My Mac Joystick Challenge

Posted on Wednesday 2 January 2013

Well I’ve finally found something on my Mac that was a challenge!  And the solution is a thing of beauty, and something that every Mac owner needs or at least should know about it. So I thought I’d get this article out as soon as I could in order to help anyone else out there who was in my boat…

Off the top, here is the problem…. Apple does not build any device handlers for joysticks, gamepads, etc etc. They expect the game developer to handle all that. It’s a smart move for Apple, they just saved themselves a ton of work updating and supporting all that “stuff” out there. But unfortunately, most game companies want nothing to do with it either – so pretty well all Mac games run using the keyboard which can be a royal pain compared to using a joystick and not very intuitive either… You can jump the next few paragraphs if you just want the solution and it’s a good one!

Now a little background… My brother sent me an invitation to join him on what looks like a promising air combat gaming site. Unfortunately it runs only in Windows, so I dug out my old joystick and started up my Parallels ( a Windows PC emulator ) and unfortunately discovered that for what ever reason, it wont run in my emulator. So I sent in a trouble ticket and hopefully it will be resolved soon. But now that I’ve dusted off my joystick I had the urge to fly but no where to go!

I tried a few web-based sites, but they all required either a monthly fee; something I wasn’t keen on doing, unless I really had to. So I started looking around to see what was out there that would run on a Mac… For the record the state of Mac gaming is improving daily. Aside from those available from Apples own App Store there are some other very excellent resources such as Steam ( it’s come a long way in it’s Mac selection ) and another great outfit, GOG, is bringing back many of the old, older and oldest great games for PC and Mac ( and by the way they have amazing prices AND an amazing sale going on right now! )

So I floundered around looking for something that worked, trying out a few demo’s but not really finding something I liked… and then I found a game on the App store, with a demo, that stated that it used MY joystick ( a Logitech Attack 3! ) So needless to say I got the demo and plugged in my joystick and….. found it “sort of” worked but not very well and it seemed to have issues combining the joystick with the keyboard. The demo looked and felt really good, and when I used the keyboard the response was perfect, but I needed a cheat sheet to keep track of all the keyboard letters and constantly got confused ( sigh )…

The game by the way is called Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy which originated on the iPhone and iPad but was also ported over to the Mac. It’s an amazing game, with lots of solo gaming options as well as quite a few online games as well. It’s great fun and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for an air combat game on the Mac ( and it’s price is ridiculously low )- especially after you use the solution I found for ANY joystick or gamepad!

So I went looking for some sort of solution ( which led me to several articles about how Apple doesn’t support any joysticks ) but it also led me to the perfect solution…

The Solution

 

Go to www.usboverdrive.com and download Alessandro Levi Montalcini’s software. You will NOT be disappointed, he has even generously made it available as shareware ( which means you can download and try it without cost to see if it works for you. ) Once you find it does what you want it to do – pay the man – it’s only $20 and worth every penny! He even has older releases for those who may have older machines.

It takes a little bit of work to set it up. For starters this is one of the few instances where you will need to reboot your computer after it’s installed.

Now make sure that you have compiled a list of keyboard commands from your game ( or anything else you might want the control via your joystick, game pad, or whatever ) and have it readily available.

Once your computer has rebooted, plug your joystick in and then open your System Preferences ( that funny icon that looks like a bunch of gears. ) Once it has opened look at the bottom of the window and you should find a line that says Other and under that you should find the icon for the USB Overdrive, click on it.

Click on the Status button to see your Joystick that you plugged in ( or any other USB device ) listed. If you don’t there is a button at the bottom with instructions on how you can let Alessandro know about it so that he can tackle the problem for your – but usually it will work just fine.

Now click the settings, and choose a description from the selection menu (  it has two up and down triangles ) and make sure you click on the enabled box.

You should see most, if not all the buttons and axis of your device ( or joystick ) if they aren’t all there, just click or move them on your joystick and they will pop up in the list.

Now the tricky/hard part…click on and highlight each button or Axis one at a time in that box. A new menu will appear to the right letting you select what keyboard character or action you want to happen when that particular button is pushed ( this is where that list of keyboard commands comes in. )

For example for my joystick I click on the X Access threshold down ( which means pushing the joystick to the left ) and on the menu on the right I chose Press Key from the top selection menu and then put my cursor in the window below where it says Keyboard Key to Press and then pressed the left arrow key. And that’s it, I go on to the next button or Axis and do the same for all my buttons and axis.

Once you have done all your buttons, tested them out adjusted the sensitivity to where you want it you should then go up to that top selection menu again and select Export Settings and save your settings to somewhere safe with a name for that particular game or software ( as all software doesn’t use the same keyboard commands to do the same thing unfortunately. )  Then when you want to configure your joystick or device to use with a particular piece of software all you need to do is to import the file you saved and you are ready to go! I keep all my exported settings in a folder called OverDrive on my desktop.

I can even begin to express my joy with this amazing piece of software, USB Overdrive is amazing in that ANY usb device can be made and connected and used as YOU want to use it. Alessandro has done an amazing job here and has opened up a huge opportunity for so many options and capabilities that my mind races with excitement visualizing how such areas as science, engineering, medicine, and arts can use this and even more importantly how those less fortunate could have devices created to simplify and better their lives that much more… oh to be an engineer….

Alessandro – thank you so much!

 

 

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