Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A dance pad, also known as a dance mat or dance platform, is a flat electronic game controller used for input in dance games. Most dance pads are divided into a 3×3 matrix of square panels for the player to stand on, with some or all of the panels corresponding to directions or actions within the game. Some dance pads also have extra buttons outside of the main stepping area, such as "Start" and "Select". Pairs of dance pads are often joined side-by-side for certain gameplay modes.
Popular arcade games such as Dance Dance Revolution and Pump It Up use large steel dance platforms connected to the arcade cabinet, whereas console versions usually use soft plastic pads. These home pads are specifically made for systems such as the PlayStation or Xbox, but can also be used in computer simulators such as StepMania through the use of special adapters.
Types of dance pads
- "Soft" pads are thin and made of plastic. They generally cost $10-$20. They are good for a beginner's introduction to dance games, but they have a tendency to move around and wrinkle up during gameplay (unless "modded", such as by gluing or taping them to the top of a piece of plywood or the bottom of a transparent office chair mat). They are not usually durable and may wear out easily, but for light use they are very acceptable. Manufacturers of soft pads include Konami, RedOctane, and Naki International.
Some soft pads contain stiff foam inserts to provide more stability and durability. The inserts usually ship as three puzzle pieces (to allow for a smaller box) which fit together and slide into the dance pad, which then zippers closed around the foam. Certain brands of foam pads put raised plastic sections under the directional buttons to allow them to be more easily felt by a player's feet, so as to help keep him centered on the pad. These pads generally cost between $40 and $100.
- "Hard" pads are usually constructed with metal (and sometimes wood) for durability, and usually come with a raised bar behind the player. Arcade machines use very durable metal pads that are designed for heavy use. Other hard pads can be purchased for home use with a video game system; the prices can be around US$100 to $200 ($200-$300 for double pads). Manufacturers of hard pads include Cobalt Flux and RedOctane.
Problems are often encountered when attempting to use a PlayStation pad with a computer simulator. Most PlayStation-PC adapters will not register Up and Down, or Left and Right, simultaneously, although they are common "jumps" in dance games. This is because normal PlayStation games do not require such input, and because D-pads are not usually designed to physically permit such input. StepMania's website has a section concerning adapter compatibility.
Purchasers of home pads should be aware of the number and arrangement of active arrow panels that are required by the game(s) they want to play. Although most commercial pads have four arrow panels (DDR), some have five (Pump It Up), eight (), or nine (Technomotion).
Dance Dance Revolution has four arrow buttons on its 3×3 matrix: Up, Down, Left, and Right. Pump It Up has five: Up-Left, Up-Right, Center, Down-Left, and Down-Right. On Pump It Up's dance mat, the corner buttons are actually rectangles with length slightly larger than width.
- Power Pad - the original video game pressure mat
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