Functional Pipboy controller for Fallout

Plan on turning a controller into a Pipboy for Fallout. The Pipboy would be fully functional for a player.

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Project concept:
The concept is as simple as I can make it: Take two controllers, splice them together and make one look like a Pipboy.
The generic look is pictured above.

By my count a Pipboy NEEDS the following:
Left & right triggers Scroll between the Stats / Items / Data menus
up & down (control pad/cross) scroll up & down the lists of the Stats / Items / Data
left & right (control pad/cross) scroll across the bottom trees associated w/ the 3 lighted Pipboy buttons
A, X, Y buttons ARE needed

B activates & deactivates Pipboy (menu button)
RB hot key (Mapping weapons to cross pad)
Right stick for scrolling around map in fast travel mode

My step-by-step (initial) plan is:

Buy 2 (likely 4 w/murphy's law) corded x-box controllers for use with my PC. Tear one open to get at the lovely electrical innards in true wasteland fashion. Label & mark EVERYTHING so I know which wire goes to which button, etc.

Take careful measurements of my arm & the amount of room I'll need to accommodate both my arm in the bracer and the technical doohickies & gizmos that make the controller work.

Using the above measurements plan out a bracer for my arm then plan out overall button & switch placement. Find or construct the bracer & the bottom box that will be the core of the new Pipboy. Section off the areas that will accommodate the buttons/sticks that are being used for the Pipboy.

Mark all areas according to their use. "This area is corresponds to the left/right triggers & the 5 point switch on the Pipboy"

Take already labeled parts out of their original controller & fit them into place within the Pipboy box. Carefully insure they all fit correctly. Sketch out or create stencil for proper placement of all buttons & switches for the top/surface of the Pipboy.

Create the surface of the Pipboy & fit into place.

Fire up the controller & verify all buttons/triggers/sticks work as is.

Take apart Pipboy & paint the shell.

Reassemble Pipboy including painted top, fire it up again & re-chk.

Remove top of Pipboy & connect "Pipboy Troller" to actual handheld controller that will be used to PLAY Fallout 4.

This is where things get sketchy

Do I physically WIRE the controllers together so that xyab on the Pip-troller are physically wired to xyab on the Play-troller? This seems the simplest option for me since I'm not a programmer & don't know how to make a wireless controller be read as the same input device to my PC as the Play-troller I'm using. If I go the wired route, however, how do I handle it?

Do I make a whole new cable with shrink wrap to connect the wires of each individual button from the Pip-troller to the corresponding buttons of the Play-troller? Literally making an old school electrical circuit?

Or do I try to create a splice between the two cables from each controller?

If I do go for the splice, how do I do that? Chop up another X-Box cord so I have the plugs it utilizes and simply solder the Pip-troller cord with a 1 foot cord length & at the end of it a new protection plug (think OEM plugs in a wiring harness) then add 1 new protection plug on the Play-troller cord so that the Play-troller has its own cord but now there is a place to plug the Pip-troller into the same cord, potentially making it line up within the cord itself, & not having to go button to button (which protects from wires getting pulled out by accident).

Possible solution is that 2 wireless controllers CAN be made to read as the SAME controller to a PC. I wouldn't know how to do this but I'd prefer it, even at the cost of more rechargeable batteries. Especially since I could make the "Rad meter" of the Pip-troller be the battery gauge. Could they be made to read as identical input at the wi-fi chip level on the PC? Maybe an app-like program that camouflages the two signals as one signal in between myself & the game? I'm not sure.

Suggestions I've received so far:

Buy an older model phone so that I still have the screen on the Pipboy & just leave a place for the phone in the Pipboy.

  • *UPDATE* 10/08/15 or 08/10/15

    Karl10/09/2015 at 01:22 0 comments

    We've decided on the direction we're taking: we're going to use

    clay to create a new Pipboy model, cutting it and crafting it into

    shape. Then we'll use that to create a mold and then we can produce

    multiple Pipboys accordingly, with the electrical being done by hand

    afterwards. The top "box" of the Pipbody, the electronics area, etc,

    will all be separate than the arm bracer and will attach via a universal

    plate for the arm bracer, allowing for universal "boxes" AND

    accommodate different thickness arms. The arms will be done separate but

    will, once again, be prettied up and designed to look the same while

    being different sized for different people.

    We'll be flipping the controls on the Pipboy around for Right handers

    (in research and in practice the Pipboy in game is actually a left

    handed Pipboy so it is mounted on the wrong arm, per the Dev's

    themselves) and adding a new 3 position switch between the geiger

    counter and the knob which will account for the left and right shoulder

    buttons which swap between STATS/ITEMS/DATA and the corresponding

    backlit buttons will now be the X, Y, A buttons that are used by the

    player to equip/use/select, drop, and repair while inside the menus.

    See new pic below

  • 09/25/15 or 25/09/15

    Karl09/25/2015 at 18:43 0 comments

    Found an epic little old man who just became a new

    neighbor of mine do to city construction. He lived in the world pre-3D

    printing where he did all the fabricating for plants, hotwheels cars,

    and board games by hand. Just an old engineer who seems to have

    specialized in creating things for different uses, tools, toys, signs,

    and the like. He gave the suggestion that I try a heat gun and plastic,

    then bend the plastic into position. I'll be showing him the pipboy

    spec's once he returns from his vacation and he'll likely have a good

    deal more input on the fabrication.

  • 08/24/15 or 24/08/15

    Karl08/25/2015 at 00:36 1 comment

    Still no solid decision made for the Pipboy facade yet, though we have some home-made Nerf-in-a-can stuff from a local plastics store. Any feedback is appreciated but atm nothing to report but we have decided that:

    We want the "computer" component to be seperate and detachable from the wrist.

  • 08/01/15 or 01/08/15 update

    Karl08/02/2015 at 01:35 2 comments

    Having puzzled around at a cheap, non 3D printed way to make the Pipboy shell/facade/case I have come to a conclusion:

    I have no idea how to begin that part of the project. I have therefor contacted "Momma", or "She who can draw, ink, color, paint, etch, pot-tery, carve, mold, fire, sew, leatherwork and God only knows what else" for a hint at just which direction I need to go to take this project to its real world level. She was intrigued by the idea of building a "wrist mounted computer" ( a first for her but she used to read and draw comics as a child including Fantastic Four so sci-fi is not a problem) and agreed to take a look at the pictures she could find with Google and to hit me up with either suggestions or (hopefully) just agree to help ( 90-10%) make the Pipboy facade by hand. Very likely her son, an avid comic fan, aspiring artist, and Fallout 3 fan will happily help his mom find pictures and explain to her how it works, even potentially showing her the game.

    Meantime, back at my house and in my corner of the web, if anyone has any suggestions on how to make the Pipboy facade/shell/exterior that doesn't involve 3D printing let me know

    Materials, colors, paints, whatever, just drop a comment below. I need to make this thing rugged enough for real world wearing and playing so I'm open to suggestions.

  • UPDATE 07/28/15 or 28/07/15

    Karl07/28/2015 at 18:01 0 comments

    Delayed Forums response is due to a failure for the pics to develop (or get sent to me). Also, coming down with something and had to troubleshoot some problems not associated with Pipboy project.

    Here I am with the new MicroSoft authorized GameStop controller cracked open, upside down so the buttons don't fall out.

    Here's the next step:

    The rumble packs are both sitting off to the side, the only things with wires in the controller. What you see there is my incredibly sexy assistant (part time Lingerie model) Buffy holding the two wires against the RIGHT arrow of the crosspad's connection.

    Each of the connection areas for the d-pad / control cross as well as the x,y,a,b buttons are all composed of those silver circles split in half down the middle. When the “button” is pressed in, it closing the contact between the two and while the connection is split on the circuit board the button connection doesn't appear to be split.

    Unfortunately the circuit board is replete with circuitry which I must not damage or short when I solder these wires to their respective button connection sites. I must find a way to hold the wire to the board or within the controller so that there is no stress or tension that tugs at the soldered connection while at the same time putting together some sort of safety so that if the controller get's dropped away from the Pipboy the wiring doesn't take the tension or shock.

    My idea here is to wrap all the wiring with a cord of shorter length so that the outer cord, just like with store bought electronics, absorbs the shock and tension, leaving the wire inside uninjured. Also, I think having a breakaway connector would be wise as well, so that the controller can be used without the Pipboy attached and so that the Pipboy can be worn (cosplay) without the controller dragging along. This breakaway connection would potentially solve both problems by insuring that a dropped controller doesn't tear out the soldering and allows for cosplay. Not that I cosplay. But who knows? IF I build this maybe some more working parts and voila, costume.

  • Noon Pacific 7/21/15 or 21/07/15 update

    Karl07/21/2015 at 19:41 0 comments

    7/21/15 update
    Purchased a soldering kit (this will be my second time

    ever holding a hot soldering iron so... w00t w00t) 4 buttons, 2 feet of

    8(?) strand copper wire and a Gamestop "authorized" Xbox 360 controller.

    My intention for today is to solder the wires to the new buttons. I will

    open the controller, bottom up, and stabilize it,then plug it into comp

    in place of current troller.

    Once done with that I'll press the

    wires from new buttons to the circruit board and attempt to utilize the

    new button, one at a time, to mimic the actual controller buttons


    Since I'm a complete noob to soldering it would be the height of stupidity or arrogance to

    assume I could solder to a working motherboard first time out. Soldering

    to the buttons is no sweat as it's two separate pins of metal far

    enough apart I can work and flub up as much as I need to learn finer

    soldering points. Also, by just finger pressing the wire to the circuit

    board I'm not damaging the board in anyway so if I decide I don't like

    these buttons, or need to change this, that or the other thing, I can.

    If this works I've already found some old 1950's tech pieces to complete

    the look of the switches and dials on the Pipboy's face, but

    transforming those into rocker switch input should be difficult enough.

    I'll chk back for replies before I begin soldering later on, maybe 2 hours or so. If you've got soldering tips, do it now :)

  • 07/16/15 or 16/07/15 update

    Karl07/17/2015 at 04:07 0 comments


    update on arduino vs raspberry vs just wires: the guy (at the electronics store) thinks the simplest way (not involving any programming) would be to simply wire two controllers together. He'd rather run with the arduino if I'm not also building a screen (using a cell phone). The raspberry would be if I wanted the full experience because then I can get a raspberry tiny screen and fit that into the pipboy.

    Okay, so as I sat there thinking this over I realized a couple things: a lot of folks are pushing for a more thinking machine for their suggestions whereas I last programmed using BASIC on an Apple IIe 20+ years ago. Tad rusty with software manipulation.

    Also more electricity = more power sapped = more heat generated

    If I have to run a battery pack for the Pip-troller in any way shape or form I don't want it to go dry immediately. One of the comments that stuck with me from other Pip-boy builds (these were all costume purpose only) was “I hooked it up to play the GNR soundtrack but it sucked the battery dry in an (hour?) so I ended up walking around with this heavy dead weight on my arm all day.”

    If I put a speaker/phone in this for the screen and music, I don't want that same issue.

    For this reason, unless someone can come up with a much greater reason to start pulling out the Arduino 2560 or a Raspberry (especially since I'd have to re-learn programming) I'm probably leaning to a hack job that links the buttons and dials of the pip-troller to the play-troller.

    Functionally this is no different a concept than the NES Powerglove of yesteryear, a much maligned and stupidly executed peripheral by all accounts.

    The thing that keeps stumping me for a direct-wiring hack is how to wire the thumbsticks. If I can wire one, I can wire both, and, unfortunately, I MUST wire one. The left stick is paramount to menu operation.

    Main problem for wiring:

    Any ideas on emulating/hacking the thumbstick wiring?

    Main problem for arduino/rasberry:

    Any volunteers to program these?



    In reviewing the requirements and double checking all inputs on the menus in-game I do NOT need to re-create EITHER thumbstick! I can begin this project tomorrow. I'll see if I can find some cheap controllers and start tearing them apart.

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davedarko wrote 07/12/2015 at 14:03 point

"Do I physically WIRE the controllers together so that xyab on the Pip-troller are physically wired to xyab on the Play-troller?" - sounds about right. If you don't want to go the extra mile and work with a teensy ( you should count your inputs and look for a gamepad or joystick with the same amount and wire each "button" to a new one with your function. Adding wires to a bought gamepad pcb can be tricky though. There are many "ifs" in your project, that I hope to see to be solved in project logs ;) Buttons cost nothing, so grab a 5 bugs gamepad and some switches and try it out first, before you buy expensive stuff you might not need.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Karl wrote 07/09/2015 at 21:26 point

Comments, suggestions, links to things that will help greatly needed.

This is a first time project.

  Are you sure? yes | no

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