Tactics Guide & Dogfighting for Dummies
Posted July 2014
Here is the Tactics Guide from Shalbatana's B5 web site.
B5-Tactics Guide 1.pdf
"Space Dogfighting for Dummies".
Originally Posted by Helstrom on May 08 2006,15:53
Edited Feb 14 2007
Hello everyone! First of all, let me give out a big hearty "THANK YOU!" to all the fine people who worked on this awesome game. It looks and feels very professional and I'm mighty impressed that this has basically come out of someone's garage (not to mention spare time).
The learning curve for fighter combat in a fully 3D Newtonian space environment was rather steep though, even in spite of the excellent training missions. These forums have been quite helpful but I do feel it could use a consolidated "beginner's guide" to starfighter combat.
So, although I still consider myself very much a rookie, I figured I might as well take it upon myself to share some of the stuff I learned the hard way. Maybe you aces out there can add to this so we can create something of a comprehensive beginner's guide to B5:IFH?
Here goes my bit, "Dogfighting for Dummies".
Space is big - really big. It's also mostly empty, although you will usually find yourself in the more densely populated bits, because the rest of it is tremendously boring. What with space being empty, there is no such thing as air around to slow you down - thus, you have no real top speed or "terminal velocity" as you would in atmospheric flight.
There's also no gravity, which means you won't be falling anywhere (or you'll be "free falling" in no particular direction, but that's rocket science). With nothing to slow you down or pull you down, once you have some speed, you'll just keep going... and going... and going... until you do something about it. This is what Newtonian physics are all about.
Another result of space being so very empty is that there really is no such thing as "up" or "down". While it is common to use some kind of convenient object - like a nearby planet or spaceship - as a "zero" marker, this is for purposes of orientation only.
Generally, you'll have just as much nothing above as below you, while to your right and left, as well as to your fore and aft, it's pretty much the same story.
Mind boggled yet? Good. Your fighter can move along three different axes at once, at different speeds or rates of acceleration each. You have 720 degrees of surrounding space to keep an eye on. You can pull 8G in three different directions at the same time and if the craft weren't limited to spare your body, the full potential forces could probably squeeze all of you neatly into your left flight boot and top it off with your helmet.
Now let's talk shop.
Measured from the centre of your fighter, there are three basic axes along which you will move or rotate - X (fore-aft), Y (left-right) and Z (up-down). We need to introduce some basic vocabulary here:
Pitch: The 360 degree arc that crosses your X and Z axes - you "pitch" by rotating along your Y axis. For the pilot, this is like turning your nose up or down.
Yaw: The 360 degree arc that crosses your X and Y axes. You "yaw" by rotating around your Z axis. This is like turning left or right.
Roll: The 360 degree arc that crosses your Y and Z axes. You "roll" by rotating along your X axis. This is like flipping your wings over each other while keeping the nose pointed in the same direction.
Pitching, yawing and rolling alter the orientation of your craft around its centre of gravity (which is the cockpit - and good for you, too, or you'd have a lot more G to deal with). None of these acts in themselves will actually alter your fighter's course. An object - like a starfighter - will stay on the same trajectory unless force is exerted upon it. So if you're doing 600m/s without accelerating in any one direction, you can roll and tumble around any way you want, but you still end up going in the same direction.
In order to get where we want to go, we'll need to adjust our path by exerting force upon our craft. That's where the engines come in. By accelerating in one or more direction(s), we can alter our trajectory. Your fighter's default flight mode does just that - it uses engine power to adjust the trajectory according to where the nose is pointed. In "inertia" mode, the craft doesn't accelerate automatically, and you are free to do the tumbling and rolling mentioned in the previous
paragraph. But we'll get to that in a minute.
You can accelerate in six basic directions, but never in opposite ones at the same time: Forward or back, up or down, left or right. Again, these directions are relative to the centre of the fighter, ie. the cockpit. You'll notice that these pairs relate to the X, Y and Z axes previously mentioned.
It should be noted that deceleration and acceleration are - in terms of physics - the same thing, but in opposite directions: For example, if you drive your car in reverse and suddenly break, the result on the stuff on the back seat is the same as if you suddenly pull up forward. In fact, if you really think about it, when you're not accelerating, you're basically "standing still" because speed is a relative measurement. You may say you're zipping by that cruiser at 600m/s, but for all physics cares, that cruiser might as well be zipping past you at 600m/s. It just depends on what you choose to measure your speed from.
In practical terms, this is inertia. If you're doing 600m/s and you want to slow down to zero, you'll need the same amount of force and time as if you were acceleration from zero to 600m/s. If you want to go from 600m/s in one direction to 600 m/s in the other, it's the same thing as pulling from zero to 1200m/s in terms of force and time spent. For the fighter pilot, this means you can't expect to spin on a dime and zoom off in the opposite direction all at once - you have to accelerate first, which takes time and power.
All your directions of movement combined are your "vector". The simplest representation to keep in mind is that of an arrow, pointing from your centre of gravity (once more, your cockpit) to the direction you're heading, regardless of where your ship is actually pointed.
Controlling your Craft
When you have a basic feel for Newtonian physics, you'll understand that having control of all six possible rotations and all six possible accelerations (with up to three of each in use at any one time) is the only way to get the most out of your craft. As a warrior, you should understand that he who masters all twelve controls best has the greatest opportunity to get the jump on his foe - and we eventually will want to end up in a position where we can treat the enemy to a face full of plasma bolts, preferably without getting one ourselves.
So, the first thing you want to do is to get all the controls for all twelve axes mapped in a way that is comfortable for you. I recommend keeping all the "rotations" in one place and the "accelerations" in another, with the X axis acceleration (fore/aft) in a special place because it is the most common.
The common term for Y and Z axis movement/acceleration is "sliding".
The exact setup will depend a lot on your personal preferences. Me, I come from that old category of grognards who grew up using the cursor keys in Doom II. As time went by and controls got more complicated, I have grudgingly accepted the keypad as a superior alternative because it puts more buttons under your fingers, and the advent of 3D environments where you can also look up and down has made the mouse invaluable. I can't master the "WASD" area of the keyboard for the life of me.
So, in my setup, my mouse controls pitch and yaw. As this is pretty much the limit to what a mouse can do, I've put roll with the "slide" keys on the keypad. KP 8, 4, 6, and 5 control up, left, right and down slide respectively. KP 7 and 9 control left and right roll. I use the cursor UP and DOWN keys for the master (X-axis) throttle.
If you have a stick, you'll probably want to use that to control your pitch and yaw. If you have two sticks (you the man!), use the second one for the slide controls. Find a convenient trottle slider to control the master throttle and map the stick(s)' keys to your pleasure.
One absolutely invaluable control is the one that switches between Inertial and Normal flight modes. You will want to switch between these modes frequently, so assign it a nice big key, like the spacebar or the RETURN key.
Again, though, these are just pointers - spend plenty of time mapping your controls to a setup you are comfortable with. Or you could just get comfortable with the default controls. Either way, make sure you have "blind" control of all six axes.
Weapon and Targetting Controls
We're starfighter pilots. They don't pay us to make fancy manoeuvres - they pay us to kill the other guy. Weapons come in very handy here. You'll want to be able to select targets and fire your weapons at them quickly and smoothly, because the window of opportunity for a good burst is usually measured in fractions of a second.
Make sure you have quick access to the "fire weapons" and "select target in recticle" commands - this means you should have a finger on them at all time, even if you're pulling 8G along three different axes, pitching, yawing, rolling, and trying to make sense of the furball all at once. Mouse Buttons #1 and #2 respectively do quite well, or [insert your favorite stick triggers/buttons here].
For further targeting, you'll also want a piece of your keyboard / bunch of your joystick buttons mapped out for the various target sorting and selecting options. By default, your sensors sort targets by range, which can get hairy if you're moving fast and the contacts list shuffles faster than you can toggle from a piece of mostly harmless space garbage to a Narn spraying plasma at you. I prefer to set the list to "no particular order", which seems alphabetical. Be accustomed with these controls, because you usually won't have time to mess with them too much once you're in a furball. Also, find a good spot for "target closest enemy" - it's probably the one spraying those shots at you.
There are "advanced" targeting options too - you can save targets in your computer's memory (default: SHIFT+F5 to F and recall them (F5 to F, target incoming missiles (default: Y), target whatever's attacking your current target (default: T, useful for escort missions), and so forth. Figure that out when you're further ahead in the missions and map them sensibly if you need to change them from default at all.
One final weapons control to map conveniently is the "unlink weapons" control. You don't want your weapons linked. Unless you're an absolutely crack shot, a spray of unlinked plasma gives you a far better chance at a hit or two than firing bursts of two at half the rate. You'll only need to hit this control once, at the start of a battle, so don't use an important key for it (even default J will do).
Basic Dogfighting Tactics
So now we've been through all the boring physics stuff, we've gone on at length about mapping all the important controls, is this where we finally get to blow stuff up?
...wait for it...
I've condensed this into a series of basic tips. I live by them (in B5:IFH, that is... I'd get strange looks otherwise) and seem to die a lot less by them, which I'm sure is a good thing. Actually, a few of these are mentioned in the training missions. For God's sake, play the training missions
1. Never approach a target head-on when in weapons range. Sure, you'll get easy shots with little or no deflection (ie. correction for inertia in the time between a shot leaves your barrels and reaches the enemy), but so does he. You want to finish a fight as intact as possible.
2. Don't accelerate too much. A speed of around 300m/s is plenty. Dogfighting tends to consist of "slashing" runs past each other, and if you're both doing Rediculously High Speeds, your relative (ie. added together, if more or less head-on) speed will make a decent shot impossible. Better yet, if you're doing 300m/s in one direction and need to do 300m/s in the other all of a sudden, you don't spend precious minutes "decelerating" like you would at higher speeds.
3. USE YOUR THURSTERS, DAMMIT! This should be on a plaque above every training simulator in EA. As a wise man in the Sigma forums said, if you're accelerating along three axes at once, the enemy has a LOT of deflecting to do before he can land a shot on you.
4. Love the oblique. This flows directly from point 1, but if the angle between you and your opponent is in the 10-40 degree area, and you're using your thrusters, you have a good chance at getting decent deflection (as indicated by the yellow targeting circle) and you'll avoid flying straight into a stream fo plasma, or even into an enemy fighter - Narns love to ram you with their heavy crates.
5. Slip, Slide, and burn after them. You can see a slashing attack coming miles away, so switch to "Intertial", use your thrusters to avoid incoming fire, spray him while he streaks by and kick back to "Normal" somewhere in the middle to get back on the pursuit. That's when your afterburners prove their worth as well.
6. Anticipate. Don't ever wait until the last minute to make a vector change: Inertia will kick you right in your precious groin and you'll be squeezing against the G's while the enemy screams well out of weapons range for another pass. Newtonian physics make combat a "thick fluid" affair, if you will. You can (and should!) cut some corners with your afterburners, but keep in minds that any Y or Z axis thrust will be cut off while you do so, making you an easy target. If the Lock alarm be
a-bleepin'... Uhm... Use your thrusters instead (a cookie for whoever makes a nice rhyme out of this one).
6. Fire controlled bursts. It's very tempting to squeeze the trigger with your guns unlinked until the barrels glow cherry-red, but your rate of fire will drop like a brick once the guns have overheated. Especially if you've opened up at long range, this will leave you very frustrated when the perfect shot passes through your recitcle and your guns are locked. You can go for the occasional long-range full spray if there's not too much else around to worry about, but in a furball, save your shots until you get good deflection.
Well, there ya go! I've tried to write the guide I would have liked to read before I started this I hope it helps some of the struggling rookies out there. One thing I omitted is Hyperspace Navigation (which is an art in itself), but there's a very decent thread on that already, and I figured it would be tantamount to stealing to include that (and the lovely diagrams) in my post. And finally, yes, I realise this is about three years late and new players may not be many these days... But there ya go.
Kill it, before it acquires language skills.
Posted July 2014
Here are some words of wisdom from others who have walked here before.....
After dying, many times, getting through this game I felt I would contribute to the new players out there and help them do better than I did.
The very first thing I would suggest, the item that was most helpful to me in dogfights, is always keep you're throttle at 0 in a dogfight. Use you're individual thruster controls instead. This doesn't mean come to a complete stop. Coming to a complete stop will get you killed faster than you might think. What you want to do is use w,a,s,d,q and e to control individual thrusters to maintain speed. Switch it up too. When lining up to fire on a target, use your side thrusters a bit, not to help speed up the movement, but to make you harder for the enemy to hit. By using individual thruster control, you will find it far easier to get in range of a target and maintain firing distance for longer. It allows you to keep speeding up to your target if they are trying to thrust away from you or make fast stops if they try to turn around on you.
If an enemy fires a missile at you, do not drop a decoy ( V key for flares ) and expect it to work 100%. Go full afterburn ( Tab key ) thrust, get some delta V and some distance from the missile, then you can go Inertia mode ( Space key for Inertial/cruise mode ), flip around and shake off anyone trying to follow you. The missile will only follow you for a few clicks and it can not keep up with you in afterburn ( Tab key ) mode. Use that to your advantage.
Use your coms. Spread your wingmen around. If the enemy has someone after them, they will be far less inclined to gang up on you.
And most of all, remember that this is not flight like other sims may have you used to. Keep in mind that however fast you get going, you have to apply 100% the reverse of that to come to a full stop. Turning around does not immediatly have you flying in that direction, as you must first counter any delta v you had build up then build new delta v in the new direction you wish to go. Keeping that in mind will help you not constantly overshoot your targets.
Hope some of these tips help! And good hunting out there.
As to missile avoidance, I do it so infrequently that I rarely remember the key ( V key for flares ) for the decoys. I also find that the strafing engines are not powerful enough to allow me to avoid the missiles.
My usual missile avoidance tactic is to fire up the afterburners ( Tab key ) and fly toward the missile, gradually turning perpendicular to it's approach path. The missile will then come at you so fast that it won't be able to change course towards you as you turn sideways. (think about playing chicken with missiles ;p)
This strategy has the added benefit that you won't be bothered by fighter-bound enemies in the meantime, since none of them seem willing to give chase with their own afterburners.
Lieutenant Junior Grade
There's this cool maneuver Sheridan performs in "All Alone in the Night", a sort of 180-degree all-axis reversal, that I like to call "The Sheridan Flip".
Lieutenant Junior Grade
As I see it:
1) Press "Inertial"
2) move three of your axes simultaneously in the next fashion:
time: start middle end
pitch: full up ---- zero ----- full down
yaw: zero ++++-full left -------- zero
roll: clockwise all the way
So, your stick should make a half-circle from six o'clock trough nine to twelve. And have your pedals pressed all the time.
That should do it.
Of course, it would be hard as hell to do it with mouse.
Of course, better to master it with the external camera engaged .
Andy La Rubin
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