Help me make a gamepad work with my Windows games. Please.
February 1, 2009 11:21 AM   Subscribe

Windows gaming and gamepad configuration. I'm about to pull out my hair. Please help.

I've recently purchased an awesome desktop PC, and am dying to play some Steam games on it. But as someone who cut his FPS teeth on the Xbox, I just can't get used to the keyboard/mouse controls.

So I'm trying to get a gamepad to work with PC games, and am hitting one frustration after another. (The game in question is Half-Life 2, BTW.)

First, I tried using my Xbox 360 controller, a wireless one, with the USB charger cable. Windows seems to recognize it, I downloaded the appropriate drivers/software from MS, and followed Valve's instructions on tweaking the config files. But nothing - the game acts as if there's no controller there at all.

So I bought a Logitech dual-thumb controller, installed it, and the game won't recognize it either. Went so far as to install Pinnacle Game Profiler, which is supposed to take all the guesswork out of this. Now, when the game starts, my character starts spinning indefinitely to the left, as if I was holding the thumbstick down in that direction.

All I want is to be able to use my Xbox controller on my PC ... that shouldn't be so hard, should it? Do I really have to buy this? Isn't that the exact same thing as what I have? What steps am I missing here?
posted by jbickers to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
I tried similar solutions. My biggest hurdle was not the installation and getting it to recognize the controller, but the fact that there is no dead area in the center of the thumbsticks. That means, if it is tilted even the slightest, it registers that as a control.

As for setting it up, it depends on what you are trying to use the pad with. I was trying to use it with Stubbs the Zombie that I also got through steam and with Fahrenheit that I got elsewhere. I had to change the configuration on Stubbs though, not steam. It worked, but it just sucked for control.
posted by slavlin at 11:30 AM on February 1, 2009

wireless xbox controllers won't work on the pc. they only transmit electricity to charge it through the charge kit. get a wired 360 controller. you should be good to go for newer games just out of the box. for some games (emulators or snes and the like) pinnacle really is the best option. their forums are also amazing. post or search about the spinning to the left option. i bet they have some answers.
posted by nadawi at 11:35 AM on February 1, 2009

I've used both a Logitech Rumblepad (wireless) and a wired 360 USB controller both with okay success. (In fact I played Stubbs through with my Rumblepad.)

The XBOX 360 controller gets the most use and I think that all new games that have MS Live will support it naively. (At the same time I can't get any MS Live games to work with the Rumblepad which has been relocated to one of my parts bins in the closet...)

I'm a PC gamer, but increasingly I like the simplicity of the controller (especially as the PC gaming industry is seemingly dying off in favor of console ports.) This is mainly because of the way my desk is setup nowadays, with a wireless keyboard and mouse hidden on a tray... it's not conducive to that sort of gaming and it's much nicer to kick back with a controller.

I'm not 100% sure about your wireless controller, when I was shopping for my wired controller (I've never owned an XBOX, I just read that this was the best PC gamepad...) I didn't read anything specifically saying that it wouldn't work with Vista. I chose the wired one because it was cheaper and didn't need batteries. I use Vista, btw, and I'm not sure what if any better support it offers. If you've got the money to burn it wouldn't hurt to pickup a wired 360 controller and give it a try... I'm not sure of the difference between the console and the PC editions, I just know mine was specifically for the PC.

I guess I don't have single solution, but I do understand the frustration of trying ten different solutions and having them all fail.

The only suggestion I can give is an obvious one: make sure the controller isn't pressed up against anything when the game starts, and re-calibrate it windows before you play. If the calibration is whack, it will result in the crazy spinning you're seeing...

Moving forward though, you shouldn't have this problem with newer games.

[As an aside, one of my great annoyances with gaming is when I'm googling around for a solution. Particularly when I was recently trying to fix my 360 controller with Crysis Warhead (they switched around some buttons)... I'd see questions at forums saying something like, "Hello. Is there anyway to edit the XBOX 360 controller buttons in windows?" followed by like a dozen responses like, "WTF?!? y wud u wont 2 use 360 ctrl?!?!?" Ugh... stupid kids. Just answer the fucking question or STFU.]
posted by wfrgms at 12:20 PM on February 1, 2009

For the spinning to the left problem, have you tried pressing all of the direction controls (including the left control) until it stops? My Logitech Windows gamepad does this when I first enter a Flash game. It stops and does not resume after pressing the right and then the left direction control buttons. I live with this - it's not a big deal.
Most gamepads come with control software, that maps the controls onto the controls used in a specific game. You have to set this up for each game individually. For my gamepad, I have a utility called Logitech profiler that loads on system boot. Have you set this up for your Logitech device?
posted by Susurration at 12:26 PM on February 1, 2009

You don't need a wired gamepad - you just need the wireless receiver for Windows.

I can't explain why your logitech controller didn't work, however.
posted by O9scar at 12:33 PM on February 1, 2009

I've used a couple logitech gamepads and the X360 wired gamepad.

I like the Logitech ones way better because they have better control on racing games and platformers (the only type of games that should be played with a gamepad)

I found the 360 controller to be very bleh with Windows games. The control just doesn't seem as tight as if I would have played the same game on the 360. Racing controls are loosy-goosy whereas on the Logitech it was predictable and precise.

I would recommend trying keyboard and mouse as that was what Half-Life was meant to played with. Also, PC games are more intensive and usually pit you against more enemies because you aren't futzing with a gamepad stick that can only spin your character around only so fast. A keyboard/mouse will give you faster aiming and turning. And since most PC games are meant to be played that way, if you use a gamepad you'll soon find yourself running out of buttons because there is usually a 1:1 mapping of command to key, whereas on consoles a button is sometimes recycled depending on your situation.
Once you learn it once, you'll be able to play all PC games with better precision than you got on the 360.

(note: I am mostly a PC gamer that got a 360 2+ years ago. I've learned how to control with the gamepad (GTA4, Gears of War) but still am not fantastic at it because the movements are so minute)
posted by ijoyner at 1:11 PM on February 1, 2009

What O9scar said.
posted by NeoLeo at 1:27 PM on February 1, 2009

OP writes: I just can't get used to the keyboard/mouse controls.

ijoyner responds: I would recommend trying keyboard and mouse


I'm convinced this question cannot be asked anywhere on the internet without someone completely ignoring it and saying instead, "OMG! JUS USE KEBRD N MOUS!!!"
posted by wfrgms at 10:45 PM on February 8, 2009

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