HOTAS & Combat

Ok, so I don’t actually own a HOTAS joystick, or even a joystick. I have a keyboard, mouse and somewhere buried in a draw, a gamepad.

This is deliberate. For although I do enjoy ‘other space combat games’ I have no intention of shelling out hundreds of pounds on kit I won’t really use. Yet.

Keyboard and mouse is fine for every other game, I don’t see why I need shiny game-specific oriented kit just to play a space combat game thankyouverymuch.

But, that’s my opinion. I fully appreciate loads of keen game players have a different opinion, having seen some stupendously superb ‘gaming rig’ set ups for certain other space combat games, and these people are not to be ignored, oh no!

Far from it, Dom will definitely (and enthusiastically) cater for these ardent enthusiasts. I am not ‘HOTAS-ist’ 🙂

It does skirt on an interesting dilemma I have though.

The Flight Model.

Hollywood (and these other space combat games in general) do tend to think that flying around in space is a bit like piloting a slow F-15 Eagle.

Well it ain’t. Not that I can speak from experience of course – I wish 🙂 However, I do speak with science on my side.

No atmosphere. No aerodynamics. No counter-thrust / air-resistance. No gravity (in deep space, at least of immediate concern).

No balletic sweeping around an obstacle at high speed, banking off air to aid the turn.

No falling downward if something runs out of ‘oomph’.

I want Dom to be ‘quasi-realistic’; meaning, as realistic as possible but heck it is a game and must be fun.

In space, if you thrust in a direction and stop thrusting, you won’t stop. Ever. (Well, unless you hit something, drift through a gas pocket, enter a gravity well, etc. But you get the idea, I hope).

To change direction, you need to re-orient yourself, and thrust again in the direction you want.

If you don’t directly counter your original thrust, you carry on going in that general direction… and eventually, you’ll build up so much velocity that your speeding away from another object like a madman on a motorcycle (albeit, a very very very very fast one).

Some context is appropriate here;

Typical speed of the Space Shuttle in orbit; 17,500 mph

Orbtial speed of the ISS; 17,150 mph

Get those speeds wrong when you’re trying to dock and it’s going to be very noisy indeed.

In short, space flight requires very delicate adjustments, finesse, grace, controlled use of large and powerful forces.

Zipping around willy-nilly at high speed, pulling 100+ g turns is not generally advisable.

But, slow, graceful, delicate space combat is, frankly, pants.

I know I’ve written on this before, but Dom’s flight models are varied (at the moment) and currently is balanced as ‘realistic and fun’ – or so I hope, but ‘Flight Simulator Model’ they ain’t.

Right now, you can fly backwards and pummel the heck out of a chasing target, by flying away from them and then re-orienting your ship to fly backwards and aim all your weapons at them.

Right now, you can be flying in a direction at 100m/s and broad-side fire at your target several hundred meters away who’s doing the same velocity and so appears stationary to you, while other contacts drop into the rear view at high speed.

Right now, you can just keep on thrusting/accelerating away from an attacker/missile and just keep going, no velocity cap, no speed threshold, if your thrusters are better than what’s chasing you,and you have enough reaction mass, you are guaranteed to be able to escape.

I think it’s ace, and a fairly good shot at how space combat will actually be in some far distant, high tech future.

And this concerns me.

Because the gamer masses aren’t really expecting such a flight model. In fact, I doubt many will even be prepared for it.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is no judgement or criticism here. People all enjoy what people all enjoy. Everyone is different, everyone plays the same game differently, enjoys it in different ways. God loves his infinite variety, his wonders to behold, etc. 🙂

I-War was ace. It was ‘realistic’. It has/had a cult following. But it did not appeal to everyone, and frankly was very hard to master and took a lot of dedicated play time to get to grips with (IMHO), but mastery was rewarded with great gameplay.

Elite (original) was at the other end of the spectrum, being arcade-like and instantly responded to movement, no physics involved. It had instant ‘pick up and play’ – in fact there is no learning curve at all to fly the Cobra MKIII.

Both ace games. Both fun. But wildly different experiences, and widely different appeal.

I am trying to hit the sweet spot, the happy middle ground right between the two (if there is such a thing). Dom has the ‘realistic flight model’ and all it’s fiddly complexities. Yet it also has a lot of sophisticated (if I do say so myself 🙂 ) ‘AI’ control and ‘technology’ in the game lore to balance these out at the players choice, so they can pretty much tailor their own flight model / experience as they see fit.

The ‘issue’ will be allowing all this variety to co-exist in an enjoyable game universe. Yes it may be ‘realistic’ given the lore, but will having an ‘arcade like fighter flight model’ be totally OTT against a ‘realistic momentum flight model’ of a large cargo hauler be fair?

Well, I can’t wait to find out 😉


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Author: Mak View all posts by

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