USB gamepads are a dime a dozen and you really don’t know what kind of quality you’re going to get unless you buy first-party or from a very well-known brand. Even those controllers leave something to be desired when it comes to price and customizability. Many systems and games let you remap controller buttons, but you can’t do anything about the physical feel of the controller. Alpakka is an open source gamepad based on the Raspberry Pi Pico that gives you a much more flexible platform for customization.
Right off the bat, you can see that Alpakka is very attractive. It is a 3D-printable design meant for DIYers, but it doesn’t look like it. If you print in resin to avoid layer lines, the Alpakka gamepad will look like a real consumer product. The Alpakka firmware emulates an XInput device, so it is compatible with all Windows games that support gamepads. It can also emulate a keyboard and mouse, which means that it is even compatible with many games that don’t support gamepads — assuming you can find a way to map the controls to the all of the appropriate keyboard keys and mouse functions. It doesn’t require any special drivers, so you can just plug it in and go.
Inside the 3D-printed shell is a custom PCB with a Raspberry Pi Pico microcontroller development board. That runs the firmware and monitors the buttons and joystick. In addition to the typical controls (d-pad, joystick, ABXY buttons, and triggers), Alpakka contains a number of interesting upgrades. Two internal gyroscope sensors monitor orientation, similar to Nintendo Joy-Cons. Around the ABXY buttons is a hexagonal touch-sensitive surface that has many uses — including replacing the right joystick. In place of that joy stick, there is a thumb dial and an 8-direction physical selection wheel. Together, those can mimic a mouse to give you even more control over your games.
For the time being, the only way to get an Alpakka gamepad is to build it yourself. Doing so will require a capable 3D printer and basic soldering skills. That may be too much effort for the average gamer, but worthwhile for some—especially those with disabilities that make conventional gamepads or keyboards difficult to use.