Joysticks and Gamepads

From Elite Wiki
Oolite involves a lot of fast steering, outmanuvering and course changing. Keep that in mind and try to imagine how it would feel playing it with a joystick. I have to confess, I also was very sceptical, if a gamepad would go well with oolite and was pleasantly surprised. Ocz (2015)
An overview on the possibilities - with links to more detailed suggestions.
Sony PS3 Game Controller
Belkin's Nostromo Speedpad
Thrustmaster TFlight Hotas 4: Throttle & joystick detachable-ish
VKB Gunfighter Mk.III joystick
Virpil Mongoost Throttle: metal

The Options

There are a wide variety of options for enhancing your game with mechanical aids.

  • a game controller! Look at this discussion (2017) - and this one too (2018).
  • a speedpad. Discussion here.
  • a joystick. Ideally one compatible with your computer! Combines with your keyboard.
  • a joystick & throttle set (HOTAS: Hands-On Throttle And Stick).
  • or two joysticks (HOSAS: Hands-On Stick And Stick).
  • any of these can also be combined with pedals.

Different things work for different people. Some people swear by the keyboard. Other people swear at the keyboard!

HOTAS & HOSAS are also superb for the immersion factor.

There is a fair amount of discussion about all of this on the bulletin board. Just search it! But beware: the names of some of the gadgets have changed since the posts were written.

Don't forget that there are four quite separate considerations.

  • Which gadgets actually work with both your computer and Oolite?
  • Which gadgets actually improve your combat/docking capabilities?
  • Which gadgets improve your immersion - actually enhancing your sense that you really are sitting at the astrogation panel in your cobra!
  • Which gadgets will still be comfortable for your hands after many hours if you are into oolite marathons!



Pretty much everything seems to work with Windows (depending on which version you have of it!).


The AppleMac is more of a nightmare. The simpler joysticks and the various CH offerings are supposedly fully compatible (although the CH programming software is not). For example, with the simpler Thrustmaster combined HOTAS models (TFlight 1/3/4/X) one will find that the yaw controls and the throttle do not function with the AppleMac. The CH equipment no longer seems to work properly with the newest AppleMacs - the first few buttons on both joystick and throttle are not longer identified as separate. There are also issues with crummy converters connecting USB's to the newer Thunderbolt ports.

  • DH Leong wrote a harness for the Thrustmaster Warthog back in 2014. He implied it did not work too well - and it may not work at all on the newer AppleMacs.


See Linux Joysticks and Gamepads

  • There are several reports of issues using PS3 Controllers with Ubuntu.

Joystick configuration page
Axis profile editing page

Setting up/configuring a joystick/controller

The joystick/controller configuration pages are accessed

  • once you have loaded the game and then chosen game options (above manage expansion packs).
  • while you are docked: press F2 and then choose game options.
  • while in flight: Pause (with p), press F2 and then choose game options.

With Oolite v.1.90 you can assign the following 40-odd settings to your joystick/throttle/pedals combination (the jargon on the four pages can be a bit confusing) in addition to editing your axis profiles (another page for each axis):

  • Roll / Pitch / Yaw (3 axes)
  • Increase/decrease Thrust
  • Fire primary weapon (laser!)
  • Fire secondary weapon (missiles & bombs!)
  • Arm/Disarm/target incoming missiles/cycle own missiles
  • Toggle weapons on/off
  • Prime equipment / activate equipment / set equipment mode / activate 1st & 2nd fast equipment
  • ECM
  • Toggle ID
  • Select previous or next target
  • Fuel Injection / Torus(hyper)drive / Witchspace drive (titles here confusing!)
  • Precision flying toggle
  • Take snapshot
  • Escape pod
  • Scanner zoom/unzoom
  • Jettison cargo
  • View forwards/sideways/backwards
  • Docking: request docking clearance / waltzing docking computer / comatose docking computer
  • Next compass target

Here is a mapping example which Smivs posted in 2012, when there were only 28 possibilities:

My main joystick controls:-

  • Axis 1 (backwards/forwards) pitch up and down
  • Axis 2 (side-to-side) roll left/right
  • Trigger Laser
  • Button 2 ECM
  • Button 3 Fire missile
  • Button 4 Sensitivity toggle
  • Button 5 Arm missile
  • I have the 'wheel' set for yaw, and use Button 7 for the Cloak and Button 6 for the Camera.
  • All other controls are on a re-mapped keyboard - Joystick in my right hand, keyboard to the left for my left hand.

Useful Links

Joystick Precision Indicator
(Green) dot in small circle between red scanner & green roll/pitch sensors

Joystick Precision (sensitivity) Indicator

This is the little green dot in the circle between the red scanner and the green roll & pitch indicators.

  • If there is no joystick/controller connected, then it will not show up.
  • If your joystick is in precision mode this is green.
  • If your joystick is not in precision mode it is gray.

The setting for which button controls precision mode will be found in the joystick/controller configuration page (see above).

Note that the function of the precision modifier key (ctrl) differs when the joystick/controller is plugged in.

Without the joystick, the ctrl key must be kept pressed all the time when one wishes precision flight. With the joystick it becomes a "toggle" and only needs to be pressed once!

Without precision mode, the joystick works in a strictly linear fashion. The further you move the stick, the faster your ship rolls, pitches or yaws, in direct proportion to the distance you move the stick. The biggest problem this presents is that, much of the time, even small movements of the stick from the neutral centre position produce ship movements that are too large for precision control. It is very difficult to accurately line up a shot on a distant target, as even tiny taps of the stick move the sights from one side of the target to the other. Docking is difficult too, as inputting the correct amount of roll (a matter of only a few millimetres of stick movement) is largely a matter of luck... if you are even a fraction of a millimetre out in either direction, ship roll will not match station roll, and you will either take massive damage, or die horribly.

To overcome this, "joystick precision mode" was quickly introduced. When enabled, this reduces stick sensitivity by a factor of three, so that to obtain the same degree of pitch, roll or yaw, you now have to move the stick three times as far. The upshot being that when precision mode is toggled on, much finer control is possible, as small movements of the stick would result in a movement of only 1/3 as much as in normal mode. Naturally, some skill is still required, but manual docking and long-range sniping are now practical possibilities, at least.


  • Ship Tuning (2015): has notes on altering the joystick precision setting in the vanilla game code.


Joystick throttle jitter handling

Some throttles jitter when "off", causing "engine-revving" sounds. This eliminates such sounds.

You need both BGS and Library OXP

  • BGS (Background Set) enables Joystick throttle jitter handling.
If you are docked, with Library OXP loaded, and are running BGS 2.5.1, you can access "jitter handling" through the F4 ship-station interface screen's Config for AddOns heading.
  • Select "list settings", and then select "BGS". Then select "values" - and it is your first option.

Improving functionality of Controller/Joystick

Presti70's Steel Battalion VT Controller
Special Cardboard printout for Oolite

Some Joystick threads



Other Possibilities



  • Use your mouse! Shift-M (for roll on x-axis) & Shift-Control-M (for yaw on x-axis) toggle flight control for your mouse in full-screen playing mode.

Control Panels

3-screen-wide Oolite - with a Deepspace textured Coriolis and the Deepspace HUD


Multiple Screens

Headtracking (Free-View)