Turret, Gunnery Improvements, Targeting Methodology, and High-Speed Combat
What will change in Alpha 3.10?
Fixed weapons and turrets, both manned and remote-controlled, now have a fixed assist system. This fixed assist will still reward precise aim and area targeting but will also use weapon convergence to nudge bullets toward the target and aid players hitting with fixed weapons. We have also revised how the Predicted Impact Point (PIP) will be calculated. The PIP will now be updated purely on velocity, which gives us a much more stable firing solution and decreases the effects of network jitters and excessive juke behavior.
Additionally, we want you to be able to react to fast-changing combat situations and adjust turret behavior accordingly. Thus, we’re implementing new options like virtual joystick deflection (VJoy) style controls, turret-ESP, changeable turret velocity limiters, and the ability to automatically re-center the turret with new default key-bindings for easier control.
We know that it’s not always easy to keep orientation as a turret gunner when you’re moving with the turret while the ship’s pilot is making wild maneuvers. Therefore, we implemented the first iteration of turret UI created with building blocks. This work-in-progress UI already shows specific status labels so that there’s no uncertainty what the turret is doing, including VJoy mode, turret rotation, gimbal borders, and aim quality.
For Alpha 3.10, we also worked on the targeting computer and reworked how you deal with an enemy under fire. By looking at a target (using freelook or any form of head tracking), the targeting system will provide you with basic information about your opponent’s ship. Only by manually locking this ship will the targeting computer start spending resources on tracking the enemy vehicle and enable aim assist and missile lock. But be warned, your opponent will receive a notification that they are target-locked, and their ship computer will offer them the option to lock you as a target in return.
In addition to locking, you can pin up to three extra targets, which enables you to switch the target-lock among those pinned ships quickly. Those pins are shared within the ship, so it can be used to coordinate between turrets! In the future, the number of targets your ship can track will be dependent on the targeting computer. Combat-centric ships will have the ability to target multiple targets, but a basic starter may only be able to track one until you upgrade its targeting computer to a more powerful unit.
Finally, we looked at high-speed combat as we felt that too often dogfighting devolved into battling fast-moving pixels that zoomed past you. Combat was losing the visceral dogfighting feel that Star Citizen promised. The idea with the changes is to incentivize players with increased accuracy and higher availability of power for things like weapons and shields if traveling at or below Space Combat Maneuver (SCM) speed. Above this threshold the ship must divert more power to the thrusters, and it’s harder for the targeting computer to quickly resolve a firing solution, and thus harder for you to hit. This correlates to real life as it’s much harder to land accurate hits while moving fast. In this first iteration, some of the options that players will have at maximum velocity have been restricted. When flying above SCM speeds, weapon slew rate will decrease, and the time it takes to lock on missiles will increase.
What do we want to achieve with these changes?
We want turrets to be a meaningful choice for players. Not climbing into the pilot seat but manning a turret instead should reward players by adding serious punch to the fight. Enemy pilots should get nervous if you point a turret at them because they are accurate and deadly. With this, we offer you more substantial options during ship combat and see it as an essential step towards a full multi-crew combat experience.
The new targeting change eases the actual target selection process and makes it work better in large space battles. It’s also the first step towards pinning and sending targeting data to your friends.
Looking into the future
Space combat is a topic too complex to be approached with a single patch release. So, while Alpha 3.10 is a solid step towards achieving our vision, it does not stand for the final state of how we imagine space combat in Star Citizen to look.
Plans include the addition of weapon and thruster capacitors, so you need to choose carefully when to engage in a fight and use your guns or try to break away using boost. The thruster capacitor concept directly ties into the idea of high impulse versus sustained thrust discussed above. We want pilots to commit to their decisions and actions taken in a combat situation to have meaningful consequences for the outcome of the fight.
We will be adding some additional nuance on the penalties for engaging in combat above SCM speeds, such as increased energy consumption and shields that recharge slower.
We’re also reviewing the radar and scanning systems, allowing smaller ships to hide inside bigger ship’s signatures by changing how signatures are generated and detected.
Besides being a key factor in being picked up on a scan or seen on radar, your ships signature will affect how other weapons can track you. If you have full power to your thrusters and shields, you’ll run hot and be much easier to detect and track. The stronger your signature the easier it will be for a missile to lock and track you or auto gimbals to get on target.
Ultimately, we do not want space combat to feel like an FPS in space or a DPS race, but rather want to reward pilots that employ tactical maneuvers and carefully play out individual strengths and weaknesses of their and their opponent’s ship. Running stealthily allows you to not be detected easily, and even when picked up on radar it takes longer for your enemy to determine a firing solution as your signature is low. But if they hit, you’ll be in trouble as you can’t pump the same kind of power to your shields as you could if you were tanking it. There should not be one all-powerful ship or play style; the idea is to have strategies and counter strategies for different ships and play styles.
Thus, in the future you’ll see a lot of changes in the weapons systems, ship balance, and combat UI. This does not just cover the primary combat systems, but also ways to more effectively communicate with your co-pilots, gunners, and wingmen, and therefore enhance your tactical options in multicrew and fleet gameplay.Alpha 3.10 is just the first step towards our vision and we will bring many more improvements and changes to the current flight and combat experience over the coming patch releases. From utilizing the physics system to calculate weapon damage based on properties and speed instead of a simple hit point approach, to exciting multicrew gameplay that includes things like putting out fires or re-routing power nodes to keep your ship running: The upcoming changes will make space battles in Star Citizen a unique and thrilling experience.
Our next update, Alpha 3.10 is targeted to release in July. You can see what is planned for the future of Star Citizen on our weekly updated Roadmap. Thursday next week will feature a flight-focused episode of Inside Star Citizen, where the vehicle experience team will provide further info on the Flight & Fight improvements coming with the next patch.