The Uber Driver Pilot

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maplealmond
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The Uber Driver Pilot

Post by maplealmond » Wed Nov 21, 2018 5:53 pm

So I got back into the game after a long time being away. Normally I'd do a long "what works, what doesn't" thing, but as of now, I have only really done the pilot role. This was a much less pleasant experience, so this post is significantly critical, which is too bad because I know there's a lot of fun to be had. Nevertheless, here we go.

Setting up my X-52 Saitek was significantly more annoying than I expected. The defaults aren't what I'd go for (in space flying without an atmosphere, having the side stick roll the craft is much less useful than having it turn it.)

Problem one - I have to guess which axis is which and then test it. This could be easily solved by making it so that when I move an axis in config, it suggests that axis. Instead I have to try each axis drop down (and the X-52 has a LOT of axis) and then see if it registers.

Problem two - no way to get the throttle working the way I want. My ideal throttle would go from zero to full thrust, with a reverse thrust button that I can hold or toggle. Instead, the only way I could configure the throttle was from full reverse to full forward, and zero is somewhere in the middle. This is not intuitive for full stop maneuvers and makes the throttle much more sensitive to small inputs.

Problem three - the direct inputs are bound to axis. However it would make a lot of sense to, in some case, bind it to buttons. Not available.

Problem four - the way the hat switch works is to rotate the camera, and when I let go, to bring it back. What I really want is to flick the hat switch sideways to look exactly sideways. Fixed view points would actually be a huge advantage for HOTAS type controls so I can rapidly go "what's behind me, ok, what's above me, ok, what's ahead" with a few button presses.

I managed to cobble together a workable solution, and went in search of a crew.

This brings up a whole other set of issues, namely, the fast majority of ships aren't fun to fly, and the vast majority of crews don't need a hot-hand pilot.

There are a good number of ships which are large, slow moving behemoths with a turn speed of maybe one degree per second. Back when the Intrepid was the only ship we could choose, I was guaranteed a chance to fly into battle, and even dodge the occasional attack. Zipping around was fun. Now, as people graduate to "bigger and badder" ships, and with Pilots needing to put talent points into rotation turns just for the ship to remotely handle the way its expected, the experience is extremely dry.

Even worse, most crew don't want to do ship combat. Flying the outrider and doing scientific research all the time seems to be the most common objective, which means the entire purpose of the pilot is to navigate to the next point and then... wait.

One of the things I always advocated for, in my early commentary on game design, is that you should never be able to replace a player with an if-X-do-Y flow chart. This meant science needed to have things to do that weren't just activating programs at the obvious times. Weapons might have a simple job with "keep firing" but at least firing on a target is something of a skill test. Unfortunately, when ship to ship combat is made such that flight is by far and away the choice crews are making, pilot actions are dreadfully dull. The most fun I usually have is when we come in for repairs and I can joyride through the star systems, or maybe if we find a minefield.

Unlike the controller issues, which are probably fixable with just a little UI work, the pilot experience won't be fixed without major gameplay overhaul. With the pilot being given the job of a glorified uber driver and crews focusing on ground exploration more, there's very little to draw me to the role of pilot. That's a shame because it was by far my favorite part of the game in Alpha.

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Re: The Uber Driver Pilot

Post by EngBot » Thu Nov 22, 2018 12:16 pm

Problem two can be fixed by switching the controls to precise, either on the screen next to the piloting station or hitting the switch mode key which i think is "x" on the keyboard by default
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Re: The Uber Driver Pilot

Post by maplealmond » Fri Nov 23, 2018 7:14 pm

Ah, maybe I didn't explain this well enough. I did have the controls on precice mode.

The problem is that zero is in the middle of the throttle state. That's not a natural place to try to find when I want to bring thrust to zero, as opposed to the 0% and 100% part of the throttle. In addition, since I'm usually flying forward, I have to move the throttle between 50% and 100% instead of between 0% and 100%.

It would be nice if the throttle always fired the engines forward, but had a reverse button. Then for my normal 99% use case of flying forward and turning I can use the full range of throttle, and in those rare occasions when I need to backup or when I need to retro-fire to slow down I can hold the reverse button.

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Edinstein
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Re: The Uber Driver Pilot

Post by Edinstein » Sat Nov 24, 2018 1:39 pm

Hey maplealmond!

Thanks for the feedback!

I see your point about the throttle and how ship maneuvering should be bindable to other keys/buttons. I’ll bring it up to our programmer to see if there are any simple ways to implement these options.

We have a camera mode we made for HOTAS setups called Fixed, which I believe is what you’re looking for (correct me if I misunderstood)! You can change camera modes by pressing K.

As for your general feedback about flying, I agree that some of the ships are probably too slow. Introducing the upgrader now allows players to improve those starting inertia thrusters, increasing rotation speed, but perhaps there should be a general improvement to the starting ones on some of the larger ships.

I haven’t heard many reports about crews avoiding ship fights, but if that’s the case then one solution could be to add greater incentives to fight. We’ve been discussing ways to make piloting more engaging and we have a few ideas in the works. One such idea would be to add more clutter to sectors, giving pilots more options to find cover and fly through obstacles. If be curious to hear anyone else’s ideas on possible avenues we could consider.

Thanks again for the feedback!

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Re: The Uber Driver Pilot

Post by maplealmond » Sun Nov 25, 2018 9:03 pm

Hi Edinstein,

Fixing the throttle would be a huge step forward. As for the camera, the mode I'm using is, in fact, fixed mode. However, sometimes I want to look directly above or even behind, so I can see what the gunner has in-arc, or what I can dodge as we run away.

In fixed mode, when I use the hat to look left, the camera rotates towards the left slowly. When I let go, the camera rotates back towards fixed. What I ideally want is to have a bunch of buttons which lock the camera to a new direction. No slowly rotating camera around, bit quickly selecting new views. (I'd actually want the camera to move around the way orbit does.)

Increasing ship rotation from the get go would likely help dramatically. Every ship since the Intrepid has been, if I'm right, a bigger, slower version. Making the Intrepid *extremely* agile and even a hair touchy might not be a bad decision at this point.

Regarding crew avoiding ship to ship combat, it unfortunately makes a lot of sense from an incentive point of view. A total party wipe on an away mission doesn't end the game. Deaths don't even cost resources except time.

In comparison, a ship fight is an existential crisis, where every hit to the hull costs money to fix, and a ship wipe means game over. Given the choice between collecting resources in the early game from away missions and ship combat, away missions win every time.

I've been musing over how to fix this, but the fundamental design of the game makes this tricky. Perma-death for individual players isn't going to work, and perma-death for the ship is pretty much mandatory (though it can be avoided, a little, with save files.) . Adding costs to away mission deaths would help, but might result in players being frustrated with one another.

Ultimately, shifting the balance of risk reward between space combat and away missions is the goal. Easier space combat to start (the difficultly has been ramped up dramatically since alpha) would be nice. More clutter in space would make running more interesting. Space combat could benefit from more large, very long range but slower-moving rockets that can be avoided. (This was one of my favorite things about the ancient sentry -- having to stay moving all the time.)

More clutter in space would at make running more interesting. For close-in knife fights, increasing ship agility relative to projectiles (and keeping the heat cost of maneuvering low) would make a pilot who can dodge a great asset.

The addition of liars dice was a good idea to deal with downtime. Another fun downtime activity might be ring racing near repairs. Nothing complicated like the full crew race tracks (which I haven't tried yet as I can't find a crew that wants to give it a go.) Just a few light rings forming a time trial for a pilot to test out their ship and maybe show off their skill.

This leaves away missions as the last piece of the puzzle in the pilot experience. Each crew member has been given something that makes away missions interesting for them. Science gets the sensor and now the healing gun (great idea, BTW) and Weapons is generally better at the job of shooting. Not sure what would make the Pilot job more interesting here, but if I'm going to have to not-Pilot for a while, I'd like to do something cool while I'm at it.

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Re: The Uber Driver Pilot

Post by Loupyboy » Mon Nov 26, 2018 7:16 am

Fixing the throttle would be a huge step forward. As for the camera, the mode I'm using is, in fact, fixed mode. However, sometimes I want to look directly above or even behind, so I can see what the gunner has in-arc, or what I can dodge as we run away.

In fixed mode, when I use the hat to look left, the camera rotates towards the left slowly. When I let go, the camera rotates back towards fixed. What I ideally want is to have a bunch of buttons which lock the camera to a new direction. No slowly rotating camera around, bit quickly selecting new views. (I'd actually want the camera to move around the way orbit does.)
I'm always using hybrid view. That may be what you're looking for? I don't know, never really had that kind of problem.
Increasing ship rotation from the get go would likely help dramatically. Every ship since the Intrepid has been, if I'm right, a bigger, slower version. Making the Intrepid *extremely* agile and even a hair touchy might not be a bad decision at this point.
I tend to use the Carrier when I really want a fast ship, but I agree: the Intrepid isn't the most used ship anymore, and even though it's good to teach new players about the systems, it's pretty blank in comparison to other, more fleshed-out ships. Giving it more speed would be cool.
Regarding crew avoiding ship to ship combat, it unfortunately makes a lot of sense from an incentive point of view. A total party wipe on an away mission doesn't end the game. Deaths don't even cost resources except time.

In comparison, a ship fight is an existential crisis, where every hit to the hull costs money to fix, and a ship wipe means game over. Given the choice between collecting resources in the early game from away missions and ship combat, away missions win every time.
This is not true: in fact, repairs are cost-free, given that you're willing to see your Chaos level go up by a bit (you can kill the robot at the repair station and fix everything for free).
I've been musing over how to fix this, but the fundamental design of the game makes this tricky. Perma-death for individual players isn't going to work, and perma-death for the ship is pretty much mandatory (though it can be avoided, a little, with save files.) . Adding costs to away mission deaths would help, but might result in players being frustrated with one another.

Ultimately, shifting the balance of risk reward between space combat and away missions is the goal. Easier space combat to start (the difficultly has been ramped up dramatically since alpha) would be nice. More clutter in space would make running more interesting. Space combat could benefit from more large, very long range but slower-moving rockets that can be avoided. (This was one of my favorite things about the ancient sentry -- having to stay moving all the time.)
Well, I personally like the game the way it is, but they said that they'll sooner or later add a ton of options for a more custom gameplay experience (combat length, hull/shields, etc), so maybe speed and difficulty too?
More clutter in space would at make running more interesting. For close-in knife fights, increasing ship agility relative to projectiles (and keeping the heat cost of maneuvering low) would make a pilot who can dodge a great asset.
YES. YES. More things to hide behind, more stuff to loot, now that can't be something left behind (and also, it could be useful against the Deathseekers drones).
The addition of liars dice was a good idea to deal with downtime. Another fun downtime activity might be ring racing near repairs. Nothing complicated like the full crew race tracks (which I haven't tried yet as I can't find a crew that wants to give it a go.) Just a few light rings forming a time trial for a pilot to test out their ship and maybe show off their skill.
I have tested the races with my crewmates and it's insanely difficult if you're going for it at something like LVL 5... So I think that it's more of a mid-game/late-game thing. Still cool though.
This leaves away missions as the last piece of the puzzle in the pilot experience. Each crew member has been given something that makes away missions interesting for them. Science gets the sensor and now the healing gun (great idea, BTW) and Weapons is generally better at the job of shooting. Not sure what would make the Pilot job more interesting here, but if I'm going to have to not-Pilot for a while, I'd like to do something cool while I'm at it.
While there's an away mission, there's always something to do: helping the WS on-site, aligning to the next waypoint and starting up the jump, repairing components... Even beaming up the whole crew if there's nothing else needed (by initializing the jump). I mean, if there's one crew member waiting for the others on the ship (either Pilot or Engi), it's more than enough to do stuff while the others are away.
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Re: The Uber Driver Pilot

Post by maplealmond » Tue Nov 27, 2018 5:39 pm

I'll need to try Hybrid view out. I was pretty sure I tried every view out and found the camera controls lacking, but this was by far my smallest complaint.

The statement that repairs are free if you're willing to raise your chaos level sort of misses the point. Raising your chaos level is a cost (and indeed, ship combat in general can raise chaos level) so the game strongly encourages away missions. I don't dislike away missions on the face of it, but I find ship combat more interesting since its randomized instead of fixed setpieces.

The combat balance is a bit tricky because with a well oiled crew, it's not bad at all, but for a pickup game, you're limited by what everyone else wants to do, and what everyone else wants to do (in my experience) tends to be to avoid combat because of the costs. Combat *isn't* hard, but after getting blown up a few times, pick up crews seem to shy away from it.

I don't have statistical analysis, but of the 3 nights I dove into it, and the 6-7 crews I played with, exactly zero were interested in engaging in ship to ship combat. That means a giant chunk of the game, and the most interesting part for the pilot, was non-existant. This problem didn't exist earlier, in part because earlier combat was easier and because you had no other choice.

Races being fairly high level isn't a bad choice, but some easier low level races might be a fun starting point, for people to try it without having to get to the late game.
While there's an away mission, there's always something to do: helping the WS on-site, aligning to the next waypoint and starting up the jump, repairing components... Even beaming up the whole crew if there's nothing else needed (by initializing the jump). I mean, if there's one crew member waiting for the others on the ship (either Pilot or Engi), it's more than enough to do stuff while the others are away.
Helping the away mission on site is fine, but everything else you describe can usually be done in short order. Aligning to the new waypoint is about as uninteresting as you can get while still technically piloting. Most engineers of any competency will start the warp core up before going on the away mission and most engineers would prefer to be the one to activate the jump, since, after all, they need something to do. Repairing the ship is fine if there's damage, but if the ship perpetually avoids combat, there isn't.

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Re: The Uber Driver Pilot

Post by Edinstein » Wed Nov 28, 2018 6:57 pm

Just posting a quick message here letting you all know that Beta 20.3 was just released and tweaked a few thing about Piloting and ship combat.

Notes here: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=4356

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