Originally Posted by ILoveHighDPI
Ergonomically speaking, we want the control pads sitting where our thumbs naturally rest, that would be the D-pad on the Dual Shock, and the left analog stick on the 360. Ideally there would be no secondary control pad at all. Putting anything in the middle of the controller is just silly, if you must have a second control pad it should be directly underneath the first, and the user should shift their entire hand to use it. For example, the Dreamcast and Wii U actually come pretty close to that ideal.
The Wii U pro controller is interesting in that it places priority on the analog sticks for both thumbs, which pretty much makes it a dedicated shooter controller, but it messes up in the button/D-pad placement (not that it matters, see below).
As far as the D-pad itself goes, I actually glued a large coin to my Dreamcast controller to make it easier to hit the angles in Soul Caliber (I put at least a hundred hours into that game), and I did the same with pretty much every other D-pad I had back in that era. For the last 15 years I've been wondering why we don't have D-pads with dozens of actuation points around a circle, as it would be the perfect compromise between the quickness of a D-pad and the precision of an analog stick.
The 360 D-pad may be terrible, but that's more because it's all mushy and has too much travel, you don't get a distinct "on-off" response pushing the buttons. Not that it matters anymore, since all it's used for is menu navigation. If fighting games (the only genre where it really matters) are that important you've probably got an arcade pad, regardless of which system you use.
I'm an average sized guy, and I've noticed that my hands are naturally offset just a tad on the 360, to compensate for the stick being further up the controller. This is a subconcious thing, I never thought about it. My hand just does it to get a comfortable full range of motion on the left joystick. Now, you don't have to be an anatomy major to know that human thumbs pose up (towards the fingers), where the DS3 pad is, much more comfortably than they do down (towards the wrist) as they do with the 360 pad.
Your reference to button mashing simple-combo type fighting games is very telling. You're right, you don't use the joypad. However, in FPS type games, that horrible ridged out-of-place directional pad can get you killed. It has for me, many times. I lose a couple seconds, because it's out of my thumb's natural range of motion (and if you try this, watch your palm, it has to raise away from the controller), and my thumb catches a ridge, pressing the wrong function. Bang, I'm dead. Do that a couple times in the match, and I have to quit. I don't have that problem with DS3.
If I'm an average sized guy at 5'11", with porportional hands, I think I speak for a large amount of people. I played with a larger friend over the weekend, at 6'5", and he has issues with it, albeit not as bad. Now, if you are looking at the younger crowd (which generate a large percentage of console sales), the issue is also more likely to be prevelent.Edited by Purger - 2/19/13 at 6:30am