5 Reasons Why Every Self-Proclaimed Best Pro Gaming Controller Should Make Everyone Feel Better About Competitive Console Gaming
February 2, 2017, marked the day that Blizzard (the people behind award-winning game franchises like Warcraft and Diablo, but you already knew that) brought the proverbial hammer down on the usage of keyboard and mouse peripherals and input converters on console versions of its 2016 Game of The Year Winner, Overwatch. Citing the unfair advantage players can receive from this type of input by virtue of being more precise for movement and especially aiming, the folks behind the game have actively reached out to console manufacturers to provide a decision on this type of input that has no gray area. Easier said than done, as there is a trade-off regardless where the console manufacturer decides to go from here.
Now, here’s a thought – regardless of which way Sony or Microsoft go from here, what if there was an additional initiative to promote the usage of a pro gaming controller?
There is a fair abundance of these products in the market, and while it can be argued that they are priced the same as other gaming keyboard and mouse kits that are in the market, a lot can be said about how pro controllers have fair benefits across the board.
So with that in mind, let’s look at these benefits now.
What Are The Compelling Benefits of a Pro Gaming Controller?
Improved Trigger and Buttons
From the onset, we are likely taken in by how sleek or high-tech these pro gaming controllers look. Once you get over the aesthetics, the first thing worth looking at would be the level of responsiveness from both the trigger and buttons.
I’ve mentioned several times on this site about how the distance traveled by these parts from normal to its down (pressed) state is crucial in sending the input’s signal to the console (which reflects on screen). The longer the time it takes to get pressed, the more time lost from your reactions, which often translates to being dead or getting shot in-game.
In their own unique way, the product line for pro-gaming controllers boasts of far more responsive buttons and triggers. Razer‘s line of controllers, for instance, seemingly have shorter extrusions on their buttons, which allows each press to register faster. Hori, with it’s Pro Controller, swaps out the conventional triggers with square-ish buttons, which effectively becomes a faster response instead of squeezing the triggers all the way down, and still other products out there can leverage triggers that have a tighter spring and switch so that the gamer does not need to pull on the trigger all the way down.
The benefits of lesser effort needed to press on these allow for your in-game response to become more immediate to touch. So if you already have great reactions, then leveraging a controller that responds to your inputs faster makes your shots even more efficient and effective!
Improved Analog Stick Usage
Analog sticks are a very tricky piece of the game controller puzzle to solve because there is no one true solution that will appease everybody. If you have visited this site in the past and have read the usual analog stick debate, you would know how the both convex and concave surfaces have their own pros and cons.
And that’s only the surface of the problem (yes, I went there).
Other things to consider are stick elevation and surface texture, which are just as critical in terms of analog stick performance on a controller.
Stick elevation becomes a conundrum relating to speed versus precision when tilting your analog stick. When you place your thumb on the stick’s top surface, the control you have sliding towards a particular direction will change depending on how near the thumb surface is to the base of the controller.
At the same time, the surface texture matters as it deals with the amount of grip involved on your thumb. Some analog stick grips can provide a great deal of leverage or traction for that added control. Without it, you might be running the risk of sliding off the analog stick and losing precious time in-game.
Is this such a big deal, though?
Movement in any game must require a balance of speed and precision to bring you from point A to point B.
Gaming mice do not have this problem as the surface area traveled by a mouse is tracked by the red dot in its core (where it goes and stops translates immediately). Analog sticks, on the other hand, require a committed nudge at an angle to move, and a slight shift in an opposite direction to either slow it down or come to a halt (reaching a “dead zone” where it does not register movement).
Some additional background from earlier in my career…
I remember during my game development days when my team was asked to make an in-game puzzle and movement of pieces were based on movement via thumbstick. Our programmers immediately asked if there was a defined amount of sensitivity for this movement, or if we were allowed to let movement accelerate the longer the stick is pointed toward the direction.
Add to that the amount of time movement would slow to a halt after pulling back on the stick or going back to neutral, and there is a more complex layer to stick movement to figure out.
So like I mentioned, speed and precision to-and-from any direction.
So how would pro-gaming controllers deal with making analog sticks better?
Each pro-gaming controller on the market has a unique pair of thumbsticks that serve its purpose – there are a bunch that has the left stick closer to the controller base so that movement is quicker and more fluid, while the right stick is higher to make tiny nudges the most accurate. Some controllers leverage two different analog stick curvatures that let the convex and concave shapes shine individually.
And finally, these controllers boast of stick surfaces that have engraved grips that range from simple to complex, all of which serve the purpose of keeping your thumb in position, where you need and when you need it. With these in place, you ca be sure that your stick movement would be easier to manage and less fidgety.
Add to that a really fine-tuned in-game stick sensitivity and you’ll be moving soundly in no time!
Specialized Paddles To Extend Controls
Another common theme that I have mentioned on several occasions on this site is the fact that the feel of a gaming controller can feel absolutely comfortable in the hands of one person could easily be a burden to another. In saying that, I am not just referring to the comfort factor when holding the controller. Rather, it’s the overall ability to reach the inputs on the controller.
A key piece to the control input that tends to be challenging for the user would be the triggers.
In our current times, input controls should attend to the user’s convenience. There has to be a way to make it easier to get to each input faster and with less effort possible. If enabling an input is tedious for the user, then they’ll have to train themselves to switch their fingers around faster. If they are not fast enough, then the other person may have fragged them immediately.
So what’s the solution for this Catch-22 situation?
Fortunately, the manufacturers of pro-gaming controllers have found some nifty workarounds to enabling trigger inputs that are quicker and more efficient.
You will find that these products will often have either modified trigger in place, or additional paddles at the back of the controller – the former implements a reshaped trigger to provide better presses for the trigger button, while the latter gives you an alternate input that is closer to the body of the controller for a more “grippy” feel instead of stretched placement of features.
Whichever the case, both pieces make also provide immediate input with less travel time – imagine if the trigger of a gun were less outward, then squeezing it to open fire would be almost instantaneous.
These specialized paddles carry the same idea – and if you’re used to the convention of “quick scope” and “fire” mapped to these parts of the controller, imagine how effective your in-game shooting could be!
Interchangeable Parts To Suit Your Playstyle
A notable aspect back when console supremacy had begun with PlayStation-versus-XBox was the parts placement for a controller’s inputs. Sony’s line always had a preference to place the analog stick across each other at the bottom of the controller’s face, while Microsoft’s console preferred the left stick switching places with the D-pad.
I have to hand it to both companies for sticking to their guns for stick placement on their controllers, as both orientations have distinct advantages over each other. However, it will still boil down to overall preference – for me, I’ve gotten used to either orientation as credited to having experienced either on a PlayStation or XBox console.
What if you could choose either orientation without having to buy another controller?
There are a couple of pro-gaming controllers in the market today that give you the ability to switch around the positioning of not just the D-pad and left stick, but the right stick as well. This way, you can set these two control types in a way that works for you. Some of them even take it a step further by providing you with other kinds of D-pads (traditional four-way or disc -type) or curvatures on analog sticks.
With these additional pieces, the manufacturer further empowers you to choose the pieces that work best for you and even for the games that you play – it also opens up a window of exploration for which pieces go well for any gaming situation.
The Better Side of Gaming Accessibility
Finally, with all this talk of “pro-gaming” look and feel for these kinds of controllers, it is easy to overlook the aspect of accessibility that can be found in these kinds of products.
While we are busy thinking about the better trigger and thumb sticks, it should be pointed out that the level of customization and interchangeable pieces mean that gamers with disabilities will not have to worry about physically dissecting a stock controller to modify it to what works for them.
To further augment the physical accessibility brought about by multiple options in parts, some pro-gaming controllers can even be mapped internally through a provided driver or application. This would usually come in a form of an interface to enable or disable controller parts as you see fit, as well as save different mappings based on the game genre you are playing.
This is an extremely useful layer of accessibility that you can configure into a controller and is a must to accommodate any physical impairments that a gamer may have.
And there you have it, folks. A couple of key pieces of a pro-gaming controller that will hopefully give you insight on some alternative means of making the most of your console FPS action. Please check back on this site as we look into a couple more of these products. If you are using a product like this already, let us know how you like it in the comments section!
Writer’s Note – apologies for the delayed update, as I’ve been occupied with a career move and preparing for my new job. Here’s to hoping that I am able to write more consistently on this site!