Beams, Beams and More Beams

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Beams, Beams and More Beams

Post by the-anger on Thu Dec 20, 2012 4:45 am

it would take quite the ego for one to say they are the best at anything... i do though, consider myself quite good with beams, and wrote out my process and observations some time ago. with minor edits, here is a copy for all to learn from...


The beam cannon is a tricky weapon to aim, as you no doubt have discovered if you're reading this.

Firstly, you need to understand how the beam cannon works... Here are some tips to get you started...

  • It is more cannon than beam, with the projectile just traveling very very fast - 3500 m/s (approx 11x faster than a sidewinder).
  • It is the most ranged weapon after nuke/torp, reaching a max of 1960m when upgraded.
  • Due to its extreme numbers in speed and distance, it is absurdly difficult to aim without being very aware of your target's movements patterns including relative distance, absolute motion and absolute position. (at first anyway, more on this soon). Simply put, it is folly to try to aim a beam cannon by point-and-click-on-target alone - the speed at which the projectile travels compared to the movement of pretty much everything else in the game is beyond average human perception to tell apart quickly enough to the accuracy required. (going by the fact that humans can't compare things visually, reliably, that have a magnitude ratio exceeding 1:7 - beams are 1:11 and as far as 1:20 for some situations).
  • Due to the extreme range, certain aiming artifacts become more important to compensate for. Most notably, all guns don't fire exactly at your reticule, rather, wherever your reticule is pointing up to a max distance is where the guns will fire towards - for beams this results in having to aim slightly 'above' your target at close range and very slightly 'below' near max range because of the angle formed.
  • The nighthawk's beams converge into a loose X shape, meeting approximately at 1400-1500m before diverging again. This effectively makes the dual beam cannon's optimal range at 1300-1400m, where the odds of only one beam hitting are low compared to both hitting.


Aiming the Beam Cannon in general

  1. Identify the following of your target: Relative Distance, Absolute Position and Absolute Velocity.
  2. Visualize the trajectory the beam must take to hit your target and start aiming in that general area.
  3. Estimate the length of time necessary for the beam to travel to your target, and begin tracking where your target will be in that amount of time instead of where they are now.
  4. Refine your visualizations and estimates until you're confident of a hit.
  5. IMA FIRIN MAH LAZER NAO

1. Identify where your target is and how they are moving

Relative distance = distance on screen.
Absolute position = where your target is on the map (NOT where they are on your screen).
Absolute velocity = how absolute position changes as you're tracking your target.

The whole trick to this step is figuring out absolute position, once you have that it is only needed to figure out absolute velocity. To that end you only need to be able to keep track of absolute velocity and relative distance. So basically, observe their absolute velocity by taking cues from static objects' positions relative to your target (eg, asteroids, rocks, the background stars / skybox, carriers, etc...).

2. Visualize the trajectory and form a rough direction to aim in

Without thinking, you should be able to roughly have an idea of where to fire to land a hit, as well as when. Visualize the possibilities but don't dwell on them, just take note of which shots you are able to take and which you will ignore, as well as looking for other opportunities to line one up. This is the step least necessary but helps when learning.

3. Estimate the beam travel time to target, predict where the target will be then instead of following where they are now

Ok. I wont lie - this is the hardest step and it comes with practice faster than any other way. But I can still explain what to look for so when you do it you will know if you did it right... With that I'll explain it in 2 parts.

3a. Estimate the beam travel time to target

Not difficult to do, but takes some practice to learn the 'feel' for distance vs travel time. The most important thing to note is to refine this 'feel' even when you miss - every miss should be observed and used to refine your perception of distance<->time with beams. It takes me 2-4 shots playing fresh to re-establish it, but at first it may take you a few rounds depending on how many targets you find to practice on (moving targets essential).

If you're finding it too difficult to learn by feel alone (happens to me as well on some days) you can refer back to the beam projectile travel speed to work it out backwards - 3500m in one second, 1750 in 0.5 seconds, 875m in 0.25 seconds, 438m in 0.13 seconds. For this method you need at least some sense of time and rhythm (eg, being able to count off 1/4 seconds with a moderate-low margin of error), but in the end it is still a guide to establishing an instinct for calculating timing by distance. (i use the same method with a swordfish to snipe to 900m, and the results speak for themselves).

I've said it already but i can't stress it enough that learning to feel out the travel time based on distance alone is crucial to having good aim with beams (and godlike aim with everything else given enough practice).

3b. Predict where your target will be

This is the really intense part, and where you will be spending 90% of your aiming time. Once you know how long the beam will take to reach your target, you have to compensate for your target moving in that time. The net effect is that based on the target's distance to you, predict where they will be by up to (approx) half a second ahead. The difficulty here gets about as hard as hitting a moving target with a machine gun at 450m, with 3/4 shots hitting or better (this is now a common occurrence for me as consequence of learning beams), but not much harder than that at any time.

For a target that is at the same distance (more or less) but still moving, this isn't hard to do, you just have to watch their absolute velocity and keep watch for an opportunity where they are moving predictably (either accelerating in/out of a turn or flying in a straight line, but you can get as creative as you like here tbh).

The challenge is when the target is changing their distance to you relatively quickly - in the most extreme case, a fast ship flying at you at a slight angle (or away from you). There is a trick to this... when tracking where your target is exactly (their absolute position / velocity), keep note not of where they will be in space, but where on your screen they will be in (up to) half a second from now. Earlier i said not to track them this way and that still applies, but you have to know how the target will move relative to your view so you know where to aim, and to do this effectively you have to be aware of their absolute velocity and position first.

4. Refine visualizations and estimates until you're confident of a hit

While the other steps are harder to learn, this one takes the longest to appreciate - knowing when to wait an extra fraction of a second before firing and when to fire without hesitation is something that cannot be taught, it comes only with practice. Again, I can enlighten what to look for but the rest is up to your own ability.

This step more or less means 'if you think you have a shot, think again'. things happen, often quickly. the above steps (at first) will slow down your firing rate compared to what you're likely used to, so it will be tempting to fire as soon as you think it looks like a sure hit. I can tell you that this will be the main reason you won't hit anything. Beams take patience and a calm, controlled and opportunistic trigger finger. Especially at ranges 1200m+, you need to always assume that your aim could be better, even if you end up hitting your target. It will induce an autobiographical reflex, so whether you hit or miss you will be very much aware of why you did hit or why you did not, and by how much.

This step is about repeating that 'if i fire now will i hit or miss, why, and by how much' process, mentally, many times a second, until it becomes a single thought rather than a process. When that happens, the above steps will also begin to click into a single thought and eventually come close to being as reflexive as regular machine guns and cannons.

5. FIRE!

???
Profit

Tips for close range beaming

Remember that the beam starts from the front of your ship and flies to whatever point on screen you are aiming at (like every other weapon). At close range you will seldom have a stationary target, let alone one you can aim at head on. These offhand beam shots have to be aimed by firing out into space in such a direction that it will intersect your target (the short distance makes timing calculations largely unnecessary). Trying to aim at your target directly with the reticule at close range will never work unless they're standing still, and then maybe. The general rule is: line up your ship and reticule and imagine a line being projected from your ship to what is under your reticule, visualize that line and swing it around so that it comes in contact with your target before or as you fire.

Tips for long range beaming

The travel time will typically be on the order of half a second in duration. There are not very many opportunities to hit something so far away (a lot can change in half a second) so if you are uncertain, don't take the shot. There are risks to firing that far (you expose your location for one) but there are of course some situations where you have to try regardless... With the nighthawk, you will want to orient yourself to your target because the beams diverge horizontally at the extreme ranges. Furthermore, you can actually hit things further than 1960m if you're smart about it - use that beam travel time for ships approaching beam range to gain extra firing distance. For a ship flying at you, you can land hits when they're 4/7ths of a second from reaching 1960m (though at max range i find it more of a challenge to have both beams hit opposed to hitting at all). For some naive heavy pilots i have hit them by firing when they were at 2100m from me (a nighthawk can reduce most heavies to a sitting duck if both beams hit, and at 2k they have no chance of approaching you without risking being hit again).

One Last Tip

Stay alert. Seriously. Anything and everything that enters your radar you ideally should keep track of in case it becomes an opportune target. As a sniper, you will survive longest and become a bigger asset if you only fire when: you will destroy your target with that shot, or your target has not yet been hit by you since you last disappeared from their field of vision. Basically, don't let the enemy see you firing your beams if possible. Beams attract attention because it is the generally correct assumption that beam ship pilots easily get tunnel vision, so they are seen as easy prey if caught from the side (which is true). Watch your surroundings, fire at your enemy with intent - either for the kill, distraction OR damage, never all 3 at the same time unless you recon you can come out on top and keep going.

Happy Beaming.
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Re: Beams, Beams and More Beams

Post by Loki on Thu Dec 20, 2012 8:30 am

Thanks for the tips Anger Smile
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Re: Beams, Beams and More Beams

Post by Adama on Thu Dec 20, 2012 8:45 am

Omg...I just simply don't have time to read it. Smile

I will, i promise.

Thanks Anger the Angel. XD
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Re: Beams, Beams and More Beams

Post by the-anger on Thu Dec 20, 2012 10:15 am

definitely give this a try... just today i have been able to, repeatedly, several times in succession, shoot down both missiles from a staged h2h: m10 vs a80. the closest range this can be done is about 700m on my ping (250). this opens up a lot of potential for beam ships vs missile ships - i can honestly say it is a viable tactic to aim for missiles with the beam. if you're able to, you might be able to find missiles in flight targeting a team mate and shoot them down... i havent had the opportunity to try this yet, but i will be doing this more and more now... missiles... lol...

shooting down missiles with the beam isn't much harder than shooting down a torpedo... it just moves 3.25-3.5x faster... and follows you...

(and yes, i consider hitting a torpedo with beams easy, lol)
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Re: Beams, Beams and More Beams

Post by Loki on Thu Dec 20, 2012 11:45 am

Someone once said that shooting torpedoes down with your beams is a sign that you've become a beam master...

If you've got a M3, M10, or FM25 and want to sharpen your short range beam skills, try drifting around a few turrets and take them down with beams. Practice against stationary targets will give you a feel for how your beams work and will become reflexive when used against incoming enemy ships.
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Re: Beams, Beams and More Beams

Post by MJ on Thu Dec 20, 2012 6:43 pm

Good post. I kow I run hot and cold with beams. Some days I am hitting 70% of the time with them and causing serious damage to the other team, others I am about 20% and spending a lot of time respawning. I do think mastering this weapon is the key to dominating the game.
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Re: Beams, Beams and More Beams

Post by the-anger on Mon Dec 24, 2012 2:07 am

Loki wrote:Someone once said that shooting torpedoes down with your beams is a sign that you've become a beam master...
so what would you call it when someone shoots missiles down on a regular basis?

shooting down missiles with beams is... hard... and only really of much use vs long range missiles... ships with short range missiles will tend to follow up the missile with gunfire, so in most cases you can't spare the time to aim at the missile and are better off shooting it down with some other implement or evading it outright...

i say this only because lag makes it near impossible to hit something moving any faster than a sidewinder, let alone a missile that is server-controlled (meaning it is prone to teleporting whenever it is turning, which if you are moving, is almost constantly on even moderate ping. inspect the gameplay frame for frame lol, you'll see what i mean)

if you are fortunate to have low ping, there is some hope of shooting down missiles on a curve... the conditions for it mean that you absolutely have to shoot it down without zoom in most cases (you don't have time to aim that finely, it must be reflexive) as well as being familiar with the arc size of a turning missile (to predict where to aim). im not there yet, being able to track the missiles flight path to the necessary accuracy... however, hitting something missile-sized at any distance is certainly something most capable beam pilots should be able to do already... (hint: the missile icon gives away the exact position of the missile)
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Re: Beams, Beams and More Beams

Post by longshot on Mon Dec 24, 2012 6:32 am

Beams are evil. I say bring back the faster (relatively speaking) bullets of the patch prior to the ship speed upgrade.
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Re: Beams, Beams and More Beams

Post by the-anger on Mon Dec 24, 2012 10:24 am

so... ive started putting all that missile shooting into practice... i feel sorry for the people who just bought their heavy, i can almost feel the disappointment in their pause as they see a beam fly past them and realize their missile went pop...
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Re: Beams, Beams and More Beams

Post by longshot on Tue Dec 25, 2012 9:31 am

I was just in a S&D game where four (FOUR!!) of my team were flying nighthawks. I had to fly pretty far afield to have a hope of being anything other than a spectator due to those long-range kill-stealing judases. The other team did not have a chance.

Beams are evil.
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Re: Beams, Beams and More Beams

Post by science on Sat Jan 19, 2013 10:44 pm

Of all the many and varied reasons why beams are a bad idea, one stands towering over the rest like some impossible colossus, and the reason is:
beams represent a massive (and exclusive) buff to those with superior skill.
So maybe someone can remind me, why do the skilled need a such a buff again?

Beams are a net negative.
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Re: Beams, Beams and More Beams

Post by Nightwing on Sun Jan 20, 2013 3:05 am

science wrote: ... beams represent a massive (and exclusive) buff to those with superior skill. ... Beams are a net negative.

Hey. Being able to consistently hit targets in a beamship is freakin' HARD.
This is mostly because of the fact that you can't correct leadoff mid shot.
In my Mamba, I can correct for target leadoff as I shoot. My Nighthawk can't do that.
I've lost count of how many times I've missed a shot, and been killed ten seconds later.
IMHO, bombers are my least favorite ship class, because of nuke-spamming. Nuke-spamming usually ends up ruining a game, because the bomber is able to insta-kill any ship in one shot, whereas beams can only hit one person at a time, and the only ships that they can insta-kill are lights. Bombers, Heavies, and other Mediums almost always take more than one shot to kill.
The only exceptions are those times when they attack Mediums that aren't fully upgraded.

I can average 10-25 kills in a big match, but that's only because I worked hard on GETTING that skill.

I am proud to be a Nighthawk cannoneer!
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Re: Beams, Beams and More Beams

Post by science on Sun Jan 20, 2013 6:27 pm

I don't begrudge you flying a beamer Nightwing, I begrudge the devs for
putting them in. I also don't like nuke spam but I can AOE rocket many of the
torps and avoid the lethal blast radius of others. There are no reactive
contingencies available to counter beams, they miss or they don't and the active
contingencies cost you more than they cost the beamer. (killing them is risky,
time consuming and achieves little as they respawn and come back faster than
the time it took you to bury them. Avoiding open areas cripples your attack and
escape options and ignoring them gets you killed and them points. Radically evasive
flying slows you down, drains your boost and similarly limits your options)

It's doesn't matter anyway really. They aren't going anywhere. Luckily there
aren't that many beam fanatics. Personally I've had a capped FM-25 for a while
and it just feels like a totally different game when flying it. Like the bastard
offspring of pin the tail on the pixel and whackamole.

Bear in mind though that I would also cheerfully see all FH-250s and A80s
impounded and scrapped Very Happy

I would hope that Angers game is moddable on the server side (assuming private
servers are in the mix) then fans of punchy brawls could just delist ships they
don't want to see.

/tiphat
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Re: Beams, Beams and More Beams

Post by longshot on Sun Jan 20, 2013 6:44 pm

That, sir, was sig-worthy!
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Re: Beams, Beams and More Beams

Post by science on Sun Jan 20, 2013 7:08 pm

longshot wrote:That, sir, was sig-worthy!

Nnnngg, I can see an emergency name change on the horizon. Wait, do you suppose these
beamers can recognise a player soley by their flight profile?
Damnit. I might as well just pitch a tent in the friendly carrier.

Razz
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Re: Beams, Beams and More Beams

Post by the-anger on Wed Jan 30, 2013 8:34 pm

science wrote:
longshot wrote:That, sir, was sig-worthy!

Nnnngg, I can see an emergency name change on the horizon. Wait, do you suppose these
beamers can recognise a player soley by their flight profile?
Damnit. I might as well just pitch a tent in the friendly carrier.

Razz

can't speak for everyone, but the short answer is yes. takes some time to observe your target in advance (ie, fighting others or yourself prior), and not exclusive to beams either...

science wrote:I don't begrudge you flying a beamer Nightwing, I begrudge the devs for
putting them in. I also don't like nuke spam but I can AOE rocket many of the
torps and avoid the lethal blast radius of others. There are no reactive
contingencies available to counter beams, they miss or they don't and the active
contingencies cost you more than they cost the beamer. (killing them is risky,
time consuming and achieves little as they respawn and come back faster than
the time it took you to bury them. Avoiding open areas cripples your attack and
escape options and ignoring them gets you killed and them points. Radically evasive
flying slows you down, drains your boost and similarly limits your options)

like every other weapon, beams are only as OP as the person using them. it's not that theyre easy to aim, it's that aiming them well has a good reward. like rockets in that regard, which btw do quite a lot of damage with a direct hit.

the counter to beams is missiles, and the counter to missiles is beams lol. missiles don't do damage right away, but they force you to take evasive / decisive action; beams force you into evasion early and the damage is up-front, but subsequent shots become harder and harder. they're tactical opposites. every missile ship is vulnerable to beams, and every beam ship is vulnerable to missiles Razz
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Re: Beams, Beams and More Beams

Post by the-anger on Thu Jan 31, 2013 8:53 pm

science wrote:I would hope that Angers game is moddable on the server side (assuming private
servers are in the mix) then fans of punchy brawls could just delist ships they
don't want to see.
sorry, missed this point...

ostensibly, yes, servers should have the option to enable/disable things to personal taste. and yes, i will be aiming for private servers before i make any public servers (public servers are just dedicated private servers open for anyone as far as im concerned)...

i do have 2c to share on 'delisting' items / ships...
while it is nice to have if a particular ship / item is overpowered, it greatly complicates balancing utilitarian and specialist ships. if you had nothing but brawling ships, there is no difference to the game space if you remove any of the ships from the game at random. however, if a balanced game contains specialty ships (ones that are not technically all-rounded, or cannot be used as such, and they are balanced by another ship in the arsenal) then removing a ship at random has a high chance of breaking the game, since that ship you removed may have been necessary to counter another ship that is still available which makes that ship more OP...

of course moonbreakers is not balanced even with all ships in play even if they were piloted by the best there ever was... but in a game that is balanced, the balance can be broken if any items / units / ships / etc have roles that counter one another, ie, balance one another, and one is removed from the available arsenal.
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Re: Beams, Beams and More Beams

Post by the-anger on Thu Apr 25, 2013 9:29 pm

this probably will not happen again for a while... but at the least i can confirm that it is possible to do...

the nighthawk's dual beams can in fact be used to take out both missiles from A80. it should be harder to do than hitting one missile with one beam, but in a way it isn't that much harder. the additional factor is simply, at what distance should you fire (because of convergence, you will miss one or both missiles around 1300-1400m).

i think the distance at which this worked was 800-900m (the missile; not the A80, which was much further). and obviously this works only in head to head at range where the A80 pilot thinks dual missiles are any guarantee...
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Re: Beams, Beams and More Beams

Post by eltazar on Fri Apr 26, 2013 3:20 am

the-anger wrote:this probably will not happen again for a while...

i see your point, but why waste beam fire when you have dumb fire rocket to take both missiles down at 200-300m...

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Re: Beams, Beams and More Beams

Post by the-anger on Fri Apr 26, 2013 6:08 am

eltazar wrote:
the-anger wrote:this probably will not happen again for a while...

i see your point, but why waste beam fire when you have dumb fire rocket to take both missiles down at 200-300m...
because then you free up a long range rocket (as in, after 2 seconds you cannot remote detonate it, but it still flies on for about 2 more seconds). that long range rocket can be used to shield you from missile lock initially, leaving you the option of switching beams to attack the A80 while using rockets to prevent missile lock Very Happy

so it would work something like this:
A80 flies at you (in a nighthawk) from 2km out. for whatever reason you hesitate to see if it will go for you (if it doesn't, it becomes an easier target for you). at 1700m or so it will start to acquire missile lock, and by 1600m you should have 2 missiles flying at you. taking out both missiles with beams at approx 1000m, you should still be out of MG range. firing a rocket at this point guarantees that it will prevent more missiles, as well as either hitting the A80 if it doesn't get out of the way. spamming rockets this way, you can beam the A80 at your leisure...

using rockets to take out both missiles is not as risky in terms of how likely you are to hit both missiles in one go... however if you wait until the missiles reach close enough, it becomes harder to avoid the next set of missiles being fired.

in 90% of instances the difference isn't worth it, that much is obvious. in the other 10% of incidents, when i do end up dying this way it is because i either took too long in taking out the missiles and the A80 snuck up on me, or i had to dodge the missiles and lost my sight advantage and eventually succumbed to more missiles...

in short, it's a nice trick to know but like most tricks it has only a few circumstantial advantages, though they can matter a great deal in some cases...
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Re: Beams, Beams and More Beams

Post by Loki on Fri Apr 26, 2013 6:40 am

Long range rocket may also;
- shield you from incoming bullets
- make them shy away and break missile lock
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Re: Beams, Beams and More Beams

Post by eltazar on Fri Apr 26, 2013 8:37 am

[quote="the-anger"][quote="eltazar"]
the-anger wrote:

because then you free up a long range rocket ...

again, I see your point, but here is my POV Smile

if you get missile lock (and your beams are ready to use), target your attacker and hit him with both beams immediately (about 1-1,5km)... most of pilots will try to get from your sight, only dumb and brave one will go ahead towards you, so there is no another missile lock. you can either avoid missiles by fly around an obstacle or shot down by rocket (200-600m). in this time you will be able to shot again with beams and kill your target. easy, simple, effective. much more than your solution, I believe Smile

you may object that this is very simplified example, but I see the same in yours Smile

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Re: Beams, Beams and More Beams

Post by the-anger on Fri Apr 26, 2013 9:45 am

not at all... the only factual difference here is when you choose to shoot down the missiles (assuming you ought to in the given situation). shooting them down early gives your enemy less time to think and more for you, at the price of being forced into using rockets first instead of beams on the next move you make if it happens to be necessary in less than 4.5 seconds or so... that shouldn't be an issue for 'ambidextrous' pilots (as in, equally skilled in both weapons on a ship), and particularly i am just so bored with expected tactics Razz

beyond that it is just opinion... if i can help it, i try not to have only one approach to any situation; having options at all times makes a pilot more unpredictable, a desired quality in a game where there is skill in aiming... Smile
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Re: Beams, Beams and More Beams

Post by eltazar on Mon Apr 29, 2013 2:48 am

yes, of course, you're right, i just want to say another POV (mine) Smile

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