Author Topic: Joystick advice  (Read 3555 times)

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Offline Det. Bullock

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  • Madman in a box.
Hi,
I'm thinking of buying a new joystick (it's been more than a decade since I bought one) as I'm currently borrowing my brother's as my old Saitek ST200 became a bit too stiff for me and I wanted to ask a few basic questions:

Are HOTAS systems really necessary?
I first heard of those when all the various spacesim kickstarters went up, it was kinda strange for me as I always used the old "right hand on the stick, left on the keyboard" setup and I barely heard of separate throttles before.

Are current low-budget joysticks durable enough?
The thrustmaster T. Flight stick X was tempting me as it cost only 30 Euros at a Gamestop (the full HOTAS cost 50), but I'm really worried as I read over the internet of people that lament problems after only a few months or even weeks.
Also, I'm not a fan of the buttons on the base (a point in common with the cheap sidewinder I'm currently using) as I never use them on spacesims unless I play something really arcadey like the old Rogue Squadron 3D.

That said, is a CH Combatstick worth the price?
I put my eyes on it and while here in Europe costs about 100 Euros, it's still cheaper than the CH Fighterstick (which also has more hat switches and fancy modes than I think I'll ever need) but it's still very expensive.

And last but not necessarily least: do the various mapping softwares with the various thrustmasters, CHs, Saiteks have the ability to emulate buttons for Dos games?
While I do play a lot of X-wing vs Tie Fighter, Freespace 1 & 2, etc, I still play some older games that run under DOS and being able to use all the additional keys in that games without passing through the DosBox keymapper would be nice, if not completely necessary.
« Last Edit: December 12, 2015, 07:00:25 pm by Det. Bullock »
"I pity the poor shades confined to the euclidean prison that is sanity." - Grant Morrison
"People assume  that time is a strict progression of cause to effect,  but *actually*  from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more  like a big ball  of wibbly wobbly... time-y wimey... stuff." - The Doctor

 

Offline est1895

  • 28
We really should have a "place" for controllers/joysticks on the website.

 
It depends what you're playing:
For X-Wing V TIE Fighter and most Freespaces, cheap joystick and keyboard work awesomely.
But if you're playing any flight sims, like IL-2 Sturmovik or 6DOF space games like Elite: Dangerous, then you'll definitely notice a huge increase in immersion and capability with a decent HOTAS setup.

Not that you can't play those with a cheap joystick, just that a better one, and/or a HOTAS will make a marked difference in your overall enjoyment, probably.

 

Offline Det. Bullock

  • 29
  • Madman in a box.
We really should have a "place" for controllers/joysticks on the website.

Even a sticky thread would help a lot in fact, I'm really surprised there is no dedicated room for discussing Joysticks on a spacesim forum, but a sticky thread would do nicely.

It depends what you're playing:
For X-Wing V TIE Fighter and most Freespaces, cheap joystick and keyboard work awesomely.
But if you're playing any flight sims, like IL-2 Sturmovik or 6DOF space games like Elite: Dangerous, then you'll definitely notice a huge increase in immersion and capability with a decent HOTAS setup.

Not that you can't play those with a cheap joystick, just that a better one, and/or a HOTAS will make a marked difference in your overall enjoyment, probably.

That's why I was tempted the CH Combatstick even though it costs more than double than the Thrustmaster T. Flight X, while an HOTAS isn't an option for both cost and space requirements (I use one of the old pieces of furniture studied for PCs and the keyboard retractable shelf doesn't seeem big enough to accomodate a HOTAS) I would like to have a better one for once, with at least some programmable functions and most of all durable, also I don't really like the flashy designs they use nowadays on entry level joysticks, it gives me the impression of something more cheaply made than it probably is (look! we have LEDs and bright neon colours! of course the buttons will break in a week, but PRETTY COLOURS!).
Funny thing is at first I leaned more on the Flightstick but here it seems to cost the same if not MORE than the Combatstick, probably they just don't stock it nearly as much here as it isn't very popular so the price goes up, and I think even being ambidextrous doesn't help its popularity as even my very much lefthanded brother uses his right hand to play XvT even when using my ambidextrous Saitek ST200 (the stiffness doesn't seem to be a problem for him because he plays sports so he actually has muscles).

Which reminds me of something I read in some reviews of the Combatstick, they say it has a very wide "throw", my knowledge of english is a bit limited in certain semantic fields so I'm not sure I grasped what it meant, it means that to achieve maximum movement speed for the aircraft you have to move the stick farther compared joysticks I gather...?
If so, is it really that much of a difference?
I can't seem to find pictures or youtube videos to give me an idea.
« Last Edit: December 13, 2015, 03:07:38 am by Det. Bullock »
"I pity the poor shades confined to the euclidean prison that is sanity." - Grant Morrison
"People assume  that time is a strict progression of cause to effect,  but *actually*  from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more  like a big ball  of wibbly wobbly... time-y wimey... stuff." - The Doctor

 

Offline Herra Tohtori

  • The Academic
  • 211
  • Bad command or file name
Are HOTAS systems really necessary?
I first heard of those when all the various spacesim kickstarters went up, it was kinda strange for me as I always used the old "right hand on the stick, left on the keyboard" setup and I barely heard of separate throttles before.

No, but quite useful.

Quote
Are current low-budget joysticks durable enough?


Depends. Are we talking about mechanical durability or the quality (and longevity) of the electronics?

I've had both electronic and mechanical failures on different sticks. However, generally speaking mechanical durability only becomes a factor if the electronics (sensors, buttons, wires) can outlive the mechanical components (gimbals, button base supports).

On all Logitech sticks I've owned (Extreme 3D Pro, Force 3D Pro, Wingman Force), the potentiometres were **** to begin with and went bad before any mechanical failures (although I would argue that the force feedback mechanics are a problem on the latter two sticks by design).

I've owned two Saitek Cyborg Evo sticks (pre-MadCatz days) and they both developed some potentiometre issues, and the main trigger button's support caved inside the stick on the other one.

My X52 throttle has had some really bad problems with wires getting chafed and cut inside the throttle, rendering random functions unusable on the throttle handle until I open it up and splice up the wires again.

Personally I value electronic durability over mechanical. Mechanical endurance depends on the level of stress you put the stick to, while you can't really do anything to reduce the "stress" on the electronics aside from playing less.

In normal use, anything should last at least two years. But at the moment I would advise against getting any Saitek/MadCatz products due to horrendous quality issues, and I would personally also avoid any Logitech sticks because of my previous bad, bad experiences with them. So that basically leaves Thrustmaster for entry level sticks...

Quote
The thrustmaster T. Flight stick X was tempting me as it cost only 30 Euros at a Gamestop (the full HOTAS cost 50), but I'm really worried as I read over the internet of people that lament problems after only a few months or even weeks.

T.Flight Stick and T.Flight HOTAS are both conventional sticks in the sense that they use potentiometres. Pots always fail eventually, being electromechanical components. On the other hand, the T.16000m has Hall effect sensors on the main stick axes, which removes two of the most important failure points on the electronics. Twist handle still uses potentiometre, though, but instead of three potential critical failure points you have only one.

In my opinion the T.16000m is at the best price/performance points for basic joysticks at the moment.

Quote
Also, I'm not a fan of the buttons on the base (a point in common with the cheap sidewinder I'm currently using) as I never use them on spacesims unless I play something really arcadey like the old Rogue Squadron 3D.

Then you may need a HOTAS setup. Or just not use the base buttons and use keyboard controls instead.

Quote
That said, is a CH Combatstick worth the price?
I put my eyes on it and while here in Europe costs about 100 Euros, it's still cheaper than the CH Fighterstick (which also has more hat switches and fancy modes than I think I'll ever need) but it's still very expensive.

Yes. CH stuff is worth the money it costs, however: Since CH joysticks don't have a twist handle function you will probably need to invest into separate rudder pedals. And possibly a throttle as well. And then you would be in trouble with older games - like FreeSpace 2 Open - which only accept one game controller at a time. The only option then would be to go with full CH setup (CH stick, CH rudder pedals, possibly CH throttle) and combine them into one virtual device by CH's profile manager software.

This is expensive, and most likely a Thrustmaster T.16000m would be easier and much, much less expensive...

Quote
And last but not necessarily least: do the various mapping softwares with the various thrustmasters, CHs, Saiteks have the ability to emulate buttons for Dos games?
While I do play a lot of X-wing vs Tie Fighter, Freespace 1 & 2, etc, I still play some older games that run under DOS and being able to use all the additional keys in that games without passing through the DosBox keymapper would be nice, if not completely necessary.

Yes. Generally speaking, profile software either outputs "raw" button presses, or translates them into keyboard button presses or macros.

Depending on the emulator software for your DOS games, you might either be able to set it up to look for "game controller" buttons, or just use key presses and remap the game controls accordingly for all the extra buttons that are not covered by the generic "4-axis joystick" support from DOSbox.
There are three things that last forever: Abort, Retry, Fail - and the greatest of these is Fail.

 

Offline Mika

  • 28
I'm still running with the same CH Flightstick that was bought back in 1998. The thing which sucks is that I'm looking for a replacement not because the thing failed, but because it uses a game port which doesn't exist in nowadays computers, and the gameport -> USB adapter loses a couple of buttons.

It does make me wonder whether CH would allow to upgrade the joystick instead of buying a new one! Heck, at least they could pull a marketing stunt from it :D

I could consider a separate throttle, but F4:AF is perfectly functional without it, and I don't play that much IL-2.

Well, there's XCOM2 looming in the horizon, so maybe I don't need a joystick just yet.
Relaxed movement is always more effective than forced movement.

 

Offline Det. Bullock

  • 29
  • Madman in a box.
Quote
That said, is a CH Combatstick worth the price?
I put my eyes on it and while here in Europe costs about 100 Euros, it's still cheaper than the CH Fighterstick (which also has more hat switches and fancy modes than I think I'll ever need) but it's still very expensive.

Yes. CH stuff is worth the money it costs, however: Since CH joysticks don't have a twist handle function you will probably need to invest into separate rudder pedals. And possibly a throttle as well. And then you would be in trouble with older games - like FreeSpace 2 Open - which only accept one game controller at a time. The only option then would be to go with full CH setup (CH stick, CH rudder pedals, possibly CH throttle) and combine them into one virtual device by CH's profile manager software.

This is expensive, and most likely a Thrustmaster T.16000m would be easier and much, much less expensive...

I never used a joystick with a twist handle in my entire life, so that's not a problem, and I'm interested only in the stick itself (I just don't have the space for a throttle and the games I play don't use a rudder).

A thrustmaster T16000 would likely be a worthy alternative but I really like the old school design of the Combatstick on the other hand, I can't really decide, if the combatstick was more expensive it would be a far easier decision.



Quote
And last but not necessarily least: do the various mapping softwares with the various thrustmasters, CHs, Saiteks have the ability to emulate buttons for Dos games?
While I do play a lot of X-wing vs Tie Fighter, Freespace 1 & 2, etc, I still play some older games that run under DOS and being able to use all the additional keys in that games without passing through the DosBox keymapper would be nice, if not completely necessary.

Yes. Generally speaking, profile software either outputs "raw" button presses, or translates them into keyboard button presses or macros.

Depending on the emulator software for your DOS games, you might either be able to set it up to look for "game controller" buttons, or just use key presses and remap the game controls accordingly for all the extra buttons that are not covered by the generic "4-axis joystick" support from DOSbox.
Good.  :yes:

I'm still running with the same CH Flightstick that was bought back in 1998. The thing which sucks is that I'm looking for a replacement not because the thing failed, but because it uses a game port which doesn't exist in nowadays computers, and the gameport -> USB adapter loses a couple of buttons.

It does make me wonder whether CH would allow to upgrade the joystick instead of buying a new one! Heck, at least they could pull a marketing stunt from it :D

I could consider a separate throttle, but F4:AF is perfectly functional without it, and I don't play that much IL-2.

Well, there's XCOM2 looming in the horizon, so maybe I don't need a joystick just yet.
I heard they did in the early 2000s.

Pradoxically I do have a game port as the only internal component I salvaged from my old PC is a Soundblaster Audigy one of the last soundcards to have one it seems...
"I pity the poor shades confined to the euclidean prison that is sanity." - Grant Morrison
"People assume  that time is a strict progression of cause to effect,  but *actually*  from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more  like a big ball  of wibbly wobbly... time-y wimey... stuff." - The Doctor

 

Offline Det. Bullock

  • 29
  • Madman in a box.
In the end I bit the bullet and ordered the CH Combatstick, if Amazon.it and Poste Italiane do their job it should arrive by Friday.
"I pity the poor shades confined to the euclidean prison that is sanity." - Grant Morrison
"People assume  that time is a strict progression of cause to effect,  but *actually*  from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more  like a big ball  of wibbly wobbly... time-y wimey... stuff." - The Doctor

 

Offline Dragon

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  • The sky is the limit.
Hope you enjoy it. I swear by my HOTAS set. :) It's really immersive and the CM allows it to be used in pretty much any game, even old ones for which you need to bind switches to keyboard keys.
It does make me wonder whether CH would allow to upgrade the joystick instead of buying a new one! Heck, at least they could pull a marketing stunt from it :D
I don't know how much of the schematics is available, but CH sticks are famous not only for their durability, but also for ease of repair when something does break (it helps that CH sells replacement parts for their controllers as a part of their industrial catalogue). I wonder how hard would it be to actually retrofit the old stick with an USB cable. That would require fiddling with electronics, but as long as it doesn't involve any proprietary integrated chips, it should be doable. CH Products is a company that makes industrial controllers (including actual aircraft ones, I think), so I would expect them to design their primary product lines to be repaired rather than replaced. If they applied the same philosophy to their gaming controllers (likely, seeing as they already share parts with their industrial lineup), then you might be in luck.

If that doesn't work (or is too complex to attempt), you might also try to acquire a broken USB variant of the Fighterstick (assuming there is such a thing :)) for the cheap and repair it using parts from yours. CH didn't actually change much between those versions, if the failure is in switches or potentiometers, then they can probably be swapped.

Anyway, it certainly wouldn't hurt to send them an e-mail if they wouldn't give you an upgrade for the cheap. :)

 

Offline Det. Bullock

  • 29
  • Madman in a box.
Hope you enjoy it. I swear by my HOTAS set. :) It's really immersive and the CM allows it to be used in pretty much any game, even old ones for which you need to bind switches to keyboard keys.
I know, it's just that I really don't have the space for a HOTAS, I have barely enough space beside the keyboard for a joystick, the solution would be moving the computer elsewhere but I live with my brothers so that's not an option.
"I pity the poor shades confined to the euclidean prison that is sanity." - Grant Morrison
"People assume  that time is a strict progression of cause to effect,  but *actually*  from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more  like a big ball  of wibbly wobbly... time-y wimey... stuff." - The Doctor

 

Offline Det. Bullock

  • 29
  • Madman in a box.
Ok, my Combatstick finally arrived this morning and it managed to surprise me in positive.

It's huge compared to what I'm used to yet it's very comfortable, the slightly rugged surface is a nice change from the smooth plastic of essentially all the joysticks I ever used and the thing feels like it could be hit repeatedly with a sledgehammer without breaking even though it doesn't require almost any stregth to use.

I was kinda surprised to discover that the DOS versions of X-wing and Tie Fighter seem to recognize more than the usual four keys even without using the mapping software, and oddly it's the 8-way POV hat that they recognized as I discovered when I inadvertently fired a proton torpedo, I'll still have to use the mapping software as many of the extra commands beyound button 4 are a bit random, and oddly they seemed to ignore the 4-way hat for some reason.

No such issues with the windows games of course, X-wing vs Tie Fighter was a blast, finally being able to fine aim decently helps a lot in the basic furball on hard as it made much easier to hit targets beyond the half-kilometer mark.

I tried it a bit with X3: Terran Conflict, and even configured the POV hat to navigate the menus and the 4-way hat to use the thrusters, though probably I'll tweak things again when I'll feel like finishing that annoying "spying on terrans" storyline.
"I pity the poor shades confined to the euclidean prison that is sanity." - Grant Morrison
"People assume  that time is a strict progression of cause to effect,  but *actually*  from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more  like a big ball  of wibbly wobbly... time-y wimey... stuff." - The Doctor

 

Offline Det. Bullock

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  • Madman in a box.
I've been fiddling with the control manager for a while and made maps for both X-wing and Tie Fighter and I've even managed to get the throttle working (though the first thing I did was swapping the cockpit on/ff defaulted to the pinky button to laser-to-shield energy transfer, configure the POV hat and put weapon switching and tractor beam on the 4 way hat, I did the throttle mostly to see if it could work), but I have to run the control center (the tray to switch maps on the fly) manually as it gives error messages if I put a link to it in the autoexec folder, while it isn't a deal breaker, is there a way to make it run on windows start?

I have windows 7 64bit.
"I pity the poor shades confined to the euclidean prison that is sanity." - Grant Morrison
"People assume  that time is a strict progression of cause to effect,  but *actually*  from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more  like a big ball  of wibbly wobbly... time-y wimey... stuff." - The Doctor

 

Offline Herra Tohtori

  • The Academic
  • 211
  • Bad command or file name
There are three things that last forever: Abort, Retry, Fail - and the greatest of these is Fail.

 

Offline Det. Bullock

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  • Madman in a box.
http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/run-program-automatically-windows-starts#1TC=windows-7


Is this what you tried, or something else?

Yes, sorry but my OS is in Italian so I didn't know how the folder was called in english.
« Last Edit: January 14, 2016, 02:26:54 pm by Det. Bullock »
"I pity the poor shades confined to the euclidean prison that is sanity." - Grant Morrison
"People assume  that time is a strict progression of cause to effect,  but *actually*  from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more  like a big ball  of wibbly wobbly... time-y wimey... stuff." - The Doctor

 

Offline Herra Tohtori

  • The Academic
  • 211
  • Bad command or file name
Well, if the program is not starting by a shortcut, you could try making a batch file that runs the program, and then make a shortcut for the batch file and put that in the Startup directory...

...but there might be some other reasons why the program is not running properly immediately after the computer has been started. What kind of errors does it throw?
There are three things that last forever: Abort, Retry, Fail - and the greatest of these is Fail.

 

Offline Det. Bullock

  • 29
  • Madman in a box.
Well, if the program is not starting by a shortcut, you could try making a batch file that runs the program, and then make a shortcut for the batch file and put that in the Startup directory...

...but there might be some other reasons why the program is not running properly immediately after the computer has been started. What kind of errors does it throw?

I put the link icon back in the startup folder to check because I only have vague recollections of what the errors were (something about not finding I think) and...

It worked.

I really don't know what to think, at the moment I set it to start in "direct mode", I don't remember if I set it up differently the first time.
"I pity the poor shades confined to the euclidean prison that is sanity." - Grant Morrison
"People assume  that time is a strict progression of cause to effect,  but *actually*  from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more  like a big ball  of wibbly wobbly... time-y wimey... stuff." - The Doctor

 

Offline Det. Bullock

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  • Madman in a box.
Aaaand...

It did it again, the error message was "Win32 Access Denied", the tray was there but there were no map files, I couldn't switch modes and it refused to close the application because it "could not create History.dat" so I had to use task manager to close it.
"I pity the poor shades confined to the euclidean prison that is sanity." - Grant Morrison
"People assume  that time is a strict progression of cause to effect,  but *actually*  from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more  like a big ball  of wibbly wobbly... time-y wimey... stuff." - The Doctor

 

Offline Det. Bullock

  • 29
  • Madman in a box.
Ok, there was an offer for "returned" articles on the German CH Products distributor Aerosoft and after checking terms and conditions I bit the bullet and bought a CH Pro Throttle, it's a risk but it was the only way to stay inside my budget, I'm mostly counting on people returning it because they didn't like the sliding and lack of resistance.
It should arrive in a couple of weeks.
"I pity the poor shades confined to the euclidean prison that is sanity." - Grant Morrison
"People assume  that time is a strict progression of cause to effect,  but *actually*  from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more  like a big ball  of wibbly wobbly... time-y wimey... stuff." - The Doctor

 

Offline jr2

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You could always buy replacement parts and fix it yourself if it's broken, too.

 

Offline Det. Bullock

  • 29
  • Madman in a box.
You could always buy replacement parts and fix it yourself if it's broken, too.

Well, meanwhile they wrote me they ran out of stock on the "returned" throttles  and offered me a discount on a brand new one as alternative, it's a bit more than the "returned" version but still inside my budget so I accepted, it shouldn't be necessary to repair it hopefully.
In a couple of weeks at worst I should have my first HOTAS then, let's hope it all goes well, I hate this sense of anxiety everytime I have to spend money on costly stuff.
"I pity the poor shades confined to the euclidean prison that is sanity." - Grant Morrison
"People assume  that time is a strict progression of cause to effect,  but *actually*  from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more  like a big ball  of wibbly wobbly... time-y wimey... stuff." - The Doctor