Interview with Mike
Groesch: SideWinder Group Program Manager on the Microsoft SideWinder
Force Feedback Wheel
How did you plan on adding the success of the Force Feedback technology to
the racing environment?
Mike Groesch: From the beginning we wanted to
bring the sense of reality of driving excitement to an environment that
is decidedly not real, your home office or business office when your
boss is out of town. We went to racetracks, immersed ourselves in the
driving enthusiasts world and worked closely with the folks who develop
great driving games. From this initial effort we discovered the
following: Precision control is paramount, great force effects add to
the control you have, the pedals are critical, and the clamp system is
the final silver bullet. On top of those “under the hood”
attributes, the wheel has to look great on the desk and be comfortable
during those marathon-driving sessions.
How did you feel that the first release of the Microsoft SideWinder Force
Feedback Wheel would be accepted by gaming enthusiasts? Did you expect the
amount of success it received?
Mike Groesch: All our development teams work
hard and we set out to be the best and hope to ensure the products we
produce truly bring pleasure to our customers and ourselves (Sidewinder
group is a game playing group of people!). All our efforts talking to
customers, software developers and racecar drivers as well as our to
ergonomics and engineering teams give us a high degree of confidence in
Yes, we don’t ever start a program without the
expectation of delivering a product that enjoys the level of success the
entire Sidewinder family currently provides.
How long was the Microsoft SideWinder Force Feedback Wheel in development?
Did you set any milestones or overcome any setbacks?
Mike Groesch: From the time the team was formed
to the 1st unit falling off the production line was about 52 weeks.
Product development is full of milestones and setbacks and I was
fortunate to get a great team with great ideas, commitment to greatness,
and a willing ness to work ridiculous hours to bring this device to your
homes. I am proud to say we had no divorces and unfortunately no
marriages added to the team, but we did have a person become a Father
during the project for the 1st time, so you could say we had two major
ships during one product cycle!
If you could release Microsoft SideWinder Force Feedback Wheel 2 today,
what additional features would be included that aren't in the current
Mike Groesch: Actually, we have just released
the USB version of the wheel and it ships with improved pedals that
resist slipping on carpets!
Is there already a planned Microsoft SideWinder Force Feedback Wheel 2?
Mike Groesch: See answer to 4 aboveJ
What additional features could be added to racing games specifically to
benefit users of the Microsoft SideWinder Force Feedback Wheel?
Mike Groesch: Our force feedback products are
extremely capable devices and we believe the full range of experience is
as yet untapped. I personally would love to see a “Force Director”
position in game development similar to art directors, sound directors,
and story line directors to really take full advantage of the products
What do you feel the Microsoft SideWinder Force Feedback Wheel has over
Mike Groesch: We are fortunate to compete
against some great companies in this market and that competition has
really pushed us to greater heights. The team believed the most
important features for the Force Feedback wheel were great reliable
force feedback, clamping, and pedals. We believe our patented clamp,
custom engineered feedback system, and anti-slip pedals set us apart
along with great software, sculptured appearance and ergonomics. These
combine to provide a great force feedback driving experience.
What was your most memorable moment while developing the Microsoft
SideWinder Force Feedback Wheel?
Mike Groesch: There were so many, from the 1st
time we saw the clamp system work, to the 1st competitive marathon
driving session (until 3AM) with the 1st two prototypes, to the
demonstrations at E-3 with the 9 hand built units being used by the
public and the smiles of those 1st non-team drivers!
What is your favorite game to play currently with this hardware?
Mike Groesch: I have two, The Midtown Madness
series (especially Capture the Flag) and the Need for Speed 3+ series, I
love dropping the spike strips!
Do you have anything else you would like add?
Mike Groesch: I have the perfect job! I get to
develop the game devices I want to use when I play games and then get to
play the games with my colleagues and actually get paid to do it!!
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