Tuesday, January 31, 2006

An analogous analogy

Nintendo Advance with Yet-Another-Article-About-Video-Console-Controllers, makes the following statement regarding the Atari 2006 controller:
"Long before Nintendo arrived with the Nintendo 64 and made analog sticks mandatory on a controller, Atari experimented with the 2600 joystick. Unfortunately for Atari, and any of those who tried playing with this controller, it was too bulky and difficult for anyone with small hands to hold ... The joystick only had eight directions, so in technicality it wasn’t an analog joystick. Lastly with all the problems that plagued the controller, the absence of a pause button only made it worse, when the joystick stopped working, you couldn’t even pause the game."

A paragraph about the Atari 2006, with no actual content bar claiming the joystic was un-holdable, unmanageable and unplayable. Are those well researched facts, or does the writer vents his frustration of not being able to get past Pitfall!'s first level? A bit easier now to see why it's called "Nintendo Advanced" and not "GameSpot". I also like the "no pause button" on the controller meaning "when the joystick stopped working, you couldn’t even pause the game." I would like to know how do you pause a game with a dysfunctional controller? How does hitting a button on a non-working controller pauses a game?

But a couple of words, if you may:

"Long before ...(the N64) made analog sticks mandatory on a controller, Atari experimented with the 2600 joystic". What's the connection here? why not "Long before the Nintendo Gamecube had buttons, the Atari joystick had a button?" Also, the writer takes the wrong POV on the whole matter.
Atari's joystick and button design was considered the 'de-facto' standard until Nintendo came with the D-Pad four-directional button design for their Nintendo Entertainment System controller. It took quite a long while before Nintendo came back with the analogue controller concept, which also, in its turn became the de-facto standard (as did the SNES shoulder buttons).

This weird analogy between the N64 analogue stick and the Atary2006 joystick becomes more apparent here: "The joystick only had eight directions, so in technicality it wasn’t an analog joystick." This makes more sense. The guy simply has no clue about anything. Directions not make a joystic analogue. Analogue control means that different pressure on the control gets different outcomes. The joystick can move to 360 directions, but if a nudge right and a full pull to the right doesn't give you different moves, it's not analogue (meaning that your game character moves slower when you move the controller a bit, and run at full speed when you pull it all the way).
Controllers also have analogue buttons, which can only be pushed, so you can say they only have "2 directions". They are, however, fully analogue.
(side note, I don't pretend to know exactly how "analogue" was the Atari 2006 joystick as I have never actually used it.)

(Update: The guy's a barrel of laughter alright. The Nintendo Entertainment System is referred to as "The NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) and Famicom (as it was referred to in Japan)". Of course, it's the other way round, as the system was called Famicom and the US version was called NES. Then he adds "the controller had ... a four way directional D-Pad, which was designed by Gunpei Yokoi, as a superior alternative to the joysticks from Atari." Actually the D pad was designed for the Game-and-Watch systems as a practical solution to the controlling problem those games offered, as they couldn't have a joystick attached to them. But you gotta love the "superiour" part. He later claims that "Nintendo decided to bring the analog stick to offer complete 3D control." How can 3d control be achieved with an analogue stick, heavens only knows.)

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