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X-arcade Review - Warning! (slightly On-topic)

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#1 Fredas


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Posted 29 December 2002 - 11:40 AM

With the advent of the recent posting of a review of the X-Arcade joystick to www.xbox-scene.com, I feel the
need to reiterate my own experience with the joystick and the company which sells it.

Several months ago, my brother and I paid for two X-Arcade units (the dual-joystick variety, because there was
no alternate model available), plus, as part of a package deal, converters for all the consoles, including of
course the Xbox. The joysticks with the Xbox converters arrived. We hooked one up and immediately fired up
Samurai Shodown 2 under MameX.

Immediately, I noticed something was wrong. I quickly identified the problem: lag. The joystick was literally
introducing noticable lag. It felt like playing Quake 3 on a laggy server, except that the lag was solid, at
what I estimated at the time to be roughly 100ms. That sort of delay between pressing "slice" on the joystick
and the character responding on-screen is sufficient to thoroughly ruin the gaming experience.

The lag is not apparent when using just a joypad, such as the "S" controller.

Not willing to panic just yet, we first hypothesized that perhaps MameX had some sort of incompatibility with
the joystick, or perhaps the modchip was somehow responsible (yes, go ahead and groan). So we acquired a non-
modded Xbox from a friend, stuck in his recently acquired Marvel vs. Capcom 2, and tried it out. As was
pessimistically expected, the results were exactly the same. Lag with the X-Arcade, no lag with a joypad, and
no lag with a cheap joystick purchased from CompUSA, although said cheap joystick was a piece of crap that
could barely handle diagonals at all. We also took this opportunity to test the other X-Arcade joystick on our
friend's Xbox, on the theory that perhaps the first X-Arcade was faulty, but the results were again identical.

It was time to email the X-Arcade people and find out what could be done about the problem. While we were at
it, since it had been about a week and we hadn't seen any sign of the rest of the converters for the joysticks,
we placed a query about those as well.

A long span of time went by with no response. More email was sent. Eventually, after I had recently taken it
upon myself to make a post to Usenet on the subject, we got a reply from the X-Arcade people. They pointedly
did not mention the conspicuously missing converters, and instead cut to the chase: They wanted to know if we
had used the X-Arcade on a modded Xbox.

What does this tell everyone? Here is what it tells me: They were looking for a convenient way out of their
mess, and figured (half-correctly) that anyone buying an X-Arcade with the Xbox converter was probably doing so
for MameX, seeing as how artwork featuring classic arcade games is plastered all over the X-Arcade boxes. How
nice and convenient for them. Unfortunately, in our case, it does not wash, because we purchased TWO X-Arcade
units, and one of them only saw very brief use on a non-modified Xbox, and yet it exhibited the same lag.

More time went by. Most of the remainder of the converters we had ordered eventually did arrive, some two and
a half months late. Not all of them. We finally took the time to videotape footage of the X-Arcade being used,
with the on-screen game displayed in the background, along with the same deal with a regular joypad (mostly just
the player pressing one button at a time in a shoot-em-up game), and analyzed the footage frame-by-frame on the
PC. As near as we can figure, the lag introduced by the X-Arcade, vs. a joypad, is closer to 150ms.

The X-Arcade seems to utilize a serial cable (and associated internal hardware) for interfacing with its various
compatible gaming platforms. It may not be common knowledge, but a serial interface is, in fact, a poor choice
if you want a tight response from whatever the platform is interfacing with. My brother and I suspect that this
choice of interface is the primary culprit behind the lag being introduced.

In closing, I must state the obvious: In its current incarnation, the X-Arcade is not worth ten bucks, unless
the player is of sufficiently poor competence that they don't even notice having such a dramatic reduction in
their effective reflex time. Owners of the X-Arcade, try this: Load up Gradius III under xSNES, start a game,
and as soon as it begins, just wiggle the ship left and right. It will look and feel as though the ship is on
a short spring. This is because of the lag. You are wiggling it back and forth faster than the lag itself
(0.15 seconds) so the response of the ship is like a shadow of your input. Try it again with a joypad and see
if it still happens. Go ahead, switch between one and the other to be sure. You are not hallucinating.
Shoot-em-up games are probably the best sort of game to test the response time of any controller. Fighter
games are not so ideal, but anyone who has already mastered a given fighter will surely notice when the
gameplay suddenly feels a bit like molasses. I know I did. I consider it a personal mission to inform
potential buyers about this product, and secondarily about X-Arcade's customer support and, indeed, their
reliability as to fulfilling orders in a timely fashion.

I do not make any recommendations for alternatives for the X-Arcade because, frankly, there seems not to BE any
adequate alternatives, or else I haven't been looking hard enough. My search continues.

#2 nfmus


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Posted 29 December 2002 - 12:22 PM

Good catch and nice info Fredas.

I first became aware of the controller when I was looking into building a emulator cabinet that was going to run off a PC.

At the time the X-arcade was only offered for PC's and was connected by PS/2 or USB into the keyboard port. They even use the Mame name in their product description. Once I found out that adapters were available to use standard USB devices on the Xbox I thought it would be great to get one for MameX, now I'm glad that I procrastinated. Considering that you can buy an adapter from LikSang for $12.90 the prices for the "Newly Improved" X-arcade joystick and adapters is outrageous.

I think a better alternative will be to strip down an Xbox controller and build a homebrew arcade joystick with real arcade parts as others have done for PC.

#3 Fredas


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Posted 30 December 2002 - 01:40 AM

> I think a better alternative will be to strip down an Xbox controller and build a homebrew arcade joystick with real arcade parts as others have done for PC.

This really does seem to be the best route. Alternately, I recently had my attention drawn to another "arcade quality" joystick manufacturer (who I will refrain from naming, because that is not the point of this thread). They don't make joysticks for the Xbox, but there is supposed to be a device which can enable the usage of a PSX joypad on the Xbox, and I reckon the combination of the two should suffice nicely. The button layout makes more sense, too. I take issue with the X-Arcade's button layout, which is frankly braindead. The joystick is parallel with the topmost row of buttons, which means all of the other buttons are just that much lower. In a real arcade, the "Street Fighter 2" configuration has the joystick parallel with the line bisecting two rows of three, which seems like a no-brainer to me. Why the X-Arcade folks felt the need to reinvent the wheel (for the worse), I couldn't say. The joystick I recently "discovered" has a 4x2 button configuration, which also happens to be perfect for the NeoGeo button setup, which is (roughly) 4x1. I'm very appreciative to the individual who pointed the link out to me. I also have been able to determine that this other joystick does NOT use a serial interface (instead, they evidently scavenge a real PSX joypad for parts... shrug, whatever works).

Just this morning, I took it upon myself to make an attempt to resume correspondence with the X-Arcade people, now that they are making bigger waves and may find it more difficult to ignore a customer. Perhaps the more recent X-Arcade joysticks do not introduce lag. It would be quite unsurprising to discover that the problem was fixed and the manufacturing process was secretly modified. Sort of like how the earliest Playstation models had crappy CD-ROM drives that were guaranteed to develop irreversible reading problems within a couple of years, and Sony eventually corrected the problem with later models, all the while telling innumerable customers that the fact that their PSX could no longer play games properly was a figment of their imagination.

On the other hand, if the lag is the fault of the serial hardware, I have my doubts that the entire interface system would be redesigned.

We will see what transpires.

#4 SoulMaster


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Posted 30 December 2002 - 01:54 AM

That gave me a new project idea. One for the Summer that is.
But hey, if it works, it may be sweet!!!


#5 sush1a


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Posted 30 December 2002 - 05:33 AM

hmm.. I have complete different experience, but I never try it on the xbox, only try it on my PC with mamex and Xmen vs Street fighter. It connected through PS/2 port to the computer, I never experienced any lag on it, play a few street fighting games on it and none lag whatsoever, but I decided that I don't play with it much so i refunded to my local fry's tongue.gif

Final note, if you got the cash, this is a must have for u arcade nutz...

#6 XanTium


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Posted 30 December 2002 - 01:15 PM

I have reconnected the X-arcarde specially for you. I'm really 100% sure there's NO lag on my version.

I don't know what's wrong with your version , maybe it's build prior the one I got.

#7 Fredas


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Posted 30 December 2002 - 05:20 PM

I touched upon that possibility earlier, making a specific parallel to the infamous Sony PSX CD-ROM drive fiasco. The difference is, if the X-Arcade people have fixed the problem, they are GOING to provide substitute hardware for our two X-Arcade joysticks. But I do question the claim of zero lag, if only because it seems obvious to me that 150ms is just not enough lag for people to really notice on average (even though my videotape analysis PROVES it's there). Did you give it the Gradius III litmus test I recommended?

I just double-checked the joysticks and the boxes and unfortunately there seems not to be any version number listed on either. There's a switch next to the serial port, which goes quite undocumented. I wonder what it's supposed to be for? With any luck, it's missing the label "Add this much lag" ranging from zero to 150ms.

#8 sush1a


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Posted 30 December 2002 - 08:17 PM

the switches are documented, its for programming buttons, leave it at 1 for default (i think) set to 2, press the change button, hold down a button, and press a keyboard button to assign the keyboard button to that arcade button, simple as that, and yes its documented.

#9 steinola


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Posted 31 December 2002 - 08:05 PM

Okay... I went back to Fry's and tried out the X-arcade stick with this lag information firmly in my mind... and there was absolutely no lag that I could see. They didn't have Gradius, but they had Tony Hawk 4 loaded up. Response was instantaneous with the X-arcade. I then had the guy load up Marvel vs Capcom... since it was the other game you mentioned. Again, absolutely no lag.

I'd say it's your hardware version, Fredas.

That said... I completely agree with you on the button layout. It's idiotic. Which is the main reason I haven't bought one of these things yet.

#10 Fredas


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Posted 01 January 2003 - 12:02 PM

Good to know that the problem may be fixable, though obviously at X-Arcade's expense because they'll be stuck with two lag-hampered joysticks that they'll have to try to pass off to other unsuspecting customers.

Unsurprisingly, there was no reply from the X-Arcade people on Monday or Tuesday. I will call them up before long, as it is most difficult to ignore the phone.

#11 Fredas


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Posted 02 January 2003 - 09:44 PM

Just a fyi. The X-Arcade people did reply to me today (Thursday). They did not have anything helpful to say. An offer to exchange our current converters for alternates would have been appreciated. Here is a quote of the relevant material:

> The lag issue with the XBOX is something we have no control over.
> The X-Arcade is a serial device, and in order for it to be utilized on
> an XBOX, it uses a converter that converts SERIAL ANALOG to XBOX
> Even though there is a delay, it does not interfere or keep from
> gameplay.

This is, essentially, the conclusion I drew for myself. The delay is about 150ms, going by my video analysis. Obviously, most people do not notice this delay. I notice it. My brother notices it. It's there. The simple fact is, if you take two people of equal skill at a given game, one using the X-Arcade and one using an alternate joystick, the X-Arcade user is going to get his arse handed to him, and if he "doesn't notice" the 150ms delay, he will be totally bewildered as to why he's losing so consistently.

At least the mystery of WHY the delay is there is now cleared up. The X-Arcade people would be well-advised to manufacture purely digital renditions of their products.

#12 andreo


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Posted 02 January 2003 - 10:26 PM

Well, I've had my X-Arcade for about 6 months or so (maybe longer, I would have to check while at home). I also purchased the Xbox adapter when it was first released. I've not had a chance to play as much as I would like to. But I've not noticed any lag what so ever. Not on any Xbox games, not on any Mame games for the PC or the Xbox.

#13 steinola


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Posted 03 January 2003 - 01:41 AM

QUOTE (Fredas @ Jan 2 2003, 01:44 PM)
> The lag issue with the XBOX is something we have
> no control over.

Interesting. So they acknowledge that there is a lag.
I could swear I was as hardnosed and picky during my test(s) as I could be, and I didn't see any.

That's really too bad.
Since must PCs and gaming consoles now run on USB, I wonder why they don't just go digital all the way, and drop the converter business. Then all they'd need is an adapter for the Xbox.

#14 megazone23


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Posted 11 January 2003 - 01:30 PM

I first tried the X-Arcade at E3 2002, I think at that time it's not yet released to the public, though one could buy one at E3 for $150 (they told me they're going to sell it for $180. For that money, I chose to stick with my $15 joystick).
They had the Street Fighter with PS2 as demo and I tried, that's the best fighting joystick I've ever used, even better than a lot arcades. The movement is so smooth and special move is easy to trigger, even though I don't consider myself as a Street Figther expert.

#15 Fredas


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Posted 11 January 2003 - 08:15 PM

Yeah yeah, joystick is the best ever used, yadda yadda. These points are still valid, though: 1) There IS lag; they admitted it. 2) Use X-Arcade against somebody using something without lag, and you will lose more often, because of the lag. The fact that 150ms seems to be beyond some people's perception doesn't change the validity of these two points.

Never mind the other considerations, such as the extreme difficulty of getting any sort of correspondence from the X-Arcade people, or the fact that they shipped most of our order several months late, without any sort of apology, after pointedly ignoring our email concerning the issue.

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