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Thrustmaster Woes
February 27th, 2001

(incredible crash)

Randy: Holy crap! What was that?

Gary: Uhh, just troubleshooting my Thrustmaster NASCAR Pro Digital 2 Steering Wheel set.

Randy: You threw your old ImageWriter through the window again, didn't you?

Gary: Maybe.

Randy: Well, go get it out of the street and plug it back in. I need to print some mailing labels.

Gary: They sure made that thing tough, didn't they?

Randy: I kind of wish they hadn't. Then maybe we wouldn't have Joe's Glass Repair on our speed dial.

Gary: This steering wheel is just so frustrating. It works erratically at best, and doesn't even get recognized by the game I bought it for. 4x4 Evolution.

Randy: Yeah, when we first reviewed it, it seemed to work better, even though we did mention quite a few issues we had with it. Of course at the time of that review Gary had received and used his, but I was waiting for mine as a Christmas gift. That's when the trouble started.

Gary: We weren't the only one's who had problems. Take a look at this letter from a reader:

Dear Idiots,

I saw your article "The Idiots Get Stumped by Plug and Play".

My 8 year old spent his own money on the Thrustmaster NASCAR Pro Digital 2 Racing wheel and we can't get 4X4 to recognize the wheel.

We put the file in the extensions folder like the brief instructions described. Restarted, then selected wheel in the 4X4 game. It does not respond to the wheel at all, it actually goes in reverse all the time.

We have tried it on an iMac running OS 9.0 and on a G4 running 9.1

Any suggestions?

Thanks!

Teri

Randy: That does it! It's one thing when Idiots get burned, but another thing altogether when it is a kid!

Gary: Damn straight! (That was for all the kids out there.)

Randy: Nice. When I got my wheel, it didn't work with 4x4 at all. I followed the instructions, but I had the exact symptoms that Teri experienced above. So, after reinstalling Game Sprockets 1.7.5, and it still didn't work, I tossed the Thrustmaster extension. Voila! 4x4 could see the wheel, but as a generic device.

Gary: Which is weird, because for about a month 4x4 saw the wheel perfectly, but then one day (actually the second time I was showing it off to a PC-using friend), it crapped out again. I tried disabling extensions, reinstalling, but nothing seemed to work. I had to disable the extension and use the wheel generically. The problem is that the control is terrible, at least on OS 9.1. You have turn the wheel all the way for the game to respond. It used to work so much better.

Randy: I am running OS 9.0.4, and I think the wheel works fine generically, but that could be just because I never got the Thrustmaster extension to ever work. I even went so far as to do a clean install.

Gary: Another thing that boils me potatoes -

Randy: Knock off the Irish accent.

Gary: - is that you must have the Thrustmaster extension on to play other games like Driver. And, even then it looks like Apple's USB HID extension is recognizing the wheel.

Randy: What that means is that when you go to the panel to configure the wheel, you get a generic controller setup that does not match the layout of the actual wheel. And I can't choose the buttons by manipulating the wheel. So it is a complete guessing game as to which button is which, because of course they are not labeled on the wheel itself.

Gary: That's a lot trial and error to get the controls configured properly. By comparison, when you install the software for the Gravis Gamepad Pro, you get an exact replica of the gamepad onscreen and you can activate the appropriate pop down menus by pushing buttons on the gamepad.

Randy: I have to say that this is the first time that we have re-reviewed a product, but after a longer time with the wheel, we felt we were obligated to follow up, especially with people rushing out to buy it because we omitted the trouble we were having with it.

Gary: I do want to mention one thing about 4x4, though. This is a quote from the read me file that is installed in the game folder:

Due to the large variety of controllers on the market, we tried to make things as compatible as possible, but some times you still have to set up a gamepad as a joystick, and a wheel as a joystick.

So it possibly could be an issue with 4x4. There is a utility that is installed with 4x4 called Calibrator that does provide access to the Input Sprockets control panel (the game itself does not), and it does see the wheel, but it wouldn't let me configure it and it crashed when I quit it.

Randy: I really think that the software that comes for the wheel is just shoddily written. Please, Thrustmaster, update that software!

Gary: Also, a shout out to our readers. If any of you have any suggestions, tips or answers, please write to us. We would love to do another follow up that tracks this down, once and for all.

Randy: Oh, no! There's a delivery truck heading right toward the ImageWriter! I knew we should have gotten that before we wrote the column. It hit it!

Gary: What happened?

Randy: The truck broke its axle and is lying on its side. Now go get that printer and plug it back in!

Gary Randazzo and Randy Soare are the co-founders of IWS Interactive, a New York based game developer for Macintosh. The IWS in IWS Interactive stands for Idiots With Sticks. How that came about is a long and boring story, but suffice it to say that at four in the morning, it seemed like a good idea.

The demo for IWS Interactive's upcoming mystery-adventure game, Manhattan Apartment Hunter, has recently been released to rave reviews. The Idiots have been into gaming on Apple computers even before the Mac was around. Does anyone remember Choplifter on the Apple IIe? (Boy, we know we do.) Now, they are committed to help ensure that the Mac remains the premiere gaming platform on the planet.

You can email your comment and suggestions to Randy at , and Gary at .


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