Homemade HOTAS Desk Mount

I decided to make up a desk mount for my HOTAS, so that I could position the stick in a more natural location without having to gorilla-arm it.  The design is very straightforward – it’s a drill vice with a couple of pieces of steel bracket and soft-grip vice jaws to avoid marking the desk.  Total cost under $30.

If you want to replicate this, the spacing of the holes for the Warthog stick are 60mm apart, and are M4 metric screws.  Remember to leave enough clearance so you can push the stick the whole way forwards and not catch your fingers on the vice anywhere.

Rumble Functionality with XB1 Wireless on Steam Link

If you have the newer (model 1708) XBox One Wireless Controller, you can get it to work with a Steam Link on native Bluetooth pretty easily.  But if it’s straight out of the box, the rumble motor won’t work on the controller.

In order to make it work, you’ll need a PC with Windows 10 and the Anniversary Update installed.  Go to the Windows Store and install ‘Xbox Accessories’ by Microsoft.

Then, plug in your XB1 controller with a USB cable into your PC (shut down Steam first).  The PC will then prompt you to update firmware on the controller.  Do so.  You’ll then have to repair it with the Steam Link, but once that’s done rumble functionality should work.

Thrustmaster TARGET Scripts for X3: Albion Prelude

I’ve been messing about with getting back into X3 in the past few days, specifically with Albion Prelude.  I spent ages with Terran Conflict, back in the day.

I’m using a Thrustmaster Warthog (hue hue, thrust master!) throttle and stick, with Saitek pedals.  This manifests itself as three separate USB devices.  X3 has an interesting defect where it can only utilize one USB device as a controller (whoops).  Thrustmaster TARGET Script Editor to the rescue!

The above script has lines for every button and axis on the Warthog, and comments.  It’s currently customized for how I want to use the Warthog with X3:AP, and doesn’t have every binding in it yet I want, just the real basics.

Since I can’t (yet!) use pedals with it, I’ve bound roll to the “friction” axis on the Warthog (the lever on the right side of the throttle).

There’s some magic that happens with the throttle.  I’ve configured it to be forward-only throttle, so that the full range only drives your ship in the forwards direction with no reverse.  If you find your ship doesn’t come to a complete stop when it’s the whole way back, pull the speedbrake switch back and it’ll stop.  You can also pull the boat switch back to reverse.

To make some sense of how the bindings work, binding something to 0 disables it.  The list of keybindings you can find by looking at defines.tmh in your TARGET install folder, in the definition for ASCE.

When I work out how to do more advanced stuff like mode switching, I’ll include that.

Elite: Asp vs. T6+Viper

After having played Elite: Dangerous for a while now, I’ve finally moved up to a Lakon Type-7.  The ships I moved through were;

Sidewinder -> Hauler -> Adder -> Cobra Mk. III -> Lakon Type-6 -> Asp Explorer -> Lakon Type-7

Now, looking back at it, I’m of the opinion that the Asp was a mistake.  Don’t get me wrong, the Asp is a good ship, if for some reason you really want a ship that can do everything in the one hull.  But it’s expensive to buy, and expensive to fit.

For example, here’s a multipurpose Asp fit.  It carries 88t of cargo, has 127 shield strength, can jump 18ly while laden and costs 13.7 million.  True, you can refit this to carry more (undersize the shield generator) and can downgrade the various components, but that’s about what you’re looking at.

Let’s compare that to a 100t cargo Type-6 build.  The Type-6 has less shields, of course.  It’s a trader.  But it’s still armed, carries an acceptable amount, jumps 18.3 ly, and only costs 4 million credits.

Then let’s also compare a hunter-killer Viper setup.  No cargo, but 116 shield strength, good weapons, jumps 14.9ly, and only costs 2.3 million.

You could have BOTH the Type-6 and the Viper for 6.3 million, versus 13.7 million for the Asp.

It’s worthwhile to note that the Viper is a monster in combat.  It’s fast (very fast), has a narrow profile, and its hardpoint layout is very conducive to using fixed hardpoints.  The Asp is a bruiser, and while it’s still a good fighter, it can’t go as fast as the Viper and has a much broader forward-facing profile.  Losing a Viper is also much less of a sting to the wallet.

So, with the above points in mind, I’m thinking to myself that the Asp isn’t really great value at all.  If you’re able to do different roles with different hulls (because you’re based in the one place, for example), getting a Type-6 and adding a Viper is going to represent much better value for money.

Oh, the weird 2t tank + class 3 scoop on the Viper is intentional.  The Viper is sorely limited by mass, and with the class 3 scoop you can fill the tank in seconds and a 2t tank can still last for a max-range jump.  So you save a few tonnes of weight doing it that way (you can actually jump FURTHER in this configuration), and you can refuel very quickly.

ED – Basic Flight Tips

I’m going to assume that you’ve done the basic tutorials and can actually fly your ship a bit.  Some tips are helpful to land / take off more effectively and not smash into things.

Free flight tips

  • Yaw is very weak.  Maximum turn rate will be found by using pitch instead.  Yaw is mostly used for small corrections or aiming.
  • Maneuverability is maximized when the throttle is inside the blue region.  You can increase maneuverability even more by putting more pips into the engine category.
  • Lateral (sideways and up/down) thrust is good for avoiding fire.  You’ll use lateral thrust a lot when landing / taking off too.
  • Some ships have maximum speeds well in excess of their deceleration / maneuvering speeds.  This means that they take a long time to stop and slide a lot when turning.  The Cobra Mark III is terrible for this.  Watch your maneuvering around obstacles accordingly.
  • Collisions with stationary objects at blue-region speed are usually not very damaging.  Flying at blue-region speed inside stations is advised for this reason.

Taking off from a station

  • Takeoffs and landings are safest done with 4 pips to shields and 2 pips to engines.  You won’t need weapons energy.
  • When the clamps release, put away landing gear and vertical thrust straight up.  Be cautious, the pads further back in the station have a big antenna sticking out above them – don’t pile into it.
  • At blue power, position your nose so that the docking slot is below the centerline you’re flying at.  You want to do this so you intersect the axis of rotation of the docking slot with some clearance.  If you aim straight at the slot you’ll meet it at an angle.
  • Assuming nothing’s in the way (smaller ships can fit around most inbound ships), straighten out when the docking port shape is uniform on all sides (ie, you’re looking straight down the port).
  • Fly towards the port and start rotating clockwise as you finish going through it.
  • Get clear and go about your business.

 Landing at a station

  • Takeoffs and landings are safest done with 4 pips to shields and 2 pips to engines.  You won’t need weapons energy.
  • At 7.5km range from the station, request docking permission.  You should see a blue docking info tab appear in the middle of the HUD.
  • Aim for a point in front of the station’s docking slot and fly towards it.  As you approach the axis of rotation of the station, slow down to blue region and turn to face the slot.
  • Lateral thrust or offset aim your nose to center yourself in the slot (ie, the slot should be the same shape on each side, indicating that you’re in-line with the axis).
  • Rotate counterclockwise as you pass through the slot.
  • Find your assigned docking platform (follow nav compass and the floating indicators) and fly directly to it
  • When getting close, drop landing gear.  Fly straight at the center of the docking pad.
  • When the docking indicator pops up, align yourself so you’re parallel to the docking pad and pointing at the control towers.  The docking indicator should show you ship straight and level, with the nose pointing forwards (into the screen).
  • Move forwards / backwards and lateral thrust left and right to position the ship such that the orange X/Y indicator is in the center of the platform.
  • Lateral thrust down to touch down.
  • If you bounce, check landing gear is down.  Also try and lateral thrust up until the indicators disappear, and try again.

Landing at an outpost

  • As with the station procedure, request docking permission.
  • Using the nav compass and the visual indicators, find what platform you’re assigned.  It may not be on the same side of the outpost that you’re on, and may not have the same orientation as the other platforms (some are upside down).
  • Using blue region throttle, approach the correct platform in the same manner as with a station.  It’s very easy to be disoriented coming in to a platform and try and land turned the wrong way around.  The big blast deflector on the landing pad is at the rear of the pad from the perspective of landing.
  • Once throttle is cut and you’re hovering above the platform, landing is the same as with a station.


Elite: Dangerous Released – and some vitriol…

A couple of days ago, Elite: Dangerous was finally released.  I’m an original Kickstarter backer and Premium Beta player of ED, and have been playing it off an on during its entire development period.

Now, so you understand why I’m going to sound sour against Elite but also excited, you’ll need to understand where I’m coming from.  Way back during the original Kickstarter drive in late 2012, the following was posted, and this made the difference between me biding my time and paying my money;

However it will be possible to have a single player game without connecting to the galaxy server. You won’t get the features of the evolving galaxy (although we will investigate minimising those differences) and you probably won’t be able to sync between server and non-server (again we’ll investigate).

Why do I care so much?  Well, I live in Australia.  Australians suffer from poor bandwidth, high latency, and our timezone generally causes us to always get hit with maintenance outages during our primetime.

On the upside, we have large numbers of Australian ladies with Aussie accents.  But we also have crocodiles.  And sharks.  And snakes.  And spiders.  And box jellyfish.  And blue-ring octopus.  And scorpions.  And venomous plants.  And shells that shoot harpoons at you.  It’s a tradeoff.

Also, I work full-time and I have a family.  The ability to pause is critical to me – real life comes first.  So, the promise that Elite would have an offline single-player option really made the deal for me, and I paid my money.

Let’s fast forward to one month before official release.  We’re informed that ED will not have an offline single-player option.  Oh, and by the way, if you’re an Alpha/Beta backer who has played the Beta, no refunds.

Whoops.  I’m told in the last ~5% of the development cycle that I’m not getting the features I paid for.  Oh yeah, and I can’t get my money back because I dared to use the skeleton product and file bug reports.  Oh yeah, and have maintenance downtimes for patches in the middle of evening primetime.

Sorry!  Thanks for the support!

Needless to say, I’m very sore about this.  I’m angry at Frontier for pulling what amounts to a bait-and-switch, and hiding behind technicalities to get out of what was fundamentally fraud.  You might call it shrewd business, I call it professional dishonesty.

Now, with that aside.  Elite’s a good game.  Well, it’s a shell of a good game.  Graphics are great, mechanics are good, and it shows promise.  However there’s a lot of depth missing.  That will improve with time.  Docking is simply awesome.  Trade and exploration is functional, and the solar systems are beautiful (if a bit samey after a while).  There’s a plethora of bugs and balance issues right now.  They get visceral combat right in a way that X3 doesn’t.  But they get empire-building and trade wrong in a way that X3 doesn’t.

So, if you want a space game, used to play the original Elite, and would like to see something new (btw, it’s incredible on the Oculus Rift), Elite’s a good buy.  But don’t expect it to keep you busy for extensive periods right now – the depth is lacking.  And don’t expect any offline or pausable modes.  If you want those things, X3AP may be a better fit.

Got my RSI Mouse Mat!

RSI Goliath Mouse MatJust got my RSI Mouse Mat delivered.  Very quick delivery, only ordered it a few days ago!  Razer Goliathus mouse mat for scale.


Planetside 2: ESF Tutorials

In the past month I’ve discovered Planetside 2, a free-to-play MMOFPS which has Australian servers.  They’ve recently put out a huge game update which dramatically improves performance and that’s what made me give it a go.  Anyway, once I got over the incredible chaos and the very frequent dying (fortunately the death penalty is pretty well zip), I found I really enjoyed it.

I’ve been wanting to learn to fly the Empire-Specific Fighters (ESF) in it competently, with a view to making that my primary activity.  Specifically, the Reaver.

So, following is a list of resources that I’ve come across which have been very useful.  I’m still terrible, of course, but practice makes perfect…

  • Hader’s ESF Tutorials – A collection of various tutorial videos for how to perform various maneuvers and how to cert up your ESF to make it effective.  Volume levels in the tutorials are very low, pump up your sound.
  • Learn 2 Fly ESF Blog – Blog all about flying ESFs.  Has some editorials and a lot of guides.
  • 7 Hover Fighting Tips – Short video with some key nuggets about maintaining and fighting while in hover mode.
  • LMSTV’s Flight School – A big collection of various ESF tutorial videos, even includes some podcast stuff.
  • Wrel’s Planetside 2 Guides – Not much here that’s ESF related, but it’s so useful I linked it anyway.

Check back here from time to time, as I come across new resources I’ll link ’em up.

Now maybe I can stop piling into the ground in a stiff breeze…

EVE Online: Manufacturing Formula

I was working on fixing my manufacturing spreadsheets for EVE Online to make it a bit more automated.  And in order to do that, I needed to be able to calculate production time and material costs for blueprints straight from the raw BP data.  Anyway, it turns out that the formula at EVEDev is close, but not quite right.  Following are the formulas that actually work.

Time To Build

First, calculate the PTM modifier, which is usually going to just be your industry skill;

\displaystyle PTM = (1-0.04 * industrySkill) * installationModifier * implantModifier

Then, run the following formula to determine the time (in seconds) to build one run of the BP.  Variables can be extracted from the EVE Database Dump.

For PE >= 0

\displaystyle time = baseProductionTime + \frac{productivityModifier}{(1 + peLevel)}

For PE < 0

\displaystyle time = baseProductionTime * (1 - \frac{productivityModifier}{baseProductionTime} * (peLevel-2))

Required Materials

For each material required for a blueprint, there’s the materialQuantity, which comes from the invTypeMaterials table for that BP (it’s the quantity column).  This value is affected by ME research and skills.  Then there’s the extra materials, which come from the ramTypeRequirements table for that BP.  Next, any materials in ramTypeRequirements which are marked as recyclable have their recycled materials (which you extract from looking them up in invTypeMaterials) subtracted from the list of materials required for the produced item.  The remaining materials from invTypeMaterials are then modified by skills and ME research as follows;

For ME >= 0

\displaystyle meWaste = ROUND(\frac{materialQuantity * (wasteFactor / 100)}{meLevel + 1})

For ME < 0

\displaystyle meWaste = ROUND(\frac{materialQuantity * (wasteFactor / 100)}{1 - meLevel})

Other Wastage

\displaystyle skillWaste = ROUND((0.25 - 0.05 * productionEfficiencySkill) * materialQuantity)

Installation wastage is likely calculated the same way, ie at 10% waste you’d multiply the materialQuantity by 0.10 to give the wastage.  But I haven’t tested that, sorry.

Total Material Required

\displaystyle finalQuantity = materialQuantity + meWaste + skillWaste

And there you go.  Let me know if there’s any errors.  The above formula work fine with all the stuff I’m building, which are a mix of various positive and negative ME and PE values.

DOTA2 Tutorial List

Thought I’d link a heap of DOTA2 learning resources and guides for people getting to know the game.  I’m still terrible, of course – don’t get much time to play, and I only play vs. bots right now.  Anyway, these are the links I’ve found;

  • Dota2 Alt-Tab Guides – A cheat-sheet of all the heroes, a suggested build and a bit of info about all of them.  This is great to use in the Steam Web Browser so you can get an idea of what you’re up against (or playing!).  I usually put these builds into the Build Editor so I can have them in-game without having to shift-tab all the time.
  • Official Hero Info – This is actually the info you get ingame, just in a browser.  You can use this page to edit your hero builds and review items and stuff without being in the game.
  • PurgeGamer’s Welcome You Suck – Good starting guide, gives suggestions on heroes to avoid and heroes to use when starting off.
  • Comprehensive DOTA Guide – Also a great guide.  Lots and lots of info.
  • DotaFire – Community website, has lots of builds, guides and a hero database.
  • DotaCinema – Youtube channel features a lot of great info.  Notably, the Hero Spotlights and the Learn DOTA 2 playlist.  Worth a look.
  • Creep Blocking – Quick howto about creep blocking.
  • Universal Item Guide – A good guide to all the various items.