Author Topic: Looking for a joystick for old freespace gamer  (Read 3440 times)

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Offline soyo

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Looking for a joystick for old freespace gamer
Hi

I'm pretty old gamer, that loved space sims a while back. I fell in love with Tie-Fighter, was playing this game to death, and still play it once every couple years. Then came freespace, freespace 2 etc.

Anyways, I couldn't ever afford a joystick set for like 300 or 400$, but now that I can, and since I'm starting to get a feeling I'd like to play something again (and since the Star Citizen is approaching too), I thought it would be nice to buy some great joystick that would amaze me with the feel of it.

So to not give you a bad idea that I came here without looking at anything, I did. I looked over, and from what I found there are 3 products I filtered out:

1) Thrustmaster Warthdog
2) Saitek X-65F
3) CH FighterStick + Pro Throttle

I was reading more and more, and since I'm a sucker for products of non-mainstream companies (not in the sence the company is small, but that it's not known to average user) of high quality, I was leaning towards the third option. It is apparently USA production, so the quality should be great (and most people say it is), it is not flashy, or have great looks but apparently of incredible reliability. And since I'm not 14 year old boy, the looks is not important, I was leaning towards it more and more, especialy since it's also the cheapest of the 3 (not that it's most important, but hey). One thing that put me off a bit was that it didn't have twist of the handle (I don't intend to use pedales), but I thought I can live with that with so many 4 way hats (just assign to one of them this function).

But then I ran into couple opinions, that the thing with those joysticks is that they have kinda 2 axis mechanicaly that you can distinct when you operate the joystick diagonally. Not that it's impossible or anything like that, but that you clearly can feel it under your hand, and some people were put off because of it. And since I don't ever play combat sims, only futturistic sims (in the past), and you move joystick all over the place 360 degrees, that seems like a big issue for me.

So, I started to look at the other two more and more. The other two, basicaly, the biggest difference is the "sensor" type handling in Saitek set, and the normal handle in the Thrustmaster set. Both seem to be great, but I got general feeling that Thrustmaster gets more on the plus side.

I care very much about spending money wisely, so I would love to pick a right choice. Can any of you, only from a space sim perspective, and who played (ideally with at least 2 of these 3 choices), reccomend me one, and say 3 arguments why I should pick that one over the others?

 

Offline Herra Tohtori

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Re: Looking for a joystick for old freespace gamer
If you get a CH Fighterstick, you'll need to also invest in rudder pedals. Same applies to Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog.

Saitek X65F does have twist-stick control for the third axis so you wouldn't necessarily need rudder pedals, but the stick itself has a few quirks in that it's a force-sensing device - the stick itself moves only very little, and the sensors are reading the force you're applying to the stick rather than the deflected movement of the stick from center point. For some it is good, for some not so much.

Also, if you are considering primarily flying FSO, you have to consider that control scheme is (for the time being) limited to a single game controller device.

So if you bought, for example, CH Fighterstick, CH Pro Throttole, and Saitek Combat Rudder Pedals, you would be able to combine the CH devices into one virtual device through CH's own Control Manager software. But you would have no way to read the rudder pedals in FSO.

This will hopefully change at some point, when new code for pilots gets released (which enables further re-work of controls code). But don't count on that being done at any particular schedule.


In this light I think I would have to recommend three possibilities:

1. CH Fighterstick + CH Pro Throttle + CH Rudder Pedals  (most expensive and extensive option)

2. Saitek X65F (force-sensing stick, good dual-axis throttle, twist-handle rudder control option)

3. Saitek X52Pro (cheapest option, acceptable for FSO and decent as an entry-level HOTAS controller for flight simulators, but make sure you get the Pro version rather than regular X52, it has a lot of issues fixed).
There are three things that last forever: Abort, Retry, Fail - and the greatest of these is Fail.

 

Offline Dragon

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Re: Looking for a joystick for old freespace gamer
Good post. :yes: The CH set is price-y, but it's also worth every penny you spend on it.

 

Offline soyo

  • 23
Re: Looking for a joystick for old freespace gamer
Thank you "Herra Tohtori". I appriciate taking the time.

I looked over again for an hour or so, and I found other person's opinion, that those "heavy" sticks are not that good for space sims, that do use a different physics (sci-fi) rather than earth's sims. Makes sense. Also the warthog is simulating a real stick of an actual plane.

Second, since I will not be ever using the set for a combat sims, but only space sims, and mostly older ones (if I have some "urge"), it is a bit of an overkill to buy a set like that. The only thing that draws me to a more professional set is a accuracy and longevity, which unfortunetly goes hand in hand with the number of buttons :P.

The combination of 2 devices, which you pointed out, is also an issue which I found out. Even if I combine 2, still many, many buttons will not be used, which is also a waste in this case.

These reasons tone down my enthusiasm for those most expensive sets.

Now I have a couple of questions for you:

Quote
If you get a CH Fighterstick, you'll need to also invest in rudder pedals.
Why is that if I may ask?

Quote
Saitek X65F does have twist-stick control for the third axis so you wouldn't necessarily need rudder pedals, but the stick itself has a few quirks in that it's a force-sensing device - the stick itself moves only very little, and the sensors are reading the force you're applying to the stick rather than the deflected movement of the stick from center point. For some it is good, for some not so much.
Indeed. I think I will opt to pick a more conservative approach which is a typical stick.

The single CH Fighterstick would be perfect, if it didn't only have those "diagonal issues". I don't want to feel any difference of feeling whenever I roam with my stick, and I can see why some people are irritated by it. It's even more so the case with space sims where I can imagine the full range of the stick is used a lot more often and more intense.

The Saitek X52Pro would be the "biggest" set I would think about. However it also has a lot of buttons, and it also has a separate throttle (won't it also be a problem with 2 devices vs 1 device?). If it IS seen as 1 device, and I can use it with older games without any problem, then it deffinetly looks great, ad pretty "sci fi" with all the leds. So that is deffinetly what I am thinking about.

The 2 other that I looked about and are recomennded the most, from the "cheaper models" are Saitek Aviator, and Logitech Extreme 3D Pro.

Anybody using Saitek X52Pro in space sims, that could share his expierience?

Good post. :yes: The CH set is price-y, but it's also worth every penny you spend on it.
Any thoughts Dragon, about this diagonal movement on CH sticks?

 

Offline Herra Tohtori

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Re: Looking for a joystick for old freespace gamer
The X52Pro is seen as a single device, and it comes with a good throttle handle separate from the stick, and the stick itself has X,Y and twist handle axis controls + quite a bit of buttons.

It is a decent entry level HOTAS controller and will probably be good for you for several years even if you decide to try some flight simulators.


The best next step down in price and form, to a traditional single-unit controller (joystick) would be the Thrustmaster T.16000m stick. With that, you will get Hall effect sensors at least for the two main axes - don't know if the twist handle and throttle use those as well, but this stick would be a solid option if you don't want a HOTAS type gear with separate throttle and stick.

If you really want to shirk on price you could look at Saitek's Cyborg series of sticks, but they aren't much cheaper than the T.16000m and use potentiometres which are much more prone to wear and tear than Hall effect sensors are.

And I would advice staying as far away from Logitech's joysticks as possible. They use cheap, questionable quality pots that have proven to be very variable in quality and rather poor in precision.
There are three things that last forever: Abort, Retry, Fail - and the greatest of these is Fail.

 

Offline soyo

  • 23
Re: Looking for a joystick for old freespace gamer
Thank you Herra Tohtori for all the shared expierience.

I will take to heart your advice about logitech joysticks, although truth to be told I'm a sucker for their keyboards and mice (I have k800 and Preformance MX) ;)

However I'm leaning more and more to Saitek X52Pro, which you recommended as the third option. The rudder thing really makes me curious, and I see people are using it with space sims, and they are very happy with it. The abbility to twist also is nice.

What do you have, if I can ask? :)

ps. If I may ask one off-topic question, any chance of FS3? Or maybe some fraction of Violition planning some kickstarter campaign or something? I'm a long way off the main news about space sims, aside that I know about Star Citizen. I'm not the biggest fan of the "Privater" type space sims, so I would love to play some classical Freespace or Tie-Fighter type of space sims.

 

Offline Herra Tohtori

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Re: Looking for a joystick for old freespace gamer
I used the regular X52 (non-pro) for a long time with a few custom modifications to make it better for myself, and for FSO, the most intuitive control scheme is to set Y-axis for Pitch (up/down), X-axis for Yaw (left/right) and Z-axis rotation (twist handle) for Roll. Rudder pedals are not strictly necessary for space sim, they are much more useful for atmospheric flight where you use them to control the rudder (yaw).

Currently, I have CH Fighterstick USB, Saitek Combat Rudder Pedals, and the throttle from my old Saitek X52. These are all seen as different devices, but with modern games it doesn't usually matter as they typically can recognize several different devices.

I haven't played FS2 Open recently, and if I did I would have to figure out some way to combine the controllers into one, or just play with the CH Fighterstick and use keyboard for roll and throttle control. Or I could set my Windows to Test Mode, which makes possible to use the PPJoyJoy virtual joystick software to combine physical controllers into single virtual joystick, but honestly I can't be arsed to do that.

So, in a way I'm waiting for FSO to become capable of recognizing multiple control devices for inputs...


Oh and FS3 is so unlikely that it doesn't really make sense to wonder about it. If, by some miraculous events, FS3 gets made by Volition at some point, we'll hear about it eventually... other than that we already have excellent stuff going on, and also other games to play...


...STAR CITIZEEEEEEN... :D


EDIT: For what it's worth, I have heard some reviews that say that the CH Rudder Pedals are actually not all that great as far as ergonomics go. Their strong point is that they can be combined with rest of CH gear into one virtual controller.

But, if you wanted the best rudder pedals, I would point you to either MFG Crosswind Pedals, or Saitek Combat Rudder Pedals (which I myself use).
« Last Edit: August 23, 2013, 02:18:14 pm by Herra Tohtori »
There are three things that last forever: Abort, Retry, Fail - and the greatest of these is Fail.

 

Offline soyo

  • 23
Re: Looking for a joystick for old freespace gamer
Thank you.

I was not aware you have the CH fighterstick. Can you tell me about this diagonal "feeling" issue I was reading about. Is it noticable, and the whole range of the stick is not smoth?

And also thanks for the pedals suggestion but I won't be using them for sure. I'm not that much hardcore of a gamer, besides I think it would make more sense for typical combat sims.

As for my offtopic, sorry to keep it going, but just one last question. I did play couple times with Open Freespace, I know I finished both main campains with it at least 2 times. But I am not aware of any other mods or any other games like that (thought this genre is dead pretty much :( ). What 3 games/mods would you recomend me? I'm looking for a great single campaign expierience with a good storyline plus obviously the gaming expierience, the fights, the missions is important. Freespace and Tie-Fighter are those magical games for me, which pretty much say what I'm interested in. Would you be kind enough to name 3 games/mods that would give me as close expierience to those as possible? (if there are any like those ofcourse).

 

Offline Herra Tohtori

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Re: Looking for a joystick for old freespace gamer
Well, I got used to the Fighterstick very quickly. The only discontinuous part of movement is in the middle where the direction of tension changes sides as the stick moves from one side to other; the spring tension keeps the stick centered, so you need to apply a bit of force before the stick starts to move.

The difference to many other sticks may be in that both the X and Y axes have separate spring, whereas sticks like X52 have just one spring system for centering the stick. So this may result in a bit different feel, but I think it is just a matter of getting used to it. Moving the CH Fighterstick is quite smooth, diagonal or otherwise.

But your mileage may wary, I can only speak for myself.


As for mod recommendations... FSO in its various forms is pretty much the best space combat you can get at the moment.

You can try Diaspora, which is a Battlestar Galactica-themed Total Conversion using FSO engine, or The Babylon Project which does the same but with Babylon 5 universe, or Wings of Dawn which is a (mostly) completely original thing.

If I had to recommend just FSO mods (excluding FSUpgrade) I would probably recommend Blue Planet, Silent Threat Reborn (requires FS Port though) and... maybe Derelict SCP (but there are so many things that it's hard to put them in order of relevance or superiority).


As for other games, the upcoming Star Citizen holds a tremendous potential; there's also Strike Suit Zero for a bit more arcade/console type gameply (based on looking at videos of the gameplay). Homeworld games also exist and they are going to be remade in higher quality.
There are three things that last forever: Abort, Retry, Fail - and the greatest of these is Fail.

 

Offline soyo

  • 23
Re: Looking for a joystick for old freespace gamer
But your mileage may wary, I can only speak for myself.
I understand. I am tempted by the x52, so I'll see how it goes.

Quote
As for mod recommendations... FSO in its various forms is pretty much the best space combat you can get at the moment.

You can try Diaspora, which is a Battlestar Galactica-themed Total Conversion using FSO engine, or The Babylon Project which does the same but with Babylon 5 universe, or Wings of Dawn which is a (mostly) completely original thing.

If I had to recommend just FSO mods (excluding FSUpgrade) I would probably recommend Blue Planet, Silent Threat Reborn (requires FS Port though) and... maybe Derelict SCP (but there are so many things that it's hard to put them in order of relevance or superiority).
Awsome! Thanks a lot. I loved Battlestar Gallactica, so that should be fantastic.

Quote
As for other games, the upcoming Star Citizen holds a tremendous potential; there's also Strike Suit Zero for a bit more arcade/console type gameply (based on looking at videos of the gameplay). Homeworld games also exist and they are going to be remade in higher quality.
Don't get me started. RTS's was one of my favourite genre, so combining that with space combat made it one of the best PC series for me :)

 

Offline Dragon

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Re: Looking for a joystick for old freespace gamer
Thank you.

I was not aware you have the CH fighterstick. Can you tell me about this diagonal "feeling" issue I was reading about. Is it noticable, and the whole range of the stick is not smoth?
The whole range is pretty smooth, but due to the fact you have two springs, diagonal movement requires slightly more force. CH Fighterstick is perfectly suited for space sims, I've played FS, Sol: Exodus, Miner Wars, Descent and many others with it. The only place where it was problematic was Mechwarrior 2 (yes, I've got the entire HOTAS to work with it! :)), which uses an unique system that translates position of the stick directly to torso position. Turns out it's unique for a very good reason, since it makes precise aiming hard with any centering stick, and the high spring strength of the CH Fighterstick does make it worse. But I know of no other game using a similar system, and MW2 is very much playable that way. I've got thought the original on Medium (save for the last trial of the Wolf campaign and one Falcon defensive mission), just turning the whole mech instead of using torso twist.

Regarding buttons, don't worry, you won't waste a single one. I've mapped all the buttons on both my Fighterstick and Throttle. Indeed, you'll be surprised how many functions you'll use regularly once you have them conveniently under your fingers.

 

Offline soyo

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Re: Looking for a joystick for old freespace gamer
Thanks Dragon, and overall thanks to both of you, gentelmen.

I will think about it some more, and decide between the two, since they both are pretty much the same price (CH fighterstick + throtle).

 

Offline soyo

  • 23
Re: Looking for a joystick for old freespace gamer
Yesterday I received the used(although barely only for a month or so) X52 Pro I purchased, and what can I say... WOW

After using the Logitech Freedom 2.4, this seems like a rollys royce in comparison. Fantastic feeling, the customization, the throttle (my first expierience with a part like this). I've played a little Tie Fighter yesterday after playing with the button settings in Smart software, and the feeling is amazing.

Deffinetly worth the price, and I can safely say that I will waste some portion of my life in next couple of months :P, as I have a nice nostalgia back in me about the good old space-sims :)

Thanks again guys for all the answers and advices.

 
Re: Looking for a joystick for old freespace gamer
My personal recommendation would be

1) CH Fighterstick USB, Saitek PRO Flight Combat Rudder Pedals (much more sturdy than the non PRO), and buy a used Saitek X52 or 52 PRO throttle off Ebay.

2) If you can afford it the Thrustmaster Hotas Warthog Joystick along with the Saitek PRO Flight Combat Rudder Pedals (this is the setup I have)