Throttle Design Considerations

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JLX
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Throttle Design Considerations

Postby JLX » Fri Nov 24, 2017 2:28

I have a few thoughts about throttle design that I thought I would pass along in hopes that the VKB design team might take them into consideration for the upcoming models.

Have 3 buttons on the outer part of the handle. One each for the pinky, ring and middle fingers.

Why? Modifiers are very important on an advanced HOTAS and personally, I find a minimum of 3 are required which I know is more than most use. They of course don't have to be used as modifiers. But with three, you can easily map all 20 OSB buttons of a MFCD (those small in-cockpit screens with 5 buttons on each side) to a single hat switch.

The reason they should be placed next to each other on the outer part of the handle is because the pinky, ring and middle fingers are not as dexterous as the index finger or thumb making them a better choice for simple buttons and leaves the index finger and thumb for more complex controls like POV/Hat switches, thumb-sticks, rotaries, etc.

Instead of a split 2-lever throttle, have a single lever and a "balance" control.

I know this bucks the current trend of twin-lever throttles. But, here is why I don't think two is a good idea:

  • The vast majority of the time the two levers are locked together. Usually only split if there is an engine failure.
  • If you DO split their positions (perhaps because you're using the second lever for a control other than thrust) then the controls on each lever no longer line up! As your hand can't be in two positions at once, it makes it very awkward to reach all the controls.
  • The "balance control" could be a simple knob or left-right slider. The output of the joystick would still show 2 independent axis, e.g. Slider1 (left) and Slider2 (right). It's just that their values would be calculated from the position of the physical throttle lever AND the position of the balance knob.

    For example, if the balance control is in the middle, both Slider1 and Slider2 would get 100% of the throttle position. This is like having the throttles locked together. However, if the balance control was 1/2 to the left, then the Slider1 would get only 1/2 the value of the throttle position while Slider2 would get 100% of the throttle position. This would allow balancing throttle output just like you could with two physical levers, except done with a separate balance control.

Why bother? Well, because by making the throttle a single lever design, the handle can be one larger part rather than two smaller ones. This allows more room inside for the electronics. Possibly allowing for more ergonomic design, perhaps a bit like the F-16. It also solves the problem mentioned above where the controls would get offset if two levers are in different positions.

For specific index/thumb controls, I offer only general thoughts:
  • Always use 4way+push hat switches (like on the MCG) rather than 2way. Always give as many options as possible and I'd suggest a minimum of 3 hats.
  • Mini-joysticks are great but not always a good replacement for hat switches even if they can be emulated in software. They lack tactile feedback which is very important. I'd suggest only including a single one and using hat switches for the balance.
  • Rotary controls aren't seen often anymore but would be a nice in addition.

tl:dr Don't be afraid to buck industry design trends and innovate! Allow many modifiers for those who need them (it won't hurt those who don't) and consider the possible benefits of a single lever + balance knob for engine output.

I realize that design is a very subjective topic but hope that even for those who prefer things otherwise, the reasoning provided will add to the discussion and be helpful, even if not adopted.

Thanks for the ear and good luck with the development! :-)

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Re: Throttle Design Considerations

Postby Hadarmil » Fri Nov 24, 2017 10:49

Thumbsticks are important for quite a few people - especially in space games. I'm personally waiting for VKB's throttle to use in Elite:dangerous and no stick would leave me with my TM:TWCS.

The ratio throttle sounds nice, but it has to be supported in sims which is a problem. VKB can break as much ground as they like but if you can't assign that function anywhere it will just be another throttle axis unfit for twin engines.

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Re: Throttle Design Considerations

Postby rtrski » Fri Nov 24, 2017 16:31

Echoes a lot of the same ideas in this earlier thread that you also created. viewtopic.php?f=28&t=2757

The only real responses we've received indicate that there are 'several' design paths (e.g. the 3 design placeholders shown on the US VKBcontroller site) and that they do welcome our nontraditional feedback, so high hopes some or all of the various suggestions see light of day.

Personally...at this point I sincerely hope they're past accepting basic throttle body design feedback, because they're well on the way to final control placement and fine tuning. Otherwise, the wait is just going to be too much.

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Re: Throttle Design Considerations

Postby JLX » Fri Nov 24, 2017 17:20

Hadarmil wrote:Thumbsticks are important for quite a few people - especially in space games. I'm personally waiting for VKB's throttle to use in Elite:dangerous and no stick would leave me with my TM:TWCS.

The ratio throttle sounds nice, but it has to be supported in sims which is a problem. VKB can break as much ground as they like but if you can't assign that function anywhere it will just be another throttle axis unfit for twin engines.


Just to clarify, the single throttle lever with balance control doesn't need to be supported in sims. The mapping would be done in software on the device. Either through a user modifiable script (e.g. Thrustmaster's Target, CH Control Manager, etc.) or in firmware (in which case the balance knob might not be able to be re-purposed). Either way, no support would be needed in any sims/games/etc. They wouldn't see output any different than a twin-stick version.

As for thumb-sticks, I agree they are very important. My comment was more about the MCG having 2 of them where I feel one per controller is enough and would have preferred a tactile hat switch in lieu of the second one. But it's a small, very subjective, point.

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Re: Throttle Design Considerations

Postby JLX » Fri Nov 24, 2017 17:33

rtrski wrote:Echoes a lot of the same ideas in this earlier thread that you also created. viewtopic.php?f=28&t=2757

The only real responses we've received indicate that there are 'several' design paths (e.g. the 3 design placeholders shown on the US VKBcontroller site) and that they do welcome our nontraditional feedback, so high hopes some or all of the various suggestions see light of day.

Personally...at this point I sincerely hope they're past accepting basic throttle body design feedback, because they're well on the way to final control placement and fine tuning. Otherwise, the wait is just going to be too much.


Been away from this forum for a while. I'll have to re-read that thread. But I'm glad these ideas are being circulated! We're all looking for an optimal and flexible design that can suit as many people as possible.

Yeah, I like that they are pursuing 3 different design paths and also that they are taking a modular approach. Great for future options (as long as they can stick to their HW interface standard (e.g 3-pin Rev.B).

The "obvious" move would be to make a standard twin-lever base and then make modular grips that can be swapped out much like their MCG. So while they may have 3 different grips, I'm guessing they won't have 3 different bases. I'm hoping that at least one base may be a single stick design as I described.

The other benefit to the single lever design that I forgot to mention is the placement of base controls. With the connecting lever on the side (like the Thrustmaster Cougar) there is a large flat area under the handle which could potentially be reachable by extending fingers giving some unique options for additional control placement. It would be tricky to do well as people have different hand sizes and the throttle of course wouldn't be in a fixed position. Still, may allow room for something innovative there too.

Image

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Re: Throttle Design Considerations

Postby Mr WHIMington » Tue Dec 19, 2017 15:12

My major counter argument for the "single axis-balance modifier" idea is that it breaks realism, Throttle design goes way back and it is how most twin engine cockpit were designed, this is not a "joystick" industry design trend, this is "the aerospace industry design standard"(for now), and changing it for inconvenience while sacrificing realism and the joy of simulation is not the way to go, if you ask me, just by adding the thrust balance opinions into key mapping software and driver is more then enough to satisfy everyone.

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Re: Throttle Design Considerations

Postby bossfight » Sun Dec 31, 2017 9:45

I currently use a CH Pro Throttle, which I think is generally great except for:
- It has a very basic, boring styling. All black plastic over simple forms and grey buttons. Functional, but not exactly sexy.
- All three axis (z-throttle, x/y thumbstick) are based on pots and there is a LOT of jitter, which I'm able to get sorted with deadzones and curves, but would really prefer cleaner behavior.
- I'd still like to have at least one more analog axis that could be used as an alternative "relative" throttle for the Z-axis. Basically forward/backward thrust. The Thrustmaster TWCS has a paddle rocker that could be an idea of how to do this.

So my wishlist for a VKB throttle would really be to take the good from both the TWCS and the CH Pro Throttle, and then dress it up the VKB way.

Feature suggestions:
-High quality axis sensors (VKB is known to deliver this, so I'm not so worried. But it is important to me)
-Z-axis throttle. I'm personally indifferent about whether it is flat or curved. Both styles have advantages to me.
-A dual-throttle would be nice, but I've never personally needed this in space sims which are my primary use-case. I would use it in DCS if I had it though.
-X/Y analog Thumbstick, with a click button. Basically an Xbox controller thumbstick.
-A Forward/Reverse analog rocker input of some kind (maybe a twist grip like a motorcycle handle). Useful for space sims, it is common to need absolute throttle control and relative forward/back thrust control under different circumstances. I'd suggest having this analog rocker somewhere that can be easily manipulated while keeping the thumb on the X/Y thumbstick. This would allow full-contact control over landing/VTOL thrusters without fighting over where the thumb should go.
-A scroll wheel (mouse wheel) built into the throttle grip. Preferably accessible under the pointer or middle finger. Bonus points if the wheel is clicky for an extra button. A 5-way hat would also be good.
-At least one simple button easily accessible under each finger. I like how the CH Pro Throttle does it on the grip, where 3 buttons are arranged to sit "between" the fingers on the front of the grip. They are small and discrete enough to not be pressed by accident, but very easy to rest fingers on or next-to for ready use. The ergonomics of this grip aren't perfect to me, but this is one aspect I really like.
-Lots of 5-way hats. I love your 5-way hats.
-For the throttle base, I'd love to see one or two additional discrete analog slide-levers that could be used for miscellaneous purposes (power regulation, backlighting, warp-drive, etc).
-Toggle flip-switches are unnecessary in my opinion. What I'd prefer instead would be LED backlit buttons that could be configured in software to behave as "toggles" that reflect status with lighting, if possible.
-In general, lighting options would be appreciated. I don't just mean simple glowy buttons, but hopefully lighting that can be programmed to work with the functionality of the controller in software. Color changes for mode shifts, toggles, tempo effects, and other functional purposes. This is a stretch goal though.


About the forward/reverse thrust control:
-Like I said the TWCS rocker concept would be a good solution. It would not be in the way of the thumbstick where up/down/left/right thrust would likely be mapped, so all 3 thrust axis could be manipulated simultaneously.
-A motorcycle twist grip would probably not be ideal, as it would require strain to use while managing other controls. But if the movement is easy enough if could work.
-A grip "rudder" style twist could also be tried. I've never seen this before, but the idea is that the throttle grip itself could twist left/right on the shaft connecting to the base, like a joystick twist axis. I think this could be really cool, but if you try this, I'd suggest a physical means of locking it so that it isn't used accidentally. If the lock mechanism was ergonomic and functionally useful though, you could treat it like the second flip-up trigger on the MCG-Pro and make the locking mechanism mappable to some toggle-state input too.

Just some ideas. Cheers.

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Re: Throttle Design Considerations

Postby rtrski » Sun Dec 31, 2017 16:10

Hilarious that you posted all this right before (or simultaneous to?) the renders coming out.

Not laughing "at" you but at the coincidence/situation.

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Re: Throttle Design Considerations

Postby bossfight » Sun Dec 31, 2017 16:15

I woke up this morning and had to smirk at it myself. As usual, my timing is perfectly irrelevant.

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Re: Throttle Design Considerations

Postby rtrski » Sun Dec 31, 2017 16:51

Not necessarily irrelevant! While it may be out of 'design' they did say they were still finalizing panel layouts. That might still allow for some minor alterations of grip controls as well.

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Re: Throttle Design Considerations

Postby bossfight » Sun Dec 31, 2017 16:57

I hope so. I'm going to lobby hard for some kind of paddle-axis for forward/reverse thrust in addition to the thumbstick on the grip. Cant really see much of the front of the TECS grip, but it looks like a analog "wheel" or maybe a mousewheel is up there. That would be useful for some things, but it'll still leaves a big wishlist feature of mine ignored, I think.

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Re: Throttle Design Considerations

Postby rtrski » Sun Dec 31, 2017 17:34

Yeah I'm wanting to see a front picture as well. And still wondering what those square floating panels are behind the throttle body....adjustable palmrest? Paddle of some sort? Just and up-down press to either engage or disengage the detentes on the slide axes?

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Re: Throttle Design Considerations

Postby aaron886 » Tue Jan 02, 2018 2:53

I can’t disagree with this original post enough. In a friendly way.

  • Instead of 3 individual buttons, some of that space could go to a knob, or another hat. Having 4 different modified/shifted layers is unnecessarily complicated. Binding display pushbuttons to HOTAS is just ridiculous: too confusing and too easy to make a mistake.
  • A “balance control?” That’s watering down a design that’s currently obviously emulating a throttle for fighter jets. Most flight simmers want a balance of realism and functionality, and that’s neither.

Another post in the thread asked for a paddle rudder control like Thrustmaster’s cheap HOTAS. I certainly hope that doesn’t happen... VKB makes expensive, high-quality controls for people who don’t want to compromise, and that would be a compromise for people who don’t have rudder pedals, or people whose use-case is space games. Flight sims are their primary customer, and I think this throttle is obviously oriented toward modern fighter jets. That said, if you’re into space games, you may be in luck, because the indication is that the throttle is being designed for modular grips. I recommend you direct energy there if you’re into space games, which is more practical, if selfish on my part.

There’s a difference between adding functionality, and making compromises for unusual requests. Having multiple, high-quality mini-sticks on the MCG is an example of functionality: it adds important functionality for the primary use-case (flight sims) and also helps out the fans of space sims. Same goes for the inline twist-rudder adapter. Perfect.

One suggestion that falls under functionality is a slider on the throttle base: that’s universally useful. Whether VKB thinks that strays too far from the Russian design ethic is another thing, but at least it makes sense for everyone.

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Re: Throttle Design Considerations

Postby bossfight » Tue Jan 02, 2018 3:09

I respect the design is intended for flight sims first. I would only suggest, as you pointed out, functional improvements that might facilitate both space simmers and flight sims together. The MCG Pro grip is like a dream come true in this regard. Dual analog sticks on top, one with a Master Mode with shitloads of configuration options meets both markets perfectly IMO. Maybe a paddle rocker like the TWCS isn't the best idea, it was just a suggestion. It never occurred to me that adding it would cause so much friction for flight simmers. I play flight sims too, and I've never felt offended by the presence of unused inputs... but that is just me. But if paddles are obtrusive, might I ask if the presence of any analog inputs on the front of the throttle grip would be bad. A throttle twist feature? A brake-style lever (like the MCG Pro grip, but centered for forward and backwards manipulation)? Anything?

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Re: Throttle Design Considerations

Postby rtrski » Tue Jan 02, 2018 7:02

Someone posted an older render of the front side of the TECS throttle grip that showed the right half of the throttle having one button and one hat . (But the side had one less button than the new render, so that's no guarantee.) But if it is still there, and if that one hat was analog-capable, would that supply what you desire? If it was only a 2-way (up/down) but analog capable?

Just curious. I have no specific dog in this hunt, I think with what I've already seen if the rest of the unseen front was just buttons and maybe a digital-only hat I'd personally be OK covering all the functions I want. Well, with a twist adaptor for my MCG-Pro / Gunfighter as well.

I too don't understand the sudden "real pilots don't do that" vitriol on the reddit threads. I bet a significant portion of the new MCG-Pro orders are space simmers, and a significant number of "real pilots" bought the pro over the non-pro despite a hat where one isn't on the T-50. The very existence of the "Pro" grip came from customer feedback wanting moar. I'd think any market for VKB to make great stuff is to everyone's benefit (In my case specifically, in absence of twist available right now---the MCG-Pro grip was the deciding point between going VKB and going V...um, the other guys who we also all wish well certainly, but this here's the forum for the home team. ;-) ....that the twist adaptor might actually be available for relatively short versions of the word "soon" is a bonus.)

I still haven't seen the actual comment people mention about the throttle grips themselves being modular....keep looking but I guess my Google-fu is running low for 2018.


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