Vin’s alternative briefing
Good morning, Commanders. You’re all here because you’ve cashed in your old space trader and paid Frontier Developments a vast amount of money to be able to have early access to their new flight systems, updated ships, latest drive technology and ships.
Out there, pilots are still wending their merry way around the galaxy, using out of date viewports with superimposed vector graphics or block colours to simulate the view out of a modern cockpit.
Until we have finished, the rest of the galaxy, whether Federation, Alliance or “Other” aren’t going to get access to the advanced technology we have at our fingertips.
So. What’s new?
Nearly everything. The old ships that you know and love (or loathe) have all had an update – they’re still the same, ancient, basic designs that we’ve seen out there for years, but with some big changes.
The first one – you now have a proper cockpit canopy, one that you can see out of. The first time you exit hyperspace (what we used to call witch space has now been retired as “too dangerous” and “full of octagonal meanies”) near a sun, please resist the temptation to stop and go “ooooh” as things will get hot, really quickly.
The next is the trading system – we’re used to simple commodity descriptions and markets that aren’t interdependent – now, Frontier have upgraded the station market systems and inter-galactic trading comms to give us more to play with.
What does this mean?
Some guy in a Lakon can flood the market and render your tiny 4t trading run unprofitable in one run. That is, unless he crashes…. Which, to be fair, happens a lot as the Lakon is a giant space cow and trying to squeeze it into a station without the aid of grease and a shoe-horn is not really advised until you’ve worked out how big it is. Or how to fly.
The “known” testing universe
Frontier have used our funds to buy an area of space, designated as a safe (cough) testing area. It’s not big, and there are thousands of you in there. Along with many Frontier controlled ships.
There are a few stations, more to come, some asteroid belts, moons and dustballs and above that, a lot of space to fly in.
They’ve bought an ancient “hulk” or two and set fire to them to create pilot training scenarios and to cap it all, they’ve invited a few of our Federation friends, some of the more notorious pirates and trading cartels and some trainee police to come and join the testing.
First things first
You’ve been loaned an old Sidewinder. Yes, it’s all beaten up. Yes, it has absolutely Fanny Adams in terms of cargo space. Oh, and you’ve got some “credits” to start work with.
Don’t worry – your real money is safe – whilst you’re testing, Frontier are providing a dummy “credit” system that will, in due course, be rigged up to galactic banking systems. For the mean-time, don’t get too attached to your credits….. They won’t last.
You’ve also been loaned a pulse laser. About as useful as shining an LED torch at an enemy, but it will do for starters.
Bit of a warning for you
This is a test environment. Your remlock WILL get used. Your systems will crash, leaving you floating in space and awaiting rescue. Around volumes of other ships and masses of asteroids, your ship systems WILL become overloaded with comms traffic and “go on the blink”.
It WILL give you a headache. As will exiting supercruise. Sometimes.
Don’t worry about it. When you dock, head for their support office and give as detailed report as you want. We don’t need to know about the state of your underwear, what you drank in the bar last night (unless you’ve coated the cockpit with it – in which case, get someone to clean it – it will REALLY smell).
One more thing. There are other test commanders out there. Some of them are notorious pirates. Some of them are bored. Others are testing out how quickly their squillion gigawatt deathray will turn you into a floating distress call. Hint for you – until you have the hang of flying, put 4 pips to engines and ****.
So – how do I fly this thing?
I’m not going to talk about keyboard warriors, people who steer with their feet or other appendages not attached to their arms. Nor am I going to talk about what happens if you try a mouse. In space. In a ship that’s bucking around like a Xeeslian lady of the night after you’ve slipped her 100cr.
First things first – get yourself kitted out. Get the engineers in the flight deck to get you something you can get both hands on and poke with fingers, thumbs and anything else you can poke with.
A flight stick and throttle.
Then. Work out how to roll, pitch and use your maneuvering thrusters. There’s a simulator in each station that lets you try it all out against computer opponents. The first one’s easy – shooting some radioactive cans.
You WILL need your thrusters for landing. Unless you’re a space deity in the cockpit, in which case you can manage without, but trust me, I wouldn’t bother. It makes a mess.
You’re familiar with the radar. Stuff above you has a stick below it. Stuff below you has a stick above it. If it’s to your left, guess what?
If it’s a square – it’s buttoned up tight and not about to shoot.
If it’s a triangle – it’s armed and pointing its pop gun at someone, or just being very very cautious. To help you, if the shape is hollow, it’s one of us, if not, it’s one of Frontier’s “other” testing crew.
Once you’ve got that sorted – look left. Then look right.
Left you can see the known testing universe, anyone that’s near you and in a limited way, you can interact with them. Usually by targeting.
Right – that’s you, that is. Your cargo, your temporary faction alliance, your weapons, your systems. You can raise and lower the landing gear, cargo scoop and ship’s lights if you’ve forgotten to put them on a button.
Make a note – PUT THEM ON A BUTTON
Looking ahead again, you can see your own ship – if the little circles around it are gone – you’re in trouble. That means someone has pulled your trousers down and is about to issue a spanking. Some people do this to themselves in the hopes that the enemy radar goes temporarily blind. I wouldn’t recommend this until you’ve got a way of cooling down. Exposing your hull in public like that tends to make people overheat. Unless you’re in an Eagle, then you’re cool most of the time. Positively frosty.
So cold, people will try and use lasers to warm you up – we’re a generous lot out there.
To the left of the radar you can see whatever you’re targeted on. It could be a planet, it could be a station, it might even be someone you want to shoot at. If it’s green, it’s on your side. If it’s red, it’s an enemy. If like me, you’re colourblind, then if it’s shooting at you, shoot back. If not, shoot it anyway just in case.
Unless it’s a station. Don’t shoot that, it’s bigger than you and the station commander doesn’t have much of a sense of humour. They DO however have lots of weapons. They sting a bit.
Don’t shoot at planets, either. They’re a long way away and it won’t work. You don’t have planet killing lasers.
You can shoot at subsystems on things you target – that’s new. Once their trousers are down, you can decide which buttock to aim your boot at. Ordinarily, it makes no difference, but sometimes it will leave them hopping around on one leg with both hands behind them screaming “you barsteward” (or similar – I’ve been told not to swear in the briefings).
Easy. The little blue marker on your speedo tells you the optimum setup for turning at speed. Get your throttle in that zone if you’re turning hard. Use some thrusters to help the turn. As I said, “Easy”.
If you want to go faster, put more power to your engines. The sweet spot will move up. Beware, if you do this, you’re taking power from somewhere else. Not the inflight coffee machine. Nor your phone charger. Your shields, or your weapons.
There are times when this is handy – usually when chasing down a ship that’s Sir Robining it away from you.
Handy note – don’t forget to balance back up again when you want to shoot at them, or you’ll look a little silly.
Also – if they turn around and give you a faceful of cannon fire, you MIGHT want to put some power to systems. It saves on the wear and tear bill.
So – you can waggle your stick, shove your left hand into the sweet spot when turning and balance your power to suit what you’re doing.
This is easy. As a famous man once said, docking at a station is like making love to a beautiful woman. (Or man, I can see a few ladies dotted around the room here).
Ask permission first. Enter on the correct side. Aim for your destination and approach slowly. Look for the right spot to put it down.
Get close, lower your gear and use your thrusters to drop it into position.
If you do it too fast, you’ll get told off. If you do it too slow, you’ll get told off then killed. If a voice tells you “docking complete”, you can sigh and take your hands OFF your controls.
Do NOT. I repeat DO NOT boost inside stations. That way lies disaster and a big repair bill. You wouldn’t be the first, and you certainly wouldn’t be the last.
Put your flaming lights on. As you enter the station with nothing but the big curtain of space behind you, you’re near invisible. Some jockey will ram you then come into the bar and shout offensive things at you in public. Unless they’re in a Lakon, in which case they will laugh at you.
Mind the toast rack on the outside of the station. It’s there to boink you back into line, but can just as easily put you in a spin.
Jumping around like a frog in a sock
Jumping’s easy. Look left, pick a system.
Put all your toys away. Yes, your weapons, your big gaping scoop, your flappy landing gear.
Point your ship at where you want to go.
Check nothing else is near you. If it is, fly faster until it isn’t.
Show your throttle up to the top.
Poke the jump button.
There will be a countdown. Then noise. Then trippy psychedelia.
PULL YOUR THROTTLE BACK IMMEDIATELY. Trust me.
Don’t go “ooooh” at the sun. Turn away from it. You’re in supercruise and it would be far too easy to end up as a Commander shaped crispy fry.
Look left again, look for your destination.
Point at it.
Throttle up. If you’re being sensible, do so only as far as the blue section. Remember that? It’s the one that helps you turn fast. It also allows the ZX81 of a ship’s computer to bring you in to your destination without a Hooray Henry flypast and an embarrassing about turn.
When you get to within 200km, strap back in, stow any spillable liquids and make sure you’ve been to the heads first.
Assuming your speed is low enough. Poke the supercruise button and you’ll experience a joyride. Maybe for minutes, maybe less. Your teeth will rattle out of your head. You will lose your lunch. At some point, you’ll drop into normal flight, somewhere within 20km of your destination.
If the systems crash when you disengage the drive…. Wait for a while, call for a pickup from Frontier and send them a report.
Right. That’s it for now. If you weren’t listening, I don’t want to see you in the station bar telling everyone how hard it was.
If I DO see you in the station bar moaning about anything I haven’t told you, I WILL be visiting your ship with a sack of spuds and stuffing them up the end of your pulse laser.