Jul 7

Offensive Maneuvering

What is Offensive Maneuvering?

The LIS team is back again this week with another academics segment! These tutorials give an in-depth discussion of the mechanics behind the maneuvers that you can learn and practice using the exercise videos. Although the academics are not needed to improve your dogfighting capabilities via the exercises, they do provide the understanding necessary to fly creatively, using your own movements and adapting them to the situation on the fly in Star Citizen. Improvisation requires knowledge and practice!

This week’s topic is “Offensive Maneuvering“, which will allow new players to begin practicing one of the most satisfying parts of space combat – getting shots on target!

Objective:

Gain an understanding of the mechanics of lining up and stabilizing shots, while leaving options for avoiding fire, and manipulating positioning and distance to provide an advantage.

Course Layout:

OFM1: In this lesson, we’ll introduce the weapons science behind scoring hits on your opponents, and fully explore human aiming factors, weapon and targeting system reliability, and the stability-predictability spectrum.

OFM2: In this lesson, we’ll cover the effects of projectile time of flight, considerations for the target’s position on the stability predictability spectrum, and we’ll introduce the OFM maneuvers.

OFM2-1: Skidded Attacks

OFM2-A: Additive Strafe Demo

OFM2-2: Skidded Rolls

Probability of Kill

We’re going to get fairly into the weeds with weapons systems theory today, so get ready! The first concept to consider is “probability of kill“, or “PK“. This is the probability that in a given amount of time, you’ll be able to kill your target. Sounds like something you want to increase, yes? Well, let’s look at how it’s determined and see what we can do to bolster it!

\[P_{K} = P_{D} \times P_{H} \times F_{TOT} \times F_{ROF} \]

What we have here are a bunch of variables that each have a range from zero to one and combine to determine the overall probability of kill. Since the game’s specific mechanics are still in a heavy state of change, and because an enormous amount of testing data would be required, we’ll be forgoing actually trying to assign numerical values to these factors. What’s worth noting is that if, for example, time on target were to increase, it’s factor is going to also increase, which, in turn (according to the formula), will increase the probability of kill. In this way, we can rationally examine how certain actions or factors affect our ability to successfully attack a target.

PK  – Probability of Kill: probability of killing a target in a given amount of time.

PD  – Probability of Damage: probability of shots on target effectively damaging the target a given amount.

PH – Probability of Hit: probability of the projectiles hitting the target.

FTOT and FROF – Time on Target and Rate of Fire Factors: adjust the values to account for the number and frequency of shots on target.

Probability of Damage depends greatly on factors that aren’t finalized in the game yet, such as shield and energy usage, projectile impact mechanics (which are being overhauled in 1.2), and weapon damage. Likewise, time on target and rate of fire aren’t worth close consideration at this point, either, for similar reasons. That leaves us with probability of hit, which is an expression of the likelihood that you are able to make a single given projectile connect with the target. The remainder of this course will focus on maximizing this value.

 

Probability of Hit

Probability of Hit (PHis simply your ability to get the “green x” (the UI indicator for rounds impacting the target). Obviously, you want to increase this as much as you can.

\[P_{H} = \frac{R_{A} \times R_{W} \times R_{SYS} \times S_{A}}{F_{TOF} \times S_{T} }\]

We’ll go through each of these values step by step and explain what you can do to improve them! This lesson will cover all the factors in the numerator (which you want to increase) and the next lesson will cover the factors in the denominator (which you want to decrease).

RA – Human Aiming Factor

This is primarily the attacker’s physical ability to “put the thing on the thing” – drag the lag pip onto the target, or drag the gun cross or reticle onto the lead indicator. It also includes more subtle abilities, like trigger discipline and the aimer’s capability to predict and lead his target’s random movements. And, yes, for the time being, your control device choice affects this number.

Here are some general tips for improving RA. . .

1. Ensure that you have firmly locked down your aiming device if you use something other than a mouse. Truly, your joystick/pedals/other peripheral needs to not move at all when inputs are made! The control setup guide goes through some suggestions.

2. Move bindings for the firing button, IFCS mode controls, or anything else that you might want to do while simultaneously trying to line up a shot to the hand that is not your aiming hand! This single step will improve aim dramatically, as even the slight input of pulling the trigger can have an affect on your firing solution.

3. Learn firing discipline. What this means is going to depend on your choice of weapon type.

  • Cannons (omnis, tarantulas, etc.) – Practice firing one shot at a time. Yes, that means you align your shot, press the fire button, the weapon shoots, then you release the button, make small adjustments to re-align your shot, then repeat the process. This is the way to overcome overheating, power, or ammo issues, which are gameplay elements designed to punish players who simply hold the fire button down indiscriminately. Tap the firing button. If you need practice overcoming bad habits when it comes to this, mounting neutrons in Vanduul Swarm will force your brain to learn to do this.
  • Laser Repeaters (badgers, bulldogs, etc.) – These are meant to be fired in bursts and have instant responsiveness. Obviously, it’s great to be able to keep your lag pip dead-to-rights on your target constantly, but practically, you won’t be able to do this all the time. . . Learn to strafe-fire through your target’s flightpath. This means that if your target is moving up and left on your screen, the lag pip should be moving up and left, then down and right, then up and left again, etc. As you do this, you should be pressing and momentarily holding the firing button as the lag pip passes near your target. Do not hold down the firing button constantly unless your shots are hitting your target (green x), let off the trigger, realign a shot, then fire again to avoid overheat.
  • Ballistic Repeaters (scorpions, mantis, etc.) – These require some button holding depending on the particular weapon’s spool-up time. You’ll need to aim similarly to laser repeaters, but with an earlier firing button press to account for the spool-up. The difference is simply a matter of timing – offset your momentary firing button hold to begin a fraction of a second earlier as your strafe-fire through your target.
  • Semi-Auto (sawbucks) – Also similar to laser repeaters, but you’ll need to time your passes over the target to be about the same as the time between the weapons “burst” sets, and you’ll also need to only tap the firing button momentarily like you would with cannons.

4. Attempt to anticipate your target’s maneuvering. Your target’s lag pip or lead indicator can’t predict what your target is going to do between when the bullets leave your ship and when they hit (or pass right by) your target in a second or two. This means that it behooves you to attempt to predict your target’s actions. Is your target rounding an obstacle? He or she is probably going to continue that circling course, hugging the object. Did your target just overshoot past you? He or she is probably going to turn in the closest direction toward you (blindly following the target arrow). Once you can start predicting these movements, you can start shifting the lag pips slightly in the anticipated direction of movement. This is another time that repeaters and strafe-firing are particularly effective! Oh, and one more thing – you won’t be able to do this effectively at all with lead indicators, because you won’t be able to see your target while aiming.

 

RW and RSYS – Weapon and Targeting System Reliability

Both of these values are close to 1.0 at this stage of game development. Weapon Reliability is a measure of how often your weapons will fire as predicted – note that it does not include the possibility of overheat or power drain, as those are factored into the rate of fire factor in the first equation. It would include misfires, feed failures, etc., all of which CIG may or may not implement. Targeting System Reliability would account for a failure of the lag pips or lead indicators to give accurate shot predictions as a result of spoofing, jamming, or system malfunction/overload. The only example of this today is the ability for chaff or debris to cause a momentary target loss.

 

 SA – Stability/Predictability Spectrum Value (Attacker)

SA attempts to describe a value for the stability of the aiming platform (ship). Many factors influence it, including maneuvering choices by the pilot, type of ship, and IFCS modes. Interestingly, stability has a direct dichotomy with predictability – meaning that the more stable the platform becomes for getting shots on target, the more predictable (and less evasive) it becomes. This can mean that a craft that is focused solely on offense will gradually become very exposed defensively. When this happens (close to a value of SA=1.0), we at the LIS refer to the attacker as broadsiding.

StabilityPredictabilitySpectrum

To reiterate – maneuvers with high values of S (toward the right side of the spectrum) increase shot stability but also increase vulnerability, due to lower evasiveness as a result of higher predictability. Maneuvers with low values of S (toward the left side of the spectrum) are highly evasive but almost impossible to land a shot from.

This dichotomy presents a constant decision-making challenge for a pilot – is it best, in this particular moment, to stabilize for a shot, or to evade and go offensive later? The Space Combat Maneuvering course covers this in detail, and the Boom and Zoom mentality espoused therein will explain the importance of being offensive when opportunity presents itself and risk of counterattack or wildcard attack is low, and being defensive when the odds are not in your favor. Other options include just starting in the middle of the diagram (say with a skidded roll) and seeing what happens. If your target or other adversaries are able to hit you, move left on the spectrum until they can’t. If they can’t hit you at all, maybe move right on the spectrum one place to see if you can stabilize more and take the opponent out quickly. If you are constantly just one step ahead of your opponent, evading his fire by a mere few dozen meters, stick with the maneuver that’s working for you! This is the sweet spot, where one can dish out the most damage possible while not taking any in return.

There are other factors that may increase or decrease your S value. These include:

1. COMSTAB – Especially once turn-limiting becomes an option for this mode again, this can greatly increase stability at the cost of more limited maneuvering. (↑S)

2. ESP – This will dampen control inputs when centering up on a target, which (not surprisingly) will stabilize your shots. (↑S)

3. COUPLED – Necessary to make ESP work, also drastically increases predictability, as now you are telegraphing your next direction of flight every time you turn your nose. (↑S)

4. Zoom – Without a doubt is a drain on situational awareness and makes dynamic maneuvering dangerous due to limited field of view. (↑S)

5. Boost – Increases thruster power, increasing ship acceleration responsiveness, making the same control input move the ship more. (↓S)

6. G-SAFE – G-safe will slow your ship, making it more vulnerable to fire. . but it will keep you from blacking out, which is way worse as it makes you a sitting duck for an inordinate amount of time. Overall, it probably helps more than it hurts for most player/ship combinations. If you want to override it, you can always use boost. (↓S)

Moving Forward

The next lesson will take a look at some other factors that influence probability of hit and will include some maneuvers to try out during exercises or in Star Citizen proper. Most of the information is contained in the previous (now outdated) OFM Academics video, as it gave a lot of explanation on the affect of projectile time of flight on the ability to hit a target. For now, if you are interested, refer to that until next Tuesday’s submission! Thanks, and fly safe.

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