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Giant DualShock helped make Knack accessible to kids, taught design lessons


Sony made the PS4 launch game Knack more accessible to children by creating a super-sized DualShock to playtest, with the core concept being to make developers feel like an 8-year old holding the controller. In a keynote speech at the UK's Develop conference today, PS4 system architect Mark Cerny touched again on how he wanted the colorful platformer-brawler to appeal to both experienced and younger, newer players.

Cerny described his aim for Knack is as an "on-ramp to the world of console gaming," but found through playtests that similar games with mascot-like heroes were often inaccessible to their target audiences. Cerny said Sony's research showed 8-year-olds had difficulty with those games' control schemes, but not because of their complexity. Instead, the size of the controller was the problem.

"So as part of our design process we ended up making a giant controller, 50 percent larger than usual, so that we could directly experience what it feels like to be a child playing a game," Cerny said. "And we immediately understood that the shoulder buttons are simply out of reach for the typical 8-year old, but that all the face buttons can be used by an 8-year-old."

Playing Knack at E3, we found the control scheme limited to a few face buttons, sometimes in combination, and the two analog sticks. We can't speak for 8-year-olds, but the limited controls made it easy for us to pick up and enjoy the game. While we didn't check out the harder difficulty, Cerny said he feels Knack has appeal there for old-school players too.

[Image Source: @yosp]

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