Arena Commander 0.9.2 (aka Star Citizen 13.2) is here!
As far as updates go this one feels pretty special. This is the first time I’ve felt that the control and targeting in Arena Commander is beginning to achieve the level of control and sense of dogfighting that I had in my head when I first pictured how the space combat should “feel” back when I started the journey that is Star Citizen.
Over the past months, I’ve been observing the ongoing debate about Arena Commander’s control setup… and if there’s one thing I’ve learned is that Star Citizen’s backers are passionate about their flight control mechanism of choice! The long term goal is to make Star Citizen fun to play regardless of the tool you use to fly your ship… and today’s build represents some major changes aimed to help realize this goal.
The biggest issue that the team and I have struggled with is how to balance the feeling / ability for fine control of your ship with the full physical simulation of how a spaceship would really behave when you change its orientation and velocity via maneuvering thrusters. The inertia inherent in a correct simulation of spaceship movement makes precise control much more challenging.
In the first Arena Commander release, v0.8 we had given all ships gimbaled weapons and auto-aim (where the gimbaled weapons would automatically aim towards you target as long the target was within a certain field of view). This made it fairly easy to hit your targets but wasn’t particularly skillful. This was always a stop gap solution and so for v0.9 we switched to a system that took away the auto-aiming and forced you to lead your target to score hits. This was definitely more skillful but combined with the clumsy fine control on joysticks and gamepads made lining up a target very frustrating on anything but a mouse and a ship with gimbaled weapons (like the Hornet).
Since the release of v0.9 the team in both the UK and in Santa Monica have been hard at work at making the control and targeting feel better and smoother across all input devices.
I’m happy to say that v0.9.2 achieves this via something we’re calling ESP. It’s not for reading your brain waves, though! Enhanced Stick Precision is our attempt at improving controls for flight stick and gamepad users that feel they have problems in lining up their target without overshooting. You can find a full description of what ESP does and how it works below. We also use ESP for the new virtual joystick mode of the mouse.
In addition to this we have introduced a number of new flight mode control options and have also made significant changes to the ITTS system and the HUD. How predicted impact points are displayed is calculated differently, as is how you target ships. More details are available in the FAQ below. There have also been a host of community-demanded fixes to the controls: joystick device sorting has been improved, the throttle and strafe-forward no longer conflict, roll on pedals with yaw and pitch on mouse now works, aiming on the gamepad/joystick no longer automatically re-centers and we’ve switched the default joystick X-axis to yaw instead of roll!
Beyond this we’ve made one other big change. The Arena Commander map sizes have been doubled! This means there is a lot more room to engage other players or AI. We plan to increase the map size again once the 64 bit world space engine changes are completed, but for now having double the size will allow for more interesting engagements.
You can find the complete patch notes, which include numerous bug fixes and other changes, here. And please, give your ships a shakedown cruise and then let us know what you think on the forums.
— Chris Roberts
A significant change has been made in the way the targeting computer predicts the impact points of each weapon equipped on a ship. Rather than displaying lead targeting indicators that extend out from the target ship, the targeting computer now projects a Predicted Impact Point (PIP) for each distinct weapon. These PIPs lag behind your fixed gun cross or line-of-sight (LOS) reticle depending on if the weapon has fixed or gimbaled convergence.
The lagged PIPs refers to where the projectile of that particular weapon will intercept given the distance, vector, and speed of the target ship, as well as the projectile speed of that weapon. Pilots should direct these PIPs to be over the target ship before firing.
There are very good reasons for showing the PIPs in this way. First, the pilot’s focus is directed onto the actual target object itself instead of an icon extending out from it. This will allow the pilot to keep track of the target’s orientation and movement more effectively in addition to hit impulses and damage effects.
The lagged PIPs also allow a pilot to easily call out individual parts of the target ship in order to perform sub-targeting, such as directing fire toward a wing, cockpit, or power plant. This will come in handy especially when we start to introduce larger capital ships into the fight.
Each PIPs also conveys weapon status through different visual states. If the color of the pip is in the critical color space with a line through it, that means that particular weapon is out of range and will not be able to intercept the target. The pip will also switch to the positive color space if it is in range and has been placed directly over the target and is therefore certain that the projectile of that weapon will intercept.
When firing a weapon, an element sitting just outside of the PIP will flash which indicates that particular weapon is currently firing. If the projectile fired from that weapon intercepts the ship, a hit impulse will briefly display in place of the PIP to indicate that the target was hit by that weapon’s projectile. Finally, the shape of the PIP is differentiated for each weapon type. This will allow pilots to be more strategic in deciding which firing groups to engage at certain times in order to minimize heat output and wasted ammo.
Improvements to the Targeting HUD
We have made some much needed improvements to the targeting HUD in order to give pilots a much clearer view of their focus target. The new targeting reticle is now comprised of four individual brackets which align along the longitudinal axis of the target ship, along with a forward cone. This will give a clearer indication of the target’s orientation. As the target draws nearer, the brackets will expand out along the bounding box of the ship. This will give pilots a better sense of how fast the target is approaching which should go toward reducing unintentional collisions, and this also gives more visibility on the target object as it gets nearer because the brackets “open up”.
Unscanned target markers no longer show identities next to it. This removes a major contributor to the clutter in the HUD and will also now encourage pilots to scan and utilize their targeting dock system in order to keep track of known targets.
The look reticle been revised to be made less prominent, but it also now contextually fades out of view when you’re looking straight ahead at your fixed center reticle. This goes toward further reducing unnecessary elements in the HUD to only what is needed.
Enhanced Stick Precision
What is Enhanced Stick Precision (E.S.P.)?
E.S.P. (Enhanced Stick Precision), a little bit of magic created by John Pritchett our resident flight model and physics expert, bridges the gap between the pilot’s intended input and the input device’s ability to accurately register that intent. As a result, the players are better able to track their targets and perform finer precision movements when aiming. E.S.P. was designed primarily for the gamepad sticks and joystick devices, but it has also been adapted for both virtual joystick and relative mouse modes as well. By balancing the strength of E.S.P. across these various input devices, we should be able to achieve and maintain better controller balance overall.
How does E.S.P. work?
E.S.P. works by calculating an ideal pair of input values (typically pitch and yaw) relative to a goal (typically moving an aim reticle over a target point), then scoring the actual input against the ideal input and, depending on how closely these two pairs match, blending the two. What this does is effectively deaden the sensitivity of your input which allows for much finer aiming control when very close to a target and prevents accidental overshoot. If the input values are not well matched to the ideal values, either on direction or magnitude, the input values passes through unmodified. This allows you to still break away from a target without any kind of deadened control or “stickiness” since input values that are clearly not intended for fine aiming are not deadened. As the input values approach the ideal values, the blend amount increases. As a result, E.S.P. doesn’t move for you or prevent you from moving anyway you want, it merely magnifies your intended input and rewards accuracy. The better your input, the more E.S.P. will magnify your intent. Also, because E.S.P. doesn’t force your input to any particular value, you can easily adjust your actual aim point relative to the ideal aim point. This is important with lag pip aiming where you’re often aiming at a specific part of a ship rather than just at its center.
New Flight Controls & Mod
Activate: Mouse Wheel / Left Trigger+Dpad up-down / (JOYSTICK / HOTAS mapping?) (1st person view)
When this mode is active (i.e. when zooming in on geometry or targets) your focal point changes depending on what you are looking at. This mimics and expands on the optics of the human eye, to give a clearer image and removing other distances from focus.
Veteran’s Tip: With the increased zoom and focus, it can be used to hit specific parts of an enemy ship. Want to slow them down? Pew-pew, destroyed engine! Too much firepower? Aim for the guns. Who said don’t play with your food, eh?
Drag to Move
Activate: Ctrl+C (Toggle)
A mode for Keyboard and Mouse; this is where the mouse only turns the ship, and the guns fire toward where the ship is facing.
Veteran’s Tip: Great for fine shooting or precision maneuvers, as the ship will become more controlled/less ‘floaty’. Also useful in ships like the Aurora, with non-gimbaled weapons.
Activate: ‘L’ / R3 / Button 11 (rebindable)
When enabling this mode your view will drift to focus on your currently selected target. All you need to do is keep your target within set view constraints. If the target moves out of your view for more than 3 seconds you will lose your “focus” on the target. Target Focus is very useful for pilots that use joysticks (or gamepads) as their primary input method as it allows the player / pilot to keep eyes on target as long as the flying skill of the pilot keeps the target within his field of view, allowing for greater situational awareness and tracking.
Veteran’s Tip: Good to use with ships with gimbaled weapons when you have an input device such as a joystick or gamepad as it allows you to bring your gimbaled guns onto the target with a little help of your flying skills.
Activate: Right-Alt (Toggle)
This mode turns the pilots’ head and reticule in the direction that you’re pitching or yawing, offering a better view in that direction. This gives a more natural feel to piloting, and makes it easier to keep targets in your sights. This mode works with Joystick and Gamepad users, whereas the Keyboard and mouse users already have this feature as default (for instance, when using the hornet)
_Veteran’s Tip: Ideal for users who prefer look and ship direction being linked, in conjunction with a greater field of view. Ships like the M50 or Hornet benefit from this mode. _
Activate: Right-Shift (Toggle)
Also known as ‘Aim-only Virtual Joystick’, is primarily intended for joystick users. It was introduced in a previous release as part of the CIG2 keyboard preset but can now be use in the default layout by pressing the right-shift to enable. Great for ambidextrous pilots who love flying and using gimbaled weapons as separate entities, to offer greater combat potential.
Veteran’s Tip: Particularly good to use with the hornet and other gimbaled ships.
Activate: Right-CTRL (Toggle)
Also known as Move-Only Mode. This means you fire directly ahead with all weapons including gimbaled ones whilst being able to use the mouse to look/control the ships pitch and yaw.
Veteran’s Tip: Love it or hate it, there will always be a use for this as it allows you to bring both your fixed weapons and gimbaled weapons to bear on the target when flying using a mouse.