Rather than starting from scratch, Chaudhari had to work from Xbox creative director Horace Luke's concept sketches. They'd already been approved from up top, and a third-party supplier had built circuit boards based on those early drawings. Instead of coming up with the shape and ergonomics first and figuring out how to fit the device's internals into the shell after, Chaudhari needed to work backward.
She got to work, sculpting physical models with a wood-like modeling material called RenShape. You can see the legacy of Chaudhari's work in every Xbox gamepad that followed. Its A, B, X, Y face button layout and button style remain today, for starters. But it's the thumbstick placement that has made the most lasting impression on controller design. While the DualShock had parallel sticks at the bottom of the controller, the Duke's were offset, with the left sitting higher than the right by about two inches.
It wasn't until her conversations with Xbox architect Seamus Blackley, J Allard (the "father" of the console's follow-up, the Xbox 360) and her now ex-husband Rob Wyatt that Chaudhari realized the hand she'd been dealt: The circuit boards, already manufactured and ready to go, were comically oversized.
A large circuit board does two things. For one, it costs more to make. It also occupies more physical space. Looking over photos of the circuit board, longtime hardware hacker Ben Heck estimated that even in 2000, the board could've "easily" been a third smaller. He theorized that the circuit board's size was a necessity given the Duke's expansion slots for memory cards and an Xbox Live chat headset (also designed by Chaudhari).
"We were up against a wall," Chaudhari said. "The best thing we could do was create a case that was ergonomically comfortable. If it's gonna have to be that big, then it can at least feel good, right?" Case in point, the Duke's analog sticks are offset rather than parallel, positioned where your thumbs naturally rest.
"It was no secret to us that it was big."
According to Blackley, that decision was the result of a few Tony Hawk Pro Skater players on the team who thought it'd make virtual skateboarding more fun. Combined with developer Bungie's Halo: Combat Evolved as a launch title, the placement also helped make first-person shooters feel like a natural fit for a console, which was laughable up to that point.
Chaudhari spent most of her days working with electrical engineers, negotiating button layouts and placements, and generally doing whatever possible to shrink the gargantuan gamepad down to size, millimeters at a time. Blackley would come into her office almost daily to check her progress on the new prototypes. Each time, his reaction was the same: The controller wasn't small enough. Her immediate response never changed. She wanted to know how it felt in his hands. "And Seamus would say, 'It feels great, but it's huge,'" she recalled. "It was no secret to us that it was big." The final product was nearly three times larger than the PlayStation's DualShock controller.
At one point, the design team met with electronics supplier Mitsumi, which made the circuit boards for the DualShock. One of the reasons Sony's gamepads were so much smaller was because they used a two-part board that connected via a ribbon cable. The separate pieces of silicon sat perpendicular to one another and allowed for a more modest design overall. When Chaudhari asked Mitsumi if Xbox could have a similar-style board, she was flat-out refused, presumably because of Japan's nationalistic culture. "The takeaway was kind of like, 'Sony is a Japanese company; Mitsumi is a Japanese company. Xbox is an American company, and you don't get what you get because you want it, even if you're willing to pay for it,'" she said.