Dogfighting Basics: Guide by Dantes (tb3)
I.Doing Damage & The Core of Dogfighting
A. Unpreventable Damage
The core of dogfighting, obvious if you think about it, is about doing damage and avoiding damage yourself. Real dogfighting is about using weapons in a way that the enemy cannot avoid them, and doing your best to avoid the stuff that you can.
There are four ways to do damage that enemies cannot avoid, only three of which you can do consistently. These four are:
For visual details on these methods, I highly recommend visiting Charlieís excellent introductory dogfighting web page, located here. The team det is the fourth method on his list. Plasma is never an assured way of doing damage.
- The Phaser. The phaser can NOT be dodged by enemies, and its damage cannot be reduced. They do plenty of damage at medium range.
- The Torp Cloud. Torpedo clouds when well formed are hard to dodge. A core of my routine, for better or worse, has always been about really good torp clouds.
- Buttorping. Tricking the enemy into flying directly at your torps at a speed high enough that they cannot dodge.
- The Team Det. I LOVE doing this, but itís not practical in most fights. Most enemies know better than to fire torpedoes over their teammates.
The BB and CA are the two strongest ships for dogfighting. BBs used to win almost all of the dogfighting contests of yesteryear, and would be best for sure if it didnít turn and accelerate like a pregnant yak. For most practical purposes in actually playing the game we are left with the CA, which is able to deliver all forms of unpreventable damage with aplomb.
And with that criteria we have the first component of my strong recommendation to most players to NOT play the DD. The reason is very simple: The DD is inferior in the department of the phaser (15 points less damage per shot than the CA at equal range) and torp cloud (30 points as opposed to 40). It may be superior in buttorping, but it loses on two tactically essential dimensions of damage-dealing.
The torp cloud and phaser are critical weapons or methods when attempting to grab territory. The cloud forces enemies to spend time dodging, and the phaser lets you do damage to someone consistently while you spend time dodging, yourself.
The CA is the default ship in this game for a reason. It is the utility ship Ė good enough and strong enough for every role. All other ships in this game are for specialty work.
Buttorping is an essential activity at times when you are holding enemy territory and you donít want to get blown up. Part of the trick to buttorping well is being able to send accurate torps at enemiesí faces, while NOT getting pushed very much.
A turn ninety degrees can encourage an enemy to turn as well. Since the other person had to react to do this, they are following you. Boom, a buttorping opportunity.
The buttphaser is advanced and recommended. You canít do it if youíre REALLY running away. And that plays into a core aspect of dogfighting
You do NOT want buttorping to be your exclusive method of blowing people up long term. It's the aggressive players who advance while being buttorped who develop multi-purpose skill at dodging, torping, and phasering.
The trick is to be ABLE to advance, ABLE to clear space, ABLE to dodge when someone is buttorping, AND to buttorp AND buttphaser well when you need to.
The REAL trick is to choosing the right tactic for the right occasion and to be able to get the job done.
Be clued. Clue is about understanding what to do in the situation that the gameís in.
A game when EVERYONE is trying to run away, or not get blown up is:
- Mostly devoid of tactics and strategy
- Devoid of skill
- Devoid of the high intensity that is the game at its best and most fun
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II. Preparing Your Setup For Dogfighting
An almost sinfully bad part of netrek has to do with the default keymap that comes on clients these days. Itís justÖ bad.
Fortunately, everyone these days has a text editor (Notepad or Wordpad for the Windows folks) and a manual on how to configure your client that comes with the download. Basically open up the netrekrc file (.xtrekrc for Unix variants, do your edits and save without renaming the file. Here is what you should consider.
Keys Important to Dogfighting:
Primary: Maxwarp, Low Warp, Phaser, Torpedoes, Tractor Beam, Pressor Beam
Secondary: Det Own Torps, Det Enemy Torps, Shields, Repair
Here is how to set it up.
A. Warp Speeds
You can go at whatever speed you want by using two keys Ė a low speed, and the maxwarp key. That low speed should be warp 3 or less. The turning radius of a CA at warp 4 is too large for it to be the slowest that you go. You NEED to be able to turn on a dime when the situation warrants.
In My Case:
I use the 3 key (warp 3) and the e key (custom mapped to maxwarp) for motion. Accelerate with maxwarp, hit 3 to slow back down. Hover between ranges 3 and 5, or even between 6 and 9 when chasing someone. Warp 6 is a much easier dodge than 9 is.
Choice of low warp key is a matter of preference. I've had a few discussions with other dogfighters, so I have a sense of whats common:
Most common: Warp 3
Next most common: Warp 2
Least common: Warp 0
B. Tractor & Pressor
Tractor and Pressor can: supplement your movement and dodging, pull enemies into torpedoes, and throw off their aim by wiggling their ships and yours where they donít expect.
These are critical weapons for strong dogfighters, and the best dogfighters in the game have valued them highly. I have prioritized them sufficiently to make them the only task of my pointing finger. Tuber put them (what was it, Dan? Was it d and f?) on TWO fingers, for quickly flipping back and forth.
Pressor on on r
Tractor on on t
Remove pressor/tractor on g.
As opposed to toggles, this setup makes for NO confusion whether youíve turned pressor on or off. You hit r, you ALWAYS get pressor on. You slide to t, tractor goes on. You slide down to g and theyíre off.
Make sure you can easily access torpedoes and phasers without interfering with any of the other critical commands. In other words, do NOT use the same finger for speeds and phaser, because there will be times when you want to phaser while accelerating or decelerating and if you have set up a conflict, you canít.
I set up that exact key conflict by accident, and it hurt. I still got extremely good, but it held me back from being where I could have been.
D. A Proposed Keymap
Try plugging this line into your netrekrc file, replacing the one that is already there. This is only a set of ideas, which could use some tweaking, so PLEASE fix this up if you find any part of it uncomfortable or unintuitive.
Keymap: r^t_g$alqR dfDw%hedpvr
What does this keymap do?
- Puts tractor, pressor, and remove t/p on r, t and g.
- Puts lock on, repair, and det enemy torps on a, q and space bar.
- Puts det own torps, maxwarp, and starbase docking permissions on f, w, and h.
- Puts phaser and change ship type on d and v.
Place phaser on mouse
Place maxwarp/minwarp or tractor/pressor to a and s, move lock on to w
E. Further Reading (Helpful!)
A couple years before I put up this guide, Niclas (Big Swede!, River Runs Red) posted some keymap advice on rgn. Some of his ideas are different, and I like them quite a lot. I've put it up here. Highly recommended.
If any of this keymap advice is confusing, I suggest visiting an empty server and pulling up the help menu, which will have every key listed. It SHOULD be h on a default client setup, but it's also available through the options menu screens (shift o).
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III. How to Use This Stuff (More Detail)
A. How to use Tractor/Pressor
Tractor and Pressor are easy to slip into a routine. If you hit the tractor or pressor key, it affects the ship that is closest to your cursor. This means that while you have to pay some attention to where your cursor is, you donít need precision.
You should consider using tractor when you want someone closer. Like when you are about to fire at them. Note that you donít need to be facing them to do this.
You should consider using pressor when you donít want to be closer to someone. Like when they are charging at you. Or when they are firing at you.
Or you might tractor or pressor a nearby ship to get lateral momentum away from torps that would otherwise ships.
Or you can push enemies into torpedoes they donít expect to encounter.
And you can have a lot of fun yo-yoing people, which throws them off quite effectively sometimes. Itís absolutely great when you can do this without getting thrown off, yourself.
B. How to use Torps
Well, the cloud is the 60-80% solution. Wiggle the mouse a little bit. Make sure thereís a line in your netrekrc file that says continuousMouse: on.
You can have some fun sending a few torps to where someone is heading, THEN send a few to where you think theyíll dodge to.
You have more fun when you see people doing familiar patterns, especially high warp speed patterns. You dodge the pattern and shoot where they will be. Boom.
Well, itís all about leading and sending torps in a useful manner. Youíll figure it out.
C. How to use Phasers (Part A)
Phasers have a 1 second recharge rate. This can be used. Fire a phaser then do something else. Then fire again.
Phasers are an aggressive weapon. The closer you are to an enemy, the more damage they do. Phaser a lot, and you will find yourself doing more damage quicker, and learning how to fight up close. This is a good thing.
I cannot walk away unscathed from a fight against someone who phasers me. Newbies who try to torp me often miss, because I can dodge. I canít dodge phasers.
Remember: 20 point phaser range is about what people have theorized is the best MINIMUM damage. I suggest doing a lot of fighting at the 30-40 point phaser range, myself.
20 pt range is about 1 physical inch on a 17Ē Trinitron at 1024 x 768
D. A Sequence
Dogfighting commands sometimes end up a familiar sequence. Here is what a fight might look like.
Situation: Meeting an enemy at the front.
This part of the routine is about: Trying to hit a couple torpedoes. Trying to land a good phaser, especially if they dodge away from your torps (people who are dodging have to work harder to shoot you).
Pressor quickly, while turning.
Tractor again, if they start moving away
This is about your pressor & dodge, because they will fire eventually.
This is getting in that second phaser after 1 second.
A quickly clicked off attempt at landing another 40 points.
Coup de grace.
E. A Little More on the DD:
Less shields and hull means it canít sit and take punishment as easily
Lower tractor & pressor means it canít be aggressive or defend as easily. This means it is pushed away and forced to buttorp in tactical situations where being pushed it badly.
Lack of phaser means it cannot do damage at anywhere near the speed that a CA can. Unless it manages to unload a boatload of torps into someone Buttorping.
Buttorping in a face to face confrontation where there is no tactical pressure to kill is a matter of tricking the other person into following. The experienced player will be better at following or reluctant to follow. The buttorper is then up a creek without a paddle.
It is a limited ship that promotes bad habits.
I have seen the ship used effectively in trying to take enemy planets in core, mostly by faking to one planet and using its fuel efficiency, acceleration and speed to move to another planet. It seems to me that this is a legitimate tactic done well.
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IV. Further Basics & Philosophy
A. On Maneuvering & Positioning
Netrek is a game about taking planets, where enemies are the obstacles.
Dogfighting is about the removal or outmaneuvering of those obstacles. A pick & roll is an effective basketball maneuver. It works in Netrek too. You donít always need to blow someone up to be tactically very effective.
Try getting in the way of where enemies will have to fly in order to make plays. Get in the middle, then you can engage in delaying tactics, including buttorping.
I must repeat, positioning has a high impact on the best choice of dogfighting maneuvers. As you become more experienced, your objectives will have an ever greater impact upon your methods.
B. Some Math
Torpedoes fly at:
Warp 12 (CA, BB, SB)
Warp 14 (DD, SC)
Warp 16 (AS)
A 40 point torpedo that is detted by an enemy ship can do far less damage. At the edge of a det radius, 40 points can become 10. Torpedoes can be dodged by people with good net connections.
Two 40 pt torps + Four 30 pt phasers = 200 points of damage. See above comments about combining torps and phasers. And remember, four phasers = four seconds. Thatís a QUICK death for an enemy. Make it three torps and two 40 pt phasers and itís near insta-death.
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V. Assorted Dogfighting Tips
A. Using Phasers While Lagged
Lots of folks play this game with 250 ms lag. I did it for a good while, with some success. So hereís the deal.
You can shoot people when they face toward you or away from you. When they are flying perpendicular/side to side they are a pain in the ass to hit.
Itís simple. Thereís a delay between when you click and when the phaser comes out. Theyíre still in the same line as the phaser if theyíre flying at you, no matter when the thing actually comes out.
Remember, without them, you lose half of your offense. Remember, lines cannot be dodged.
B. Phasering to Find Cloaked Enemies
Cloaking is not an extremely effective tactic, but it is effective against newer players often.
Experience will teach you something about where someone will be. A player with a lot of experience can tag someone whoís cloaked out of nowhere seemingly. Some of thatís a matter of instinctively estimating the speed of someone and where theyíre going. But thereís another part of this.
An enemy that is moving from left to right is not going to be easy to attack if you are not on the same plane as them. As in, two inches south of them.
When you move to where you reduce the angle Ė where they are flying at your phasers Ė you have a much higher chance of hitting. THIS is how people phaser oggers.
C. The Flyby Attack & Avoiding it
One of the tips of an otherwise ok dogfighting guide from yesteryear was to pull up next to someone at warp 8 or warp 9, unload a volley of torps, and tractor. This is an outdated tactic. Why?
First, since that was written the typical number of updates per second has increased from 5 to 10 per second. This means itís possible to see what people are doing and react faster than the days of yore. Dodging is much easier.
Second, folks who have played this game a lot have good senses of where torps will end up, and how to avoid these things quickly.
Thus, donít incorporate this into your main strategy. It can be effective at times, but itís such a common tactic. Itís far less effective on clue than youíd think.
How to avoid the flyby & a broader dogfighting tip:
- The flyby sets torps going towards you at a diagonal, outward and forward from the enemy. Your dodge? Go either inward or backward. You go against one of the vectors, and itís pretty easy to dodge the torps.
- A variation on the above is actually written in the original guide.
- You see variations on this flyby at higher and lower warps all the time. Everyone will at one point or another launch torps in this pattern at you. Just remember and fly counter to a vector and youíll do well enough.
Thatís it. They try the flyby, and they are suddenly going at high warp with you unhurt and able to shoot them. And at high warp speed, theyíre easy pickings or at minimum heading toward a less relevant place with less fuel.
D. Dealing With The Ogg
An attack based on cloaking, approaching an enemy, uncloaking and firing at them is known in netrek parlance as an ogg.
The ogg is extremely helpful in attacking starbases, who otherwise have extremely strong pressor beams to keep themselves safe. A good ogg on a starbase is a coordinated attack, where SEVERAL people uncloak at one time and fire. It is about overloading the base.
When synchronized, the ogg means that several people get to pop off shots at a starbase while it worries about dodging one set of torps and blowing one person up. The starbase who only has to blow up one enemy at a time is much safer. The ogg is much different in one on one.
It is most effective when an enemy is not aware. Most people pay enough attention to the galactic that it is a little hard to pull off unless the person is engaged otherwise. But that is not to call it effective in general or even in that situation. Only sometimes. The biggest benefit of cloaking is getting around enemies other than your target.
So letís say an enemy tries to ogg you. There is a delay built into the game in between them uncloaking and them firing. Thatís your window. Punish someone who tries this BS with you.
First, positioning. You canít always fly at an enemy whoís ogging you. You canít do well flying at high warp parallel to them. Instead, the most reliable defense is to move 90 degrees or 180 degrees away from them. 90 degrees does the job and doesnít take you out of the action entirely. 180 does the job when you do it as a bob and weave low warp defenseÖ in other words, spongy but not REALLY going anywhere.
Someone flying straight at you is phaser bait. So phaser.
When they unloak, IMMEDIATELY hit pressor, turn and accelerate. Hit slowdown & turn again if they send torps to where you are dodging to. But pressor IS YOUR FRIEND here. It slows them down to a crawl, making them easy fodder for YOUR torps, and gets you out of the way of theirs.
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VI. Dodging & A System for Developing Movement
Itís not a good idea to leave yourself vulnerable to attack. Dodging is kind of more difficult to discuss, since it involves a lot of quick reactions. But weíve covered a lot of the essentials above in understanding the benefits of tractor/pressor and turn-on-a-dime warp speeds.
Here are some suggestions on movement for approaching dogfighting.
So here is an approach to approaching a dogfight.
A. Situation Allows Slow Movement:
A bob and weave is a wise approach. It is not a good idea to let yourself get in the habit of flying straight at enemy ships when you donít have to. Then, a stream of torps at your face is almost assured. Instead, be in a constant back & forth motion and ready to turn ata momentís notice. You will still approach.
The idea is to approach on a mix of straight ahead and forward facing diagonals. Tractor beam will help you close distance as well. But basically, this is a patient system for getting into 30 point phaser range.
B. Situation Demands Fast Movement
A solid approach toward high warp speed pursuit demands a mix of speeds AND a nonlinear pursuit as well. It is usually more profitable to fly at, say, 15 degrees to the right than straight ahead.
The sensible pursuer, WHEN circumstances allow you to be sensible, will tend to go at warp 9, then slow down to about warp 6 and turn when anticipating buttorps from the enemy, and then accelerate again. This mix of acceleration/deceleration increases your chances of being in position to do damage. Besides, tractor beam is there to keep your ships close even while youíre dodging.
C. A Weave & Spin Dogfighting System
In figuring out how to dogfight, I came to the idea of being able to fight & dodge without really giving up ground or making myself particularly vulnerable. Iím sure other fighters have different ideas, but this is intellectually exactly the system I settled on while trying to get better. It works.
- Maintain an orientation approaching the enemy on a right or left diagonal.
- When needing to avoid enemy torps, spin your ship. Fly in a tight circle for about 300 degrees, to end on the original or the opposite diagonal approach.
This means: At low warp speeds, you spend a lot of your time with your ship pointed away from the enemy. At these same low warp speeds that allow you to turn on a dime, you return to an approach vector as soon as it is safe/appropriate
If you are pointed diagonal to the right and someone shoots torps leading you, a very tight 220 to 300 degree spin? Turn to your right, but do so in a way that moves you the long way around.
You move away from the enemy for a short period, but you return to approach.
- Repeat as necessary.
The approach, in more detail:
Described above, do something like a zig zag. Maintain a very aggressive approach on the enemy, but keep an area, say 30 or 45 degrees of a circle (enemy centered) where you try to keep your nose from pointing more than on occasion.
I want to reiterate. This is an approach based on aggression. You are always ready to bear down on your opponent. There is no drift in this system if you do it right.
Avoiding enemy fire.
Go ahead and put netrek physics to work for you. If someone fires in front of you (they canít hit you otherwise), you turn. However, in this case the turn is a full rotation; flying in a circle.
You do this by clicking behind your ship, then clicking again where you want your ship to end up. Since you are flying in a circle, you end up exactly where you started, but timing a brief period of away to when enemy torps are nearly upon you. Itís a good, quick dodge.
A low warp speed (warp 3) allows the ship to turn fast enough so the spins are tight. Warp 4 makes you too predictable and slow for this kind of work. Warp 2 leaves too little lateral motion for my liking unless supplemented by tractor or pressor.
Again, note how large the angle is; you have a brief period in which you're flying away from the enemy, but when you complete the spin you're right back at him.
You probably want to spin away from the enemy instead of within that cone of facing him. There are plenty of exceptions according to circumstance.
As a matter of course, such spins tend to devolve into tighter arcs of movement according to necessity, but the strategy is rather resilient overall.
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