The Gamer’s Claw

By Jim Rossignol on September 20th, 2007 at 5:32 pm.

Bristol-based peripheral boffins Saitek have announced that they’ve launched the latest in their range of moulded-plastic control devices. Now we don’t usually cover hardware here on RPS, but Saitek have a special place in hearts – not least because we once had a drink with one of their designers, who told us wild tales of all their weird prototypes that lay in their basements, rejected and dust-laden. Oh how we lamented the lack loss of those unloved experiments. Some made it through however, such as the optimistically-named CYBORG CONTROLLER.

Disappointingly, it doesn’t allow you to control cyborgs, and is instead an FPS-angled half-keyboard thing:

These designs seem to surface every few years and I always wonder who buys them. The first one of these I saw was THE CLAW, which gave you no leverage room for the buttons, meaning you had to keep your hand still and spasm the tips to get any use out of it.

Later came the Belkin Nostromo n52 Speedpad, which I believe is what happens when a gamepad and a keypad have special feelings for each other:

The Speedpad had rather stiff keys, and made my thumb hurt. It did have impressive keymapping software though, which was nice. The only one of these keyboard replacing mutants that I can ever remember getting on with was the terrifying Strategic Commander from Microsoft, which looked like it ought to be aboard a functioning spaceship:

It was actually pretty good, but don’t expect to use one of these in an officer environment (even a games-magazine office environment) without heavy mockery. Finally I was disappointed not to be able to find a picture of the “5D Mouse”. I’ve searched for it on the internet many times, but it is gone. It was a mouse on a joystick, basically, with all kinds of unusual lateral movement, meaning that in an FPS you moved, aimed and shot with one hand. The 5D Mouse was a mouse and keyboard combined, meaning your left hand was freed up to… do stuff. Ah, I wish I’d kept that review version.

What ludicrous devices have you bought for your hands, readers?

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19 Comments »

  1. bob_arctor says:

    I thought about this the other day. If you lost a hand you couldn’t play FPS. Hence they should keep the 5D mouse for disabled people.

  2. Anti-Bunny says:

    I had a n52 speedpad.. Pretty much useless if you’re already used to normal WASD, IMHO.

    That cyborg mouse looks hawt, though.

  3. Ferrous Buller says:

    I have the Speedpad n50, the predecessor to the n52: has one fewer row of buttons. Apart from the programmable buttons, I’m able to position it a bit more comfortably than a regular keyboard. I know it doesn’t look like much, but I really like it and now hate using a keyboard for FPSs. The biggest drawback is when you play a game which insists on using a bazillion different buttons – *cough* WoW *cough* – there’s simply not enough mappings possible to cover all the controls, so I end up having to use a keyboard.

    OTOH, I can’t stand all these mice with a gazillion different buttons on them, because the extra buttons are usually so tiny. Three for me is enough, thanks.

  4. John P (Katsumoto) says:

    Atm I am just using a BOG STANDARD 15 quid PCLine keyboard and a BOG STANDARD Microsoft optical mouse. I am about to get a fancy new dual core rig to replace my aging twat of a pc, so am thinking of going whole hog and getting a load of new peripherals too. In fact, this morning I just bought a new headset – a pair PCG recommended back in March I think, Point of View’s “Gaming Headset 5.1″ – solid name for a solid pair of headphones, assuming the review is accurate! I’ll let you know in a few days!

    Now I need to find a fancy keyboard and mouse to go with it. None of these things interest me though, when I say FANCY I still want just a normal.. keyboard. But you know, one which lights up may be fun ;) Things that light up in general are okay by me. That Saitek Eclipse looks alright. The mouse (not the cyborg one) on that website also looks erotic. I’m so there.

  5. Malex says:

    I have a Novit Falcon [novint.com], which will be completely awesome if they can get TF2 drivers for it…

  6. Simon Westlake says:

    I really liked my N52 for WoW – once you get used to using the thumbpad for movement, it’s awesome, because you have 4 fingers to press shortcuts, vs using 3 fingers for movement.

  7. Roosterfeet says:

    Here is the fancy keyboard you’re looking for, John P:
    http://www.logitech.com/index.cfm/gaming/pc_gaming/mice_keyboards/devices/3498&cl=us,en

    And the Wiki entry about it that not shockingly has more useful information than the manufacturer:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logitech_G15

  8. Roosterfeet says:

    Yick, it looks like they messed with the design. I like my old one like the one in the Wiki article much better.

  9. steve says:

    You may be thinking of the Sandio Game O’ 3D Mouse.

  10. Mr. Brand says:

    I’ve got a G15, and I quite like it. Useless for actual programming with its US key layout, though. Some keys are simply
    not there, or far away from where I’m used to. Great in games,
    and even better when they support the extra screen.

  11. Rich Tysoe says:

    back in my QA days a colleague of mine swore by a particular wierd controller, the official name of which escapes me. it w2as shaped like two large lumps, one side of which had a collecion of buttons, and the other had what looked like a doorknob growing out of it. this doorknob could be moved in all 6 axes, which made it a popular controller for breaking controller code. sadly, the only name I can remeber for it was the one we used in the office, “the Titpad”, which preculdes me finding an image on google from the office…

  12. Rich Tysoe says:

    D’oh- just found it. the Logitech Cyberman 2. the reason for its nickname should be pretty self-explantory…

  13. Carey says:

    Amateurs

    BEHOLD!
    http://www.syn-ack.com/touchbuddy/screenshots/zomgtehawsomes2.jpg

    Note the headgear, the head traking spiderthing clamped to my skull, the 120fps infrared movement camera atop the array of screens, the touchpad screen strategically mounted over the inferiour LCD of a G15…

    Buncha beginners.

  14. Simon Westlake says:

    Really wish someone would make a wireless N52, or something similar.. now I sit on my couch playing PC games, I’m very limited in these types of controllers, since they are all wired..

  15. Rhygadon says:

    Ah, but no discussion of bizarre controllers would be complete without mention of the Space Orb, a gamepad with a giant rubber ball that registered six axes of movement without any newfangled gravity-based technology:
    http://www.3dgamers.com/articles/more/37/

    You twisted and tugged the ball with your left hand while holding the body of the controller with your right, and the the point of attachment between the two pieces registered the tension. The learning curve was hellacious, but it was real six-axis control a decade before the Sixaxis.

    Sadly, it was only really good for one game: Descent. I tried it with a few run-and-gun shooters, but never stopped feeling like an alien who’d not yet mastered his strange new host body. As it turns out, a controller with more degrees of freedom than an actual running human is not what you want when you’re trying to dodge shotgun fire.

    But oh, were those some blissful games of Descent. Full 3D control in a vehicle designed to handle it. Perfect, intuitive integration of movement and viewpoint control. (Or more concretely: circle-strafing in three dimensions!) So far, nothing else I’ve played has ever come close to that sense of total, inhuman agility …

  16. Ghiest says:

    All useless if you are left handed like me :/

  17. jonfitt says:

    I use a Zboard Fang:
    http://www.ideazon.com/us/products/fanggamepad.asp
    Ignore the marketing, it’s basically the left half of the keyboard reshaped to be accessible while leaving your had on WASD. It’s not one of those ones where you then have a wonky keyboard, my Saitek Eclipse is still my main keyboard (Backlit keys rule).
    It has made long sessions much less taxing on the old carpel tunnel.

  18. jonfitt says:

    Oh, also it’s only $30-ish, you don’t have to use the crappy software since it registers as a keyboard, and it’s small enough to hide away when you want to look less nerdy.

    Only thing I’d improve would be to give it backlit keys.