Most gaming controllers that are compatible for Windows PC gaming come with ‘XInput’ and ‘DirectInput’ APIs. Application Programming Interface or APIs provide a way for separate programs to interact with each other. These APIs exist between your system and the controller. This means that the controller communicates to your system through the APIs and knows which button means what.
Gamepads are not the only ones that use this information. Any device that is connected to your PC, has to pass through these APIs. Users can find the input method while purchasing a new gamepad or while setting it up.
However, the driver packages install the APIs that users need and controllers are automatically assigned to the one that they use. Here, we will discuss how both the input methods are different and how it can help gamers.
Differences between ‘XInput’ and ‘DirectInput’ APIs
DirectInput is much older than XInput. DirectInput is so old that Microsoft considers it to be a legacy API. XInput is comparatively newer, easier to use, and can be found in most modern gamepads.
DirectInput has managed to hold some advantages over Xinput for being older.This API is well documented and comes with a huge list of features, which makes it easier to implement. Generally, DirectInput can be found in a wide range of older hardware, mostly from third-party brands.
To place an example about the importance in terms between features and legacy functions, we have to look at PlayStation 3 and 4 controllers. These gamepads did not support XInput natively, which made it difficult for users to play newer games.
Why do gamers need to be aware of controller input methods?
Gamers should be aware about the input methods as it will help them to troubleshoot their own controllers. Most modern controllers can easily interface with both, if they are not using their own custom API. Some modern gamepads also allow users to select the input method according to their preferences. Changing the input methods will change the functionality of the buttons and analog stick.
Modern gamepads have mostly unified the experience to make PC gaming as basic as ‘plug-and-play’, yet there are multiple technical differences between these two input methods. Programs like Steam have also unified these APIs to add support where it’s needed.