|Type||Video game controller|
|Platform||PlayStation, PlayStation 2|
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.
The NeGcon is a video game peripheral released for the PlayStation by Namco, and is also compatible with the PlayStation 2. It is inserted into the system through the controller port located on the front. The left of the controller features a D-pad and a start button, while the right features two blue "A" and "B" buttons and two red "I" and "II" buttons. Two shoulder buttons, labeled "L" and "R" respectively, are located at the top of the controller. The D-pad opts for a cross-shaped design similar to the one found on consoles such as the Nintendo Entertainment System, as opposed to the directional button layout found on the original PlayStation controller.
The halves of the NeGcon are connected by a large swivel-joint, which allows the user to twist both halves relative of each other to allow for precise movements in games. This swivel-joint is operated by gears that turn the shafts of two potentiometers within the device, the central pivot utilizing a ring gear driving a pinion on the shaft of the potentiometer. The two I an II buttons are both analogue and have approximately 7mm of travel, which can allow for sustained, responsive button presses. The buttons also detect how much the user pushes them. The two shoulder buttons are also analogue and have approximately 5mm of travel, although the R-shoulder button can only be operated through a direct sensor system. All four analogue buttons have a rack driving pinions similar to the ones in the swivel-joint.
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, 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, including the system's built-in memory card manager and CD player. Additionally, the neGcon library was also used to provide finer controls for third-party steering wheels, with long throw Ⅰ and Ⅱ buttons used for pedals in such controllers. However, said long throw of the Ⅰ and Ⅱ buttons makes the neGcon 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: A-Spec and Gran Turismo 4 for the PS2 do not support the neGcon. This had the effect of breaking compatibility with steering wheel controllers that previously used the neGcon protocol, although other games such as Le Mans 24 Hours and World Rally Championship (with control mode set 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 the creation of Namco designer Satoru Kuriyama. Best known as the production manager for Ridge Racer (1993), Kuriyama envisioned the idea for the NeGcon while observing a fellow Namco employee, Valkyrie no Densetsu creator "Ms. Okawa", playing a Super Famicom racing game while simultaneously tilting the controller in the direction the car was turning in the game. Kuriyama then began thinking of a controller that could twist and turn to perform movement in precise game movements. Namco's console game division caught wind of the idea and suggested that if the controller was drastically different from other game controllers already on the market, it could help create new, interesting game concepts. The team looked to racing games for inspiration, thinking of creating a controller akin to a steering wheel that allowed for quick, precise turns. The name NeGcon is based on the Japanese word "neijuru", meaning "to twist".
Yutaka Isokawa, a Namco engineer, was assigned to the NeGcon production team shortly after completing work on two Yu Yu Hakusho games for the Super Famicom. Originally a developer at Asmik that designed Catrap for the Game Boy, he was integrated into Namco's console game division to begin work on the new controller. Isokawa believes that part of the idea behind the NeGcon was based on Namco's desire to create hardware for the home console market, rather than be strictly a third-party publisher for companies such as Nintendo and Sony Computer Entertainment — this idea was further fueled by the fact that Namco's rival, Sega, was at the time one of the largest hardware manufacturers in the home video game market. Isokawa believes that the company intended to begin producing controllers and potentially consoles before the PlayStation was released.
While designing the NeGcon, the production team turned to racing games for inspiration; they specifically looked at steering wheels and how they moved to potentially create a controller that allowed for quick, responsive turns around corners in tracks. The controller itself was mainly designed by Kazumi Mizuno, the graphical planning manager in Namco's consumer game division. It was suggested by Isokawa and others that the controller could be twisted to recreate the feeling of a steering wheel, rather than having it be held at a specific angle. Multiple prototypes were proposed, including one with a longer controller prong at one hand and another with all four buttons being analogue. Many of the designers were nervous about the swivel that allowed the controller to be twisted as they thought it would be too fragile.
During production of the NeGcon, Isokawa began work on a video game that could show off the controller's capabilities. It was a golf game that had the player twist the NeGcon to simulate the action of swinging a golf club to hit the ball. Isokawa scrapped the game as Namco would have to compete with Sony's Everybody's Golf, which he felt was not possible due to the latter's widespread success. He also believed that golf players who tried out the game would dislike it for its controls and concept overall. Although the game itself was cancelled, the team used it to test the NeGcon prototype units as a way to help correct potential issues and finalize the design.
|1994||Motor Toon Grand Prix||PlayStation||Sony Computer Entertainment|||
|1995||Ridge Racer Revolution||PlayStation||Namco|||
|1995||Namco Museum Vol. 1[b]||PlayStation||Namco|||
|1996||J-League Soccer Prime Goal EX||PlayStation||Namco|
|1996||World Stadium EX||PlayStation||Namco|||
|1996||Motor Toon Grand Prix 2||PlayStation||Sony Computer Entertainment|||
|1996||Namco Museum Vol. 3[c]||PlayStation||Namco|||
|1996||Destruction Derby 2||PlayStation||Psygnosis|
|1997||Rally Cross||PlayStation||Sony Computer Entertainment|||
|1997||Ace Combat 2||PlayStation||Namco|||
|1997||Gran Turismo||PlayStation||Sony Computer Entertainment|||
|1997||TOCA Touring Car Championship||Playstation||The 3DO Company|
|1998||NASCAR 99||PlayStation||Electronic Arts|
|1998||R4: Ridge Racer Type 4||PlayStation||Namco|||
|1998||Twisted Metal III||PlayStation||Sony Computer Entertainment|
|1998||World Stadium 2||PlayStation||Namco|||
|1999||Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere||PlayStation||Namco|||
|1999||Crash Team Racing||PlayStation||Sony Computer Entertainment|||
|1999||Side by Side Special||PlayStation||Taito|||
|2000||Ridge Racer V||PlayStation 2||Namco|||
|2001||Battle Gear 2||PlayStation 2||Taito|||
|2002||Wipeout Fusion||PlayStation 2||Psygnosis|||
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.
Retrospective coverage of the NeGcon has been met with a similarly positive response, and has gained notoriety for its outlandish, unique design. Time, who ranked it as the 4th strangest gadget of all time, stated that the NeGcon "stands apart as one of the few simultaneously bizarre and functionally intrepid" of video game controllers, commending its responsive button input and for generally being good for racing games. GameSpot agreed, saying that the controller helped redefine the overall design of the traditional PlayStation controller. They said its design was strange and bizarre, yet was responsive and an excellent controller for racing games like Ridge Racer. IGN expressed disappointment towards the NeGcon's poor sales due to it being seen as strange by the general public, writing that it "just goes to show where genuine innovation will get you."
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