various PlayStation controllers designed through the years

PlayStation Accessibility Controller (PSAC)

Platform

PlayStation 4 / 5

Tools

Illustrator, Fusion 360, Dimensions, Photoshop

SCOPE

5 Weeks

ROLES

Product Designer

OVERVIEW

The PlayStation Accessibility Controller (PSAC) explores the possibility of a hardware solution, bringing game accessibility to the PlayStation ecosystem. Incorporating the functionality of the DualShock 4 and DualSense controller.

Let's Design A PlayStation Accessibility Controller

Background

Xbox Adaptive Controller

The biggest momentum shift in game accessibility started last generation with the Xbox Adaptive Controller (XAC). While the device will be forward compatible with the upcoming Xbox Series X, PlayStation is missing their own official hardware solution.

As I’ve become more aware and learning the importance about game accessibility, I want to be an ally in the space. From hearing people speak on the subject at events like #a11yto, GDC Summer, GA Conf, it’s important to reduce the barriers on the hardware and software side of gaming.

After watching a recent video on Kinda Funny Games’ PS I Love You XOXO, a discussion around the XAC and PlayStation’s decision on DualSense compatibility on PS4; I took to Twitter to express my thoughts: 

A thread by Jason Das

Interesting discussion on @KindaFunnyVids w/ @GameOverGreggy @BlessingJr recent #PSILoveYouXOXO on @PlayStation not allowing DualShock 4 to not work with PS5 games. Originally I thought it wasn’t a big deal, but I didn’t take into account how it would factor for accessibility. 👇🏾

Weight, colour, hearing, speech audio, touch control, haptic feedback are the experiences gamers are expected to get from DualSense. However, not everyone’s senses are able to translate that. It’s not just about mapping the buttons. For PS5 to be compatible with Xbox Adaptive Controller, you need an additional adapter. After doing a quick search the Titan2 goes for $200 CDN! The XAC is right now $130 CDN. This doe not include the individual buttons you’ll need to purchase separately approx $10/button

Accessibility should take into account the cost. You’re already pricing out a segment of your gaming base for just a 1 player audience. For their setup XAC + Titan2 at approx $330 + 20 buttons (PS4 button config) / $10 = $200 Total cost $530??? vs PS4 Dualshock at $75 CDN. Albeit you probably won’t need to remap or use all 20 buttons but that’s really a case by case scenario. This is what I would have hope Sony engineering team would take into account. Creating the DS4 trigger add-on only works if you personally can use the grip of the form factor

Although I love how Sony’s 1st party studios like @Naughty_Dog with The Last of Us: Part 2 (TLOU2) did with accessibility features and recently @SuckerPunchProd (Ghost of Tsushima), its looks like software accessibility is being addressed; now it’s time for hardware accessibility. Maybe I’m jumping to conclusions. Maybe Sony has a patent-pending somewhere out there for their own accessibility adaptor. Having been deep diving into the work of game UX and game accessibility, I’m more engaged in just Photoshop, my own adaptive controller.

The Problem

The current PlayStation Dualshock4 consists of a layout of 20 buttons. On top of that, the added features to this generation of DualShock are the following:

PlayStation DualShock 4 controller

DualShock 4

  • Color LED light bar
  • Touchpad with click button function
  • Built-in microphone jack
  • Audio speaker
  • Share Button

DualSense

  • Full array microphone
  • Audio Speaker
  • Haptic Feedback
  • Force Triggers 

Can these controller features and new experiences be mapped to a universally accessible hardware device? What would that look like, and what added benefits would be welcomed additions?

The Solution

PSAC - PlayStation Accessibility Controller 3D Rendered Concept

Create dedicated hardware peripheral to enable game accessibility to the PlayStation ecosystem.

Research & Process

Looked at how the XAC is used. I got my 1st hands-on with a demo with Bryce Johnson during a playthrough

Understanding that every button on the current controller needed to be remapped to a physical output. 3.5mm ports suffice this need.

Apple MacBook Pro 15" inch model Keyboard

Form factor based on a MacBook Pro 15” keyboard base. A large trackpad for ample movement interaction. Low feedback haptic response to the trackpad. Titled/raised design, encompasses like a keyboard.

4 large button (The Symbols) for easy touch and tactile response. Similar to toy design interaction like Simon. Symbols could technically light up via LEDs.

PlayStation MultiTap

USB ports can enable PSAC to operate as a charging dock for accompanying DualShocks, as well as a multiplayer adaptor. Enabling the co-pilot option, more people can partake in the interaction and assistance.

Use of Fusion 360 to 3D model rendering. In previous times, I would have stopped at that 2D sketch.

Tried using Adobe Dimensions to apply rendering and lighting to the 3D model exported. 

PlayStation 4 DualShock controller
PlayStation 4 DualShock controller - Current 20 Button Layout
PlayStation Accessibility Controller Technical Drawing
PlayStation Accessibility Controller (PSAC) - Top, Front, Back, Left & Right Views

Conclusion

  •  I felt the PSAC works on paper as I took into account the current DualShock 4 scheme. From my limited knowledge of the DualSense, I feel the PSAC addresses some of the new features. It’s something I would like to amend after some more personal hands-on time and take into account what the game accessibility community thinks.
  • 3D print a prototype – I have the tools available to create a prototype of the outer shell and the buttons.

  • On-Screen Onboarding: I would like to further explore how the PS4 and PS5 console would onboard the actual PSAC and enable the toggle of button mapping.

  • Aurdino Kit – I’ve been learning about the advancements in creating an IoT machine using the Aurdino chipset. It’s a maker kit of electronics, as Raspberry Pi is for computing. Could a working prototype be feasible?

  • Backwards Compatibility – Older PlayStation devices like the Navigational Controller could find use with the PSAC. Similar to its form factor like the Nintendo Wii-mote “Nunchuk”, this device can provide a one-handed analogue input via USB. From my earlier use of XAC, I played Rocket League with a Wii type one hand analogue controller. 


    Could the accessibility be brought to an older generation console like PS4 and further back to PS3?

  • Share Factory – I thought about custom keyboard layouts and was reminded of how video and motion graphic artists use coloured keys for shortcut editing. I thought using the PSAC buttons and trackpad could provide an easier interface to edit video capture and photos saved. Giving accessibility options to share creative work on various connected social platforms.



Special thanks go out to Stephan Dube for creating the PS4 DualShock & Xbox One Controller Font Set. You can download the font collection for your personal use from here.