Hello ZanQuance. I've actually had a bit of a similar time, having had an interruption in studies. My retro computer interest is very much my hobby though. I understand how tough it is to motivate yourself through depression, and am so happy to hear that you have found your soulmate thats wonderful!
I'm so interested to learn something about driver development. I haven't been a programmer before but I am motivated enough - can you recommend any books which would be a crash course in driver development? Now I have my SQ2500 I wan't to help you!
By the way my findings under windows xp - the VERY BEST driver for reliability seems to be the final official Win2k driver 5.12.2559 (more than the "beta" driver which seems to be these exact same 08/08/2000 drivers with an "inf" mod - and isn't good). I do not know if DS3D or actual A3D 2.0 are being used but I'm finding about 90% compatibility with games. I've also successfully connected a "Saitek Cyborg 3D Digital" joystick to the gamepad - minus the "F" buttons (so effectively a "Cyborg 2000" - I would say thats about as extreme a joystick as the built-in windows driver supports and I am impressed! NO SUCCESS with original Sidewinder Force Feedback Pro - I've learnt the hard way to avoid any sticks with seperate power as they seem to have unconventional gameport settings.
I've found a new old stock Logitech Wingman Exteme Digital 3D which has that memorable "look" to it - I hope that maybe some wingman profiles work, or at least it's good with the XP driver, as this saitek is sadly a bit "well used" in many ways, but was a great £3 proof of concept. I'm looking forware to my dreamblaster s1 "black" on the way so I can look as your DOS app, maybe in dosbox?
Thanks for keeping an interest in the project through everything.
BTW my CD was v4.021 with Voyetra Audiostation32 - Lucky me eh! I've made an ISO on my google drive - not sure but think it's 1 point release newer than whats out there.