FiZi and I got to play with Ten One Design’s Fling at CES 2011 for a bit. Ten One Design is also known for their styli for iPhone and iPad that trigger touches on capacitive touchscreens without having to use your fingers. They have converted this technology into a joystick interface called the Fling that attaches to the iPad’s screen with two small suction cups.
I played a few minutes of Meteor Blitz on one of the rep’s personal iPads. The joysticks felt amazingly smooth. The game was structured similar to Geometry Wars where the left stick controls ship movement and the right stick controls the direction of your lasers. As Ten One Design notes on their recent All About The Fling post, the Fling felt really great. Both FiZi and I said “Wow!” at some point – and not in reference to the seasoned MMORPG. FiZi ended up beating the level that he was on and getting an achievement while I was taking some video and talking to the rep, and the rep actually thanked FiZi for the achievement.
The Fling is retailing at $25, which is a hefty price on a game controller that usually needs a buddy for maximum gaming experience. The price is identical to the ThinkGeek JOYSTICK-IT, but the Fling looks much lighter and maybe less durable than the JOYSTICK-IT. I didn’t get to play around with a JOYSTICK-IT, so I’ll reserve judgement on which one is better until I get there. I can tell for sure that playing games like Meteor Blitz would feel much more natural on the more gamepad-like feel of the dual-Fling control scheme instead of the arcade joystick like the JOYSTICK-IT. In fact, I actually saw a video of the JOYSTICK-IT playing Geometry Wars with one stick, and the firing looked pretty awkward.
We also talked with the rep about future ideas like adding iPhone versions of the Fling and D-pads or buttons for hardcore retro lovers. He jokingly put the Fling on his iPhone and remarked that it would be way too big as one suction cup clearly was falling off – the joystick needs to be a minimum of 20mm away from the edge of the screen, and the Fling takes up a healthy percentage of the iPhone screen. We talked about some prototype A & B buttons and the rep said that they turned out sucking pretty bad, so I doubt that they will be manufacturing those buttons or the D-pad.
Gaming on the iPad is not something I ever took very seriously. I think it’s an excellent platform for turn-based strategy games, turn-based RPGs, board games, adventure games and of course the odd casual game. My biggest hang-up was the controls. I tried playing Mega Man on an iPhone 4 and that was a boat load of fail. I found with no tactile feedback of any kind it was hard to tell if I was actually dying because I missed a button press or because I suck at Mega Man (more than likely the latter but I’m a firm believer in blaming the former).
Before leaving for CES I read about the Fling off of Engadget and thought it was a cool idea. I actually came across the Ten One Design’s booth by chance on day one and liked the Fling so much I dragged Audio back on Day 3 so I could try it again. They gave me a demo and as Audio stated I was blown away. The action on the Fling was as smooth as any gamepad controller joystick and it honestly just felt right. There was zero friction from the iPad surface from what I could tell, and the spring resistance of the coiled plastic was just the right amount to where you could easily hold the stick in one place. With the good of course comes the bad. The price of $24.95 is pretty steep, and although you can buy two of them for $38, it’s still a serious investment for casual gaming. I hope adoption of this controller picks up with developers enough so Ten One can drop their price somewhere between $10-20 per Fling. I didn’t think to ask at the time but I certainly hope Ten One has taken into consideration the incoming flood of Android Tablets and will market this to both platforms. This simple controller could really make gaming on a tablet much more practical for those of us use to a controller and could hopefully allow for better games to be created with joystick controllers like the Fling in mind.
Ten One has already released developer guidelines at their website where you can find not only physical but digital specs on how big the Fling is and what its range of motion is. Ten One also has a ton of games out on App Store that the Fling is designed around and mention Across Age HD, the aforementioned Meteor Blitz, and Super Mega Worm on their own website, and is asking developers to incorporate Fling keywords onto their apps to increase app (and obviously Fling) exposure.