Dawn of Aces can be played with the keyboard, but it is highly recommended you use a quality joystick. It is a very demanding game, and the use of the keyboard for flying will put you at quite a disadvantage. Avoid the no-name cheaper brands as they will function poorly and break often. Look for a joystick that fits your hand well, and provides functionality in trigger and button placement. Also you may want one with a four-way HAT switch for view changes. Higher end joysticks may have a throttle wheel, or even rudder function, and also could have programmability, which allows you to customize button and HAT usage. The most common brands are Thrustmaster, CH Products, Microsoft, and Saitek. There are other good ones, but these are the ones most simulator pilots use. Depending on your Budget, you may have to sacrifice some functionality or other component like rudders or throttle till a later date. Many new joysticks are now USB or digital. An added plus. Digital joysticks seem to have fewer problems with spiking. USB joysticks may have the same, and perhaps less system overhead.
Although not as important as the joystick, the throttle is another essential component for proper game play. Several quality joysticks have throttle wheels built in. Others, like CH Products, Thrustmaster and Saitek, have separate throttles designed to be used by the left hand and are fully programmable. Again, choose one that fits your hand well and provides the function and programmability you need. If a realistic feel of your simulator experience is what you desire, then I recommend you go with this kind of setup.
Yes.. Airplanes have these too. This is not an essential component to fly in Dawn of Aces. You can fly and score victories without them, or just using the keyboard rudder keys. However, it does give you added flexibility in combat maneuvering, and a more realistic feel. I dont believe there any top pilots in Dawn of Aces who use the keyboard for rudder input. I know I would never try. If interested, CH Products and Thrustmaster have some quality rudder pedal assemblies on the market.
The final component of your input devices, but certainly not the least important. Most soundcards have a standard analog gameport attached. Designed when Bill Gates was a pup, and put in almost as an after thought, they are of poor quality and do not take into account the current state of the art processors. Many problems with calibration, spiking, stalls, and compatibility can be contributed to this small little insignificant component. The PDPI L-4 gameport is the Cadillac of gamecards, providing full digital operation for virtually spike free flying. By processing the inputs on board, it also frees up the processor and serial ports (modem) for higher framerates in game play. At $75.00 US street price, its worth it IMO, unless you already have a digital joystick. Some of the newer sound cards like Diamond M200 series and Turtle Beach Montego have much better gameports, approaching the quality of the PDPI. Other companies like CH Products and Thrustmaster, have accessory analog gameports of higher quality, and designed to work with the faster processors, but they are not that much better then the standard gameport.
One of the newest trends in PC Simulators, is the advent of force-feedback components. These devices will transmit forces and vibrations to your hand through the joystick. Gun recoil and tickle or stall warning, become much more realistic. Other forces can be modeled as well, creating quite an impressive gaming experience. Dawn of Aces models this through directx 5.0 implementation. Although force-feedback is still in its infancy, the current force-feedback joysticks work pretty well. Microsoft, CH Products, and Logitech all have fine force-feedback sticks on the market. Be aware that force-feedback joysticks require a lot of processor usage. A drop of seven or eight in framerate is not uncommon. Also, some pilots find it harder to fly with this more realistic feel to their flying experience. The forces generated can be difficult to control. Just imagine what it would be like if you actually had to sustain six or seven Gs while sitting in your home simulator
If you have a pre-configured multi-media system, this should already show up under Windows 95. In the Control Panel, double click on the System icon, click on the Device Manager tab, and click on the plus sign of Sound, Video, and game controllers. Highlight what you have listed for Gameport Joystick and click the properties tab. Click on the Resources tab and look for an Input/Output range value of 201. This is the standard or default value for a gameport. If you are installing another sound card, gamecard, or other component with a gameport, be sure to disable the one you dont want to use before installing the component. Otherwise, Windows will either have a conflict, or assign a different I/O range value to it and make it inoperative. Some older sound cards might have a jumper to disable their gameports. By all means use it. This is the best way to disable it. The newer plug and play sound cards have no way to disable it. Therefore you must assign a different I/O range value other then 201 to it, and then click on the Disable in this hardware profile button under the Gameport Joystick properties panel. Then you are ready to install the new gameport card. After installing and re-booting your new gameport component, be sure to check its properties in the Device Manager tab, and confirm its I/O value of 201
If you have either CH Products or Thrustmaster rudder pedals, this is the first thing that gets plugged into your gameport. If you have more then one gameport, be sure its the Primary port.
If you have purchased a separate throttle, plug this into the Y cable off your rudder pedals. Also, many programmable throttles have a cable that must be plugged into the keyboard socket of your computer. This must be done first, and then the keyboard plugs into the throttle KB cable, or throttle body.
If you have both rudder pedals and separate throttle, the joystick gets plugged into the throttle. It is the last device in the chain. Once everything is plugged in, turn on your machine and load Windows 95. If any drivers or programming software came with your device or devices, install it now. Then go into the Control Panel; double click on the Game Controllers icon. Click on the Add button, and select your joystick type. If its not listed, just select Custom and check on the appropriate accessories you have. After you have finished, you should see it listed under game controllers with a status of OK If not, go to the Advanced tab and check to make sure your gameport is listed under Port Drivers. Also note the Poll with Interrupts enabled check box. In some instances, controllers work best with this box checked, but usually you would want this unchecked. Many have reported erratic joystick movement in online play with this enabled.
Next is to calibrate your joystick components. Go back to the General tab of the Game Controllers, and select the Properties button. If you have rudder pedals, be sure to check the option here, then click on the Calibrate button and follow the instructions. Under the Test tab, you can make sure all the components are functioning properly including joystick buttons and HAT.
Dawn of Aces Setup
You can bypass this step if your joystick and components were recognized and calibrated properly. If your joystick was not listed in Windows 95, or all the buttons and HATs were not recognized, youll have to program the missing items with the throttle or joystick software provided. Its important to have several features programmed into your stick or throttle for advanced gameplay. I like to have all the possible view combinations on the HATs of the joystick or throttle. This is extremely important for SA (Situational Awareness). There are 16 views available in Dawn of Aces, not including the forward default view. If you have an 8-way hat available, you can program all the other level views (7) on one HAT, and use one button for an up view modifier. By using this up view modifier (Keypad 5) and your HAT in combination, you can get the remaining (7) views. If you only have one 4-way HAT, you can still obtain all 16 views by using a Dawn of Aces feature called Sticky Select. This feature allows on-the-fly reprogramming of your joystick with the press of one button. However, the only HATs and buttons that Sticky Select works on, are the ones that Windows95/98 has configured in the Game Controllers Calibration application. Keyboard function keys F5, F6, F7, and F8 are currently assigned as the Sticky Select keys. The functions these keys perform can be viewed or changed in the Joystick Mapper from the Setup screen. Ill give you a quick run down on how you can do this. Lets say you have a primary HAT (HAT 1) on your joystick, and you have calibrated it in Windows95/98. Go to the Dawn of Aces Setup screen, and click on the Joystick Mapper tab. Make sure the Sticky Select box is checked. In the lower left of the screen, where you see HAT 1, click on the Top tab. Look in the Function 1 and Function 2 boxes. You should see Front View, and Up View listed respectively. Now click on the Stick Set 2 box in the lower center on the screen. Click on the Function 2 arrow tab and select Left View. Click on the Apply tab in the lower right. Now test it out. Go Offline and hit Fly. Push forward on the HAT. You should have the 45 Up Forward view. Now press the F6 function key to select Sticky set 2. Push forward on the HAT. You should now have the 45 Left Forward corner view. Congratulations, you have successfully programmed one position of your HAT. Ill leave it to your imagination for the rest of the programming.
I would also advise you program a few other functions to your joystick or throttle. These listed in their relative importance.
Radio Channels (4)
Trim Keys (2 aileron and 2 rudder)
These are the most important ones to have handy on your joystick or throttle. The rest of the Dawn of Aces commands may be programmed to your controllers per your needs.
Dawn of Aces Stick Scaling
The help file at the Dawn of Aces Information site is excellent. Consult it first. The default values are pretty close, but depending on your flying style and joystick, may need a little tweaking.
Leave the settings at 100% across the board. Damper and Deadband to the lowest setting is best. If you find that Autopilot wont stay on, or that you are getting Spikes in aileron movement, increase the Deadband slider slightly.
In Dawn of Aces, pitch is much more sensitive then roll. Here I would reduce the sliders somewhat. My own preference is to have to first slider (10 box) at about 50%, increasing the values in a straight line until a value of 100% is reached in the 60 box. This helps avoid those nasty stalls and spins, and can help gunnery too by keeping you from porpoising. Again, Damper should be at a minimum, but can be increased slightly to help avoid porpoising. Deadband should only be increased in case of spiking in the joystick pitch axis.
If you have rudder pedals, this is a very important setting, and I would consider the most important of the three. The yaw axis is as sensitive as pitch in Dawn of Aces, if not more so. Proper rudder feel and usage is crucial in advanced ACM maneuvers and gunnery. For myself, I have to first slider (10 box) at about 5%, increasing the values in a straight line until a value of 100% is reached in the 90 box. Damper and Deadband settings follow the rule as for Pitch.
These are only guidelines. Everyone has different components and feel for flying. Experiment with these settings until you have the feel you want. As your joystick gets older, or if you change your joystick, you may have to go in here and adjust these settings. Another important thing to remember is that as your computer or components heat up, their calibrated values can change. This might show up as an inability to maintain hands free level flight as soon as autopilot is disengaged. Dawn of Aces has a feature for this that I use quite regularly. Its the Center Joystick or F12 key. The first thing I do upon going to a field is to have all components centered, and hit the F12 key. Then Ill start the engine and go off flying. I may do this several times a night. Anytime I feel that the calibration values have changed, or that the pots are drifting. Another nice program for joystick calibration in Dawn of Aces is WBSTICK. This program was written by a Warbirds pilot, but it edits the same file that Dawn of Aces uses. Its also nice for detecting spiking in your components. You can get it here: http://www.fourthfightergroup.com/squadron/wbstick.htm
If you use this program, youll most likely have to go into the Roll, Pitch, and Yaw stick scaling setup screen and redo the settings again for proper feel. Also, I would avoid using the Center Joystick or F12 key as this modifies the same file WBSTICK does.