Is there a place for handling a spaceship sim outside of using the traditional keyboard & mouse? Or is it just a fancy way of d**k sizing?
Often times I look into players gaming rigs and I find a bejeweled PC, where the RAM has RGB lighting, wireless mice with removable weights, or PC cases so large they use the case as their desk.
So when I informed Tac that I had just purchased and received a set of Joysticks, he scoffed!
I flared my nostrils, increased my heart rate! How could he offend me in such a manner!?!? The very idea that anything I bought could have the very slight chance of being a total waste of my good american cash offended my ears!
So I hotly replied:
(a perfect quote( (no really!)
So began my quest, a perfect review of a system I still haven't used for a week. Lets go.
So firstly, why did I want a Joystick?
Every once in a while ill look around on youtube and check out videos on joysticks. So this week I finally thought, "hmmm that looks cool". So I went out to amazon and bought two Thrustmaster 16000M joysticks.
So the case:
1. More buttons
This is the most common and I believe weakest argument. You have (or you should) a full sized keyboard. On the typical keyboard there is 104 buttons. With modifiers such as ALT and CTRL, you can double or triple the number of buttons on a keyboard with the push of a keystroke.
Also, if you have a typical mouse, you have 2 buttons, and a scroll wheel. More on this later.
For joysticks, you can have 10-40 buttons depending on make & model.
Clearly, at this stage the keyboard and mouse have a advantage. So what can we do to balance the fact?
2. How many keystrokes you can push. Old models used to limit you to 3-4 keystrokes before you would max out the bandwidth. ( I only just upgraded from one of these a few months ago!) Now adays you can push many keys at once, allowing for a smoother experience flying in the universe.
Joysticks operate differently, instead of seeing moment as keystrokes the joystick is streaming a set of coordinates of how far the stick is being pushed, and in which direction.
3. Now I don't really know how to write a review, so please bear with me. Lets talk about what is better and worst about the two sets of controls.
Lets say you need the ship to turn right, point the nose of the spacecraft up, drift north-west, rise vertically, and do a right barrel roll all at the same time. Not too hard right? Just push the mouse to the right and up, hold W and A to drift, hold E to barrel roll and hold R as well to rise vertically. Never mind the fact that doing this all at the same time is pointless, but how are you going to use a mouse to operate 2 axes, and then use your left hand to operate the remaining 4 axes? Plus, how many fingers do you have to do this command?
With a duel joystick set up I can, and easily.
Push the right joystick to the North-East, twist the stick to barrel roll, and then use the left joystick to drift, and twist to rise up.
Easy right? and we can still shoot with the triggers.
So thats the "technical" case for joysticks. With just one joystick all you are doing is replacing a mouse for another bigger mouse with a few more buttons. With duel sticks I am simplifying a 104 key keyboard for a cleaner 10-40 button stick. By dividing the number of buttons that need to be pressed equally between two hands, there is a better balance and agility then what there was before.
That all being said, thats just the technical case. Practicality is the real test.
(To make this part of the review clear, I am right handed, and thrust movement is made with the left hand/stick and rotation is made with the right hand/stick)
The first issue is that I am only used to giving a few commands to my right hand, while my left hand is off happy doing 30 things at once. Which leads to funny issues where I am "rubber banding" my focus from my left hand to my right.
At the time of this writing, I improved from 2:30 per lap on racing in SC down to 1:35. Note that the top score is 50-52 seconds per lap, and I don't know how fast I was with keyboard\mouse layout.
While racing my hands do get tired, but I was able to handle 10+ laps (single player) and with a minutes rest I would be good to go for another 10 rounds.
Dog fighting is harder for me to measure, I am better at drifting away from incoming fire, and hitting targets isn't hard. However it would take 8-10 minutes per kill attacking a size 1 ship. I only played up to round 3 before I quit from boredom as my landed shots seemed to do next to zero damage.
Also while dog fighting I never had the sense that I was "on their back". It could just be the nature of space, I never used match speed and its hard to say if this is the design intention of the SC devs or if I was just using under powered weapons. I also had this issue with a keyboard/mouse layout.
To sum up this 48-72 hour rating:
The joysticks are fun! Its too early to say that they are truly useful, and its novelty could wear off, but we will know that better in a week or two.
I will provide another review of the Thrustmaster 16000M's that I am using, but for now I just want the review to be about joysticks and SC more than the sticks themselves.
Now I am off to go race! I would like to see 1:10 laps today, wish me luck!