This is the retro product I want to love. With Bliss-Box 4-Play you are supposed to able connect almost any genuine game console controller to your emulation box, and everything should work out-of-the-box. In many ways, 4-Play indeed is a great product. It’s well built, it supports great number of controllers, it introduces minimal lag and you can even install individual firmware to each of the 4 ports of the device. I am personally using 4-Play with Linux / RetroPie, and was a bit disappointed as the promise of “works great on major system” and “preconfigured for most emulator needs” was not fully fulfilled.
On Linux, only emulators and frontends supporting HID-interface will work (UPDATE: Looks like the support SDL is coming, see: http://blissbox.freeforums.org/post2919.html). Some software, such as EmulationStation, has migrated to SDL dropping HID, therefore making 4-Play unable to connect. I had to buy (cheap) 8Bitdo Zero controller for EmulationStation, but luckily RetroArch still supports HID-interface using “linuxraw” setting for input_joypad_driver. As you can see from my postings on my RetroPie series, I had to go through the same hassle of configuring each emulated system with custom controller mappings.
Things are probably bit better if you are running your emulators on Windows. Looks like it’s the main platform of the 4-Play developer, and in my quick testings Windows recognized 4-Play without issues. I did not test it with any emulator (I still use Retro-Bit adapter for Atari-style joysicks there), so I cannot say if there would have been a lot of configuration to do (or none at all).
Supporting all kinds of gaming controllers is really hard. If controllers only had simple buttons, it would be easier, but they also have all kinds of analog controllers, force feedback and may come with small displays or other special features. 4-Play is trying hard to support many of these. These special features are again more likely to work on Windows. I am personally emulating older consoles so I am happy if buttons and analog thumb sticks work on my RetroPie (they seem to do so with RetroArch-utilizing emulators).
So how much do I love 4-Play? After the initial disapointent with RetroPie, I do like the product. It’s perhaps flawed the similar way than the emulators themselves are flawed by not giving you perfectly accurate experience and sometimes just not working at all. What 4-Play certainly is, it’s the best effort to connect your old controllers to an emulator via USB-port. You can buy 4-Play from the Bliss-Box, or you might prefer an European distributor to avoid additional import taxes.
Some notes of how to use 4-Play on my setup:
- Changing between Sega and and other controllers requires a “reset” on 4-Play port (there is a tiny – somewhat hard to detect – button to press next to the each port).
- The 4-play documentation and firmware details are a bit confusing, but indeed you may/need to update all four ports separately
- The port numbers are not marked on the device, the one right-hand side of the USB-connector is port #1 and the other ports are followed counter clockwise.
- For a reason or another 4-Play did not work almost at all if connected to the first (upper left) USB-port on Raspberry Pi. The connection was dropping or controller was not recognized at all. Plugging it into other ports worked better, and I now connect to the second port (lower left).
- If you also connect other controllers/adapters, the order in which these are connected matter! /dev/input/jsX are assigned in the order of USB ports.