The Microsoft Xbox was released in 2001. Its hardware consists of, basically, an Intel Celeron
PC with an nVidia graphics chip. It also contains a 10GB hard drive
which is a standard IDE hard drive that a PC uses. It also comes standard with an Ethernet port for
LAN or internet game play. The system is so similar to
a PC that some have actually removed the Xbox software and installed Windows or Linux
(see Neat Tricks). Xbox games are developed using Microsoft's DirectX technology, a protocol that all game developers for PCs
are already familiar with. Games for the Xbox use DVD-ROM media, and the system can also play DVD Videos if
you purchase the DVD remote. The Xbox locks out DVD playback if you do not have the remote receiver plugged in.
To compound all of this, the Xbox controller uses standard USB to interface with the system.
The Xbox controller connector
is very similar to a USB connector.
The standard Xbox controller has two memory unit slots. The memory unit slots and the controller
are recognized as three separate devices connected through a standard USB hub. Most people do not use
memory units, myself included, so they won't be discussed thoroughly here. However, there are some
links that provide information about working with memory units.
The controller has 6 buttons on the right, Back and Start, two triggers on top, a D-pad, and two
analog sticks with clicks. All of the buttons except the D-pad, analog stick clicks, and Back and Start
are pressure-sensitive and will register that way in any game that implements it. There are two versions,
the standard Xbox Controller and the Xbox Controller S, a smaller, immensely more comfortable controller
that was released with the Xbox launch in Japan. It eventually came to America when Microsoft found out
people were importing the Xbox Controller S through import stores like Lik-Sang. New Xbox systems include the Controller S and
it has actually become very difficult to find the unpopular standard controller (outside of, say, eBay).
If you dissect the wiring for a controller, you will see that it has
the four standard wires for USB: White, black, red, and green. The extra yellow wire does absolutely
nothing and is presumably tied to ground for EFI purposes.
The Steel Battalion controller.
The mech simulation game Steel Battalion is an unusual game
for the Xbox because it comes with a very large, 40-button (approx. depending on how you define a button)
controller sometimes referred to as the VTC (Vertical Tank Controller). It still uses USB, and yes, it can be used
on the PC using this driver! Despite the massive possibilities
this controller seems to leave open, it presently is only recognized in Steel Battalion and Steel Battalion Line of
Adapters for PC
As mentioned before, the Xbox controllers already have a USB interface. Therefore, all that
you need is an adapter for the Xbox-shaped socket to plug into a regular USB A port. The
SmartJoy X adapter curiously does not have an Xbox socket; instead, you connect it by unplugging
the breakaway end of the cable, and plugging the round end into the adapter cable. This is not an
option for the DVD remote and some controllers and DDR mats that do not have the breakaway cable.
The Super Joybox 10 and 11 both have the standard Xbox connector.
The SmartJoy X.
The Super Joybox 10 and 11.
The Super Joybox 10 and 11 have two and four ports, respectively. How does it work? They are simply
USB hubs inside, with each port being an Xbox-shaped connector. Mayflash, the manufacturer of these two
adapters, provides their own driver for the Xbox controller,
and it works with any adapter, not just Super Joybox adapters. This driver is quick and easy to set up,
and if you don't need a fancy configuration program it will probably be the best for you.
However, the open-source XBCD driver is much more powerful than
the Mayflash driver, and although the default settings are not ideal, you can change the settings to an almost
infinite number of combinations. One particularly interesting capability of XBCD is that it is able to map two buttons
as sliders with their level based on pressure. This would be useful for a racing game where you would want
pressure-sensitive gas and brake control. There are a few other Xbox controller drivers, most of them discontinued,
on the links page.
The Xbox doesn't do much out of the box; the most interesting feature it has is to rip your CD to .wmv format
for playback on the Xbox. That, DVD movies, and games are all the Xbox does. However with a modchip, there are
many possibilities for the Xbox. Since the Xbox has a standard IDE hard drive, the mod enables larger hard
drives and FTP, and you can use the Xbox as a file server over a LAN. It also lets you copy games to the hard
drive like the Playstation 2's HD Advance for performance and convenience. There are
countless other utilities, which include a media player, a region free DVD player (without the need for a remote),
and countless other homebrew programs. There is also a mod for the Xbox that allows a small LCD display to be
mounted that displays information of your choosing.
Linux can also be installed on the Xbox. Windows has been installed successfully but because the processor is
so slow, it does not perform as well as the PC you probably used to burn the software to format the Xbox. Linux,
however, has proven easy to install, and Xbox-Linux.org has a step-by-step
guide to doing just that.
Emulation on Xbox
Emulation has taken off on the Xbox and works amazingly well. The reason for this is because it is very easy
to port emulator code from the PC to the Xbox. As a result, emulators exist for virtually every system that has
previously been emulated on the PC. Zophar.net has the
emulators that do not use the Xbox SDK, and the others have proven difficult to find on the web. I personally
was shown some compilation called the "Big Ass Emulation Disc" which contained about a dozen emulators and tons
of ROMs. (See the Emulation page for notes about ROMs.) The emulators for SNES and NES seemed
system-perfect including frame rates, and of course they displayed in 480i resolution, not the low-res mode those
systems used. The Xbox is a fine emulating machine, and a good substitute for a PC.