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
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:
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
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
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
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.
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
For each control, click in the right hand column then move the joystick as
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)
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
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
- 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:
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.
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
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:
||X-Axis Rotation ID2
||Z-Axis Rotation ID2
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
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
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
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
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.