I was playing around with the stock controller doing my best but still lamenting it as a barrier to fun and new player interest. I've tried redesigning it before but never got very far, however I revisited the idea again with more direction this time. Thought I'd get some feedback from the forum and any suggestions, plus it does no good just sitting on my desktop for an audience of one.
I'd like to build it but haven't figured out how, maybe I should send it to the Ben Heck show as an episode idea since they have 3D printers which make this sort of work easier to accomplish. Part of the reason for going with a gamepad rather than an arcade joystick was mostly cost per unit, although arcade sticks are more straight forward to build being a box with off the shelf parts inside they aren't cheap to make or buy in the broad sense of a console product.
Probably 5 things stand out the most as design flaws which are the following.
Braided cord: This aspect really sucks the most since even a moderate amount of tension pulls the controller away from the player and out of your hands like some kind of disapproving parent or jerky trickster.
Controller ports: They are pointing 90 degrees away from the front of the console, even if you put the console directly in front of you this makes no sense. Not sure why it took so long for anyone to put the ports on the front to maximize cord length but it did. The 2600 had back mounted ports which you think wouldn't happen again but the VCR style 3DO had a port on the back too.
Controller alcove: I feel like a non-gaming Mom designed this since its probably the most functional part of the design, I admit it looks tidy but I think it mostly just made the console shell twice as big than it needed to be.
Keypad: They probably just copied Intellivision without even considering something original. It's actually worse than the Intellivision one since the membrane is fenced in with hard recessed brackets, kind of like operating a keyboard through a Whack-A-Mole cabinet.
Vertical Orientation: Mostly this creates a one-handed grip and a loose grip at that when you try to use the side mounted fire buttons and joystick at the top, it's easy to take for granted how often we grip and un-grip regions of modern two-handed controllers as we operate them and how two hands keep it steady no matter the crazy maneuvers we perform.
The controllers of this era seem to be based on arcade cabinets which is the only way to explain the the grip method but without being mounted to a cabinet only the player can desperately try and keep it stationary. Not sure where the vertical layout came from since as far back as Space Invaders horizontal layouts were the norm, the only comparison I can make is the touch tone phone or maybe the Merlin by Parker Brothers.
I've seen skins and knobs you can add to the stock controller but it really doesn't get to the root of the problem which is overall poor design of the whole thing. Anyway let's get on with it.
First thing I did was ditch the keypad since although its part of the era I can't think of it fondly. However I didn't entirely leave the keypad out of the design as the secondary D-pad uses a logical pattern of 2,4,6,8 akin to the gaming usage of a Numeric keypad on a keyboard or more importantly it being a common overlay layout. Without ergonomics the keypad used in other games was mostly random in layout IE. 1,2,3 that simply labeling the buttons and D-pads with there Coleco input names would stop disorientation with stock game titles.
The decision to have 2 D-pads mostly came from Robotron 2084 type games, I turned the stock controller sideways and thought maybe I could approximate the experience.
The third D-pad uses 5,7,9,0 just like the secondary D-pad but as far as the stock keypad would still line up in a cross pattern and operate as comfortably as 2,4,6,8 does. Its position on the gamepad is based more on single game usage rather than using all the buttons at once kind of like the N64 controller did, there really isn't many games on the platform that benefit from 14 buttons so instead I went with optimal grip methods IE. Robotron grip, Nes grip, Racing grip.
Keypad buttons 1,3, *, and # I just sort of regarded as extra corner buttons. Put * and # as shoulder bumpers since I thought they might work well for racing games and the left and right positions on the stock controller could still work in a similar fashion with a new homebrew. You can probably guess I want 1 & 3 to act as Start and Select functions from where I put them but as long as they aren't too small you should be able to tap them like face buttons, maybe circular instead of oval.
Put the 2 Fire buttons on the right face since it was comfortable on the Nes, Master System, Genesis, Turbografx-16, etc.
The cord would be generously long with a breakaway cable connector like the Xbox controller, you'd be amazed how often this feature saves your console from smashing into the ground when some idiot just walks through your cord. X(
Don't have a picture of it but the other part which is optional is a control port L bracket which is easy to describe. Basically it plugs into the stock ports and snaps into the controller alcove as a basic extension bringing the ports to a forward facing position. Probably flush with the console except for the ports which form a small hump.
The other option with the alcove extension bracket is to plug in an IR receiver instead and make wireless controllers.
I'm including an alternate layout design simply for options. It still offers Robotron style grip in a diagonal manner and a Street Fighter/N64 face button arrangement although Street Fighter and FPS games are hardly practical for the Colecovision . ^_^ Anyway feel free to tell me what you think.