There’s nothing quite like that first flight through space in Arena Commander. The kind of control afforded the player is nothing like what’s been encountered before in a game, and for many (including
myself), it only encouraged them towards further mastery, which more often than not means
dogfighting. Whether you plan on becoming a full-time soldier or a space bum, knowing how to
dogfight is a valuable skill; it forces you to push your ship to its very limits and get to know it better
than would normally be demanded, meaning when that stressful situation does arise, you’ll be able to
fly how you need. This article aims to take many of the principles of dogfighting and condense them to
their most basic elements. If you want more specific maneuvers, you may want to look at the Imperial
News Network’s Legacy Instructional Series. But if you’re looking for a way to quickly up your game,
this is the place to be.
Your loadout alone will not guarantee you victory, but it definitely can help by increasing your
potential DPS, or Damage per Second. Balance has changed from patch to patch, but there are a few
things that remain consistent. First of all, in Arena Commander, the current most viable option for
fighters is something called “monoboating,” which means piling on many of the same weapon as
possible. Even pilots who don’t have the money to drop on the game will use their rental credits to
match this strategy. The reason it’s so popular (and effective) is because, by having all of the same
weapon, the projectile velocity from the weapons line up as well, meaning it’s possible to have all guns
blazing on a target at once.
Sometimes, however, a pilot will not want to give up a much larger weapon, such as the
Vanguard’s hefty main cannon. In these cases, there are two options: either equip your ship for two
different engagement ranges, or match the two different weapons’ projectile speeds. This way, the PIP
will remain singular, or almost singular, and allow for the highest DPS possible.
This, however, is likely not to be viable forever. The damage models are still in early concept,
and it’s entirely possible that a combination of energy and ballistic weapons will be necessary in order
to most efficiently eliminate enemy craft. It should be understood that these loadout strategies apply
only as it stands in Alpha patch 2.2 and is liable to change soon.
Six degrees of freedom, or 6DoF, is one of the things that makes Star Citizen stand out. Admittedly, this
is much more difficult with a keyboard, but if you can manage it, strafing is easily the most powerful
flight tool in Star Citizen. Very soon in a pilot’s career, they will find their skill capped until learning
how to strafe effectively. It’s possible to move forward, backward, left, right, up, down, and to roll. The
best thing a pilot can learn after turning is strafing; learn to fly in every direction comfortably, and
everything else will come much more naturally. This may mean just flying between asteroids in Yela
for a couple of hours or messing around in free flight, circling asteroids, but it will be well worth it for
the pilot that wants to become more comfortable in the cockpit.
When someone starts dogfighting in Star Citizen for the first time, there’s a tenancy to track a target
vertically. However, the issue with this is that it’s very easy to black out doing so. There’s also a
misconception that the best way to counter this is by placing the target horizontally relative to the ship
and yawing, but this will often take advantage of fewer thrusters. The most efficient way to track a
target, therefore, is to place them somewhere diagonal, so that some pitch and some yaw is necessary in
order to hold the target. If the pilot starts blacking out, then they can roll so that more horizontal
movement is used.
The issue of blacking out rears its ugly head in strafing as well. When circling a target, the
vertical strafe should be eschewed in favor of horizontal strafing, and angle should be changed by
rolling. Again, more advanced maneuvers may be found in the Legacy Instructional Series, but
adhering to these general rules will do you well.
Relativity is a wonderful thing. In dogfighting, relative velocities are one of your most important tools,
and the PIP, or Projected Impact Point, is how you utilize this tool. However, there are a few properties
that, govern the PIP that should be understood. First of all, the PIP does not show where the ship will
actually be, since clairvoyance is still beyond the reaches of the technology of the far future. Instead, it
only shows where the ship will be if it continues with its current momentum, which means firing
directly at the PIP will sometimes not net you a hit.
There are ways to increase the accuracy of the PIP, however. The first, and the most obvious, is
to close distance on your target, thus giving the projectiles a larger cross-section. There is another, more
accessible way, however: to match your velocity with your target’s velocity. This is reliant upon the
pilot’s strafing capabilities, but if done correctly, it’s possible to line up a ship with its PIP even at very
high speeds (relative to the surroundings, of course). This should be done carefully, though, since the
PIP for the enemy is drawn close, as well.
The inverse is also true: if you can increase your speed relative to your opponent, it can become
nigh impossible for the other ship to draw a bead. If you’re using a lag PIP, then strafing in the opposite
direction of the PIP will push it farther away, ergo making you more difficult to hit, while the opposite
will perform the same function for a lead PIP.
These broad categories are gross simplifications of dogfighting techniques that can take a long time to master, but
just practicing and keeping these things in mind will vastly improve a new dogfighter’s capabilities. If
you want to learn more, click here to go to the Legacy Instructional Series, where these principles are
expanded into full-blown exercises and maneuvers. Whatever path you take, stay safe, citizens.