Game Controller Preferences (SixAxis)
Many people seem to really dislike the SixAxis controller, but I never really shared in such a strong sentiment. In terms of controller design I find them quite comfortable to use. Due to their smaller size I do actually prefer them to the Xbox controller. The only real issue I can think of are the trigger back buttons, which in certain games can feel awkward or catch too easily (how many people have accidentally killed NPCs in Dark Souls after putting the controller down?) Although I do use the newer Dualshock controllers, I never actually saw the vibration as a necessity to my enjoyment of a game and pay little attention to it.
The main point of the SixAxis of course, is the motion sensitivity. I was actually interested to see how games were going to implement this, but I can’t think of many that have. While obviously this was never going to compete with more dedicated motion controllers like the Wii-mote, I thought that if given a chance it could be put to good use. For example, I enjoyed how games like Resistance: Fall Of Man had you shaking the controller to put out fire or shake off an enemy; the motion sort of reinforced the idea of the action. One thing that I didn’t like using the SixAxis for were driving games where the motion is more constant. I just couldn’t play as well with it turned on so it made more sense to carry on using it like a normal controller.
I’d mostly forgotten about the SixAxis until recently, when for the first time in a while I received a prompt telling me to move the controller. I’m currently playing The Last Of Us, which requires you to tilt the controller when your flash-light is running low on batteries. To be honest, I doubt I’d really notice if this mechanic was absent from the game, but I think it’s a good use of the controller. It takes very little effort to do but frees up the other buttons for more important actions. I also noticed the use of the SixAxis in the games Heavy Rain and Beyond where the motion is used to emphasize certain actions.
I think the SixAxis is best when used in a subtle way to emphasize certain motions or to free up buttons, but unfortunately many games don’t utilize it or do so badly. There have also been times when I couldn’t get the movement right and ended up flailing the controller around like crazy. The biggest issue I’ve now noticed however, is that not everybody uses an official controller and not all controllers have SixAxis support. As far as I can tell not all games give you alternate options for SixAxis use, so this will result in some players not being able to finish the game. I’m not sure if games come with a sufficient warning stating that they’ll require SixAxis to play, but they probably should.
I think a successful controller design will allow you to forget that you’re even holding it in your hands. We all probably have slightly different preferences based on factors such as the size of our hands. I also noticed that some people struggle with the vibration due to problems in their hands that cause them pain. It’s understandable that many people will opt for 3rd party controllers if it means finding one that suits them better. I’m personally really happy with the controllers I use, but it’s a shame that games do not come with more options for people who do not wish to use these. An option to turn off vibration or SixAxis for instance for those that don’t want it. I personally would like to see more games making better use out of the SixAxis functionality, but hopefully not at the cost of alienating other gamers.