In the last couple of years, space sims have seen a resurgence in the PC market, and with that lines have sometimes been drawn.
One of the more passionate ‘debates’ for Star Citizen pilots has been around what is better: mouse and keyboard, or HOTAS? Developer CIG has at times been pained by this debate, as it has plans to tune the game to enable the best experience for all regardless of device - and this week has taken the next step, by revealing details about its agreement with Saitek to produce specific devices to let players get their pew pews on.
If you’re a fan of acronyms, have we got some zingers for ya: HOTAS, HOMAS, HOSAS, HOKAS, HOKAM. No, not an excerpt from Harry Potter, but descriptions of devices used by discerning space pilots to control their games (one of the above may not be real - we dare you to figure out if that is the case).
With that level of personal preference knocking around, anyone entering the hardware game had better come up with something that has a chance of pleasing people. As part of CIG’s Gamescom event, Chris Roberts revealed its modular controller solution. While existing only as concept images for now (bar a prototype on the stage, covered in a perspex dome that made us think Davros was about to make an appearance), it's clear CIG is are going for a ‘tailor it your way’ approach.
First to be shown was the entry-level model, consisting of a stick and throttle. While we were initially dismayed at the fact that they were locked together into a single unit (I have a flight chair that enables my own HOTAS to operate as two separate units), it quickly became clear that they can be detached and placed as you see fit. Even more, they can straddle a keyboard - itself another component - enabling you to mix and match even more with your desired controller mix.
After that CIG showed the high-end version, a metallic build re-interpretation of Saitek’s X65 system, again modular, but this time with a large OLED screen, giving you direct image feedback of key ship systems.
It isn’t clear when the physical units will be ready, or indeed what the final price point will be. As to why CIG went with Saitek over CH or Thrustmaster - two brands that in the minds of many exemplify quality stick manufacture - it became clear that it was a matter of vision. The developer didn’t just want to slap a logo on a device already on the market and call it a “Star Citizen HOTAS” - it wanted to create a flexible approach to match the flexible nature of those who fly. And given the stagnation of new devices from the other parties and Saitek’s willingness to experiment and work with CIG to develop devices to its specifications, it became an ideal partnership.
None of the above is needed of course - you can mouse-and-keyboard it, plug in a gamepad, or dust off a joystick of your own - but these sticks sure do look pretty, and with the modularity and configurable nature of the devices, we look forward to getting our hands on one.