Looking for advice on setting up your controls for Star Citizen? The team at LIS is here to help!
Star Citizen backers, you asked for it, and here it is – the answers to our two most common questions: “what control setup are you using?” and “what kind of bindings/sensitivity curves do you use?” Ultimately, personal preference reigns supreme. You can make just about any decent hardware work if you are motivated to spend a lot of time customizing and tweaking for your needs, but you can’t make using a mouse more fun if you prefer the feel of a joystick, or vice versa. Simply decide how you want to fly when Star Citizen itself is released, and commit to it.
We’ll break this down by controller options, then talk about sensitivity curves, and, later, since this question is asked so often, we’ll explain Vin’s most peculiar setup.
A mouse setup is precise, ubiquitous, and requires the least amount of deskspace, adjustments, and, for the most part, hassle in general. Don’t let people fool you – in relative mode, a good mouse user with the proper configurations can easily fly just as precisely as a joystick pilot.
Obviously, just like with other games, a more expensive mouse with higher DPI settings will perform better. A Roccat Tyon is unique in that it offers a thumbpaddle that can be used as an analogue axis; many users have reported problems with these mice and the thumbpaddle specifically, however.
If you use mouse, be sure to turn off mouse acceleration, both in Windows and in the game. BoredGamer has a great video on how to do that here. In fact, many of his videos will help new players with setting their game and controls in general, and his channel is highly recommended.
Joysticks feel great, offer excellent ship rotational control, and are beloved by many backers. Be warned that mounting, configuring, and learning to use a joystick will take a copious amount of time at this game’s stage of development. Hopefully some of the tips here will help to reduce that time for some of you.
For a joystick by itself (without a throttle), you actually don’t need to spend much money to get a really precise, effective solution. The T16000M is almost universally recommended as an entry-level joystick by experienced players. It costs just $56, uses the same sensors as the top-of-the-line HOTAS Warthog, and can be configured as left or right handed – meaning that if you get one, decide you like flying with a joystick, and want to try dual stick, you can get another one or even try a more expensive X-55 or Warthog and still have not wasted money buying a cheaper joystick to start out – because it’s still very effective in the left hand.
The biggest mistake that new joystick users make is not mounting their joysticks properly, which is the key to both attaining precise inputs and preventing wrist/hand strain. There are two main options:
- Center-mounted: Mount the stick so that it sits between your legs and you can rest your elbow on your thigh, allowing your hand to lightly grip the stick with your wrist straight. You should be able to put just your fingertips on your stick and be able to move it around. There are some expensive options for this, or you can make a DIY version like Vin did. This setup may not be as good with pedals, because pedal inputs will mess with your aim since you are resting your elbow on your thigh.
- Side-mounted: If possible, mount the stick so that it is even with your waist (which is above your belly button). Most people try to mount their sticks on a desk, but a bracket of some kind or a DIY armchair attachment is going to work way better due to the height. If you do mount it on your desk (and you need to mount it securely!), raise your seat height when you are playing. Whatever method you use, your forearm and wrist need to be straight and approximately parallel to the floor. Support your elbow on something stable! Don’t try to move the stick with your whole arm, that’s like trying to write with your whole arm moving – ever done that?
For both options, the joystick needs to be absolutely stationary. This is not negotiable. You cannot make precise inputs if the joystick base moves at all. Also, 90% of your movements should be controlled with just your fingers or hands moving – not your forearms, and definitely not your upper arms.
For the main hand, pitch and yaw is the way to go for the x and y-axis mappings. Many players (Vin included) have tried and failed to make pitch and roll accurate enough to compete in Arena Commander. Trust us, if it were possible, Vin would have found a way to do it. If you plan on using TrackIR with all gimbals, you might be able to get away with it by using the TrackIR for fine-aiming.
It’s generally recommended to only bind non-essential things to the actual joystick – in other words, only bind things that you won’t do while simultaneously aiming to the thing you use to aim. This includes the fire button! Many players report that rebinding the firing button from the traditional trigger to something on their left hand has drastically improved their ability to aim, especially for those using non-spray weapons. The reason is that just pulling a trigger with the high-sensitivity needed to accurately aim will actually cause unwanted motion on the stick. Seriously, try this simple, one-step change if you are having trouble aiming with a joystick.
If you are forced to bind some of these actions to the stick, try to make them toward the base of the stick – there’s less lever-action there so the affect on your aiming will be less.
A standard keyboard, by itself, has little going for it, other than familiarity and accessibility. A keyboard has no analogue axes, so the only fine-control (for now) is going to be in your positive longitudinal direction via throttle.
Just like with other games, a mechanical keyboard is going to reign supreme because it gives the best tactile feedback for button presses.
You can still achieve the control needed to perform many maneuvers by mixing strafe inputs, especially if you get some pedals for roll. Some rebinds of the basic control layout may be necessary, however.
Try loading this set of bindings in-game:
- Put the xml file into your \StarCitizen\CitizenClient\USER\Controls\Mappings folder.
- Start the game.
- Hit the tilde (~) key. Type “pp_rebindkeys keyboard” and hit enter. It should say that you loaded the xml successfully and to enjoy. If it didn’t, you probably put the xml in the wrong place.
- Hit the tilde key again to get rid of the console.
- Hit escape, then click options.
- In the upper right corner, click keybinding.
- In the lower right corner, click “advanced controls customization”.
- Find “FLIGHT – MOVEMENT” and click the “+” sign next to it.
- Scroll down to “Throttle zero”. Highlight it by clicking the words “Throttle zero”. Press the “Y” key. It should no longer say “double tap” in the field.
- Repeat step nine for “Throttle max”
- Hit escape to leave the menu.
This xml does the following:
- Moves power group toggles from “4”, “5”, and “6” to “6”, “7”, and “8”.
- Moves throttle up to “5” and throttle down to “4”.
- Maps coupled and decloupled strafe to “w” and “s”.
- Changes 0% and 100% throttle hotkeys to single-tap instead of the default double tap.
Here’s a video on how to use these settings.
The other option that is widely used is double-binding strafe_forward and strafe_backward with throttle_up and throttle_down on the “w” and “s” keys, respectively. Either method achieves the same goals (backwards flight possible, more additive strafe options), but the former method is a bit snappier.
For an offhand stick, most map translation to the analog axes. But which ones where? There are two ways to go about this one.
The first option is lateral and vertical translation on the main x and y axes. This allows you (with throttle) to put the TVI wherever you want. The TVI is the indicator that shows you exactly which direction your ship is going at any given time. So, in other words, with this setup you have maximum control over your direction. This is the best setup for weaving in asteroids or other tight space while fighting. It really makes directing the path of you ship as easy as moving a cursor with a mouse is for aiming.
The second option is lateral strafe on x and longitudinal strafe on y. Vin recently changed to this option. You now have maximum control over your speed at any given time, rather than your direction of flight. With this setup you can still very finely control your direction in a horizontal axis relative to your nose; then you use roll to move your TVI vertically as required. Also, bind vertical strafe to either twist or the left stick on digital (button) inputs for strafe up and strafe down. This setup is better for knife fighting in open space, and for beating your enemy in a turn. It makes your left stick more like a throttle that can go in reverse and can be shifted laterally. With this configuration you want to rarely (if ever) use the in-game throttle, as it will mix with your longitudinal strafe inputs and mess up what you are trying to do. You also won’t ever need comstab as you can manually control your throttle in turns. If you work hard you’ll be able to disable g-safe as well for maximum control. This setup may be better for faster ships that need to slow down a bit more regularly, like the Gladius, Omega, M50 or 350r.
Here are the controls that I recommend binding to available analogue axes, in order of importance (for dual sticks):
- Lateral strafe
- Longitudinal strafe
- Vertical strafe
- Zoom (this is currently not properly implemented anyway)
- Look axes
It’s important to bind the stuff requiring the most precision (near the top of the list) to axes you can move more easily and with more precision. This is why pitch is normally controlled by the primary hand on a big axis like a joystick y-axis, rather than on a thumbstick on the non-dominant hand such as the one on the CH Pro Throttle.
Once you’ve figured out how you want to setup dual sticks (if that’s the route you chose), you’ll need to start the long process of tweaking your deadzones, sensitivity adjustments, and in-game settings.
Throttles feel great and can match a lot of varied playstyles easily. With a throttle, you can slowly work to not need g-safe or COMSTAB, even with faster ships, by learning to either throttle down in turns or strafe outward (as in a lag roll) to maintain velocity as needed.
The CH Pro Throttle is unique in that it has an additional two analog axes that can be used for strafing. While this thumb hat isn’t terribly precise, it certainly beats binary strafe.
The X-55 throttle and the X-52 (not recommended) have rotary knobs. These are nice for some of the LIS maneuvers because you can set in a bit of strafe offset from the nose and leave it there. The X-55 has detents so that you can zero these inputs out; what these knobs lack is the ability to do rapid strafing (to avoid a collision or dodge unexpected fire). To help with this, it’s useful to bind the binary strafe left/right/up/down in addition to the rotary knobs so that rapid inputs can be made if needed.
We recommend binding strafe backwards and throttle zero to the same button, so that you can fly in reverse if needed. You’ll also need to tap this button if you are trying to strafe fully left, right, up, or down – otherwise (in coupled mode), your strafe input will mix with your throttle and you’ll end up going forward as well.
For the main throttle axis, obviously throttle is the most common choice, but some people prefer longitudinal strafe. The downside here is that typically there won’t be a center detent, so it may be difficult to come to a complete stop. /u/skunimatrix has a cheap solution for the CH Pro Throttle.
The Logitech G-13 Gameboard offers something that even some HOTASes don’t: an analog thumbstick. That’s right, combined with a mouse, you can have four degrees of analogue freedom without ever touching a joystick or gamepad.
We don’t particularly recommend the other gameboard options (like the n52 series) because they lack the main advantage of analogue inputs. The only exception is the Saitek Cyborg Command Unit, which went out of stock years ago.
Why waste your feet? With the dozens of keybindings and control axes available for binding, including six separate degrees of freedom, one throttle axis, and two look axes, you’ll quickly find that two hands are not enough, no matter what peripherals you are using. Pedals are nice because they can make a huge difference in any control scheme – mouse and keyboard, HOTAS, dual joysticks. . . even gamepad! The reason why is that unlike controlling strafing or rolling with a thumb hat or key binding, your feet are completely disconnected from your aiming limbs, which means you can make pedal inputs without throwing off your accuracy.
Also, while our brains seem to do better when our hands work together to complete tasks (great video ChickenGiraffe!), feet are a different matter – the need to be able to run or jump while throwing whatever (spears, rocks, small animals) has given humans a better ability to separate tasks between feet and hands – with practice, of course.
Because of this, it’s best to map axes to your pedals that you really want to be analogue, but don’t need an incredible amount of precision. The obvious choices are roll and lateral strafe. Do NOT try to map yaw to pedals; we realize that is the traditional use for “rudder pedals”, but the large, sticky deadzones in the pedals available on the market today combined with the nature of space sims will make aiming with yaw on your pedals a living hell.
People have done very creative things with the toe brakes, which are axes by themselves. Without input they settle at 0, which means mapping an analogue strafe axis to them would be pretty tough as you’d need to be able to push it mid-range against a spring force to fly straight or stop. Some just bind the binary strafe inputs (like strafe backward on left toe brake, strafe forward on right toe brake). Push-to-talk is actually a great thing to put on pedals (if you are planning on being in an org that fights together), as it’s the only way to talk, fly, and accurately aim at the same time. Another great option is zoom, although, the zoom axis is currently really buggy, so you may have to wait on that one.
Vin has had a set of these for years – they provide good, tactile feedback when pressed and are less cumbersome for those who don’t want to play a game with their feet up on pedals all the time.
For bindings, push-to-talk is once again a great option if you fly with a group. Another great option is weapons group firing – yup, you heard us, these are a great place to put your fire button, especially if you don’t use a mouse. The reason is that using the fire button won’t interfere with your aim this way. This can allow for more trigger discipline, less overheats, and the ability for non-mouse users to be effective with weapons like omniskys.
Nobody here uses these, but /u/Do_What_Thou_Wilt has a great guide on getting the gamepad to work as well as it can at this time.
Just like using a joystick to aim, this is going to require a ton of practice and tweaking to be effective, especially in PVP. Additionally, you need a nice computer with a solid frame rate in game (at least 30 FPS) or it’s not going to work out for you.
Take a look at HydroBigBang’s TrackIR profile and guide, and check out his channel. He is the undisputed top TrackIR pilot. There’s also another great guide by Booyakashasta.
As for instruction on how to aim with TrackIR, HBB is working on a guide, and LIS has a guide in the works as well. Stay tuned.
Sensitivity, deadzones, and custom curves
The in-game customization feature for these settings is the first iteration and can be a bit confusing and unwieldy. Because of this, we generally recommend just loading in a custom curve. This may seem non-ideal, but at the very least it will allow you to be able to save and play with consistent curves (which is essential for developing muscle memory), despite inevitable changes to the in-game software. By the way, your settings will usually get erased when patches occur, so it’s smart to have your custom curve (and other bindings that you want to keep) saved in another folder somewhere. Also, at any point you can go into your settings and look at your curve to make sure it’s still the way you intended.
The thought process here is to increase the sensitivity to the maximum that the player and ship combination can handle with a light hand on the stick and small, precise movements. Smaller changes are important due to the nature of the physics simulation – the larger the input change, the more thruster action, which will make aiming with a joystick impossible if it gets big enough. So – aim small, miss small.
Increase sensitivity too high, though, and the player will find it impossible to avoid an overshoot, even with ESP. Too low, and ESP will prevent you from keeping up with your target in a turning battle (ESP is still being tweaked).
If you prefer to use the in-game control options to tweak your curve, go to CONTROL OPTIONS. . . then we recommend setting the FLIGHT MOVEMENT (Edit Curve) slider to about 1.4, then scroll down to the saturation levels. For whatever reason, with these, a lower number is more sensitive. Start with 0.3, then skip to step five below.
These curves are mostly linear, but flatten a bit at the bottom. This flattening allows you to remove the deadzone completely – so near the center your stick will be less sensitive (which will prevent drift when no input is being made), but you’ll still be able to make adjustments. Being able to make these fine adjustments near the center of the stick without a deadzone interfering is one of the keys to actually being able to aim with a joystick. Also, both curves have a varying amount of deadzone at full deflection – this can be customized as desired by the player.
Instructions for use:
- Put these xml files into your \StarCitizen\CitizenClient\USER\Controls\Mappings folder.
- Start the game. Load into a Drone sim → Vanduul Swarm
- Hit escape, then go to “control options”, then use the right arrow to find the correct device. If you have multiple joysticks or peripherals, it may take some trial and error to figure out which one is the device you are looking for. You will then need to change the xml file so that it affects the joystick you want it to – if the joystick you want to apply the curve to is “Joystick 2″ in the game settings, on the second line of the xml, it needs to read instance=”2”. Once you find it, scroll down to the bottom to “Deadzone Joystick X Axis”, “Deadzone Joystick YAxis”, etc., and reduce all the deadzones to zero.
- Hit the tilde (~) key. Type “pp_rebindkeys lightcurve” and hit enter. It should say that you loaded the xml successfully and to enjoy. If it didn’t, you probably put the xmls in the wrong place.
- Hit tilde to get rid of the dropdown console, and hit escape to get back to the drone sim. Take your hands off the controls. If your nose drifts, hit escape, alt-tab, open up your “Devices and Printers” in Windows (should be on your start menu), find the device, right click it and click “game controller settings”. Recalibrate the device, then open your game back up. It should no longer drift. If it does, try reducing the sensitivity setting in the XML (right click the xml, edit, change the sensitivity=”1.0” value), reload the xml into the game, and try again. These adjustment can be made without exiting the match. If that doesn’t work, try upping the deadzones incrementally, 0.01 at a time. If you get to 0.05 and still have drift, after recalibrating, you need a new/better joystick.
- From here you need to tweak, and what tweaks need to be made depend on you, your ship, your device, etc. Here are some guidelines, though. . .
- In general, start with high sensitivity and work it down until it is barely tolerable. High sensitivity results in high precision.
- If you are bouncing around all over the target, try reducing your sensitivity or changing to lightcurve (if you were using heavy curve).
- If you are getting “stuck” in a turn with your nose just behind your target (this could be because of ESP), try switching the heavycurve. If you already did that, try increasing the sensitivity.
- If you make an adjustment and start drifting without input, follow step 5 above.
- Remember – keep your fingers light on the stick. If you find yourself “squeezing the black out of the stick”, you need to relax and possibly adjust your arm/wrist position.
- Some joysticks (like the X-55) come with different springs. Choose the smallest one.
- If you have a warthog, look into greasing it to alleviate sticktion issues. Another thing that can vastly improve accuracy with the warthog (and just overall feel) is an extension mod. Simpit technologies has one, as does some unnamed individual in the UK.
Now that you’ve done all this – practice! We’ve found that it takes around ten hours to get fully adjusted to a new curve or sensitivity setting. This is the time that it takes for your brain to connect a given stick deflection with a desired amount of ship rotation. Remember, ESP can mess with this muscle memory, as well. Just be aware of it and your brain will start compensating.
Vin uses a Warthog in his primary (right) hand, a modified/combined 4DOF frankenthrottle in his left hand , and MFG Crosswind (the “Hatori Hanso sword of peripherals”) pedals.
Here are the bindings for his right hand:
Here are the bindings for the throttle part of his left hand:
As for the T16000M base of the left hand, Vin binds strafe_longitudinal to the y axis and strafe_lateral to the x axis. Some of the base buttons are used for things like self-destruct, ejection, light toggles, etc.
Vin binds roll to the main axis of his pedals. His left toe brake is a dual stage push-to-talk for teamspeak, and his right toe brake also uses a script since the zoom axis doesn’t currently function correctly:
5% deflection – zooms in about 20%, puts power to full weapons
90% deflection – zooms in 100%, enables COMSTAB
These can probably be done with Voice Attack, but Vin prefers the customization and slightly better reliability of autohotkey scripts. Obviously, the downside is that programming knowledge is required.
Here’s what this one does:
1. F6 is bound to Zoom in. Going past 5% of the right brake axis will result in a very small amount of zoom (about 20%). Going past 90% will result in maximum zoom.
2. F11 is bound to ESP. This is currently disabled by a semicolon.
3. F10 is bound to COMSTAB. Going past 90% of the right brake axis will turn COMSTAB on. Releasing the brake will turn it off.
4. F9 is bound to throttle zero. Strafing left and right at maximum will zero the throttle; strafing forward or backward at all will zero the throttle.
If you decide to adapt this for your own use, you’ll probably need this script to help you identify how windows is numbering your joysticks (hint: it’s not the same numbers that SC uses).
These scripts are modified versions of some that /u/McKetten posted around eight months ago, back when decoupling was required to strafe.
If you decide to use voice attack, it is imperative that you use it for things like firing 5 chaff in succession, or adjusting power/shields. VA is not fast enough for things like decoupling or popping a flare – you need the be able to press a button immediately to do these things. This isn’t VA’s fault; the simple act of saying “flare” takes too long. If you want to build on what some awesome community members have done, definitely check out Monkeh’s Anna v5.2. It’s incredible!
Now we want to hear from you! Did any of this help? What setup do you use, and how does it work for you? What sensitivity curves? What bindings? We’ll update as good advice comes in.
Other resources and references used:
Actionmap and Controller Mapping Guide by Electrocutor
Sensitivity Curves and Customization by kahzwo