My thoughts on variants of realistic autopilot (flight assistant) systems
Could be my first post or sth. Heh.
Anyway, since I’m still learning how to control that damn ship (lack of time, mostly, prevents me from gaming much these days), I must say it needs a lot of practice to get used to a flight simulator again. I’m getting better, but gradually, and since many “beginner’s aids” will probably come very late or even in the final release, it just takes more patience than I can sometimes muster.
And one of the issues – surprise, surprise – is landing. Docking, mostly, never tried anything else, well, supercruise, but gonna get to that later.
I believe an automated landing system (AUTOLAND or ILS – Instrument-Aided Landing System) should definitely be mandatory on all ships and part of the basic programming of the flight computers. Anything else would be rather unrealistic. But before you scream “but where’s the freedom?!?”, hear me out: I fully support the “only some stations and planetary starports have it” notion.
If you build a space station worth billions of credits, you really don’t want some rookie pilot blow up on your landing pads. The shrapnel alone (remember, near zero gravity) would cause such vast amounts of damage that no amount of trading would compensate for it. In fact when I practiced yesterday, three ships (!) blew up within the docking bay whilst I carefully positioned myself to land (and actually managed to). If I had had a tractor beam, I could’ve landed with a full cargo hold! Clean-up must be murder for those ground crews. And then take planets, the pollution by the ships blowing up would be worse than anything else (nuclear waste transporter smashing into passenger hall, anyone?). People’s lives would be lost – realistically.
Of course this will hardly be implemented, no space station will be ripped apart by shrapnel and no planet spaceport and population eradicated by a beginner hitting the tower. However, I hope you see my point why I believe an ILS system for bigger spaceports and stations should be mandatory.
My idea here would be that you can only use the ILS under certain circumstances. The first and foremost: Your target dock must have ILS support. If not, say a small mining company’s port or a fledgling settlement, you’re screwed, do it yourself. Secondly: Your ship must be undamaged. A flight computer cannot compensate for defective stabilizers, propulsions or other hull damage. It should be possible for bigger ports to in fact deny you landing without ILS, or direct you to their most remote ports (or an emergency landing dock). Thirdly, the target dock must not be under attack, during an attack most ports should immediately close landing altogether, or the said emergency landings. And fourth, you must be within the No-Fire-Zone to activate your ILS.
Those are simply my thoughts about the issue. I believe it would make the game more realistic, plus flight between or towards the more well-established trading ports easier (also a beginner’s issue). The more remote your target, the higher the trading gain should be – and of course the less ILS support should be offered.
Oh, and flight computers should take damage. Both targeting systems and any form of ILS.
Now, the autopilot for the supercruise idea…I know many oppose it, way more than autoland, but I see a point in it. Supercruise is a freakish waste of time so far. Well, aside from the occasional crash out of supercruise, of course. Pirates seem to have the ability to disrupt supercruise, anyway, so why is it impossible to just supercruise to a target station that is well established without having to manually adjust the flight path (if even necessary) or speed (which basically already mostly works on itself)?
A basic flight assist is not something within the realms of fantasy, in fact I know several real airplane pilots these days hardly know how to fly their planes in a shaky situation anymore, since most of their stuff is just technical flight assistant entries and supervision. It should be possible to get a – maybe imperfect? – flight assistance for your ship’s computer. And I know I read the comments of “what do you want, read a book while you play the game” and other rather populistic raves, but in fact I already CAN read a book (or drink some tea and chat with the stewardesses) while supercruising, the minimal adjustments taking hardly any time, and only emergency exits due to attacks and the occasional proximity warnings are even taking my attention.
An imperfect flight assistant – say, due to miscalculations because it’s an upgrade, or due to objects of mass like asteroids and comets altering the path – for supercruise would not only be sensible and realistic, but also add another “better focus on the game” aspect. You best supervise your flight assistant while it’s working, otherwise you might miss that he miscalculated and smack directly into a planet.
And free flight supercruise is always still an option – nothing should give you a higher trade gain than mining your stuff yourself from an asteroid or flying through a system that simply is too crowded (with objects like asteroids and protoplanets) to an important military outpost to deliver the long awaited shipment of liquor and entertainment systems.