If you've been following the Act Labs website and forum you're probably aware of some exciting new products that will be arriving soon. The first to arrive will probably be their new USB GPL Shifter. This will bring free shifting to people who own other manufacturer's wheels. I've been campaigning for this for a long time saying I thought it was a marketing mistake not to offer this product to everyone. It seems Act Labs agrees and was just waiting for the right time and the right amount of software support to introduce it. From a marketing point of view it offers Act Labs a way to 'get in the door' of a customer who swears by another brand of wheel. Once he owns the new Act Labs product and sees how well it performs and how good their customer service is, it will help to divide his loyalty between the old product's manufacturer and Act Labs. I used this strategy often and successfully when I owned Auto-Chem Distributors. But forget about marketing. The RS Shifter is an exciting product. I like it so much that I modified it to work with the Logitech Wingman FF wheel and the Ferrari wheel. Now you won't even have to modify your wheel to get full, free shifting with many of your favorite sims.
brief list of sims that will work in free shifting mode with the Shifter.
Keep in mind that it should work as a regular hi / low shifter in all
games. Some of these games work with a patch available from the publisher.
Current games: 4x4 Evolution, Carmageddon TDR 2000, Nascar 3, Nascar Legends, N3 Craftsman Truck Pack, Nascar 2000, Nascar 4, Nascar Heat, F1 2000, F1 Championship Season, Grand Prix Legends, Hard Truck 2, IHRA Drag Racing, Mercedes Benz Truck Racing, Rally Championship, Screamer 4x4, Sports Car GT, and Viper Racing.
Soon to be released games: 4x4 Evolution 2, Master Rallye , NFS : Motor City Online, and World Sports Cars.
Games that work with the Shifter software patch: CART Precision Racing, Colin McRae Rally, Dirt Track Racing, NFS:High Stakes, NFS:Hot Pursuit, NFS:Porsche Unleashed, Test Drive 6, and TOCA 2. At least one of the available patches is configurable so it should work with virtually any game that allows 'shift up' and 'shift down'.
For more information on games that work with the Shifter, go to www.act-labs.com/race_zonegames.htm
The next big release, probably in June or July, will be the new Act Labs pedals. I'll put some pictures here and tell you what I know about them so far.
The new pedals will come in two versions. One will be for owners of an RS wheel and they'll plug into the Shifter's cartridge. They are expected to sell for $59.95 and may be available slightly before the universal set. The universal pedals will work with all wheels, will probably have a USB connector and may come with a little box that your wheel will plug into. I'm not really certain of this detail yet, but I'm guessing they'll even work with games that don't recognize more than one controller. They should be available shortly after the RS version and are expected to sell for $79.95. At this price, and especially if they work with all games, I can see a huge market for high quality pedals.
|The new levers are a one piece design much like the ones I modified for the Force RS. This is good because it offers the smoothest operation possible and less drag due to few moving parts. It also reminds me of the very smooth Ferrari pedals. It looks like they'll have about 2" of travel measured at the bend, which may mean 2 1/2 to 3 inches at the ball of your foot. Also notice that the brake pedal is lower than the gas and set slightly ahead. Spacing between the brake and gas looks like a comfortable 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 inches. This whole setup is well thought out for heel/toe operation for those coordinated individuals who want to try it, but probably not for heel/toe and chewing bubble gum ;) It's perfect for the GPL purists.|
There are a few games now that support a clutch, mostly as an on/off button, but new games coming out will have a variable clutch. The new pedals have the clutch mounted on a separate axis. Some of the game developers are working with Act Labs to take full advantage of these pedals for added realism to the extent that you will be able to stall the engine if you dump the clutch without giving it enough gas. For games with an on/off clutch, I suspect the clutch will disengage at some point near the end of the throw. Can you imagine finessing the power in WSC? Or, for guys like me that started driving in the mid '60's, how about dumping the clutch and squealing out in a muscle car in Motor City Online? I wonder if you can do J-strips.
|This added piece on the back of the pedals is for balance. In my modified RS pedals I used a piece of flat steel about 2" wide mounted to the bottom of the pedals and extending about 12 inches. This stopped the pedals from tipping when I pressed on the stiffer brake. This is an ideal way for Act Labs to handle the tipping problem because simply adding weight, which many people think is the way to go, doesn't stop the tipping as much and adds a lot of cost to the shipping. Remember, these things are shipped from China to the distributors and Act Labs, then again to the customer. This method also gives more surface on the bottom, where Act Labs has put shallow, rubber golf-shoe like cleats that hold on carpet and a hard floor surface. Smart.|
Act Labs has added a brake dampening mechanism. It is somehow made up of a rubber ball that gives a smooth resistance to the pedal feel. I haven't seen exactly how it works, but in one of my final mods to the RS pedals, I used a squash ball mounted inside a copper pipe. I hope to show this in a future article, but basically the pipe is about the same diameter as the ball. It's epoxied to the base under the modified lever and has slots so the lever passes through it and hits the ball. The overall feel is really quite good. Of course, my modified levers are only 1/8" thick and these new pedals are much wider plastic, so I'm sure Act Labs couldn't have used this method. But it shows that a ball method can be very effective and I can't wait to see how they did it.
At this point you're probably wonder about the size of these new pedals. You can't really tell much by the pictures above, but these next two should give you an idea. The new pedals are on the left and the standard RS pedals are on the right. These pictures are to scale and show the actual difference in the size of the pedals.
I'd say this is pretty revealing. The new pedals are quite large and should give a very realistic feel. Also notice in the picture on the left that the metal plates have been added to the pedal pads. Another nice touch.
From what I've seen and heard so far, the new Act Labs pedals look like a winner. I'll pass on more information as it becomes available and as soon as I can get my feet on a set, I'll write a full review including how well they perform in games like GPL, Nascar Heat and Nascar Racing 4. You can be sure I'll tell it like it is.
GTX_SlotCar (Gary DeRoy)
May 16, 2001