DirectInput vs. XInput for Game Controllers: What’s the Difference?

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If you use a controller while playing games on your computer. Then you should know that your controller either uses the DirectInput or XInput API. In this article, we have mentioned some differences between both APIs, so continue reading.

Application Programming Interface (API) is a way for two devices to communicate with each other in a standard way. Similarly, when you connect a controller to your PC, Windows connects with the controller hardware. The API then lets a game read the controller’s inputs in a standard way.

This makes it easy for Windows games to work with different kinds of controllers instead of having a bunch of different drivers and interfaces for each one. DirectInput and XInput are the two main types of APIs. In this post, we have mentioned the differences between these two APIs.

Difference Between DirectInput And XInput APIs

These APIs are not only used by gamepads. Any device that you connect to your PC has to go through these APIs. When people buy a new gamepad or set it up, they can find out how to use it.

But the driver packages download the APIs that Windows users require, and controllers are automatically set to the one that they use. Here, we’ll talk about how the two ways of entering information are different and how that can help gamers. But first, let’s look at these APIs more closely.

What Are DirectInput and XInput?

DirectInput and XInput are the main Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for gaming input in Windows. In other words, these are like two different languages that your gaming controller uses to communicate with the computer. Some controllers can only communicate in one language (i.e. DirectInput or XInput). Other controllers, on the other hand, have different modes that let them speak both languages.

If your game controller doesn’t use the same API as the game, it won’t work right. Both APIs do the same things, but DirectInput is older than XInput and Microsoft has stopped supporting it. Still, DirectInput can do some things that XInput can’t. This is why the former is still used in some places. In the next section, we’ll talk more about how the two standards are similar and different.

DirectInput

This gaming API input first came out in 1995 as part of DirectX 1.0 for games on Windows 95. Later versions of Windows were able to use it, too. It’s an old interface that many PC game controllers, made before 2005, as well as some controllers and adapters for retro controllers, made after 2005, support.

XInput

This API came out in 2005 so that Windows could work with Xbox 360 controllers. At the moment, XInput is also used by Xbox Series X and Xbox One controllers on Windows. XInput started as an API that only worked with Xbox controllers, but now it works with many controllers that aren’t made by Microsoft. This means that they will work with games that are made to work with Xinput.

console controller game

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Difference Between These Two APIs

Although XInput was introduced around 17 years ago, still most modern games support the DirectInput controllers. The reason behind this is that most people still use their old controllers.

Additionally, XInput supports fewer inputs than DirectInput does i.e. the XInput supports a D-pad, 2 Triggers, 10 buttons, and 4 Axes. Whereas, the DirectInput supports a POV, 128 buttons, and 8 axes. This is useful for complex simulation games, like racing games and some flight simulators, where gamers create complex cockpit control setups. Also, only four controllers can be used with Xinput. If you need more than that, the best option is DirectInput.

Most of the benefits of XInput over DirectInput are on the developer side. As per Microsoft, DirectInput is more complicated than XInput for the developers because XInput doesn’t require much setup. With the Xbox 360 controller driver, an Xbox game developer can make games with better compatibility on Windows. Additionally, Xbox controllers do not support DirectInput at all, they only work with XInput.

In another win for XInput, the API will automatically figure out how the controller is set up. This means that each button won’t have to be manually linked to a function in a game. With DirectInput, the game doesn’t have to know how the controller is shaped or laid out. With XInput, games use a standard set of controls that works for all games, just like an Xbox game console.

You don’t have to worry about which API your gamepad uses, which is good news. Most modern controllers can easily connect to both (if they don’t use their API), and programs like Steam combine these kinds of libraries to add support where it’s needed.

There are a lot of technical differences between these two libraries, but modern gamepads have made the experience mostly the same and made PC gaming “plug-and-play.” Still, it’s important to know the difference between these two terms because it could come up when you’re fixing your gamepad.

Conclusion

Gamers should know how to use the input methods because it will help them fix their controllers if they break. If they are not using their API, most modern controllers can easily connect to both. Some modern gamepads also let users choose which way they want to control the game.

If you change the input method, the buttons and analog stick will work differently. Modern gamepads have mostly made PC gaming as easy as “plug-and-play,” but there are still a lot of technical differences between keyboards and gamepads. These APIs have also been unified so that programs like Steam can add support where it is needed. Please let us know in the comments if you have any more questions about this.

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Sidharth

Professional Blogger. Android dev. Audiophile.

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