Outside of my regular Dad duties, I still try to make some time to catch up with friends and game together online. One of my controllers was starting to get quite tatty, so I thought about picking up a new one. I don't know about you, but my default reaction is to head to Amazon for a replacement. The Sony or Microsoft controllers can set you back quite a bit, especially if you get one that has been branded with the latest big title.
Fret not, if you want to give you controller a new lease of life or just create something a little customised then here is a quick guide on how to without forking out big bucks. There was an article recently on modding a controller for small hands, this guide will be mode generic tips
Before you start, it is worth grabbing a camera and taking plenty of photos as you go through this process. It will help if you get stuck putting it back together (not that you should struggle).
To start with, you need to decide what parts you would like to replace, and what sort of colour scheme you would like to go for. The choice out there is huge so you can get something that is really what you want. I went with a chrome controller and lime green triggers, bumpers etc. The next think you need a is a relatively rare screwdriver to undo the screws on the back of the controller. For the xbox 360, you will need the T8 torex security screwdriver. Amazon and ebay have them aplenty, but the chances are that you won't find it is a standard screwdriver set.
So, all set. There are seven screws on the back of the controller that you need to undo; one of which was discretely hidden under a paper label in the battery compartment. With the controller face down, the back of the controller will pop neatly off.
The main circuit board, along with the two rumble packs will be visible. You can lift the main circuit board out, taking with it the rumble packs and the two thumb sticks. With this out, you are left with the shell and a few buttons held in place by a rubber pad. I transferred the a, b, x and y buttons to my chrome front shell (I think the colour helps me identify them, but you bullet buttons seem quite popular), added the chrome back and start buttons, kept the original Xbox on button (the replacement green version didn't have the Xbox 'x' on, and added the green dpad (there are two screws and a click fixing to undo), before putting the rubber pad in place. Great – should all be really straight forward.
Next, replace the two thumbsticks on the main circuit board. These popped off with a little pressure. Replacing the bumper buttons was also dead easy. The left and right triggers were a little more tricky to remove and replace. These are spring loaded, and attached to an internal arm on the main board which fitted very snugly (this bit probably requires an adult). You need to make sure that you have the spring in the right place and that it clips back in place properly.
Then it was simply a case of putting the circuit board back in the front shell along with the two rumble packs, adding the bumper buttons and lower insert, and then you can add the chrome back to the controller and put the screws back. JOB DONE! Well... the moment of truth came when it tried to power the controller.... started first time - ACE! This controller looks top notch, I have not seen another one like it, and I made it myself without forking out for a brand new replacement. It even recycling!
Apart from looking wicked, anything else to note? Well, it turns out that chrome is a fingerprint magnet so does require an occasional rub down to keep it looking tip top. Comparing to my existing controller, the cut of the shell component is not as smooth as an official controller. It is hardly noticeable and after a while you cannot notice, but you can tell when you look closely. I think this is a perfectly good trade off for a good value original accessory. Also, the first time I played with the controller, the right trigger got stuck and did not spring back fast enough. To sort this I had to dismantle the controller again to see what was causing the problem. The problem was one of the new triggers was suffering from friction where it attached to the internal trigger arm. I sorted this by removing about 1mm from the part of the trigger that connects to the arm - sorted.
So is this controller as well made as a Microsoft one, probably not, but gets about 90% the way there. It has definitely made a perfectly decent controller, updated my old parts that were severely warn, and saved shelling out for a new controller. Did I mention that it looks awesome? It does and it is nice knowing that no one else can buy the same controller, any only a small minority of people will ever get around to modding a controller in this way. Join the gang!
I would definitely recommend other gamers to have a go at this. It is always good fun to take things apart and worth having a go choosing your own design for a controller and building it. It is pretty good value for money too! There were parts that were quite tricky when putting it all back together, but it very satisfying switching it on for the first time. You could even think of this as recycling and upgrading, rather than wasting on buying brand new when you can mend and make do with what you have.
Would you consider having a go coming up with your own design? Maybe you already have a custom controller - show us yours in the comments.
Photos by Anthony James