Back in the 90s it was all about controller vs mouse&keyboard, Console vs PC. All or nothing. Them or us (This conflict is probably subjective, I personally only could afford to be on one side though). Racing & platforming vs FPS & RTS. Since then the lines have blurred quite a bit and here we are… but what has actually changed for console inputs in the last 20 years (Oh wait, I really am that old?)… 30 years?
The evolution of controllers , as I have actually experienced them, are as follows:
- A rectangle, then a "dog bone" (NES and SNES)
- Added a few handles (PSX) or two (N64) but to great ridicule in retrospect: Afterwards, online mags were making fun of you needing 3 hands to play the N64 back in the day, even though each hand position was designed for a different type of game (2D and 3D). Maybe they are being sensationalists, but to be fair, the PS1 got on board late with analog, and many traditional 2D RPG series switched to Sony after the SNES.
- Just make it larger (XBOX Duke) – No one liked it: Go back to point 2, do not pass GO, and don't collect $2mio
- Separate the left- and right-handed controls, and add motion input plus aim tracking (Wii): Largely regarded as a console for kids, even though it arguably had the most precise FPS (and Zelda) aiming scheme for consoles to date.
- Add motion aiming to mainstream consoles (PS3 Boomerang): Failed. Fans and stakeholders complained so much before anything was released, that they went back to the old design. For the next gen, use of the DS4 motion controls was negligible.
- Steam Controller: Again – tried to do everything, very few ppl got it, discontinued. Unlike the DS4 though, learnings from the Steam Controller got transferred to the Steam client. Now we have more customizable options for PC games than ever!
- VR – Motion controls combined with an analog stick, and even individual finger input… We're almost there!
All the inputs, all the possibilities, but it's restricted to Virtual Reality… And VR currently requires hardcore hardware investments for mobile-level game depth. How I would love to have a set of Valve Index controllers for regular 3D games, on a 2D screen! Now, we have come a long way since XINPUT first made controllers a reliable input option on PC, but we're not quite there yet.
Until then I'll use my 3rd-party controller with an xbox-layout and, thanks to Steam's controller support, manually mapped gyro-aim on demand. It can be a pain to set up for some games; sometimes impossible (fallout 3), but definitely worth it once it works (Shadow of Mordor, Sleeping Dogs, etc).
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