Brief Thoughts on Hardware Design

I travel around a lot. And by ‘a lot’ I mean a few times a year, it just that I happen to hate air travel. I probably make everything worse on myself by refusing to put any of my electronics in my checked luggage, meaning that I end up carrying all the electronics that I own. I don’t have a million gadgets, but when you have cables to factor in as well as boat anchors like my 360, it really starts to add up.

I haven’t fully unpacked, and I when looking for the PS2, Graham remarked that it was one sexy piece of hardware. This observation was probably highlighted when we looked upon our floor, where a PS3, 360, and an old record player were scattered about.

I had always appreciated the PS2 slim, particularly because its small size allowed me to stuff more of my precious, precious gadgets onto my carry-on luggage. But it’s more than that: it’s a marvel to look at this tiny thing and know what its capable of doing. The PS2 original, man, that thing looks like goliath in comparison. It’s not as well designed, either–people who are newbies to the system often had trouble figuring out just how the heck it is that you turn it off. Then again, even the PS3 original has this problem. Thankfully the new slim doesn’t present me with a rubik’s cube when I just want to shut it off, and it also got rid of the dust-hog black finish.

Still, it seems as if it takes a redesign for the companies to get it right. At the time I joked to Graham that when in the development process, companies really should go think about what they want the device to look like, to build a prototype and then to pose the question to themselves: what would this look like if it was two years later, and we were redesigning this thing to look better? Obviously, a lot of the choices are made to accommodate to the technical limitations of the time. However, we should also consider that all three of the big game companies have stated that they expect this generation to last a decade. As such, a good deal of time can be dedicated to the design of the next generation consoles. If we’re getting hardware like the IPad right now, though, I can’t even imagine what the standard for gorgeous gadgetry will be for next gen. I definitely have high expectations.

Then you start thinking about interface–Sony has gotten a lot better at designing these, too. As I recall the original PS2 had a pretty shoddy, non-intuitive interface. The PS3, by contrast, is well-organized, sharp and clean, especially when compared to the unorganized mess of the 360’s dashboard. Still both of these are a far cry from some of the better UI’s out there right now.

The fact that I’m impressed, says a lot about how far design–both industrial and UI–has come in the video game realm. And it makes sense, too, when you consider how video games have become a staple of the living room.

Now you have widespread remarks stating that in order for the 3DS to succeed, it needs to compete aesthetically with the excellent elegant design of the IPad. Imagine if the 3DS had the slimness of Mac products coupled with the decadent screen of the PSP? A very tantalizing thought.