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Star Citizen's Realistic Flight Explained

A post to the Roberts Space Industries website from Chris Roberts discusses the flight model and input controls in Star Citizen, now that backers have had the chance to experience some test flights. He explains why they chose the level of real-world fidelity they did:

We model what would be needed on an actual spaceship, including correct application of thrust at the places where the thrusters are attached to the hull of the ship Ė in our model moment of inertia, mass changes and counter thrust are VERY necessary. Star Citizenís physical simulation of spaceflight is based on what would actually happen in space.

There were a couple of reasons why we went this direction Ė

1. Because we were planning on modeling and simulating spaceships with a fidelity that hadnít been seen before I felt we needed a simulation that would let the player have different flight behavior if a thruster is damaged, a wing is blown off or a pilot overloads his ship with weapons and ammunition? I wanted a system that could feel distinct for a huge variety of ships, with wildly different sizes and roles because in Star Citizen you can go from a single seater ship 15 meters in length to a huge capital ship over 1km in size crewed by many players. I wanted these ships to come with their own identity and feel much like similar sized cars, even if equivalent in mass can feel radically different. I wanted ships to have their own personality Ė not just a slower of faster version of the base ship.

2. The second is that Star Citizen will have a significant amount of player vs. player combat. I donít know how many people played Wing Commander Armada (the first Wing Commander game to feature multiplayer) but it wasnít that much fun in battle mode (the head to head mode). When you design a single player game you can deliberately dumb down the AI to allow the player to get on the tail and shoot down multiple enemies, which gives the player a sense of achievement. Thereís nothing more fun than single handily clearing a wave of 10 enemy Kilrathi fighters. But letís be honest, in single player games the ability for the player to gun down waves of enemies has less to do with the skill of the player because the player is usually overpowered in respect to the base enemies he will fight. You canít do this in player vs player, and itís likely that multiple players will have the same ship. Without a sophisticated simulation and flight model, with lots of options for a pilot to fluidly try different tactics to get the upper hand the battles can end up as a frustrating stalemate when both pilots have the same ship as no one can get on the otherís tail because you donít have the same forces that affect air combat (namely gravity and air resistance) to bleed energy from the maneuvers.

These reasons are why we went out of our way to fully simulate the physics that would involve controlling and moving a ship in space with no short cuts.

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54 Replies. 3 pages. Viewing page 3.
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14. Re: Star Citizen's Realistic Flight Explained Jun 19, 2014, 11:58 nin
 
Armengar wrote on Jun 19, 2014, 11:56:
the cyclon spacecraft were organic though werent they?

I know they were in the reboot, not sure about the 70s version...

 
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13. Re: Star Citizen's Realistic Flight Explained Jun 19, 2014, 11:56 Frijoles
 
eRe4s3r wrote on Jun 19, 2014, 11:14:
If Battlestar Galactica had been "realistic" the Cylons would have completely pwned them in every engagement, because robots have vastly higher G force resistance and thus could out-maneuver any human vessel by several factors.

They did (pwned them)! Also, figure if they can control gravity on their ships, maybe they can lower the G force in the smaller ships. I need to watch that show again.
 
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12. Re: Star Citizen's Realistic Flight Explained Jun 19, 2014, 11:56 Armengar
 
the cyclon spacecraft were organic though werent they?  
Its not the cough that carries you off but the coffin they carry you off in.
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11. Re: Star Citizen's Realistic Flight Explained Jun 19, 2014, 11:32 Creston
 
SpectralMeat wrote on Jun 19, 2014, 10:43:
They want this game to be the jack of all trades

That is not going to end well...
 
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10. Re: Star Citizen's Realistic Flight Explained Jun 19, 2014, 11:29 Creston
 
I like his reasoning, but in essence he's asking players to become actual pilots in order to play his game. Hopefully there will be computer assists for many of these functions (Space Traction Control!), otherwise a ton of players are going to be unable to even fly simple maneuvers with their ships...

Still, the idea of simulating the flight model this way is very, very cool.
 
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9. Re: Star Citizen's Realistic Flight Explained Jun 19, 2014, 11:14 eRe4s3r
 
SpectralMeat wrote on Jun 19, 2014, 10:15:
I did not notice any of this stuff he is talking about in the dogfighting module.
Maybe the "realistic flight model" will be implemented later?
The enemy Ai ships had no problem stopping on a dime and take off at full speed in a totally different direction.
Maybe that is realistic in space I am not an astronaut so I have no idea, but in a video game it is frustrating.

If the game doesn't simulate G forces then turning on a dime is no problem. But if it does simulate G forces then stopping very quickly and turning on a dime would turn you into goo. .. so that should answer your question. Humans are not made for dogfighting space-combat, it's why nobody sane would build space-craft that are dogfighters.

If Battlestar Galactica had been "realistic" the Cylons would have completely pwned them in every engagement, because robots have vastly higher G force resistance and thus could out-maneuver any human vessel by several factors.
 
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8. Re: Star Citizen's Realistic Flight Explained Jun 19, 2014, 11:02 loomy
 
One problem they're facing is the disconnect between developers and non-developers. Balance can and will change.

Another problem is how all the flight sim nerds are noisily complaining that space flight doesn't feel like atmosphere flight.
 
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7. Re: Star Citizen's Realistic Flight Explained Jun 19, 2014, 10:43 SpectralMeat
 
Watched that PCGamer interview with Chris Roberts and he said he want the game to be fully released in 2016.
Apparently the single player part of the game will be episodic.
First Person module by the end of this year iirc.
They want this game to be the jack of all trades and I am afraid flight controls and mechanics is going to be pushed aside and marked as "finished" so they can move on to the next "feature" on the endless list of features.
Kinda works = finished
Don't worry about it guys we can patch it later, let's work on that helmet paint job instead so we can push it out to our store for people to buy it for $5 each
 
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6. Re: Star Citizen's Realistic Flight Explained Jun 19, 2014, 10:34 SpectralMeat
 
Tumbler wrote on Jun 19, 2014, 10:18:
That means when the player pushes hard right the ifcs may only try and turn you at 20% max rate. As you drop power it will turn your faster as it takes less energy to redirect you.
That is exactly how it works in Elite, and you have a hud indicator of the ideal speed to maximize your ships agility. Extremely important in dogfighting. Then when you get good at it turn off flight assist and let the fun begin

In SC dogfighting module I just couldn't get a hang of the handling with mouse and kb or controller or my joystick. It's just all over the place. It feels so 2 dimensional or something. No sense of speed or ship agility. The ship just rocks all over the place and doesn't really matter when you turn if you are max speed or slow as a snail. All in all I just found it not entertaining to fly. I know it is an Alpha, so I hope they will listen to feedback and tweak it accordingly.

Great visuals though.
 
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5. Re: Star Citizen's Realistic Flight Explained Jun 19, 2014, 10:18 Tumbler
 
TL:DR
There may be no problem with the flight model itself, the problem is likely the flight controls, aka the flight computer that is supposed to be assisting you.

They simulate empty space physics. I think all the fuss over how difficult the ships are to control has nothing to do with the flight engine / model. It's the controls that need addressing.

The IFCS in particular, the flight computer that moves the ship based on your inputs, is way too aggressive in how it turns when you have all the safeties on. I think when people have full computer assist on they want the ship to respond something like a plane does in normal flight. Instead the spaceship slides all over space and jukes and jerks when you make hard turns as it tries to correct your direction. With full safeties the IFCS should be limiting your inputs so you don't slide more than a little bit. That means when the player pushes hard right the ifcs may only try and turn you at 20% max rate. As you drop power it will turn your faster as it takes less energy to redirect you.

There is a safety called Comstab and if you turn that off then you should slide around just like everyone does right now. That feature is supposed to minimize your sliding but it does a pretty shitty job right now.

GSafe is the other safety which to me is useless unless they make the gsafe turning much slower than it is now. I don't notice any major difference in my turning when it on or off. With it off I start getting red outs and black outs so I just leave it on. I hope they will limit gsafe turning significantly so there is a reason to use this feature.

Coupled / Decoupled mode is the other major IFCS feature but it's just a glide mode toggle. The way they set the system up so you can only straff when in glide mode I think will be fixed eventually because I know everyone wants to be able to use thrusters to slide around in normal flight and right now you can only do that in glide mode. Currently I don't think many use the straff features in combat because they aren't mapped in a useful way. On a gamepad for example you pilot the ship with the left stick and you move your head around with the right stick. (you don't use the right stick very often) When you want to slide you press the left stick. (glide mode) When you want to straff you hold down the left trigger (in glide mode) and use the left stick...but that takes away your ability to pilot the ship!? It goes something like this, you are going head on with your target, you throw your nose off center, tap left stick to enter glide mode, use left stick to stay on target, fire with the right trigger, then you're supposed to hold the left trigger to straff around using the left stick while using the right stick to keep your guns on target?! Who the fuck thought of that?! It's a lot more practical to just keep your nose pointed at the enemy because they move a lot. In pvp this might change but for now I think straffing is useless unless we can map it differently. (right stick for controllers) Holding left trigger should give me head tracking in that case.

They need to let us config all the controls. It's hard to say if the flight model has issues when we can't even use all the functions on our ship is an efficient way.

I've been trying to wait it out but I'm about to go build an xml files for my CH Fighterstick because I'm sick of waiting for them to let me do it in game.

This comment was edited on Jun 19, 2014, 10:26.
 
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4. Re: Star Citizen's Realistic Flight Explained Jun 19, 2014, 10:15 SpectralMeat
 
I did not notice any of this stuff he is talking about in the dogfighting module.
Maybe the "realistic flight model" will be implemented later?
The enemy Ai ships had no problem stopping on a dime and take off at full speed in a totally different direction.
Maybe that is realistic in space I am not an astronaut so I have no idea, but in a video game it is frustrating.
 
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3. Re: Star Citizen's Realistic Flight Explained Jun 19, 2014, 10:03 Cutter
 
Frijoles wrote on Jun 19, 2014, 09:58:
As much as I can appreciate them going for realism-ish controls, I couldn't fly worth a damn. Hope it can be changed in single-player at least. Or maybe I'll just be Crew Member #5 on board the big ships.

Do you think that's something you can adapt to given enough practice?

And I like things related to...thrusting.
 
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2. Re: Star Citizen's Realistic Flight Explained Jun 19, 2014, 09:58 Frijoles
 
As much as I can appreciate them going for realism-ish controls, I couldn't fly worth a damn. Hope it can be changed in single-player at least. Or maybe I'll just be Crew Member #5 on board the big ships.  
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1. Re: Star Citizen's Realistic Flight Explained Jun 19, 2014, 09:53 MindStalker3
 
Are they simulating orbit/gravity physics. Or just empty space physics?
There is a HUGE difference in how one would approach docking in orbit versus empty space.
 
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