Guide to Ships

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So, you want to pilot a ship? This is the guide for you. By the end, you'll know what all the buttons on the helm console do, and how not to accidentally fly into hazards.

Space Physics

In space, things don't stop moving unless you apply force on them. This is called the Law of Inertia. When you fire the engines on your spacecraft, it will keep gliding through space until you create a reverse-burn to slow yourself down. This is both good and bad; it lets you save fuel by making only a few maneuvers and then just continuing on that heading until you make a burn to come to a complete stop, but it's also bad news because it means that you'll glide right into an asteroid field if you don't slow down, and it means that you'll drift if you don't cancel your momentum properly. Remember: you're not going to change your momentum unless you fire the engines.

Ship directions

There are four main directions on a ship: Fore, Aft, Port and Starboard. Knowing each of these is vital if you wish to know how to effectively navigate a vessel or respond to general calls that do not include specific rooms.

  • Fore: The front of the vessel, typically the way the bridge is facing toward.
  • Aft: The rear of the vessel, the opposite from the fore.
  • Port: The left side of the vessel, relative to facing the fore.
  • Starboard The right side of the vessel, opposite the left.

Helm

The helm console is how you steer your spacecraft. You will be using this often. The helm console has three sections on it's interface: the Status section, the Movement section, and the Navigation section.

Status section

Watch this closely while moving. It provides information on the sector that you are currently in (each tile on the map is a sector). It also provides information on your speed, heading, and other useful information. Heading tells what direction the ship is moving, and speed tells how fast you're traveling in that direction. The status section also shows how long it will take to move to the next sector. This can be useful for gauging your speed. Remember that true diagonal movement is a myth, so when you are moving at, for instance, a 45 degrees heading, you'll first move left, and then up, or the other way around, but not directly to upper-left. Keep this in mind when you're flying close to asteroid fields and other hazards.

Movement section

There's three ways you can move the ship.

  • Using the buttons on the console. Pressing a directional button will apply acceleration in that direction, and pressing the central button applies a braking burn, bringing the ship's speed closer to zero.
  • Using direct control. When you press this button, the map will overlay your screen, and pressing it again will hide it. This map is taken from the sensors system; if you don't have sensors enabled, this mode won't work. While in direct control mode, in addition to the other two methods of movement, you can use the arrow keys to move between sectors.
  • Using autopilot. Just set the destination and turn it on. The autopilot will automatically move the ship to reach the inputted destination. Keep in mind the autopilot doesn't take an fuel-efficient route, and also ignores hazards, so be very cautious when using it, especially if you don't have shields, or low fuel.

All movement actions have a cool-down of a few seconds. Remember, leaving a sector leaves behind anything that's not the ship: including anyone that is EVA. Make sure to notify the whole crew about ship movement and allow people who are outside the ship to get back inside before you start moving, or otherwise you'll leave people floating aimlessly through space. If you happen to be doing EVA maneuvers when suddenly some bridge bunny moves the ship without any warning: refer to the last section of this guide.

Navigation section

Here you have a list of saved coordinates for various objects. You can delete them or add new ones as you wish. They can be used to quickly set autopilot. You can also use this to mark important sectors for navigation.

Sensors

Sensors are critical to piloting; they provide a map of the surrounding sectors, highlighting areas of interest and also displaying hazardous sectors. A sensor system has two parts: the Sensors Suite and the Sensor Console. The Sensors Suite is a very delicate machine that must be in a total vacuum to work properly, and can be damaged by space dust or bullets (use a welder to repair it). The Sensors Console allows you to control the sensor's range, and also view the map directly. When the sensors have an range over 3, the suite will begin to heat up. If you let it overheat, it can be damaged. Because of this, you should only raise the sensor suite above a range of 2 or 3 for short periods of time. Remember: hazards will block any sectors behind them from being visible!

Engines

Usually the engineers (and not the pilots) care about the workings of the engines, but it's good to know regardless. Ships move through space using thrusters, which work by expelling gas out behind them, pushing the ship forward. The propulsion you get from the thrusters depends on the pressure and mass of the gas. Mass is determined by the type of gas (Hydrogen, for example is very light; CO2, on the other hand, is very heavy). The pressure can be changed by heating up the gas: that's what the combustion chambers are for (though it's best to never use them). Other gas pressurization methods include heat exchange pipes running through the supermatter and expelling hot waste gasses.All of those are controlled via the Engine Console (conveniently located next to the Helm console on the Bridge). It has two tabs. On first one you can control the thrust limiter and status (on/off) of either all engines at once, or each of them separately. Thrust can be limited if you want to accelerate slower, or if you want to conserve fuel - limited burns consume less. The second tab displays status of the engines, which informs you if and why the engines aren't firing.

Hazards

There are many sectors on the map that are hazardous to travel through. These are indicated on the map, and being able to maneuver around these obstacles is a sign of good piloting. Nevertheless, there are some situations where you might need to go through these hazards to reach your destination.

  • Asteroid fields - Avoid these whenever possible (unless you have shields online). While inside an asteroid field, the ship will be bombarded by high-speed pieces of rock which will cause breaches everywhere without shields. If you're stationary, the meteor rate is only 25%. If your speed is 0.3 or lower, you'll get 60% of meteors. Moving faster than that and you'll get the normal rate; unless your speed is over 3, in which case you'll get twice the normal rate of meteors. Remember that if you're actively moving through a field, meteors will almost exclusively hit the fore of the ship. Moving the Torch through an asteroid field should not be done without shields. By moving through a field without shields set to block hyper-kinetic projectiles, you are endangering both the crew and yourself (because the bridge, being at the Fore, is a prime target for meteors).
  • Dust clouds - Much less dangerous, but still a hazard. High-speed dust will collide with the ship, damaging sensitive equipment like sensors and solar panels. The dust rates are not affected by your speed.
  • Electrical Storm - While in this sector, electronics will fail, lights will blow, and computers will do weird things. Make sure to go through this sector as fast as possible, if you must go through. Shields have a setting that can block the effects of the storm.
  • Ion Cloud - Messes with AI and borgs, giving then random laws. A shields setting will block this from happening.
  • Carp School - Probably the least-hazardous hazard... until someone goes EVA. Basically, it will spawn carp around your ship, which will happily munch on anyone that goes outside. It's best not to linger here.

Stranded

You slipped in space. An inexperienced bridge officer moved the Torch without warning, while you were EVA. You went EVA while the ship was moving. Regardless of the cause, you are now stranded in deep space.There's still hope for you though! But only if the ship isn't moving. If you float through space, you'll be teleported to a random z-level inside of the sector each time you hit the edge of the area you're in. That means that (if you get very lucky) you can bump into your ship again. If the ship moved out of the sector, then you're out of luck. On the bright side, you'll get a good view of the stars, until your oxygen runs out.