They’re still counting down on the Kickstarter “crowd source” investment website with a few days to go, but a small Canadian hardware company known as Tivitas is preparing itself for a long haul commitment. They’re based in Hamilton, Ontario, and they want to create a new way to play games on the PC that lets players configure a controller to their exact preferences. This isn’t a new joystick, gamepad or even keypad. It’s a hybrid of all of them because it can be all of them. They call it the Sinister, and they’re hoping to take their idea from the prototype to production stage with the help of the good people on the Internet.
The Sinister, as Tivitas is calling it, is a unique concept in controllers. Borne from a desire to play PC games using a combination of a gamepad with mouse, the Sinister is a hybrid that approaches the idea of a game controller from a different direction. It’s built for the left hand (sorry Southpaws, no word on an alternate version yet) to move and use all the traditional controller buttons, while the right hand is freed up to use a mouse. In other words, they’ve taken all the functionality of a DualShock or Xbox controller, and reconfigured it so it all works for the left hand while the right hand worries only about aiming and firing with a mouse.
In practical terms, this means that the more awkward use of the ‘WASD’ keys on a keyboard have been replaced with the more natural movement of a control stick. Meanwhile, the right analog stick of a controller, which has traditionally been regarded as sluggish by PC standards, has been replaced with the razor precision of a mouse. In other words, best of both worlds; players can move with controller-like comfort, but shoot with mouse-like speed and accuracy. Having tried the prototype myself, I can say that there is definite potential in this idea. For people who are already used to using computers and playing console games, the learning curve for adjusting to the peripheral is quite small.
Of course, a system this unconventional can’t be expected to look run of the mill. While the prototype I tried wasn’t using final materials yet—it was created using a 3D printer—the signature quality of the Sinister is going to be its shape. It looks like a hand-rest, and is designed to let the hand sit in a natural, relaxed position, rather than the normal “clawed” position of a modern controller. Superficially, there’s a resemblance to keypad peripherals such as Razer’s Orbis keypad, which merely reduces the size of a traditional keyboard and puts it on a palm rest for a more ergonomic interface.
The biggest surprise that the Sinister is packing—and one that will doubtless affect its cost—is that it’s configurable. In addition to being able to stretch and readjust the main “chassis” itself to fit whatever palm/finger size/position you like, the actual interface can be swapped and moved around. Do you find that you actually prefer using your INDEX finger rather than your thumb to move a stick? Simply pull the stick module or “Flux element” off the housing and move it to your index finger position, while taking the face button module and replacing that where your thumb rests. Right now, the number of different attachments for possible manufacture is ripe for speculation. They could introduce track balls, touch pads; any number of other attachments so that even the most unorthodox interface preference just might be possible on the Sinister.
But before any of that can come to pass, Tivitas must overcome its first big hurdle, and that is funding. At the time of this writing, there’s just a few days left, and they’re over 80% of the way there. With a little luck—followed by a lot of work—we’ll see what happens when a bunch of upstarts from a small Canadian city decide that just because no one’s played PC games like this before, doesn’t mean the option shouldn’t be there.