In Patch 9.0.1, Blizzard has finally added native gamepad support to WoW! In the past it was necessary to use an external program, such as xpadder, Steam, or the ConsolePort addon’s WoWmapper companion, to control the game with a gamepad such as the Xbox, Playstation, or Steam Controller. This is a really useful feature for people who are need a little extra help with accessibility due to some kind of injury or condition, like myself, but it’s also really nice for anyone who just wants to kick back and play WoW with a gamepad - whether leaning back in your desk chair or reclining on the couch with WoW on your big screen TV!
WoW was designed around keyboard and mouse first, and if that option is feasible for you then you’ll always get better responsiveness from that control setup. However, it is possible to get very good at using a gamepad for WoW, and some folks used ConsolePort for clearing Mythic dungeons with impressive results - but it will take a good while to become that skilled with it.
I think Consoleport is an incredible addon, but I just found it unwieldy to use due to the external WoWmapper program needing to run in the background, and the overwhelming amount of options as well as the chunky interface just made my head spin. I’m excited for the next version of Consoleport which seems like it will use Blizzard’s new native gamepad support with no need for WoWmapper.
Since that next version of Consoleport will probably be out in a manner of weeks, if not days, the following is a quick and dirty guide to the current, native gamepad support in WoW.
Step 1 - Enabling the Gamepad
Type ‘/console GamePadEnable 1’ into your chat box in-game and hit enter to send. That should enable your gamepad! I’ve only tested this with an Xbox 360 and Xbox One gamepad, but most gamepads should work fine.
Step 2 - Default Settings
Now that your gamepad is enabled, you’ll be able to set your gamepad’s button bindings through the normal key binding menu. Binding your gamepad’s buttons works just like binding your keyboard keys! There are a few bindings, described below, that can’t be changed through the Key Bindings menu but are instead modified via console commands. More on those later! In addition to those bindings, some of the bindings available in the Key Bindings will be automatically set up for you by Blizzard - however, they’re not great and I changed them as quickly as I could, so unfortunately I can’t relay them to you here. Feel free to check them out in the Key Bindings menu to see if they’re to your taste. Now onto the important default controls!
The left analog stick controls your character’s movement. The right analog stick controls the camera. These, as far as I can tell, cannot be changed and will always work this way.
Pressing the BACK button on your gamepad basically functions as the ESCAPE key, and can be used to deselect your current target, among other things. Pressing the START button on your gamepad brings up your mouse cursor. During normal gameplay - moving your character and camera around - the mouse cursor won’t be visible. You can press START to bring it up, at which point the right analog stick controls the mouse cursor instead of the camera. When the mouse cursor is visible, you can use the RIGHT TRIGGER to left-click with the mouse cursor and the RIGHT BUMPER to right-click with the mouse cursor. The mouse cursor will automatically come up when you open most interface windows, like your quest log or inventory, and go away when you close them. The mouse cursor will also automatically go away most of the time when your character moves with the left analog stick or performs actions like jumping.
In order to give gamepad players more keybinds to work with, by default the LEFT BUMPER and the LEFT TRIGGER on your gamepad are assigned to function as the CONTROL and SHIFT keys on your keyboard. This will allow the other buttons on your gamepad to pull triple or even quadruple duty - as an example, the A button can serve as your jump button when neither LEFT BUMPER nor LEFT TRIGGER are held down, but when you hold down LEFT BUMPER pressing the A button on your gamepad can activate the first ability on your main action bar instead. Same goes for the LEFT TRIGGER - you can give the A button on your gamepad a third function, or even a fourth for when you hold down both the LEFT BUMPER and the LEFT TRIGGER at the same time! All this functionality is assigned in WoW’s regular Key Bindings menu once your gamepad has been enabled with the command in Step 1.
Step 3 - If you’re not happy with Blizzard’s default settings…
Now for a personal opinion - I didn’t like the gamepad buttons Blizzard chose for the CONTROL and SHIFT modifiers, or for the left and right mouse buttons in cursor mode. I also found that having to move the mouse cursor around with the right analog stick in order to loot bodies, interact with NPCs, and activate world objects like chests and switches felt clunky with the default setup. There are keybinds in the Targeting section of the Key Bindings menu for things like cycling through hostile targets, friendly targets, and interacting with your current target that you might like using. For a while I was looting enemies by using the ‘Target Last Target’ command followed by ‘Interact with Target’, but there’s a better way!
There’s a binding in the Targeting menu for ‘Interact with Mouseover’. The problem is that when you’re in ‘movement mode’, and the mouse cursor isn’t visible, that particular binding won’t work since the mouse cursor isn’t on the screen. Even positioning the NPC you want to interact with in the exact center of the screen won’t work.
I also quickly found myself in situations where hitting the button to bring up the mouse cursor would cancel certain important effects and channels. For example, just a few minutes into starting a Death Knight, you’re tasked with controlling an Eye of Acherus to spy on Scarlet Crusade fortifications. The eye has an ability to ground-target an area and summon ghouls that will distract mobs on the ground, allowing you to channel your probing ability. However, in order to cast the ability you must left-click, and you can’t left-click without the cursor on the screen. Yet pressing START on your gamepad to bring up the cursor also counts as pressing ESCAPE on your keyboard, which takes you out of the Eye of Acherus ‘vehicle’ and returns your control to your character. That was pretty annoying.
But you can remedy both these problems! Read on!
Step 4 - …modify them through console commands!
Type these into your chat box and send them in the same way you enabled the controller in Step 1.
/console GamePadCursorCentering 1 is the BIG one, as far as I’m concerned. When you enable this option, you’ll have a visible mouse cursor at the exact center of your screen in ‘movement mode’. You can then aim at nearby NPCs, players, mobs, treasure chests, lootable bodies, and all the other stuff you’d normally mouse over and click on when using mouse and keyboard. With this option turned on, the two controller buttons you have assigned to Left Click and Right Click in ‘cursor mode’ will work in ‘movement mode’ as well. This does mean that you’ll lose two buttons to use in the Key Bindings menu, but being able to simply aim at the thing you want to interact with and hit a single shoulder button to interact with it feels so much better than having to bring up the mouse cursor and drag it over your target with the right stick. This setting makes the game feel more like Elder Scrolls Online, or pretty much any Bethesda game - except instead of a crosshair in the middle of the screen, it’s WoW’s standard amputated hand cursor. Blizzard, if you’re listening, I’d love the option of having a crosshair when this setting is enabled! By the way, if you want to disable this, just substitute a 0 for the 1 in the command.
Now for the shoulder buttons - by default, the LEFT TRIGGER is equivalent to holding down Shift and the LEFT BUMPER is the equivalent to holding down Control. In ‘cursor mode’, or in both modes if you’ve enabled GamePadCursorCentering, the RIGHT TRIGGER is left-click and the RIGHT BUMPER is right-click. I don’t like these defaults, mainly because it makes using Shift+Control+(key) bindings feel pretty clunky. Thankfully, you can change these defaults!
Most of WoW’s console commands use a ‘0’ for disabled and a ‘1’ for enabled, like the GamePadCursorCentering command above. These are different in that the ‘argument’ for the command isn’t a 0 or a 1 but rather Blizzard’s specific name for that gamepad button. I have yet to discover Blizzard’s name for most of the controller’s buttons, but we know the names of the shoulder buttons, and those are what’s important! Here are the button names, which you type at the end of the above commands.
PADLSHOULDER is the Left Bumper.
PADRSHOULDER is the Right Bumper.
PADLTRIGGER is the Left Trigger.
PADRTRIGGER is the Right Trigger.
PADBACK is the Back button. I think it’s Select on Playstation controllers?
Now put the two parts together! As an example: /console GamePadCursorLeftClick PADLTRIGGER will make it so the Left Trigger on your gamepad does a left-click with the mouse cursor, which I prefer to the default of having the Right Trigger do the left-click.
I set my gamepad up to use LEFT TRIGGER for left-clicking and the RIGHT TRIGGER for right-clicking. It feels more natural to me in WoW, since I find the RIGHT TRIGGER a little bit more easily reachable and I personally right-click a lot more than I left-click in WoW - right clicking is how you talk to NPCs, quickly equip or use items out of your bags, target enemies to attack, and interact with untargetable doodads out in the world like treasure chests and switches. I prefer these two bindings over Blizzard’s default of having both left-click and right-click on the two right-side shoulder buttons.
By default, Blizzard also has both two modifier keys - Control and Shift - on the two left shoulder buttons. Some might be fine with this, but when I played Final Fantasy XIV, I used the Left Bumper and Right Bumper to switch hotbars. So I set GamePadEmulateCtrl to the LEFT BUMPER and GamePadEmulateShift to the RIGHT BUMPER. This also makes it feel much more natural to do Ctrl+Shift bindings, as I mentioned earlier.
If you’d like to use my bindings, copy and paste these in one at a time!
/console GamePadEmulateCtrl PADLSHOULDER
/console GamePadEmulateShift PADRSHOULDER
/console GamePadCursorLeftClick PADLTRIGGER
/console GamePadCursorRightClick PADRTRIGGER
Step 5- Other console commands
Those are the most important console commands, but there are more. Check WoWpedia for the ‘Console_variables/Complete_list’ article and search (CTRL+F) for ‘gamepad’ for the full list.
Of particular note are these two.
/console GamePadEmulateAlt 1 works just like GamePadEmulateCtrl and GamePadEmulateShift, and functions like holding down the ALT key on your keyboard as a modifier. By default this function isn’t bound to any controller button. I think you can fit just about anything you’d need onto your gamepad using Control, Shift, and Control+Shift combined - but if you need a third modifier, you can use this command. This will open up Alt+Control, Alt+Shift, and even Alt+Control+Shift for you to use. If you use the four regular face buttons, the four d-pad directions, and pressing down on the two analog sticks for a total of 10 buttons per ‘set’ of bindings then you’ll have access to 40 bindings without GamePadEmulateAlt or 80 bindings with GamePadEmulateAlt!
/console GamePadFaceMovement 0 helps mitigate a major difference between the other gamepad-controllable hotkey MMO, Final Fantasy XIV, and WoW. In Final Fantasy XIV, you don’t really need to worry about which way your character is facing, because as long as you have a mob targeted your character will automatically turn to face it when you use an ability. WoW, on the other hand, won’t do that for you. So if you’re not using this feature, you’ll have to adjust your character’s facing frequently, especially if you’re moving around to avoid their attacks. With this setting enabled, the left analog stick will move your character in a fashion similar to most first-person games as well as games like Elder Scrolls Online - pressing forward will still make you run forward, but left and right will make you strafe left and right, and pushing down will cause your character to walk backwards instead of turning around and running forward toward the screen. The tradeoff here is that you’ll find it easier to keep facing forward toward your target, but your character will be a little less zippy - although strafing left and right is as fast as running forward, walking backwards (backstepping) is noticeably slower than turning around and running normally. Experiment with both settings and find your preference!
There are plenty of other console commands on that WoWpedia page, including some very complex ones involving pitch and yaw speed for camera movement. The page lists the default settings for each command, so if you go a little too far while experimenting, you have those to fall back on.
Step 6 - A few useful addons, key bindings, tips, and notes about possible weirdness
Future updates to the ConsolePort and Immersion addons by the talented MunkDev will likely replace the need for these addons, but for now I find them useful.
Dialogkey for Shadowlands (by Kayakflo, Google for his Github) allows you to assign keyboard keys to accept quests and select conversation topics when interacting with NPCs. As far as I can tell, you can’t assign gamepad buttons with this addon, but it does recognize the Ctrl, Shift, and optional Alt button assignments. Dragging the mouse cursor over to the Accept button when taking quests can be a bit awkward, so being able to hit Right Bumper (which acts as the Shift key) to quickly accept the quest is super useful. There are probably other things you can do with this addon, too, if you experiment with using the modifier buttons on your controller.
ExtraQuestButton (by p3lim) is an addon that displays the most relevant quest item as a free-floating button in the lower middle part of the screen, in a fashion similar to temporary abilities that can pop up in that same area during certain encounters. So, if you have a quest to use a gnomish device to shrink tigers into kittens, a button will pop up when you’re near those tigers that will allow you to use the device without having to peck around in your bags or quest tracker for it. The relevance of this addon here is that it also adds a keybind in the Key Bindings menu, which you can then assign to your controller! So you can use that gnomish device without the hassle of having to nudge the cursor around your screen until you find the right spot to click. That said, currently this addon isn’t working for me (perhaps due to a conflict), but it might work for you! Otherwise, I’m sure a future update to the addon will restore its functionality.
Bartender4 (by nevcairiel) is a great way to emulate Final Fantasy XIV’s dynamic action bars. You can configure it to show a single action bar that swaps to another bar when you hold a modifier like Shift and Control. That way you don’t need all your action bars on-screen at the same time. If you need help remembering which on-screen action bar buttons correspond to your gamepad buttons, you can create macros for your action bar abilities and items, and name them with the corresponding gamepad button - which will then appear on the button in your action bar. Future addons, like ConsolePort, will likely feature much more elegant implementations of gamepad-friendly action bars.
As for that useful key binding(s), in the Action Bar section of the Key Bindings menu, you’ll see bindings for Special Action Button 1 through 10. I’m sure most people already know this, but those bindings correspond to the small ability ‘tabs’ that appear over your main action bar for abilities like the Rogue’s stealth and the Paladin’s auras. You can always drag these abilities from your spellbook to more conventional positions on your action bars, but if you want to save those slots for other things, these bindings will let you activate those abilities right off of those special action button tabs.
Here are a few miscellaneous tips that might improve your gamepad experience: Consider turning on target outlines and/or nameplates in the Interface options if you’re having trouble figuring out who you have targeted - on a big TV it can be a little hard to instantly discern your target if you only have the target circle around their feet toggles on. You might also want to check out the DynamicCam addon, which allows you to do all sorts of neat and useful stuff with the game’s camera. For example, I have it set to zoom out automatically when I mount, then zoom back in when I’m back on foot. I also use it to position the camera a little bit to the side of my character, using the Shoulder Offset slider, which not only looks cool and gives you more of an action game style view but more importantly moves your character out of the exact middle of the screen so you can better see what you’re clicking on if you’re using Cursor Centering.
I like the theming and nostalgia of the regular Blizzard UI, so I don’t know if UI mods will work with this guide. However, I do run a few UI mods just to tidy things up a little. I use the Chatter addon for a cleaner and more compact chat box, and I use Gryphon Remover to get rid of those bits of screen-hogging art that bookend the main action bar. When you’re gaming on a TV on the other side of the room, you’ll probably need to scale your UI up, and things can get pretty cluttered. Every pixel counts!
A disclaimer about potential weirdness - even with the settings I’ve posted, you’re probably going to run into some odd situations where your gamepad will not avail you. As great as this gamepad support is, it’s still rather barebones. Hopefully Blizzard will continue to add to it, but until then, you might find yourself in some situations where - for whatever reason - keyboard and mouse will be a vastly easier (or perhaps even the only possible) way to progress. I’ll update if I run into any such situations.
Last, but not least, I ask for a little help from the community on a specific issue. The START and BACK buttons (possibly called different things on other gamepads, like Home or Select) are difficult to tinker with in WoW. The ‘GamePadEmulateEsc’ console command should help with this - it defaults to PADBACK, the leftmost of the ‘menu’ type buttons in the middle of the Xbox controller, which feels a bit awkward for me. I’d prefer to use the START button, the right-side button, for that. The simplest solution, since you can set two bindings per command, is to also map ‘GamePad Start’ to ‘Toggle Game Menu’ in Key Bindings. Not a bad fix, but it takes up both center buttons on the gamepad, and it’d be cool to have the BACK button accessible as another keybind. The best solution would be to use something other than ‘PADBACK’ as the ‘GamePadEmulateEsc’ argument, but I can’t seem to figure out what WoW calls the START button. I’ve tried PADSTART, PADPAUSE, START, and PAUSE with no luck. So if anyone figures it out, please let me know!
Step 7 - The end!
And that’s all I have for now. Special thanks to Reddit user 1xdk8n3YOp3p8JIF for his thread, Vharn on the official WoW forums for his post, and all the contributors on WoWpedia for their list on console variables. Also, thanks to all the authors of the addons mentioned in this post!
Happy controlling! Feel free to comment with any feedback, suggestions, additions, corrections, or complaints that I can use to improve on this post!