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Star Citizen 3.10 Flight Model Changes

Star Citizen Alpha 3.10 has some big changes to it’s flight and combat CI have released a post Flight & Fight – Upcoming Improvements that goes over some of these changes. We are going to take a look at the Flight Model Changes:

They are Making Flight More Dynamic in 3.10 with Thruster Efficiency Curves, Aerodynamics, and Jerk.

“We’ve made critical updates to flight performance for all ships, with thruster efficiency curves drastically changing the way thrusters work. In atmosphere, thrusters now lose efficiency and become much weaker. This is dependent on the ship and the thruster type to some degree, but ships in general will have much weaker thrusters in atmosphere and will behave differently.

Ships now also have individually simulated aerodynamic surfaces that contribute various small forces to the motion of the ship. Each force is dynamic and bespoke, allowing us to simulate wings of various kinds as well as flat plates and lifting body forces. Ships with wings are now able to stall, make level turns, lose speed in tight turns, and benefit from various aerodynamic features.

The aerodynamic interaction with wind is now more detailed, and you can expect the wind to push and pull ships in more complex ways. Breakable parts now affect aerodynamics, so a ship with a broken wing will no longer fly straight.

We’ve also increased the complexity of the thruster system for ships. Taking damage, powering down, or losing a thruster will now put the ship out of balance. You will experience unwanted rotations and instabilities in the ship’s control until you repair the damage.

Jerk is a core change to how ships move, both in space and within atmosphere, and is a measure of how quickly a ship’s acceleration changes. Previously, it was an infinite quantity. Now it’s finite, which means thrusters do not respond immediately to changes in acceleration. You can expect “weightier” feeling ships but with similar levels of maneuverability.

How will this impact the game experience?

By drastically reducing thruster efficiency in atmosphere, you’ll see a dramatic difference between flying and fighting around planetary bodies with atmosphere compared to battles in space. Since the aerodynamic forces are stronger in Alpha 3.10, flight is much less defined by a ship’s thrusters and more by its aerodynamics. This will really push the difference between space and atmospheric flight and add more depth and variety to Star Citizen.

Expect EVERY ship to behave differently and with a lot more character. For example, each ship has its own aerodynamic stability, so the Gladius will feel more stable when compared to the Hawk, which can turn faster but is much harder to control. Most ships are stable when flying forward, though strafing in atmosphere will cause various instabilities.

The new aerodynamic system also supports animating wings and parts, which we’ve not been able to do before. Ships like the Reliant, Hawk, and others that have moving wings will have a completely different aerodynamic feel after their parts have been animated.

One aim of this is to enable more engaging dogfighting. As we reduce the combat efficiency of a ship at high velocity, we encourage combat engagements at a lower speed, providing you with more time to launch a flight-maneuver or counter an opponent.

What’s coming next?

Our goal is to improve the vehicle experience further as we continue to work on the flight characteristics in atmosphere and space. Supporting animated aerodynamic surfaces also paves the way for working control surfaces, which will come in a future patch. Alpha 3.10 brings the very first changes, setting the stage for upcoming releases and further enhancements to the overall flight experience.

We are also going to further refine the difference between maneuvering thrusters and main engines. The concept is that maneuvering thrusters are built for quick pulses of high thrust for directional changes, while the main and VTOL engines are built for sustained thrust. This means that if you use maneuvering thrusters for sustained thrust, such as hovering for a prolonged time in gravity, they will have a lower thrust output and could overheat or misfire if used too long. This will further differentiate between ships in terms of space and atmosphere. Aerodynamic ships like the Gladius will be better suited to flying in atmosphere as the lift generated by their wings negate the need for maneuvering thruster to keep them aloft. But, if a pilot wanted to treat a Gladius like a helicopter gunship, they could only do this for a limited time before straining the thrusters, whereas a Valkyrie with four large VTOL engines would have no problem.

Once we’re happy with how atmospheric flight, thruster efficiency and jerk works, we will also look at the g-forces applied to the pilot to increase the sense of thrill and speed. Then, you can try to fly at your ship’s limit while taking fire or outmaneuvering attacks without falling unconscious.

For now, you should familiarize yourself with the new mechanics and test them excessively. We will then take a close look at your feedback and take your suggestions into account for further iterations of the new ship behaviors.”

My Thoughts

So 3.10 will see major changes to how each individual ship flies both in atmosphere and in space. Ship will feel more weighty, thruster damage and overheats will really affect your flight experience.

The Flight Model is getting in a position to be ready for Physicalized Components an the New Resource Transfer/Power Systems.

There have been a lot of criticisms of the Flight Model and atmospheric flight and these changes could go a long way to addressing them.

CI have said that 3.10 is targeted to release to LIVE in July… as far as I am aware that might be the first week of July though… BUT it will be based how the Evocati & PTU phases go.  

Once out everyone will be able to try the new system AND TWEAKS at the very least will be needed to get it into a better place, the vast amount of balance that’s needed for all the ships is unlikely to be done until later in development.