The Joy(stick) of Sims 4

I have a chronic pain condition on my right side that sometimes makes using a right-handed mouse difficult. This is particularly true at the end of a busy day of working on the computer, when I want to relax and maybe play a game of The Sims 4.

I have tried using a left-handed mouse, but I am so uncoordinated and so old that I will never learn to use a mouse with my left hand.

Now, you might be asking yourself “Why does he not just use the keyboard?”

The answer is “I do use the keyboard” and that is part of the problem. That having to go back and forth between the keyboard and the mouse adds to the agony on my right side. Not playing the game and getting off the computer is of course a possibility, but I have to confess that I am addicted to playing The Sims 4.

This then got me to thinking “How about use a game controller to play the Sims?”

So this brought me to doing some research on how to use a game controller or joystick for a game that is not designed to be used with such a device, and what I found was that a few people were asking about it, most answers were negative and one person answered that it could be done with a programmable game controller and a third-party product called joy2key. The respondent also stated that configuring the utility was a bit complicated.

I thought: “How complicated can it be?

First thing I looked for was “what is JoyToKey?”, “Where can I find it?”, “what are its requirements?”, and “how much does it cost?”.

From the products website at https://joytokey.net/en/ : JoyToKey (or Joy2Key) enables PC game controllers to emulate the keyboard and mouse input, so that windows applications and web games can be controlled with your favorite joysticks! Whenever buttons and sticks are pressed on the controllers, JoyToKey converts them into keyboard strokes and/or mouse movements so that the target application will work as if a real keyboard and a mouse were used.

The Joy2Key tool is free to download and try-out. If you wish to continue use after the trial, you will need to buy a license. I bought a license for $7.99 and paid for it with PayPal. The license is good forever.

The first step is to download and install the product from the download page here. The only requirement is that the operating system be Windows as it says that it will work on Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, XP.

The next step would be the configuration of Joy2Key but let us talk about the game controller first and after that, discuss which keys we would want to emulate with the joystick.

Since I have never used a game controller, I would not know a good game controller versus a bad game control. The important thing is that the buttons on the controller be programmable. For example when I look at the description of the game controller that I bought I see that it says: “10 programmable buttons, 8-way programmable D-pad”

So, when I went out to find a game controller, I went with a name brand with a high rating, and one that was not being shipped direct from halfway around the world. I chose the Logitech Gamepad F310

Now I needed to decide which keys I wanted to emulate with the joystick. I got a list of all the buttons to push on one of Carl’s guide pages at https://www.carls-sims-4-guide.com/controls.php

The keyboard key that I rely upon the most is one that is not even documented. It is SHIFT+TAB and it was accidentally made public in the game in the November 2018 patch. Pressing this keyboard combination places the camera in first person POV (FP-POV) and when I am playing, I am constantly going back and forth between first person camera mode and regular third-party camera view.

With the Shift+TAB key, you see the world from the eyes of your sim

Other important keys I made note of were controls to move the camera left or right with either the LEFT or RIGHT arrow or using the A and D keys. Complementary to that is the ability to move forward and back by using either the UP and DOWN arrow keys or the W and S key. Also wanted to be able to rotate an object using the comma (,) or period (.) keys. I use the escape (ESC) key to get out of things and the tilde (`) key to pause the current speed.

After making a list of all the keys I wanted to use and keeping in mind that the game controller only limits you to a small subset, I came up with a draft version.

I planned to use the joysticks to control the arrow keys and the mouse. This also included having the joystick clicks operate the mouse left and right click. Stick 1 is on the left and Stick 2 is the right-hand side of the controller.

The piece on the left that looks like a cross is referred to as the D-PAD (in the Joy2Key properties it labeled POV). Originally I had intended to use that to operate the buttons in the lower right screen of TS4 for showing relationships, inventory and etc. Therefore, the diagram shows D-PAD down as being R key which when pressed displays the relationship panel. After play testing, I decided to change it so that D-PAD down is the tilde (`), D-PAD up is the HOME key for setting “walls up”, D-PAD left is the R key used for displaying Relationships, and D-PAD right is the I key for displaying Inventory.

On the right-hand side, are the colorful XY and AB keys. I recall many years ago I was very puzzled by this. I remember watching my son playing Mario Karts on the Nintendo and quizzing him about what those buttons did and why were they labeled XY and AB. He said “Dad, you are over-thinking it.” Those were not the exact words of an eight-year-old, but it was something like that.

I made the X button on the controller emulate the CTRL-W key. This is another one of those hot keys that does not seem to be documented anywhere. What this key does is to pan the camera from side to side. To tilt the camera  up and down, I had the B button emulate CTRL+S.

The SPACE key is used to select the next Sim in the household, and I made the A button emulate that key. For the Y button on the game controller, I made this emulate the ENTER key which is used to find the active Sim.

There are four buttons on the front of the controller: two on each side. They are referred to as left button, left toggle, right button, and right toggle.

It is the left button (LB) that I had emulate the SHIFT+TAB keyboard combination and I made the right button (LB) emulate the escape (ESC) key.

I made the left toggle (LT) to be the comma (,) and the right toggle (RT) the period (.).

Once I figured out which hotkeys I wanted to use, the next step was to configure Joy2Key. Looking at the Settings menu, there is item says Configure Joysticks; however, I left everything there at default. I also left all of the preferences at default. So really the first step is creating a profile by selecting New from the FILE menu. I named my profile “The Sims 4”.

The trick to configuring the joystick emulation is in figuring out which entry in the config maps to which stick or button. With your joystick plugged in and the Joy2Key tool running, operate the different buttons on your game controller and you will see them highlight on the screen.

In the screenshot above, you will see where I have configured the first joystick to emulate the arrow keys. The 1/2 in the auto column shows that I set the depression of the arrow to repeat two times every second. This is to simulate holding down those keys. Then I programmed stick 2 to emulate mouse movement.

Once you have determined which button to edit, click the “Edit button assignment” button. This displays the button assignment editor. From the tabs at the top select either Keyboard or Mouse. That is as far as I went and so far I’ve not found the need to get into the advanced features.

In the diagram above I have programmed the left stick last to emulate arrow key left and set each press of that stick to the left to repeat two times per second. This an attempt to simulate holding the key down.

I have not given up entirely on the keyboard. I still need to use the keyboard for doing things like going into Build Mode and that sort of thing.

While I use both hands for the controller, I find myself grabbing the mouse with my right hand on those occasions when I need to move quicker than normal. Other than that, I am sitting in a nice big chair, viewing the Sims on a 48-inch monitor, and kicked back playing with life with the game controller in my hands. This is a much more relaxing way to play.

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