The neGcon was an unusual design in that the left and right halves of the controller were connected by a swivel joint and thus the halves could be twisted relative to each other. The full extent of this twist was available to the console as an analogue measurement.
Also unusual for its time were the buttons. The regular PlayStation controller of the time featured all-digital controls with a D-Pad on the left; R1, R2, L1, and L2 shoulder buttons; triangle, circle, square, and X buttons on the right; plus select and start buttons in the center area of the controller. The neGcon removed the L2 and R2 buttons as well as the select button. The neGcon replaced the digital circle and triangle buttons with digital A and B buttons, and also replaced the R1 shoulder button with a digital R shoulder button. The neGcon featured the digital D-Pad as one area similar to competing console's controllers and unlike the plus-shaped configuration of the official PlayStation controller.
The remaining buttons received more elaborate treatment. The X and square buttons were replaced with analogue Ⅰ and Ⅱ buttons. These buttons were in a recessed well and had approximately 7mm of travel. The user's thumb could be rested on the edge of the well, with the tip reaching over the edge to press the Ⅰ and Ⅱ buttons. This allowed the tip of the thumb to be accurately pivoted to depress the Ⅰ and Ⅱ buttons varying distances. This allowed very precise control with little learning. The L shoulder button was also analogue, with about 5mm of travel. The R shoulder button had a 5mm throw like the L shoulder button but activated only a digital sensor.
The neGcon worked by means of gears turning the shafts of potentiometers. This system greatly reduced the logic required in the controller (important at the time) compared to a quadrature encoder-based system by removing the need for self-calibration and converting relative position to absolute position. The center pivot of the neGcon utilized a ring-gear driving a pinion on the shaft of the potentiometer, while the 3 analogue buttons each employed a rack driving similar pinions. These systems were large, with two potentiometers in the left half of the controller for the L shoulder button and center pivot and two potentiometers in the right half of the controller for the Ⅰ and Ⅱ buttons. Lack of space inside the unit precluded an analogue R shoulder button.
The design of the neGcon, while initially seeming very unwieldy, was in fact very good for racing games. The analogue Ⅰ and Ⅱ buttons were typically used as the accelerator and brake, and the swivel in the middle was used as steering input.
The neGcon could be gripped with the fists facing forward and the thumbs upwards, as if holding the edges of a bowtie steering wheel. Twisting the arms at the elbows would turn the hands around a circle, as well as twist the wrists relative to each other, producing steering input. Although this was the most natural way to use the controller, the twisting of the right wrist would move the thumbs a bit and inadvertently modulate the gas and/or brake inputs. Because of this, most users would migrate to a different grip over time, one where the right hand stayed stationary and modulated the gas and brake, while the left hand twisted the left half of the controller to modulate the steering.
Examples of racing games that took advantage of the neGcon are the original PlayStation iterations of the Ridge Racer series (Ridge Racer Type 4 also supported the Namco Jogcon), Gran Turismo, Motor Toon Grand Prix 2, Destruction Derby, Colin McRae Rally, TOCA Touring Cars, Rally Cross, V-Rally and the Pole Position games on Namco Museum volumes 1 and 3, as well as Ridge Racer V on the PlayStation 2. The WipEout series (including Wipeout Fusion on the PS2) also supported the neGcon. The number of non-racing games which supported the neGcon was limited, almost strictly confined to Namco's Ace Combat series (which also carried over to PS2). Tempest X3, based on the rotary-controlled Tempest arcade game, is also supported. Although the neGcon was not strictly protocol-compatible with the standard PS1 controller, Sony's libraries seemed to support the neGcon as a standard controller even at launch. Because of this, a neGcon could be used in most games that didn't require the use of R2, L2 or select buttons. It even worked in the built-in ROM memory card librarian and CD player programs. However, due to the long throw of the Ⅰ and Ⅱ buttons, the neGcon was not a top-quality substitute for a regular PS1 controller. In particular, games that required rapid button pressing of the square or X buttons were difficult to play well.
Gran Turismo 3 and 4 for the PS2 do not support the neGcon. This had the effect of breaking compatibility with neGcon-compatible steering wheel controllers for the most part (though Le Mans 24 Hours and World Rally Championship (set the control mode to "digital") allowed for compatibility). GT3 and GT4 are compatible with the standard PS2 DualShock 2 which provides analog throttle and brake input. For finer control than the short-throw DualShock 2 buttons offered, a user could use a Logitech-produced wheel which was specifically produced for these games. The Logitech wheels were large and non-portable but were well matched to the Gran Turismo games.
The neGcon was not very popular in the USA, leading to large quantities of them being available at retail stores at prices as low as $5 each at some US retail outlets. Retrogaming, along with a renewed interest in PS1 racing games have made them a sought after item.
Clones and compatible systems
Many 3rd-party steering wheel controllers were produced for the original PlayStation which pretended to be neGcons at a protocol level. This allowed these accessories to be used with the large number of neGcon-compatible racing games, the first of which shipped concurrently with the PS1 as a launch title. The popularity of these neGcon-compatible steering wheel controllers greatly exceeded that of the neGcon itself.
Namco's volume controller (and the identical retro controller packaged with Puchi Carat) was a paddle controller for the PlayStation and it is partly compatible with the neGcon. Turning the dial outputs the same analog signal as twisting the neGcon, and its two buttons match the neGcon's A and B buttons. This means that a neGcon can be used in its place, for example in the game Puchi Carat.
There is also a black version of the neGcon. This is much rarer than the standard white version.
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- ""Video Game Peripheral List" at Bobby Tribble's web page". Home.comcast.net. 1998-08-16. Retrieved 2013-12-04.