Creating a better Xbox 360 controller

Started by NFG, June 10, 2008, 07:30:03 PM

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So I finally replaced my Xbox 360.  The first one, an xmas gift in 2006, died within a week.  Finally the price came down far enough and I found the right bargain: An Xbox Arcade with PacMan CE.

PacMan is awesome, it's totally great, but let's face facts now: The Xbox 360 d-pad is perhaps the worst d-pad ever bundled with a console.  It's no surprise, Microsoft's Sidewinder pads for the PC had rubbish d-pads, and the original Xbox surely didn't make any friends.  This new pad is much better than my last one, which wouldn't even reliably go up or down if you'd pressed the opposite direction first.

Still, you'd think that after about thirty years of d-pads, Microsoft could learn one simple thing about controllers.  To be fair, the rest of the pad is sublime.  It's rock-solid, feels great and has buttons you can find and use happily. 

But the d-pad...  It's just embarassing.

So, I want to make an adaptor to use other controllers with my 360.  I cracked open my wireless pad and was happy to find exactly what I needed: 4 buttons, with a common ground.  Perfect for PacMan!  I didn't want to sacrifice my perfectly fine 360 pad though, so I went hunting for a 3rd party pad.  Well, they don't exist in Australia.  None in any of a dozen shops, and two on ebay, both used.  Well, maybe a wired 1st party pad would be fine.  No luck there, no retail outlet stocks 'em anymore, and besides, they were $60 - a mere $20 off the price of a wireless one.

So I found a wireless one at EB.  After sweet-talking the guy behind the counter, he graciously gave me a ten dollar discount off the already discounted $45 price.  $35 for a used pad was exactly what I was prepared to pay, so I snapped it up.  It was filthy, I was shocked.  At my store we always cleaned our pads before selling them, but EB apparently doesn't have any problems flogging pads so filthy the water in my sink turned brown from the scrubbing I gave it.  No problem though, I'm handy with windex and a toothbrush.  =)

Imagine my disgust when the wired pad turned out to be useless anyway.  The d-pad had no common ground!  Instead, each button had two lines running to I-dunno-where, and none of them were common to each other.  While I could have used this PCB inside a stick dedicated to the cause, it would have required modification of the target controller too.


I returned it to EB, and the guy - possibly the friendliest guy in the whole EB chain - swapped me for a wireless pad at no charge.  And, happily, this wireless pad has a common ground on the d-pad.  Commence modding!

Well, sort of.  Now the question is: Where shall I run the wire from?  There are no convenient places inside:  If it's not where you hands are, it's where there are buttons or batteries or motors or structural supports.  It looks like my only option is a tiny amount of space above the BACK button...  I plan to drill a hole there and run a short cable out of the pad with a DB-15 on the end.


And...  Done!!

IT was a massive pain in the ass, the research took hours while I looked for the best solder points for every button.  After that there was all the scratching to remove the green, then the pre-soldering, the soldering, and throughout it all I had to concentrate on making sure I could still close the damned thing later.  =D

But it worked, first try. 

Now though I'm not so sure the Competition Pro is the right choice, but that's fine.  With a neo connector on there I can use pretty much any of my existing sticks.

Now, the pics!

Here's where i had planned to drill the hole.  It was a MUCH better option than the face, above the BACK button, like I suggested in the first post.  I didn't have a drill or bits, so I just melted my way through with a soldering iron.  I think this was actually the better plan.

You can see here the hole is pretty much complete.  This is the only place on the 360 to put the hole, and it's pretty much perfect.  It doesn't interfere with the battery, and you can't even tell it's there during play.  It's possible that it'll block the play-n-charge unit, but since I don't have one (and batteries are cheap) I don't care too much.

This PCB is really a tiny bit of work.  The traces and all connections are soooo tiny.  And the chip?  No f**king way I was going to try soldering to that thing, the pins were way too small to even imagine success.

Here I've labelled the vias for each connection on the other side.  Since you can't solder to the switch/pad itself (which would ruin the pad if it DID work since the rubber bits wouldn't fit anymore...) I figured this was the best place.

And these are the last of the buttons.  Since these ones all came up through the PCB underneath the chip, there's no way to solder to all the connections on the same side of the PCB.  This complicated things a little.

Here you can see I've scratched away the green, and applied fresh solder to the vias.  It's a bit of secret shame here that I seem to have broken a trace: the pad's A button doesn't work anymore (but the wire connected to the A point above works fine!)

And here I've pre-soldered the points on the other side.  You have to pre-solder them, or you'll go insane trying to solder the wires to these points later.

The wires...  Group 'em tight and glue 'em down!

Routing them next to the analogue stick is really the only option.  All other paths will take it across some area you want to keep clear: screw holes, connectors, d-pad switch pads...  This did cause some trouble with the plastic support surrounding the stick, but it was nothing the sidecutters couldn't cure!

I attached a zap-strap to the cable to keep it from pulling out of the pad and ruining my delicate handiwork...

A dab of hot-glue keeps the wires from pulling off the PCB.  There's another on the top to keep the brown wire from drifting into the screw hole...

Some pointers if you want to try this:

1. One shoulder button is easy to reach (grey wire, last image) but the other is underneath the plastic trigger assembly.  That's why the brown wire goes over the top of the PCB.

2. Soldering to the vias is a PITA.  I wouldn't suggest it if there were any other way.  Practice on something you don't like first.


Just thought I'd throw up a couple of new pics, showing the final product.

Turns out I didn't break the A-button after all, the 15->9 adaptor I was using had a short in the cable, bridging the X and A buttons together.

Also worth noting..  Since the controller's battery operated there is no +5v inside, so you can't use this to drive any fancy-pants controllers like Neo Geo pads, Neo Geo CD sticks (shame, they're awesome!) or anything with lights or an optical mech like ASCII's PS sticks...

But man, playing PacMan with a Competition Pro stick is AWESOME.  I totally aced my previous best score tonight.  =D


Cool, I'll agree the d-pad sucks..........but being the worst? You've never used the D pad on a Dreamcast controller? Or a Gamecube controller?
The Cube controller is my fav controller ever (Very ergonomic) but the D pad was designed for a 2 foot tall elf to use!


The Dreamcast controller was a lubricated dream to use compared to this piece of shit.  It may have been tall and required some time to acclimate yourself to it, but it was always accurate and it worked well.  Compare to the 360 pad: my first one would shift vertically so that pressing up then down wouldn't go down, or down then up wouldn't go up.  It made menus impossibly frustrating to use.  The second one doesn't have this problem, but it's so wobbly and sloppy that it's totally impossible to play PacMan with it.  It's fine enough for games where this kind of accuracy isn't critical, but shit, 25 years of lessons to learn from and they still fucked it up?  Disgraceful.

As for the GameCube pad...  Yeah, it's small, but it WORKS.  I've never had the chance to really use it.  All my games are either analogue-only or support the Hori pad, which is sublime.  The only game I have that uses both the analogue and d-pad is P.N.03, and I never really had a problem launching super attacks with the tiny d-pad.  I'd have to say I don't consider this a failure any more than I'd consider a pair of children's shoes defective 'cause they don't fit my size-14 feet.

My top-5 shittiest d-pads would have to be, in no particular order:

Xbox 360
Genesis (3 button)

Yeah, that's only 4.  =)

Tiido Priimägi

What a nice mod you've done :)

The worst d-pads ever are on PSX (possibly PS2 too I think, not used one). Dreamcast and SNES have ok d-pad, MD 3 buttoner has great d-pad, 6 buttoner great too... I think Saturn has a great d-pad too, will find out soon.
Can't comment on other systems... never used any.
Mida sa loed ? Nagunii aru ei saa ;)


Lovely mod - very professional. I resorted to the rather less elegant solution of gouging out the plastic surrounding the d-pad, which gets in the way of the d-pad moving around. It's still not a great d-pad, but I don't seem to scream at my TV when playing Super Puzzle Fighter any more, so I suppose it did the trick. The first hits on google for "360 d-pad" come up with the fix I'm talking about, in case anyone's interested.

And hey, I liked the DC's d-pad. Much better for playing THPS2 vs. the PSX pad. The Gamecube's d-pad was frustrating to use (not sure if all my first-party pads were just screwed, but none of the d-pads were really usable). I bought a Hori SNES-alike pad to try and resolve the issue, but it felt even nastier - really cheap build, sharp edges, and a stiff, unresponsive d-pad that made me wonder why people recommended it. Cheap third-party pads are hit and miss, I guess.



Quick soldering technique question:

How did you actually manage to pre-solder those spots?  You didn't carry the solder over on the tip of the iron did you? If small of a soldering iron tip do you have!?
If you can mod it... I'll find a way to screw it up!


Quote from: Blaine on August 01, 2008, 03:02:07 PMQuick soldering technique question:

How did you actually manage to pre-solder those spots?  You didn't carry the solder over on the tip of the iron did you? If small of a soldering iron tip do you have!?

Well it wasn't easy!  Soldering to the vias never is.  Here's what I do:

1. Scrape all the green stuff off the via.  Use lots of rapid, light movements, rather than trying to get to the metal in few strokes

2. Heat the via with the iron (not for too long, things go horribly wrong quickly!)

3. add solder.  Rotate the iron, trying to keep the solder in contact with the via.

4. remove, inspect, wipe off the iron repeat as required.

Basically, you can't scrape too far, you can't heat too much, and you can't use too much solder.  The first two will risk lifting the trace from the PCB, the latter will risk getting melted metal where you'd rather not have any.

Tiido Priimägi

people have to learn to love flux (soldering paste)... scrape green off, add a little bit of flux on the spot, touch with well tinned soldering iron for a second, presto, spot tinned, ready for wire to be soldered on it.
Mida sa loed ? Nagunii aru ei saa ;)


Yikes. That's a lot of work to fix something really simple.

The XBox 360 D-Pad is one of my all time favourites, no shit. It's a superb D-Pad, the fault is not with the D-Pad, but the shell that it comes in. Take the pad apart and use a dremel to sand down the rim around the D-Pad til it's about half its original width. You'll be shocked at what this does to the responsiveness and accuracy of this pad. I've done it to my own pads as well as friends', to the tune of about two dozen controllers now. When done properly the pad honestly looks completely unmodded and it works a treat, 2D games, fighters, weapon/spell/item selections, just anything at all that works with these pads is perfect after sanding down the lip retaining around the D-Pad.

Tiido Priimägi

I usually put some piece of paper between the silicon rubber switch things and the pad itself... increases accuracy/responsiveness a lot... sometimes too much...
Mida sa loed ? Nagunii aru ei saa ;)

Ujn Hunter

Awsome mod! Wish I had the confidence to do this myself! I might try and do the Coffee lid mod to my D-Pad tho... hrmm.


Dude, you're frickin' killing me with this.  I've tried modding joysticks to work with the Xbox 360, and they've been varying degrees of disappointing.  Both times, I plucked the Xbox 360 control pads out of the joysticks and used them for other projects (a PC spinner for one, and a Vectrex joystick with the other).

There was another Xbox 360 to Atari adapter I'd heard about online, but it was a lot more complicated and less elegant than this one.  Here's the link:!42F636BDC7C6C2DB/

This guy needed opticouplers, resistors, and a partridge in a pear tree to get his running.  It doesn't look like you needed any of those extra parts, and I'm also going to assume that you only used one ground wire for this mod.  I could never make that work with either of my joysticks...

For future reference, if you're ever looking for a cheap controller that you can use in an Xbox 360 project, one that you could hack to bits without hesitation, I'd recommend the MadCatz classic arcade joypad.  Note that this is the ONLY time I would ever recommend this piece of crap, as using it as it was originally manufactured is a huge mistake.


Quote from: ManekiNeko on September 13, 2008, 06:50:03 PMThere was another Xbox 360 to Atari adapter I'd heard about online, but it was a lot more complicated and less elegant than this one.  Here's the link:!42F636BDC7C6C2DB/

Oh my.

That's a really interesting solution to the multiple-ground issue.  I found it far easier to just use a wireless pad (as I mentioned).

One of the primary goals of my mod was compatibility: I didn't want to have to hack up any pads or sticks to use them with this mod and make them less useful for all my other mods, and I wanted to preserve the functionality of the 360 pad.  That's why I chose the wireless pad over the wired one: common ground made my job a ton easier...  And the mod is so unnoticable that I use it as my main pad.

Sure, I could have put a jack on it like he did, but...  Well, if I was gonna sacrifice a 360 pad I'd just gut it and put the whole PCB in a nice little box.  Around here 360 pads are so expensive ($80!) and new that you never really find 'em cheap enough to just throw 'em away.  If it WORKS you want to KEEP it.  =)

Still, very interesting.  Thanks for the link.

His mod:


Can I use this mod for use with an Arcade contol panel ( JAMMA )?? Thnx!