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  • Designing a Controller: The Synaps

    [04.12.11]
    - Ryan Hively, London Honaker-Thomas and David Follo
  • The following will investigate the design of the Synaps controller. To do this the team has proposed three ways of testing this piece of hardware, which are think-aloud, heuristics, and hands-on testing. In addition, photo-realistic stills of the controller have been rendered outlining all buttons and features. Three genres of games have been explained and button mapped, including a platformer, an RPG/shooter, and a sports-fishing game to highlight the usability of the Synaps. This controller will bring a variety of options, usability and a fun and an exciting experience to gamers that will enhance their experiences through their emotions and actions.


    Design Purpose

    While gamers have many options for controllers, the technology of motion controls has set a new standard. Thus, there is no all-in-one controller that can function as both a motion controller and a standard handheld. The purpose of the Synaps is to allow the player to have a variety of choices when it comes to playing a videogame and to let the player experience the best of both worlds along with a fresh compact design. The Synaps's secondary purpose is to have one controller that can be used on all game systems, effectively standardizing its design.

    Literature Review

    The Xbox 360, PS3, and the Wii and their respective controllers have all inspired the design of the Synaps. By reviewing controllers of the past and the current designs, it was decided that something had to change. Combining the comforts and features from highly successful designs and controllers with rich evolution dating back to the NES has lead to the Synaps. Researching articles on the Internet concluded that it is apparent many gamers have a preference for the weight and shape of the Xbox 360's design and ergonomics. In addition, it was also found that many gamers also favored the motion control of the Wiimote. With that in mind, it was decided that motion control, 360 comforts and Wiimote + Nunchuck independency would make an exquisite controller.

    Design Method

    Usability -- The ease with which people can use a program to achieve their goals.

    Design Assumptions

    The controllers defining feature is that it can snap into two separate halves becoming at one moment a standard handheld, while at another; it can become more like the Wiimote and the Nunchuck. By unsnapping the two halves it allows for not only motion controls but also creates a new experience in just sitting back with your hands on the each arm of your sofa. In addition, the controller's design will accommodate all players of the current 7th generation console market.

    The controller has connecting clips in the center of the controller to snap together or snap apart. This separation will give the player more of a relaxed experience while playing a game. To make things more convenient for the player, the controller has six-axis controlling in both sections of the controller. The D-Pad is more of a circle D-Pad compared to a plus D-Pad giving the player more of a fluid control than a firm press. The button placement on the right-section of the controller, are setup above the right analog stick for better usability and quicker for the player's thumb movement. There is a line bar of LEDs in the center of both sections of the controller. When the sections are snapped together, creating one solid controller, the LED windows light up providing feedback to the player that the controller is snapped together.

    This controller's design parameters are based around the three biggest selling home consoles of the 7th generation, the Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii. As such, there are notable features from all three making this controller the be-all-end-all human-machine interface device for home gaming.

    The standard XYBA buttons (or circle, X, square and triangle) are included in a new, intuitive design on the right face of the controller. While this deviates from the standard setup of the PS3 and 360, the design will be easy to pick up for any veteran gamer and learnable by any new gamer.

    Standard placement of the D-pad (which can now be switched out with a "disc" replacement piece) and both analog sticks are included. LED's are also added under the thumbsticks for nighttime playing and aesthetics.

    Unique and being introduced for the first time as a heavy-contender in the console controller market are the pressure sensitive panels on both grips, acting as new buttons for both analog stick clicks ("R3 and L3"). These pads can be used in both motion control based games as well as during standard handheld play.

    As this controller is designed for all major systems, the design team has taken special consideration for both system's players and their unique needs. Therefore, the choice to add in interchangeable trigger buttons was implemented. Now the player can choose between horizontal or vertical trigger buttons to suit their preferred system or playstyle. Do you wish to play Halo with PS3 triggers? This controller can make it happen!

    The controller is complete with Sixaxis technology both while acting as one piece, and while it is unsnapped into two. Games that support motion control can be used with this controller, and the player may map simple motion control to his or her favorite games. Do you wish to swing your weapon in Fable with the shake of a section? Do it! This controller can make that choice a reality.

    A powerful magnet backs the "snapping" mechanic that this unique controller offers as well as a series of fitted plugs to ensure that the controller will not prematurely divide during intense gameplay.

    Overall, based on the ergonomics and adaptability of the Synaps, it will create unique and personally gratifying experiences for the player. The player can not only achieve their goals with ease but do so on any console with any game all while keeping with the familiarity of their current controller.

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