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  • "In Memory to The Greatest-Devoted Husband,Father,and Stock Car Racer"
    Picture credits go to Nascar.com


    Microsoft Sidewinder

    Microsoft Sidewinder Force Feedback Controller
    (Comp USA Price $159.99)


    I was kind of skeptical at first about getting a force feedback controller for use with my racing games, but after getting this force feedback controller by Microsoft, it has definitely turned my mind around.  With the use of the force feedback controller, it seems to get me more into the racing games by feeling every bump of the cars, crossing corner curbs. and the slams into the walls that my car does as it goes around the track (now I don't slam into the walls all the time - <hehe> just for testing). It is now hard for me to go back to my old racing controller with some games cause of the interaction with the games. I will now cover all the aspects of the Sidewinder controller, and what games work and don't work with it.

    System testing controller

    The system that I am testing the Sidewinder FF controller on is a 450 MHz Pentium system with 64 Meg of RAM, a Voodoo2 graphics card, and the card the controller is attached to is the SBLIVE sound card. The display I am using for testing is a projection screen 100" by 100".  Now with all this and the sidewinder controller, all I need is wind blowing in my face and the feel of the corner G forces and I will have a complete racing system.  <hehe>

    Installation of controller

    The installation of the controller and software was very easy and I had no problems getting it to work on my system. The controller itself comes in three parts, the wheel section, the pedals, and the AC adapter that supplies power to the wheel part. All the parts are made of durable plastic and the wheel has an adjustable single clamp on it to attach to the desktop. Make sure the desktop is completely flat for the clamp. The pedal base is a pretty good size and the pedals themselves are spread apart adequately enough to get my size 13 shoes on them. I have a support board taped to the floor so that the pedals lean up against so it doesn't slip away from me while racing.

    Microsoft Sidewinder

    The software comes on a CD and a little booklet in how to install the software. You do need Direct X drivers installed to use the controller. I am running with Direct X 6.1 at this time.  The controller works with most games that are Direct X or windows compatible. I will explain the games later. Once the software is installed, it provides a nice little control panel to make your adjustments to how you want the wheel to feel like while racing.

    The pedals have a very good feel to them and work quite well while racing. The wheel is an all together different feel to it than the conventional wheels I have tried in the past. The wheel is a nice compact size for racing and it feels like you have power steering and has a wider racing of steering travel to it. It has the option of having the FF turned on or off with a touch of a button in the center. With the force feedback turned on, it starts to give you resistance while racing and you feel every little bump as you hit the curbs and other cars. It is a pretty cool feeling while racing.

    The wheel itself has a main FF on/off button in the center, and 6 function buttons for use as hot keys  or shifting with the games. This will be explained later.

    Control Panel for Sidwinder Controller

    The control panel is provided down in the lower right of Windows 95 where the clock is located, and is shown as a small ICON that can be clicked on with the mouse to bring it up. Once the control panel is open, it has a couple of directions you can go. You can go to the sidewinder control panel, the sidewinder software section, or read about info on the device itself.

    Microsoft Sidewinder

    The sidewinder control panel is nothing more than going to the windows game controller section and selecting the Sidewinder FF controller and making sure it says OK on the controller for recognition. By hitting properties on the controller in the control panel, it brings up a new window that allows you to test the controller and buttons, it has settings section for adjusting  force feedback intensities, has a small test section to try different forces on the wheel, and has an info section for troubleshooting the wheel.

    Microsoft Sidewinder

    Setting game control functions

    The other direction in the main section in the control panel is going to the game software configuration of the buttons on the controller. There are two pictures that are shown below that illustrate how the the buttons are programmed. First picture shows how a new game profile is set up with the controller. The second picture shows how you program each of the 6 buttons are set up for the particular game by keystrokes or macros.  Once everything is programmed, it then saves it into a  game.sww file. The manual and help files explain how to do the programming which I will not get into here.

    Microsoft Sidewinder

    Microsoft Sidewinder

    Games tested with the Controller

    The games I have tested and work great with the controller are Monaco Grand Prix 2, SCGT, Toca 2, NFS 4-high stakes, Monster Truck Madness 2, Viper Racing,  and Superbike world Championship. The Grand Prix Legends(GPL) game by Sierra also works great with the controller if you get the latest patch off the net(version 1.1).  

    GPL - For force feedback to work with new GPL patch, once installed, go into the main GPL directory and change coreini.sample to core.ini. then go into core.ini and find the parameter allow_force_feedback and set it to equal 1.  This allows the force feedback controller to work within the game. I think there is an option setting to turn on FF in the controller section of the game also.

    Running these games with the FF controller is a completely different experience.  With most the games you can feel the gears shift up and down, going into the corners the wheel will fight with you, you can feel the rumble of going over the curbs, all the bumps on the track and from the other cars, and with GPL you can feel the car swaying back in forth. Depending on how intense you make the wheel(low, med, high) will dictate how much the wheel will fight with you around the tracks.

    The games that work with the controller but don't have true force-feedback are Nascar99 that I have installed on my system. You need to go to each one of these games above to their controller sections and click on force feedback or direct x capability.  You do need the latest patches for the games that did not have Force Feedback in the orginal game package. I will be putting some of these patches up on SC web site or can get them from the company support sections. They will either be put in this section and/or the particular game section.

    Games that don't work with controller

    The games that don't work with the controller are Windows version of Nascar 2(darn - need a patch Papyrus), Andretti Racing, and all DOS games that don't use Direct X.  This is strictly a windows version controller and will only work with windows compatible or use the Direct X mode features. Now whether all Force Feedback controllers are this way, I don't know.

    Please send me any feedback on what FF controller you have and if it only uses direct X also.

    Dave Thayer

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