When Mark Cerny (PS4’s lead system architect) revealed the PS4’s DualShock 4 controller back in February, there was one thing that confused me the most about the new controller: the curious blue light bar at the controllers top.
As it turns out, the new controller itself has had quite a journey to become the one gamers saw during the PS4 announcement, the light bar included.
Shuhei Yoshida (Sony’s President of Worldwide Studios for Sony Computer Entertainment) spoke to EDGE recently (May 1st) and explained – amongst other things – how the DualShock 4’s light bar came to be and how functions.
Yoshida explained that the controller’s design had a few years of iterating before it became the one seen during the PS4 announcement. He didn’t say exactly just how many prototypes of the controller there have been, but I’m interpreting him to imply that there was quite a number of them (considering it allegedly took a few years to decide on the one they wanted).
“In the earlier stages it could be just a device, like a naked PC board connected to a PC, to just try out new sensors, for example. Or just devices put together by hand by the R&D (Research and Development) team. You know SCE (Sony Computer Entertainment) have very unique, interesting hardware prototyping people who put together some new devices to create interesting input devices,” Yoshida said.
“So these are handmade and given to a small number of people, to teams who are interested to try them out. It was more than a couple of years we continued iterating. After trying out many different options and devices available, we came back [to the decision] that this is a form that works.”
The light bar of the controller was something coined – Yoshida thinks – by Richard Marks’ group, who allegedly helped develop the PlayStation Move. Sony Computer Entertainment International apparently wanted a smarter way of identifying the player, so the use of a full-colour LED bar came up – compared to the DualShock 3’s LED numbers (because apparently ‘1’, ‘2’, ‘3’ and ‘4’ “looked a bit odd.”
“It’s just a different way of identifying the player. In terms of using the LED [as in the Dualshock 3, with] numbers like 1, 2, 3 and 4, it looked a bit odd. The SCEI people wanted some smarter way of doing it, and the use of a full-colour LED came up.”
Yoshida then went on to example how developers could incorporate the light bar to be used in games: the light bar could change colour depending on the player’s health. Yoshida used Guerrilla Games’ Killzone: Shadow Fall as an example of this concept.
“So it has a dual – or it could be a triple – role because game designers could use it for some effect. Like when [players are] losing HP, the colour could change from green to red. Like in the ‘Killzone’ demo, if you were watching Steven playing, [that game] has that function already.” he said.
“People were watching the main screen, but Steven (the guy playing the demo) was facing the audience, showing how the light bar colour changes as he was hit by the enemy; as he lost hit points the colour was changing from green to red. And when he used the health replenishment, it went back to green.”
Unfortunately, I didn’t see the light bar changing colour during the live reveal, but the concept nonetheless does sound very helpful. “Sound” very helpful.
After looking closely to a few press images of the controller, I’ve figured that the light bar isn’t quite in such a strategic place.
Coming from my perspective; let me set the scene of why I think this. If I were to use the DualShock 4 for regular gaming, I would use it like any other controller: hunched, and leaning forward a bit. At the time of writing I’m using an old DualShock 2 and I’m sitting as described, controller in hand.
Since the DualShock 2 is the closest thing I have to a DualShock 4, I am assuming the general geometry of both controllers isn’t all that different (which it doesn’t appear to be anyway).
So, I’m sitting with the controller in hand (like I would when gaming) and I cannot see the top of the controller without tilting it. So, to me, what purpose does it serve? Well, aside from it being an apparently possible PlayStation Move successor, nothing really.
When in the heat of a gunfight, the last thing I’m going to do is pause the game and tilt the controller up to see how much health I have left – there’s a HUD for that.
The couple of situations that I can think of where this gimmick would be useful – to me – would be if I was gaming with no lights on and the light bar was the only illumination in the room – aside from the TV; and if I was gaming with friends and I needed to see what colour they were to identify what player they were (e.g. blue = player #1, magenta = player #2, etc.). However, because of the geometry of the DualShock 4, I wouldn’t be able to see their colour without leaning over to see it anyway.
Perhaps I’m being too cynical about it too soon. I should just probably wait until I can try the controller out for myself physically before I make such harsh judgements in the future.
What do you think about the DualShock 4 being used like it was in ‘Killzone: Shadow Fall’? Let us know in the comments!