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Why did it take computers so long to get rid of the one-button joystick?


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#1 Zap! OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Nov 25, 2017 10:52 AM

I get that it's understandable that the Atari 400/800 used it as their standard joystick, but that was 1979. Not everyone really knew at the time that more would soon be necessary. After that though, there was no excuse. The Commodore 64 was geared toward being an extremely gamer-friendly computer. So why not bundle it with a 3-button joystick or controller? If they wanted to keep the costs low, fine. Package it separately as their standard joystick. When Atari re-packaged their 8-bit line with the amazing 800XL, they forgot to repackage the controller.

 

The final straw was 1985. 16-bit systems like the ST and Amiga still used it. I'm sure their were special controllers, but the vast, vast majority (probably 99%) didn't take advantage of more than one button. Just imagine for a moment if the Famicom/NES only had one button. Super Mario Bros. would have had to have used "up" to jump, severely hindering control.

 

So why did it take so long to get away from the one-button albatross? Don't get me wrong, the Golden Age of gaming is probably my favorite. I also love the standard Atari joystick for it's feel and sturdiness. I just wish it even had two buttons. It would have helped in games such as Super Cobra tremendously.


Edited by Zap!, Sat Nov 25, 2017 11:38 AM.


#2 RodLightning ONLINE  

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Posted Sat Nov 25, 2017 11:22 AM

I always believed it was due to the keyboard being available for any additional input.  I suppose the 7800 controller scheme could have been supported, but it was easier to use what had become the standard Atari compatible stick.  They were already mass produced everywhere in all shapes and sizes. Advertising compatibility with those controllers was considered a positive feature.   I used a Sega Master System controller with my Atari ST and agree, it would have been nice to have both buttons usable.



#3 Zap! OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Nov 25, 2017 11:36 AM

I always believed it was due to the keyboard being available for any additional input.  I suppose the 7800 controller scheme could have been supported, but it was easier to use what had become the standard Atari compatible stick.  They were already mass produced everywhere in all shapes and sizes. Advertising compatibility with those controllers was considered a positive feature.   I used a Sega Master System controller with my Atari ST and agree, it would have been nice to have both buttons usable.

 

While true and relevant for games like Star Raiders, using the keyboard for additional buttons doesn't work well on fast-action games. Many platformers and shooters could have benefited greatly from even two buttons.



#4 JamesD OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Nov 25, 2017 11:45 AM

So I guess the Intellivision, Colecovision, 5200, etc... didn't exist?

Anyone creating a new standard would have zero third party joysticks available for their machine when it was introduced.
If you look at systems like the CoCo and game consoles above, how many third party joysticks were available?
Not many.

Nintendo had no third party support until they had sold millions of consoles.


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#5 mr_me OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Nov 25, 2017 11:47 AM

When the IBM PC was introduced in 1981 it had an optional gameport supporting four analog axis and four buttons. They can be used by one controller or split between two controllers for two player games.

The commodore 64 had no development budget at all, everything had to be approved by the ceo.

Edit:
And yes the 1979 Intellivision had three action buttons; Coleco Vision and 5200 two each. Although Intellivision had three action buttons on the sides, it worked best as two functions (top/bottom). The Coleco vision having the side buttons on opposite sides was awkward using both in two button games.

The 1976 Channel F didn't have buttons but the controller did have two actions by pushing down on the joystick or pulling up.

Looking back, it is surprising the Atari ST and Amiga had one button joysticks. Did they not support more buttons?

Atari should have known better in 1979 based on what competitors had coming in the pipeline.

Engineering new controllers is time and money and seemed to be a low priority. Even with the NES, Nintendo didn't bother engineering new controllers; they just borrowed from the game and watch.

Edited by mr_me, Sat Nov 25, 2017 12:30 PM.


#6 Zap! OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Nov 25, 2017 12:07 PM

So I guess the Intellivision, Colecovision, 5200, etc... didn't exist?

 

They were consoles. In my OP, I am clearly talking specifically about computers, even posting it in the "Classic Computing" forum.

 

Anyone creating a new standard would have zero third party joysticks available for their machine when it was introduced.

 

If the pack-in or official joystick was good enough, why would you even need a third-party joystick?



#7 BillyHW OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Nov 25, 2017 12:11 PM

Because Jack Tramiel was a cheap, penny-pinching bastard.



#8 Zap! OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Nov 25, 2017 12:12 PM

Edit:
And yes the 1979 Intellivision had three action buttons; Coleco Vision and 5200 two each. Although Intellivision had three action buttons on the sides, it worked best as two functions (top/bottom). The Coleco vision having the side buttons on opposite sides was awkward using both in two button games.

The 1976 Channel F didn't have buttons but the controller did have two actions by pushing down on the joystick or pulling up.

 

I'm sorry if I somehow caused confusion in my OP, but I am not talking about consoles, just computers. My apologies on bringing up the NES, I guess that is what caused it. I was simply doing a hypothetical. Again, sorry for the confusion.


Edited by Zap!, Sat Nov 25, 2017 12:14 PM.


#9 high voltage OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Nov 25, 2017 12:35 PM

Vectrex 4 buttons (oh no consoles....)

 

Anyway, you had like so many buttons (keys). look at the Microprose games, keyboard overlays, Commodore F keys and whatever. So many buttons (keys). Joystick was really for control, plus, the CX40 was standard, all computer had Atari joystick sockets.

 

Or look at Omega Race, more buttons needed, no problem, Spy Hunter, more buttons....the CX40 had no trouble adding more buttons.

 

And don't dis  'up to jump' it works great with Smurf, perfect.


Edited by high voltage, Sat Nov 25, 2017 12:45 PM.


#10 BydoEmpire OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Nov 25, 2017 12:49 PM

The Apple 2 joysticks have 2 buttons (paddle controller legacy, I suppose).  I remember thinking "I like the Apple 2, but too bad it doesn't have a real joystick."  I didn't want analog control back then, I wanted an 8 way stick like the 2600 and arcade games.  Most games didn't take advantage.

 

I think the simple answer is twofold: First there was a vast array of 2600-compatible sticks out there, and it was essentially an industry standard.  Why go against the grain when people already seem to like it?  Second, it was cheap to add to a computer and flexible enough to adapt to mice, etc.

 

The computer also has a keyboard, which is a ton of extra buttons (obviously not ideal for some games).  Still, from a design perspective you weren't quite as handcuffed as they might be on a console (even though use of the hardware switches was a nice workaround).  Flight and other simulators, as well as strategy games were quite popular, and those really needed a keyboard anyways.

 

I do get your point though and I don't totally disagree.  I also love the stock 2600 sticks, and most of the games I want to play are just fine with it... but two buttons on a 2600 stick would be the sweet spot for some games.


Edited by BydoEmpire, Sat Nov 25, 2017 1:07 PM.


#11 mr_me OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Nov 25, 2017 12:52 PM

Since computers often didn't ship standard with game controllers, developers were forced to program for the lowest common denominator, the eight direction, one button joystick. Even though the IBM PC could do analog, multibutton; games were often ported over with the same lcd controls. The 9pin standard joystick interface could do better but programmers would have to use it. An example is Double Dragon II on the IBM PC; multi-button joysticks were available but it was programmed as a single button game.

Edit: another topic is why it took thumbpad controllers so long to come to computers. Another is why it took so long for analog control to return to consoles.

Edited by mr_me, Sat Nov 25, 2017 12:58 PM.


#12 Zap! OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Nov 25, 2017 12:55 PM

Vectrex 4 buttons (oh no consoles....)

 

Anyway, you had like so many buttons (keys). look at the Microprose games, keyboard overlays, Commodore F keys and whatever. So many buttons (keys). Joystick was really for control, plus, the CX40 was standard, all computer had Atari joystick sockets.

 

Or look at Omega Race, more buttons needed, no problem, Spy Hunter, more buttons....the CX40 had no trouble adding more buttons.

 

And don't dis  'up to jump' it works great with Smurf, perfect.

 

Not dissing up to jump, it did work well enough in Smurf. For precision controlling however, a button works better. A lot better in fact. I can't imagine World 8-1 on a CX-40.

 

I'm honestly quite surprised by all of the defense (and in some cases, outright support) of one button on a controller. For me at least, using the keyboard together with the joystick is not convenient in many games.



#13 spacecadet OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Nov 25, 2017 2:31 PM

The Apple 2 joysticks have 2 buttons (paddle controller legacy, I suppose).

 

I would have brought this up if you didn't first. 2 buttons, and analog. That was before the Vectrex and/or 5200 supposedly did analog joysticks "first". Apple II joysticks were analog, with centering. (Though they did require calibration for basically every game.)

 

A lot of games didn't use either of these features but a lot did, including some I played, such as Flight Simulator II and various racing games. Even more used both buttons.

 

I think the main reason other computers used Atari sticks is because it was ubiquitous and the connectors were cheap (and unprotected IP). And that way they didn't need to bother making joysticks of their own like Apple and Tandy did.



#14 gozar OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Nov 25, 2017 3:10 PM

The main reason was ease of use. This was the dawn of video games, and multiple buttons made games harder to play for novices and was intimidating. Look at discussions back in the day over the Defender control scheme.

Once the NES was released it became the go to machine to play games, and computers took the backseat.


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#15 Zap! OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Nov 25, 2017 3:27 PM

The main reason was ease of use. This was the dawn of video games, and multiple buttons made games harder to play for novices and was intimidating. Look at discussions back in the day over the Defender control scheme.

Once the NES was released it became the go to machine to play games, and computers took the backseat.

 

Agreed, except there was no excuse for the ST and Amiga in 1985.



#16 gozar OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Nov 25, 2017 3:29 PM

 
Agreed, except there was no excuse for the ST and Amiga in 1985.


I don’t think Atari or Commodore wanted their machines to be viewed as game machines. Keeping the one button standard allowed the computers to use currently made joysticks with minimal engineering effort.


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#17 phoenixdownita OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Nov 25, 2017 4:13 PM

MSX1 was 2 buttons, just saying.

382px-MSX_Joystick_Schematic_Circuit.png

It was mildly popular in some part of Europe so it is not that it took that long .... it took that long to American companies (Atari, Commodore) maybe (the later ST had enhanced ports)



#18 eightbit OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Nov 25, 2017 9:51 PM

I was pretty shocked to find that while playing Rastan on the IIGS that two buttons on the controller were mapped to two different functions (one jump and one attack). I was so used to the Commodore's and one button everything. 



#19 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Nov 25, 2017 10:35 PM

MSX1 was 2 buttons, just saying.

382px-MSX_Joystick_Schematic_Circuit.png

It was mildly popular in some part of Europe so it is not that it took that long .... it took that long to American companies (Atari, Commodore) maybe (the later ST had enhanced ports)

 

Wonder why they didn't use ground as Ground, and map 8 to yet a 3rd button?



#20 atarian1 OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Nov 25, 2017 11:53 PM

At least the ST and Amiga had 2-buttoned mice, so the wiring is there for two buttons. I don't know if a two-buttoned controller could have been made with a simple additional wire or not, but theoretically it could be done. Any hardware people can chime in on this idea?



#21 SpiceWare OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Nov 26, 2017 12:35 AM

Apparently the Amiga supported 2 button joysticks, here's a topic listing games.

#22 TMR OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Nov 26, 2017 6:24 AM

Because Jack Tramiel was a cheap, penny-pinching bastard.


The terrible Cheetah Annihilator which shipped with the C64GS console has two independent buttons and works on every model of C64 so it's not down to "penny-pinching" because the functionality has always been there (and exists on the VIC 20 as well) but wasn't utilised. The reason is more the chicken and egg situation that joystick manufacturers found themselves in; Commodore or Atari 8-bits could handle multiple buttons but no two button joysticks existed and nobody wrote games to support them... but since there weren't any games it did't make sense to make two button joysticks either.

Edited by TMR, Sun Nov 26, 2017 6:29 AM.


#23 mr_me OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Nov 26, 2017 11:20 AM

The Atari 2600 could support an analog joystick with four buttons but nobody was going to program a game like that. Commodore branded single button joysticks for the Vic-20 not sure if they marketed any joysticks for the c-64, but few programmers were going to program anything more ever though the machine could support more. Developers want sales and don't want to add requirements that narrows their market.

Nolan Bushnell definitely believed in simplicity in the 1970s. Computer Space's disappointing sales was thought to be due to complex controls. So that explains Atari, but others in the industry didn't think that way.

Edited by mr_me, Sun Nov 26, 2017 11:27 AM.


#24 SpiceWare OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Nov 26, 2017 1:48 PM

The Atari 2600 could support an analog joystick with four buttons


It could also support a digital 8-direction joystick with 3 buttons - that's what you get with the Booster Grip attachment slipped onto the stock joystick.



#25 Turbo-Torch ONLINE  

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Posted Sun Nov 26, 2017 3:14 PM

Long before the C64, Vic and Atari 400 even existed...

 

joy.jpg






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