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Motion Controls on the PC: A Quest of Futility

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By Nelson Schneider - 01/12/13 at 06:01 PM CT

Last July, I wrote about the ways FPSes could be adapted to make me actually enjoy playing them. Number 4 on that list – Pointer-Based Aiming – has recently become even more important to me, as the MeltedJoystick crew is planning on jumping into the PC version of “Borderlands” and “Borderlands 2” (once the GotY version of the sequel hits bargain basement prices on Steam). Outside of Chris, the ‘Borderlands’ series is one that none of the MeltedJoystick crew would ever consider playing, especially not for $60. But with cheap prices (like $6 cheap) and a small amount of RPG elements to set it apart from more traditional FPSes like ‘Call of Duty’ and ‘Battlefield,’ even erstwhile MeltedJoystick guest-blogger, Matt, has decided to join the action and fill-out the team of 4. So, now we have the game (the original “Borderlands”), we have the players, we have gaming PCs capable of running an “AAA” game from 2009… What’s missing? Pointer controls.

I know “Borderlands” isn’t available for the Wii and the PlayStation 3 version doesn’t support the Move controller. But the Glorious PC Gaming Master Race ALWAYS runs around the Internet gloating and trolling about how their SUPERIOR gaming platform can do ANYTHING. Surely, then, PC gaming can provide a simple solution to get pointer-based aiming into a 4-year-old FPS?


Thus began my epic quest in search of a pointer-based aiming solution for my gaming PC. Asking in several heavily-trafficked gaming forums met me with the most common response of, “LOL.” I know that the vast majority of the Glorious PC Gaming Master Race are asshats who obsess over hardware power, framerates, and other inconsequential minutia, but how difficult is it to give a simple answer to a simple question?

When the few non-ass members of the Glorious PC Gaming Master Race deigned to actually provide an answer to my question, the universal response was, “Get a Razer Hydra.” The Razer Hydra is a fairly expensive gadget that differentiates itself from typical motion controllers by using neither an IR light nor a gyroscope, but a magnetic field generated by a glowing orb. The price of the Razer Hydra made me balk, as did the wired nature of the device. While future renditions of the Razer Hydra are supposed to be wireless, the current models all require a USB cable to run from the PC to the base station, which then sends wires to the two nunchuck-style halves of the controller… which must never be more than 3 feet away from the base station. My gaming PC sits on a high shelf right next to my TV, which is about 6 feet away from my coffee table, which is about 4 feet away from my gaming chair. Even if the Razer Hydra wasn’t terribly expensive, it just seems like it’s a solution that’s meant not for a Steambox-style living room PC, but a traditional PC where the gamer sits hunched over a desk in front of a 20-some inch monitor. What’s worse, though, is that in a video review posted on, a gentleman by the name of Aaron Steinmetz tried the Razer Hydra with “Borderlands” specifically, and discovered that the controller only works well with a tiny handful of (mostly Valve’s first-party) games that have special profiles pre-programmed into the Razer Hydra’s driver software.

With the Razer Hydra firmly out of the question, I scoured the Internet in pursuit of other controllers that might fit my needs. I came across the Asus Eee Stick… which seems to be discontinued. I learned about Wizard Sticks, the Stix 200, the Stix 400, FriiHand, a Chinese knock-off called the MI-WPC, the SplitFish Dual SFX Evolution, and the MAG II (which actually looks like a light gun). Unfortunately, the one thing that all of these motion controllers for PC have in common – despite their widely varied range of quality – is the fact that they rely entirely on gyroscopic motion sensing instead of IR for their on-screen pointer, much like an air mouse. I have a Gyration Air Mouse for my gaming PC, and I really like it, but without a more gun-like configuration (the “trigger” on my Gyration mouse must be held to activate gyroscopic movement and can’t have a different function mapped to it), it won’t really serve as a good controller substitute (especially without a nunchuck-like device for joystick movement). Furthermore, after playing “The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword,” in which Nintendo replaced the IR pointer mechanics from the Wii version of “The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess” with gyroscope pointer mechanics, I am VERY dubious about any motion controller that relies solely upon gyroscopes. The Wiimote Plus and PlayStation Move both have light-based orientation methods combined with pure gyroscopic methods, and even in these two first-party products, pure gyroscopic controls are barely useable and need to be re-calibrated constantly. I will give the Razer Hydra the benefit of the doubt until I actually get to try one in person, but any other motion controller that doesn’t include some kind of IR recognition would have to be very cheap and praised by a large number of reviewers to catch my interest… None of these fulfilled both of those requirements.

My big question is this: WHY isn’t there a decent, IR-based pointer controller made specifically for the PC? I presume it has something to do with the Glorious PC Gaming Master Race’s disdain for motion controllers in preference of wired gaming mice with too many extra buttons sticking out everywhere. But with the broadly-sweeping fad of motion controls on consoles, with the Wiimote, Move, and Kinect, someone, somewhere SURELY must have come up with a comparable piece of technology for the PC besides the Razer Hydra?! The Wiimote and Move are both standard Bluetooth devices! The Kinect uses a standard USB port! How difficult is it to copy this technology for a supposedly superior platform?! It’s even possible to buy a cheap Wii-style sensor bar that plugs into a standard USB port! There is no reason for motion controls on PC to be this hard to acquire.

With a dedicated solution not called the Razer Hydra out of the question, I decided to look into the last dark corners of PC gaming for a solution: Hacks. Normally, I don’t like messing with hacks until they have been well tested by numerous other guinea pigs… err… people, because homebrew software doesn’t have much in the way of quality control and the entire process relies upon the end user having a broad base of general technological know-how. While I DO have the required base of knowledge, I also like to keep my gaming life simple. If I install a hacked driver on my perfectly-configured Steambox, end up borking Windows somehow, and have to reinstall everything (and re-download ALL of my Steam games at 1.5Mbps), I will not be a happy camper. This kind of jacking around with drivers and troubleshooting is what caused me to flee in disgust from PC gaming into the warm arms of consoles in the first place!

But I really don’t want to play “Borderlands” with right-analog stick aiming and I really, REALLY don’t want to play it with a keyboard and mouse balanced precariously on my lap. Time to roll up the sleeves and get dirty…

The first place I looked for a hackable solution to my pointer-based aiming woes was MotionInJoy, a well known third-party hacked driver that allows the use of PlayStation 3 controllers on Windows. After downloading and installing MotionInJoy on my laptop (where I test EVERYTHING before it goes on my pristine Steambox), I discovered that the driver is an ad-riddled piece of trash that doesn’t support the Move… but for some reason does support the Move Nav controller.

Uninstalled… Time to move on.

The only other solution I was able to find for hacking console motion controllers into playing nice with the PC is a thing called GlovePIE. GlovePIE isn’t so much a driver as it is an Xpadder-style button mapper for the Wiimote and Nunchuck (as well as a ridiculous number of other bizarre controllers… seriously, rowing machines?), written by Carl Kenner (a man of questionable sanity, based on the design of his website). Since the Wiimote is a standard Bluetooth device, it just relies on a user’s PC having a compatible Bluetooth radio. First step: Check. After connecting the Wiimote to a PC via Bluetooth, GlovePIE needs to run a custom script to interpret the data the PC is receiving from the Wiimote…

OH FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! I hate scripting. I am not good at scripting. I can edit scripts to make simple changes if forced, but I really prefer never to have to look at any of this kind of stuff. Fortunately, GlovePIE comes with two premade Wiimote scripts. Surely one of them is perfect?


One of the two included scripts is pure gyroscope and makes the Wiimote behave identically to my Gyration Air Mouse. The other is a simple script that doesn’t use the pointer at all, but turns the Wiimote into a copy of the Stix 200/400 waggle controllers I mentioned earlier, apparently for use with the ‘LEGO’ series of licensed games. After hours of scouring various Wiimote hacking forums and testing numerous garbage scripts, I finally found one that seems to work… But I haven’t tried it in-game yet.

So, in the upcoming weeks, I will be testing the experience of playing a PC FPS using a Wiimote & Nunchuck with GlovePIE. Keep your ears peeled, for you might hear my King Lear style howls of agony should the experience prove to be less than perfect.

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Anonymous MeltedJoystick user


Wrote on 01/20/15 at 06:32 PM CT

I have your solution here.

This is the best fps control using ir I've found!

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View Nelson Schneider's Profile

Nelson Schneider

Wrote on01/24/13 at 10:44 PM CT

Projected? I'm completely genuine!

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View Jonzor's Profile


Wrote on01/20/13 at 04:09 PM CT

I can't deny that I've noted similarities in projected online persona.

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View Nelson Schneider's Profile

Nelson Schneider

Wrote on01/20/13 at 02:21 AM CT

I can't claim Glorious PC Gaming Master Race as my own creation. That was Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw from The Escapist. I like to think of myself as MeltedJoystick's cheap imitation of Yahtzee, except with our taste in games reversed (he loves survival horror and hates RPGs).

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View Jonzor's Profile


Wrote on01/19/13 at 10:58 PM CT

I despised the auto-aim in Dungeon Defenders.

I think a great blog post would be your Top 5 gamer stereotypes. Or Bottom 5, it depends on how you phrase it. You've just got so many fun little names for them all.

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View Nelson Schneider's Profile

Nelson Schneider

Wrote on01/19/13 at 03:04 PM CT

Yes, the juice may not be with the squeeze in this case. But the point so many members of the Glorious PC Gaming Master Race love to force down the throats of the Lesser Mouthbreathing Mongrels you mentioned is that you CAN DO ANYTHING on PC. Mods, hacks, macros: It's all there and it provides a completely customizable experience. If I was playing Borderlands on Xbox 360 or PS3, I wouldn't be worrying about getting motion controls to work with it because those are closed systems.

And your comparison of Dungeon Defenders to a real FPS is way off base. Dundef has hilarious amounts of auto-aim when using a controller. The Huntress doesn't have to do anything besides face a direction where there are enemies and hold down the trigger. Borderlands doesn't have that much auto-aim and, in the small amount of the game I played with Chris on PS3, I found myself constantly overcorrecting with the right stick.

And bear in mind, I'm the "weirdo" who played Torchlight 2 with the right stick controlling my mouse via Xpadder. Really, I just want to get the same experience out of Borderlands that I got out of GoldenEye Wii or Red Steel 2.

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View Jonzor's Profile


Wrote on01/17/13 at 01:24 AM CT

Huh... alright...

Maybe I don't understand the problem, does Borderlands on Steam not run off of an Xbox controller?

In the event that it does... at what point does the juice become not worth the squeeze? I mean, I'd love to drive my car using that technology that reads eye movements to allow people like Stephen Hawking to write e-mails.

But... at some point it's not Toyota's fault and maybe I just need to learn to use the freakin' steering wheel. Twin-stick FPS controls seem to work awfully well for Call of Duty players, despite the fact that SOME people regard them as some sort of idiot, sub-human, mouth-breathing, mongrel race. Those morons can conduct a symphony aiming with the right analog stick... maybe it's not that bad? Wasn't playing Dungeon Defenders as a Huntress pretty similar to an FPS? Aim, move, shoot... it seemed like you managed it. I wouldn't know, the mouse/keyboard controls worked so well I never spend much time with the controller.

Plus, Borderlands is like FPS with training wheels, it's the perfect game to learn on.

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Nelson Schneider

Wrote on01/16/13 at 02:31 AM CT

@Jonzor: Care to elaborate, or are you content to troll and run?

@Nick: I thought about blocking it in my firewall, but then it wouldn't be able to auto-update.

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Wrote on01/16/13 at 12:36 AM CT

I think we may have hit the proverbial molehill-to-mountain threshold.

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View Nick's Profile


Wrote on01/15/13 at 12:09 AM CT

For me, the MotionJoy gampad tool you have to run every time you want to use the controller, does have an ad on the app screen, but nothing more. It is simply a web control in the app that pulls a webpage to show an ad. Not a big deal for me, but I blocked the program in my firewall, no more ads. I'm running the latest non-beta release 0.6.0005. I got it right off the MotionJoy website.

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Nelson Schneider

Wrote on01/14/13 at 01:52 AM CT

@db: I downloaded it from their friggin website! Version 0.7.1000.

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View dbarry_22's Profile


Wrote on01/14/13 at 12:53 AM CT

You must have downloaded motioninjoy from the wrong link, because the one I have installed doesn't give a single ad.

The first link I hit tried to give me a billion ads and crappy malware, but I found a better one.

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View Chris's Profile


Wrote on01/13/13 at 01:38 PM CT

I'm interested to see how this quest of your turns out. I never had an issue just using the basic controller but I can see how your setup with give you a much more intuitive control. I guess we'll find out when we test it in, what, a couple weeks?

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