Assessing Next-Gen Zen

(Disclaimer: All views & opinions featured in this article are my own)

As a gamer who has experienced 3 console generations, late 2020 will be the time for another evolution as the next generation of consoles will be unleashed. Questions will be answered, games will be unveiled, SSDs will be filled, minds will be blown. I can’t wait to experience what is possible for game developers to create with these consoles.

From the perspective of a disabled gamer, my excitement will also be accompanied by apprehension since change carries its own problems. Without accessibility information, it’s difficult for gamers with a disability to make an informed decision before purchasing a fairly pricy console.  

Mock-up graphic of the PS5 console
Mock-up graphic of the PS5 console

Firstly, here’s some context regarding why next-gen consoles ring alarm bells for me. In the previous generation (PS3 to PS4) upgrade, I never envisioned that I would have to make the decision to completely give up gaming due to the PS4 controller. It highlighted the physical limitations of my hands/fingers which were perfectly formed to the shape of a PS3 controller. Confronting the evident hardware inaccessibility made me discover the gaming accessibility and inclusion community.

I’ve been prowling various gaming websites sniffing out next-gen related news, I found juicy information (from the Playstation blog) of the proposed features in the PS5 controller. So here is my preliminary assessment regarding the new features: Haptic Motors and Adaptive Triggers.

Haptic Motors which replace the existing “rumble” technology will provide amplified feedback to convey a wider range of sensations to gamers through touch. With haptics, players will be able to detect different terrains when accelerating a vehicle, crashing into a wall in a race car might feel much different than making a tackle. Taking an attack that does a few hit points of damage could feel drastically different from the attack dealing a final blow. It illustrates PlayStation’s focus on upgrading gameplay with touch inputs, from the PS Vita to the PS4 touchpad.

Mock-up image of the PS5 controller
Mock-up graphics of the PS5 controller

Adaptive Triggers will allow studios to program the level of resistance players can detect when pulling the triggers (R2/L2). So gamers can experience the tactile sensation of drawing a bow and arrow or accelerating an off-road vehicle through rocky terrain.

Both controller features will work in harmony to create better immersion. While haptic motors and adaptive triggers will not completely revolutionise gameplay mechanics, they allow game developers to empower players to connect with their games on a totally new level, no longer just relying on graphics or audio.

Graphic showing a wireframe of Adaptive Triggers

I’m all for better immersion and I can see how innovative Haptic Motors and Adaptive Triggers will be for the future of PlayStation VR. However, as a disabled gamer, Haptic Motors and Adaptive Triggers do have some problems. Haptic motors increase the weight of the controller making it heavier than the already heavy PS4 controller which easily saps my energy levels if I didn’t have a controller stand. Vibrational feedback is quite painful for me and easily disrupts my already poor grip. Regarding adaptive triggers, due to my muscle weakness, I can’t apply strong pressure when pulling triggers so programmable resistance levels would increase fatigue during extended gaming sessions.

I hope that the Haptic Motor and Adaptive Trigger features in the PS5 controller will be optional and can be disabled either from system-level or in-game.   

The PS4 controller touchpad is on the chopping board which makes sense as current generation games rarely use the feature. However, the touchpad is great for accessibility as I program all 4 corners to act like 4 buttons activated by a tap thanks to the Titan 2 adapter. I usually assign the inaccessible Options, Touch, Share, PS or L3/R3 buttons to each corner depending on the game.

The PS5 console will apparently allow PS4 games to be playable through backwards compatibility. Personally, I would want backwards compatibility to allow gamers to use a PS4 controller on the PS5 console. I currently have a fantastic PS4 and XboxOne gaming setup thanks to Special Effect so I would prefer to carry on using that setup in the future.

Mock-up of Xbox's Project Scarlett console
Mock-up of Xbox’s Project Scarlett console

I’m super excited to explore the evolution of game design brought by the next generation of consoles, let’s see what brilliance Xbox Scarlett and the Xbox Adaptive Controller has in store for us. It will be the first console generation that acknowledges the necessity of accessibility and inclusion for all gamers.

Close-up of the character Ellie from the Last of Us Part II
Close-up of the character Ellie from the Last of Us Part II

2020 will be the year of the gamer. Prepare for the epic Cyberpunk 2077, Watch Dogs Legion, Doom Eternal & the Last of Us Part II.

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