There are some amazing, free rhythm games available online, and we’ve covered the best of them. JamLegend can be played from your browser, with impressive functionality, and Frets on Fire is a multi-OS desktop variant.
But however great these games are, it’s easy to get cramped when you’re using your keyboard (even if you hold it like an actual guitar, as suggested by both games).
However, it’s easy to use your Guitar Hero Playstation 2 or 3 Guitar Hero controllers on your PC – and it’s a lot cheaper! Read on for the full tutorial.
For PS2 Controllers
You might have noticed there’s no way to insert a PlayStation 2 controller into your PC. This is easily solved by buying a PlayStation 2 to USB converter. This little piece of hardware is easy to find both on eBay and in your local hardware store.
For only a couple of dollars, it’s a far better alternative than buying a new (USB) Guitar Hero controller – which often retails for around $50.
On Your Windows PC
For Windows, we’re going to use a little application called Xpadder. The current release isn’t available for free, but you can find a two year old version on FileForum that fits our needs. It’s an archive that unzips on your desktop.
If you’re on Windows 7, the application will draw a blank. To fix this, right-click on the unzipped Xpadder.exe, go to Properties -> Compatibility, and tick off the Compatibility mode checkbox for Windows XP or Windows Vista.
On your first launch, Xpadder will ask you from which directory you want to run the application and where to save the files. There’s no explicit reason for not running it off your desktop, but you can do here as you please.
xPadder will take a while to start up and detect third-party controllers. When it’s done, click on the tiny controller icon in the top left corner, and select New. If any of the following steps don’t work, select a different square (controller) in the top ribbon, and try again.
In the Controller Settings, open the Buttons tab. You can now press those colored buttons on your Guitar Hero one at a time, and they will show on the screen. Notice that the button names and order are probably messed up. Drag and drop the buttons in the right order, and rename them. This will make the rest of the process a lot easier.
Switch to the DPad tab, and tick off the ‘enabled‘ checkbox. When the application prompts you to press the up and down buttons, respectively strum up and down. Click cancel if it prompts you for left and right.
Go to the Finish tab, and press close. The above specified buttons will remain visible. You can click either of these, and select the corresponding key from an on-screen keyboard. You’ll want to use the default keys in JamLegend and Frets on Fire. You’re probably safe by using the same combination as me below; numbered keys do not require shift.
Again, press on the little top left controller and save as a file on your desktop. You’ll need to open this configurations file whenever you want to use your Guitar Hero controller. Enjoy!
On Your Mac
ControllerMate is a similar, but more advanced application for Mac OS X. The free version is limited to 10 simultaneous action/output building blocks, but we’re only going to need 7 of them. It’ll also deactivate if you keep it in the background for more than 20 minutes, but if you open the screen every 2 or 3 songs, you’ll be fine.
If you’re going to use a PS3 controller, you’ll also need to install Ps3Controller.
With your Guitar Hero controller plugged in, fire up the application. You’ll be able to find it in the Palette window, as a USB controller. If you press the colored buttons on your controller, you’ll be able to see the corresponding virtual buttons light up on your screen. Open a new ‘page’ from the left hand side pane, and drag the buttons into it. You’ll need to order and possibly rename them yourself.
Switch the palette window to Outputs, and drag Keystrokes onto the page, one for each button. For each one, select it and press ‘start recording‘. Press the correct key on your keyboard that needs to be linked with the button, and press ‘stop recording‘. Now drag the lower, light-grey button to the right hand field, ‘When turned OFF’.
Change the Palette to Calculations, and find the Value Selector. Drag it in between the Y-Axis button (strum) and the corresponding keypress.
There are three important values associated with your strum – neutral, up and down. You can read each one off the button on your screen. In my case neutral is 127, and up and down are 0 and 255. Select the values you see on your screen in the inspector.
Now drag a relationship between each button and keypress, by dragging the green tabs on top of each other. With your Y-Axis, drag the input on the Value Selector, and the Value Selector output on the keypress.
All that’s left to do is ticking off ‘Master Enable‘ and the correct page at the left hand side of the screen, and you’re good to go.
Don’t forget to check back at least every 20 minutes, or your page will become inactive. It’s only a slight bother if it enables you to use your Guitar Hero controller.
Any other (controller) tips for JamLegend or Frets on Fire gamers? Let us know you own tips and experiences in the comments below!