A Beginner’s Guide to ValkyrieGigai
The stones have been cast and the ripples are spreading. As an increasing number of Oculus backers and pre-order customers receive their kits as if delivered by a drunken stork, pilots have been firing themselves into space like saliva covered wads of paper (soon to include PS4 and Vive players). The giddy, the slack jawed, and the delighted masses are eagerly flying into the waiting embrace of bloodthirsty test pilots and some rather nasty NPCs. To many early adopters this will be their first fast-paced experience in virtual reality, and if you’ve never logged some game hours in a cockpit simulator it’s going to be a rough ride. Some of these test pilots, myself included, have a been cutting our teeth for decades following every step in the evolution of the genre. The sections below will cover critical information for new pilots, means for avoiding some common mistakes, and advice for rookie pilots both in and out of game.
Before we get started let’s correct a few things..
- No amount of shouting, screaming, flailing, or grunting (don’t want to know), is going to overcome being unskilled, inept, or inexperienced no matter what you’re flying.
- You’re not Kirito, you’re not the Lawnmower Man, and you’re not a User. You will die. Repeatedly.
- Anyone suggesting Valkyrie is P2W clearly has not played the game. No amount of experience boosters or special ships are going to prevent your carcass from being vented into space if you suck.
With that out of the way let’s first turn to preparing your out-of-game space before covering aspects in-game.
Everything you can do to prepare the area around you out-of-game has a resounding effect on your level of presence experienced in-game
Everything you can do to prepare the area around you out-of-game has a resounding effect on your level of presence experienced in-game, as well as having the added bonus of reducing the chance of having to explain to the emergency room nurse how you managed to break your wrist trying to play internet spaceships. Regardless of what VR hardware you’re looking to buy, at present all models are tethered by one or more wires. Getting tangled up like a marionette will lead to you losing your sense of presence possibly causing injuries or be the first Darwinian candidate to auto-erotic asphyxiate themselves while watching VR porn.
For the sake of argument let’s assume you don’t want to be that guy. Assuming you’re like most people and your desk is shoved in the corner covered with piles of crap you put there “for a minute”, you’re going to want to take care off this. Not only does a clean desk help you focus on your task, it prevents you from suffering an avalanche of said piles and causing potential hazards while you’re blind to the world.
If you’re anything like some of our more active members, you’re going to play for hours. That is why before each session I like to take a minute to go through my little checklist:
- One articulating straw (bendy)
- One beverage
- One-handed snack (bars, strips, burritos, chips, etc but nothing that will drip or make a mess)
- One small desk fan set to low
- One desk clear of all obstacles
- Set drink/snack in an established out-of-way location
- Turn my phone to vibrate
- Clear the floor
- Get a good stretch in before I crawl into a cockpit for a few hours..
Ok I’m ready! Now what?
Since I am mainly focusing on what happens in multiplayer in this article I will briefly wave the safety placards and blow my whistle. Valkyrie is a game still very much under heavy development and much of this is subject to change, fortunately though the behavior can be applied in most situations regardless of the mechanics. I highly recommend going through the tutorial before attempting anything else to get yourself orientated within the game in the most efficient way possible. If you’ve a predilection for scoping out the menus, get that done and out of the way but do not go into the combat menu yet as this is a session change – we’ll touch on that in a moment.
The Chronicles are also a great place to check out. Scout mode would be a good time to learn the maps before you ride forth as a newbie. If you’re interested in what it could feel like if a campaign mode were to be added, try out the chronicle Eris III. This is the full mission experienced by many who lined up at a variety of conventions and events.
Please don’t confuse the NPC behavior encountered in Emis III or Survival mode for what you’ll experience in multiplayer. These NPCs are more interested in flying their pre-programmed flight paths or going straight at you. I would liken this to a child-proofed bedroom: round corners, padded surfaces and a cover for that power outlet you keep trying to fork. Multiplayer bots still have their quirks and odd behaviors that will inevitably get themselves killed: occasionally fly straight, spin in circles and die without a whimper and collide with one another. The other times they don’t fire until they sneak up behind you and turn your ship into bright confetti.
We can talk upgrades another time but there are behaviors and mistakes that can be avoided. My hope is having read this you will be more aware of your actions and learn faster. Below is a short list of very common ones made by many pilots.
Unless you subscribe to the teachings of Big Al, dogs can look up, and so can you! Heck, you can even look to the sides, down, behind you, all around, even into the sun! Some pilots however cannot let go of physical memory of staring at a stationary monitor, suffering from what I refer to as ‘lock neck’.
With the majority of us having grown up with stationary displays, we’re naturally going to revert to muscle memory and stare straight ahead moving our eyes and not our heads. The younger generation having grown up with a mobile display in their hands will be less prone to this issue. This is something that has been apparent since Oculus released its first demos and to me it is definitely a generational issue.
Two suggestions to avoid this:
- After you exit the launch tube every couple of deaths lean forward and look around outside, physically remind yourself you can do this.
- Slowly roll your neck every now and then to reduce fatigue. Many of us get tense during close fights so be sure to loosen up periodically. Even something as light as a pair of glasses can eventually cause mild fatigue by the end of the day.
Where’s my cover?
Pilots less skilled in the management of their velocity usually run out of capacitor mid-way on their dash for cover.
If you’re in a situation where you’re going to lose, sometimes the only thing that will save you is cover. If you’re out in the open, you’ve forfeited that option. Having lost the initiative of the engagement you must commit to stay or run. Pilots less skilled in the management of their velocity usually run out of capacitor mid-way on their dash for cover. Those that stay will quickly find themselves a target of opportunity for anyone nearby. With their attention focused on the fight at hand it will be easy to miss the arrival of hostile reinforcements. I’m sure we all know how to take cover, but this pertains to Valkyrie specifically.
- Learn how close you can get to structures. Knowing your boundaries intimately can get you out of the tightest situations.
- When you’re skimming the surface around the outside of something large such as the citadel, fly with your canopy out into open space and belly to structure. This way you’re providing yourself with the greatest field of view and increases your situational awareness.
- One of the best things you can have in a game is an abundance of obstacles. They are free missile defense and have no cumbersome reload timer. This frees up your countermeasures for emergency situations only.
- Staying behind cover or breaking line of site denies the enemy positive intel. Every second the hostile team does not see you is time you are able to develop the situation to your advantage.
When I first applied the term to Valkyrie, ‘bait ball’ was in reference to some older and now irrelevant NPC behavior. Subsequent releases have seen a drastic increase in the capabilities of the NPCs and while they no longer played king-of-no-hill without prompting, the influx of new pilots are now making the same mistakes once performed by rudimentary AI. Like moths to a flame the foolhardy, inexperienced, or the brave, fly across wide open space as soon as a hostile comes within view. And like a good wing man, you follow your wing mate out into the open. That incessant buzzing missile indicator reminds you that no cover means you’re life now depends on how fast and how maneuverable you are.
It’s also around this point where the cursing begins as you realize you burned half your capacitor getting there. Now you, your wing man, and a number of hostiles start brawling it out in the middle of nowhere with no cover. Flashes of ECM, EMP, blasters, pulse cannons, flak explosions, and occasionally missiles, a giant cacophony of destruction takes form. Like that of a tornado, a bait balls life is fleeting but it can be devastating to both sides. Here it becomes a game of consolidated fire and attrition.
- Best advice is avoid these situations – split your fleet in favor of objectives.
- Try to avoid using missiles on any targets central to the bait ball and shoot for those on the outside. This will reduce the likelihood of indirect countermeasures affecting your missiles.
- Never fly into a bait ball where the hostiles are numerically superior – this never ends well.
- If a bait ball is stubbornly hanging around, drag the engagement into an obstacle. Using obstructions like capital ship wrecks forces bait balls to splinter into smaller fights.
- In a bait ball there is no such thing as a kill thief. The objective is to obliterate the other team as fast as possible to reduce your own casualties. Consolidating fire can be the quickest means of turning the fight to your advantage.
- Target ships by class and threat. A support ship can render all your efforts useless in seconds and should almost always be primary.
- When engaging heavies try and avoid flying too close to your wing man on approach vectors. Heavies excel at area of effect damage – do not oblige them.
OH BOY! MISSILES! Nothing really amps up an engagement like properly used missiles. Using them effectively is something that comes through trial and error. To avoid the majority of the frustration you will likely experience in matches you should take the following into account:
- If target has full shields they likely have prepared countermeasures.
- If the target is further than 2km away, they can easily outrun the missiles.
- Attempt to time missile impact with how long it takes you to deplete a target’s shields with your primary weapon. Close range alpha bursts combining these effects with accurate fire can destroy most targets in seconds.
- Trick your target into deploying their countermeasures with individual missiles instead of the entire volley.
- Targets flying with cover can easily shake missile lock, aim your missiles wide of structures and obstacles to allow missiles to wrap around the cover towards your target.
- Giving your targets time to respond to your missiles will render them much less effectve.
- Learning to fire them when your target will have difficulties dodging or after their countermeasures have finished its active cycle will lead to a drastic increase of effectiveness.
- Any pilot can dodge missiles with proper timing and evasive manoeuvres.
At present the majority of hulls offer some form of countermeasures. Both the fighter and support class ships enjoy a healthy adoption rate of ECM modules but the name can be a little deceptive. The module in Valkyrie is really more akin to the US Navy’s SeaWiz than a form of electronic interference: limited engagement range, can attack one target at a time, and uses a barrage of slug rounds to physically destroy its targets. Unlike the fighter and support roles that deploy the direct effect ECM module, heavies employ an area of effect EMS module (with EMP effect). Not only will this destroy all missiles immediately within a specific radius of the heavy regardless of intended target, any hostile ships unfortunate enough to be in range will overload and shutdown, drifting aimlessly in space for precious seconds.
- Missile lock indicators only appear when missiles are locked onto you and are within targeting range of your countermeasures. Activating the module before then will reduce or completely mitigate its effect.
- ECM should only be activated when evasive maneuvers and speed are not options.
- Countermeasures generally have a duration of 5 seconds and recharge in 15 seconds.
- Only heavies can shut down hostile ships with electronic countermeasures.
- Countermeasures have a visual effect, your enemies will know they are deactivated the same time as you.
Chasing the PIP
Look, we all like to get our rocks off but if your guns are starting to slow down before you have landed a shot, you should start paying attention to the UI. Provided you’ve remembered to lock your target (Y Button, 4k range), at 2 klicks you will see a diamond appear just in front of the target as if leading it. This is your target PIP. If you want to land any rounds on target you generally have to aim in that vicinity. This is not a guaranteed hit but merely a suggestion based on the target’s velocity and trajectory of where you should be aiming at that present time.
- Learn the attributes of your guns at 1k and 2k range engagements. Certain weapons do not fare well while others excel at this range. Primary weapons such as the Wraith’s or Dominator’s excel at ranges of 100-800m.
- Hold your fire if the shot is not going to connect. Every round you fire in vain informs the other pilot where you’re aiming. If he can see your fire, he doesn’t need to look to tell where you are.
- Withholding fire until you’re close can keep an enemy from noticing you until they are in the process of cloning.
- If your fire rate starts to slow down (overheat) and you’ve not killed your target you need to seek ways of altering the circumstances or how to disengage from the fight. Hostile reinforcements may have already arrived…
- Some weapons have more effect on shields or armor, while the support classes beam weapon only affects hostile shields.
When to burn, when to break
don’t think you can go hiding behind a big rock unless you want to crash into it.
All ships within Valkyrie have a base speed from which you can boost or break. Your ship never stops moving so don’t think you can go hiding your nose behind a big rock unless you want to crash into it. This also leads to problems during engagements. If you cannot master the manipulation of your velocity in high speed or steep turn maneuvers, your enemies will always out-turn you and always have the edge.
- Treat your capacitor as rationed. Most inexperienced pilots won’t live long enough for a recharge.
- Rapid bursts can be just as effective as prolonged activation for breaks and boosts.
- Prolonged activation can negatively impact capacitor reserves and force you into a parabolic arc giving your target a prolonged shot of you at range while you adjust course.
- Using aggressive boost assisted turns is the easiest way to avoid missiles without the use of countermeasures or obstacles.
If success is what matters to you, then one must dive into the world of aerial combat maneuvers. What you’re about to step into is something that has been evolving since pilots starting shooting at each other with pistols. Let me be clear, you will encounter many pilots who are well aware how to execute and counter these maneuvers. If you encounter hostile pilots who fall into this category, you’re likely to spend more time EVA than at the sticks.
But for the moment I don’t want to overload you with information. Being an optimist, you’ve left this article a little more educated and you can one day use it to vape my ass into space. Sure I could ask for leaderboard worthy stats and to be king of the hill, but I’d rather struggle flying against someone better than me. Also a mound of decomposing clones doesn’t sound very comfortable. Until next time, fly safe!