Elite Dangerous and CH Products HOTAS

Not the most inspiring of titles, but then it’s deliberately anti-linkbait πŸ™‚ If you are not playing Elite Dangerous you may want to go find something more interesting to read… no, seriously πŸ˜› For everyone else, this is very CH Product centric, but may provide some ideas for other HOTAS setups.

Step 1: The Joystick Map

Download the Joystick map and CMS file and put them in your documents folder under a directory called CH Control Manager (you many need to create this if you haven’t used the CH Control Manager before).

Plugin your Fighterstick and Throttle, then launch the CH Control Manager and load the ed.map. The click the Download button to enable the map. This basically combines the stick and throttle into a single DirectX control. Due to limitations on the number of buttons available some buttons are mapped to key presses.

Few notes about the map:

  • I don’t use joystick modes, so it doesn’t matter what colour LED is lit on either the throttle or stick
  • The throttle control on the stick is mapped to a CMS scrip that disables the HOTAS Throttle when it’s fully back, and enables it when it’s fully forward. If your HOTAS throttle axis doesn’t seem to work then move the throttle wheel on the joystick to the other extreme.
  • I use the pinky button on the stick as shift and the map makes heavy use of shift.

You can use the Keycheck and Test/Calibrate options from the CH Control Manager to test the button and axis mappings.

Step 2: Mapping the game controls

Next up you want to copy the custom bindings for the above map into your Elite Dangerous data folder under C:\Users\USER\AppData\Local\Frontier Developments\Elite Dangerous\Options\Bindings\Custom.binds. Change USER to be your username. AppData is a hidden directory so you’ll need to enable Show Hidden Files.

I should point out that I’ve not actually tried this, I’m just assuming it’ll work. Worse case scenario you’ll need to go in game and just map the actions from the layout guide to the in game controls.

Step 3: Learn the map

Ah, the fun bit. Basically you can run the joysticks in a number of different modes depending on the situation at hand. So that you’ve still got access to all the controls you’re going to need some controls are duplicated elsewhere, albeit using the shift button to get to them. I’ve provided a layout guide for the map which shows which button maps to what action. It’s split over 3 pages depending on the mode you’re in.

Normal Operation

Page 1 of the joystick layout shows the default buttons configuration for the sticks with the ships gear up and without the shift pinky button pressed. They joystick is mapped to Pitch and Roll with the Throttle Wheel being used to engage (fully forward) and disengage (fully back) the main HOTAS Throttle Axis. Pressing button 3 on the throttle (middle of the three buttons on the throttle handle) toggles the joystick Y axis between roll and yaw.

The HOTAS Throttle Axis is mapped across the full range, so fully back gives you full reverse throttle, fully forward give you full forward throttle. The exception is when in Supercruise where this is no reverse so fully back on the throttle is minimum Supercruise speed and fully forward is maximum Supercruise. Under normal flight modes zero throttle is somewhere roughly in the middle of the axis range. If you need to stop set the Joystick Throttle to fully back to disengage the HOTAS Throttle Axis and set it to 0.

The Thumb Stick on the joystick is uses for Lateral and Vertical Thrust. The dead-zone is quite large on these as I find the stick doesn’t tend to centre as well as it could. If you find yourself thrusting vertically or laterally with no input check the stick is centred and possibly increase the dead zone.

The Joystick Hat Switch is usually used to provide digital inputs for Pitch and Yaw, making small adjustments in Supercruise and while docking easy. Pressing the shift (pinky button) on the joystick and button 2 on the throttle at the same time (shift-b2) toggles head look. The Joystick Hat Switch is used to look around the cockpit when head look is enabled. Press shift-b2 again to disengage head look and return the Joystick Hat Switch to Pitch and Yaw.

firing and Targeting is performed on the joystick with the Trigger performing primary fire and button 3 (the side button) used for secondary fire. button 2 toggles hard points, although they will automatically deploy if not already deployed when trying to fire.

A digital roll control is mapped to side 4-way Switch on the joystick, as is Engine Boost and Reverse Throttle.

Navigating the ships systems is done using the two 4-way Switches and the Hat Switch on the side of the throttle. The top 4-way Switch is used to bring up the Target Panel (left), Systems Panel (right) and Radar Panel (down). Pressing up returns you to the normal forward view. The direction you move the 4-way Switch matches where the panels are in relation to the cockpit. The Throttle Hat Switch is used to move between the various tabs on the UI windows (left and right) and to highlight items on the window (up and down). Use the bottom 4-way Switch to increase (right) and decrease (left) highlighted values, or button 4 on the throttle to select the currently highlighted entry. For example, to request docking you might press left on the top 4-way Switch to bring up the Target Panel, press right on the Throttle Hat Switch to select Contacts on the Target Panel, press down on the Throttle Hat Switch to select the station, then press button 4 on the throttle to bring up the interaction dialog, then down on the Throttle Hat Switch to request docking permission, then button 4 on the throttle to confirm.

Power management is performed using the forward 4-way Switch on the throttle with the directions matching that on the UI (left for Systems, forward for Engines, right for Weapons and back to reset).

You can see the other assignments on the layout diagram.

Shifted Operation

Page 2 of the joystick layout shows the button assignments when the joystick shift (pinky) button is pressed. The greyed out assignments are the same as the unshifted assignments. Under shifted operation the joystick Hat Switch changes to a digital lateral and vertical thrust and the digital roll control that is mapped to side 4-way Switch on the joystick becomes yaw controls. There’s also access to additional targeting and sensor options on the stick.

Shift controls on the throttle allow you to toggle and reset head look, plus toggle/deploy various ancillary functions on the ship.

Axis mappings remain the same in shifted operation.

Landing Overrides

Page 3 of the joystick layout show the button assignments when the ships landing gear is deployed. This overrides basic targeting, fire group control and FTL drive control functions to provide all axis of motion via the two 4-way Switches and the Hat Switch on the top of the joystick. While docking (and especially while undocking) it’s recommended to disable the HOTAS Throttle Axis by moving the joystick Throttle Axis fully back. You can then use the thumb stick, joystick axis and the various digital controls to effectively land.

The greyed out assignments in this mode are the same as when the landing gear is not deployed. Sifted operation remains the same with the exception that changing fire groups is now mapped to Roll.

Watching it in action

There is a youtube video that goes over some of these layouts, and a thread on the Beta Discussion forum for those who are in the beta.

Feel free to mess about with the maps, and tweak them to your needs – or just to use them as an example of how to do some (very) basic CMS scripting with the CH Products HOTAS.

5 thoughts on “Elite Dangerous and CH Products HOTAS

  1. djl

    I can’t find a way to edit my previous post, so here is it again edited. πŸ˜‰

    Hi Dom, your guide and mapping was a great resource for me. I’m new to flight/space sims and HOTAS.
    I’m currently using your setup and only changed the gain on the joysticks X and Y axis to my needs.
    My question to you: is it possible to disable the constant light switching when button 3 (secondary weapon), on the Fighterstick is pressed?

    Thank you very much for everything.


    1. Dom Davis Post author

      The lights on both the stick and the throttle indicate mode for that controller. Sadly this is directly tied to the hardware which is the one shortfall of the CH Products hardware. Press button 3 (or the thumb-stick button on the throttle) and the light on the controller changes. The mode can be read by CMS scripts, but not set. Also there is no way to assign another button as being the mode switch, and no way to disable the mode button. The net result is, short of opening up the stick and disconnecting the LEDs, there is no way if stopping the lights from changing. If it really bothers you then you can map button 3 to something that’s used less – one option is to swap button 2 and 3 around in the mapping, although that can make secondary fire harder to reach.

      1. djl

        Thanks you for your elaborate answer. As I still have a two year warranty left, tinkering with the stick won’t do. Remapping is as you said, hard to reach. I guess I just have to live with it. πŸ˜‰

        1. Dom Davis Post author

          One other option that you could use is to remap secondary fire to the shift position on button 1. Button 3 could then remain unmapped, or mapped to both primary and secondary fire for when you absolutely positively have to hit something with everything and don’t have time to change fire-groups πŸ˜€

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