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My Little HOTAS: Not Enough Buttons Edition (and how to work around it). :)


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Hello, fellow simmers!

 

On the starting note, I'd like to point out, that happy owners of big pieces like Warthog, X56 and similar will probably not find my solution very interesting. This tip is adressed to not-so-happy owners of simple and cheaper kits, that can struggle with too many essential bindings. Well, maybe Viggen solution will be somewhat useful, so in case you are Viggen fan, stick around. However, if you have simple kit, that may be guide for you.

 

1. They are too many of them!

 

So, you bought reasonably cheap piece, just to start DCS. Maybe you upgraded from old stick, maybe you had it from different sim. After initial flying, especially with more modern aircraft you may start to struggle. We have tons of commands: flight control, comms, countermeasures and other essentials that beg to be binded, but options are limited. After severe triage, we still have to use keyboard shortcuts or try to click someting very small and fiddly in the cockpit. I know it happened to me. 

 

2. I thirst for more!

 

Some planes have more radar commands than some earlier simulations used to fly the whole plane - or many of planes. And radar is important. Some other demands specific commands to be just under finger. Yes, Mirage, I'm talking about your quick Magic selection, CMD forward/aft/depress modes. In real life: great solution, in the keyboard world: hellish nightmare. And some are just full of sticks. Flight stick. Radar stick. Rb05 stick. You know what I'm talking about... At this point I was ready to admit defeat and accept, that I will never shoot anything manually guided or will die looking quick (and only) Magic selection, probably with really stupid face, and Fox-2 up my... exhaust. 

 

3. Revelation...

 

...came to me, when I was looking at this damned Viggen's radar stick. Another stick... Another stick. Another stick? Another stick! I took out my old AV8R-02, plugged... 

 

4. Many Lives and Tall Tales of Not-So-Great-Stick-Now-Reborned-In-Glory.

 

...and it worked. I do two sticks flying now (I know how it sounds), one is fairly basic HOTAS, one is fairly basic joystick with throttle. Sounds fiddly, but actually is much easier to fly planes with complicated radar or specific commands, that like to eat away those precious button binds. After setting up Viggen, I went to Mirage, and moved back to F-5 to just see how it works with something simpler. For reference, I own Thrustmaster T.Flight HOTAS X combined with AV-8R 02. I know, sad stuff, but for Rise of Flight and my beloved Great War kites it was more than enough. Below I present examples how I use second stick to control radar, as well as binds I use on those widow-making 12 buttons of main piece. 

 

Rule of thumb is: I try to set binds close to original airframe layout.

 

Viggen:

 

HOTAS: 

On throttle: as in real plane there are comms, panic release, airbrake, fast IR missle select, missle uncage. Base buttons are for automatic throttle and gear up/down toggle. Axis paddle for zoom out/in.

On stick: reference button, weapon release cover, trigger and trim hat.

 

RADAR:

Throttle axis bound to radar elevation, main stick is responsible for moving radar stick and EP 13 sight, POV hat for Rb04 control stick. Top buttons are for fixes: T0, T1 and TV, main trigger is for terrain avoidance. Base buttons are: passive recce, radar rage up and down, gain up and down and memory mode. 4-position small hat changes radar modes: A0, A1 and A2.

 

RADAR stick, POV hat and throttle curvatures: 25. Throttle curve regular, NOT the slider, center is at 50%, 100% is down, 0% is up.

 

Note: I bound NumPad keyboard to CK 37 input panel, so I can enter weapon TAKT commands just with keys. It is easy to do, since layout is pretty much the same.

 

Mirage:

 

HOTAS:

On throttle: CMD forward/aft/depress, Quick Magic II select, Quick gun select, PCI neutral. On the base of throttle: Magic Slave/INS update, Magic unlock/NAV update. Paddle is for zoom in/out.

On stick: weapon release, autopilot standby/trim reset, program and panic release, hat for trim.

 

RADAR:

Throttle axis for radar elevation. POV hat is used for TDC movement, main trigger is TDC depress/lock. Top buttons are IFF interrogate/nose wheel steering, STT/TWS toggle and TDC Mode S, else Z. Base buttons are for azimuth wide, middle and narrow, 1 Line, 2 Lines, 4 Lines scan. 4-position small hat changes radar range (increase/decrease (up-down) and PRF three position mode High>int>Low and Low>Int>High (left-right). In this setup I don't use main stick.

 

RADAR POV hat and throttle curvatures: 25. Throttle curve regular, NOT the slider, center is at 50%, 100% is down, 0% is up.

 

F-5E Tiger II

HOTAS:

Throttle: comms, flaps cycle, airbrakes cycle, gear up/down toggle, missle uncage and aileron limiter toggle. Nosewheel steering toggle and drag shute on the throttle base. Paddle... you know the drill, zoom in/out.

Stick: trigger detent one, trigger detent two, weapon release, chaff-flare button. 

 

RADAR:

Throttle for radar elevation, trigger for ACQ. POV hat is TDC movement, main butons are Dogfight Mode FWD, AFT, CENTER. Base buttons: RWR search button switch, sight cage switch, radar range selector increase/decrease.

 

RADAR POV hat and throttle curvatures: 25. Throttle curve regular, NOT the slider, center is at 50%, 100% is down, 0% is up.

 

Sa-342 Gazelle

 

HOTAS:

 

Collective (throttle): comms, landing light in/off, flare dispense, auto-hover, auto-hover w/manual collective. Landing light retract/deploy on the throttle base. Paddle - yes, still zoom in/out.

Sideclick (stick): weapon release, autopilot standby on/off, magnetic brake toggle, trim reset. Hat for trim.

 

TV stick:

POV hat for camera control, trigger for HOT3 missle release. Main buttons for the targeting laser, slave to view function. Base buttons: brightness control up/down, contrast control up/down, zoom in/out, invert symbols (day/night).

 

7. Give me more rudder... but not too expensive!

 

Well, there is solution - you can buy pedals from racing wheel sets. Maybe you have them, or you can get used pretty cheap. I bought mine for around 30 euros, slightly used. Thrustmaster also provides T.RJ 12 adapter to change from default connector to USB 2.0, so all Thrustmaster pedals can benefit from that (and perhaps some other too). And yes, using that you don't have to have the wheel - you are using them standalone. All you need to do is:

 

Bind axis separately (for left and right pedal) to one command (rudder). Mark  them both as sliders and reduce Y saturation to 50%. This way each pedal uses half of the total axis travel, in 50/50 split. Then invert right pedal. You are good to go!

 

6. Red Deadzone Redemption, or overcoming the nasty spring.

 

Ah yes, some joysticks have a nasty return spring, that makes your moves somewhat excessive. Or just are not super accurate, high quality pieces. Usually people set curves on joy, especially short stick, to gain some control for fine movements. However, that comes at the cost of translating your wider inputs. It is the matter of personal taste, but I discovered, that small deadzone (1-2) for pitch and roll usually is enough. I try to keep my input linear with this little deadzone, so my stick controls stay uniformed in all ranges. However, it does go well with slight curves (up to 10). Only exception is the Gazelle, that is pretty touchy bird - here I just desaturated Y aspect of both sideclick input down to 50%.

 

 

 

7. Too long, didn't read. Or did you? Also known as closing notes.

 

Well, I can't take credit for inventing HOTAS/HOSAS combo. My brain is too small for such a breakthrough. However I can tell from my own experience, that using some planes just became much easier for me, and without spending metric ton of money for new HOTAS right now. I mean, you still need to let go throttle and change stuff, but in real plane you also have, and I found it much smoother in general. And ambi-dexterious simple stick you can buy dirt-cheap, if you don't own it already.

 

For Viggen it is perfectly viable and realistic solution even if you own Mighty-HOTAS-Of-Many-Knobs. In real Viggen you use stick to control radar, as well as little controller to guide your Rb05. It is actually quite easy now to land those things on target. EP 13 targeting is also less tedious, as TV fix and screen mode is close by. And you can bind your keys and switches to something more important. Curves about 25 give you nice precision when it comes to aiming, moving waypoints and fixes. NumPad for CK 37 will give you more flexibility to use TAKT modes for advanced weapons - layout is basically the same, just / and * can go for In/Out swich, + and - set for rotating the knob. I usually put my controllers in order: throttle, radar stick, main stick, as in real plane.

 

For Mirage it also works pretty decent, as Mirage's radar needs a lot of care and attention. I guess it's where TLC and TDC meet. It is not a bad set of sensors, but amount of tuning can be scary for newcomers. And without that, you are half-blind. Deadly place to be in at best of times, especially deadly for Mirage and it's limitation in BVR. Since a lot of controls are moved onto the side-stick, you have now a lot more options to bind those quick-selections and combat modes onto your main throttle. Resuming scan after dogfight is pretty easy now, even changing range in combat modes. TDC is easy to control with top hat with curves, as well as radar elevation. I put it in order: radar stick, throttle, stick - contrary to Viggen, you need those quick-selects closer and usually more often, since you will try to use those good Fox-2 you have and nice radar modes. I didn't found any use for main stick, so there is some field for experiments here. In last update Mirage got many axis controls, so you can go crazy.

 

For F-5 I just wanted to know how, or if it will improve things, rather for fun. It is not complicated radar, and doesn't require a lot of binds. However, I found that it is much easier to control notoriously sensitive elevation and TDC, having dogfight modes at hand is also pretty useful. RWR search/track toggle button nearby proved to be big improvement, since you need to cycle manually through those modes, and frequently so.

 

I didn't tested other aircraft yet, but I think that kind of setup can have some benefits for them also - Gazelle can utilise second stick for TV guided missles targeting. Probably in FC3 planes it could also be easier to control TDC and radar functionalities as well, as they all rely on keyboard. You can always leave out stick and use buttons on the base, using it as makeshift control panel for essentials. 

 

So, if you don't have a lot of switches and buttons, here is a solution. It may not be perfect (well, except Viggen), but I hope more complicated, or demanding aircraft will be less intimidating for newcomers. And that it will be somewhat less mandatory to own an expensive controller right from the very beginning. Especially if you are just starting, having worse results because of technical limitations can be frustrating. I know for me it was.

 

Hope it helps! 🙂

 

 


Edited by Fairey Gannet
Found some typos. Not all of them, probably...
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On 1/29/2021 at 5:45 PM, Fairey Gannet said:

happy owners of big pieces like Warthog

 

More or less happy Warthog owner (bit flimsy for the price eh? And sticky) here but nevertheless i too tried having my old T.Hotas something X plugged in to have even more buttons and axies - really worked well, can recommend. Pretty much only reason i don't do it regularly is the fact my desktop is just too small to accommodate yet another throttle/stick combo and i can't have mounts since my desktop is a potato (g'day, Sweden) 😛

 

Some extra solution for a budget maybe: did not try it yet but one should be able to plug in some extra numpads you can buy for like 10 bucks or so and use them as a separate input device?  Should provide 15+ more buttons each depending on whats on the block. Plus: you might be able to use the NUMLOCKs as a modifier toggle in DCS maybe?

 

CSL - Numpad Keypad inkl. Mulitmediatasten: Amazon.de: Computer & Zubehör

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Hardware: MSI B450 Gaming Plus MAX | Ryzen 5 3600X (6*3.8 Ghz) | 32 GB RAM | MSI Radeon RX5700 | Samsung SSD 860 QVO 1TB | DCS dedicated @ WD Blue 500 GB SSD | Win 10 (64-bit) | TM Warthog HOTAS, MFD and rudder pedals, TrackIR5

 

Wishlist:  Northern Germany/Baltic Sea theater | Full Fidelity Su-25A | Asset packs (80s Iran, Lebanon 1982, Syria 2011+ factions) | Persistent KB shortcuts | Proper coalitions system |

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3 minutes ago, Desert Fox said:

 

More or less happy Warthog owner (bit flimsy for the price eh? And sticky) here but nevertheless i too tried having my old T.Hotas something X plugged in to have even more buttons and axies - really worked well, can recommend. Pretty much only reason i don't do it regularly is the fact my desktop is just too small to accommodate yet another throttle/stick combo and i can't have mounts since my desktop is a potato (g'day, Sweden) 😛

 

Some extra solution for a budget maybe: did not try it yet but one should be able to plug in some extra numpads you can buy for like 10 bucks or so and use them as a separate input device?  Should provide 15+ more buttons each depending on whats on the block. Plus: you might be able to use the NUMLOCKs as a modifier toggle in DCS maybe?

 

CSL - Numpad Keypad inkl. Mulitmediatasten: Amazon.de: Computer & Zubehör

This is absolutely fantastic idea! 🙂

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@Desert Fox Agree with you on the Thrustmaster being somewhat sticky ( and stiff ).  It's that gimbal ball they use.

I had considered it, since it's not too bad a price for a mid level HOTAS, but in the end, figure it's worth it to pay a little more and go with VBK, or Virpil.

 

If you guys want more buttons, take a look at Virpil's throttle.  LOTS of buttons and switches.  A little pricey, but I hear good equipment.

 

I wish I could try one out, I don't know how good their buttons and hat switches are.  Thrustmaster's did feel a little flimsy, just like the X-56.

 

EDIT: Oh yeah, VKB now has a cheaper stick going for $120 - $150 called the Gladiator.

 

https://vkbcontrollers.com/?product_cat=vkb-joysticks-and-rudders


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