Recently I’ve been looking at the various HOTAS controls on the market to see if there’s anything better out there than my current CH Products setup of Pro Throttle and Fighterstick1. After lots of research it seems to me that, while the CH Products looks plastic and cheap, they’re still one of the better built HOTAS sets out there2, and are easily the most customisable. Threads like “Will my setup work with…?” just don’t make sense to me since I can bind the controllers into any combination of virtual controllers, or simply bind things to keyboard presses. It also seems that the CH Products have the most usable buttons for games like Elite since rotaries, which seem to feature heavily on other setups, aren’t hugely useful – although a couple of toggle switches wouldn’t go amis.
Given the conclusion to stick with the CH gear I then took a look at my current mappings and compared that to how I actually play Elite which yielded some interesting results:
- I wasn’t actually using the analogue joystick for most flying3.
- During combat my access to
yawwas limited, or required me to move my hands.
- Finding zero on the throttle was difficult, hence the ability to disable the throttle.
- I only ever flew backwards docking, and then using the
backcontrols, not throttle controls.
- The only times I swapped the joystick axis for
rollwas when I accidentally hit the button, which then necessitated looking up how to set it back to
- Button 2 and 3 are hard to press repeatedly in combat4.
- I can’t target ships with my
gear downwhich makes communication more difficult than it needs to be.
There’s some other considerations that have been added since I made that map:
- There is now only one button for
frameshift, replacing the old
hyperdrivebuttons – leaving an unmapped button on my old setup.
- There’s a bunch of mappings that can be added for the
With these things in mind I’ve revamped sections of the map.
The throttle has been changed from full range to forward only. This removes the need for disabling the analogue throttle when docking, provides finer control over speed and makes finding zero easy. Pressing
back on the hat switch on the joystick handle reverses the throttle5 if needed. This mapping remains with the
shift button (joystick pinky) pressed.
Analogue throttle inputs can still be disabled (and the throttle set to zero) by rotating the joystick
throttle wheel fully back. To re-enable throttle inputs push the joystick
throttle wheel fully forward again6.
yaw is now handled on the hat switch on the joystick handle with
right on that being
yaw left and
yaw right respectively. This mapping remains intact when the
shift buttonis pressed. Pressing
forward on this hat switch engages
boost. Pressing the
shift button toggles the
Disabling the analogue throttle will remap the
back buttons on this hat switch to
backwards (i.e. blipping the throttle forwards or backwards via digital controls). Lowering the landing gear will override the forward and back buttons on this hat in game to provide the same action. While the result is that same (i.e. that the hat switch now just handles
yaw left and
yaw right) the method to achieve it is different. Gear must be up, and the analogue throttle enabled for
toggle frame shift to be enabled.
With this setup it’s now entirely possible to fly the ship without moving your hands. The right hand now handles
roll, the right thumb
yaw and moving
backwards (either by dint of boost/frameshift drive/throttle reverse, or by actually causing translation on the Z axis with digital control of the throttle). The left hand now handles speed with the left thumb controlling
vertical thrust and
lateral thrust via the mini-stick.
The POV hat on the stick now becomes purely for
headlook. This can be turned on and off using the button on the side of the stick, or reset using this button in conjunction with the shift button. The mouse can also be used for
headlook, although this isn’t great and requires taking your hand off one of the controls. With
headlook disabled the POV hat does nothing.
The left 4-way hat switch now just switches
fire group (left and right buttons for previous and next respectively) and
scanner range with up being increase range and down being decrease range. These functions remain the same with the
shift button pressed.
The castle hat switch on the joystick are unchanged and used for targeting. Forward for
target under reticle, back for
closest hostile, left and right for
previous hostile and
next hostile respectively. With the
shift button applied left and right become
previous ship and
next ship, while up and down become
next subsystem and
previous subsystem. These mappings are no longer overridden when landing.
Throttle controls are largely the same as the old map. The castle switch is for selecting UI panels: up for
cockpit, right for
systems panel, down for
radar panel, left for
target panel. The POV hat on the throttle is used to navigate between tabs and move up and down the items in a tab. Forward and back on the lower 4-way hat switch are used to alter values on the selected item. The left most button on the throttle is
The lower 4-way hat switch is also used to toggle
landing gear (down), toggle
cargo scoops (shift button + down), toggle
lights (up) and toggle
rotational correction (shift button + up).
The middle button on the throttle now accesses the
comms menu and the right hand button turns off
flight assist while held. The fourth throttle button (press the thumb-stick) is bound to the the
ESCAPE key. All four of the throttle buttons maintain their function when the
shift button is pressed.
The front hat switch on the throttle is for
power management. Left is more power to shields, down is more power to engines, right is more power to weapons and up is reset power settings. The shifted operation provides the following power presets:
left: 4 pips in shields, 2 pips in engines, 0 pips in weapons
down: 2 pips in shields, 4 pips in engines, 0 pips in weapons
right: 0 pips in shields, 2 pips in engines, 4 pips in weapons
These presets are achieved by resetting power and then sending the correct commands to alter the power distribution to the correct settings, so are actually a macro with 5 commands sent in quick succession.
shift button and
up on the front throttle hat toggles
There are now some galaxy map overrides on the throttle. The
mini-stick is used for
X axis and
Z axis translation (left, right, forward and back).
down on the lower throttle hat switch are used for
Y axis translation (up and down).
down on the front hat switch on the throttle are used to
zoom out and
zoom in respectively.
Yaw are mapped to the joystick. While they work I tend to ignore these mappings and just use the mouse.
I’ve put together a layout guide (PDF) that shows the joystick button mappings, shift mappings and overrides for landing and the
Installing the map
Download the Joystick map and CMS file and put them in your documents folder under a directory called
CH Control Manager (you many need to create this if you haven’t used the CH Control Manager before).
Plugin your Fighterstick and Throttle, then launch the CH Control Manager and load the
ed.map. The click the
Download button to enable the map. This basically combines the stick and throttle into a single DirectX control. Due to limitations on the number of buttons available some buttons are mapped to key presses.
Setting the game bindings
Next up you want to copy the custom bindings for the above map into your Elite Dangerous data folder under
C:\Users\USER\AppData\Local\Frontier Developments\Elite Dangerous\Options\Bindings\Custom.binds. Change
USER to be your username.
AppData is a hidden directory so you’ll need to enable Show Hidden Files.
I should point out that I’ve not actually tried this, I’m just assuming it’ll work. Worse case scenario you’ll need to go in game and just map the actions from the layout guide to the in game controls.
1 I used to have the pedals, but got rid of them mainly due to space restrictions given they don’t add a huge amount
2 Mine are something like a decade old and going strong
3 With pitch an yaw mapped to the joystick POV hat I was spending much of my time providing correctional input using that rather than the stick itself. The joystick was being relegated to roll inputs on entering the space station, lining up hyperspace and super cruise targets and, combat. Combat was by far the smallest use which was meaning I was getting very little practice in actually flying the ship
4 So much so I’d already remapped secondary fire to the shifted action for button 1
5 This mapping was already there, but I think it only takes effect if the throttle is set to forward only, so it wasn’t take effect on the old setup
6 If the throttle isn’t working with this map make sure the throttle wheel on the stick is fully forward