“When Dark Souls 3 came out, someone told me they wanted to see a banana controller, and I was like, ‘Wait, I have the means to do that, but what does that actually mean?’ - so I put the two together,” Louis ‘SuperLouis 64’ Hamilton, a modder who has made a name for himself across the internet by creating all manner of unexpected ways to play some of our favourite games, tells me.
Whether he’s using a real sword to kill enemies in Final Fantasy 7 Remake or poking a piece of squishy fruit to conquer Dark Souls 3, Hamilton has concocted some marvellous inventions that boggle the mind, so I recently sat down with him to talk about where this passion started, and if fellow enthusiasts can come along for the ride.
“Dark Souls is totally playable by banana, but would I recommend it? No, because bananas leak!” Hamilton jokes. “That’s also when I found out bananas leak for the first time because you don’t realise how hard you press buttons until you don’t press them, and bananas are soft so as you keep pressing it eventually just becomes all squishy.”
Before he was using fruit to conquer the realm of Lothric, Hamilton studied games programming at university before landing a gig with Gearbox Software as a certification lead. Like a number of creators at major studios, Hamilton eventually found himself transitioning into indie development, finding a solid space to chase his own passions and pursue more outlandish experiments in his spare time. “I still do a bunch of games development on the side, and for my main job too, but this stuff really came out of the blue,” Hamilton explains. “I don’t know how exactly to describe it, I’ve always had an interest in electronics and stuff, so one day I just said to myself, ‘Hey, what would happen if I put a bunch of wires in a banana?’ and here I am! I don’t have an exciting origin story or anything, I think it was just my own curiosity.”
I first stumbled upon Hamilton’s work when I saw a viral tweet of him using a Ring Fit Adventure controller to play Final Fantasy 14, a game with an infamously complicated battle system and a growing number of classes that all demand distinct skills and reactions to succeed in. Given Ring Fit is pretty basic in its implementation, I had to ask where the idea came from. “It was mostly due to a lack of exercise since we’ve kinda been stuck inside for the past two years,” he explains. “I play this game way too often, so maybe I can combine the two in a way because I really like Ring Fit Adventure. It’s such a cool idea, like Wii Fit but way more demanding and I love how they did things. I just wish [the controller] worked with other games and stuff like that, like I would love to play Mario Kart with Ring Fit Adventure. So I decided to combine the control scheme of that with Final Fantasy 14, and luckily the classes I play [made it possible] since gathering is really easy since you only need one button, and you can still use a keyboard and mouse.”
It isn’t perfect, but the novelty of playing a game this sprawling with such a specialised controller does have its appeal, if you can get it working. “I super don’t recommend playing battle classes with it,” Hamilton adds. “Unless you’re with a group of friends who are totally understanding about what you’re doing. I’ve done one dungeon with it as a tank with a group of people who knew what was going on since I could only use like two or three abilities so they had to make sure I didn’t die. DPS you can get away with things because at the end of the day, you aren’t performing as high goals as everyone else.”
As someone with minimal expertise on the technical side of things I feared the worst when I asked how all of it worked, but to my surprise, it seems rather approachable. “It’s complicated at first but what I use are like hardware converters, things people use to make Call of Duty really easy or to pull off trick shots,” Hamilton tells me. “I realized that since the controller script is there, I can grab the data from the Joy-Con and come up with a design that uses the same input as Ring Fit, and convert that input into other controllers and stuff. Since I can grab that data, I can come up with a formula that says when a person runs one of the joy-con will emit a certain data range, so I can use that data to lock the joysticks or something. It’s almost one-to-one but it’s also just the best idea I had. I don’t know how Nintendo does it but I just use whatever data I have to try and convert things to my ideas.”
In terms of accuracy and glitches, it turns out that taking Ring Fit Adventure away from its natural habitat can produce some expectant results. “It depends on the game, but I’ve definitely replicated some bugs that were pretty similar,” Hamilton remembers. “In Ring Fit you can have the Joy-Con in your hand and just shake it like you did back on the Wii, so I was somehow able to replicate that bug or intentional flaw. For the most part it’s all pretty accurate, but there are some things where I’m like, ‘If you’re doing a squat make sure you’re holding a button’ because there’s weird data ranges because the way I did squatting was having your legs being pretty close to horizontal so you’re either squatting or sitting down. So if you’re doing one of those things the controller activates the squat controls, but these are all things that I threw at the wall until they somehow worked.”
Ring Fit modding is a small community, but with all of the tools being readily available and advancing with each new addition, Hamilton has found that friends are often poking him about potential experiments and where they could take the technology next. “I had some friends who came up to me and asked if we could try this for a different game, and I was like, ‘Sure but can you test it for me because I don’t have any time!’ and they’re always really helpful. Someone got it to work for Breath of the Wild which was awesome, but someone else can beat it because there’s no way I’m gonna be able to. There’s so many people out there who like this stuff and I’m grateful they’re able to help me test things.”
When he isn’t sweating up a storm in Final Fantasy 14 with Ring Fit Adventure, Hamilton is also toying with a number of other projects. He’s currently messing with a couple of limited edition gun controllers for Final Fantasy 10-2 and making a life-sized fat cat plushy gel with the MMO. One of his most eye-catching ideas thus far is easily Cloud’s Buster Sword, which has been programmed to work as a real-life weapon for use in Final Fantasy 7 Remake. It’s amazing to witness, but awfully unwieldy from the sounds of things.
“I’m still working on the Buster Sword controller, because of the prop itself, which I think I bought years ago at an anime convention because it’s a real life buster sword and that’s just really cool.” Hamilton says. “Earlier this year I had a brain blast and realised that I could make this prop work perfectly with Final Fantasy 7 Remake. The thing that everyone saw [on social media] is a prototype version because it’s pretty much a glorified Wiimote, except the Wiimote would crack under that kind of pressure if I were to put that on a Buster Sword, so I had to make my own hardware to test how the motion controls would work, but because I have my own prop I was able to slap the hardware on it to get some test data before building the real thing.
“Even though it’s a five-pound prop, when you’re swinging it it doesn’t feel right, it feels like it’s going to break, so that’s why I’m planning to remake it. FF7 Remake has really interesting battle mechanics because you can slow down combat, so the hardest part is that after roughly 30 minutes of swinging the Buster Sword you get tired, but I have enough buttons on there where if I want to sit down and play I can totally just use it as a glorified PlayStation controller. I can imagine someone just turning up to a fighting game tournament with the buster sword, shaking someone’s hand and sitting down to play.”
Hamilton’s experiments show no signs of slowing, and the enthusiasm of social media alongside a bustling community are spurring him onward. “I do this for fun, it’s a fun hobby and I’m really happy that people have been considerably positive about this stuff,” he says. “People have said they’ve decided to try out learning hardware or electrical engineering and I love seeing the ideas they come up with. Someone showed me a pizza controller from Fisher Price and told me I should play with it, so now I’m messing with an actual pizza to make it work with Final Fantasy 14.”
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