How Japan Studio built a giant DualShock to help test Knack
Speaking at the Develop Conference, PlayStation 4 lead architect and Knack director Mark Cerny described the team’s intention to create an “on-ramp” to console gaming with the upcoming character action game. SCE Japan Studio had two audiences in mind, reports Eurogamer:
“One audience was core gamers,” said Cerny. “I wanted to tap into the nostalgia for game experiences of the past, that feeling you had when you played Crash Bandicoot or Sonic the Hedgehog for the first time. Crash was actually a brutally difficult game despite its very simple two-button control scheme. That meant on a hard difficulty setting our game really needed to challenge the core gamer.
“The other audience was light or beginner gamers. I chose this because I have some very specific and personal beliefs about consoles and their position within the world of gaming. Console games can be pretty complex. If we just focus on the controller and the game’s control scheme, there are 16 buttons on DualShock 4 that a game can use, and a typical triple-A title will use almost all of them.”
Growing up with controllers that aren’t nearly as complex as today’s gamepads means I got used to the new form factors over time. Today’s kids often don’t have that same luxury, unfortunately. During development on Knack, Japan Studio “ended up making a giant controller, 50 percent larger than usual, so we could directly experience what it feels like to be a child playing a game. And we immediately understood that the shoulder buttons were simply out of reach of the typical eight-year-old, but all face buttons could be used quite readily.”
This is, according to Cerny, the “origin of Knack.” As a result of these tests, he believes that when played on easy difficulty, “it can be someone’s first console game.”