Hands-on: A Few More Details
by Joe Keefe
On the evening of June 15th, after the first day of E3 2010, Thrustmaster hosted an exclusive preview event to unveil the HOTAS Warthog. SimHQ attended and provided a preview article detailing many of the Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog’s features. Now that the dust has settled, here is a bit more information that clarifies some topics of discussion that have been prevalent since the June 15th introduction.
|One of the SCSimulations pits used by the Virtual Thunderbirds during the premier event.
Note the functional MFD Cougar Pack buttons and throttle base lighting.
Rudder pedal discussions seem to be the hottest offshoot topic stemming from HOTAS Warthog chatter. Some have complained that Thrustmaster isn’t offering a pedal solution with the HOTAS Warthog. Let’s look in detail at what one’s rudder pedal options are if they purchase a HOTAS Warthog.
1. Use the HOTAS Warthog with no pedals
This option allows the user to assign a rudder axis to the rotary on the throttle base if he or she wishes. Although using this rotary requires the left hand to be removed from the throttle, it is certainly the simplest and most inexpensive option. The throttles could also be unlocked and one of the two throttle levers could be assigned to the rudder axis.
2. Use the HOTAS Warthog with USB rudder pedals from another manufacturer
For any titles that support multiple controllers, using the HOTAS Warthog with USB rudder pedals from Saitek, CH Products, or even the Logitech G940 would not be a problem. The disadvantage is that these pedals from other manufacturers would not be programmable through Thrustmaster software. The advantage is that one could use pedals that are already purchased and not spend more money after buying a brand-new HOTAS controller.
3. Use the HOTAS Warthog in combination with rudder pedals connected through the Cougar
One of the key points SimHQ learned about Thrustmaster’s T.A.R.G.E.T. (Thrustmaster Advanced pRogramming Graphical EdiTor) programming software is that it will support the HOTAS Warthog, the Cougar, the Cougar MFDs, the T.16000M, and possibly other Thrustmaster USB devices. This means that buttons and axes from all of these devices can be combined into virtual controller combinations. For example, if one owned a HOTAS Warthog, a Cougar, and Simped rudder pedals with toebrakes connected to a Cougar, one could map a virtual controller that used the HOTAS Warthog’s two stick axes, the HOTAS Warthog’s two throttle axes, the HOTAS Warthog’s one throttle rotary, the Simped pedals’ one rudder axis, and the Simped pedals’ two toebrake axes. That’s eight axes (the DirectX limit for a single controller) from three different physical devices connected to the computer through two different USB cables.
The obvious advantages of T.A.R.G.E.T.’s ability to integrate Cougar axes is that Thrustmaster has not made the Cougar or its third-party-designed peripherals obsolete, despite the fact that the Cougar is 10 years old. While one will certainly want to hang onto their Cougar if they own expensive Simped pedals, this rudder-integration-by-Cougar method will also work with simple CH and Thrustmaster pedals connected via gameport to the Cougar stick base.
The obvious disadvantages of this method are that one must keep the Cougar and keep it plugged in. Thus, one may not want to sell their Cougar to help offset the cost of a new HOTAS Warthog, since it might eradicate their rudder pedal solution. The Cougar stick base also must be connected to the computer to enumerate the rudder pedals. However, this will work with the throttle disconnected and even with the stick handle itself removed from the stick base, in effect resulting in a rather compact “project box” to hold the connector and circuitry required to enumerate the rudder pedal axis or axes to T.A.R.G.E.T.
So, in effect Thrustmaster has done everything they can to support users of any existing rudder pedal set except put a gameport connector onto the HOTAS Warthog, Cougar-style (and with it being 2010, who can blame them?). All they haven’t done is engineered and marketed a new model of rudder pedals themselves (nor, we were told, do they currently have plans to do so).
|Another view. Note the mounting of the stick and the Saitek Pro Flight rudder pedals paired with the HOTAS Warthog.
HOTAS Warthog Development
At the unveiling event Thrustmaster acknowledged the potentiometer and gimbal problems that had manifested themselves in the Cougar production runs. The Cougar was designed from the outset to have a 10-year product life span, developed with a 4-year R&D process. Thrustmaster knew that, in order to have a replacement controller on the market in 2010, the initial R&D process for this product would need to start in 2006. So they interviewed 1,000 simmers, including existing Cougar users, to find out the key features in a new HOTAS controller.
In the end the product “must-haves” were determined to be:
- Time-lasting accuracy
- A sturdy replica
- Dual throttles
- Many buttons and axes
- Functional and accessible programming user interface
This feature list naturally led them to the choice of an A-10C replica, since it incorporated many buttons, axes, and dual throttles. An added bonus was that, shortly after this decision was made, plans for a Digital Combat Simulator A-10C study sim was announced, and so the HOTAS Warthog will have a natural pairing with the DCS: A-10C Warthog.
|A slide from the presentation that shows the evolution.
HOTAS Warthog “Feel”
SimHQ’s preview article was short on details about how the HOTAS Warthog felt to use. My initial impressions were very favorable; I have a Cougar modded with NXT gimbals and I think that the HOTAS Warthog stock gimbals feel even better. The HOTAS Warthog throttle feels very nice, too, and has a detent system that is worlds better than the Cougar’s. However, for a true comparison SimHQ needs more time with the controller and the ability to do side-by-side A/B testing. When we review the HOTAS Warthog we will publish more thoughts on how the HOTAS feels.
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