Star Citizen: Arena Commander has been out for a couple of weeks and the development team has been avidly keeping track of user comments and criticisms. Two of the most common issues tracked by the team are the flight model and the input controls. In a special "From the Chairman" blog, Chris Roberts takes time to discuss the design decisions made by the team, including how they affect Arena Commander and the larger game at release.
Most space games (including my past ones) greatly simplify the simulation, usually as an atmospheric flight model without gravity and air resistance – ships have predefined pitch, roll and yaw rates, linear acceleration (that is applied to a simplified point mass) and a capped top speed. When you want to turn, the joystick or mouse input is mapped directly to the specified turn rate irrelevant of the ship’s moment of inertia. Damage is usually handled as a multiplier on the turn rates and linear acceleration.
Star Citizen doesn’t do that. We model what would be needed on an actual spaceship, including correct application of thrust at the places where the thrusters are attached to the hull of the ship – in our model moment of inertia, mass changes and counter thrust are VERY necessary. Star Citizen’s physical simulation of spaceflight is based on what would actually happen in space.
Roberts further elaborates that this is far from a perfect system given its complexity. However, knowing this was one of the primary driving forces behind getting Arena Commander into the hands of backers and to gather intel on what players think.
The second major topic Roberts explains is Control Devices. The debate has been strong with sides coming down along the lines of mouse / keyboard controls vs joystick controls. Roberts explains that neither system should be construed as having an advantage over the other and that the team is working to address concerns from the community.
Further topics of discussion include: