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PS4: A deeper analysis of the controller prototype

Real details shared by developers with access to development kits

The last time CVG met with its sources to discuss the PS4 pad, our insiders indicated that Sony was determined to experiment with its next controller.

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Yesterday a photo of the prototype controller (yes it's real) suggested that's exactly what it's done. [UPDATE: Another alleged leaked PS4 controller picture has appeared online]

A combination of motion control, touch and traditional analogue buttons promise to make Sony's latest joypad a very special prospect indeed. Move-like pointer tracking flirts with a touch pad (not a touch screen, dev sources tell us) to both compliment and replace traditional inputs, while a rumoured 'share' button could potentially transform the social aspects of PSN overnight.

However, Sony traditionally considers a range of controllers before opting on the final one, meaning that the picture that has leaked may not be of the final design. Matching our own analysis with new info from developers with access to PlayStation development kits, below are what we believe are the key features of Sony's new PlayStation controller...

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Aesthetic

At first glance the prototype controller's face buttons seem largely unchanged. Look closer though, and you'll notice that the PS4 d-pad has seemingly been redesigned to more closely resemble that of the PS Vita's own version - excellent news for fans of fighting games.

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Mockup design for illustrative purposes

PlayStation's trademark twin anolog sticks have undergone a redesign from its predecessor, now employing concave indents that provide enhanced grip. From what one games developer has heard, this analogue redesign is not just for the dev kits - it will feature on all commercial pads.

Sony has also moved the sticks slightly further apart, but has resisted calls to switch the positions of the d-pad and analogue sticks.

They're not visible in the leaked pic, but a report last week claimed that the L2 and R2 shoulder buttons have been remodelled. A development source has confirmed to CVG that the pictured pad also uses concave shoulder buttons for enhanced grip.

Three additional buttons (Start, Select and the previously rumoured 'Share' button) are nowhere to be found in the picture. However, CVG understands that the touch-pad itself is clickable, and it appears that two small buttons are embedded either side of the new touch pad.

The grill beneath the touch pad houses an internal speaker system, while at the base there is a headphone jack input.

An illuminated panel along the top can change colour and behaves just like a Move controller, a development source has told CVG. Combined with the same gyro and velocity sensors introduced with the PlayStation 3's Sixaxis, the PS4 pad is said to be an "enhanced motion control device".

We have many reasons to believe, but cannot confirm, that there is a touch-pad on the back of the pad.


The Touch Pad

The decision to include a touch interface on PS4's new controller is one that comes straight out of the 2013 consumer electronics rule book.

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PS Vita's touch pad

The pad's place on the rear of the PlayStation Vita has resulted in a mixture of intuitive and outright gimmicky touch features utilised in software (we're looking at you, Uncharted chalk rubbings), but we suspect the motive behind its inclusion on the PS4 pad could be far more ambitious.

The platform holder's immeasurably wise acquisition of cloud giant Gaikai unlocks the potential for streaming of PS4 games to a multitude of devices - key of which will no doubt come in the form of touch screen devices such as tablets and smart phones.

Placing a touch pad right at the front of the new PlayStation controller will encourage developers to create games with this interface in mind. Smaller PSN titles could feature control schemes entirely dedicated to touch, similarly to how PS3 games such as Flower, Super Rub-a-Dub and Lair can be played using Sixaxis motion.


Motion Control

Thanks to fanatical negativity surrounding Kinect and the Wii Remote, the merits of Sony's own motion control solution, PlayStation Move, are often criminally overlooked by the games fraternity.

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Sony patent

For those willing to overlook its resemblance to a Tron sex toy, Move offers genuine worth as a compelling and intuitive interface for traditional titles, as proved by first-person shooters such as Killzone 3 and strategy game RUSE.

Incorporating Move functionality into every single PlayStation 4 controller will, hopefully, put an end to its mass-market neglect, with developers able to take advantage of its standardisation by incorporating motion support into every single game.

With the PS4 controller, Move's orb has spread into a LED strip placed across the top of the pad (studio sources have confirmed this to CVG, and claim that the lights change colour too).

Each console will ship with the next-gen PlayStation Eye camera, which at a very basic level would enable Wii-style pointer functionality without sacrificing the mainstay controller features the core has come to expect.

If it works, then the controller could be ideal for navigation, while FPS twin-stick controls might finally make way for mouse-like twitch aiming - and all without giving up the dozens of buttons and triggers that support the core gaming experience.

Patents have suggested Sony could opt for the ability to 'split' the final PS4 controller in half for more traditional Move-style motion games, though the leaked prototype shot doesn't suggest this will be the case.


The secret 'share' button

First reported by Kotaku and later fleshed out by Edge, the share button is one of the most hotly-rumoured additions and potentially game-changing features of the new PlayStation controller.

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OnLive

Citing sources with an understanding of the next PlayStation, Edge claimed that the input would allow users to take screenshots and capture video direct from gameplay.

"The PS4 hardware will continually record the most recent 15 minutes of onscreen action (with no processing penalty, claims our source), which users will then be able to edit and broadcast via the Internet," it reported.

The feature might sound far fetched, but it's important to note that OnLive - shuttered rival of Sony's newly acquired Gaikai - allowed a similar function with its own joypad. This resulted in the fantastic and YouTube-esque Brag Clips platform, where users could instantly watch the incredible skills and hilarious game-breaking antics of other players.

Every time an OnLive user pulled off a once-in-a-lifetime 1080-spin in DiRT, or spectacularly nailed an opponent with a random grenade kill from the other side of the map in Homefront, they were able to capture the moment forever at the press of a button. With Sony's far bigger audience of PlayStation gamers, a similar service has staggering potential.

But where is the Share button? We were not able to confirm with our sources, at the time of going to press, if it remains a feature on the final design. However, there is a chance that the touch-pad could - among many things, act as a share, start and select button.

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