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Gravis Gamepad

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First post, by eric1992

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I'm considering purchasing one of these since I've kind of given up on trying to get my sidewinder controller to work right in MS-DOS (I used those two programs that were made by that Bret guy) games.

With Secret Agent for example does that one allow the use of a gravis gamepad or do I have to get something else?

Reply 1 of 30, by xjas

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Any game that supports a "generic" 2-button joystick will work with a Gravis Gamepad, although some will have a specific option for it to use all four buttons.

Be warned they don't have the best D-pad in the world though. They were made to be cheap & it shows. IMHO there are other gamepad options for DOS that are a little better.

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Reply 2 of 30, by derSammler

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I would recommend the Gravis Gamepad Pro over the original Gravis Gamepad. The Pro is a copy of the first PlayStation controller and much better. Also, it has some nice features like an integrated 2-player adapter.

I also like the Logitech Thunderpad, but most people don't seem to agree with that. 😉

btw, which Sidewinder controller are you trying to use in DOS? The older ones are said to have a fallback mode that should work in DOS just fine.

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Reply 3 of 30, by eric1992

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derSammler wrote on 2020-01-09, 20:59:

I would recommend the Gravis Gamepad Pro over the original Gravis Gamepad. The Pro is a copy of the first PlayStation controller and much better. Also, it has some nice features like an integrated 2-player adapter.

I also like the Logitech Thunderpad, but most people don't seem to agree with that. 😉

btw, which Sidewinder controller are you trying to use in DOS? The older ones are said to have a fallback mode that should work in DOS just fine.

1. I can definitely agree on that controller (gravis gamepad pro)
2. I believe it is the original sidewinder controller (the one released in 1996)

Reply 4 of 30, by dionb

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derSammler wrote on 2020-01-09, 20:59:

I would recommend the Gravis Gamepad Pro over the original Gravis Gamepad. The Pro is a copy of the first PlayStation controller and much better. Also, it has some nice features like an integrated 2-player adapter.

I most definitely would not. I have both and the Pro has a smaller d-pad which makes it far more difficult to accurately choose direction. It's not just me, my son refuses to play with the Pro and insists I use it as a handicap. Still thrash his rear-end in OMF2097 though 😉

That said, neither is remotely good by digital joystick/pad standards. I have a DB15 Competition Pro that is miles ahead of either in terms of stick - but has lousy sticky buttons. Oh well, still looking for the perfect solution...

Reply 5 of 30, by derSammler

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I have both and the Pro has a smaller d-pad

Gravis Gamepad:
71J1HR8ACGL.gif

Gravis Gamepad Pro:
41APM6Z3RAL._SX355_.jpg

Smaller d-pad? I have both too, but I'm not going to measure. They look quite identical to me.

I have a DB15 Competition Pro that is miles ahead of either in terms of stick

Personally, I hate the Competition Pro and don't understand the buzz about it. It doesn't feel right for any kind of game and all these "ball on a stick" designs suffer from the problem that you often trigger e.g. "up-right" instead of just "up" because you don't have any haptic feedback of where "up" actually is.

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Reply 6 of 30, by dionb

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Try both on same pic:
file.php?mode=view&id=74174

The d-pad on the pro is 25.0mm, on the regular it is 30.0mm. Measured with caliper accurate to 0.1mm

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Reply 7 of 30, by K1n9_Duk3

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eric1992 wrote on 2020-01-09, 20:36:

With Secret Agent for example does that one allow the use of a gravis gamepad

As others have mentioned before, you should be able to use the gravis gamepad as a 2-button joystick.

But I would not recommend playing Secret Agent (or Crystal Caves) with a joystick. These games have some bugs in the joystick code. In Secret Agent for example, the confusion powerdown has absolutely no effect when using a joystick and you also can't start a running jump while standing/walking on movable objects. In Crystal Caves, flipping a colored switch can change the switch into a switch of a different color instead of just making the switch inactive. So instead of opening one door, you could open multiple doors with one switch and break the intended level progression. It may also cause other problems if the current level doesn't have a matching door for the bugged switch.

Reply 8 of 30, by eric1992

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Well I got it in the mail and I can't get it to work in DOS right. Sometimes when it's plugged in it's not detected (realms of chaos says no joystick detected) and earlier some of the buttons weren't working. Is this POS bricked or am I not using the right drivers?

Edit: I am aware of the switch underneath the controller it is not set to Grip, it is set to 1.

Last edited by eric1992 on 2020-01-18, 01:01. Edited 1 time in total.

Reply 9 of 30, by SETBLASTER

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i never tested one of those but i like a nintendo SNES controller more.

there are mods widely known from the 90s on how to connect a SNES controller into parallel port of the PC, the mods where mainly used for windows95

but even better, there are DOS applications to run at boot to emulate the SNES gamepad button press into a keyboard letter press. so you can play DOS games with a SNES controller, without even having windows installed, just DOS.

Reply 10 of 30, by Fujoshi-hime

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xjas wrote on 2020-01-09, 20:50:

Be warned they don't have the best D-pad in the world though. They were made to be cheap & it shows. IMHO there are other gamepad options for DOS that are a little better.

Yup the Gravis Gamepad and Gamepad Pro are legendary and iconic. ...They also have terrible DPads.

If you're doing Windows, most modern 'Retro' USB gamepads are just DirectInput and there's some good options there. Even my Sega Genesis Mini pads are great on Win9X. 😀

Reply 11 of 30, by eric1992

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Well I got it working but when I plugged it back in some time later two of the pins on the connector broke off! I've never had that EVER happen on ANY controller! What a waste of money, I'm going to send it back. Does anyone have any other recommendations for controllers? I would try the sidewinder controller but you need some drivers and then even then the controller would BARELY function.

Reply 12 of 30, by cyclone3d

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Sounds to me like somebody sent you one that they bent the pins over and then bent them back before selling it. That is the ONLY reason that the pins would have broken off.

The Gravis gamepad and Gamepad Pro are good controllers.

They do have to be taken apart to have the button contacts cleaned out after years of use though. By that time, the rubber in the buttons is most likely starting to fail as well.

Same goes for any controller be it for a console system or PC or whatever.

I've been using Gravis gamepad and Gamepad Pro controllers since they were released. They really are nice controllers when they are working properly / taken care of.

We finally replaced the one my father had after many years of use because the plastic on the buttons had worn down it was used so much. Pretty sure I replaced the rubber direction pad and rubber buttons either 2 or 3 times before I got him a new one.

Whenever I get a faulty controller I will save the rubber button parts. I have a pretty big collection now. Most of the ones I have came out of broken console controllers.

Some other things to think about are:
What sound card or gameport card are you using?
What are the specs of the rest of your computer?

Back in the day, the older gameport cards and pretty sure some sound cards would not handle faster computers properly and controllers would either not work at all or they would be flakey.

Then they came out with speed adjustable gameport controllers.

A lot of the old dedicated gameport cards and sound card game ports do not support more than 2 buttons or would drop from 4 buttons to 2 buttons per controller if you had 2 controllers hooked up.

The Gravis gameport controllers with the adjustable pot setup (have a cord with a speed adjuster that plugs into the card) support 4 buttons.

Last edited by cyclone3d on 2020-01-18, 02:40. Edited 1 time in total.

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Reply 13 of 30, by boxpressed

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If your game accepts keyboard inputs for controls, and you use a PS/2 connection, check out the Powerramp Mite. It's basically a keyboard in a gamepad controller.

Reply 14 of 30, by dr_st

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Digital gamepads are idiocy. Especially for DOS. I own a Gravis Gamepad and a Gravis Gamepad Pro, both of which I got cheaply on sale just to try them. The D-Pad on both is atrocious, as was already said, and then you run into the common problems of calibration, not being detected, conflicting with something on the sound card or with something else, etc.

Every single DOS game is better to play with the keyboard than with a digital gamepad. If you disagree, just spend some time practicing playing the keyboard - it's a much better investment of your time than trying to fiddle with the crappy controllers.

For Windows games at least a case can be made that the positioning of extra buttons may be more convenient on a controller, and controllers (unlike low-end keyboards) don't jam on multiple inputs. But this doesn't apply to DOS, since DOS games (except very few) do not even recognize anything over 4 buttons on a controller, and most DOS games are simple and don't require that many buttons anyway. I mean - Secret Agent? 4 movement directions, a button for jump and a button for fire? You need a controller for that?

Reply 15 of 30, by cyclone3d

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My choice for DOS for such things as side-scrollers like Duke Nukem, Commander Keen, etc. is a gamepad. I really dislike using a keyboard for side-scrollers and other games that do not need or support analogue controllers.

Doesn't matter what keyboard it is. Gimme a gamepad for playing those types of games and I am happy. Force me to use a keyboard and I won't play.

Anything that can use an analogue controller such as flight sims and racing games get the respective type of controllers.

First person shooters and adventure games such as King's Quest, etc. of course get a mouse and keyboard.

Basically, have the correct hardware and gamepads work just fine.

I've never felt the d-pad on the Gravis gamepads was bad. The only time they don't work right (from almost 30 years of experience) is when the rubber buttons wear out or the contacts get dirty. Yeah, plastic dust and dirt can accumulate and make them kinda stick but that happens with any type of gamepad. Perform maintenance on them and they will keep working like new for easily over a decade of constant use. More like 2 decades until the plastic fire buttons start to wear... if you are a heavy user.

The worst d-pad ever was the NES d-pad. Play for more than a few hours straight and it will give you a blister on the thumb you are using for the d-pad. Uggghhhh.

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Reply 16 of 30, by dionb

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dr_st wrote on 2020-01-18, 07:29:

[...]

Every single DOS game is better to play with the keyboard than with a digital gamepad. If you disagree, just spend some time practicing playing the keyboard - it's a much better investment of your time than trying to fiddle with the crappy controllers.

*If* you have a good keyboard with NKRO, and you're playing in single-player mode. Without NKRO, particularly if two players have to share the same keyboard, half the presses fail to register which is as frustrating as hell, not to mention the fact that two people on one keyboard is cramped even with NKRO. Those issues - for me at least - more than compensate for the crappiness of the gamepad when playing something like OMF2097 with my son.

Reply 17 of 30, by auron

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the gravis pads are just cheaply designed knockoffs of the SNES/PS1 pads (no texture whatsoever on the dpad, stiff feeling buttons), with the real dealbreaker often being the oversensitive diagonals on the dpad.

Reply 18 of 30, by Zup

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dr_st wrote on 2020-01-18, 07:29:

Every single DOS game is better to play with the keyboard than with a digital gamepad. If you disagree, just spend some time practicing playing the keyboard - it's a much better investment of your time than trying to fiddle with the crappy controllers.

I almost finished Crusader: No remorse (hit a bug on level 13) using a SNES controller connected to LPT1. I remember using L and R buttons as a sort of "shift" buttons, using the D-pad to move and L+D-Pad or R+D-Pad (I don't remember the exact mappings) to do side-steps, rollovers and those things. I didn't like the key mappings.

At the same era, I played a lot of console games (Spectrum, NES, SNES, Genesis/Megadrive, even MAME), and the gamepad was far better than using a keyboard.

I guess the key was that I have a DIGITAL (real digital, not connected to an analog port) gamepad, and that gamepad quality was better than usual cheap gamepads everyone had.

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Reply 19 of 30, by dr_st

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cyclone3d wrote on 2020-01-18, 08:19:

Doesn't matter what keyboard it is. Gimme a gamepad for playing those types of games and I am happy. Force me to use a keyboard and I won't play.

Yes, well, to me it's the same but in reverse. This is one of those things where personal preferences rule. 😀

cyclone3d wrote on 2020-01-18, 08:19:

I've never felt the d-pad on the Gravis gamepads was bad. The only time they don't work right (from almost 30 years of experience) is when the rubber buttons wear out or the contacts get dirty. Yeah, plastic dust and dirt can accumulate and make them kinda stick but that happens with any type of gamepad.

When I briefly used them, I felt they were way too sensitive and were registering diagonals when I just tried to go in one of the cardinal directions. Maybe it's dirt, maybe it's plastic that's worn out, but it made many games virtually unplayable. If I get the feeling that I'm struggling against my controller, then that controller is just bad.

dionb wrote on 2020-01-18, 09:30:

*If* you have a good keyboard with NKRO, and you're playing in single-player mode. Without NKRO, particularly if two players have to share the same keyboard, half the presses fail to register which is as frustrating as hell, not to mention the fact that two people on one keyboard is cramped even with NKRO. Those issues - for me at least - more than compensate for the crappiness of the gamepad when playing something like OMF2097 with my son.

Your point is very valid for two people on the same keyboard. For two players I would prefer that one of them uses a gamepad.

For a single player, however, you almost never need NKRO. You just need a keyboard that doesn't completely suck. Some keyboard are formally 2KRO only, but they can handle a lot of the common 3, 4, 5 key combinations without jamming, and that's enough.

Zup wrote on 2020-01-18, 11:38:

At the same era, I played a lot of console games (Spectrum, NES, SNES, Genesis/Megadrive, even MAME), and the gamepad was far better than using a keyboard.

That is only because of what you were used to. I grew up playing PC games, with a keyboard, so this is natural to me. Most players grew up with consoles, so gamepads are natural to them.