When Zulfi Alam, the Xbox Accessories department manager went to his bosses and told them that he wanted to redesign the current Xbox DualShock 3 controller, they weren’t too thrilled. In fact, they didn’t really see the need to change something that was perfect and that most Xbox owners and players loved. What resulted was a million dollar project trying to nail down the final new Xbox controller.
Alam went to the players and interviewed hundreds of them to really see what improvements they would like to see in the next controller. Then, the advancements were added to the 360 controllers and were tested to see how well things worked for the players. Alam said that during the process they were actually writing levels of games to test those advancements. Also during this time he said that testers weren’t even aware that they were holding the beginning prototype of what could be the next Xbox controller.
“The final Xbox One controller may not look different on the outside, but inside its remarkably different,” said Alam.
The core of the million spent was on the design of hundreds of pad prototypes, thousands of hours in testing, and a creating some new tooling and construction facilities. Total time spent on the project was about two-and-half-years. Alam said that many on his team felt like they would be fired after working so hard and for so long on what may have ended up being an under developed controller. As far as being underdeveloped, the main executives at Microsoft weren’t angry and everything came out okay.
The changes were analogue sticks that were smaller, a D-pad which is located closer to the motherboard in the controller and is more structurally sound, a plus-shaped pad as seen in Nintendo’s controllers was added, a micro-usb port, and smaller rumble motors. The micro-usb port will, when connected to the Xbox One via a wire, will shut down the pad’s internal radio and serve as a “true” wired pad. As far as the smaller rumble motors go they were reduced down to one eighth and scattered around the pad to deliver a more “subtle” force kickback in local parts of the controller.
In a demo first person shooter the player using the right trigger button experienced a recoil but it was just on that part of the controller. Another demo had the person shooting a simulated fireball from the the palm of their hand which led to the sensation of the ball being shot exactly from the palm and resulted in the recoil feeling in the person’s palm.
“The palm of your hand, which is usually the picks up the force feedback first, is not the most sensitive part,” said Alam.
Instead Alam said it is really the tip of your fingers that are the most sensitive. Alam touched on the difference between the Xbox One’s Dualshock 4 pad and the Wii U tablet. He said the first thing about a controller with a display is that it would need a hi-res screen which majorly eats away at the batter and will make players frustrated. Then he said that the HD t.v. would obviously be a better display but the player would get even more frustrated having to move their eyes back and forth to each screen and would soon tire from the whole experience. To put it simply he said, “It makes for worse game play.”
Earlier there was a picture making the rounds of a DualShock 4 sporting a “biometric” strip but Alam put that idea to bed.
“We already have the ability to know what your emotion and heart rate is, and that’s through the Kinect camera. Adding biometric sensors would drain battery life, and we’ve already got it via Kinect, so why do it?” said Alam.
Until the Xbox One launch players will have to deal with the small dose of recoil they get when playing a shooter but when the Xbox One arrives they should be ready to feel quite a jolt on their fingertips.