What gamepad/controller options are out there beyond the standard XB/PS ones?

Jan 14, 2020
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I’m on the market to buy a gamepad controller, and I find myself with a lot of ideas about what I want in one, but I can’t seem to find one on the market that satisfies. First of all, I am a PC exclusive player, and I typically prefer mouse and keyboard controls even in games most other people do not (and it severely irritates me when games lack good MnKB support/binding). However, I do still want to use one occasionally, and there are some games which benefit from the thumbstick analog input greatly, like driving/racing games.

I had a basic playstation-style Radio Shack brand one, but recent Windows 10 updates broke the driver, so its bricked. I didn’t grow up playing a lot of video games, and didn’t own any consoles, so I don’t really have the same level of comfort with standard gamepads that I’d say most of my peers do. Because of this, I don’t really have a preference for controller type, and makes me wonder what other configurations gamepads might take that would feel good to me.

I was very intrigued by Valve’s steam controller, but I never got my hands on one before they were discontinued. I might still get one second hand, but I’m also looking at other options closer to the standard. I have seen models with adjustable stick stiffness and interchangeable options for the D-pad and thumbstick grips, but what else could one do, how could it be improved, or be more versatile or comfortable to me?

I’ve seen a few things that got me thinking, but really none of them I feel stray far enough from the now standard XB/PS gamepad design to really achieve anything. One thing that always struck me as frustrating about gamepads is that they leave all the work to mostly just one’s thumbs and index fingers. Your other fingers sit idle on grips with plenty of room for extra buttons.

This has been somewhat remedied by custom controllers that include paddles on the back of the grips to be bound as shortcuts to existing buttons. I think this could be more sophisticated (we all use our pinkies plenty when typing), but the idea is there and beginning to take hold as I have seen official “pro” models of controllers incorporate this idea.

Another product I saw that really got me thinking was the Thrustmaster “eSwap Pro” controller (https://eswapx.thrustmaster.com/). Its more or less a standard gamepad but with a removable D-pad and thumbsticks. This allows it to be put into “Xbox” configuration or “PlayStation” configuration. This is all well and good but is that is mostly where the configuration options stop. And it begs the question: Why?

I suspect most people will have a preference for controller type, and without any further options for customization there seems like no reason to have a switchable controller instead of just a fixed one of your preference. I suppose some people might like one config for different genres of game like a fighter vs a shooter.

This option to reconfigure to a different style controller for different games makes me interested to see a more fully reconfigurable model in which all four “zones” (D-pad, 2 joysticks, and four-button pad) could be rearranged. Perhaps one might try a config with both sticks forward, or a “left-handed” config with the D-pad on the right?

But further than rearrangements, why not have more input options available to swap out into these “zones”? How about a trackpad like the Steam controller, or a small trackball, or even a dial wheel to play older Atari type games (like Pong)? There is one add-on available which replaces the right stick with two buttons below the existing four to make a Sega Genesis-style layout, but why not go ahead and add four buttons, the space is there.

I’m sure many will scoff at these ideas, but as someone who lacks any “investment” in muscle memory or general comfort with standard gamepads, I am really curious to try options like these.

And if anyone out there actually read that novella, what have you seen controller wise? Anything interesting?

[Mod edit: paragraphs added to wall of text for readability.]
 
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Kaamos_Llama

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Jan 31, 2020
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Main site had a good article on this a while ago.


I had a Steam controller and couldnt get used to teh haptic pad in place of a second analogue stick. I've heard that they are good once you get used to them but 2 sticks just work for me and I couldnt be bothered to stick it out and see.

So I just use a DS4 (Playstation 4) controller as I had Playstations from 1-3 and never had an Xbox. I have been tempted to try the Xbox Elite but at the end of the day I dont want to spend all that money on a controller tbh. :)
 
Jan 22, 2020
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I've had a few Gamesir controllers, they're a decent and versatile alternative to the Xbox controllers even if the build quality might not be quite up to that standard. They usually support both Bluetooth and 2.4G via a dongle which is stored in the unit, as well as most of the newer versions having a built in bracket for smartphones, and they can usually be set to either DInput or Xinput for even more versatility. Good all around solution for everything.
 
Jan 14, 2020
10
10
515
I've had a few Gamesir controllers, they're a decent and versatile alternative to the Xbox controllers even if the build quality might not be quite up to that standard. They usually support both Bluetooth and 2.4G via a dongle which is stored in the unit, as well as most of the newer versions having a built in bracket for smartphones, and they can usually be set to either DInput or Xinput for even more versatility. Good all around solution for everything.
Thanks for the suggestion, I looked and they actually have an interesting looking design with a touchpad, unfortunately its only for mobile devices for some reason: https://www.gamesir.hk/collections/gamepads/products/gamesir-g5.

I would like a controller which could be used with a phone/tablet as well as PC, and they have some multiplatform options, so I'll keep them in mind.
 
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