I was so proud on Friday evening, walking out of the Microsoft Store. I'd just bought three wireless Xbox One receivers. "Finally," I thought, "those bloody cords will be gone."
The cords were micro-USB cables running across the floor of my living room, a solution designed at a time when you couldn't buy a wireless dongle for Xbox One controllers, and the Xbox 360 wireless receivers wouldn't work with the newer pads.
But a trip to the Microsoft Store, I hoped, would change all that. I asked the store assistant how many receivers I might need, although I already had the intention of buying three: my unit already has two gaming PCs up and running, and there's a plan to build a third in the near future.
Of course, if you're just playing on the one PC then you only need the one adapter. Here's Microsoft Support on the features of the Xbox Wireless Adapter:
With the Xbox Wireless Adapter for Windows, not only can you connect your Xbox One Wireless Controller to your Windows 10 device, you can also connect up to eight wireless controllers and up to four chat headsets or two stereo headsets without any cables between your controller and your Windows 10, 8.1, or 7 device.
Naturally, the store assistant told me a different story: only one controller per dongle, apparently. But since the long-term plan was to have a wireless adapter for each PC, I didn't press the point. (For reference, the clerk said he was only a month into the job, so I understand the need to upsell. Retail isn't easy.)
So, three adapters. At worst, one controllers pairs to one adapter, with a fourth wireless adapter for the Steam Controller. Plug the adapter in, hit the button, power the Xbox controller on, pair the Xbox pad, and away you go.
Of course it bloody isn't.
Before everyone arrived, I grabbed fresh batteries just in case. The setup: two Xbox Elite controllers, a dinky standard Xbox One controller, a Steam Controller, and a PS4 controller on standby just in case. (I know the PS4 can work via Bluetooth, but it's never been 100% reliable.)
Following the sage upselling advice of the fellow in the Microsoft Store, I plugged in all three of the Wireless adapters and began syncing controllers one at a time. Press the sync button, power on a controller, sync the two together, repeat.
The standard Xbox One controller ended up proving a bit of a challenge - for some reason, it was being picked up as a duplicate controller of one of the Elites. But after some trial and error, the Devices page in Windows 10 registered four separate controllers.
Brilliant. Everything was going to work just fine. My nightmare of people tripping over cables was finally over.
And then I fired up a bunch of games to test. Sportsfriends picked up four pole vaulters without fault. VIDEOBALL did the same. Four ducks quacked happily in Duck Game.
Then the first guest arrived.
I like being a good host, so I greeted people at the door. Sorted their drinks into the fridge. Offered nice whisky as an aperitif. Asked if they wanted anything to eat. Basically make people comfortable, doing all the sorts of things you would expect when someone arrives at your house.
Everything except occasionally check that the Xbox One controllers were still turned on.
So when people started sitting down, the Xbox controllers were turned off and, consequently, no longer appearing in the Devices page.
No problem, I thought, I'll just turn them back on.
But while the controllers turned on, they were no longer syncing to the wireless receivers they were paired to. When I fired up Duck Game, the Xbox One and Elite controllers were all picking up as the same controller. Inversus refused to see more than two controllers.
It's the most furious I've ever been at Windows 10, and that includes the time I tried to upgrade the same machine from Windows 7 - only for Windows to rollback the entire install at the last moment. Fortunately, Fibbage and Use Your Words were enough to tide people over until they got hungry enough for some flat Lebanese chicken, affording me an opportunity to get everything working again.
Thinking the receiver for the Steam controller could have been the culprit, I promptly unplugged it. The other dongles were unplugged, and I restarted the process one at a time. But instead of going one receiver per controller, I tried to sync up as much as I could on a single receiver before moving forward.
The two Elite controllers sync just fine to the one receiver, but the regular Xbox One pad didn't. No problem: I plugged in a second, and it syncs to that just fine. Two receivers, two solid white lights on those, three Xbox One pads detected in Devices. The Steam Controller is next, and that works without a problem.
So sure enough, not long after everyone left I had four ducks quacking happily once more. Feeling triumphant, I relayed the good news to Tegan:
Right, I thought to myself, I'm not going to let the Xbox controllers power down. So I kept moving the sticks and pressing buttons, hoping that would keep everything active and going.
Everyone arrived, chicken, snack packs and wraps in hand. Drinks, cutlery and plates were assembled in the living room. Four controllers, four solid white lights. Everything seems to be working so far.
Food consumed, drinks absorbed, the focus begins to turn to games. Four controllers are still lit up.
So I fire up a game ... and only three controllers appeared.
What the fuck?
A quick check revealed the wireless adapters were still alive and well. So were the Elite and Steam controllers. But the regular Xbox One pad vanished, God only knows why, and there was only one solid white light on one of the Xbox wireless adapters.
At this point my failures have become the evening's entertainment, with someone cheekily joking "no wonder you didn't win Best Gaming Coverage".
Harsh, but fair.
Jokes aside, you have to wonder why this process is so difficult. As far as the Steam Controller is concerned, you plug the receiver in, hit the button, and that's it. It's not complicated at all, and Valve doesn't have the advantage of being able to hardcode drivers into Windows 10.
But having complete control over the hardware and software isn't much of an advantage at all. And this was before installing the Windows 10 Creators Update - having had a miserable experience with last year's Anniversary Update screwing with controller support, I wasn't going to risk the evening by going through that process hours beforehand.
On the bright side, there were enough board games to carry proceedings. If you're ever stuck with several people and four misbehaving controllers, Geek Out! is a top nerdy spin on Trivial Pursuit that fans of games, comics, anime and movies will get into. Seven Wonders isn't bad either, provided most people have played it before, and Codenames is still an absolute cracker for large groups.
The night ended well enough, although a good night's sleep wasn't enough to quell my stubbornness and damaged pride. So after a coffee and some yoghurt (with more coffee), I ran the Creators Update and had another crack at the controllers.
Sure enough, they all worked.
— Alex Walker (@dippizuka) May 21, 2017
— Peter Zaluzny (@peterzmedia) May 21, 2017