Unique Force Feedback API Support

Discussion about old PC hardware.

Unique Force Feedback API Support

Postby BaronSFel001 » 2018-7-14 @ 03:05

AKA my tribute to Great Hierophant whose "Unique PC Hardware and Game Support" post is still one of my best go-to references for decisions on my retro build. I considered posting a comment on his site instead, but putting this much information as attachment to a 6-year old blog post seemed less feasible.

First, some history. It's fairly well-known that the CH Force FX (basically their F-16 Combatstick minus throttle and plus the obvious) introduced true force feedback to the world of game controllers (at least on the PC; consoles are another story). While it was a relatively-rough application that required a spare serial port and external power supply in addition to the gameport, CH broke the levee and soon enough we had the Sidewinder FFPro which took a different approach that eliminated the need for RS-232 (it generated force commands through the MIDI pins in the gameport which joysticks normally did not use, rendering impossible the ability to utilize an external MIDI module alongside a Sidewinder Force Feedback Pro), the Logitech Wingman Force which was the first to go USB (with serial as a DOS-compatible fallback), and a variety others which varied in quality. What wasn't as well-known is how the three specific models mentioned here varied in their application compatibility.

Force Feedback in computer game controllers is a product of Immersion Technology's I-Force protocol. They licensed their API to several controller makers including such familiar names as Thrustmaster and Gravis, though at least one press release reveals a sort of love-hate relationship with Microsoft over Immersion believing the house of Bill Gates had ripped them off by independently-developing the technology used in Sidewinder Force Feedback devices but that they were forgiven by making I-Force a part of DirectX (https://www.wired.com/1997/06/joysticks ... nd-evolve/). This divide in technology was part of what revealed the key points of difference.

The other part is still on Logitech's FTP; look in the Joysticks folder and you'll find two versions of the README for their Wingman Software. Both include a section stating that Logitech Force Feedback devices use I-Force 2.0 in conjunction with DirectX and give a list of titles known to be incompatible due to their use of either I-Force 1.0 or something referred to as "Microsoft's own proprietary 'Visual Force Factory'" (which another search revealed to be the name of the sensation editor while the protocol itself is merely "Sidewinder Force"). This is likely not exhaustive as we'll see later:

ABC's Monday Night Football 98
Air Warrior II
Bug Riders
Descent II
Die by the Sword
Extreme Assault
Fighter Duel SE
Interstate 76
Jet Fighter III
Rocket Jockey
Sierra Ski Racing
SODA Off Road Racing
Trophy Rivers
Unnecessary Roughness '96
Spearhead

As API standards are prone to merge, it is confirmed that by the time I-Force 2.0 was out it was fully-assimilated alongside DirectInput thus any Force Feedback title past that point (which by my informed estimate was in the latter half of 1997) should be compatible with any device whether from Microsoft or the competition. Before then developers were going their own ways which meant that, for example, you could forget about Force Feedback in Descent II if you happened to be using a Sidewinder FFPro. The Immersion entertainment products list (pulled courtesy of the Wayback Machine) flags these titles as incompatible with Sidewinder:

ABC's Monday Night Football
Air Warrior II
Descent 2
Fighter Duel SE
JetFighter Full Burn
JetFighter III
Rocket Jockey
Space Rocks 3D
Unnecessary Roughness '96

We see the lists are starting to match up. I think "not compatible with Microsoft Sidewinder" is a fairly-safe presumption of being exclusive to I-Force 1.0. As for Sidewinder Force, that's solved too in the same list by these titles flagged as "Only Supports Microsoft Sidewinder":

Beast Wars Transformers
B.F.R.I.S.
Bugriders
Cyber Strike 2
Dead Reckoning
Die by the Sword
Ed Hunter
Expendable
Front Page Trophy Bass II
Front Page Trophy Bass II Deluxe
Front Page Sports Trophy Rivers
H.E.D.Z.
Interstate 76
Microsoft Baseball 3D
MotorCross (sic) Madness
Powerboat Racing
Recoil
Shadow Master
Thunder Brigade
Test Drive Off-Road 2
Tiger Shark

That accounts for all of Logitech's list and then some save for Extreme Assault, Ski Racing and Spearhead which the Immersion list has but without incompatibility flags; what the significance of that is I haven't a clue. Anyway, until I stumbled across some of this and went on to do the research I was thinking my Force Feedback needs would be covered with a Sidewinder, but now I know to think more carefully. Since I may only get interested in one or two of the games on Logitech's incompatibility list I'm thinking I'll be good with the original Wingman Force if I could just find one in good shape for a decent price; thoughts would be appreciated on this as I'm very familiar with Sidewinders but have heard mixed reports about Logitech's build quality in the gameport-to-USB transition years.

I hope this information benefits others making some of the same considerations. Again, thank you to Great Hierophant for such a great (am I overusing that word?) information repository. I'd be honored if you'd find a use for this information and perhaps expand on it with the help of the other vintage gaming veterans here.
Last edited by BaronSFel001 on 2018-12-27 @ 20:05, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Unique Force Feedback API Support

Postby chinny22 » 2018-7-18 @ 16:42

Not quite what your asking but I've got the Logitech Formula Force "old red" wheel. This was one of the devices that came with the usb to serial adaptor.
The build quality was excellent. I still have my original wheel back in Australia and have purchased a 2nd hand one here in the UK.
I can only assume the build quality of the sticks were of the same high quality back then?

However my father got the following model a few years later namely the Logitech Formula Force GP. It's still red but the quality had already dropped off. The plastic felt much lighter/thinner. the paddle shifters were now just toggle switch type things built into the back of the wheel and the peddles were not as solid.
My mate also got the original Logitech momo wheel around the same time and build quality was about the same.

So seems like the first generation devices were bester then the 2nd generation, at last with wheels.
Out of pure luck I don't own any of the games on the list, I didn't even think about compatibility. It did make for an interesting read
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Re: Unique Force Feedback API Support

Postby BaronSFel001 » 2018-12-27 @ 20:21

I have edited the initial post to clarify a couple points, and in the months since opted to acquire a CH Force FX that became available on ebay which was missing its power supply (easily replaceable) but is otherwise in fantastic shape. I figure I can use that for Descent II and serious jet sims (paired with a CH Pro Throttle for my Windows HOTAS) while the Sidewinder can cover prop and space combat thanks to its tremendous durability. End result of this is I'll be left with no force feedback compatibility concerns but as I said that wasn't a big deal to begin with; finding a Force FX was a coup in itself that I just couldn't pass up since there's nothing like it besides the Logitech G940 (which I've heard has reliability issues).

EDIT: It appears that the CH Hangar forum, a treasure trove of control profiles and technical information on the product line, shut down sometime recently. Therefore, I'd like to preserve here one piece of vital information I picked up from there a few months ago: the power supply for the Force FX (at least in the US) is a JOD-57U-03, a plug-in Class 2 Transformer with an input of AC 120V 60Hz 396mA and an output of DC 20V 1500mA. That is a direct quote by Steve from CH back in 2008; on another note, I wish they'd maintain their own website better and get their FTP going again.
Last edited by BaronSFel001 on 2019-1-10 @ 15:01, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Unique Force Feedback API Support

Postby ShakirBB » 2019-1-06 @ 14:22

Thank you very much for posting your research! By chance, do you have The Need for Speed Special Edition and Need for Speed II (Special Edition)? Another user, God Of Gaming, has been unable to get force feedback working with both games. NFSSE uses I-Force 1.0. Not sure what NFSII uses.
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Re: Unique Force Feedback API Support

Postby BaronSFel001 » 2019-1-10 @ 15:41

ShakirBB wrote:Thank you very much for posting your research! By chance, do you have The Need for Speed Special Edition and Need for Speed II (Special Edition)? Another user, God Of Gaming, has been unable to get force feedback working with both games. NFSSE uses I-Force 1.0. Not sure what NFSII uses.

Unfortunately I'm not as interested in the racing genre as I am other vehicle simulations; while I'm familiar with the NFS series I own none of them thus am unable to test the force feedback which I presume is the context of your question. Do you know what force feedback device(s) God of Gaming is trying to use and under what OS? I know that the DirectX force feedback protocols for non-USB devices start running into problems past Windows 98SE while the DB-15 gameport is no longer [officially] supported as of Windows Vista, and among supported racing games they are most certainly designed with wheels rather than joysticks in mind.

The archived games list from Immersion does not have any compatibility markers next to Need for Speed SE and the Logitech list does not have it so there may not be a protocol issue here.
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Re: Unique Force Feedback API Support

Postby sonik » 2019-7-17 @ 19:10

ShakirBB wrote:Thank you very much for posting your research! By chance, do you have The Need for Speed Special Edition and Need for Speed II (Special Edition)? Another user, God Of Gaming, has been unable to get force feedback working with both games. NFSSE uses I-Force 1.0. Not sure what NFSII uses.


I have found this thread while searching for another thing.

Theres a NFS2 source port. The author says that it have forcefeedback using SDL.
https://github.com/zaps166/NFSIISE

I have not managed to get ffb to work using this. I'm on windows.
Maybe you have more luck than me.

I would love to play nfs1 and nfs2 with propper ffb on my g27 :)
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