Why are sticks better than pads?

Hello Shoryuken users! I’m writing an article for Bitmob.com about arcade sticks and wanted to include a couple of comments from the competitive fighting community (you guys) about why it is exactly that most players use arcade sticks as opposed to controller pads. Is it because that’s just how you know how to play the game, or do you see some immediate benefit in the control scheme? Assume you’re trying to convince someone to buy a stick when answering this question.

I’d also like to hear some points as to why some players might prefer to use pads, if possible.

The only pad I could ever really use at a good level was the Sega Saturn pad (Japanese version). That pad was perfect for circle movements and diagonal movements, making it a great choice for Street Fighter Alpha 1-3 (at the time). Looking at that pad now, I would have a little difficulty playing it in SF4 because of what’s needed for focus attacks and the frequent need for dashing (ymmv).

There are several reasons a stick may be considered better than a pad. The first and probably most important is the overall design of the controller. An arcade stick has you use your whole arm or wrist to move the joystick, while a pad only has your thumb, and thus gives you a faster, wider range of motion. The same is said about the buttons. A flat button layout gives you significantly faster access to the buttons, sometimes even access to all the necessary buttons at once (NeoGeo style). This is true for almost every arcade stick, from the custom made ones with Sanwas, to the pos reject ones you see on eBay for $20. Another reason that arcade sticks can be superior is that a good quality stick is going to be made from high end arcade parts, which are going to be significantly more durable than a gamepad. Sanwa parts are also known for their incredible sensitivity. Finally, fighting games were made based on these types of controls in mind. They are intended to be played with on a stick.

I main sticks mostly because I grew up in arcades. They’re lots of other reasons, but I can handle myself fine on a pad.

But I think this years EVO showed a lot of people that it’s all about what’s best for your style.
Two of the top 8 SSF4 players were using pads.
Vangief/Zangief - Used a Dualshock2 or 3. Monster Zangief player. Put Justin Wong in the losers bracket.
Shizza/Chun-li - Used a Madcatz Fightpad. Many believe he is the best SF4 Chun-li player in America.

I think this is dependent on Game Played and Character played in said game.

1st, Tekken is perfectly playable on pad, for one there’s only 4 buttons. You can use the Eagle Claw grip so that your Index and Middle fingers are capable of hitting buttons just like on an arcade stick.

Something like SSF4 for instance, a character like Feilong or Zangief is ok to play on Pad because there aren’t as many rapid button presses. Shizza is a freak being able to do the Kick combos with chun :stuck_out_tongue:

Not the its necessary to play but Plinking is much harder on PAD. Also if you like playing in the arcades you have to be able to play stick… unless you are talking about that freaky Tekken 5 cab that had the playstation2 controller port on it haha.

one of the main reasons is that you have more parts of your hands available for use with a arcade stick. When using a pad, depending on your grip, some of your fingers are used to stabilize the pad. Default PS3/Xbox 360 pads have 4 face buttons.

Street Fighter historically is a 6 button layout. You also have to press 3 or 2 buttons in a row simultaneously to execute some moves, or press another button adjacent to another for certain move cancels. For example there is a player named Balrog that has a move where you need to hold down 3 buttons for a few seconds, but are free to use the other 3 buttons for attacking while that move is charging. Pad players must be more agile with the fingers and hold it with a grip that the pad was not designed for to do some of these moves.

Another factor is the size of the buttons. While the Street fighter fighting pad has 6 face buttons, the buttons are placed very closely together. Imagine playing piano with keys that are half as wide. The fight pad is kind of like that. Full arcade sticks have low resistance high response buttons placed very ergonomically (not to large not to small) for a relaxed hand. The fight pad you have to squeeze your fingers together and have a smaller margin of error

As far as a D-pad vs. stick is concerned some people do not have an agile precise enough thumb and prefer to use a the entire wrist and arm to do rapid directional motions. Also using a d-pad with street fighter will give you a sore thumb quickly. I cannot play Street Fighter 4 on a pad for more than 30 minutes before something aches.

The benefits of playing on a pad is that it is economical, and portable. Also quite a few talented players have learned to use a pad and do well for themselves. The reason pads replaced sticks back in the Atari days is that it was economical to mass produce and worked great for simple games. Also home system games where designed with a gamepad in mind, but Street Fighter and other fighting games have an arcade history.

There are a lot of reasons players prefer sticks over pads. Probably at the forefront is the intense customization process a player can craft a stick to their every artistic and functional liking (check out our “‘Check out my new arcade stick!’” thread to see some examples. Not only can you use the types of buttons with a certain amount of tension that you like, you can also change the entire “feel” of the stick to match your personal comforts and play style. There’s also a lot more space and flexibility with arcade stick cases, allowing for a lot of custom modifications, such as dual system mods, LED button mods, and others.

Functionally, for all fighting games, they were originally made for arcade sticks, and the mechanics stick true to this. Unlike first-person shooter games which have very specific degrees between up, down, left and right. Fighting games were designed for only 8 directions, up, down, left, right, and the corners between any two. This hold true for all modern fighting game. There are only 8 directions to go. Because of this, a player is at no disadvantage by dumping their analog functionality of having all the possible degrees available.

Because of the arcade legacy, some players, such as myself, cannot play with a pad anymore. After playing on a joystick in an arcade for years, it’s extremely difficult for me to go back to a pad.

The functionality is much easier to use your whole hand as opposed to two thumbs doing most of the work with your index fingers picking up a bit of slack. For QCFs (quarter circle forward?a motion commonly used in almost every fighting game. It’s usually combined with a button press to perform a special attack, such as the classical Hadoken?a fireball that combines a QCF and a punch button. However, by combining a QCF and a punch, :qcf::p:, instead of punching, a character shoots a fireball. A QCF is performed by pressing down, right forward, right when facing right :qcf: when facing left, it is by down, left-down, left :qcb:), I can perform them in a split-second when able to use the full motion of my wrist (sometimes arms in rougher players), something that my thumbs can simply not do. And this is crucial in some combos that QCFs are performed very quickly, as sometimes a move must be done in a split second, or your combo will be broken, giving your opponent a chance to recover.

Button functionality is also a very crucial factor. Sometimes buttons must be combined in order to perform a certain move. While sometimes buttons are easy to combine with you thumb in its natural position (A+X, A+B, Y+X, A+B+Y+X), there are a lot that are not (B+X, A+Y, most combinations of three, B+Y, etc.). In the standard 8-button set-up, you can assign these buttons to the entire top row of the stick, and each of your fingers can press a button, making combinations of buttons easy to pull off. This is, again, a case where combos come into play. The wrists (or arms in some players) can move across buttons much easier than thumbs, allowing you to get that crucial split-second input in time without dropping a combo.

However, one of the major cons is usually the price of these sticks. One of the cheapest commercially produced sticks, the Madcatz Standard Edition fightstick at ~$60, has forgettable quality in its components, and usually break or become unresponsive fairly quickly. Players usually replace it with higher quality parts, but a quality japanese joystick replacement is about $25, and $3 for a pushbutton, $24 for 8. That runs the pricetag up to about $110. This is about the cost of a Madcatz Tournament Edition fightstick, which has the same high-quality parts, but is a huge investment for the casual gamer. Custom-built fightsticks with dual system mods, high quality art printing, plexiglass covers, LED mods, japanese-sytle parts, and custom cases can easily run over $200, even if the owner builds it themselves. Pads are essentially “free,” as the person who owns the console and buys the game already owns a pad. Madcatz fightpads, pads that are shaped for fighting games, run around $30?$40, and work well on most fighting games, and aptly well on Street Fighter, because the layout of the buttons was designed for, and works best with, Street Fighter IV.

Another minor advantage is vibration. Sticks don’t vibrate, some pads do. And while visual cues are much, much more heavy, sometimes a little vibration may give a gamer just the tip they need to pull out a victory. Not all games, however, have vibration programmed into the game, so this is at the least, a slight advantage.

One huge advantage I saw at this year’s Evo (I believe it was by Vangief himself, one of the top 8 players) was the “walking 720,” something a stick can’t possibly ever do. By this, I mean, that he was able to perform a 720º motion (like this?:360::360:) on one stick, a crucial input much like the QCF, but it is necessary for a heavy-damage dealing ultra move. Now, all players on a stick would have to stand still in the time it takes to make this motion. However, because a pad has multiple sticks, he was able to hold one stick forward, while also making the 720 motion on the other stick. Because he was walking forward, no player was expecting him to be able to perform this devastating attack because he was walking forward. No player on a stick would be able to walk forward while inputting a 720, because their character would move a little bit backwards. However, because they weren’t expecting such a thing, he was able to surprise them with the move and catch them off guard to deal serious damage and turn the tide in his favor, or even provide the finishing blow for a match.

Hope you can link us to it when you’re finished, I’d love to give it a read!

I’ve always likened stick vs. pad for fighting games to keyboard and mouse vs. controller for first person shooters. Even though you can learn to play a game just fine on a pad, a stick (or a keyboard and mouse) is going to provide you with faster and more accurate controls.

With that said though, I don’t think it really matters. I mean there were two pad players that made it to top eight at Evo last weekend and tons of top Tekken players use pad.

I think it’s important to reiterate the point that the above poster made about the walking 720 motion. It’s a critical part of Vangief’s game, and it’s easy to miss in your huge post. For those of you who are wondering, just read the bottom of the long post.

EDIT. It’s also worth mentioning that the same concept resulted in an interesting glitch in HDR, where you could simultaneously walk forward and charge back. Characters like honda could walk up headbutt, lol.

Simultaneous access to all 6+ buttons with all fingers of your right hand. This hand is free and engaged in nothing but button management. You can hold down multiple buttons and still be able to strike other buttons with your free digits. You can hit specific patterns of buttons at once or in sequence with unfettered equal access to each button. You can slide your fingers back and forth across the buttons. It opens up options and techniques that might be more limited or require custom button configuration or macros in pad play.

As for the stick, modern sticks like the JLF (common on the TE and HRAP and in arcades) have wide spacing on the actuation points. This makes for less errors, since it is easier to avoid an accidental directional input. “Tighter” sticks and some dpads require more precision to avoid unwanted inputs.

The parts themselves (joystick, buttons) are more durable, sensitive, and customizable. Many sticks today are easily serviced so worn out parts can be replaced.

I’m surprised this link hasn’t yet been supplied:

Joystick Controller - The Joystick Vs The Control Pad

Slagcoin pretty much breaks it down well.

I prefer sticks mostly because it’s easier to do button techniques like double-tapping, kara cancelling, or whatever. Props to the pad players who can do that stuff with one press.

After thinking about this again, I also admit that like a lot of people, see arcade sticks under a different light. It’s like your trusty sword that you associate with Street Fighter. That is my tool for practicing, and beating people. When I carry this over to your house, it’s with me for a purpose. For me, that same association cannot be related between game and pad.

Playing in the arcades for part of your life probably contributes to that feeling too.

If pads were better, we’d see pads on arcade cabs :smiley:

If a player wanted to learn on a pad, which one should they stick with – PS3 or 360? Which system is most dominantly used?

I couldn’t get my dad to play fighting games (or any game) with me until I made an arcade stick for him. now we duke it out all the time, its awesome.

I have a friend who has been playing tekken with a pad since tekken 2. he is just used to it.

PPP or KKK on a pad. Try it.
Yeah, see? That’s why imo sticks > pad.

Well, you wouldn’t normally fish without a fishing pole, so why would you play an arcade fighting game without an arcade stick?

Playing with a pad is like trying to fish with your bare hands, its doable, but unnessesarilly hard, and people who are fishing with poles look at you like you are an idiot.

They both pretty much have the same games.

i don’t think they are better at all , i think its what ever u prefer/what ever you are used to using