So I did it, after several decades I finally bricked a computer, my trusty i7-4790k. That beast always ran hot and I bricked it testing out the liquid cooling solution I had been using, pushed it past its thermal limits. Not much of a loss since it pretty much just burned juice since ETH mining ended.
With the disaster that was SC 3.18 it seemed like a good time to work on my first SC alt. The idea is simple, along with creating my alt I would add a second pc to run side by side my current pc so that I could use my alt to pilot my larger ships and then use my main to fly from the base ship. Seems that the mini carrier I’ve had on order, a Liberator, is due to be delivered along with the Pyro system so a second platform to run SC is in order. Until then I’ll try living off my Carrack once I get it stocked for extended service.
After replacing the MB and installing a refurbished i7-9700K along with a daring venture into Win11 I had a new PC ready to roll.
I would also later replace the 10yr old power supply and upgrade my GPU to a RTX 3060 gaming edition.
The question remained, how to incorporate the controllers. My desktop space leaves little room for a new HOTAS/HOSAS setup and I am none to hot on the MK combo. Let’s give the GamePad a whirl. As long as I am not engaging in PVP, racing or low flying the GamePad could be a viable option?
Naturally I turned to Google for some hot tips and low and behold the GamePad Elite came with glowing reports, that yes, you could run SC with it without touching your keyboard! Perfect for today’s thumb based device crowd. Several citizens offered up mappings, at least claimed to offer up mappings but I was not interested in shelling out $200 for one of those so called “elite” controllers which are nothing more than a mini-keyboard sandwiched between the mini-joy ports.
After all I had an XBOX ONE controller stashed around here somewhere…
On my first attempt I setup the GamePad using SC’s bindings editor, carefully weighing what to bind to what. It seemed clear up front that while using the left mini joy port for WASD works on the ground, it does not work well in flight. With only 10 buttons the use of the right(RB) and left(LB) modifiers were mandatory. Much to my dismay it turns out that the d-pad could not be modified using the RB so right away I was short bindings.
As pointed out by daddy Papy, SC uses ALL of the keyboard bindings.
So on my next attempt I added a slight of hand provided by JoyStick Gremlin. When configured with vJoy and HidHide you could in theory setup 9 separate profile modes (max allowed vjoys in SC) and extend those 10 buttons to something usable. So I thought. After a week with fighting with the Gremlin UI I finally had a prototype ready to go featuring a base template which mapped all the function keys, overlaid with a flight mode template and a ground mode template.
Well, OK, that worked! Maybe I am on to something. After all SC is rumored to be going big supporting the GamePad with the someday to be released Squadron 42. I see $$$.
Realizing my GamePad was an older model I ran off to BestBuy to pickup one of the new GamePads. That is when the shit hit the fan and I realized just how old my XBOX GamePad really was. Seems that somewhere along the way Microsoft changed the GampePad to use the XInput API and had tossed the older DirectX protocols. This introduced some problems.
The biggest problem is that up front, the GamePad only works in the currently open window. This works just fine for Window’s XBOX Gamebar, but Gremlin gets blocked. So you are forced to use SC’s limited keybinding tool. A quick DM with Gremlin’s author presented little to zero hope that Gremlin would be modified to support XInput. If it did, then there is a mode in XInput that would allow it to run in background albeit with only 4 templates. If that were not enough, it turns out that when your BlueTooth connection times out you lose your connection ID and Gremlin.
By now I had invested a couple of weeks into this experiment, the best I could do is hook my ancient XBOX GamePad and reconfigure all the software once again. Absent a viable product for the SC community perhaps I could still make use of all the work.
And I did. Gremlin was configured to call out “flight mode”, or “ground mode” when I switched to and fro. Indeed I had a nearly sufficient set of bindings that keyboard use was greatly reduced. By now the 3.18.1 patch had arrived so I set out in my alt flying my space truck starter package, the Nomad.
Progressing from simple takeoff and landings I refined my bindings until I had mastered fairly smooth takeoff and landings. So off to a few box missions. Even with a few tweeks use of the GamePad was janky and prone to errors. This would never be as precise as my trusty VPCs, not even with hundreds of hours of muscle memory training.
The biggest issue is of course the mini joy ports. Extremely course granularity due to the very limited throw inherent with a thumb port. Precise aiming is near impossible no matter how practiced or how damped. Certainly running 4DOF(5 axis total) in a 6DOF world hurts. This is definitely a controller that requires aim assist.
After a few successful box missions I thought well maybe, I could use this for flying larger ships, right? Then I ran into pirates. That was the end of the experiment.
Is the GamePad a better controller option than the standard mouse and keyboard. I’d give it a big fat NO. The lack of buttons and the lack of aiming precision squarely position the GamePad in the worthless category.
A grade of D- at best.
My current solution:
And in the if I had thought of this in the first place I could have saved myself some time, a simple USB switch. Of course, I did learn more than I expected about Joystick Gremlin and the GamePad controller including taking Window’s XBOX Gamebar for a spin. It’s kinda of cool, I was able to tune in Star Citizen radio!
And a big thank you to redlir for his vids on Gremlin!