[GUIDE] CMDR Comrade Canum’s Flight School for Worthless Pilots

{I got tired of listening to all the wannabe pilots bicker about pilot attrition around LHS 3447. I always figured that if you’re stupid enough to want to be a pilot you should be smart enough to know what you’re doing.  Since that hardly seems the case anymore I decided to make this guide and dedicate it to all the noobs that became grease stains on the starport walls across the universe.}
 

 I, CMDR Comrade Canum, a loyal Knight of the Empire, am here to instruct you on how to get your sad, pathetic, and free Sidewinders off the landing pad and onto becoming something closely representing competent pilots.  I will assume that you’re smart enough to figure out the basics like downloading the game, logging in, and knowing the difference between Open, Private Group, and Solo play are.  So let us begin!

Above is the first sight that greets all new pilots. Good ol’ Trevithick Dock.  A whole lot of nothing in the middle of a great big nothing system.  Oh, I see you’ve noticed one slight difference between the color of my HUD and yours.  That’s what this training is about so just suck it up, buttercup, because I’m not telling you how to hack your HUD. To familiarize yourself with the HUD before I will explain what all this stuff is.  I’ll start in the top-left and work clockwise around the screen.  For all you combat monkeys just find an old fashioned clock and watch which way the arms move.  And, no, a digital clock will not help you with this.

COMMS - Ship-to-Ship and Station-to-Ship communications.  If you’re traveling with other pilots and not using your own private communication system and those pilots are on your Friends list you can hit the “2” button on your keyboard to bring up a list to talk with.  You can then navigate that list using the “W” and “S” keys.  Once you’ve picked the friend you want you can hit “Spacebar” to select them.  This will bring up a submenu for either Text or Voice comms.  If you need further instructions on this then just find the nearest airlock and space yourself.  Seriously.

INFO - Local information that pertains to you or other pilots nearby.  Not a lot goes on here, but if something pops you you may want to give it a glance.  There is no interaction with this window.

SQUIGGLY BAR ABOVE FUEL - This is a visualization of how fast you’re using fuel.  Yes, it looks pretty. You can let it dazzle you later, pay attention to me.

FUEL - What your ship runs on.  The bars beneath your consumption/hr is your tank’s fuel level gauge.  This runs out and you’re stuck flying at a coast.  Not a good thing so remember to always keep your tank full.  We’ll cover ways to do that later on.

MASS LOCKED - When this lights up then you’re within the gravity of something really large.  You’ll be able to fly, but you won’t be able to engage either your Supercruise or Frame Shift Drive.  Move far enough away from the object and you’ll escape it’s gravity well and be free to go faster than light.

LANDING GEAR - Unless you like scraping your hull across the landing deck it’s always a good thing to deploy these.  By default a simple press on the “L” key will extend or retract these.  If you’re outbound from a dock and can’t figure out why you cannot hit your boosters or FSD, check your landing gear.

CARGO SCOOP - Unless you’re out mining from asteroids or engaging in illegal activity, you probably won’t be using this feature. For those interested I will briefly cover this later on in the course.

SYS/ENG/WEP - This is your power allocation display.  Using the directional arrows on your keyboard you can adjust which systems get more power than others.  To add more power to SYS (Ship Systems, ie Shields, Life Support, etc..) press your Left Arrow.  For ENG (Engines) it is the Up Arrow.  For WEP (Weapons) use the Right Arrow.  To RST (Reset) to two pips in each category hit the Down Arrow.  Power allocation is crucial in some situations.  If you’re in a bad spot and need to run away from a more powerful enemy (just as I suspect most of you morons will constantly be doing) you would want to put four pips into ENG and the remaining two in SYS.  If you’re in a full-on furball fight (most likely with a novice Sidewinder pilot like yourselves) then you may want only one pip in ENG and the others evened out between SYS and WEP.  That would slow you down a considerable amount, but give your shields and your weapons a lot of power so you may at least have a fighting chance to actually survive.

To the left of all that is a display of your ship.  The ship with lean and pitch as you maneuver around to give you a sense of how your ship is moving.  The rings around your ship represent your shield.  As you notice you have three rings.  As you take hits those rings will dim and eventually blink out, one by one.  Once your shields are gone you start taking damage to your hull.  Which bring us to the display below your ship.  That’s your hull’s damage meter.  Keep it at 100% and you’ll win the day.  Let that go to 0% and you deserve the fate you end up with.

This location of your HUD has a couple of displays.  When docked it gives you access to the Starport interaction menu.  When you first land at a landing pad you will have 2 of the 3 options above.  The Return to Surface is replaced with Enter Hangar. At the time this picture was taken my ship was in the hangar bay so my options are as above.  You’ll need to used the “W” & “S” keys to navigate these options and then the “Spacebar” to select the one you want.

STARPORT SERVICES - There is a lot going on here. I will break it down step by step, for the benefit for those that are a little bit slower in the uptake. This Menu and it’s submenus can all be navigated with the mouse.

The simple stuff first:

  • Docking Station - Where you are.
  • Faction of the system you’re in - Who’s in control
  • Subfaction of the Faction of the system you’re in - The people who like to say they are in control
  • YOU - Really? I need to actually say this?  IT IS YOU!!
  • Your Credit balance - How much you have to spend.  Give up hope now.  You will never have as much as I do.

The Starport Menu:

Home - The current page seen above

Repairs - For those more detailed orientated pilots that like to repair each system individually 1% at a time.  (Really who would be this stupid?  There’s a Repair All action on the Home page!!)

Munitions (not available at this station) - For those more detailed orientated pilots that like to rearm each ballistic system individually 1 round at a time.  (Really who would be so stupid to need two submenus to do something like this?  There’s a Reload All action on the Home page!!)

Bulletin Board - Missions!  Missions!!  Missions!!!  All your elimination, supply run, and assassination missions are found here.  You can also find special missions that grant you system permits and faction ranks as you prove yourself.

Contacts - The local faction office.  Actually managed to shoot down an enemy and have a bounty to claim?  Go here.  Accidentally shoot at a local security officer or somebody that was innocent?  Go here to pay off your bounty.  Have some illegal cargo to unload.  Don’t tell anybody I said this, but go here.

Outfitting - Your Sidewinder is trash, but if you want to even try to make it into something worthy of true combat you’ll need to visit the Outfitter.  I’d go into more detail on what to do there, but that’s another class altogether.

Shipyard (not available at this station) - Tired of your lowly Sidewinder?  Think you have enough credits to buy a new ship? Go here and cry over what you’d like to have, but will never be good enough to earn.

Universal Cartographics - If you eventually figure out how to launch and not crash on liftoff you’re on your way to exploring the universe.  From the very start your ship with have a Basic Discovery Scanner.  This will get you on your way to discovering unexplored sectors of space.  Scan the right objects and you can sell your information here.

Exit - Self-explanatory for those with even just half a brain.

Middle Section:

The top half is fairly straight forward.  Your ship type, hull integrity, fuel level, &  fuel reserves.

The lower half are quick pay options and very clear for those with half-decent eyesight.

News - This is where you can catch up on the latest news and gossip.  Most of the time it’s useless junk, but once in a while some nice bit of insider information makes it way onto the board.  A good pilot will keep a sharp eye on these reports.

 Now that we’ve got some of the basic information out of the way I want to give you a couple of goals to aim for.  For that we’ll visit the Outfitter.

For now I’m bypassing the Hardpoint section in favor of a couple of key Internal items.  From top to bottom we have:

Armor - Your hull's armor plating.

Power Plant - Hydrogen reactor. The stuff of stars powers your ship.

Thrusters - Your ship not only have it’s main thrusters in the back, but it also has several maneuvering thrusters all over to help you move around in the great big vacuum of space.

Frame Shift Drive (FSD) - Flying around in normal flight mode is all nice and stuff, but to get anywhere you need to be able to manipulate time and space.  Within the system this will engage what we call SuperCruise.  Not nearly as fast as the full power of the FSD, but it’ll still get you up past the speed of light.  In full FSD you completely break the old laws of physics.  This is what really gets you around from system to system. And, the better the FSD the further you can travel between systems. Either mode is engaged and disengaged with the “J” key.

Life Support - Many of you will become very familiar with this system.  When your shield are gone, and your hull is taking a beating you’ll eventually crack your canopy.  This will result in the violent escape of the atmosphere in your flight cabin.  Your suit has a limited supply of oxygen and if you’re lucky you may just reach a station before it runs out.

Power Distributor - From shields, to weapons, to engines, everything needs power.  This system helps them perform better.  You shields won’t maintain or recharge their strength on the own.  You thrusters or FSD can’t power up without something linking them to the engine. Your weapons will run out of energy faster than you can sneeze from all the space dust if you can’t supply them with enough power.  As you upgrade this unit you’ll be able to send more power faster to all your subsystems.

Sensors - Picture this.  You’re in space.  You managed not to even FSD into a star.  You’re hunting pirates around a Nav Beacon.  Off in the distance you see a small speck.  At first you can’t tell if your tiny brain escaped your head and is floating in front of you or if it's actually a ship far out ahead of you. Then your sensors pick up the heat signature and you get a ship marker on your radar. Yup, that was your sensors working.

Fuel Tank - Thing that stores all the hydrogen your ship needs to do stuff.  You’ll automatically get the best one for any ship you ever buy.

Shield Generator - Yup, you guessed it.  It’s takes the power from the Power Distributor, that took the raw power from the Power Plant, that converted the hydrogen from the fuel tank into power.

Fuel Scoop - “Fuel Scoop is love, Fuel Scoop is life!”  Learn it, live it, love it!!  If you leave port without one of these and then run out of fuel midflight DO NOT EXPECT ANY HELP.  The Fuel Scoop allows you fly near most stars and collect the star’s expelled hydrogen and store it in your Fuel Tank.

Basic Discovery Scanner - As was mentioned earlier in this course, this is an explorer’s tool.  This will scan the system you’re in for planets, stars, and other system objects.  Passively it will alert you of anything close by.  Actively it will send a locate any unexplored object within the system.  If you’re close enough (distance can vary depending on the object) and facing that object it will give you more detailed information about the object.

The systems from Armor to Power Distributor are mandatory and cannot be replaced by anything other than a different version of that item.  Any item below the Power Distributor can be swapped out for upgrades, downgrades, or completely different systems.  In the future we may discuss the more advanced details of what those systems are and how to use them.  For now, I want to get back to the goals I mentioned earlier.  The first item I always suggest new pilots get is a Fuel Scoop.  Your ship will not come equipped with one and until you outfit one you will have to cautiously monitor your fuel levels and buy fuel at the stations you visit. The other systems you will want to work on upgrading are your Power Plant, Thrusters, and FSD.  If you want to make a name for yourself in anything other than destroying your ship over and over you need to be able to generate power to decent thrusters and travel more than just a few Light Years away. Your Power Distributor and Shield are also important and it is up to your own discretion on which system you feel is more important that another.

 

Now I’ll go over a couple of points on Hardpoints.

Your Sidewinder is only equipped with two Weapon mounts and two Utility mounts. In order to not confuse your brains too much I’ll just cover the weapons.  Laser weapons use power and require a good distributor to keep the capacitors charged. Lasers also direct-aim weapon.  Meaning they do not require any kind target leading to hit.   All the other weapons consume ammo of some sort.  With the exception of homing missiles, all these weapons require that you lead your target in order to hit it.  All these weapons come in a few different styles.

Fixed - Hard mounts that are fixed to point straight ahead.

Gimballed -  These are my favorite type of weapons. Your ship’s onboard computer will automatically aim at the right spot in order to hit your target.  The target does need to be in front of you within a conal range.

Turreted -  Found mostly on Capital ships, these mounts spin and pivot freely and do not require that your target be in front of you.

My suggestion is work on switching one of your laser weapons to a Gimballed laser (Beam, Pulse, and Burst are up to you)  and swapping the other one for a Gimballed Multi-Canon.  General rule of thumb is that lasers are good for taking down shields and ballistics are good against hulls.

Overall as you upgrade your ship systems, you need to watch your ship’s power & weight balance.

You Power Plant determines your available power use.  What you need to watch is the Deployed power usage.  If this number is higher than what you have available then other systems WILL shut down when you deploy your weapons and system scanners.  There is a way to prioritize your systems, but that is, once again, a different course.  A quick rundown of the rest of this info block is as follows.  Cargo Capacity is determined by your cargo holds, if equipped.  Fuel Capacity is the amount your tank can hold. Mass is the your ship Stripped down/Fully load.  Jump Range displays how far your FSD will take you in one jump.  It gives you three statuses: empty, current cargo weight added, fully loaded with cargo. The last item is your credit balance.  Your ship loves credits.  It tells you your current credit balance in many many HUD screens.

Ok, now is a good time to get up and stretch.  This has been a lot to learn and you’re feeble minds probably need a few moments to recover.  When you’re ready we’ll move on to preparing for take off and then, maybe, even leaving the station.

Plotting a course!!

Alright.  Feel better?  Ready to plot a course on your map?  You may think so, but you’re not.  Pay attention, noob!!

station13.jpg

Ok, to get to your left hand panel you need to hit”1” on your keyboard.  If you’ve learning anything you should know how to navigate system window using your keyboard.  For those that have been spending their time messing with their HOTAS here is a quick refresher.

  • W=Up
  • S=Down
  • Q=Tab Left
  • E=Tab Right
  • A=Move Left within tab
  • D=Move Right within tab
  • Spacebar=Select

Now, since the current system is void of anything interesting we’ll be plotting a course for the  Eravate system.  This can be done in two ways.  We can use the Navigation tab and scroll through the Location listings and we can also select the Galaxy Map.  For easy of use I will just focus on the Location listings. Scroll down through the listings until you locate ERAVATE.

station13.jpg

There is a lot of pointless junk in LHS 3447 so it’ll be down the list a ways.  Once you’ve located ERAVATE you can then select it and it is then added to your ships navigational computer as a waypoint. Press the “1” key again and it will close the panel and you’ll be looking out the front of your ship again. If you think you’re ready then select Return to Surface and we’ll get you ready for an actual liftoff.

Before you get ahead of yourself and crash your new ship right into the station’s control tower, take a moment and review some basic flight controls.  Your Pitch and Roll is controlled by your mouse by default.  I, and a few others, prefer to swap the mouse Roll control to Yaw.  By default Yaw is bound to the “A” and “D” keys and these were swapped to take over the ship’s Roll.  (This can all be down within the game’s Options > Controls menu.)  I recommend that you practice with it both ways until you find your personal preference.  Since your ship has multiple maneuvering thrusters your ship is capable of vertical and strafing movement.  Pressing “R” will raise your ship vertically and “F” will lower it.  “Q” and “E” will slip your shift left and right.  Your main engines are controlled by “W” to throttle up and “S” to throttle down.  Pressing “X” will cut engines to idle.  Once your engines are at idle (this is not the same things as your ship’s momentum or current speed) you can use “S” to reverse thrust.  This can be used to decrease your forward momentum faster than the default thrusters or to even travel in reverse.  

Got it?  I doubt it, but here we go anyways.  Go ahead.  Select Launch.  I hope you said your goodbyes to anybody sorry enough to care about you.  Dont’ forget to use your lift thrusters (“R”) and pitch away from the landing pad.  The station can a whole lot more of a beating than your ship.

So how was it?  I’m sure that bump was nothing.  Just a little paint scratched off.  That’s hissing? I’m sure it’s no big deal.  Oh, did you remember your landing gear?  Ya, didn’t think you’d remember that one.  Hit your “L” button and you’ll be able to travel a little faster. Before you go blasting off into a Black Hole or something else exotic why not you throttle back a bit and take a look at this.

Remember that Station menu that was at the lower middle of your HUD?  Well, while you were panicking over your horrific launch from the pad it was replaced with this.  That big circle in the middle is your radar. The triangle mark in the top quarter of the radar display is you.  The pie shaped wedge extending from your marker is the front viewing angle of your ship.  All the rest is beside or behind you.  Objects in your local space will have show up as blips with these weird tails on them.  If the tail is extending above the blip then that object is below your horizontal plane.  If the tail extends below the blip it is above your horizontal plane.  The blips and their tails will move, shrink, and grow as you maneuver your craft through space.

The curved sliders on either side of your radar represent your throttle, to the right, and your ship’s heat, to the left.  As you press and hold “W” you’ll see the throttle gauge move up.  Using “S” will move the throttle gauge back.  Remember, you’re in a near vacuum.  Basically the only thing that slows you down are you ship’s thrusters.  So if you’re flying at max throttle and want to slow down it may take your ship some time to actually slow down to the reduced speed setting you set it to.  Plan ahead and you’ll live a lot longer.  The heat gauge can be ignored most of the time.  It will become important when you’re Fuel Scooping near a star or engaging your FSD/Supercruise near a object of any substantial mass (yes, even a Type-9 can be a nuisance).  Your ship’s systems can handle a little overheating, but you don’t want to let it get away from you.  Around 125% you need to start worrying, a lot.  At 150% your ship’s systems become compromised and you will start frying systems and taking hull damage. It’s best to keep it at 105% or lower till you gain more confidence.  Who am I kidding?  About 90% of you will go out and test the melting point of you hull in your first jump.

Ok, almost ready to jump to ERAVATE.  One more item to point out that’s next to your radar.  It’s your target locater.

This little guy can be your best friend.  Notice how it’s positioned slightly to the left of the crosshair and that it’s also a hollow dot or circle?  That tells me two things.  First and simplest, my target (my jump point to ERAVATE) is to my left.  The second thing it tells me is that it’s behind me.  The dot will show up as hollow for anything that’s behind you and solid for anything that is in front of you.  Pilot your ship till that circle becomes a dot and is center in the crosshairs.  You should also see that your forward HUD displays the nav marker on your viewscreen.

Ok, you just might be ready to engage your FSD.  Remember how to do that?  No?  Hopeless, simply hopeless?  Did I have to hold your hand as you figure this out?  Make sure you’ve throttled up to max and that there is nothing obstructing your path.  Now go ahead and hit “J”.  Anything?  No?  It didn’t work?  Did you see if you were still Mass Locked?  We covered this already, but you must have been admiring your slick flight suit or something.  Get far enough away from the station and try it again.  See you on the other side!

I hope.

Well, it looks likes we may have a few potential pilots.  It looks like a solid one-third of you actually survived your first jump!  Oh, don’t cry about those that didn’t make it.  There are some dedicated rescue crews that may be able to save them.  Don’t ask me how they manage to save them from within a star, but I’ve seen it done. For the rest of you you should be looking at flying in Supercruise around ERAVATE’s star.  I want you throttle to idle (do not drop from Supercruise, just reduce your SC speed), to go to your Navigation window, and find and select the local Nav Beacon.  If you’ve survived this long it should be easy to do that.  Pilot your ship till you’re facing the waypoint and you should have a view out your cockpit like this.

There’s a few things I want you to notice here.  One is the info on the waypoint display directly in front of your nose.  This gives you the distance and the time it would take you to reach your destination at your current speed. Then there is the Target window to the lower left.  This gives you basically the same information, but laid out a little differently.  Your colors will be a bit different from mine, but you should be able to figure out what I’m about to explain.  See the YELLOW marks on both the Distance and Speed gauges? When the indicators for each of these gauges are in the YELLOW then you can safely drop out of Supercruise and be at the waypoint you’ve selected.  Now, back to the waypoint marker on your forward viewscreen.  As you throttle back up you’ll see that the time to target dramatically starts to drop.  A good time to aim for is around 7-10 secs.  This will be a little tricky to understand till you actually experience it.  As you get closer to the waypoint your computer will begin to throttle your speed back and timer will not drop as fast.  While your computer is very good you may have to do some of your own throttle adjustments, but keep in mind the goal of 7-10secs on the timer.  Do this well and you’ll be less likely to overshoot the waypoint and have to circle back.  Give it a try. When you’re within the right range and speed you’ll see a Safe Disengage alert.  You can hit you “J” key at any time then.

Did you overshoot the Nav Beacon?  It’s ok. Even experienced pilots do from time to time. You have to remember that we’re subject to the gravitational pull of planets, stars, and other large objects out there.  These gravity wells can slow you down or speed you up and that makes it hard to control your speed at times.  The good thing is that you made it.  

You may now notice that you are not the only one at the Nav Beacon.  A lot of these other pilots are just going about their business moving freight or exploring the local systems, but a few are up to no good.  Just like you targeted the Nav Beacon you can target local ships.  This can be done a couple of ways as well.  The easiest way is to aim your ship at the other craft and hit “T”.  If it’s within range the computer will  highlight it and you’ll see the Target Info screen start displaying information about the pilot and his ship. Another way is to navigate your left panel to Contacts and scroll through the list there and select the ship you want to target.

As you can see here I have targeted Karl Frankton in his Anaconda.  His Pilot ranking is listed as Dangerous and he is marked as Clean.  A ranking notes how good a pilot he is and his status as Clean means he doesn’t have a bounty by the current system’s faction.  If I were to attack him it wouldn’t necessarily be a good thing.  Attacking a Clean target will immediately put a bounty on my head and the local security will start gunning for me.  With him being also Dangerous means that his skills are very good and with his ship being an Anaconda, which is just below a Capital grade ship, means he packs a serious punch. You’ll also notice my computer gives me a display of his ship and its shields.  This guy is not to be messed with, especially with a Sidewinder.

I’ve given you a lot to work with and to think about so I’m only going to cover a few small items and then leave you on your own.  A good way to try out your new skills is to get in a fun furball with another pilot.  Fly around this area and look for somebody marked as Wanted.  Make sure they’re a lowly Novice like yourself and flying something weak like your Sidewinder.  Then close to within 3Km, hit “U” to deploy your weapons, and go at them.  After you’ve done that for awhile use the skills I’ve taught you to locate the nearest station and claim your bounties.

Oh, wait.  I guess there is one final bit of advice.  When you find a station that you want to dock at, please be nice and ask for permission first.  They really appreciate that and they’ll be less likely to shoot you into dust.  The same side panel that has the Navigation tab also has a Contacts tab.  When you’re approaching the station in normal flight select the station under Contacts and that will give you a pop-up menu to Request Docking.  If you’re within 7.5Km they’ll be nice and give you a landing pad number and 10 minutes to land.  Don’t take too long to land either.  If you don’t land in time they will see you as violation their landing zone and shoot you.  Don’t take it too personally.  The station managers just like to run a tight business.