WorthPlaying: Gaming mice have been around for a few years now, yet it seems like only recently that they’ve come into their own. When did Logitech first decide to make a mouse that went beyond the capabilities of the MX 518?
Erik Charlton: The success of the MX510 confirmed our feeling that gamers are our most demanding customers and are looking for real innovations to help improve gameplay. Shortly after the MX510’s launch, we decided that we wanted to address a wide range of the gaming community’s needs and preferences.
Clearly, our first step was to improve upon the MX510 with the MX518’s 1600 DPI optical engine and software-free adjustable DPI. But we also knew that there was a great opportunity to really improve the gaming experience with Full-Speed USB combined with a 2000 dpi gaming-grade laser engine.
These were some fairly complex development projects. While the development of all three projects started at roughly the same time, the more complex technologies and features required more time to develop.
WP: One of the key changes for the G5 is no longer having a Forward thumb button. What lead to this change, and have you experienced any opposition because of it?
EC: We are constantly talking with gamers about what would make a perfect mouse. In this case, we received feedback early in the development process that some gamers did not like having two buttons above the thumb because they occasionally hit the wrong button (much like hitting the Windows button on a non-G15 keyboard). With one button, gamers are guaranteed a sure hit.
As we are always talking with gamers…I have to say yes, we have received the feedback that many people miss having two buttons. We have heard what they are saying, and will take the community’s feedback seriously when developing our next-generation of gaming mice.
WP: New to the G5 is the braided cable, which reduces friction and the chance of snagging. In theory, it sounds like a good idea. In reality, it might very well become the standard for ALL mice (non-gaming included). How did you come up with this great idea?
EC: With the launch of our G-series mice, we wanted to revolutionize the gaming mouse in all aspects. During our research, we observed gamers and noticed that many of them use cord bungees to minimize the cord’s interference in game play. We realized that we had the opportunity to develop a solution that could be integrated directly into the mouse. Up until the launch of the G-series mice, the cord had been ignored as an area of innovation. So, we looked at cords across many industries and found one that was able to address this particular pain point.
WP: According to official press releases, you state that “The pinpoint-narrow laser light source can see much finer surface detail than the broad-beam red light-emitting diode (LED) found in optical mice. The laser mouse tracks far more precisely and can track on a much wider variety of surfaces.” Please elaborate.
EC: Laser technology is amazingly powerful for PC gaming and I love having the opportunity to talk about it. The coherent wavelength of laser light produces far more illumination than the LED lamp in an optical mouse, revealing greater surface details for the mouse’s sensor to capture. This means far greater precision.
The benefit to gamers is that when the cursor is moved to a particular pixel on the screen, it is much more precise than when done with an optical mouse so that the gamer experiences greater accuracy. The mouse actually gets better data from the surface. I like to think of it as a high-end car’s steering wheel vs. a low-end car’s steering wheel. When you move the steering wheel of a high-end car, the car moves in exactly that direction. However, a lower-end steering wheel is usually much looser and less accurate, much like an optical mouse.
WP: Something new to the G5 is “sensitivity switching”. What can you tell us about this new technology and how it affects gaming performance?
EC: We were the first to implement driverless sensitivity switching when we launched the MX518 and gamers loved it. We included this feature in the G5 and G7 has it as well.
Sensitivity switching puts quick-shift controls at gamers’ fingertips – with one click, gamers can instantly increase and decrease mouse resolution from 2000 dpi to as low as 400 dpi. Higher resolutions allow lightning-fast moves, while lower settings provide precision when pixel precise accuracy is required. With the G5 and G7 we also introduced built-in LEDs that allow gamers to view their current dpi level with a quick glance at the mouse.
WP: With previous generations of Logitech mice, it was possible to add weight to the device, but not to the degree of the G5. With its own weight tray that slides in and out easily, and multiple weights of different sizes, this mouse allows each user to change to his or her satisfaction. How did you come up with this design?
EC: We got the idea by talking to the community. We wanted to design a mouse with the optimal weight, but quickly learned that it is primarily an issue of preference. Some like heaver mice for more inertia and a feeling of greater control; others prefer lighter mice for faster moves and no fatigue during long gaming secessions. Then we had a big “ah ha” when we saw the postings about how to remove the weights from the original MX510.
We were in a meeting and our director said, “Hay, gamers should be able to tune the weight of the mouse to their individual preference.”
There was some internal resistance at first to the idea, but once we got prototypes for some gamers to play with, we realized there was real value here. That is how the G5’s weight tuning system was born.
WP: Please tell us about the finish on each mouse. Not only is it a different texture than the smooth surface of the 510 or 518, but each G5 is unique in appearance. What can you tell us?
EC: We wanted to create something just for gamers – something that feels great, is durable, and of course, looks cool.
To pull this off we created a truly innovative paint process. I am not overstating when I say that this is the most sophisticated paint process Logitech has ever used. Each mouse goes through a seven-step finishing process, features three colors of paint, and is hand finished, so that every mouse is unique. The final product is a combination of rust red, smoke black, and silver colors. If you are interested, a PowerPoint slide that shows this process is attached.
WP: The new surface has a very nice grip to it. Whereas the 510 & 518 felt slick to the touch, the G5 has a “grungy” feel which complements long hours of gaming. How much research went into developing this new style of texture?
EC: We are always on the look out for new grip material. It is a key part of a great gaming mouse. Interestingly, the texture is actually a result of the paint process we use, rather than a type of material. The paint actually crackles in a unique way to create a “dry grip” feeling. We simply love it for gaming.
WP: One thing I noticed about the 510 was the smooth finish accumulated oils from your hand, which lead to cleaning on a near-weekly basis. This is not the case with the G5. I take it user comments lead to the change in surface material and texture, correct?
EC: Yes, that is correct. We wanted to use a surface that allowed gamers to get a good grip on the mouse.
WP: One great feature for the G5 is automatic driver updates via SetPoint, Logitech’s device manager. How often can we expect updates?
EC: We don’t have a specific schedule for releases – We offer new releases when we feel we can deliver real value to the community.
WP: For those out there who have recently bought a cutting-edge mouse like the MX 518, what would you want them to know about the G5?
EC: The Logitech MX518 is a great performance mouse. It provides gamers with yet another option in color/style, technology, and price ($49.99 in the U.S.). The MX518 mouse will remain a key part of our PC gaming lineup. The G5 implements the latest technology such as Full Speed USB for unmatched precision and a 2000dpi Laser engine for amazing speed. I also think some of the additional details like the weight tuning system and PTFE feet simply deliver a great experienced.
WP: What is it like working in Research and Development for Logitech?
EC: It’s very exciting to interact on a daily basis with such a wide range of people who have a passion for gaming and performance mice. There really is a great group of passionate people at Logitech. They all want to drive real product innovation...not the academic kind either…but rather, they want to create products that people can actually feel the differences.
One thing to know is that Logitech is a truly global company. Our R&D (sensors, wireless technologies, optical teams, electrical engineering) all happens in Switzerland. Our mechanical engineering and industrial design is in Ireland. And our Tooling is in Taiwan…and manufacturing in China.
I often joke that my job is more air traffic controller then product manager. One second I’m sifting through research reports or stopping to meet with gamers, and the next, I’m catching up on project development-related emails and multiple IM threads from all around the world. It is exciting…and a bit crazy.
WP: There are a great many people out there, myself included, who are fans of your work. Are you ever present at game expos or events where the fans can meet you?
EC: Cool. I love meeting with gamers…and I love to learn what we can do better. So, I encourage people to please stop by and say hi. This year I attended CPL, QuakeCon, and Blizzcon. We had a table at Blizzcon and I was able to talk to tons of gamers who visited our table. Also, look for us at QuakeCon and BlizzCon in 2007, and I’m hoping to make it to PDXLAN and several other (major and minor) events as well.
WP: With so many people looking to get into gaming as a profession, would you consider the hardware side to be just as fun as the software side?
EC: No experience in gaming software, but love the gaming hardware side.
WP: What can we expect next from Logitech?
EC: You’ll just have to wait and see...But I promise something cool! =)