Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Joystix Pro - an Easy-to-Use (albeit less robust) Controller Option

As this blog has grown, so has the complexity of my configurations.  While I prefer the versatility that XPadder and PGP offer, the bottom line is a lot of you guys just want to be able to just plug in your damn controller and play.

To that end, Joystix Pro's developers recently contacted me to get my impressions on their product as an alternative to XPadder or PGP (with my caveat that I'm not going to hold anything back).   The bottom line is while this is the most expensive and least robust program of the three, it is also by far the easiest, most user-friendly option of the lot.  Details after the jump.

REMEMBER: Joystix Pro must be set to run as an administrator to work with SWTOR.

UPDATE: As of May 2013, Joystix Pro has dropped their price for a full subscription to $20, making it a MUCH more affordable option than previously (and as you'll read below, the price was really my only major complaint).  

The most important thing to understand is that Joystix Pro was designed with a completely different philosophy in mind than XPadder and PGP: instead of opting for maximum configurability, Joystix's team is far more concerned with ease of use.  To that end, it can perform most of the fundamental features of both XPadder and PGP, but deliberately lacks the more advanced options.

The biggest downside to Joystix Pro is not the features it lacks, but the pricing.  As stated before, among the three programs, this is your most expensive option, and is a lot pricier than the other two.   Also, rather than offering free upgrades for life (as in the case of XPadder and PGP), Joystix offers you a free upgrade through the next major version only, though you are allowed to re-download that version whenever you need.  Also, while they offer free Stix (below), there is currently no free trial of the full version (though they are considering providing one in the future).

Despite its very hefty price tag, it is important to stress that amongst your options, this is the one that takes the least amount of work to get your controller in the game.

NOTE: The other downside is it's not compatible with all controllers at the moment.  XBox controllers, among others, are fine, but there's no direct compatibility with MotioninJoy's default PS3 profile.  Rather, you will have to run your PS3 controller in XBox 360 compatibility mode to get Joystix to recognize it.  It's worth noting that they are constantly working to add controllers to their compatibility list.

Joystix's very well-designed free "stix" for SWTOR highlights their plug-and-play design philosophy.  These free stix, which they offer for several games, are essentially the complete program without the profile editor, and were created by designers who have personally tested them in-game (note: you can only have one free stix installed at a time).

Using Joystix Pro
When you start up the program (free or paid), you'll see this screen:
Joystix Pro Main Menu
From here, you can click on "View Controller Layout" right above the Play button to display a detailed, easy-to-read graphic of your controller mappings (below).  This profile automatically updates as you make changes to your stix profile.  If you hit "Play", the profile initializes, and you should be able to boot right into the game and play. 

This profile display is a LOT easier to read than PGP's/XPadder's

Modifying/creating a Stix profile (full version only): Once again, this program makes this process easier than any of the others.  The interface is simple, clean and straightforward, and for those of you that aren't too concerned about versatility, you might find this to be a breath of fresh air:
Creating/Modifying a Profile
To access the editor, you need to go to your Joystix folder in the Start Menu and click on "Stix Studio."  After selecting the profile you want to edit or creating a new one, the menu above pops up.
The list to the left contains all of your hotkeys, and creating a new one is as simple as clicking add, giving it a name (don't put a / in it!), then clicking the record button and holding down the hotkeys you want mapped.  There is also a toggle option...though currently it doesn't work with the mouse buttons, so you won't be able to toggle camera controls as we did with XPadder/PGP profiles at the moment.  I requested they add this feature, and I'll let you know if/when this gets added.

In order to set up Joystix to automatically launch SWTOR when this profile is running, all you have to do is grab SWTOR's shortcut from your Start Menu and drop it anywhere on this profile page.

After all of that, click Save Stix, exit the Stix Studio, and start Joystix Pro back up.  Select your profile, hit play, and SWTOR will automatically launch.  Now you're good to go.

Final thoughts: Joystix Pro is a pretty impressive program for being less than a year old, though the devs have a lot of things they can improve.  Though its high price is a bit off-putting, Joystix Pro performs as intended in giving people an easy plug-and-play option, and will especially appeal to less techno-savvy gamers that want all the fun of using a controller in SWTOR, and none of the headache of making a profile.

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