How To Drive Fast With A Joystick
Posted Jun 13 2020 - 09:06 AM
But looking at the GPLRank website
it seems that there are joystick drivers who are way faster than I am.
If I understand correctly Saiph uses a joystick exclusively, yet he has GPLRank times I would love to have:
Any tips about how to drive fast with a joystick? Is it true that when driving with a joystick you can use other cues to get the information FF would give you?
Posted Jun 14 2020 - 08:13 AM
Cant offer any advice at all because I'm a FF wheel user.
But it's a great question and one I'm interested in hearing Keith and others explanations.
Does it mean I would be a fighter pilot ace in a flight sim using a wheel and pedals ???? Hmmm.
Posted Jun 14 2020 - 08:40 AM
My joystick, which I've owned since the mid 90's, is the CH Mach 2 (see attached pic). It's a compact, short stick, with two buttons. I cradle it in both hands, with my left thumb over the buttons for shifting gears, and my right thumb on the top of the stick for brake/accelerator and steering. When I first started using the stick for driving, I had the centre-springing feature activated for both axes. This let me know when the stick was in its central, neutral position. However, even with fairly light springing, my thumb couldn't make the small, accurate movements that I needed to properly control the cars. So I switched off the springing on both axes, and I simply use my muscle memory to "feel" when the steering/throttle/brakes are in their neutral position. The free-floating stick is much better for fine control.
I also own a Logitech G27 FF steering wheel/shifter/pedals combo. I've had this for several years now, and when I first bought it I was hoping I would be able to swap from my joystick to the steering wheel immediately, and enjoy a much more realistic style of GPL driving. However, things didn't quite work out like that. Before I explain why, let me list my feelings and experiences comparing between joystick and steering wheel, and giving some examples. This might help you to understand:
A1- Simplicity. GPL does a pretty good job of simulating a clutch when the player doesn't actually have one, so just having steering/brake/throttle to worry about is one less thing to go wrong. For example at the start of a race, I wait until the starter raises the flag, and then push the engine revs up to max. As soon as he starts to drop the flag, I press the "shift up" button to engage first gear, and I'm off.
A2- Faster control movements. From its centre position, the CH Mach 2 stick has approximately 35 degrees of movement to the left, and the same to the right. The forward/backward direction is the same. If I'm driving around a corner, and the rear end of the car tries to step out due to oversteer or some other reason, I can quickly steer into the skid with a relatively small movement of my thumb, and perhaps stand a chance of recovering before the car goes into an unstoppable spin. With a steering wheel, I would need to move the wheel a long way, and very quickly, in order to catch the skid.
A3- Hard braking. It's all very well driving GPL cars at 180mph. But sometimes the real skill is getting the ****** things to stop or slow down in a reasonably controlled way! One example is braking for Parabolica at Monza. You're going down the back straight at full throttle, but you need to slow dramatically for the tight entry to the corner. If you brake hard, and then start to downshift through the gears as the engine revs drop without adjusting the throttle and brakes, it's very easy for the rear wheels to skid or even lock, and you'll do a 180-spin before you know what's hit you. The reason is that GPL accurately simulates the effects of engine braking when you downshift. If you're already using maximum braking on the approach to a corner, and you then downshift and add extra engine braking, the rear tyres will just give up the ghost and start to skid. So you need to take account of the effects of your downshifting.
The way I deal with this using my joystick is not very realistic, but it works (for me). I start to brake hard, and as the engine revs drop, I press the button to make my first downshift. But at almost the same time, I quickly flick my joystick forwards to the central position for a brief moment, so I have no brakes and no throttle when the downshift happens. You'll hear the engine revs rise as the lower gear is engaged, and then you can re-apply the brakes. As the car slows more, and the engine revs drop again, repeat the process to go down to the next lower gear. This may sound quite simple in words, but you need to do it quickly and efficiently to keep your braking distances as short as possible.
The trick is to get the timing right with pressing the downshift button, and briefly releasing the brakes. And also you shouldn't re-apply the brakes too aggressively, otherwise you'll just end up with the rear wheels locking and a spin. It has taken me a lot of practice to get the technique right. If you want to practice your heavy braking, I suggest you go to the Bloodbath track, with its amazingly long straights. Accelerate up to near top speed in top gear, and see how quickly you can brake hard, downshift through the gears, and get the car stopped without locking the rear wheels and spinning the car. (It will probably also help to move your brake balance to about 53%-54% forwards so most of the braking effort is taken by the front wheels.)
B1- Accidental control inputs. You are controlling two different axes with one thumb. Sometimes, when you make a control movement forwards/backwards for the throttle and brake, you can accidentally move the stick slightly left or right, affecting the steering. The reverse is also true. To try to reduce this as much as possible, you need to find a comfortable position for your right hand, and for your thumb on the joystick, so you aren't stretching your hand or thumb too far. As usual, you also need to practice a lot to train your muscle memory to be quite disciplined and accurate.
B2- Over-sensitivity. The quicker responses I mentioned as an advantage in A2 above can also work against you. Sometimes it seems like the joystick is over-sensitive, especially when you're trying to make fine adjustments to your steering line around a fast, sweeping bend. This can show itself most at Curva Grande and Ascari at Monza, Burnenville at Spa, at any of the high-speed oval tracks, at Grenzlandring-Wegberg, and many other places. Again, the main fix for this problem is practice, and training your fingers to make small, gentle and accurate movements.
Of course, you should also check that you have the steering ratio set correctly in your car setup. I always have mine set to the maximum ratio (minimum sensitivity) possible. With most mods, this is 1:25, but some of the later mods allow 1:30. GPL Setup Manager can sometimes allow you to set 1:30 when the GPL setup screen limits you to 1:25, so take advantage of this when you can.
If you set your steering ratio as high as possible, you will probably have trouble getting around tight corners, so you should also click on the "Controls" button in GEM and make sure there is a tick in the "Enable Steering Hack" box. Test this at Station Hairpin, Monaco. As far as I know that's the tightest corner at any GPL track.
Steering wheel benefits:
C1- Controls are fully separate.
C2 - More accurate steering. As mentioned previously, the CH Mach 2 has a total of about 70 degrees of movement in each axis. With 2.5 turns lock-to-lock, the G27 has 900 degrees of movement. (If you want that much, of course. Some drivers adjust the Logitech profiler to reduce the range.) This obviously means that you can make more accurate adjustments to your steering. In turn, this also allows you to make your car setups more sensitive and responsive if you want to, to make the cars more "pointable". It's a bit easier to drive accurately and "on the edge" around the corners mentioned in B2 above using a wheel than a joystick.
C3- More realistic method of controlling the car. For the GPL purists, using a wheel, pedals and shifter is much more immersive than other control systems, purely because it's the way the real-life drivers drove their cars.
C4- Force feedback. To be honest, force feedback doesn't really add much to my ability to drive a GPL car more quickly. Perhaps that's because I haven't used my G27 much with GPL, and if I practised more with it, I might begin to learn the subtle nuances of the messages coming to me through the wheel. I do find it immersive though, and it feels great to feel the car reacting to my control inputs, and to the varying conditions of the track. But does it actually help me to go faster? No.
Steering wheel disadvantages:
D1- More realistic method of controlling the car. The accuracy of GPL means that it successfully simulates all the aspects of controlling a 1960's high-performance car. This includes the specialised driving techniques which are needed to get the most out of the cars. I've already spoken about hard braking and downshifting in A3, and it's this, more than anything else, which has discouraged me from using my G27 with GPL.
I have read many posts and articles about the heel-and-toe technique used by real drivers to prevent the rear wheels skidding/locking under heavy braking. The problem is, that I haven't been able to find a method of using this technique with my setup which doesn't end up causing me discomfort.
Firstly, my brake and throttle pedals seem to be too far apart for me to be able to spread my right foot across both of them comfortably. I have checked the pedals, and it seems that the pedal faces are secured by allen key bolts. It looks like I might be able to move them closer together, but I've never got around to searching through the depths of my shed for allen keys!
Secondly, most serious GPL drivers seem to have a dedicated driving seat/desk for GPL. Their driving position is quite low, and this changes the angle of their feet in relation to the pedals. My computer setup is in my bedroom, and I don't have much room. My desk doesn't have much depth, and there's no room for me to take a more "laid back" driving position, and extend my legs under the desk.
Given these circumstances, my attempts to use heel-and-toe mean that I have to place my feet in a rather awkward position. Unfortunately this means that after only about 15 minutes, I am getting aches and pains in my ankles, shins and calf muscles. This is why, at the moment, I prefer sticking with my joystick.
So overall, how do you drive faster with a joystick?
Well the most important thing, no matter what your control method, is to practice following the best line around the track. As the saying goes, "The line is faster than the foot". It's no good scrabbling to keep the car following the "groove" around Spa (for example) if you're constantly carrying too much speed into a corner, and you're spending most of your time trying to recover and avoid sliding wide. Brake properly, and not too late. Enter with a reasonable and appropriate amount of speed. Follow the line/groove as closely and smoothly as possible. If you can just hear the tyres starting to squeal (without actually going into a skid), then you know you're getting the most out of them. Be patient until you see the exit of the corner start to appear, and then gently squeeze on the throttle to accelerate out of the corner. Don't accelerate too soon, or you'll simply slide wide onto the grass at the exit. Don't try to accelerate too sharply, or the rear wheels may lose grip and the rear end may step out.
I've already mentioned that you can make quick steering and throttle changes with a joystick. But this should only be done when you really need to, such as to recover a skid. Normally, you should steer gently and smoothly to allow the tyres to keep as much grip as possible. Changing the steering angle rapidly almost always means overloading the front tyres and making them lose grip.
I find the differential quite important to my setups. I usually have more locking on the power side of the diff than on the coast side. This has two benefits. First, it locks the rear wheels together slightly more when you're accelerating out of a corner. This helps prevent one of the rear wheels from deciding that it's going to start spinning all on its own (usually the inner wheel), and losing your rear-end grip.
The second benefit is that if you're in a long medium-fast or fast corner, and you're using just a small amount of throttle to keep your speed up, and you find that you're drifting a little wide, you can just lift off the throttle to a neutral position to correct things. The slight reduction in speed will help the tyres grip again, but also going from power to coast, you will unlock the diff and allow the car to turn slightly more freely, so you should see the nose of the car turn into the corner a little more and get you back on line.
Another preference I have is to make sure that I have some negative toe-in on the front end of the car. This helps the front end turn in to corners. The amount varies according to the car and the track, but it's usually somewhere between -0.050 and -0.125.
I've covered quite a few things here. I hope you find something useful. If anyone has any questions, or would like to hear more about certain topics, please feel free to ask.
Edited by Saiph, Jun 14 2020 - 10:52 AM.
Posted Jun 14 2020 - 10:50 AM
My first racing "sims" - Grand Prix Unlimited and Indianapolis 500: the Simulation - were driven via keyboard, over which I sat hunched for hours like some Dickensian scribe. Then ICR1 and Nascar 1 came along and I used a joystick for steering, using the primary fire button for shift up and secondary button for shift down; throttle and brake were via two buttons on the base of an old broken joystick mounted on a piece of plywood under the desk and operated by toes (both sticks being plugged into a homemade junction box which plugged into the gameport). When Nascar 2 appeared Thrustmaster offered its T2 wheel/pedal bundled with N2 for around $80 and I never looked back.
How hardware has evolved. That joystick was a Thrustmaster which cost $85 on sale (top line Thrustmaster or CH were over $200) ...for the past ten years I've used a Logitech which cost a mere $25 and is superior in every way; but that first wheel retailed for $99, today it's doubtful you'll find anything "decent" for less than $200. Not to mention those early joysticks required obtuse and irritating software to program 4 or 6 additional buttons (so difficult that the people who mastered the software would upload custom profiles for different games); my current Logitech has, in addition to primary and secondary fire buttons, a hat switch, throttle lever, twist grip, and ten programmable buttons ...and requires no software. That first wheel needed no software, modern wheels install a couple hundred meg of software.
Edited by jgf, Jun 14 2020 - 10:52 AM.
Posted Jun 14 2020 - 11:12 AM
The pro's and con's Saiph mentoined are very accurate too. But a gamepad offers even better throttle control, the Xbox gamepads which have really good triggers.
Steering might be a little bit harder with a gamepad but not by much. And I can confirm you can be just as fast with it as with a wheel.
The biggest disadvantage however was getting painful hands from gripping the gamepad. It's also why I stopped using it,
For hotlapping it was fine, but 45 minute races really started to become painful after a while.
Edited by Millennium, Jun 14 2020 - 11:12 AM.
Posted Jun 14 2020 - 11:59 AM
Thanks for the clear explanation, Saiph, I'm looking forward to your next installment.
Edited by prize, Jun 14 2020 - 12:25 PM.
Posted Jun 14 2020 - 03:09 PM
But I did 1:8 Rc-cars for 20 years, so GPL was just a game
my class: https://www.youtube....h?v=h6s95yeb8Ek
Edited by Cookie, Jun 14 2020 - 04:09 PM.
Posted Jun 14 2020 - 05:48 PM
then i went to the G25 it took me awhile to get used to using the wheel/pedals
took even longer to get near my old lap times let alone beat them
Posted Jun 15 2020 - 02:20 AM
Posted Jun 15 2020 - 06:35 PM
Posted Jun 15 2020 - 09:34 PM
but i dont remember the slider on the side (there may of been don't no) i do know there was 4/8? way hat on the top and it did have that rubber skirt at the base
there are others that look more like what i remember but are missing the hat or the skirt or there to many/not enough buttons
Posted Jun 23 2020 - 09:06 AM
Right stick is throttle and brake, left is for steering. Lower-right index finger button is upshifting, lower left index is downshifting, upper right index is the clutch. Remaining buttons for glancing and other auxiliary tasks.
Took some practice at first but have been doing it for so long now it is completely second-nature, and I can apply throttle, brake, and steering input very precisely.
I'll get a proper direct drive wheel and pedal set up when I have the space for it; my current desk can't accommodate such right now.
Posted Jun 29 2020 - 04:35 AM
Recently I've been using my G27 a lot more for GPL. I've been setting up separate player names for each mod, for use with my steering wheel, so I can keep my laptimes separate. And I've been busy copying across some of my favourite joystick setups to see if I can tweak them to work well with the steering wheel.
Cars such as the 1965 Lotus 33 are so much fun to drive, especially with the steering wheel. I've been "hanging the tail out" at Monza with that car, and it feels great to have fine mid-corner control over the car with both the pedals and steering wheel. However, some other cars are not so easy. For example, I've also tried the 1967 (original carset) Eagle-Weslake, and although my laptimes are usually faster with that car than my other steering wheel laps (mainly due to its high top speed), it's currently a 50/50 gamble whether I make it through a corner or not! At the moment, despite tweaking my setup, I feel very little stability and very little confidence when I'm cornering in that car. It's like riding a grumpy tiger. Thrilling, but at any moment you could get a severe bite! I obviously need to work on my setup (slightly) and my driving technique (mostly).
I've had the idea that I would like to set up a second account on the GPLRank website, purely for my (slow!) steering wheel times. This would allow me to compare my laptimes between my two different controllers, and would also allow other drivers to follow my progress as I learn how to drive GPL all over again. I'll let you know how it goes. If I can set up a second account, I'll give you the nickname so you can add me as a buddy and compare times with me if you want to.
EDIT: I have now succesfully set up my second account on GPLRank. If you log in and use the "Search Driver Database" feature near the top-left, search for "saiph" and you'll hopefully see my two accounts. The original joystick account is "Keith Ballard (aka Saiph)" and the new one is "Keith Ballard (Saiph G27)". Feel free to buddy up!
Edited by Saiph, Jun 29 2020 - 02:07 PM.
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