The story behind the PS VR Aim Controller and its creation

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The story behind the PS VR Aim Controller and its creation

The controller’s design team plus developers weigh in on how it'll heighten your gaming immersion

17th May will mark the release of PlayStation VR exclusive shooter Farpoint, and from what I’ve played, it’s set to be one of the VR medium’s defining games.

17th May also marks the release of the new PlayStation VR Aim Controller, a sleek peripheral that seeks to become the standard-bearer for VR first-person controllers. It’ll be available at launch as a bundle with Farpoint.

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I wanted to carve out some space to further investigate how this fascinating device came to be, and also get a look ahead at future games that will support it.

To kick things off, our hardware design team in Tokyo shares some insight on what it was like to actually design the controller.

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Designing the PS VR Aim Controller

Takeshi Igarashi, VP of Peripheral Design Dept. (mechanical design)
Taichi Nokuo, UX Platform Design (form factor design)

Evolution of the controller

Igarashi: We first began working on the Aim Controller when we got the idea that using a weapon-type controller to play a PS VR shooting game will make it a much more immersive experience. Initially, we attached a Dualshock 4 wireless controller to the PS3’s Sharpshooter to explore what sort of form factor, weight balance, and button arrangements work best to make it more intuitive.

Nokuo: I tried to make the design of the Aim Controller as simple as possible. It was important that the player can use it safely and comfortably with the PS VR headset on, and that the controller can be used as any type or form of weapon inside the game.

I made the intentional decision for the controller to not resemble an actual weapon, so that anybody, from children to adults, feel comfortable playing with it.

Button placement

Igarashi: We prioritized the position of the trigger button and analog sticks, which are imperative in a shooting game. We placed the buttons around the analog sticks, so that players can move their thumbs around intuitively without having to ungrasp.

Shape and form

Nokuo: The smooth pipe form factor allows the player to play safely and precisely even with the PS VR headset on, which blocks the view of the outside world. I think this is ideal for a controller.

The buttons are not scattered around the controller, but are simply and strategically placed where players naturally place their hands. The design is minimalistic but also original, which makes it unique.

Nokuo: I hope players are able to experience a whole new level of immersion that they may not expect from a controller with such a simple and minimalistic design.

Igarashi: Please enjoy an intuitive gaming experience that is achieved through camera tracking and the controller’s button layout, delivering smooth and natural controls.

Farpoint is one of several upcoming PS VR games that will support the PS VR Aim Controller. Some of our developers below describe how it is integrated into their game, and how it helps enhance immersion:

 

Farpoint – Out 17th May

Seth Luisi, Impulse Gear

From the very beginning of development on Farpoint, we wanted to have a way to physically connect the player to the game and bring them that much deeper into the world we were creating. That would turn out to be the PS VR Aim controller. With the PS VR Aim controller we’ve been able to make shooting and aiming more natural and intuitive – once you have the controller in your hands you know instinctively where the buttons and triggers are. The 1:1 tracking also makes for a more skill-based game because the precision removes any need for aim assist.

 

Rom: Extraction – coming soon

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Adam Orth, First Contact Entertainment

ROM: Extraction was originally developed with a unique game mechanic of Throw, Slow and Shoot. By having a motion controller in each hand you could spawn and throw Orbs with one hand, slow down time, and then strategically shoot them with the Sentinel pistol using your other hand for maximum effect. It was a mechanic that could be easily learned, and was a helluva lot of fun. When the opportunity came to bringing ROM onto the PlayStation VR platform we wanted to preserve the fun in that mechanic but add a new twist by using the new Aim Controller. We felt that if we did it right we would be able to open up a whole new and equally exciting way to experience ROM.

After some iterations with the PlayStation Aim we always came back to an Orb Launcher attachment of some type. In the end we attached a grenade launcher to our EOS-15 Rifle model as well as matched it to how the Aim controller felt in both of your hands; in effect we achieved a 1:1 representation of what you are holding. It was an instant hit. We modified our motto to Launch, Slow, and Shoot.

With the PlayStation Aim, we are able to achieve a deeper sense of physicality than with standard motion controllers.

For the rifle-style weapons we wanted to bring to ROM, holding the Aim two-handed gives additional precision and stability to the in-game weapons, in addition to adding a stronger sense of connection between the real world and the virtual.

The controls themselves are comfortable and intuitive. As we look towards expanding ROM, the Aim offers us a number of features that line up nicely with various mechanics that we are considering for the future.

The Brookhaven Experiment – PS VR Aim Controller compatibility update out 6th June

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It was always our dream as little kids to be able to take the arcade shoot ’em up into our living room. We could have never imagined that more than two decades later, not only would we be able to play these types of games at home, but, we’d be playing in a completely immersive VR environment.

When we set out to make The Brookhaven Experiment, our goal was to recreate that kind of visceral feeling from the arcades. But, we wanted to ratchet up the stakes with 50 foot tall monsters and creatures coming at you from all angles with all the different weapons you could hope for, just waiting to be chosen. Something was missing though…we didn’t just want to see the rifle anymore, we wanted to feel it too.

That experience from the arcades was tied to that experience of holding something real in your hands. So, consider ourselves lucky when Sony announced that they were releasing the Aim Controller for PSVR. Without a moment passing by, we wanted to be the first game to support it. And, as we worked to integrate it, that feeling came back. Not only was our vision immersed…the feeling of holding the gun in our hands changed how the game affected us mentally too.

It’s an exciting time to be a developer and PlayStation has created a playground for us to create the kind of memorable experiences that we hope will inspire future game devs more than two decades from now. That’s what we strive towards and we’re so excited to see people immerse themselves one step further on Tuesday, 6th June when The Brookhaven Experiment adds Sony Aim controller support.

Dick Wilde – coming soon

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Kiron Ramdewar, PlayStack

All the weapons in Dick Wilde were designed with the PS VR aim controller in mind. It’s important that players are able to immerse themselves in the world of Dick Wilde, to allow this we mapped the size and shape of the in-game guns to the Aim controller.
This makes gunplay feel super satisfying as players can rack up critical hits and line up their shots with relative ease.

When playing with the aim controller, you’ll have access to six different two-handed weapons to fight off swamp critters; the Harpoon Rifle, Grenade Launcher, Revolver Rifle, Shotgun, Paintball Gun and the Nailgun.

Each one has been especially designed for aim and takes advantage of its haptic feedback- so when you lift up the controller and fire, it really feels like you’re holding your virtual weapon.

Arizona Sunshine – out in June

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Trevor Blom, Vertigo Games

Ever since we started developing for VR, we have prototyped a lot of mechanics and realistic weapon handling is by far our favourite. On PlayStation VR, you can take your first steps into the zombie apocalypse with the use of regular Dualshock 4 controllers, but we’re also supporting the PlayStation Move motion controllers and, even more exciting, the new PS VR Aim controller! Handling your weapons with real-life movements truly is a whole different level of immersion.

Since the game was initially created with dual-wielding guns in mind, we’ve thoroughly tested ways to get the support for it right. And while using the Aim controller limits you to using a single weapon at a time, it makes up for that by increasing accuracy and control, upping your chances for critical, dismembering hits.

Find out more about the PS VR aim controller and Farpoint.

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