If you're serious about playing games on your computer, you need a game controller (and often more than one); that means something more than a mouse. Typical controllers include joysticks, flightsticks, gamepads, driving wheels, and other hardware devices designed
for the games of your choice. If you're an extreme gamer, the type of controller you need can vary greatly with the types of games you play. High-tech gaming these days requires high-tech controls. Game controllers have reached the point at which serious flight simulator
hook up a flightstick,
, and separate rudder
pedals to more accurately simulate the flying experience. Sports gamers usually go for handheld digital gamepads for fast response times. And fans of racing
just aren't getting the full experience without a force feedback steering wheel with its own set of foot pedals for the gas and break (and possibly even a clutch).
This book doesn't cover gaming to any extent, but if you are a gamer, and you buy a game controller, it likely comes with an installation program. If not, Windows XP may detect it automatically or you may need to run the Add Hardware applet. If that doesn't seem to work, you can try adding it through the Game Controllers applet. In most cases, USB devices have no-brainer installations. Just plug it in and you are good to go.
For the last several
, heavy gamers have
for Windows 95 and 98 as their platforms because of their more
support for games. The kinds of direct hardware access and the display driver optimizations that games expect have traditionally been unsupported on the NT platform. The DirectX support on Windows 9x has been
in this regard.
With Windows 2000, the NT platform
to change this legacy. As a result, options such as game controller settings in the Control Panel have appeared. There has been some migration to the Windows 2000 platform for gaming, but Windows XP is even more gamer friendly and promises a solid following.
As of SP-2 Windows XP supports DirectX 9.0c, including accelerated video card and sound card drivers that provide better playback for different types of games, full-
graphics and video, and 3D animation. DirectX automatically determines the hardware capabilities of your computer and then sets your programs' parameters to match. This allows multimedia applications to run on any Windows-based computer and at the same time ensures that the multimedia applications take full advantage of high-performance hardware.
Low-level functions of DirectX are supported by the
that make up the DirectX Foundation layernamely the following:
Of particular interest to gamers are DirectDraw (which provides extremely fast, direct access to the accelerated hardware capabilities of a computer's video adapter), DirectInput (for quick processing of game controller input), Direct3D (which supports advanced, real-time, three-dimensional graphics), and DirectPlay (which supports game connections over a modem, the Internet, or a LAN).
When you upgrade to Windows XP, the system doesn't always automatically set up previously installed game devices. You need to manually add your devices through the Control Panel.
If you want to optimize your computer for gaming or want to build one from the ground up, I suggest you pick up a copy of
Maximum PC's Guide to Building a Dream PC
, published by Que. This book will walk you through the building, configuring, and optimizing of a high-
gaming PC that can squeeze every drop of performance from Windows, DirectX, and DirectSound.
After you install a game controller, you can click the Advanced button if you need to alter the controller ID and/or the port to which it's connected. Each game controller should be assigned a different ID. You can share the same game port for a number of controllers by disconnecting one and connecting another. You might be prompted to remove a game controller from the list before a new one can be connected, however, depending on the kind of controller and the port to which it's connected.
For a custom controller (one not listed in the Add list), click Add, and then click Custom. Fill in the settings for controller type, axes, and number of
; then give the controller a
To choose from a list of brand-name controllers, click Add Other, and choose a manufacturer and model. (Some of the devices that show up in this list aren't game controllers, but many are.) If you have a disk for your game port or game controllers, click Have Disk, insert the diskette if necessary, or browse to the appropriate folder location.