Did the Dualshock doom us all?: Gamepads' effect on game design

There have been no notable changes to the general layout and design of a gamepad since the release of the Xbox 360 in 2005. Every major console released since then has had a controller with a d-pad, four face buttons, two clickable analogue sticks, and four shoulder buttons on launch.

the DualShock 2, released in 2000, has been the foundation for all controller design over the last 24 years:


Has the evolution of the gamepad stalled because it has been perfected? Is this twin-stick controller really the peak of peripheral design? Does this standardization aid in game design or does it hamper it?
Do we need more buttons? Less? A third analog stick? Are we on the road to conformity and homogeneity across gaming all because of the release of the dualshock 2?? Am I overthinking this?!?! Please discuss

inb4 paddles

Despite the stagnate design, I think there have been improvements over the years regarding usability. I have not used either Xbox Elite Controller. However, I’ve extensively played on the new Xbox Series controllers, and I think they’re my favorite pad to hold and control. Mind you, I’ll play on whatever (I do own a Dreamcast AND a Wii U after all) but ergonomically speaking I think the newest Xbox controllers are quite comfy (the D-pad is pretty nice too!)

Controllers have gotten more ergonomic and comfortable, for sure. Paddles is a great example of this, same with things like mechanical switches, advancements in analog sticks, optimized controller sizes and shapes, etc.

But I wouldn't say that the Xbox Elite controller, Dualsense Edge, or the Victrix Pro BFG has done anything to influence game design in a real or significant way. Paddles you could make a case for... Something where both thumbs on the analog sticks at all times might require a paddle set-up to be viable. I don't think I've seen it, only situations where one's performance in a game is assisted by the use of paddles, but not that a game is designed specifically with paddles in mind.

Something that got me thinking about this is sprinting in *Control*. Why is the sprint tied to a button prompt? Why doesn't the player character just run at full speed when the analog stick is pushed to it's apex? There are loading screen hints that tell you that you should always be sprinting and moving during combat, so there's not really an advantage to jogging. You can already walk by lightly pushing the analog stick.
Maybe Remedy realized that there wasn't any function tied to clicking the left stick and felt like they needed to use that button. If that's true, then there's a situation where the controller design resulted in game design that I think is kinda not good.

An important difference between the dualshock 2 and its descendants: triggers. The dualshock 2 did not have analog triggers (are we finished with the term ‘shoulder buttons’?). I think on the whole this hasn't had a drastic influence on the kinds of games that come out, but it did change how we play some genres. Driving games started emulating pedals with them, and of course, firing a gun is now a trigger affair in a lot of games.

But here's where I air my personal grudge: analog triggers killed Frequency/Amplitude (and the lesser appreciated Guitar Hero 1 and 2 controller, uh, controls). I know they eventually did another Amplitude but nobody cared; especially not me, because I didn't want to play it with analog triggers. You can't play Frequency well with analog triggers. They're not fast enough. I have carried this grudge with me since I first held a gamecube controller. Death to analog triggers.

@“Mnemogenic”#p147959 I played the new Amplitude when it released. It was fine. Stick with the originals as you have.

There have been major changes in game inputs since the Dualshock 2: namely, touch and motion controls. While not necessarily gamepads, there was at least 5-10 years where these two new input methods were massively affecting game design on certain platforms, and of course touch is still how kids play Fortnite on iOS today, as well as all those strategy and gacha games and whatever else is on there. A lot of us would agree that action games with a touch screen kinda suck due to the fact that you have to cover the screen to use it, but I think ideas like the Vita‘s back-touch or the PS4’s touchpad are interesting, although I didn‘t own either console and have no idea how they were used. (I have a Dualshock 4 but I only use it for PC games. It’s kinda fun to try to control the mouse with that thing, though.)

Idk where this fits into the discussion because I'm not super up on the history, but I wonder how much the late-2000s alternative control scheme fad (Guitar Hero, Skateboard controller, Wii, Kinect, Move, etc) had an effect on this phenomenon. It really did seem for a second like the conventional gamepad was going to be subsumed by at least one of these new ideas, but then it just wasn't. Maybe the backfiring of all that led to a conservatism in console design for the next couple generations.

I think 6-button controllers stink, and I‘m tired of acting like it doesn’t. Ever try that original Xbox controller with the black and the white buttons? Dumbest shit ever, why did they put buttons that don't do anything useful where your thumb naturally lays. They also put all the buttons in the wrong place, A is where B should be, X is where Y should be, the left stick is where the D-Pad should be. Xbox controllers are a mess of a user experience.

Sega's 6-button controllers were marginally better, but it's harder to remember what the buttons do. N64 did the 6-button the best with its C-buttons, but even with that controller the C-Buttons were always a wildcard. Z button was great though, we need to bring that bad boy.

I think the Steam controller touchpad things are interesting though - let them cook (or in this case, steam).

Also - triggers are super unnecessary and just make playing stuff like Dark's Souls more annoying. Let the racing simulation folks use their wheel peripherals and give us a clicky L2 and R2 buttons again! PS3 controller had the right idea!

I don’t have any insight on the pros or cons of post-DualShock controller design (other than how silly I think it is when games try to use every single control on a new handheld), but thinking about it reminds me of all the breathless commentary circa 200 about how in ten years we would have controllers with 30 buttons and 12 analogue sticks. The Big Games Industry doesn’t have much restraint but somehow with controllers they’ve managed to be pretty darn restrained!

Nintendo has been trying to prove that traditional controllers have been dooming us for decades


@“wickedcestus”#p147967 namely, touch and motion controls.

This more than anything else is the biggest innovation in gaming peripherals in the last 20 years imho. Due to the fact that we're all *gamerz* we kind of overlook the mobile gaming market a lot of the time. Bottom line is video games on a phone are still video games.
You touched on it, but when mobile games try to emulate a gamepad, they usually suck, but games that transition nicely to, or were built from the ground up for touch screens can be really solid and viable gaming experiences.


@“wickedcestus”#p147967 but I wonder how much the late-2000s alternative control scheme fad (Guitar Hero, Skateboard controller, Wii, Kinect, Move, etc) had an effect on this phenomenon

The only thing that I can think that is still sort of doing this is the playdate, and from what I've gathered, a lot of people see the reel as a gimmick. Which I guess is a thing about "alternative" or new controller ideas. They're usually seen as gimmicks, like the motion control incorporated in modern controllers or the touch pads on PS stuff.


@“Tradegood”#p147969 I think 6-button controllers stink,

On the face of the pad? Yeah, unless you do the dreaded claw grip, welcoming all the glory and carpal tunnel.


@“Karasu”#p147971 we would have controllers with 30 buttons and 12 analogue sticks.

Just use a mouse and keyboard at that point. Or build a dope ass flight sim rig.


@“KingTubb”#p147975 Just use a mouse and keyboard at that point. Or build a dope ass flight sim rig

I mean I was mostly pointing out the non-games-enthusiast tendency at the time to act like ‘games are way too complicated now’ because there are more than two buttons, not any real need for that many controls, but fair.

@“Karasu”#p147979 I guess this begs the question “Are games too complicated now?” If you‘re not familiar with the layout and ideal way to hold and handle a controller, you might be scared off from even a pretty straight forward and streamlined experience. For example, my partner does not play video games; Trying to get her to play something like Mario party can be difficult. She looks at the directions for the mini game, looks at the controller, tries to remember which buttons are where, then has to recall all that when the game starts. But, I’ve played arcade games with her and she usually has no issue jumping right in and understanding how to control her character.


@“Mnemogenic”#p147959 dualshock 2 did not have analog triggers

i think they were analog in the sense they were pressure-sensitive? pretty sure MGS2&3 use this in cool ways

@“rootfifthoctave”#p147988 Oh maybe, I can't recall. It did have pressure-sensitive face buttons which MGS 2 and 3 definitely used.



Metroid Prime Hunters on the DS (and a lot of DS games in general) proved how perfect touch screens were - basically creating a natural kb+m feel on a handheld, and then the WiiU bungled it, and with the Switch they didn‘t even seem to try (unless I’m horribly mistaken) to use it - the stylus to me is still superior to the finger, and the two screens allow you to (like with traditional controllers) do actions/move without having to look down, which is crucial for anything worthwhile you wanna do gameplay wise. Even the action games on the DS with stylus controls were pretty fun (thinking the Zeldas or Ninja Gaiden), which is what made Wonderful 101 (on the WiiU) even more sad, since it felt so imprecise (maybe a developer skill issue?) - on the DS it would've been a better controllable game.

Hold on, where’s the scroll wheel at? Has it ever been on a controller? What if L1 and R1 were scroll wheels? Clickable!

@“MDS-02”#p148020 I want a giant wheel controller with a lot of smaller wheels. It's called the “wheel of wheels” and every wheel is also a paddle.

@“MDS-02”#p148020 this is what I’m talking about! Admittedly, the touch pad thingy on the steam controller sorta had an odd clicky tactile feedback when you used it.

Man, that controller is neat, but nothing has ever been made with it in mind and it’s clunky as hell