Columnist for Wednesday, 2/7 - Harlock

Buttons!

(Now with smaller titles! Saves you money!)

Look at me bow to peer pressure! Everyone else obviously thinks that H1 titles are too big and unwieldy, so I've switched to new, improved, concentrated titles. What next? And end to the overuse of emphasis? Probably not. But it could happen!

With that out of the way, let's...crap. I misplaced my x-acto knife. One second. Ok, found it. Look, I was removing a splinter from my finger, and I forgot where I put it. The knife, not the splinter. The splinter is gone, no more to invade and sully my flesh. My finger is still attached to my hand; I'm not some sort of whimpering x-acto neophyte, slicing off phalanges with reckless abandon. No, I need those, and by the end of this column you'll understand why. Now, on with the column!

I begin with an assertion: My joystick is better than yours. No, don't argue; it's true. I own a Thrustmaster F-22 Pro, hooked up to a Thrustmaster F-16 Throttle Quadrant System, which is in turn hooked up to a set of Thrustmaster rudder pedals. I've had this setup for a few years (admittedly with different pedals), and it still kicks more ass than a joystick/throttle/rudder pedal combo has any right to kick. Not because they're realistic (they are), or because they look good (they do); no, one single word can encompass their greatness: buttons.

"Ha!" you say, "My joystick has force feedback!" Nifty. Congratulations on the purchase of a $100+ hand massager. "My joystick," you #2 yells out, "has a twisty handle! Twisty twisty!" My joystick does not stoop to twist. It's too damn solid to twist. This is not the joystick that you rest on your lap, unless you're a big fan of lower abdominal discomfort. It's big and it's heavy; if this joystick fell into some sort of time-travel-wormhole-whatnot and appeared in fourteenth-century Europe, a knight would use it to bash in the head of another knight. Or a peasant. It doesn't really matter. What matters is that the knight would be an enormously successful head-basher, be immortalized, along with his weapon, in a tapestry, and then, hundreds of years later, some French company, led by someone who viewed that tapestry and deciphered its meaning, would buy Thrustmaster. Which actually happened. Ok, the part about the French company buying Thrustmaster happened; the rest is conjecture. Oh, and before I forget: one sentence, eight commas! Boo-yah!

Damn. Where was I? Oh, right. You know what I say to your twisty handle? Rudder pedals, that's what! While your feet lie there at the end of your legs, motionless and useless, my feet are busy immersing me in the total gaming experience (TGE).

But what really makes my joystick superior to yours? Buttons. I said that already. Pay attention. My joystick has so many buttons that the otherwise studly Mechwarrior IV was unable to take the button-induced strain, and refused to run. "No!" it said (in my mind), "Your joystick has too many buttons! Do not punish me so!" To get MWIV to work, I have to use a special driver and trick it into thinking that the 'stick only has 31 buttons. Oh yes, you read that right. Because the F22+TQS combo has 32 buttons. With the rudder pedals, I suppose it technically counts as 35 (left, right, and center pedal position). True, those 32 buttons encompass five 4-way hat switches and two rotary knobs, but that's still 32 (35) distinct commands. Four of the hat switches can even be set up as 8-way hat switches, giving a total of 48 (51) buttons. That's as many buttons as contiguous states, or, with the rudder pedals, more buttons than all the states! I can make each button display the name of a state when pressed, and even include Washington, D.C. Can your joystick do this? No, it cannot. Therefore, it is weak.

You might argue that no one needs that many buttons, but you'd be wrong. Actually, you might be right, but it's still convenient, at the very least, to have so many buttons that I can be fairly certain that I won't need to reach for the keyboard in the middle of a dogfight. Not that it makes me an unstoppable combat dreadnought, but I like to think that it keeps me from being a very stoppable combat tea cozy. No, I couldn't think of a better analogy.

Unfortunately, this joystick isn't made anymore. It's a relic of a bygone age, an age when complex flight simulators...well, didn't flourish, but at least existed. But like another relic, the Ark of the Covenant, it will still destroy the heretics and unbelievers! When dropped on their heads.


Previous day's column