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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Using Game Controllers with Java

In the past, I've covered using mice as input devices, and covered the general input mechanism of Listeners. I've also discussed keyboard input for console applications, and I'll soon be covering Key Bindings as a way of using the keyboard in GUI applications.

But there's no facility in Java itself that deals with game pads easily. To date, it's been necessary to create your own ActionListeners from scratch. But not any more. Thanks to the JInput project, there's an easier way to hook up game controllers to your software.

JInput attempts to do discovery on your game controller, to figure out what its setting are, what buttons and controls it has, what the center positions are of analog sticks, and so on. All that messy stuff that makes rolling your own so darn painful. It's not 100% universal, but for most controllers and most games, it will do the job admirably. If you want better for a specific controller of your own, you can extend the classes to handle your stick (and maybe feed that information back to the JInput team so that they can decide whether to include it in future releases.

It's multi-platform, Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. So it doesn't have the limitations of a lot of the other gamepad code implementations that use native code, thus limiting themselves to one platform (usually Windows.)

If you want to see an implementation using JInput, check out Greenfoot with Gamepads. It's a good, clear example of using JInput in a general fashion.