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Frets on Fire

posted on October 30th, 2006 by christian

You knew it was going to happen eventually. Just like DDR before it, Guitar Hero has inspired people to emulate the game on the PC. Frets on Fire is an open source GH project for all major Operating Systems, and tries its best to emulate the basic structure of the game, as well as support song creation. You’ve probably heard about it on some game site or another. I’ve known about it for a few months now, but I never gave it a shot because of one huge, glaring problem; the basic game requires you to use the keyboard, holding it in place like a guitar.

Simple, but workable

I don’t think I need to tell you that this is the Stupidest Idea of 2006. But fear not! It turns out that, for a small financial investment and absolutely 0% tinkering, you can get the game to work with a Guitar Hero SG controller. Here’s what you need:

The program

The controller

A ps2 to USB converter (which can be found at seedy online stores, or at your local Radio Shack for $11)

With these things in place, all you need to do is set up the converter as a proper joystick (which is simply installing the drivers), and run Frets on Fire, which has joystick support. If all works well, you should be able to remap the guitar keys to your SG controller, and it should receive input from the guitar after restarting the game. I have no idea how many songs people have made for the game, but this could be a great way to keep getting your Rock fix (or just wait for the sequel to release in two weeks).

P.S. – I only know that this solution works in Windows. However, I’m going to try to get the converter to work in Linux. If it doesn’t, open source folk are going to have to jury rig an SG controller port to work with USB, which is expensive and risky. That, or do what some game mag editor did; rig a toy guitar with the guts of a wireless PC controller.

P.P.S. – Find out my Linux results in an upcoming article about this converter device.


  1. Azu said on October 31, 2006:

    Actually, the game is quite playable with the keyboard, too. It’s not the same as playing it with the guitar controller, but it’s not as bad as it sounds. Are you even aware of how you’re holding the keyboard when playing the game?

  2. Christian said on October 31, 2006:

    I am aware of how the keyboard is held, and I’m sure it works fine from a performance standpoint, but so does Stepmania on a keyboard.  The point is it isn’t the same experience, and its still rather silly looking if you’re ever playing it with others.  That’s enough for me to hook up the SG if I can.  

  3. jay said on October 31, 2006:

    This all sounds potentially very cool but playing with a keyboard sounds like the opposite of cool. Also, I have my PS2 out in my living room with the surround sound setup and big TV and all that jazz. Playing in my bedroom on my 19 inch computer monitor just seems less inviting to guests.

  4. Christian said on October 31, 2006:

    This is true Jay.  However, if a strong community comes together with this game, and it continues to update with more features that GH hero contains, FoF has the potential to offer us songs that we could never see licensed for official use, or are just too obscure to put in.  Its not a 100% replacement, but it has some interesting potential (and I guess you could use a TV out port on your PC?  Maybe?  I don’t know…)  The other possibility is that the game is swamped with frets for crummy indie music from the depths of Creative Commmons.  We’ll have to wait and see.

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