, is the touchpad in the centre of the peripheral.

Much like the rear sensor on the PlayStation Vita, developers have yet to make a convincing argument for the shiny surface. Augmented reality showpiece The Playroom allows you to practice your Pong skills with the clickable companion, while you can cycle through your power-ups in Killzone: Shadow Fall – but outside of these scant examples, content creators have been decidedly quiet about the added input. Does that mean that the superfluous function is already redundant, though – or is it merely being overlooked?

Inspiration in navigation

Of all the potential uses for the touchpad, the most obvious option pertains to navigation. The advent of smartphones and tablets has made it second-nature for us to swipe through menus, and we suspect that this trend will continue on the PS4. In fact, if you look at the way that the system’s user interface is arranged (above), it seems certain that you’ll be thumbing your way through your games and applications in much the same way as you do your albums on an iPod Touch.

The d-pad will always be there should you need it, of course, but there is something satisfying about skimming your finger across a surface in order to bring a menu to life. We suspect that most titles will employ the added extra in much the same way, too, allowing you to dash through options screens with a daring digit rather than relentless jabs on the face buttons. It’s not exactly going to change the way that you interact with your games – but it could make browsing through them that smidgen simpler.

Browse like a breeze

Speaking of which, it seems inevitable that you’ll be able to use the touchpad to surf the Internet. A leaked video showing the PS4’s interface confirmed that the next generation platform will include a web browser, and we suspect that the responsive surface will allow you to interact with pages in much the same manner as a laptop’s pointing device. The unit can be clicked, so tapping on links should be a fairly simplistic affair.

Using the analogue sticks to navigate websites on the PlayStation 3’s browser can prove a bit clunky, so the added accuracy of the central surface should make perusing Push Square a doddle. Of course, with smartphones and tablets such a common inclusion in so many households, it remains to be seen how often you’ll actually be booting up the next generation console’s window into the web. Still, we suppose if the platform holder’s committed to including an online application, it may as well ensure that it’s easy to use.

Games, games, games

While the aforementioned usability aspects all make more sense than standard deviation, it’s the actual games where the touchpad starts to look a little confusing. As mentioned, Killzone: Shadow Fall already uses the smooth surface to allow you to cycle through power-ups, while Blacklight: Retribution is employing the added input to trigger taunts. Outside of these, though – and The Playroom’s aforesaid Pong option – implementations are much harder to predict.

We know that inFAMOUS: Second Son is using the unit for finger-scanning mini-games, so we suspect that studios like Quantic Dream will have fun with the immersive aspects of the interface. Furthermore, we wouldn’t be surprised EA Sports brought back the brilliant touch screen aiming from the Vita version of FIFA Football. We also reckon that smartphone-centric games such as Fruit Ninja and Angry Birds could work on the system – although the fact that you’re not interfacing directly with the screen may lessen the appeal of those types of experiences.

Is it worth it?

The amount of time that we’ve spent actually pondering the above uses for the touchpad – several hours, we’ll have you know – evidences just how little immediate reason there is for the DualShock 4’s touchpad. However, it also explains why we’re lowly writers rather than big-shot game designers, and we’re hopeful that more imaginative minds may come up with some more interesting uses for the unit than ours.

Still, the more options the merrier – and we suspect that’s it that thought process that encouraged Sony to include the shiny surface in the first place. Considering it probably costs pennies to manufacture, we don’t think that there’s any harm in letting studios experiment in order to explore what works. That may end up being little more than menus, or it could be something that fundamentally changes the way that we play. If nothing else, at least developers have another button to use should the existing eleven not prove good enough.


How do you think that developers will employ the DualShock 4’s touchpad? Are you comfortable with its inclusion, or do you think that Sony should have left it on the cutting room floor? Let us know in the comments section below.

Do you think that Sony was right to include the touchpad? (60 votes)

Yes, there’s no harm in it and it could lead to some interesting ideas

80%

I’m waiting to see some more implementations before I decide

17%

No, it will only be used for menus and the d-pad works fine for those

  3%

Please login to vote in this poll.

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User Comments (21)

PMasterTy9

#2

PMasterTy9 said:

It has potential to be very useful but will developers utilize it to its full potential...

Ps4all

#3

Ps4all said:

I hope it doesn't get shoehorned into games where it doesn't fit. Otherwise, more options are always a good thing.

irken004

#4

irken004 said:

Could also be used to view large maps more easily, pinch in to zoom out or pinch out to zoom in. If it's multitouch, of course.

ViciousDS

#5

ViciousDS said:

infamous uses the touch pad from what im aware its how you absorb the smoke for Delsin. You put both thumbs on the Pad and he uses both arms to absorb smoke.

Also if they could incorporate a way to use the keyboard with the touch screen for sending messages......that there would justify the controller alone. Adding a swype like function would be very, very handy.

Also lets not forget all the sports games that could easily utilize it.....I mean fifa on the Vita without that goal point precision kick using the touchpad just wouldn't be fun. I love playing Fifa with a touchpad....it makes the precision shots just that much easier and enjoyable.

Delsin’s smoke power is replenished by absorbing smoke, similar to Cole’s ability to harness electricity. However, it is noted that smoke is far rarer than electricity was in the previous two games in the series, meaning that a more thoughtful approach to combat will be required. Interestingly, smoke is absorbed by using the DualShock 4’s mysterious touch pad.

darkstar19

#6

darkstar19 said:

If they ever port the newer models of project diva arcade to ps4 it could be used easily for the new slide notes.

KALofKRYPTON

#7

KALofKRYPTON said:

As with the best of the Vita, so long as it doesn't get in the way or be used for a function that could be done better elsewhere, I'm game.

rjejr

#8

rjejr said:

I'll be disappointed if Nathan Drake doesn't purchase a scratch-off lottery ticket in Uncharted 4. And then he'll drive a car in the rain and you'll need to continually wipe off the fogged up window so he can see where he's going.

-CraZed-

#9

-CraZed- said:

@rjejr The scratch off lottery ticket would be a neat little idea for games like GTA. Made me chuckle at first but honestly it would be a neat little mini game...

drumsandperc92

#10

drumsandperc92 said:

i'm happy they included it.
microsoft has kinect's swipe and motion gestures & is pushing surface interactions, and Nintendo has their tablet, so a game that utilizes the tablet could utilize PS4's touch pad much in the same vein, even without a separate screen. Including it ensures that if the developers want to take time to utilize it on a multiplatform title across the board, then Sony won't be left out of the picture.
Also, it doesn't seem to inflate the price of the controller, so why not include it? I bet you the price would've been the same $60 even without it, just look at Microsoft's Xbone pad.
I think browsing through inventory on the touch pad, using it to navigate, and using it in indie games is going to be just fantastic. i'm very happy with it.
we won't see anything revolutionary with it, but touch screens are commonplace now, so it'll feel right at home underneath everyone's fingers even if it's just for the most basic functions.

Dathon

#12

Dathon said:

This touchpad will be good to use with the web browser. Much better than the PS3 keypad that had a touchpad built into the keys, that wasn't very respnsive.

longshot28

#14

longshot28 said:

I see it being used for features like the commo rose in BF, think about it you touch the pad it automatically brings it up, and you move your finger in the direction of the command.

Grockumus

#15

Grockumus said:

@Dathon That was such a cool feature on the PS3 keypad, but to be honest, using the analogue stick just... felt easier. I wish the keys on the keypad lit up instead of having that pointless touch feature.

DoublezZ01

#16

DoublezZ01 said:

@ViciousD they said I u could. Blow cars up. .. shouldn't be. That though! But thanks for the update didn't know they were using the DS4 touch pad to do the absorbing! ! =D

DoublezZ01

#17

DoublezZ01 said:

They could use. It for evading attacks quickly! it would be extremely useful for Evading in games like Gundam extreme vs and dynasty Warriors Gundam !XD or especially for games that want your character to do certain reactions, gestures..ect! I'm so glad this new dualshock is packed with so many new features, I freaking love it!!!!! =D Its for so much life now!

Reverend_Skeeve

#18

Reverend_Skeeve said:

The touch pad is a nice, little feature, I think. And I'm sure we'll see cool stuff being done with it...as we'll surely see tacked-on stuff, no doubt.

One other use of the touch pad in inFamous are D.U.P. checkpoints where citizens are being checked for the conduit gene. You have to put your thumb on a scanner...and you do that by putting it on the touch pad. One of the Suckerpunch-guys mentioned this in a video and I think it's a nice...wait for it...touch of immersion. ;)

Jaz007

#21

Jaz007 said:

I think it will definitely be put to good use. Look and how Sucker Punch is using it, not only for immersion with the thumb scanners, but simply as another button with how you put your thumbs on it to absorb smoke. I think it has great potential and won't be too hard to come up with uses for it. It will allow for developers to have more input options and will let the developer use more buttons. It might be good just to free up other buttons by having it do things usually reguated to normal buttons.

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