Introduction to the FrankenForce
The FrankenForce mod is, in my opinion, the single greatest modification you can make to your CH FighterStick or CombatStick. It has such a steady and rock solid feel to it that once you try this thing, you will never want to use a stock FighterStick again. You may be thinking that you don't care about force feedback or that it gets in the way of your flying. I felt that way; especially after trying those demo sticks in the stores that jerk all around and make all the silly sounds. The FrankenForce does not deserve that kind of comparison. The fact that you can turn the forces down to just faint vibrations and adjust the stick stiffness to your liking makes this stick perfect for flight simulation. I always felt the CH sticks were just a little too free moving and the FrankenForce has a wonderful sort of "hydraulic" feel to it because of the gearing and the force feedback motors. Since you can adjust the tension on the stick by increasing the resistance the FF motors offer, you can set it just the way you like it. You can even turn the forces off all together yet keep the tension. I personally like the little quivering feel it provides just as you get in a stall. I find I can "ride the edge" much better with the FrankenForce than ever before because I can actually feel it begin to stall. Also, the stick will stiffen up as you reach compression too which is a big deal to me.
Before I go any further, I need to credit VFS-22_SPaRX
who is the author of the FrankenForce and who also coined the name. All I've done is what Glen Curtis did with Orville and Wilbur Wright's invention. Hopefully, I've made a great idea a little better. Salute Sparx!
The heart of the FrankenForce is the CH Products Force FX stick. Unfortunately, this stick is no longer manufactured and is getting harder and harder to find. You can occasionally find one on Ebay or on one of the flight sim discussion forums. That's about the only way to get one of them any more.
Because the Force FX stick is a GamePort device, modern Windows systems have simply passed it by. This mod brings the stick back to life by replacing it's electronics with today's USB standard interface. Since we're going to all the trouble of swapping out it's guts, we may as well add some other cool features to it too along the way.
The FrankenForce is made up of three separate joysticks:
- The CH Products Force FX stick
- The CH Products FighterStick or CombatStick
- Some sort of Force Feedback stick such as the Logitech Wingman Force 3D (the only one I've tried) or the Saitek Evo Force.
In this write up, I will be using the FighterStick and the Logitech Wingman Force 3D. I'm sure there are other force feedback sticks that will work fine but the Logitech stick works great and is very cheap. You frequently see them on Ebay and if you are patient, you can get them for under $20. Another good source for them is justdeals.com
Logitech sticks have quite the "Logi-crap" reputation and I agree completely with that assessment. However, these sticks work great for this project because you are not using any of the parts that tend to make them crap. All we use here is the circuit board and the software driver; both of which are actually pretty good. The software driver is actually quite good and provides very good control over the FF forces. So, if you are concerned about the Logitech part of this project you shouldn't be. I have been using my FrankenForce for over a year in pretty serious use and it is as rock solid today as it was the day I started using it.
Summary of FrankenForce Features
- The joystick function and force feedback action is a Logitech Wingman Force 3D stick and shows up in Windows Game Controllers that way.
- All the hats and buttons on the FighterStick are controlled by the CH FighterStick circuit and Windows Game Controllers shows it as a CH FighterStick USB device as normal. The CH Command Manager can be used to program these hats and buttons just like any other FighterStick.
- Since the Logitech stick has four axes (X-Roll, Y-Pitch, Throttle, and Rudder) and all we need for this project is X and Y, we provide the other two axes (Throttle and Rudder) via two knobs mounted on the front base of the FX stick.
- Since the CH FighterStick is not using any of its three axes (X-Roll, Y-Pitch, and Z-Throttle), we mount one pot (Throttle) next to the two left over Logitech pots and make the other two (X and Y) available via an extension jack (RJ-45) on the rear base of the FX.
- The FrankenForce incorporates the Dual-Stage Trigger design. When you pull the trigger, the main trigger of the FighterStick is pressed just like a standard FighterStick. However, pulling the trigger all the way to the stop fires the Logitech main trigger. These two functions can be assigned independently as desired.
- The FrankenForce only uses the main trigger of the Logitech stick. These unused buttons could be added wherever desired. One idea could be to add a bank of switches along the side of the stick base in a "CH Throttle Quad" type fashion.