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.


19 thoughts on “Rube Goldberg PC/Console Game Hack

  1. The reason PC games are superior is because they have better graphics, processing power, modding, etc… But who in their right mind would want to sit hunched over a keyboard getting carpal tunnel rather than relaxing on the couch with a gamepad?

    1. Sitting on the couch with a gamepad is where I’m at these days, but you really can’t beat the precision control of a mouse for an input device. The joysticks are mostly usable, but still mostly suck for any kind of FP perspective.

    2. noo, main reason is MOUSE, 100% precise directly mapped 1:1 control scheme with NO auto aim, no dead zones, no slow aim zones, no target assist BS. The only thing that counts is how precise user manipulates his mouse.

      FPS on console is special olympics.

  2. “and they’re quality is always great”. You can remember the possessive by saying to yourself “The ir” (The eye arrr), as opposed to the contraction of “They are”, or where the bear is, “over there”.

  3. Took me a bit of thinking to understand why someone would add this kind of latency rather than hacking a keyboard and mouse directly into the pad or even using something like the STM32 with an OTG USB port to attach a keyboard and mouse. Even resorting to an AVR and using PS/2 hardware would be something I would’ve considered first.

    I understand it now. It has interesting applications elsewhere. Just not something I would’ve done.

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