After posting a short clip of the Xbox One’s new controller earlier this week, fan questions have prompted Microsoft to post a number of details about the device. Posted to Major Nelson’s blog and the Xbox One news page, the article goes into detail about the buttons and directional pads, battery, connectivity, and other features. This isn’t simply just a slight redesign; the controller is packed with new features that should make it easier to use in a number of subtle ways.
Sticks, Pads, and Buttons
The thumbsticks, which are smaller than the 360’s, have a knurled texture (the criss-cross grip texture you see on tools and the like) and require less force to move. The sticks also have a smaller deadzone in the center. The reduced force and deadzone should be appealing especially to competitive gamers – if it works as described. The D-pad, meanwhile, is simply a cross design. According to Microsoft, the D-pad provides more accurate input on cardinal directions and should provide a better fighting game experience. The lettered buttons are lower and closer together for supposedly smoother transitions between buttons.
The “Impulse Triggers” mentioned in the press briefing were one of the big features Microsoft touted. The feature adds two motors to the controller for a total of four – one in each grip and one behind each trigger. While Metal Gear Solid‘s Psycho Mantis won’t be moving the controller around on the table, he’d be pleased with the additional detail this should add to the rumble of the controller. The article specifically mentions Forza Motorsport 5:
Turn 10 Studios is using impulse triggers to provide players with precise feedback that enhances the racing experience. If your tires break traction from over-acceleration or if you drift on the gas pedal, the triggers emit very distinct vibrations. This is combined with the chassis rumble that conveys impacts, engine roar and driving over surface irregularities like cobblestone.
The audio bandwidth between the controller and headset have been improved to the point that the team behind the technology says it should often be clearer than talking on a phone. We’re hopeful that companies like Astro will be able to release adapters to allow this to work with their premium headsets.
The controllers, like Sony’s PS4 controllers, have a camera-visible element. This will be used for faster, more seamless pairing. Additionally, it enables the Kinect to associate the the controller with whoever is holding it. This opens up opportunities for hotseat gameplay, and the article suggests the concept of a game that could swap split screen positions if users change seats in front of the television.The controller itself is both wired and wireless: When you plug in the micro USB cable – which makes it sound like it won’t be proprietary this time around – the radios on the controller shut down, according to Major Nelson. This also suggests that, like the Xbox 360 controllers, they’ll make great PC gaming controllers; only this time, you won’t need a separate wired controller. Awesome.
The controller has a low power state, as well, that should be a relief to everyone who has wandered off for food only to come back just as the controller powers down and loses sync. In the spirit of the system’s instant resume gameplay, this should help make resuming a game that much faster.
Microsoft is known for extensively testing their products, and has done so with “a broader age group than ever before to ensure it is optimized for as many people as possible,” according to the article. So, no return to the Duke controller. Sorry, basketball players. The battery cavity has also been moved inside the device. They specifically mention AA batteries, suggesting that the controller won’t be using battery packs this time around. When the controller is plugged in, it uses the USB power and stops using the batteries entirely. There’s no mention of recharging, more evidence that battery packs are a thing of the past.
I was surprised to see so much information come out between the initial conference and Monday’s upcoming E3 briefing, but all of this information has me even more excited to get my hands on the controller.