Improvements for the HUD

Sorry that I forget explicitly saying that this is not final / not complete / not yet done.

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Seeing the second live stream and Flavien getting confused about whether flight auto-assist or formation mode was on or off, I think we can all agree that the HUD should also show you autopilot info somewhere more prominent. :stuck_out_tongue:


One of my all time favourite space combat games was “Descent: Freespace”, and I really really hope the radar that game uses is brought back. Assuming there’s going to be a radar at all (I haven’t seen one in any of the clips so far, but than again, I wasn’t looking too closely).

A lot of space games offer a radar in the form of a 3D sphere with the player being in the middle. This tends to degrade into an unreadable mess when there’s a lot going on. Even with lines and indicators (like in Elite: Dangerous) it can sometimes, especially in the heat of battle, be difficult to tell if the target is “above and in front” or “behind and down”.

The radar in Freespace is basically a 360 FOV. Because it’s 2D it’s very readable (at least IMHO). I think this readability is key in a combat oriented game. Admittedly, because it’s not the traditional “3D sphere and I’m in the middle”, it’s not as recognizable, and one needs to “grasp” how it works. Once the player realizes the logic behind this radar things become super-easy.

Just to make sure people know how this radar works: targets in front of you appear in the middle. Targets drawn intersecting the first, inner circle, are ~90 degrees in the appropriate direction. Targets far to the sides (outside “ring”) are behind you in that direction. Distance is determined (if memory serves) by icon size. So, in the screenshot above you can see there are 3 friendlies in front (ever so slightly to the left), 2 hostiles almost 90 degrees to the right, and 4 other friendlies to the far right (over 90 degrees).


I completely agree, both on the Freespace games being among my favourite games, and that they have a really useful radar display. As I remember it, the radar does not really show distance, except that far away objects are represented by a dimmer or darker dot on the radar then closer ones. As you always get a number on how far your target is, this isn’t a problem in Freespace, but the fights take place in a much smaller arena than in Battlescape.

Yes, radars are really useful. Also I like the descent approach of radars.
I could even imagine, that having a blind angle right behind the ship would add some interesting tactics.

A blind spot sounds interesting, however consider the following two points:

  • small combat ships are quite manoeuvrable
  • large ships will be controlled from a 3rd person perspective

The first point means that finding the balance for such a blind spot (between “too small and thus useless” and “too large, and thus annoying”) is a difficult task.

The second point means that capital ships won’t really fall into the same visibility limitations. Besides, they’ll most likely have SOME kind of weakness when approach from behind - weaker shields, no fire coverage, weak points, etc.


Totally agree that spherical radars on a 2D computer screen are next to useless! The Freespace one was much easier, so I also hope I-Novae thinks carefully about if/how they create one!

I actually think both CAN be used, but have wildly different uses.

The 2D radar is excellent for dogfighting - you need quick and clear indication where enemies.

The spherical radar is good for navigation - you can see distance and location of various objects around you.

The primary issue with trying to represent locations of things in a 3D sphere on a 2D screen is lack of parallax or binocular disparity.

Parallax is what our brains use to know how far away something is. Lots of animals have 2 eyes on the front of their heads for this purpose.
Birds and some other animals have eyes on the sides of their head that can’t both see the same object at once. To judge distance they need parallax and so they move their heads backwards and forwards to achieve this.

In the same way, the radar could provide parallax by having it oscillate rotating back and forth a small amount.

Does anyone know of any games that have done this?
I’ll try to find a video demonstrating the effect.


Wow, awesome idea. I think no one though to use it that way.

Edit: Heres the effect:


I like it, but how can you transform the optical parallax into useful data to a pilot? I could see how a computer could easily get data out of that, but how that make it easier for the pilot to understand what’s going on around them? My first thoughts is that an oscillating radar would be even harder to read than one that’s not moving.

Heres EDs radar.

Now imagine it oscillating. The hard to understand and interpret lines that connect the dots to the middle plane would be redundant because the slight motion enables the viewer to see the position of each dot in the three dimensional space.

The problem I see with oscillating radar is that it takes a bit more time to “see” the depth (as you have to wait a few oscillations), which can be crucial in battle - even worse if you’re turning around.

The best radar types I’ve seen sofar in 6DoF games are either:
-The fisheye view (the entire 360° sphere is flattened into a disk, with the front in centre and the rear as the border cycle) that Shaamaan linked with Freespace
-And a double disk with the front and back 180° - as if it was a sphere with icons at its surface, as seen from behind. Icons are different when it is in front or behind you, for example plain icons for in front and hollow ones for behind.
Here is an example from Shattered Horizon (size represents distance - or rather closeness):

I have a feeling this would cause headaches, TBH. I mean, I’ve seen those “3D GIFs” which work around the same principle - I don’t know about you, but I can’t look at them for more than a few seconds before I get dizzy.

Make it like a snow globe and have the player tap a key to make it move. Or to turn it on and off.

Alternately, during hard maneuvering, have the character’s head move a bit, producing a parallax shift of the entire cockpit. During combat, hard maneuvers should be the norm, and the targeting system should automatically account for such head movements anyway. Having particularly hard maneuvers erode the appearance of the HUD (suspended in the Xenon mist) would be a neat effect.

Alternately, drop all radar instruments and rely entirely on out-the-cockpit views to figure stuff out.

I’m going to throw this into the mix. The oldish indie game Babylon 5: I’ve Found Her used a pretty good HUD which I found very easy to use. It breaks your total velocity into three perpendicular components aligned with your ship, so if you rotate while moving, you’ll see the velocity components change to reflect your rotation

Here’s an example:

It uses the tried-and-true spherical radar, but the sphere is essentially a celestial sphere fixed to space and rotates opposite your ship. That allows you to quickly gauge which direction to turn and how far to turn in order to face a target. But, like others have stated, it gets to be pretty hectic when there are a lot of targets (thus, a radar filter might be useful). Also, sometimes it was hard to tell if a target was on the near or far surface of the targeting sphere (which is where the “parallax movement” thing became useful).

Scott Manley of all people reviewed it a few years ago - fast forward a little and you can see how the HUD works as the ship moves about.

Edit I just ended up watching through the first 10 minutes. The part where he’s in hyperspace is really awesome.

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In watching that video, I’m inspired to observe that the one thing that any instrument package should do is allow pilots to avoid jousting. Beyond that, to give players enough information to be able to maneuver as they prefer relative to the enemy ship. If necessary, allow a player to slave their ship to the enemy ship and let the maneuvers literally be relative to the enemy ship.

Jousting comes about because players cannot see how the other ship is maneuvering, so pilots just race towards the other ship. By the time they get close enough to see the other ship the merge velocity is far too high to do anything but flash past, turn and start another run. If players could see the merge long before it happened, then they would be able to do something else. I don’t know what players will do if they have that information, but I suspect it’ll be a lot more interesting than jousting.

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As I understand it, the I:B prototype already has this functionality, but I haven’t seen it used in combat. There are a few pilot assist modes, for example the match target speed (in magnitude) and the match velocity (in magnitude and direction). Their names might be different, but in one of the videos someone shows of the different settings.

The match velocity one can be used for formation flying, and makes your ship stay in the same location relative to your target. I don’t know what the auto pilot does with pilot input, but if they are added on top of what the auto pilot is doing, the match velocity flight mode should create a frame of reference where the target ship is stationary. This would allow the pilot to fly around relative to the target regardless of its manoeuvring, and make jousting impossible even if the target tried to.

In her first play session Kate Russell identified that her target was jousting her and yet she did nothing about it.
In Scott Manley’s video he sees that his target is heading straight for him and so decelerates and manoeuvres in an attempt to take advantage of his target’s apparent noobishness.

Seeing how one’s target is manoeuvring isn’t the problem.