Seems perfect for some Dosbox retro fun. I've got a few gameport controllers around here...somewhere.
Great Idea! This setup also works in new games, any USB controlled game with vintage controllers! There are so many 15 pin game port controllers collecting dust at various Thrift Stores. I am going to go nuts the next few months, some real interesting high quality Flightsticks to discover! Gameport Hatswitch Flightsticks
I described in the OP how to "fly" various Flight Simulators with Four Button game port Sticks hooked up with the Rockfish USB Adapter. I was curious if multiple button Hat Switch Flightsticks with a game port plug would also work thru the USB port. I pulled the biggest, baddest and longest running Flight Sim series to test fly with, Microsoft Flight Simulator Flight Anniversary Edition. First a look at the game and its history.SubLogic and Microsoft Flight Simulator
Microsoft Flight Simulator have been around in multiple reincarnations for many years, started out by a game company called subLOGIC. Each version was a true test of the capabilities of a desktop computer of the day, it always seemed a PC was never fast enought to meet the screen draw requirements at a decent frame rate. PC owners would always look for ways to speed up their computer to fly properly with all the graphics kicked up. I go further back to the C64 days, imagine a Flight Sim on a 1 MHz Commodore. I bought a 4MHz Turbo Master CPU
board just to play C64 subLOGIC Jet at a decent clip.Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 Century of Flight
A special Collectors Tin Edition, I was very lucky to buy this when it came out. Even though it had steep requirements back in 2004, the Flight Sim runs beautiful on newer PCs. An inspired carry over from the subLOGIC Scenery floppy disks, the best feature of MS Flight Sims are all the add ons. Detailed Scenery, Jets, Helicopters, Prop Planes including the Wright Flyer, Airports and Aircraft Carriers, Ships and Cars, yes Cars and even an Army Tank that can be driven.
There are obscure vehicles that can added such as the Star Trek Enterprise, Invaders UFOs or try the SR71 Black Bird on a Mach 3 High Altitude run across the country. A huge unlimited wealth of Freeware addons, the sky is the limit.
No enemies, no missile launches, this is Flight Simulation at its best. Choose a plane, select an Airport or Nav location, choose the Weather and Time of day. Then fly anywhere on the planet. I can take a helicopter down the Grand Canyon or buzz thru downtown Vegas in a Tomcat and leave a Sonic Boom. FS 2004 is missing the World Trade Center Towers, these can be easily added back in as an add on download for a proper tribute.
Flight Simulator History Website wrote:
I tried to compare some real photos of worldwide known dominants with the same scenery in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004. I used MSFS 2004 without any additional scenery except the two buildings of World Trade Center (they are not included in Flight Simulator since version 2002). View from Empire State Building. You can even recognize Miss Liberty in an estuary of Hudson River.
This Flight Sim really comes alive, especially when in external view and panning around looking at the sites. Fly across the landscape, pan the camera when taking off by the Airport Tower or see Niagra Water Falls while doing a low level flyby. Right Click for a larger view
- My favorite plane that is already included in FS 2004 is the Extra 300 Special. A very quick response plane, no problem making landings on an Aircraft Carrier add on file. I once served on this particular Hull number as part of the catapult crew. Hey, who is the green shirt by the island?
Extra 300S on deck of CVN70 Carl Vinson.jpg [ 48.73 KiB | Viewed 29464 times ]
Mad Catz Panther XL Gameport Plug
This stick is designed for FPS games, the Trakball is set for the look mode in the Frag games. I also own the Dreamcast version, both work great thru their regular connections. The PC version needs a driver installed to read all the buttons, my disappointment is the Trakball does not have a standard Mouse connector. This kills any Mouse controlled games without the special driver installed. It would have been so simple for MadCatz to have included that basic mouse cable, a shame.
Unfortunately the MadCatz Panther does not work with the USB adapter due to the XL Panther Driver needed to read thru the game port. The USB adapter can pick up four buttons, one Hatswitch and four different analog pivots in a control stick. However, only the four buttons on the Panther stick work. When various combinations of these are pressed, the primary Hat Switch directions are picked up. There is a rudder control game port hookup at the base for either a rudder pedal or another joystick. This adds only sideways analog support. This stick has pre set configurations for various FPS games, but only thru a direct connection to a Game Port.Microsoft Sidewinder 3D Pro Game Port Plug
Part of the MS Sidewinder series, a classic from the Windows 95 days. This stick has digital control readouts in place of the potentiometers to prevent calibration drift. Even though the Rockfish adaptor is advertised as not compatible with digital analog controls, this stick works when set to Analog Mode 2.
The four base buttons are disabled in the analog setting, but not a problem since there are Four Buttons and a Hat Switch on the stick. The stick supports all four analog controls including Flight Control, Throttle Control and with a twist of the stick; Rudder Control.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_SideWinder#3D_ProCH Products Gamestick 14 Game Port Plug
Electronically, the 3D Pro used a digital/analog hybrid design, that was intended to correct the outstanding flaws in traditional analog joysticks, such as drift and CPU overhead by using a digital/optical tracking mechanism to keep perfect track of the joystick, and a digital communication method over the analog gameport.
The joystick's popularity has created a small die-hard following, with many people still holding onto them despite their age. This resulted in the creation of a USB adapter for the 3D Pro.
The 3D Pro features as a character (Ã) in the Webdings dingbat font.
CH Products are very good Flightsticks, I have owned the CH Flight Stick and Mach 1 sticks for years and always loved them. There is just enough tension to pull the stick to the middle, but the base does not have to be held due to the light tension of the spring. This adds the benefit of not having to fight the stick to perform air maneuvers, a very very tight precise control.
The Gamestick keeps the CH tradition in just the right feel, a light spring solid duel pivot at the base. CH kept the same layout for the potentiometer control of the stick, smart that CH did not mess with a great design. The pivot of the stick is just so perfect for very precise movement. The Throttle control is now at the front part of the base, handy if one does not have an add on Throttle Stick. Its just a slide bar but good enough for analog throttle control.
There are three hat switches and six buttons on the Gamestick. Even so, the additional buttons all work utilizing the standard four button layout, even with the USB adapter arrangement. This is done by making the additional buttons act as multiple combinations of the primary four buttons. Lower left base button would be the same as pressing buttons 1 and three for example. The trick is to have a game can pick up all the buttons, including the combo presses to assign each to different functions.CH PRODUCTS GAMESTICK 14 Button LAYOUT
Stick Front Trigger - Button 1
Stick Below Trigger Switch - Button 2
Stick Hat Switch - Hat Switch
Stick Left Switch - 3
Stick Right Switch - 4
Base Bottom Left Switch - 1 3 (1 Priority)
Base Bottom Right Switch - 1 4 (1 Priority)
Both Base Hat Switch Up - Buttons 2 3 4 (2 Priority)
Both Base Hat Switch Left - Buttons 3 4 (3 Priority)
Both Base Hat Switch Down - Buttons 2 4 (2 Priority)
Both Base Hat Switch Right - Buttons 2 3 (2 Priority)
The Base Buttons simulate various multiple combinations of the primary four controller buttons. This would work fine with the CH Gamestick driver and if the stick was directly plugged into a game port. However, the stick is routed thru a USB adapter. Luckily holding down two or more of the stick buttons are not identified the same as the Base Buttons. However, MS Flight Sim can only poll one button which is always the lower number of the four buttons.Programming 14 Buttons in a 4 Button matrix
A great work around is to use a Joystick to Keyboard program. I already use JoyToKey
to operate Buzz controllers, but JoyToKey will not assign multiple pressed buttons as separate inputs. Another program, JoystickCursor Tool
has the multiple button read assignment feature.JoystickCursor Tool - http://www.deinmeister.de/jct_e.htm
JoyCursor Tool.JPG [ 89.84 KiB | Viewed 29464 times ]
I managed to get the CH Gamestick to work with the keyboard utility, verifying the button to key presses with Windows Notepad. At first a no go, Microsoft polls the stick buttons over the keys so this would not work either. However, an easy solution is to shut off the joystick buttons polling in the MS Flight Sim configuration Menu. It can easily pick up each of the buttons as a keyboard press with JoystickCursor Tool
. The CH Gamestick keeps the Hat Switch isolated from other buttons so it can stay as is. Only single key inputs can be programmed, so any double key press in MS Flight Sim such as CTRL P are changed to single key input. I only had to change a couple of keys in the game menu, most kept the original keyboard layout.MS FLIGHT SIMULATOR GAMESTICK KEY COMMANDS
Stick Front Trigger> . (Brakes)
Stick Below Trigger Switch> G (Landing Gear)
Stick Left Switch> Number Pad 0 (Left Rudder)
Stick Right Switch> Number Pad Enter (Right Rudder)
Both Base Hat Switch Up> = (Zoom View In)
Both Base Hat Switch Down> - (Zoom View Out)
Both Base Hat Switch Left> S (Cycle Camera View)
Both Base Hat Switch Right> I (Instrument Panel On Off)
Base Bottom Left Switch> F8 (Flaps Down)
Base Bottom Right Switch> F5 (Flaps Up)
Stick Hat Switch> No Key Needed (Panning View)
I turned off the joystick analog rudder control since the Gamestick has no twist the stick rudder capability. My laptop does not have a separate Number Pad. I temporally add a full sized keyboard to program in a couple MS Flight Sim default number pad keys into the JoystickControl Tool matrix.
Only the rudders need a repeat feature of the keyboard. The keyboard input is set to Typematic (repeat) so the rudder control buttons programed in can be held to cycle. This is easier then having to rapidly press to make a tight turn on the flight deck. The type delay can be adjusted. A compromise over if too quick to cause the view button to cycle too fast or too slow for the rudder steering to be affective.
The stick is quite comfortable and has a nice response. The throttle resides on the back of the base, sort of an odd position, but most serious sim fans are only going to use this as a step toward a full HOTAS anyway.
However, if you are left handed, you might be unusually interested in this stick which is designed so both left-handed and right-handed gamers can take advantage of the functionality. And if you also do Quake style gaming, the D-pads become especially functional as directional controls in the arcade action style.
You're wondering about reliability? The trigger is rated for 10 million shots, and the Gamestick 14 sports a three year warranty: the best in the business.
With the USB adapter, most vintage game port multi button sticks will work, but usually it will be the four primary buttons, primary Hat switch and all four analog controls. If a unique multi press button setup such as CH Gamestick, then the additional buttons can be easily made to work with a simple Joystick to Keyboard program.MadCatz Panther XL - USB Incompatible.
MS Sidewinder 3D Pro - Eight Buttons and Four Analog USB Compatible.
CH Gamestick 14 - FOURTEEN Buttons and Three Analog USB Compatible.
I like using either the MS Sidewinder or the CH Gamestick, depending on mood. The MS Sidewinder has a nice built in analog rudder, but the CH Gamestick gains in the additional buttons. The CH also has very precise control due to the solid pivot points of the stick.Controller References
MadCatz Panther XL Specifications - http://www.vsavoldi.com/fpweb/info/pantherxl.htm
Microsoft Sidewinder Wiki - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_SideWinder
CH Flightstick Forum - http://www.ch-hangar.com/forum/forum.php
MS Flight Simulator References
Flight Simulator Wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Flight_Simulator
Flight Simulator History Website - http://www.volny.cz/havlikjosef/fshistoryenglish.htm
http://fshistory.simflight.com/Right Click for a larger view - Game Port Flightsticks. Strange coincidence that the MS Stick cable and Rockfire are color matched. The Gear Shift is for a future mod.
1980-2005: 25 years of Flight Simulator
Whether it started in 1979 or 1980, it's fair to speak of a Legend, when we talk about (Microsoft) Flight Simulator. A legend that has been around since 25 years and is reportedly the program in the public sector, of which the most copies are sold. This website is dedicated to this legend and to its genius creator: Bruce Artwick. But let's not forget the important role of subLOGIC and Microsoft as distributors.
Logitech Gear Shift - MadCatz Panther XL - CH Gamestick 14 - MS Sidewinder 3D Pro - Rockfire USB Adapter.jpg [ 248.59 KiB | Viewed 29464 times ]