Cowboy Programming Game Development and General Hacking by the Old West

December 3, 2008

Custom responsiveness measuring device

Filed under: Game Development — Mick West @ 4:56 pm

I’ve had some good feedback from my Measuring Responsiveness in Video Game article, which explains how to use a cheap camera to measure the lag between pressing a button and the result appearing on screen.   One of the problems with the method I was using is that it does not let you measure responsiveness in typical gameplay situations, since you have to set up the controller so you can see the button being pressed, which means your finger or thumb has to start moving while not touching the button – generally not the case in normal gameplay.

The guys at Infinity Ward saw this problem, and their solution was to commission modder  Benjamin Heckendorn to build  a custom joystick that had a seperate display with an individual LED for each button.  Here’s the result:

With this setup, the board can just be placed next to the monitor, and both videoed together in normal gameplay.   Specific moves and events can then be isolated, and the frames counted in the video to measure the responsiveness.  

Frame-by-frame analysis of the button presses might also be useful for some analysis along the line of what I suggest in Pushing Buttons, although that’s still better done in code.

[UPDATE]  Ben now has a more detailed post on the controller on his site, with videos of it in action:


  1. Wow, that’s a pretty awesome little device! I’ve never really noticed any lag time between pressing the buttons and reacting on screen yet, but I guess once my controller and XBox get older, I may start to notice something.


    Comment by XBox — January 14, 2009 @ 3:46 am

  2. It’s actually nothing to do with the age of the hardware. It varies from game to game. You don’t notice it directly, it just changes the overall feel of the game.

    Comment by Mick West — January 14, 2009 @ 8:36 am

  3. The maker did an impressive work with this device. Good job.

    Comment by Ben Anderson WT — February 10, 2009 @ 11:01 am

  4. It looks really cool. Which sensors the have?
    sry for my bad english :)

    Comment by michi — February 13, 2009 @ 1:08 pm

  5. So maybe I’m not totally crap after all! It IS the equipment! ;)

    Comment by Games — February 15, 2009 @ 5:28 pm

  6. I agree Games, I always thought that I was the mess but now I can see that is not my fault I don’t travel through those waves hehehe well actually I really think the device is pretty useful

    Comment by Scott — February 23, 2009 @ 6:29 am

  7. WoW! That is a cool machine. You could really teach professional gaming to someone with that device. It’s so much easier to follow a game beeing played with that kind of display. Can it be built on other gaming devices and consoles too? Could be wanted at some demonstrations at fairs and shows too. Good stuff and nice that you embeded the video too.

    Comment by Pelit Tarjous — February 26, 2009 @ 12:44 pm

  8. Nice vid. Is that GTA IV that the guy is playing?

    Comment by Seiska Tarjous — March 2, 2009 @ 12:38 pm

  9. The device is all cool and stuff. But who would really need this? Is it just me or, is this really pointless?

    Comment by Game Tester — March 16, 2009 @ 10:16 am

  10. Cool. It;s a good way to know how the tools can work! Thanks for sharing, Informative article.

    Comment by tr-12 — March 19, 2009 @ 1:30 am

  11. using this tool you are relying on the image on screen to act at the same time as you press the button. theres always going to lag abit as motion is random and can not be predicted for a game to be developed to be able to have no lag tht means every movment must be predicted(pre-determind) thus taking the whole point of games like gta were you control the movements and the randomness of the gameplay

    Comment by inkjetcanvas — June 1, 2009 @ 5:51 am

  12. This brings back memory’s. Cool custom made controller. Has this thing been taking into production?

    Comment by mike — June 25, 2009 @ 11:50 am

  13. Thats wicked. I haven’t noticed a lag on my xbox but then again I’m not a proper gamer but I still think its cool that they managed to come up with this idea

    Comment by fast property sale — July 7, 2009 @ 7:01 am

  14. Interesting device. Is it for \normal\ players or is it more useful in so called gaming industry or proffessional game developer?

    Comment by vippipaikat — July 29, 2009 @ 5:14 am

  15. neat little gadget you got there… i love video games so i obviously found this article quite useful.. looked up “measuring responsiveness in video games”, it’s as cool as this one.. many thanks, really…

    Comment by Kirk — August 24, 2009 @ 10:40 am

  16. Yes! The maker did a really impressive job with this device. Good job.

    Comment by Generic — September 3, 2009 @ 6:05 pm

  17. Yes, The maker did a rather impressive job with this device. Good job.

    Comment by kelowna — September 3, 2009 @ 6:07 pm

  18. Very impressive, I could use one of these…

    Comment by pitching machines — November 3, 2009 @ 3:09 pm

  19. Man, what a cool little device. They need to mass produce these and make them available to everyone!!!

    Comment by spyder paintball guns — November 3, 2009 @ 3:14 pm

  20. Super cool little gadget!!!

    Sign me up for one if these ever get mass produced and sold in stores!!!

    Comment by train horn — November 10, 2009 @ 11:47 am

  21. Thanks for the interesting post. That cool little device looks really neat. I look forward to more from you in the future.

    Comment by jonathon @ be a video game tester — November 19, 2009 @ 2:22 am

  22. That is a cool machine.

    Comment by Eastern Europe — February 1, 2010 @ 2:32 am

  23. Hey, that’s a pretty informative video about this… I have tried to test this myself by just using the game to test how it responds, but this is a pretty cool way ;)

    Comment by Free iPad — February 2, 2010 @ 11:41 am

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