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Controllers and retro sims part 2: Virtual controllers

A virtual controller, also known as an enumerated device, is a single controller which is seen in Windows as a single device which replaces one or more USB controllers. The virtual controller can be configured with a variable number of axes and button assignments.

If you have profile software for your HOTAS device(s) it may create a virtual controller when a HOTAS profile is applied.


I'm fortunate enough to have a Thrustmaster throttle, stick and pedals supported by Thrustmaster's profiling software Target. With this software I can assign the 3 axes I want to use to axes across all 3 of my controllers, but I will briefly cover an alternative below.

Using Target I can leave the X and Y axis assignment of my stick at it's default. Change the throttle to use a single Z axis on the main throttle axis (disabling the rest) and add an X rotation axis to my rudder pedals, as shown below.

My T.A.R.G.E.T profile
My T.A.R.G.E.T profile

I have now used a virtual controller to turn 3 USB devices with many axes into a single 4 axes controller. When I run the profile, my 3 USB devices used in the profile are disabled in Windows to be replaced by a single virtual controller.

This is my default DOSBox profile in Target which I can use as a basis for a more specific game profile, I have the axes, now I can copy it and add button assignments as needed!

You may have you own profiling software from your HOTAS supplier which may allow you to do something similar.

Joystick Gremlin

If you can't use your suppliers profiling software, may be it doesn't support one of your particular device, or provide functionality to disable axes, or you are using controllers from multiple suppliers then there is an open source alternative, Joystick Gremlin.

Joystick Gremlin provides similar functionality as Target but supports devices from any manufacturer, their website is definitely worth a look. Joystick Gremlin will create your HOTAS profile and then use vJoy to provide the virtual controller.

Now to be honest I have dabbled very very briefly in Joystick Gremlin and there may be a bit of a learning curve and as I was starting out with Target I put Joystick Gremlin aside. So if you want to try this route I would suggest taking a look at some tutorials, websites and videos so you know what might be involved. Make sure you are comfortable in trying it out.

I have seen comments where Target users have tried Joystick Gremlin and vowed never to go back! Maybe one day I'll take another run at it and become a convert, but for now I'm finding Target sufficient for my needs.

One last point if you have created a virtual controller, check the calibration in Windows to make sure it is well calibrated and has all the axes you expect!


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