NeGcon

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NeGcon
Namconegcon logo.png
Namco Negcon centred.jpg
ManufacturerNamco
TypeVideo game controller
GenerationFifth generation era
ConnectivityPlayStation controller port

The NeGcon[a], stylized as neGcon, is a motion-based video game controller manufactured in 1995 by Namco for the PlayStation. One of the first third-party peripherals for the system, the controller is connected by a swivel joint, allowing the player to twist the halves relative to each other. The controller also replaces the “symbol” buttons on the original PlayStation controller with two “A” and “B” buttons, as well as “I” and “II” buttons that allowed for analogue control. A black variant was released exclusively in Japan.

The NeGcon was created to replicate the analog-stick movement used in the arcade game Cyber Sled (1993); the name comes from the Japanese word “nejiru”, meaning “to twist”. The controller was intended for use in racing games, including Ridge Racer, Gran Turismo and Wipeout. Critical reception for the NeGcon was highly positive, being praised for its responsive control in games and unique design.

Design[edit]

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.

Mechanism[edit]

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.

Use[edit]

The neGcon's design was prompted by Namco's desire to accurately replicate the dual-lever controls of their arcade game Cyber Sled on the PlayStation.[1]

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, 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). 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.

Variants[edit]

NeGcon has been built in three variants.

  • The First Generation model is a basic white neGcon with curved shoulder buttons. It was manufactured in South Korea.
  • The Second Generation model has more rectangular shaped shoulder buttons and was manufactured in China. The Second Generation also uses different components inside.
  • The Third Generation model is a black slightly smaller version of the neGcon. It was designed as a cheaper version of white neGcons, but it has never been officially sold outside of Japan. The black neGcon had reshaped handles designed to be more ergonomic. However it's built of cheaper plastic and components. It is mostly based on the second generation model, sharing most of its components.

Reception[edit]

According to Electronic Gaming Monthly, upon release in Japan the neGcon "received rave reviews from the gaming press because of its unusual design, shape and method of control".[2]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Japanese: ネジコン Hepburn: Nejikon?

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Cybersled". Maximum: The Video Game Magazine. Emap International Limited (5): 50. April 1996.
  2. ^ "In Total Control: Companies Take Aim at Gamers with New Gadgets". Electronic Gaming Monthly. No. 80. Sendai Publishing. March 1996. pp. 16–18.