Supergiant Games

Transistor’s use of the Dual Shock 4’s light bar puts the game’s titular weapon in your hands

Transistor’s use of the Dual Shock 4’s light bar puts the game’s titular weapon in your hands

The light bar on the Dual Shock 4 controller is an interesting beast. It can be used to communicate with the optional PlayStation 4 camera, it can change color, it can flash… it may seem like a minor addition to the already-excellent controller, but reading about how the Supergiant team used it on the upcoming (and also excellent) Transistor is something else.

“When Sony revealed the controller, they suggested this light bar could have a variety of uses, such as visually distinguishing between four players in a cooperative game and stuff like that. Sony didn’t suggest it could be used to indicate when an extraordinary weapon of unknown origin was speaking to you,” Supergiant's Greg Kasavin wrote in the official PlayStation Blog.

“We soon found, however, that the light bar works really well for that. We got it to match the exact turquoise hue of the in-game weapon, and the flashing effect was in perfect sync,” he explaiend. “When I played with this for the first time, it felt a little more like the Transistor was right there in my own hands.”

This is neat way to draw the player into the game, and they do bring up the speaker that's in the controller, an addition that the audio director at Sucker Punch told me was similar in fidelity to the Vita speaker. So this isn't going to be the muddy buzzing you heard from Wiimotes, but a much clearer and louder way of delivering information to the player. It's only hinted in the post, but it could be possible that the weapon's voice may also come from your hands. 

Details like this also point to the advantages of working with a small, talented team.

“Our use of the light bar took nothing more than a quick conversation and maybe a couple of hours of engineering time. But to me it’s a microcosm of our development process. If we can pull together little touches like this spontaneously and often, then Transistor will be filled with them,” Kasavin wrote. “And I feel strongly that the small stuff in games — those fun and interesting little details you notice in your favorites — are just as important as the big stuff. It’s what gives the best games their distinctive character and personality, and it’s the stuff you end up remembering long after you’ve finished playing.”

I. Can't. Wait.