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Combining Dual Joysticks into a Single USB Multi-Axis Game Controller

Dual joysticks, one for each hand, are possible in Battlefield 1942 / Desert Combat, and other games. Most games, BF1942 included, only support one joystick device. If you have multiple joysticks connected to your computer, only the primary one will be used by most games. However, there is a way to combine joysticks. Last updated 4-August-2005

This requires a gameport-to-USB adapter (I got mine from eBay), a gameport Y-splitter, and two joysticks. A while back, I found out that I could connect two joysticks to a game port Y-splitter (used as a combiner, in this case), connect the single end of the Y-splitter to the gameport-to-USB adapter, and plug that into the computer. It gives me a combined four-axis, four-button USB game controller, which Windows and any game sees as a single device, and which I can then calibrate.

Once calibrated, I entered BF1942 and set up the aircraft rudder control to the left and right movements on the left stick, throttle to the fore and aft movements on the left stick, and the normal aircraft roll and pitch controls to the right stick. From what few joysticks I had lying around, I used a CH Products F-16 Fighterstick (very precise) for the right-hand control and a Logitech Wingman Extreme Digital joystick (a bit sloppy, though good enough) for the left-hand control, but it should work with most gameport joysticks.

We were playing Desert Combat at the time I tried this out, and I found that once I got over the initial weirdness of using two joysticks, I had a finer degree of throttle and rudder control using it than was possible from the keyboard. After being shot down by someone that was especially good on the aim with the modern tank turrets, I got in the habit of side-slipping my helicopter at all times, presenting a sideways-moving target to whatever I was attacking, while manipulating the lefthand joystick to keep my weapons pointed at my target.

However, my particular solution wasn't as good as it could have been. The Logitech Wingman Extreme joystick I was using for the left-hand was not a ambidextrous stick, so my grip on it was a bit awkward. Also, the Wingman Extreme has some slop in its control, possibly due to its age (it was originally purchased used from a computer surplus place). Due to the slop, it was difficult to get precise throttle control, making hovering and takeoff and landing more difficult; although rudder control was acceptable. It would be far better with a high-precision ambidextrous joystick for the left-hand controller, such as a CH Products Flightstick original. Or if I was dreaming of the ultimate solution, a pair of rudder pedals and a throttle hooked together for the left "joystick" device, and my F-16 Fighterstick for the right-hand joystick. Two joysticks are more portable for LAN parties, though.

I should also note that the throttle dial on my primary joystick did not work in this configuration - only two axes per joystick were allowed, probably due to the way the y-splitter/combiner was wired.

I find that gameport-to-USB adapters, such as the RadioShack model shown here, are in relatively short supply. They may be obtainable from eBay for around $20.

Left hand.  Click to enlarge
Logitech Wingman Extreme Digital
(Left joystick)

Right hand.  Click to enlarge
CH Products F-16 Fighterstick
(Right joystick)

USB adapter overview.  Click to enlarge
RadioShack Game Port to USB Adapter
(Cat No.: 26-164)

USB adapter modeswitches.  Click to enlarge
USB Adapter Closeup
(Front modeswitches)

USB adapter catalog number.  Click to enlarge
USB Adapter Back

I'm missing a photograph of the Y-splitter/combiner; it's buried in a box somewhere and I need to dig it out.