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How a Giant DualShock Influenced Knack

by Eric Frederiksen | July 11, 2013July 11, 2013 8:30 pm PDT


As we grow up, we often lose the perspective that children have. Usually we’re talking about innocent ideals and creative problem solving. In this case, it’s simply a matter of scale.

Mark Cerny, the chief architect of the PlayStation 4, spoke about his upcoming game Knack during his keynote presentation at the Develop Conference in Brighton, England. Knack is meant to appeal to younger players as well as more experienced gamers. Cerny is calling it an “on-ramp to the world of console gaming.”

Playtests revealed a troubling problem: a big part of their audience simply couldn’t reach the buttons on the controller. The complexity isn’t so much a problem; these kids have had access to smartphones almost as long as they’ve been able to talk. Eight-year-old hands just aren’t big enough to hit the shoulder buttons.

Cerny explained that “as part of our design process, we ended up making a giant controller, 50 percent larger than usual, so we could directly experience what ti feels like to be a child playing a game.” The team found that the face buttons were well within range but the shoulders were out of the question. That doesn’t mean it has to be an easy game, though.

Crash [Bandicoot, which Cerny was also behind] was actually a brutally difficult game despite its very simple two-button control scheme. That meant on a hard difficulty setting our game really needed to challenge the core gamer,” Cerny said. He added later that his intention is for easy mode, Knack “can be someone’s first game.”

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Eric Frederiksen

Eric Frederiksen has been a gamer since someone made the mistake of letting him play their Nintendo many years ago, pushing him to beg for his own,...