Manual:Basic flight

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Basic flight instructions by Major Dwight Somlen

... In training with Major Dwight Somlen (ret) of the Confederation of Inhabited Worlds military...

(background, low volume) "What makes you think that these wet behind the ears can learn anything? Do you really think they have the b-" (sounds of interference erupt from your PAD) "to be able to pilot a craft ... what? We're live?"

(full volume speech) "Greetings pilots! I've been requested by the control authority to provide some pointers for newbie pilots on how to fly their brand spanking new spacecraft. The good thing is that no matter what craft you're flying - whether a Llama, Goddard, Ox, Mule or whatever - your interaction with the flight controls is the same. Now, many newbies love to jump in, start moving, and figure out the controls as they go. That's fine, and I'll listen to your space debris hitting my shields when I pass you by. The smarter pilots learn their controls beforehand, as that half-second difference in flight control manipulation could mean becoming a smear on the side of a station, or a twisted hulk after tangling with an Areus.

"Now, first things first. How do you move. If you want to change your direction of movement, you need some sort of flight instrument to relay your commands. Let's refer to your instrument documentation -" (low volume mutter, as though to someone beside him) "they DID get that didn't they?" (full volume) "There are three forms of control: joystick, mouse and keyboard. The joystick is pretty self explanatory. Push the joystick forward, and your ship's nose points 'down'. Pull back and you point up. What? Yes, yes you can invert the controls if you want. Push the joystick from side to side, and your craft will turn on the vertical axis. Some advanced joysticks will even let you roll if you configure your ship correctly. Now your mouse does the same job in two ways. First, we have mouse warping. That's where moving your mouse in a direction, moves your ship in that direction. Keep moving your mouse - yep, that's right - and your ship keeps turning. Mouse gliding, on the other hand, means that moving your mouse pointer away from the center moves your ship in the direction of the pointer." (low mutter) "Me, if I don't have my joystick in my hand, I prefer to glide." (full voice) "Lastly, you have the keyboard. Both the joystick and mouse imitate the keyboard. Use your cursor keys CURSORS_GENERAL.png to move up, down, and sideways, INS_EN.png and DEL_EN.png keys to roll left and right. You can also use the keypad to do the same thing: NP_8_EN.png, NP_2_EN.png, NP_4_EN.png, NP_6_EN.png and NP_SLASH_GENERAL.png, NP_MULT_GENERAL.png to roll.

"OK, so now we're spinning around, going nowhere. What we need is thrust - Can the laughter, you lot up the back! To move anywhere, we need to have velocity. Velocity is determined in relation to the current system's sun. In Combat Mode (the other modes will be discussed in a later lecture) use the equal EQUAL_EN.png or KP_PLUS_EN_small.png and minus HYPHEN_EN.png or NP_HYPHEN_GENERAL.png keys to alter your velocity. Notice that you can have forward and reverse velocity. To obtain maximum combat velocity, use the backslash BACKSLASH_EN.png key. Use the BACKSPACE_GENERAL.png key to reduce your velocity to zero. Essentially, what these commands provide is a Requested Velocity Vector, otherwise called a 'set' velocity. A Requested Velocity Vector is the speed that your craft will always try to move at. At times, like when turning, your velocity may vary up or down; but your craft will always try to return to this Requested Velocity Vector.

In Combat Mode your maximum set-velocity is limited to a predefined value. There are a few ways that let us get around the set-velocity limit though. For those of us lucky enough" (sotto voice) "- rich enough -" (full voice) "to have Overdrive capability on our craft, you can use the TAB_GENERAL.png key to activate it. Overdrive capability gives your craft a greater velocity than your maximum combat velocity alone. The downside is that you have to hold the key down to maintain overdrive, and you only have a fuel limited time for Overdrive use. Where you don't have an Overdrive, you can still use the TAB_GENERAL.png key to accelerate to your maximum set velocity, just like the EQUAL_EN.png key. In this case, though, releasing the TAB_GENERAL.png key will then reduce your velocity back to the 'set' original. The other modes will be discussed in a later lecture.

"That's enough for now. You've probably heard enough of this old f- I know, I know, no swearing. Have a think about what I've just said - it just might mean that I'm NOT hearing your space dust on my shields."

Alternative basic flight instructions

I'm going to use this area to describe in very simple terms how to get from A to B and how to do it without crashing into everything in sight. So here you are, high above the atmosphere of Atlantis. The first thing we will do is add some thrust with the addition key (+), as you will notice on your hud, your speed will not go above 300, this is because you are in maneuver mode. In this mode you go slower than usual, but you have far more control because there will be less inertia. You should always use this setting when you are docking at a station or approaching another ship. For now though, we want to activate travel mode using the (y) key, this mode is designed for long and uneventful journeys. You will have overall less control, but your max speed increases by a large amount. Hitting Y again will set it back to to travel mode. Remember, backspace turns off your thrusters and backslash sets your thrusters to maximum. One thing you will notice is it seems you are barely moving, that is because relative to the scope of everything else, you barely are. In order to get from A to B fast, you need to make use of your SPEC drive. You can choose to either manually activate your drive while pointing in the direction of your target, or you can activate your autopilot. Autopilot not only navigates for you, but it makes full use of your SPEC drive as well. To activate your spec drive, you would use the SHIFT+A keys, for autopilot, you just use the A key while having your target selected. Once you activate your autopilot, your SPEC drive will kick in and send you speeding towards your target, if not, it is because you are too close to a gravity well and will need to break free first using your regular thrusters (your autopilot will take care of this), it may not seem like you're moving if there is nothing on your screen to use as a reference, but by looking at the numbers on the HUD, you can see that you are indeed moving extremely fast, you can also tell because the stars in the background will appear streaked. Once you reach your target, your autopilot will disable your SPEC drive and begin slowing you down, this is where you need to disable your autopilot, activate maneuver mode (Y Key) and make sure to reduce your speed to the new maximum (300). Without maneuver mode, it is extremely hard to fight the inertia and you end up just crashing into whatever you are trying to dock with. I can't stress enough how important it is to make sure that you adjust your current mode of flight, it will save a lot of frustration. Now you can slowly lower and increase your speed as you guide your ship towards it's destination. One useful gadget that comes built into your ships is a device which allows you to match speeds with whatever you have targeted by hitting the 'home' key. When you match speeds with a target, your speed is now relative to theirs, so a speed of 0 would actually mean that you are moving the same speed as them, 100 would mean you are moving 100 faster than them. This is very important to remember, because even though your hud will show 0, you are still hurling through space. So as you approach the station to dock, a good idea is to hit the home key, slow down until your hud reads '0', then slowly speed up to about 50-100 to allow for a smooth docking.

Velocity and Physics

The velocity limit on ships in VS is C, as far as the VS engine is concerned. This is the only hard limit on velocity. Adherence to governor settings is not enforced by hacks to physics, but by the code responsible for responding to user inputs - that is, the part concerning translating setspeed and steering into engine thrusts in particular directions.

The range of setspeed magnitudes that can be directly requested varies by the current status of the flight computer, and is one of:

  • A) very low (Maneuver Mode, the default) so as to allow for ease of stopping, maneuvering, and limited fuel consumption when coasting. This limit is a property of the governor settings for the given vessel, not in any way a hard limit for the velocity of the vessel.
  • B) somewhat higher, namely 1000 times as high, (Travel mode, switched on/off with 'y')
  • C) unconstrained inertial flight (Auto-compensating Flight-computer switched off/on via '~'). Both overall governor settings for linear velocities and current setspeed magnitudes are ignored, and the "flight computer" will make no attempt to correct your course (that being why you can't normally continue to thrust arbitrarily in other modes - the FC forces you to obey your own setspeed/governor settings unless explicitly turned off). Thrust is under manual control, you can go as fast as you want.

We have long had six-axis thrusting functions defined, but they are not mapped to any keys by default.

See also

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