Space Sim Pet Peeve – A Lack of Decent Targeting Controls

You may also like...

17 Responses

  1. hume says:

    I’m taking notes, Brian. Good stuff.

    What do the vast majority of space sims get wrong? Targeting is right up there. Definitely. I’m trying to give X3 another chance and I’m finding the targeting not quite fine-grained enough, but worlds better than “next, next, next.”

    It does add complexity, but it ruins immersion to leave it out. Seriously, you put hyperdrive on this thing but not a computer that can give me the next target marked in red?

    I’d actually love to read a series of articles on things a lot of space sims get wrong. I’ve been searching the site and I don’t see any indication of how you feel about frictionless games like the late, lamented Jumpgate was — that’s always a lively discussion and I’d love to hear your take.

    • Brian Rubin says:

      GREAT IDEA, ME STEELS! ;)

      And wait, by frictionless, do you mean Newtonian based? JG had an odd hybrid engine, which was based on Newtonian physics, but still had drag. It wasn’t tough to acclimate too, but it was kinda weird.

      But yeah, more op-ed’s on these would be great. I did have some “best worst” articles, but this could build on those. :)

      Anyway, glad you liked it, thanks!

      • hume says:

        Aw man, my memory of JG is fading already :( Okay, so less-friction instead of friction-less.

        Yes, I did mean Newtonian. From one of my recent developer-targeted rants: “Isaac Newton died nearly three hundred years ago. Atmospheric-style physics in a space game shouldn’t be acceptable to anyone.”

        For the targeting yardstick, I always go back to the X-Wing functionality. Cycle all, cycle friendly, cycle enemy, target what’s under the pipper, and (so many games miss this) save target. If all that is present, I’m a happy guy.

        It sounds like Freespace 2 did it better, but played through the Freespace series so fast that I don’t remember them very well. Ah, salad days.

        • Thade780 says:

          Remember R for closest enemy! ;)

        • Brian Rubin says:

          X-Wing pretty much became the benchmark, until Freespace 1 and 2 — especially 2 — took everything good before it, melded it all together, then improved upon it. ;)

          And the “WWII turn-and-burn” style of gameplay is perfectly viable since many movies also follow this approach.

  2. Linh Ngo says:

    This is one of my pet peeves as well. Not to toot our horn too much, but situational awareness was one of the most important UI design goals for us. In Dangerous, not only are all ships (neutral, enemy, ally, wingman) listed in the Contacts list, but their active modules are listed. Even more, each module indicates whom it’s targeting by colored brackets around the specific module.

    So at a glance, you can tell who is shooting/repairing/jamming what at whom. This helps you prioritize targets and is especially useful since you can specify a different target for any of your modules. It also comes in handy in escort and hijacked ship missions. As an example, you can sensor dampen one target to temporarily take it out of the fight while you deal with others.

    For Dangerous 2, we’ll probably expand this to let people target individual modules as well.

    • Brian Rubin says:

      After reading this, I finally took your game for a spin. While the tutorial kinda flew by, and I missed some buttons here and there, it didn’t take too long to figure targeting out. Nice stuff. :)

  3. In the context of assisted-targeting being a staple of SF space gaming, it makes sense to always have the function active by default, but there are instances where it makes sense not to.

    I’ve been playing a fair bit of Freelancer and the Crossfire mod, the latter of which is kind of an extended remix + hardcore mode in which you have to lead your targets. It’s very old-school WWII/Elite and makes no sense given the SF setting, but as a game it makes Freelancer combat very challenging. (Probably too challenging if I’m honest, which is why I’ve gone back to vanilla FL.) My point is that some people like that kind of thing. Not many, but some.

    As for SOL’s limited targeting options, I think that really comes down to a desire to limit controls in a market where the old space sims are seen more as action games. I assume developers have to stick with what is common to FPS and/or consoles, which is unfortunate.

    • Brian Rubin says:

      Oh, I’m not talking about lining up your target, though that can be a problem in some games, I’m talking about being able to select the specific target you need to attack next, like the incoming torpedo or the guy attacking the freighter you’re escorting. I think any space sim worth its salt should have those AT MINIMUM.

      • I have to say it’s never bothered me much, but if you’re required to target sub-systems and missiles in order to succeed, there should be a shortcut to do that, I agree. A single ‘Next target’ button that’s contextual with the mission objectives should more than suffice though, and often does in my case.

        • Brian Rubin says:

          Contextual with mission objectives? Could you give an example of this, because I surprisingly can’t think of one.

  4. as a newcomer to Freespace 2. i gladly welcomed the ‘lock on to whatever is in your crosshairs’ button. Freespace has a button for everything doesn’t it lol. sorta like all those smart phone commercials and what-not, want to do so-and-so…there’s an app for that :p

    • Brian Rubin says:

      It DOES have a button for everything. The best are “target closest attacker” and “target attacker of my target”. Love those.

  5. nes says:

    Oh man do I miss freespace 2 and TIE fighter. Those were the games that hooked me in to sci-fi and video games.

    I have always felt that the targeting methods of most games are down right absurd. It wouldn’t be particularly hard for the command carrier or such to provide a list of priority targets, and then your ship to sort by priority and relative distance. Not to mention, multiple target tracking. Why does a ship, that can fire off accelerated bolts of plasma, or launch FOF guided missiles not have a targeting computer at least as powerful as the US Navy’s AEGIS ? The public specification says over 100 targets, and we in the far far future can track only one?
    Implementing a priority target system wouldn’t be difficult either. Is it attacking a protected objective (mothership, station you are defending, ship you are escorting?) add some priority. Is it deadly by packing heavy firepower? (bombers, capital ships with massive energy weapons ala freespace.) add some more priority. How far away is it? if its clear on the other side of the system, its not likely a priority.
    Then of course artificial priorities. Those light drones over there can’t do much, but they can shoot down our massive ordinance… take them out first.

    • Brian Rubin says:

      Yeah, that’s what I loved about games like Freespace 2 which had an “Escort List” of priority targets to keep a keen eye on. I can’t think of a game that would use an AWACS system like you suggest, honestly, but it would totally make sense.

      • nes says:

        I believe the X3-x3:tc games (with some mods maybe?) can target multiple bogies. But only with turrets. Like you assign a turret to ‘x target type’ then go back to fighting with your forward guns.
        But its klunky and difficult. I do remember assigning one of my turrets to anti-missile duty and the others to target any nearby hostiles.

Chime In!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.