Joysticks and Wheels: The Winter 2002 Collection

Pros And Cons Of Force Feedback

After my previous articles, one on joysticks and the next on wheels , I was deluged with emails, most of them in favor of force feedback. So now is perhaps a good time to make a few points. But let's get real and remember that wheels and joysticks are entertainment devices and that force feedback does not need armed combat troops. Force feedback is an interesting invention and, in some cases, really gives you an extra kick. You can give it a try and then feel free to adopt it or not. My aim is just to inform you about it. So at the risk of being shot down in flames again, I shall repeat the information from my previous articles. First of all, you have to distinguish between wheels and joysticks. It is obvious that with a wheel, well-designed force feedback gives you physical sensations which add to the feeling of reality. An effort has really been made in the forthcoming games, and the effects are much better. But there are still two problems. No game transmits the information that the wheel needs to give you true piloting feedback. This is quite understandable. A device like that would cost too much to program, and the wheels would have to be much more highly developed. This does not mean that the best of them, like Colin McRae 2, don't give you the feeling of swerving, skidding or mass transfer.

The questions that made passions run high were: "But does it work?" and "Are the times better?" Personally, I found I did better without force feedback. But that was me; you can do as you please. In flight simulation, we are still a long way from the real thing. Go to the next air show and try a recent joystick for Airbus or Boeing and you'll see what I mean! Recreating the resistance of an airplane in the controls is a highly complex matter. That said, the sensations which force feedback gives you when you play cannot be denied. It is up to you to decide whether you want these sensations or the greater precision of the joystick without force feedback. Now you know how far the technique has come, so choose the side you like, but for Pete's sake don't make an issue of it.