Hey, don't give me that look.
No, seriously. Stop it.
Just....just hear me out on this one.
So, alright. I've been feeling kind of bad because the last two posts in a row were me just whining and grumbling about things instead of being enthusiastic and/or excited about something. Or just interested in something. Or just being positive whatsoever about something. All that negativity isn't good, it's not healthy nor is it fun and personally I like fun. So I was trying to find something out there on the interwebs that made me feel a pang of interest, of hopefulness, or -something- positive that I could work off of, and honestly nothing really came up initially. I doubled back to Joystiq for the fourth time in hopes that I had missed something, or there'd be some late, great piece of news and eventually came across the image you see above and the post associated with it. To be honest, I took a look at it and didn't really know what to think, so I did what I always do when I come to that cross-roads which is absolutely 100% not the smart thing to do - I read the comments.
All in all, it's about a 50/50 split between people saying 'it looks fucking stupid' and 'it's copying the Wii' which are both amazingly hilarious when you put them together and, as usual, it made me sigh and rub my head a little bit. There was, however, a little useful tidbit to be gleaned from the mess, and it is the fact that the image, while indeed a patent image, is a tech patent and not a design one. So take the look, whether you think it's stupid or simply a little strange and don't worry about it because that's not the actual design of anything. It's a technological theory conveyed in an image in the easiest way to understand. That's pretty much exactly what a tech patent is, since its whole goal is to give you something to wrap your mind around and the theory that this idea invokes is a rather fantastic one to me and it is the only reason why I dare speak of it in a positive light.
If you look at the two split controller designs we have now, the Wiimote/Nunchuck combo and the Move/Nav combo, you can see two attempts at a theory with their own faults and their own good points. Nintendo's minimalist design is accessible, the accelerometer in the nunchuck makes it a viable motion tool, the actual motion control (with Motion+) is serviceable and it can technically be used multi-functionally (Not just a pointer, basically, but I refer to New Super Mario Bros.' twist controller to spin jump mechanic). On the downside, however, being that Motion+ was an add-on that was barely imple it saw limited usage, it still wasn't totally precise and the overall lack of buttons hampered more 'advanced' ideas. Sony's more ergonomic design was more comfortable and placed more buttons in the right areas, had the benefit of better tracking overall and had more potential from the thought-out tech. It suffered from the poor choice in not putting an accelerometer in the Nav controller, offering less buttons overall than a controller, thus limiting its conformity and barely saw and proper implementation.
The issue both controllers suffered from was the fact that they were both not full controllers in their own right. One analog stick per pair (while motion control all but replaced the need for a second stick, this did not factor in for usage of the second stick as a button, as some games use) less triggers (as standard seems to be two bumpers, two triggers now) and neither option offered you the ability to have a full experience without both 'component' controllers. Essentially, neither option could offer you a full controller experience because both options are hampered by their own 'sub' controllers if you will. (The Nunchuck and the Nav) This, this is where the beauty of the idea, the theory, the image indicates comes in. Imagine a Dualshock controller. Now cut it in half. Now imagine both halves are motion controllers. Now imagine that you can take it apart/put it back together at your leisure because it serves as a regular controller and a motion controller at the same time.
That right there is the elegance and the actual smart area of the design. It's forward progress in the space where nobody has been -able- to make it and it's the best of both worlds. Let me spell it out in terms of an actual game application, though, instead of just saying "trust me, it's smart" because, well, that works better. Let's use Skyrim as a reference despite the hilarious ineptitude Bethesda has displayed with the game and the add-on content of it, because I'm just using the core mechanics. The 'big thing' in Skyrim is the ability, nay, the impetus to dual-wield things to destroy your enemies. Any combination of weapons, spells or shields can be wielded together to whatever effect and the key ideal is that you are using both hands to their best effects.
Now apply the split controller, the literal split motion controller to the idea. You have the left portion of the Dualshock in your left hand that has you moving around, you have the right portion for menu controls like normal and when combat comes in, you can either attack as normal or you can use the motion controllers as intended and control things like that. Prepare two different spells and fire at two different enemies at the same time because you just have to point and attack. Bring the controllers together to merge the magic for the stronger cast while aiming at whatever it is. Or bring up the menu with the buttons, switch to two swords or what have you and just swing and bash at whatever's near while using the analog stick to still move around as normal. All this without a technical loss of functionality because you still have all the standard controls right there.
That, my friends, is an exciting prospect. Unfortunately, its entire usefulness rests in whether or not Sony will adopt it as the 'standard' controller since, as both the Move and Nintendo themselves proved, providing something as an add-on or an accessory means you cannot count on it being actually used, thus defeating its entire purpose. If, like Sixaxis, this functionality was built into the controller from the start, then it's there for developers to use as they would desire. Yes, some will shoe-horn it in, and some will ignore it completely in lieu of going "Well, it's a normal controller", but the people that truly use it will prove that it is something of actual value. This generation was a proof-of-concept and going forward with this idea would be a true statement of going 'next gen', since it would be a natural refinement. We'll just have to see if they run with it, and I genuinely hope they will. If nothing else, that is your PS4 hook right there, and if the PS4 will need anything, it will definitely be a hook.