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Joystick Setup Guide (Article #261 Page 1)

Flight Controllers (Joysticks, Yokes and Rudder Pedals)

Choosing A Flight Control System
Setting Up Your Controller in IL2 Sturmovik / Forgotten Battles / Ace Expansion Pack

Some common controller issues and their cures.

Introduction While it is possible to fly most flight simulators using only keyboard, it's not very much fun and doesn't feel much like flying the real thing. There is nothing like the feeling of a stick or yoke in your hands and rudder pedals under your feet to add to the experience. Having said this however, the huge range of brands, features and differences in quality can make buying and setting up a control system a bewildering experience, even in some cases for the experienced flight simmer. With this in mind, we here present some information to help you make the best use of your budget and equipment.

Choosing A Flight Control System.

When first starting out many people run to the nearest computer gaming supplier and buy the first joystick available for the cash that's in their pocket at the time. Unless you're lucky, this is rarely a good idea. While there are some excellent budget joysticks on the market joysticks are like cars. What suits one sim pilot perfectly will be a disaster for someone else.

Things to consider when buying flight controllers include:

  • your budget
  • the size of your computer desk
  • how much you fly on the computer
  • how often you'll have to move the controller to make room while you use the computer for other purposes
  • how important realism is to you
  • whether the controller you're considering matches your preferences for feel, mission role and flying style

As a minimum we suggest a four axis joystick (elevators, ailerons, rudder and throttle) costing not less than US$40 recommend retail if bought new. Where possible USB connection to your computer is preferable to the older gameport connection. The following brands are widely available in most countries and offer a range of products at various price and quality levels:

  • Thrustmaster
  • Saitek
  • CH Products

    For left handers Saitek will be of particular interest, as they offer several models that can be configured for either hand.

    When considering the multitude of joysticks on the market you should take any opportunity available to try out as many as you can before making a purchase. Some stores will have a computer set up or will set one up to allow you to try the joysticks they have in the store. You may also be able to try some examples already owned by friends and acquaintances.

    If you're a realism buff you may want to research the aircraft you intend to fly and found out if the real thing used a joystick or a yoke. A yoke is the thing that looks like a steering wheel and is used instead of a joystick in most large aircraft of any type and some more recent small civilian aircraft. Choosing a yoke over a joystick is almost certain to mean spending more money, as the limited market for this type of controller keeps the price up and the number manufacturers making them small.

    When asking advice, concentrate on comments about reliability and ease of setup. It is our experience that the feel of a particular controller will not suit everyone and just because your best friend thinks a certain stick is the best thing on the market doesn't always mean you'll have the same opinion of it. It is for this reason that we recommend you try as many joysticks as you can before buying.

    If budget is a serious concern you may wish to consider buying second hand items. Flight sims require a fair bit of time to get the most out of them and it is not unusual to find that someone has bought all the gear only to discover that their time budget has been exceeded. Also people will decide they need the newer model or the higher priced item. Keep an eye on the internet trading sites with good reputations for bargains, but as always when buying second hand be aware that not everyone is honest. Ask as many questions as you can about how much use the item has had, why it's being sold etc.

    Setting Up Your Controller in IL2 Sturmovik / Forgotten Battles / Ace Expansion Pack

    All things going well, setting up a joystick for the IL2 series is as simple as installing the joystick according to the manufacturer's instructions and starting the game, however PC's being what they are a number of things can gum up the works. Fortunately in most cases there are simple work arounds or complete solutions. First we'll look at the option available within the game for setting things up.

    Installing your controller.

    In general, the best path to follow when installing a controller is to carefully follow the manufacturer's instructions, however there are a few other things to look out for. Before installing, always carefully check the manufacturer's website for more recent versions of the drivers and profiling software. Also be aware that sometimes a manufacturer will have two different drivers for a particular model as a result of parts changes during the product life.

    Once you have your controller installed, check that it is working correctly using the Windows utility provided for this purpose. It can be accessed via the Windows Control Panel, though the exact access route varies a bit with different Windows versions. In Win9x versions you get to it via Start/Control Panel/Game Controllers. In WinXP you select Start/Control Panel, then when control panel opens click on Printers & Other Hardware to find the Game Controllers option.

    In the Game Controllers applet, select the controller you'll be using in the game and click on the Properties button. On the Test tab you'll be able to see test each button and axis for proper function. Pay attention to the response of the axis controls. The little cross should smoothly move in response to movement of your joystick, yoke or pedals, not jerk erratically about. If it's not smooth there's likely a hardware problem in the actual controller that will affect game play to some degree, though the game does offer a means to alleviate this issue. We'll get to that in the section on setting sensitivity.

    You should also be able to achieve a full range of motion on all axes, and with only one exception the author is aware of, all buttons should show a response when pressed. The exception is Saitek controllers installed with Dhauzimmer's drivers. When using these drivers the buttons wont work at all without a profile loaded and will only show a response in the Windows game controllers applet if the profile that is loaded assigns DX button outputs to the various controller buttons.

    If you have any doubts about the controller's response in the Windows Game Controllers utility, contact the manufacturer's support services.

    Once you're assured that the controller is correctly installed and responding as intended, you need to ensure that IL2 is set up to use joystick input. Start the IL2Setup.exe configuration tool from the IL2 program group in your start menu or by double clicking the IL2Setup.exe program icon in your game folder. Select the Joystick tab and make sure the "Use Joystick" check box has a check mark in it. Once you've done that we're ready to go on to the game.

    Assigning controls.

    The most important controls on your controller are the axes (the aileron, elevator, rudder and throttle controls). For controllers that use the "industry standard" axis and button definitions, the game default assignments will be correct, however the industry standard is not as standard as it might be and you may find that your rudder or throttle controls are backwards or not working at all.

    To assign axis controls, start the game, click on the "Controls" button in the main menu, then scroll all the way to the bottom to the section headed "HOTAS CONTROL".

    For each control, click in the right hand column then move the joystick as listed below:
    Aileron: move joystick/yoke right
    Elevator: move joystick/yoke back
    Rudder (if your joystick is equipped with rudder or you have rudder pedals): move rudder control right
    Throttle (listed as Power in the game) (if your joystick is equipped with throttle): Move throttle in the "increase power" direction

    If you have other sliders or rotaries you wish to assign to other functions, the available options are also listed in this section. They are:

    Brakes (wheel brakes)
    Prop pitch
    Aileron trim
    Elevator trim
    Rudder trim

    Assigning controller buttons can be done in this screen also. The button assignments are made opposite the appropriate control name where it appears outside the HOTAS CONTROL section. There are two approaches to this. The easy way is as simple as finding the control you wish to assign in the controls page, clicking the right column and pressing the appropriate controller button or hat position.

    With some controllers however there is a more flexible option. Some joysticks allow users to build profiles for particular games. While a simple profile is no different to doing it the easy way, most controllers that allow this option include shift functions and macros allowing you to multiply the number of controls that can be assigned to joystick buttons and assign complex controls to a single button press (for example you might be able to set it up so that only one button press lowers the landing gear and lowers maximum flaps). Another advantage is that you can have multiple profiles for the same game. You may have several household members playing the game on the same computer, or you may like your controls set up one way when flying fighters and a different way when flying bombers. Joystick profiles making swapping control setups very easy.

    Profiles work by having each controller button imitate keyboard commands instead of directly assigning the commands in the game. Those who choose to make their profiles available for download on the internet usually use the game's default keyboard commands when making profiles, allowing any user to apply downloaded profiles without having to re-assign and game commands. If your joystick offers this sort of feature you should refer to your joystick manufacturer's documentation for instructions on how to build and load profiles.

    Setting up axis sensitivity

    Before making any changes here we should do a backup of our game configuration file to enable us to easily go back to default settings in the case of messing it up. This file is called conf.ini and it is located in the games main installation folder. If the game is installed in the default location this is: C:\Program Files\Ubisoft\IL-2 Sturmovik... but if you installed in a different location you'll need to look there.

    Once you've backed up your conf.ini file you can access the game settings for joystick sensitivity by:
    1. Start the game
    2. Click on the "Hardware Setup" option in the main menu
    3. Click on the "Input" option in the Hardware menu.

    This will bring to a complex & confusing looking screen with a bunch of sliders and displays. You can do a great deal to adjust the response of your joystick from here.

    These adjustments apply only to one control input at a time. To select which input you're currently adjusting, use the drop down menu in the top left corner to select "Pitch", "Roll" or "Yaw". As the most common complaint about sensitivity is excess input in the pitch axis, let's start there.

    Under the axis selection is a big square with a two little colored squares in the middle, one red and one green. This shows what your joystick pitch and roll axes are doing and how the game is interpreting your joystick. Underneath is another display with similar information for rudder axis (if your joystick is equipped with one). The red square shows the control position being sent from your joystick to the computer. The green square shows how the game will respond after applying the settings controlled by all the sliders on the remainder of the screen.

    The ten vertical sliders each correspond to part of the range of defection of the joystick and control how much the game will respond in that part of the range. If you set them all to 100 the game control response will exactly match your joystick deflection, but this is way too sensitive for many. By reducing a slider setting you can reduce the amount of control input that the game sees in the corresponding range of the corresponding range of joystick deflection. A special note for those using the original IL2 Sturmovik game with patch version prior to 1.04. The scheme described here was introduced with v1.04 of IL2 Sturmovik. Prior to this version having all sliders at 100% would result in full control deflection at all joystick deflections. If you're flying early versions of IL2 Sturmovik the author recommends that you never set your sliders higher than 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100.

    Starting from the left the first slider corresponds to the first 10% of deflection from joystick center in the selected axis, the second slider corresponds to 10-20% etcetera.

    When adjusting slider settings there are a couple of general principals to follow:
  • In general you don't want to lose access to maximum control input, so leave the right hand slider at 100%. This means that maximum joystick deflection will result in maximum control input. You will likely want to set most of the other sliders lower though.
  • Don't have any sudden large changes in slider setting from one slider to the next. If you put the first four sliders at 20% and the next four at 80% you'll get a savage jump in control sensitivity when you pass through 40% deflection. Aim for settings that result in a smooth line or curve if your were to "join the dots" by drawing a line through all the slider controls.

The actual settings that work best vary depending on what joystick you're using, what aircraft you're flying and what your personal preferences are. To give you an idea how much they vary, here are a few examples:

Oleg Maddox:
Roll: 1 3 6 12 21 32 44 61 81 100
Pitch: 1 4 8 15 24 33 44 60 77 100
Yaw: 0 10 19 32 43 54 63 74 86 100

Roll: 27 38 52 63 69 75 83 88 93 100
Pitch: 28 44 55 62 70 79 88 93 96 100
Yaw: 29 40 48 57 66 76 86 93 95 100 plus 7 deadband.

The Author:
Roll: 13 21 28 39 53 65 77 88 96 100
Pitch: 22 28 37 45 54 65 77 88 97 100
Yaw: 35 41 48 56 67 76 82 89 95 100

As a starting point, the author suggests the following:
Roll: 1 4 9 16 25 36 49 64 81 100
Pitch: 1 4 9 16 25 36 49 64 81 100
Yaw: Leave it at default for the time being.

In addition to the ten sensitivity sliders, there are two more settings for each axis, the Deadband and Filtering sliders. These controls are primarily incorporated in the game to help compensate for worn or cheap controllers. When a controller's electronic components become worn (or in some cheaper controllers are sub-standard from new) the joystick output is not stable. This condition will show in the Windows Game Controllers utility, see the section on installing controllers for more information.

If your controller is producing erratic output at the center position the Deadband control allows you to tell the game to ignore a small part of the range of motion near center. When set fully to the left, the game will treat all output from the controller as valid. As the Deadband slider is moved right, the game will ignore more and more of the controller's range of motion, with a full 30% of the deflection being ignored at the fully right position. Remember when setting this control that you need to set it once for each axis just as you do for the sensitivity sliders.

Controllers that produce erratic output right through the range of motion can be compensated for by using the Filtering control. Under normal circumstances IL2 directly applies the current controller output to the game, but the filtering control allows you to force the game to average input over a small period of time. The more Filtering you add, the greater the period of time. At the extreme right the game averages control input over approximately 2 seconds.

The author strongly recommends that filtering and deadband are not used to avoid quirks in aircraft behaviour. Using filtering to avoid stalls does nothing to discourage the rough control handling that is the true cause of the stalls, and using deadband to compensate for a lack of smoothness by the pilot near the controls neutral positions at best loses fidelity through the rest of the range of motion. Deadband & Filtering should only be used to compensate for the joystick problems they were designed to handle.

Some common controller issues and their cures.

While 1C:Maddox have done quite a good job with the controller interface for IL2 in terms of stability, the shear variety of different configurations in computers, peripherals and operating systems have resulted in some users having difficulty with unanticipated configuration problems. A few of the most common are addressed here.

1. I added a second controller and my primary controller doesn't work or doesn't work correctly anymore.

Like all games, the IL2 family has its peculiarities about how controllers are handled. Though the game happily handles multiple controllers, there are some set up issues to work around to get the full range of adjustability that is easily achieved with only a single controller installed.

When you initially install the game it assumes that the controller listed in Windows game controllers as ID#1 (first in the list) is your primary flight controller. The default axis assignments are for the ID#1 controller and the sliders in the game's controller sensitivity setup screen only work for ID#1.

Fortunately there are ways to get around this. If you find that your primary controller no longer works as expected after installing a second controller, all the adjustments required can be made via the game's Controls screen (for axis & button re-assignments) and the game's primary configuration file.

When installing a second controller you will need to visit the Controls page to set up the new controller anyway, so let's start there. Start the game, click on the "Controls" button on the main game menu, then scroll all the way to the bottom where the section under the heading HOTAS CONTROL can be found. Go through the various axis assignments there and re-assign each one to make sure that both your primary and secondary controllers are correctly assigned. While doing this, make note of the axis designations for the various assignments. Though not foolproof they'll help us decipher the configuration file when we get to that.

If your new controller has usurped the Windows ID#1 controller position (as is likely if you're reading this part of this guide), you may also find that your primary flight controller sensitivity settings are no longer what you'd like them to be. To fix this you'll need to edit IL2's configuration file using Notepad. This file is called conf.ini and can be found in the game's installation folder. The default location is C:\Program Files\Ubisoft\IL-2 Sturmovik Forgotten Battles, but if you have the game installed in a different location you'll need to look where you installed it.

Before commencing any edits, make a backup of the conf.ini file by making a copy and renaming it conf.bak. This will make it easier to fix any catastrophic errors we may make.

Once you've backed up the existing conf.ini file, open it using notepad and scroll down to the section that looks like this:

X=0 1 4 9 16 25 36 49 64 81 100 0
Y=0 1 4 9 16 25 36 49 64 81 100 0
Z=0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
RZ=0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 0
U=0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 0
V=0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 0
1X=0 13 21 28 39 53 65 77 88 96 100 0
1Y=0 22 28 37 45 54 65 77 88 97 100 0
1RX=0 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 0
1RZ=0 35 41 48 56 67 76 82 89 95 100 0
1U=0 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 0
1V=0 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 0
1Z=0 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 0
1X1=0 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 0
1Y1=0 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 0
1RX1=0 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 0
1RZ1=0 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 0
1U1=0 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 0
1V1=0 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 0

Now this looks very daunting at first, but don't be disheartened. Each line corresponds to one controller axis and six of the first seven lines don't even apply unless you're flying an early patch version (pre v1.04) of the original IL2 Sturmovik game.

The line FF=0 is the Force Feedback toggle. If you're using a force feedback joystick and have forces switched on it will be set FF=1.

The lines we're interested in start with the line beginning "1X=.....". The lines beginning 1X, 1Y, 1RX, 1RZ, 1U, 1V & 1Z correspond to the Windows ID#1 controller (there may be more or less in your file, depending on the number of axes present on your controllers). The lines corresponding to the ID#2 controller begin 1X1, 1Y1, 1RX1, 1RZ1 etc. If you have more controllers plugged in you will also have 1X2, 1Y2, 1RX2, 1RZ2 etc for Windows ID#3 and so forth. Though the author has never tested, it is believed that the IL2 series supports up to four controllers.

After the axis designation tag at the start of each line there are twelve numbers. The numbers correspond to the slider control in the Hardware Setup / Input screen in the game, though that screen only has sliders for the controller showing in Windows as ID#1.

The first number in each line corresponds to the deadband setting for that axis, the last number is the filtering setting and the ten numbers in between correspond to the ten sensitivity sliders found in the game's joystick setup screen. In order to set up your primary flight controller with the same sensitivity as you had before installing your second controller, you'll need to identify which line correspond to the axes of your second controller. When you assigned axes in the game controls screen you made notes of the axis designations. If you didn't, start the game now and write them down. The designations used there usually correspond as shown in the following table:


Controller Controls Screen conf.ini
ID#1 X-Axis 1X
ID#1 Y-Axis 1Y
ID#1 X-Axis Rotation 1RX
ID#1 Z-Axis Rotation 1RZ
ID#1 U-Slider 1U
ID#1 V-Slider 1V
ID#2 X-Axis ID2 1X1
ID#2 Y-Axis ID2 1Y1
ID#2 X-Axis Rotation ID2 1RX1
ID#2 Z-Axis Rotation ID2 1RZ1
ID#2 U-Slider ID2 1U1
ID#2 V-Slider ID2 1V1

Further controllers will follow the same format, with the number at the end of the conf.ini designation being one less than the number at the end of the controls assignement screen. Only very rarely will this table let you down. Users of several CH controllers set up to emulate a single controller and users of Saitek HOTAS units (X-36 and X-45) using 3rd party drivers may notice some anomalies. If there are anomalies, a worst case method of finding out which line belongs to which axis is to set the values in one line at a time to all zeros then test fly the game to see which axis doesn't work.

Once you have established which line in the file belongs to which axis on your controllers you can go about transferring your old sensitivity settings to your new controller configuration. This part of the process is relatively simple if you already had sensitivity settings you were happy with, it's a simpe matter of copying your old settings from where the controller sat before to the correct lines. If you haven't previously adjusted sensitivity it can take some more time, but should be approached in the same manner as you would when using the sliders in the game's hardware setup screen (see the section on sensitivity for more detail).

Remember that the game only consults the conf.ini file each time you restart it, so if you're adjusting controller sensitivity from the conf.ini file you need to restart the game before testing each adjustment.

Unfortunately I am not able to say for sure if this method of adjusting sensitivity on a second controller applies in the original IL2 Sturmovik game for patch versions earlier than 1.04.

2. Aircraft wont respond to the joystick. Joystick axes can't be assigned in the game control assignments screen.

First check that the joystick is plugged in. Also check that joystick assignments are correct in the game. You'll find the joystick axis assignments all the way at the bottom of the game's control setup screen under the heading "HOTAS CONTROL".

This may occur when the game has been installed and played before any game controllers are installed. The "Use Joystick" configuration setting often gets switched off when this has happened. Fixing it is as simple as starting the game setup utility, selecting the "Joystick" tab and making sure the "Use Joystick" check box is checked. The game setup utility is called "IL2Setup.exe" and it can be started either from the IL2 shortcut group in your Windows Start menu or directly by double clicking the IL2Setup icon that can be found in the game's install folder.

If you've checked IL2Setup is correctly configured and it's still not working, open your Windows game controllers dialog box and check that your controller is responding correctly. If the joystick does not show the correct responses in the Windows game controllers dialog, refer to the manufacturers documentation and support services for advice. You may also find some assistance on the manufacturer's forums if the run one or in the technical help forums at some game sites.

3. No matter how gently I move my joystick aircraft always stall / spin.

There are several possibilities here. Lets eliminate the hardware and software issues before sending you back to flight school.

The most likely culprit is default joystick sensitivity settings. For instructions on setting this up refer to the "Setting up axis sensitivity" section.

The Deadband slider and Filtering sliders are found in the lower right side of the screen. These are tools added to allow compensation for Joysticks that are cheaply built or wearing out.

Some joysticks send an unstable output when the joystick is centered making flying straight & level difficult. Deadband allows you to compensate for this problem by telling the game to ignore small joystick deflections. When Deadband is set to zero (slider all the way to the left) the game accepts all joystick input. As you move the slider to the right the game will progressively ignore more and more of the initial input. At full deadband setting, the game will ignore about 30% of the joystick deflection. If you find you need to use deadband on an axis, you will probably need to reduce the slider settings for the first slider or two outside the deadband range to stop sudden large inputs when you pass outside the deadband range.

Filtering is a setting that helps to damp out unstable joystick output in non-centered positions. If you're finding that you aircraft jerking around when you're trying to hold a constant amount control deflection you may need some filtering on that axis. When no filtering is set the game responds instantly to any change in the joystick output. Adding filtering (moving the slider from the extreme left) causes the game to average joystick input over a short period of time, thus smoothing out any instability in the joystick output. The further to the right you move the slider, the longer the period of time that the average is taken over. While this effectively deals with small instabilities in joystick output, it has the disadvantage that it causes a delay in the games response to sudden joystick inputs which can make aiming difficult in a tight fight.

While some users have found that deadband and filtering can also help when first learning to fly, it is recommended that they only be used for their intended purpose as they teach habits that have to be unlearned when your skills advance.


Date & Time23-03-2010 10:30

Views: 114173   Comments : 1   Rating : (65/14)  
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phxace - 24-04-2010 22:43  
Thanks for getting me back in the cockpit! I lost all controls, but your suggestion about HOTAS sorted that all out!


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