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Author Topic: The right-thumbstick design is broken. It doesn't work. Why do we use it?  (Read 1666 times)

Holy Diver

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look out honey, 'cause I'm using technology
Holy Diver says,
« on: August 14, 2016, 06:40:02 AM »

I don't know if twin-thumbsticks is set to be a permanent fixture of history or not. I hope not though, because the right thumbstick is fundamentally broken.

I mean it, in the sense that the right stick is usually used for looking/turning in games like King's Field.

I grew up with the inverted Y-axis model. I notice that games since the late PS2 or so quit defaulting to inverted. I don't know if that was because it's initially unintuitive just in logistical terms or what. But I've long had mixed feelings about inverted look controls...

They made sense I think, until the dual thumbstick mode came about. The problem is the sticks merge two axes, and I don't think the look/turn axes ever quite merge. I find if I think about it, I can never quite get them to behave how I want with complex movements.

I have to "not think" about it to use them effectively. So I've long doubted whether inverted is best or not. I've sometimes tried to train myself off it, just because I recognize I am not satisfied. I'm willing to just see what happens, better or not.

But my sense is that the stick is fundamentally flawed. Using a mouse to look about, I don't think anyone uses inverted axis. It suggests the inversion is more to get the sense of manually pushing a nob, that is a stand in for our heads...

And if that's true, then it ought to make sense to invert the X-axis also. That might even make complex movements feel natural. I only remember a few games with so many options to include inverting the X-axis. I wonder if anyone does it.


What I do like about twin thumbsticks, is that they are symmetric. Even though I think on the X-box controllers they are not symmetric. Probably not on the Nintendo ones either.

Symmetry I think is good for left-handed people, and for whatever reason, by not ascribing any particular function to sticks...

But my sense is, that turning would probably be more natural if it worked like the Jogcon controller, which was something like a simplified trackball.


I don't see a way to break out of this paradigm. One option is to not use the sticks for turning. That might even work with X-box controls, since they have analog triggers. It's not very Sony though. And I don't know if it would work or not.

In theory VR headsets are supposed to make looking controls, and possibly even turning controls a thing of the past. That begs the question, of: how or what to do with the right thumbstick?


In favor of not-inverted X-axes what feels most like turning to me personally, if stuck with the thumbstick, is to spin it. To spin it you have to pick a direction from which to begin spinning. The directions that come most natural are vaguely left and right, non-inverted...

This is the closest approximation to turning I can work out. The truth is, the body isn't like a nob, and the look up/down comparison to manually pushing your head/neck around doesn't apply. It would apply if turning was said to be moving your head/neck, but in games we think of turning as turning the entire body, and otherwise, inverted X-axis would feel more natural.


I don't have any prescriptions. I wonder if we ever do make the transition to VR headsets, and I think that's a big IF, because I think lot's of things could easily go wrong in that transition, and for now anyway, the headsets are still too expensive to be in good taste, except for the mobile-phone based strap-ons ... I wonder if the opposite stick, assuming symmetry, and assuming it's a stick, and not a saddle or bowl (either of which might be a more natural shape) would not be better dedicated to body turning exclusively; an assuming we don't sit in spinning chairs or something and wheel ourselves around by kicking our feet :drool:


If dedicated to turning, or put into a dedicated turning mode, then the turning thumbstick could be made to simulate something more like the Jogcon. I don't think it would be a natural fit, or an optimal shape, but I think it would be a more natural movement...

I think this turn of events is somewhat likely. And that maybe it could work without a headset, if you have something like the PS3 SIXAXIS for looking up/down. The reason being, is the thumbstick is pretty good at looking up and down. But it's bad at turning. It's the wrong shape. It doesn't relate in any way to how our body/mind conceives of turning, and so if you take away the only thing it does well, then that leaves you with a stick, that does only one thing, that doesn't utilize the entire range of motion of the stick, and it doesn't do that thing well. I think the sense of disappointment would push the stick to adapt. I think this is a logical direction to go in.

Alternatively the old look/up down function could remain, and become moving your entire upper body to do so, versus just the neck. If a headset has positional tracking though (which I'm not convinced is necessary) then you might prefer to do that with your own body...


Anyway, my take away is that I am fundamentally unsatisfied with the right analog stick, and my sense is that this is an irreconcilable dissatisfaction. There needs to be some kind of innovation here.