Wheeling It: The Theories Behind Exploiting Force Feedback

16472989_10208194146706819_3054346279305608142_nWith so much misinformation and rumors floating around on the forums regarding how you should set your force feedback and wheel rotation settings, I wanted take a bit of time today to clear up some misconceptions about modern force feedback wheels and what they’re trying to convey to the end user, as well as breakdown what top teams are doing with wheel settings in the iRacing world. It’s certainly not the kind of information that makes its way out into the general public, as configuring your equipment in a very specific way can produce a greatly tangible performance advantage out on the virtual track.

Now, I have to make our readers very clear, most of my various tips and insights will be predominantly be pulled from iRacing, because I’ve spent the most time on it, and it’s also the most competitive sim racing platform currently available. But hey, who doesn’t want a leg up on the competition? Immersion and realism doesn’t pad your iRating.

niswc-12-daytona-4Working with some of the biggest and best teams in iRacing for the past five years, I’ve heard all kinds of different wheel settings to try and combat the faults in the iRacing software or just to find an exploitative advantage. One thing I can say with one hundred percent confidence is that no one wheel setting will give you a massive advantage over the competition – everyone has their own style – however, some adjustments do help make it easier to find that extra speed, or save the car in a sim that is notoriously hard to save cars in without dealing with a massive tank slapper.

Let’s start with the most common and effective setting of the two that I’ve used personally, and what I know many of the top iRacers are using,  as they seem to fall into two camps. The first can be described as a very non-linear setting that seems to provide more feel, while making saving the car extremely easy but effectively having a larger ratio in the middle when you need to be smooth on the wheel.

This consists of running whatever wheel you have at anywhere from 200 to 540 degrees in your external profiler application, and then setting the in-game rotation at 1080 or more. What this does is give you a very smooth rotation through the center, and then ramps the steering ratio exponentially towards the edge of the wheel, so you are at full lock way faster then you should be based on your center ratio. To simplify, it allows you to run, say,  a ratio of 16:1 in the middle to really nail your steering inputs, but then when you’re forced to go hand over hand to save the car, the sensitivity is jacked skyward.

gen6-screenshot-3The other most common setting is just running 900 to 1080 degrees depending on wheel and running 1:1 with the sim. The debate then comes to running force feedback or not. At 900 degrees, a centering spring is a big no no, as there is way too much rotation to be fighting a centering spring all the way through the corner, especially if you are trying to counter steer at all. However Some of the fastest sim racers on the service, including my own driver Ryan Luza, run a completely dead wheel with zero feedback of any kind. The rest such as myself run a slightly non linear profiler setting such as 105-110% primarily to get rid of the massive deadzone, and give a slightly faster response time on Logitech wheels, with zero other effects and no damping.

iracing-phoenix-crashAll of this is a fine place to start, and many people out there run any combination of these settings, but of all the teams I’ve worked with, these were the most common and used by the best drivers on the service, yet a lot of it comes down to hardware as well.

Belt driven wheels such as the Thrustmaster T series wheels or the Fanatec stuff that has been hit or miss on reliability, have become the new norm for anyone wanting to run force feedback in the way it was intended, as it provides a much smoother and faster response to what you are seeing in front of you; whereas the non linear ramping settings, or non-FFB drivers tend to all be Logitech users. However, belt driven wheels aren’t worth the extra money if you aren’t going to use the force feedback they were designed to excel at, so don’t bother if you are a dead wheel kinda guy.

The other option is DD wheels such as the Accuforce or OSW, or perhaps a Heusinkveld option in the future. James here at PRC has been very outspoken against DD wheels, purely for price reasons, but the fact is they are the best wheels available for your sim racing “experience”, however, I can tell you right now that other then a few road pro drivers, none of the top iRacers are using them. The benefit just isn’t there at the moment for the price, the current belt driven wheels have more then enough bang for the current big market simulators, and it clearly isn’t a must have for speed if almost none of the top drivers in the highest competition sim aren’t using them. If you do have the expendable cash to afford the luxury then by all means go ahead, you are essentially future proofing your sim rig for when the direct drive wheels can be utilized better, or you can crank to wrist-breaking levels of FFB when you want to make a trip to the hospital for a day off work. I just personally wouldn’t recommend them at this point, as they aren’t necessary to be competitive, especially if you have a tight budget .

richmond2-1500The other consideration with wheels is both your simulator of choice, and the speed between that simulator and the wheel; almost all the major sims are using a different force feedback system from one another, and they all run on different physics engines at different frequencies. The speed your wheel receives information from the software is very important, as is the quality of the information. iRacing uses the slowest rate out of all the major sims that I know of, but yet every sim claims they are the best at the information they send to your wheel. So I’ll just focus on the speed to your hand and try to generalize the variables.

The most important element to care about is how fast your wheel reacts to what you’re seeing from your virtual car on screen if you are choosing to enable force feedback at all. This is why belt driven wheels have become so much more popular in sim racing because, they don’t necessarily make you a faster driver; they make it easier to be consistent and catch mistakes due the response speed of these modern belt driven wheels. You could have the strongest direct drive wheel in the world, but if the response time is slow none of it matters.Logitech G series wheels are notorious slow and haven’t improved the technology much at all since the Driving Force GT. This may be the reason many of us have gone to exploiting non-linear setups or simply turning off the force feedback completely – our wheels are just too out-dated. This is also why certain sims feel better with certain wheels, it all has to do with the frequency the sim puts out, and the quality of the information that is being sent. The fact that many people with older wheels in iRacing simply start clipping at very small amounts of force feedback that the Logitech wheels seemingly can’t handle in 2017 starts to muddy what information you do get, and why simply turning it off and driving visually seems to help a lot of people as it would with any sim that the wheel can’t handle.

Hopefully this will help many of you in trying to dial in your wheel settings so you can get the proper sim experience you are looking for, and maybe even gain time for a lot of you; I know among the top iRacing divisions a bunch of people keep wheel setting close to their chests, but if you look hard enough the information is indeed out there, and keep in my mind that no magic setting will help you, but that consistency is key. Don’t change something just for the sake of changing it unless you plan on spending the time to stick with it and get used to it before you see any results.

 

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40 thoughts on “Wheeling It: The Theories Behind Exploiting Force Feedback

  1. How is turning the force feedback off or using 300 degrees of wheel lock going to help anyone get a proper sim experience?

    For me the whole point of using a sim is playing with a wheel that feels connected to what is happening on the screen in a realistic way. If I had to play with a dead wheel, using a chase cam, a keyboard or any such thing I would never touch these games again. Ruining the experience to increase your e-peen size seems so ridiculous to me; it’s like the people who choose their characters based on W/L statistics they find online, even if they hate using them.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s also how i see it. There’s more to it than just fast lap time. I get maple’s drift if that’s some want to chase but…

      I mean, i had a momo wheel that was in perfect condition. But the low DoR did exactly what you described here. LFS had wheel turn compensation, pCars has when sensitivity, etc…

      I mean, the sims tries to run after immersion(to an extent), so chasing it with the FFB seems sound.

      There’s often post on PRC talking about virtual render of track combo’s being way faster on sims than real life. The sim is then call inacurate.

      But then, there’s guide about changing the FFB to remove any difficulty about it.

      I mean, if a car is hard to drive, so be it? It’s more fun to be able to handle it afterwards. There’s always the car setup to patch some behavior problems?

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      1. “I mean, if a car is hard to drive, so be it? It’s more fun to be able to handle it afterwards. There’s always the car setup to patch some behavior problems?”

        Is the same with sim racing wheel, shifter, pedals, rig. Why are people who upgrade their equipment to something more realistic looked down compared to who uses “toys”, like the entry wheels and pedals.
        Sim racing is as much about the software realism as is about the hardware realism. Are we trying to simulate and feel real cars in our home or toy cars? The entry equipment does a job good enough and is not because of it that you aren’t winning races, but sim racing is also about a good driving experience with quality equipment, both technically and sensory/aesthetically.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I forgot, Maple wrote something important. “consistency is key.” I must say that at some point, he’s right that wheels have shortcomming and that tuning FFB so that it feels natural is also important.

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  3. With regards to thrustmaster t500
    Nothing to do with i racing here , for me on PS4 with the likes of assetto , dirt rally , project cars I always feel better and more in control when the ffb is very low reducing the centre spring ( that may well be a PS4 thing ) , as you cant control the damper via pc.

    I do enjoy ffb but the above mentioned tank slapped situation is near impossible to catch if the ffb is up to high .

    In all honesty the t500 drives me a little nuts . Felt awful in games like GT 5 and 6 , when I had a Logitech g27 it felt wonderful , so many variables with the wheels , I just find it easier to tune on lower ffb otherwise I just seem to be chasing my tail for comfortable settings if i put it on even the recommended setting for t500s from the developers e.g code masters with dirt rally .

    Nice wright up James , i do think far to many people try to crank things to high and make being consistent difficult for themselves.

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  4. Maple, I used to turn everything on at 100% in the logitech G27 profile for any gmotor platform games.
    However, I was told the setting was not right, yet when I turn off damping, spring and centering in the profile, the wheel has too much deadzone and becomes jerky in some cars. I have no idea about which setting gives a more real experience.
    I thought these games have capacity to simulate the car’s dynamics and performance in a fairly accurate way, but I don’t think they are able to emulate the force on the wheel due to a variety of steering system used by different cars. I presume that in order to have a more authentic driving experience the force feedback setting will have to be adjusted on a case by case basis.
    Any suggestions here?

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    1. For example rFactor1s FFB out of the box is pretty bad. Most other games with the gMotor engine (GSCE for example) come with some sort of RealFeel mod installed or injected into the game already, and most guides telling you how to setup your G27 for rF1 (or other gMotor games) are based off the assumption that you have RealFeel installed.

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    2. As Sev said Gmotor anything pretty much requires RealFeel or an equivalent to get anything resembling decent realistic feedback, as far as centering spring and stuff, in a real car you dont feel forces through the wheel unless you are A) Turning or B) hit something, when you are just driving straight the wheel should feel pretty dead, and that let’s you know that the car isn’t trying to fight what you are doing, when you turn the wheel should tighten up as the tires load up and try to fling you the other direction and the wheel should try to fight you a bit, depending on car setup of course. A realistic setting shouldn’t make you fight the wheel when the car is doing what it wants. For me personally when I’m building car setups I know that if the wheel is fighting me too hard mid corner I need to go to work. As far as a car by car basis I have never personally adjusted my wheel per car because I want my hardware to have a consistent feel to me regardless of how the car reacts to it, alot of people have a profile done for every single car too make sure the wheel feels exactly the same no matter what they drive.

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    3. One thing is for sure though if you are running centering spring or damping on top of FFB I suggest spending the time to get used to no centering spring as all it does is muddy up the FFB info the game is trying to send your wheel, even countering it. Damping on games like RF2 is neccesary but most game have enough built in that it is completely unnecessary and in RF2 I just set it to the point my desk isn’t trying to vibrate across the floor whenever i hit a rumble strip.

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      1. Thanks guys for clarification.
        I got Maple’s point on how steering wheel should react to grip, but I believe it also confirmed my doubt in the first place…
        Before I was using 100% damping, centring,etc for every cars in RF, GSC, etc, it worked out for me because somehow it still offered some “muddy” feedbacks. Now when I turn off damping, centering, spring sometimes I feel the force feedback is just not right anymore in certain cars, I don’t know why but I was pretty sure the wheel has become too jerky when the car gripping in the corner entry, actually now the wheel force would reinforce my input rather than counter my force when tires grip, and I would lose some smoothness in the corner entry because of that(i am sure that ffb force isn’t set in the wrong direction). This is the original doubt that leads me to wonder what could go wrong with force feedback when a same setting applied to different cars. However, as mentioned before I was using a same setting all the time but I didn’t have any major problems. Maybe that’s because the former setting somehow muddied everything up so that I couldn’t tell any difference when a feedback force goes wrong?
        I also agree that RF2 requires a slightly different setting to previous gmotor games. And I didn’t find any major issue with iRacing when I turn off damping, centering, etc in the profile.
        Generally speaking, this force feedback setting issue makes me confused once in a while because it could create a difference in cars handling and eventually lap times in any simracing games, and this is something I don’t understand very well.

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  5. It’s probably worth mentioning that the vast majority of this info is specific to oval racing, especially racing without FFB.

    As for the Logitech G wheels being slow, that seems odd, as they’re pretty much rebadged G27s, no?

    IIRC, G27s change direction much quicker than Fanatec CSWs, especially when the latter are run with heavy rims (e.g. BMW M3 GT2 rim). I know the CSWs are much smoother, but a lot of road racers prefer G27s for their countersteering prowess.

    I’m surprised oval racers view them as slow.

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    1. I haven’t seen a comparison for newer wheels, but the response time for the G25 and G27 was quite good compared to the the belt drive wheels available about 5 years ago. On the other hand their maximum speed was limited compared to the higher end ones by the low power of the motors, it was much easier to do hand over hand countersteering where you let the wheel spin back with a T500. T500 was a bit of a shit for anything but sheer power though, it had a really wacky response curve.

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    2. The problem for alot of people with the G wheels is that the wheel itself is so damn heavy that it acts as a giant damper on the already weak motors, You can’t get over 10% strength in iRacing without the FFB clipping it’s just to weak, Yes the built in response is quick but the motors being too weak just ends up feeling sluggish. I know of a few drivers that have fixed this somewhat by installing a much lighter wheel with an adapter to lessen the force needed by the motors, but this cause a whole other set of problems such as rewiring buttons, or paddle extensions.

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  6. “The rest such as myself run a slightly non linear profiler setting such as 105-110% primarily to get rid of the massive deadzone, and give a slightly faster response time on Logitech wheels”

    They put the minforce setting in for that years ago.

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    1. Yes they put minforce in, however I prefer to use hardware setting before sim setting whenever possible, simply for the fact that its less info that has to be sent across the sim which may be causing a delay in the speed your inputs recieve the information from the sim. I could be wrong but that is the reason I still run over 100% in profiler for the G wheels, I’m also just more used to having the profiler setting jacked up a little and didn’t want to change anything that has worked well for me.

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      1. You’re correct,that’s why you can see 0.2 + seconds gained in laptimes just by running no ffb,for me it was half a second but I just can’t run with no ffb

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      1. My point was that if I did decide to buy a DD wheel and became a couple of seconds slower Id still see it as a good upgrade. I still like to battle for positions though! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I hated the FFB in iRacing because it´s not giving me the information of grip i get in any other title. Instead it´s providing a lot of self-aligning torque and road-effects which is nice, but useless.

    But the Accuforce provides this alternative FFB, very neutral and just based on the telemetry. It have less self-aligning torque (causing clipping) and you can add road-effects with another slider. And than there´s this rear-traction-loss-effect which really helped me to catch slides respectively feel them more early in iRacing. When you turn in a corner and the rear looses traction, the FFB drops so you can countersteer a bit before shit happens. iRacers just using the tyre-sound and FOV-changes for that i didn´t know at that time, but it´s better to feel in the the wheel as well and to feel when grip comes back.

    Sim Commander is just the most powerful sim-controller-software because the possibility to make a FFB-setup for each car and mixing ingame- and telemetry-FFB plus additional effects makes it exceptional. Turning FFB off in iRacing is ridiculous, but proof that the FFB in iRacing is lousy. With Sim Commander i could tune the crazy strong and shaking FFB in the Mazda 787B in rF2 to feel like i´m driving a GT3-car with soft springs as well as one Indy-car in iRacing just giving me strong torque without information before.

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    1. “But the Accuforce provides this alternative FFB, very neutral and just based on the telemetry. ”

      Thank you for this info – because I couldnt figure out where the Sim Commander software got its extra information from.

      Conserning Maples info that the combination of 200 degree vs 1080 degree will give you the most exponential law towards the edge of the wheel is pretty much against iRacings David Tuckers information.

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      1. SimXperience is making motion-simulators and SimVibe-software since long before the Accuforce and it´s all communicating over shared memory like the Dash-Apps. OSW-wheels providing better motors for the price, but just using Windows Direct Input so far and completely depending from the FFB-output of the game. They don´t have even the stationary oscillation control which stops the wheel from shaking when the car isn´t moving, because the wheel-driver cannot know what the car is doing. And you have only one global setup for all sims.

        Some people say that the FFB with the OSW is not that amazing in AC (needs special setup) and very bad in Dirt Rally for example. In Dirt Rally i´m using full Sim Commander FFB and it´s far better than the game-output, which feels more dull and lifeless. So in this title it´s more like tuning down power-steering to get more effects from the road-surface, but just because i like it that way:)

        In my opinion you need at least SimVibe to judge titles from the physics, because titles like F1 only provide some monophonic road-grumbling and very basic suspension-output, which is so far away from Dirt Rally with it´s different quadrophonic output for each tyre. A gap of a galaxy keeping them apart when it comes to physics, but ingame-FFB isn´t good in both.

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      2. I can’t find anywhere that David Tucker has said anything about running non 1:1 rotation values, you can test it yourself. The way the wheel rotates around center is very different then the amount at the edge of the rotation it definitely ramps up towards the edges when using those settings.

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        1. He’s not questioning the validity of the end result, but rather that the description of how to achieve it sounds backwards.

          The Logitech profiler setting should just be limiting maximum lock. That’s why in shit GSC that didn’t software limit steering lock the developers recommended setting it to 540 for race cars with smaller real rotation values.

          The in game iRacing setting should be telling the game how many degrees it has available to map the car’s total steering rotation onto. If it’s equal or larger then the game maps it linearly and puts in bump stops. If it’s less then it models it as a variable ratio steering to make it as 1:1 as possible in the middle where most at speed steering happens while still allowing maximum lock for countersteer and low speed maneuvering. I’m pretty sure I’ve read staff describe it this way specifically.

          Some cars (eg. F1s, Ruf street cars, likely the Porsche Cup cars and the Jetta) should be modeled with a variable ratio steering rack regardless.

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        2. Conserning Tucker I saw him unable to offer that exponential advice of yours to a disabled iRacer who specifically asked for such an exponential law towards the edge of the wheel.
          Eventhough the disabled iRacer critisised that such an exponential law was very easy to dial in in both AC and rF2 – but was impossible to get in iRacing.
          No solution from Tucker to this iRacer.

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  8. So I take it James is a no-FFB kind of guy?, if his wheel settings from an old article are to be believed.

    I remember specifically unplugging my old DFGT’s power supply, to get the same effect, when driving stupidly-overpowered Group C cars in GT, not for an advantage but because the game had this horrible ‘wheel shake’ past a certain speed.

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    1. Like i said: “With Sim Commander i could tune the crazy strong and shaking FFB in the Mazda 787B in rF2 to feel like i´m driving a GT3-car with soft springs as well as one Indy-car in iRacing just giving me strong torque without information before.”

      I hope the SimuCUBE-project will evolve to provide a FFB independent from the Direct Input API (it´s on the to-do-list), but in the moment just with an Accuforce you can turn the Bullshit off without loosing physics-information about the car even adding some more from the rear-axle to your liking. I know i sound a bit like a PR-guy from SimXperience, but i just love the software and how it grabs the sim by the pussy:D

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      1. @Anindo Since a few of the DD wheels have built in FFB that can override the sim, does it make every sim feel the same based on your DD settings? or does the sim still influence it a bit?

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        1. The physics is from the sim, so pCars still feels (to much) like pCars and very little differences in F1 as well. It´s more like getting the raw data of an audio-recording and add your own effects.

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  9. Help me out with that reference to 1:1 in the sim. Obviously I understand in the garage you can select 16,12,10,8 for steering but I often see this reference to 1:1 and don’t know what that means.

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    1. by 1;1 I just meant whatever you are running in your profiler is the same as what you are running in game for wheel rotation. so 900 in profiler 900 in game, 540 in profile 540 in game etc. Most games now if you run 900 will auto limit the wheel if you are driving a car with less then 900 rotation so you are always 1:1 with the game

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  10. Sims should have some sort of “hardcore” mode to avoid all this rubbish. Just as you can be locked to cockpit cam you should be able to lock people to real steering lock settings.

    If you want to play with strenght or turn off FFB altogether, your call. But these silly variable ratios should not be allowed. If the car has variable steering rack built in IRL, you get it, if it doesn´t, you don´t.

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  11. James you are so fucking clueless, almost half of the WCS field is using a DD wheel and have been finding it much better than any belt driven wheel. Please keep criticizing games but don’t get too technical, you dont belong into such discussions.

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  12. I’m running an old Logitech MOMO (the newer plastic model) for Dirt Rally and R3E. What am I missing exactly compared to newer wheels?

    It works fine to me but I might just be a fact of not knowing what I could have.

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  13. Why? Ah, I get it. On PRC it’s not political correct to call out oval racing for what it is. Grow some balls and get over it…

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