Late September, we reported about a new company named Total Controls, who hopes to raise enough funds for their first product, the Multi-Function Button Box through a Kickstarter fundraising. The Kickstarter will end of 27th October 2020 at 19.00 CET. FSElite took the time to have a chat with Jonas Hernstig, founder of Total Controls, and give him the chance to explain to our readers the goals of this project.
Hello Jonas, could you please introduce yourself and the team ? What is your background ?
Thank you! My name is Jonas Hernstig and I’m the founder of Total Controls and lead designer of the Multi-Function Button Box. Right now we work with a very small, but talented team, most of us are passionate sim flyers. We all focus on different aspects of the production phase. Lars, who makes all electrical drawings have many years of experience in designing hardware. Niclas, our software guy, is building military sims for a living. My personal interest in flight sims reaches as far back as Top Gun on Nintendo NES in the late eighties. Today I mostly fly DCS and mainly the beautiful A-10 Warthog. I also love naval ops. Carrier landings never get boring.
How did you come up with the idea of the Multi-Function Button Box (MFBB) ?
I am a Virtual Reality (VR) pilot and I grew tired of letting go of my stick to input commands into the up front controller. I got the idea to make my own button box from a guy in our Swedish flight sim community. I pretty much knew what I wanted. I was aiming for a full replica of the F/A-18C Hornet Up Front Controller (UFC). This was around the same time that the F-16C Viper was released to DCS and I decided to add the data rocker as well. The box did actually solve most of my VR problems and it has been a real game changer for me personally.
About the product itself. The MFBB has very similar looks with the Warthog Throttle. Do you have a collaboration with Thrustmaster ? Or is it just to make the life of cockpit builders easier ?
We do not have any official collaboration with Thrustmaster. The reason for the design is simply so that they would fit nicely together and fit most existing mounts. And as you can tell by the pictures I think they make a perfect match.
The Warthog Throttle takes quite a good amount of space. You seem to have a good relationship with Monstertech. Since the MFBB will take the same space as a Warthog Throttle, are you able to further elaborate the collaboration between Total Controls and Monstertech ?
Yes, we do have good contact with Monstertech who makes great mounts for flight sims. because of the dimensions of the Button Box most existing mounts from Monstertech will fit. But the fact is that Monstertech will develop a plate for their vertical mount to fit the Multi Function Button Box. This way users can mount it in front of them as a regular UFC. The guys over at Monstertech are constantly developing their products and I would be surprised if they didn’t come up with more ingenious mounting solutions in the future.
Have you considered replaceable labels under the buttons ? I am thinking for example of the products by VRinsight, where the buttons are removable and labels changeable.
The buttons on the finished product will actually be a little different from what you see on the images. They will be all black with a green backlit. This means that the legends are made in the factory and can not be replaced. This might be subject to change in the future generation of the Multi Function Button Box.
Your Kickstarter page mentions the device will be recognized as two separate devices by Windows. How is this done ? Is there one or two USB connectors ? Are you planning on a configuration software similar to TARGET ?
We want to make things as easy as possible for the user. The box will be plug and play and it only requires one USB connection, which by the way is detachable. Therefore we do not need any configuration tool. Windows will simply identify the box as two separate devices, one with 28 buttons and 7 axis and one with 16 buttons. This is mainly because we want it to work in all games, even older ones like Falcon BMS. If we see that our customers wishes it to work in any other way, this might also be subject to change in the future.
The target audience is clearly the military audience, and especially the one using VR, but you also mention Microsoft Flight Simulator. Do you have any partnership with MSFS ?
Actually, we do not have any collaboration at all at this moment. We strive to stand on our own legs, even though we would love to become an official partner in the future.
For some simmers, buying the MFBB will be an important spending. Even for renown company it is not always easy to deliver quality. Over the years, the market has seen come and go many 3rd party devices, with more or less success. Reliability and after-sale supports have often come up as number 1 complaints. What can you say regarding these matters to you backers ? What quality can they expect ? What will be your support policy ?
First of all we strive to make a product that will have a long life. The box is all metal and it will take quite some force to break it. All buttons are made to last at least 10 years, hopefully double that. We will put in all we have into this. We are a small startup and we need to keep a good reputation. We will offer a one year warranty on all boxes we deliver. As we hope to keep a personal connection with our customers we will be available for support questions at launch and for as long as it takes. If unforeseen problems comes up we will have to deal with them along the way. We hope that the Multi Function Button Box will be the backbone of our future product line and therefore it is crucial to us that we deliver good quality from the start.
All parts will be custom made in Sweden aside from some electrical components that we need to buy from other suppliers overseas.
Your website mentions manufacturing in Europe and compliance with the EU norms. How about the American and Asian markets ?
In Europe we have stricter regulations when it comes to electrical components. All standards that are met in Europe will be more than enough for a world wide market. The Multi-Function Button Box will be CE certified at launch.
Overall, the prototypes seem pretty advanced and the design more or less final. Have you already started work on other unannounced projects ?
We have a few projects that only exists on paper right now, but we are confident that there are a lot of black holes on the sim hardware market that needs to be filled. Especially in the military aviation market.
Our final words of this interview will be regarding the Kickstarter. Can you share with us how the funds of the Kickstarter will be used? We believe this is important for backers to know how their funds will be spent. Is Total Control a registered company ? This might be important for some people.
Quality is expensive and most of the funds will actually go to production. Since we aim to produce around 200 boxes in the first batch the cost of parts are quite high. The margin will go to unforeseen costs and buildup of the company. Hopefully we will be able to sell the Multi-Function Button Box on our webpage after all backers have received their reward. We might also use some of the funds for product development.
Total Controls is not a registered company at this very moment. We want to make sure that the Kickstarter succeeds before we proceed with that process. However all is ready to register the company and it’s just a small formality at this moment.
Thank you Jonas. Anything else you would like to share with us ?
We need all the help we can get to make this dream of ours come to life. We love flight sims and we love our product. Hopefully all simmers will get the chance to fly with a Multi-Function Button Box in the near future. But for this to happen we need the Kickstarter campaign to succeed. So spread the word to any flight sim fans you might know. Keep in mind that if the campaign isn’t funded no one will be charged at all. So there is no risk of losing any money if the campaign does not reach its goal.