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How Guerrilla Games helped shape the PS4 controller

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Developers from Guerrilla Games were among those invited to give feedback on the PlayStation 4's Dualshock 4 controller early in the prototyping process and, according to the studio's managing director Hermen Hulst, they pushed hard to ensure the controller would have the features they wanted.

"I think we got everything we wanted out of this controller," said Hulst, who had a team of developers within Guerrilla providing feedback on the controller from day one. "Being [a studio making] a first-person shooter, having the outward-curved triggers is super important. Tiny things like the indentations on the thumbsticks is super important. The form factor of the controller, just how tight and responsive it is — it's exactly what we wanted."

In addition to the form factor, Hulst told Polygon that the studio strongly pushed for the controller to have a headphone jack because this would lower the barrier to entry for players to communicate with each other. The studio also pushed for the "start" button to be removed, and it wasn't alone in its request.

According to Hulst, the early prototypes of the Dualshock 4, which were codenamed "Jedi," were complicated and featured 3D bars and extra buttons. Many developers voted to have fewer buttons. "Everybody wanted to keep it simple, because we feel that if we want to make console gaming relevant, more people should be able to do it," he said. "These things are really important when you're after a seamless experience. A 'start' button is just a bad thing to have."

Hulst said there is really no need for a start button. Games can be paused with the options button, and pressing "start" doesn't necessarily make a game start, anyway. "It's not necessary, so why do we accept it? Why don't we rethink what gaming should be about and only have stuff that really adds value?"

As a result of developer feedback, the Dualshock 4 only has an "options" and "share" button. It also has a headphone jack and, at the request of other studios, a built-in speaker that Guerrilla is using for contextual storytelling in its upcoming Killzone: Shadow Fall.

When asked whether the developers felt that the PlayStation 3's Dualshock 3 controller may have hindered how players experienced earlier Killzone games, Hulst said he doesn't believe the games suffered from it. "I think the fact that this controller is so tight and so responsive, it means we don't need any helpers on the screen or aim-assist," he said. "I think it's a huge step forward. Obviously, going back, that was a downside. But it's only with the knowledge of where we are today.

"So back then, we didn't know the controller was going to be this great, so we didn't suffer from it. But having this now, it's hard to go back."

Polygon's hands-on preview of the Dualshock 4 with video can be viewed here.

Brian Crecente contributed to this story.