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Monday, March 19, 2007

A Sticky Point For 360/PC Convergence

Last week I wrote about my recent purchase of the Xbox 360 controller for Windows, most notably, the lack of support from Microsoft and the inability to tweak it. Not that this should come as a surprise to any Windows user. But still quite disappointing.

Since then, I’ve received quite a few hits from people searching phrases like “xbox 360 controller deadzone”, “configure xbox 360 controller for windows”, “xbox 360 controller for windows mapping”, etc. Needless to say, I’m not the only one been who’s looking for a solution. Luckily, thanks to a few (very lengthy) anonymous tips, that solution has been found!

Pinnacle Game Profiler has come to the rescue. Developed by KALiNKOsoft, it’s an advanced (yet very easy to use) shareware application that adds gamepad/joystick support to any game and let’s you tweak your controller and emulate keyboard and mouse movements to a tee. I was playing Need For Speed Most Wanted within 10 minutes from the time I installed the software. Mind you, I had to completely setup the controller, so in future, that time will be cut in half, at least.
-- Configuring Your Xbox 360 Controller For Windows

Previously I pondered on 360 games for Windows and just now poked around to see how useful the 360 controller for Windows would actually turn out. It doesn't seem all that great. It's great that a solution exists to help this kind of thing out - but that seems suboptimal to a true plug and play experience.

Then we need to factor in actual game design. For instance, take Oblivion ... this is from

Although the PC version of Oblivion handles best when played with a keyboard and mouse, it is possible to play the game with an assortment of game pads as well. Due to the variance in these game pads, it may be necessary to make a few changes to the Oblivion.ini file located in My Documents\My Games\Oblivion. Below is a list of the settings that can be changed to make a Xbox 360 controller attached to a PC, function better with Oblivion. It should be noted however, that because the PC version of the game was optimized to play with a keyboard and mouse, the experience will NOT be the same, as using a 360 controller on the Xbox 360 version of the game. Additionally, these settings can be applied to other game pads, but the values represented may need to be tweaked further. Finally, the mapping of the buttons will need to be determined when entering the game, and can be changed in Options - Controls, from the Main Menu - Do NOT map the directional controls (Forward, Backward, Left, Right), as this will overwrite certain changes made in the Oblivion.ini file.
-- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Version 1.1.511

Sure, the easy answer is ... why would anyone want to use a controller when they have a keyboard and mouse? Well, because if the experienced diverges to deeply based on the input hardware - you (logically) lose out on convergence.

And personally - I associate a keyboard with work. I like simplicity of a gamepad. It won't try and get me to cut and paste anything.

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