Thursday, 19 February 2015

Missed the Mark: Grifta - Morphing Gamepad (Kickstarter)

Today I'm looking at a Kickstarter for an all-purpose, customisable gaming peripheral (customisable means that it comes in bits). The Grifta is ultimately a gaming peripheral version of the Power Ranger Megazords. I believe that whilst this isn't a bad Kickstarter campaign, the product isn't as innovative as the creator thinks it is, but it could be if pushed in the right direction. The Grifta is designed to do everything, which is why I think it's doomed to fail as it tries to fill a void in the peripheral market that doesn't really exist.

I'm not going to argue that  the Grifta isn't a decent controller (when the left and right hand side are combined to create a complete Ultrazord-style gamepad). I can't know for sure unless I use it, but for the sake of argument lets assume that it works and is ergonomic. Looking at the backer tiers, ignoring the limited early bird prices, you can see that the left hand unit costs £50 and the standard controller is £69. Also if you want it to work with your console it also costs £119 for the XIM4 bridge. It's a pretty ugly looking thing when it's put together in my opinion. Check out the rest of the tiers and add-ons on the Kickstarter page because there's too many to mention here so I'll just mention a select few.

The add-ons for mobile and tablet are pretty ludicrous. They'd look at home on an episode of Channel 5's The Gadget Show, but let's be realistic: who in their right mind is going to sit on public transport with custom controllers stuck on the side of their phone. Who is going to withdraw a custom 'selfie stick' so that they can play their games at eye level. No one, it's stupid and impractical. My bag is already crammed full of things when travelling (including a specialised mobile gaming device - my 3DS), plus I'd like to be able to quickly put my phone away just before my stop rather than rush to dismantle a load of chunky plastic components. Let's not forget that mobile technology is changing all the time and personally I don't see the point in investing in peripherals for my phone, hell I don't even have a case. However, luckily the mobile elements are part of a more distant stretch goal than the infra-red module - which is one area I think this product should be focused.

Yes, the best part of this split controller design is its possible use with VR devices. Using the 'antler' motion sensor add-on, one half could be used with an Oculus Rift for weapon aiming, whilst the other is used for movement. Considering how VR development is progressing, I think the development of specialised controllers might be a more lucrative direction to head in (albeit risky, of course). Also, one handed controllers... What about options for gamers with disabilities? It seems like a missed opportunity to create an accessible peripheral for those who are handicapped.

Whilst manufacturing costs and logistics obviously play a part in the overall design, I think we've hit a pretty decent level of gamepad quality and in all honesty, things haven't changed that much in a long time - perhaps there's a reason.

"The triggers, buttons, joystick, and D-Pad are placed to suit the ergonomics of the human hand, and not for the convenience of a simple manufacturing package."

Sure the ergonomic benefits of the Grifta could out-shadow the competitors but after weighing up the whole package, is it worth it? Adding different size grips sounds nice on paper but if you really think about it do your existing gamepads really bother you that much? I guess it might be a case of: you won't know how crap your current peripheral is in comparison until you try this one, but for the sake of the extra money involved maybe ignorance is bliss.

"A flat gamepad can't compete. This controller is designed to provide performance and speed. You can even use it with your gaming mouse."

To be honest I disagree. Let's first look at the 'PC Master Race'. If you are a dedicated PC gamer, then it's a good bet that you've already found the perfect mouse and keyboard setup. In order to cover all bases, it's a common sight to also see cheap wired Xbox 360 controllers used for certain types of games. I haven't tried it with my PC, but I can also connect my PS3 controller to my Macbook if necessary with ease (and I assume the PS4 controller works as well). That's the beauty of modern peripherals - a driver here, a driver there and boom it works. I even plug my keyboard into my consoles sometimes (this helps for comms in Final Fantasy XIV). The important thing here is that in many cases, we already own the peripherals to do the job. Depending on the game, you would need to put the Grifta down in order to use the keyboard as well because I don't know about you guys, but I don't like to let go of the mouse in the middle of a firefight.

For most games a mouse and keyboard pretty much covers it. Although many console gamers may feel comfortable using a gamepad for First Person Shooters, it's widely accepted that a keyboard and mouse gives you much more control and accuracy. I doubt many PC-centric gamers would choose a gamepad over the tried and tested mouse and keyboard (even a bog-standard set). People craving a certain level of immersion can use joysticks and HOTAS (Hands-on Throttle and Stick) setups to have specialist control over the mechanics in Space/flight simulators, and if you're a driving enthusiast then you can get a cheap £25 wheel and pedals if necessary. There are affordable solutions for your specialist gaming needs, although if you have money to burn you could spend thousands on something like this cockpit.

Looking at the current consoles, Playstation joined the world of comfort with their latest Dualshock design and it feels good in your hands. The Xbox One controller retains the simplicity of the tried and tested 360 design, and whilst ergonomically superior to the PS3, it's arguably on-par with the PS4. Both the PS4 and WiiU have unique elements that the Grifta can't imitate, notably the touch pad and tablet element respectively plus the PS4 has a light bar designed for gameplay feedback and for locating players in your living room (don't forget the 6 axis motion sensors). The Grifta doesn't seem to have vibration, which may not matter to PC gamers as much, but if they expect console gamers to be OK with this, well... we may not think about it, but vibration is a form of gameplay feedback that affects the way we play, and I'd personally miss it. If it does vibrate then I can't see it mentioned anywhere. Unless it's a planned additional stretch goal expansion. Remember when you had to buy a rumble pack for you N64? This product is making me think of this scene from Naked Gun:

I'm not saying this is a bad Kickstarter campaign, I appreciate seeing experimentation with gaming peripheral design, but that's exactly what it comes across as to me: an experiment, not a viable product. I believe those looking for specialist peripherals have a great selection available in a fairly consumer-friendly set of price ranges and those people looking for an all-purpose solution, well... try using a gamepad you already own or just stick with the trusty mouse and keyboard setup. If they don't get the funding I hope they rethink their brief and possibly focus on breaking the future VR peripheral market, rather than trying to fix what ain't broke. Oh, one final thought: how many chargers will I need for this thing? -oP


Product Website

1 comment:

  1. A gamepad which is designed to provide better performance and speed. And it's work like a gaming mouse.


    Kelly Wallace