Rube Goldberg PC/Console Game Hack

There’s no holy war holier than establishing whether PC games are superior to console games (they are). But even so, there’s no denying that there are some good console titles out there. What if you’d still like to play them using a mouse and keyboard? If you’re [Agent86], you’d build up the most ridiculous chain of fun electronics to get the job done.

Now there is an overpriced off-the-shelf solution for this problem, and a pre-existing open-source project that’ll get the same job done for only a few bucks in parts. But there’s nothing like the fun in solving a problem your own way, with your own tangle of wires, darn it all! The details of the build span four (4!) pages in [Agent86]’s blog, so settle down with a warm cup of coffee.

Here’s the summary: an Xbox 360 controller is taken apart and turned into an Xbox controller. The buttons and joysticks are put under computer control via a Teensy microcontroller. GPIOs press the controller’s buttons, and digipots replace the analog sticks. Software on the Teensy drives the digipots and presses the buttons, interpreting a custom protocol sent over USB from the computer, which also gets some custom software to send the signals.

So if you’re keeping score: a button press on a keyboard is converted to USB, sent to a PC, converted to a custom serial protocol, sent to a Teensy which emulates a human for a controller that then coverts the signals back into the Xbox’s USB protocol. Pshwew!

Along the way, there’s learning at every stage, which is really the point of an exercise like this. And [Agent86] says that it mostly works, with some glitches in the mouse-to-joystick mapping. But if you’re interested in any part of this crazy chain, you’ve now got a model for each of them.


Putting a Trackball Inside A Controller

Gaming on a PC is obviously superior and you would be a fool to argue otherwise. The keyboard and mouse is the obviously superior input device, but there are times when you just want to play games on a couch. [Gabriel] has an interesting solution to this input problem in the second version of his KeyBall Controller. It’s a controller, but it leverages the superior layout and precision of the keyboard and mouse combo, without making any compromises.

[Gabriel]’s KeyBall Controller began its life as several generic console controllers. The main body of is mostly a clone of the original Xbox S controller. Inside, there are parts from a clone SNES controller, a PSX controller, a generic USB trackball, and an iPazzPort USB handheld keyboard.

The construction of the KeyBall follows in the tradition of the best case modders we’ve ever seen: cutting plastic, gluing plastic, applying epoxy putty, and lots of sanding. The electronics for the controller also follow in the most hallowed traditions of case modders: perfboard, hot glue, and many fine strands of wire. Inside the controller is a USB hub to connect all the different USB devices.

It’s a great device that finally solves the problem of putting a traditional keyboard and mouse layout in the palms of your hands.

Hacking game port peripherals to work with modern PCs


[Atiti] has a bad habit of hanging on to old things. Some people call this sort of behavior “hoarding”, but around here we understand his affliction. It turns out that in his collection of old computer peripherals, he located a Thrustmaster Formula 1 racing wheel he used back in the day. Analog racing wheels can cost a pretty penny nowadays, depending on what you buy, so he decided to see if he could hack this outdated controller to work with his new PC.

You see, the problem with this wheel is that it utilized a “game port” connecter to interface with the computer. If you don’t remember the game port, go dig up an old PCI sound card and take a look on the back. That 15-pin connector? That’s a game port. Microsoft discontinued support for the game port once Vista was released, so [Atti] had to figure out how in the world he would get it to work on his new PC.

His solution was an Arduino, which is used to read the analog signals output by the wheel. Those signals are processed and sent to a parallel port joystick emulator, enabling him to use the wheel with any game supporting a standard joystick.

Obviously he could have just gone out to the store and bought a USB wheel, but where’s the fun in that?

Stay tuned for a video demo of his refreshed wheel in action.

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