KeyBall Controller

       

Features:

  • Trackball mouse (800 DPI) for natural looking and quick precision aiming.
  • Thumb keyboard for quick messages to teammates.
  • Enough buttons to work on even the most complex PC game control schemes.
  • The triggers use mouse switches for that authentic mouse clicking experience. But with triggers! The best of both worlds. It feels awesome.
  • Extra USB port that can be used for USB headphones, a flash drive, or whatever.
  • Plug and play with no crazy software to deal with.

This is a PC game controller I built. It is plug and play through USB, and requires no external software. It works with any PC game out there that uses a mouse and keyboard control setup. This is because it IS a keyboard and mouse. Inside is a USB thumb keyboard, buttons wired to an actual USB keyboard circuit, and a trackball mouse, all going to a USB hub with one USB cable going out to plug in and connect everything.

 

This is the button layout. It’s a basic PC control scheme. All the keys used in PC games are easily accessible buttons now.

Something I never understood is why modern controllers never use any of the lower fingers. I had an old USB ThrustMaster controller that was laid out like a PS2 controller. But it had extra buttons on the bottom of the controller for your middle/ring finger to use. And I loved it! But I haven’t seen one like it since. More buttons on the bottom mean less moving around of the other fingers.  In an FPS you typically have to move the thumb from the aiming analog to the jump/crouch/melee button, then back to aiming. But with buttons on the bottom I can just tap a button with my middle finger and never have to move my aiming thumb or my trigger finger. It just makes sense. That’s why there are 4 buttons on the bottom. In an FPS they would typically be shift=sprint, ctrl=melee/kick, space=jump, C=crouch. And all those can be done without moving any other finger. It makes a heckuva difference during a frantic shoot-out.

The mouse triggers are switched from the normal left/right to right/left to keep it concurrent with the shooter layout of Xbox and 360 games. Whereas the left mouse button on PC is always shoot, the right trigger on 360 is always shoot. It works out nicely.

The orange and blue buttons are locking push on/push off switches. These connect to the thumb keyboard and when pushed in keep the top row switched to either number keys 1-12 or F1-F12. I also have the small delete button on the bottom because the thumb keyboard does not have it. It could have been left out, but in case the computer were to lock up on a game you can still do the good ol’ Ctrl+Alt+Del.

I’m sure lots of PC gamers have thought of this idea before. And there are already a couple controllers out there with trackballs. The iGuGu GameCore controller, and the AlphaGrip both have trackballs. But if you take a look at these controllers there are very obvious design flaws. The trackballs are too small, and there are either too many buttons (AlphaGrip), or not enough (GameCore).

There are PC controllers out that have a full thumb keyboard built in such as the Cideko Air Keyboard Conqueror. But they only have analog sticks, and are still lacking enough buttons for many games control layouts.

Analog stick controllers like the 360 controller work okay for 3rd person and racing games on PC. But when it comes to FPS games, a mouse and keyboard has it beat. I mainly play FPS games, of which many don’t fully support a gamepad anyways. To work around this I would use JoyToKey to emulate the joystick as a mouse and set the buttons as keyboard buttons. But that setup barely works. Some analog stick gamepads come with their own mouse emulation software that works decent, but analog sticks always lack the magic and speed of a mouse.

It’s usefulness really shines when you hook up your PC to the large flat screen in the living room. You can relax on the couch and still surf the net or game out without having a clunky mouse and keyboard falling off your lap. It would also be great for use with a gaming laptop, if I had one.

I noticed halfway through building that the controller had a resemblance.

Alright, onto….

THE BUILD

Parts used:

  • Logitech Trackman Wheel USB Trackball
  • Sony PSX gamepad
  • Xbox “Duke” controller
  • USB Logitech keyboard
  • Targus 4-port USB hub
  • PlayStation 2 USB DreamGear MiniKey keyboard

Case work.

      

Starting off, I dremeled up a PSX pad, trackball housing, and the chatpad into individual pieces, then cut out matching holes in the Xbox controller. Then all the pieces were superglued in place. The superglue really just holds it in place before I fill in the gaps, similar to how in metal welding you tac-weld a piece in place then go for the full weld. I used plumbers epoxy to fill in all the gaps and rough-sanded it smooth. Anytime you use this putty be sure to put more than you need and overlap meeting areas or there will be an edge gap. Then for finishing I covered the entire sanded areas with Bondo spot putty. Then it was all fine-sanded down and ready for primer. You can see primer on the edges already, that is because I changed the design several times while building and had to sand it off and then add in pieces.

The piece that holds the trackball in had to be made from epoxy putty. It was very difficult to get it to hold the ball in and also let it pop out, but after some tedious sanding it ended up right.

I also had to make a cover where the memory cards used to go. For this I cut a piece of plexiglass and heated it in the oven until it was soft. Then, wearing gloves, I held it in place on the case until it took the shape of the curve I needed. Then I cut out the shape, and with some sanding of the edges it fit perfectly.

Painting.

   

First coat was primer. It took a few coats and some sanding before it was smooth enough to paint. Then color paint went on. The back was painted Rust-Oleum textured black. This paint is tough for a spray can paint. I am going to use it on everything from now on. It went on easy and only took a few coats. The front was another story. I decided to use metallic gun metal grey paint. It took quite a few coats before it looked right. Stuff kept showing through despite the primer. A coat of black primer before the color probably would have saved me some time. After a few coats of paint the button holes got too thick for the buttons to move smoothly so those had to be sanded out. Ugh. At one point it flipped over and stuck to the box I was painting it on, and when I took it off a good 1″ circle of paint came off all the way to the primer. Finally got it right though. Then a couple coats of clear went on. Let that dry for a day and then polished it up with a rag and toothpaste (since I had no polish on hand).

Then I had to paint the buttons. Next time I am not using a Sony brand PSX pad because the X,O, Triangle, Square symbols are molded into the buttons and always showed through the paint, so it took a lot of primer and paint for them to disappear. Off brand controllers just have the symbols painted on and they sand off easy, giving a nice paintable surface with no show-through,  and no need for primer.

Wiring.

  

After tracing the paths of the keys on the keyboard plastic sheet thing, I wired all buttons to the keyboard USB circuit. For the D-pad, top face buttons, and the 4 buttons below the triggers I used the original boards and just wired to the traces. For the bumper buttons above the triggers I used rubber dome board mount tact switches that I found on ebay. For the triggers I used the original mouse switches. Then I wired in the locking orange/blue buttons to the PlayStation 2 thumb board. I had to be careful not to let solder or flux go through the board to the metal capsule buttons on the other side or they wouldn’t move.

Then I wired all the mouse connections. Next the USB thumb keyboard, USB mouse, and USB port were all wired to the USB hub. Finally, everything was hot glued in place.

Final Thoughts

I love this thing! It makes playing games so much more of a console experience without sacrificing the better control PC has to offer. I absolutely love that I can lean back and relax while playing instead of leaning forward or hunching to get to the mouse and keyboard.

The only gripes I have with it are,

  • Tilted D-pad. Not a great idea. Seemed like it, but it’s not.
  • Sony’s D-pad HURTS your thumb after 4 hours of holding it down. Something less pointy and lighter to push would be better.
  • Trackball is not sensitive enough. 800 DPI is just too outdated. You have to max the sensitivity in some games for it to work right.
  • The Dreamgear thumb board thing is not all that great for texting messages. It’s just hard to read or something.
  • The Krylon paint I used on some of the buttons started chipping. Not tough at all. From now on I am only using Rust-Oleum.
  • On some games I find I could use just a couple more buttons for mapping to ammo type switching, that kind of thing. I could use the thumb board, but a few more easy to hit buttons would be nice.
  • The switched mouse triggers work for most games, but occasionally there is one that uses left and right mouse buttons to act as each arm in a game. Games with dual-welding of guns are a good example. With them switched it gets confusing at times. A switch to revert them to normal would solve this problem.

Other than those minor things it has been a solid controller for months with no problems. I’ve beat about 5 games with it, and enjoyed it all the way through.

  1. xaGe
    September 11, 2014 at 5:49 am

    I can’t believe there are NO comments on this! Awesome work.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: