May 1st I decided I wanted to tackle a big project. I wanted to do something that no one had attempted before and was beyond my current skill set. I had seen numerous inquiries on the forums from people who wanted to know how hard it was to use “X” controller with the Xbox 360. It always boggles my mind how little people know about this stuff and how 90% of the time they simply assume they can just cut the connector off of any cable, twist some wires together and call it a day. I wanted to do something to show everyone that these things were not impossible, nor were they that simple. I eventually decided to build an adapter that would allow me to use a Sega Saturn controller on the Xbox 360.
I chose the Saturn controller because the data protocol seemed simple and straight forward but complex enough that the circuit design would be interesting and challenging. I assumed that the converted output from the circuit would work easily with the Xbox 360 controller without any major problems, that turned out to not be the case.
I started off under the assumption that since the data from the Saturn controller was a simply multiplexed across four channels I could use some demultiplexers and get some good results. I didn’t know much about multiplexers/demultiplexer and as it turns out they don’t work the way I thought they did. So this didn’t work out.
After the false start with the multiplexer I went back to the drawing board and started researching microcontrollers. I had limited experience with microcontrollers in the past but I knew enough that I knew it would work and that I would be able to figure out how to make it work. I eventually decided to go with a Microchip PIC solution using the PICkit2 and its included microcontroller. The first test was successful.
After that I did a simple test to interface the microcontroller output to the Xbox 360 controller using transistors. This test was also a success. I had to actually use the guts of an Xbox 360 controller for communication between the console and the Saturn controller due to Microsoft’s security system. All major peripherals, especially the wireless ones have their communications encrypted and require a special chip sold only from Microsoft. This is also the reason no 3rd party wireless controllers have become available yet.
Once I scaled the transistor solution across all of the buttons I soon learned that the transistors would not work as anticipated. while my prior test had seemed to work, it had some side effects that were not immediately apparent.
I rebuild the whole section of the circuit between the controller and the microcontroller and I ran a ribbon cable from the controller to the bread board just for my own piece of mind. This actually worked great but I was having the occasional voltage problems since the circuit was so large and drawing so much power. The power issues were worked out by simply adding more batteries.
This ended up being the final version of the adapter. There were a few loose ends that I never tied up but I had met the goals that I had set out to achieve. I showed that controller adapters were possible albeit not easy either.
To my Surprise this project caught the attention of A LOT of gaming news organizations. The one I am most proud of however is an interview I had with Official Xbox Magazine in the UK. I got two whole pages dedicated to the interview and pictures as well as a teaser blurb on the front cover and main index. It has since been reposed on CVG sans pictures.
Here is a link list of all the other websites that covered it:
- Team Xbox
- Planet Xbox 360
- IGN Boards
- 360 Insider
- PC Fastlane
- Digiplay Initiative
- Giga beat
If you know of other news sites or corners of the web that ran an article or had some comments on it, let me know.
If you’re interested in the more technical side of the project the project log can be found on the Xbox-Scene forums. There is also a wrap-up post with all the important bits in one place. Another interesting bit is a fellow by the name of SaturnAR posted with some in-depth information on the Saturn analog controller which is well worth reading and he remains the only source of this info that I’ve ever seen.