Have you ever wanted one video game controller for every device you own?
The ‘All Controller,‘ developed over the last two years by Canadian start up Digital Depth in offices located in Hamilton, Waterloo and Toronto, aims to be the world’s first truly ‘universal gamepad,’ solving a problem many gamers who own multiple consoles and devices often run into.
Controllers add up quickly, especially if you own many systems and have additional gamepads for each console, amounting to what eventually becomes the ultimate first-world problem — too many controllers.
While it’s not an overly serious issue to have, as someone who owns dozens of video game systems, I often imagine a utopian future where I own one controller that works with every device.
What the All Controller wants to do is solve this issue and become the only gamepad you’ll ever need. The controller is currently compatible with nearly every major device on the market, including PC, Mac, Linux, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Android and soon iOS.
While the gamepad connects wirelessly to all consoles — as long as you opt for the wireless version — an additional USB dongle is required for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One connectivity, though the adapter is included with a specific bundle of the controller.
“Basically any time we want to add some sort of functionality to the controller, we just program the driver in there. How this works is when you go to pair with the controller or any type of computer right now, you can actually choose ‘USB,’ ‘Gamepad’ ‘Joystick,’ or ‘Mouse and Keyboard’ mode, and it loads the driver,” said Shane Luis, a Canadian host and video producer known as Rerez on YouTube. Luis has been involved with the All Controller’s creation from the initial design stages all the way until now.
Unlike past universal gamepads, which often featured complicated user interfaces or were compatible with only a few consoles, the All Controller features a simple UI that allows users to easily pair the gamepad, as well as keep tabs on important information such as battery life and Bluetooth signal strength, all at a glance.
The All Controller is also capable of saving 16 different custom input profiles that are configurable through the gamepad’s LCD display, allowing users to create time sensitive combos called ‘Snapbacks’ and other macros.
“Snapback is a feature I invented for when you’re playing a game, and let’s say you’re playing Mortal Kombat, 1 2 or whatever. ‘Back, Back, Punch’ is Scorpion’s hook attack where he shoots it out; so what you do is you hold down a specific button, ‘Push Back, Back, Punch,’ and you engage that attack. You can then instantly replay that with the main button,” said Luis, explaining one of the All Controller’s features that he played a significant role in fine-tuning and creating.
“Without the tech sector in Ontario, I personally don’t believe that our team could have come together and made this device a reality.”
Joystick sensitivity and dead zones can also be adjusted via the gamepad’s built-in operating system, features that are rarely customizable on any gamepad, even high-end controller’s like Microsoft’s Xbox Elite controller.
The All Controller is also compatible with games that don’t traditionally feature controller support through its ‘Mouse and Keyboard’ mode, making it perfect for playing retro PC titles that weren’t designed to be played with gamepads, a feature Luis says he felt was important to include.
After going hands-on with the controller for a brief period of time, it seems like the real deal, at least at the outset. The All Controller’s user interface is easy to navigate and for the most part, the gamepad feels like high-quality, though some buttons had a strange amount of flex and give to them.
Luis says this is something that will change before the final version of the All Controller is released, however.
“We started to realize more about the controller and what can happen and what you want to avoid.”
I also question the usefulness of the All Controller’s programmable paddles that sit under its two arms, and I’m concerned they’re too easy to accidentally press when playing a game — though they can apparently be turned off.
“We never designed a controller before and when we started to initiate the process of getting the 3D injected plastic molds and stuff like that, we started to realize more about the controller and what can happen and what you want to avoid. You can’t be told how to ride a bike you have to try it yourself and that’s what we discovered early on with this,” said Luis.
Luis explained that at one point in the development process the team ran into an issue related to getting the gamepad’s buttons to fit through its plastic design; a problem he, as well as the rest of the team, didn’t initially expect to encounter.
“Our entire team is based in Canada and are Canadian. We moved around a couple of offices during the past two years but the development of the controller has taken place in Hamilton, Waterloo, and Toronto. Without the tech sector in Ontario, I personally don’t believe that our team could have come together and made this device a reality,” said Luis.
“Our entire team is based in Canada and are Canadian.”
“Each of us has a different background both ethnically and professionally but we were all lucky enough to meet each other at just the right time.”
While the gamepad has entered the near final prototype phase of the development process, before the All Controller’s release it is set to be updated to work with the Nintendo Switch and will eventually be MFi Certified, allowing it to be compatible with iOS devices. Stretch goals, which sit in the millions, include adding an accelerometer and gyroscope, a specific version with an Xbox button layout (off-set joysticks), memory expansion, custom colours and a larger battery.
The All Controller’s Kickstarter’s campaign ends on September 1st with the gamepad set to start shipping out on April 25th. A wired All Controller is priced at $65 CAD, with the wireless version coming in at $70 for early bird pricing (regularly $80) and $100 for the version of the controller that includes a USB dongle.
All Controller’s initial Kickstarter funding goal is $75,000 CAD.
Update 02/08/17: It looks like the All Controller has already surpassed its $75,000 Kickstarter goal. It’s currently sitting at $86,968 right now.