This page is one of a 10 part tutorial. The tutorial is designed to be read in order.
This part of the tutorial covers the use of probes and interceptors, and advanced techniques for assigning orders from Tacops. Although four interceptors cannot truly be considered a fleet, the same basic techniques may later be applied to other ships under Fleet Command and Control. One can even opt to order your own battlecruiser’s actions to via Tacops. You can play on directly from the previous part of the tutorial if you wish, or start a new character. If you were heavily damaged in the last battle, you should start a new character.
Jump to Jupiter, Sol and halt. Now launch a probe. From the NID (bottom left) select Probes–PRB-1–Launch. Then (again) from the NID order the probe to jump to Lyrius in Sirius (Probes–PRB-1–Jump At–Jupiter To..Sirius..System). After a while you will see the message “probe has reached its destination” – this may take some time, since probes travel at a leisurely pace and often miss jump points on the first pass. Now open Tacops (ALT+S) and left click on PRB 1, shown in yellow on the right hand side of the screen. Select View Probe Region (Lyrius). You will see real-time strategic information about activity in the region as if you were there yourself. From this screen you can both watch ship movements and give detailed orders any craft you have in the region. The only thing you cannot do is observe the planet’s surface. To return to your home region (Jupiter) select the probe again from the righ-hand list, and then select View Local Region (Jupiter).
Probes can only make a limited number of jumps depending on their range (long range 8 jumps, medium 6, and short 4). Once in a region they will patrol, sending back real-time information, including a message each time a ship enters or leaves the region (unless you opt for Silent mode, which can be set from the NID or Tacops probe menu). There is a chance they will be shot down, but this is quite rare – it is easier to sneak a probe into an enemy system than any other craft, and the probe will normally last a lot longer. You may have up to 10 probes active at one time. This might allow comprehensive coverage of one area of space, or (when distributed across the galaxy) just enough to spot most major fleet movements across the galaxy. Unwanted probes can be destroyed using the Detach option. Probes are loaded using Tactical–Loadout–BC–Probes.
As mentioned earlier, you have four interceptors and eight pilots to crew them. Each interceptor requires two pilots. Look at Tactical–Launch and browse through the first four craft on the list (Int-1, Int-2, etc). You should find all your pilots are already assigned to interceptors, and those craft are ready to launch. The list on the right-hand side of the screen shows pilot statistics. Immediately important are DF (Dog Fighting ability) and BA (Bombing Accuracy). For now, try to shift the pilots around so that whose with the highest dog fighting (DF) scores are pilots, and those with the lowest are co-pilots. Pilots are responsible for flight and most combat. Co-pilots primarily monitor the radar and may activate anti-missile systems. The combat skill statistics and AI (Artificial Intelligence) for all these pilots is low – yes, we are about to send rookies out in expensive combat craft, and yes, the odds of them bringing them back in one piece are quite low 😉 .
The interceptor Assignment option changes the missile loadout the interceptor launches with. It does not restrict the orders that can be given once launched, merely pre-empts the order by trying to assign appropriate weaponry. You also have the option to over-ride the automatic loadout by turning Auto Arm off and setting your own loadout from Tactical–Loadout–Int–Int-n. A full list of automatic interceptor loadouts is given in chapter 23 of the manual. For now, consider that Intercept is the only all-space-based loadout; Strike, SEAD and CAP are planet-only loadouts; and the others mix planetary and space weapons. This part of the tutorial is space based only, so I recommend you use the Intercept loadout.
Controlling support craft
Return to the bridge view and launch IC-1. Left-click on IC-1 on the right-hand side of the screen and select Launch–Intercept (this menu also allows the assignment/loadout to be changed). Alternatively press ALT+F1 for a simple launch (other F-keys launch alternative craft). Left-click on IC-1 on the right-hand side of the screen again, select Orders–Patrol. IC-1 will now patrol the current region (Jupiter) looking for enemy ships to attack. It will jump between jump points in the region. A useful tactic to help interceptors survive is to assign a second interceptor as escort. Launch IC-2 (ALT+F2). Now left-click on IC-2 and select Orders–Escort–Friendly–Earth Ter Mil IC-1. IC-2 should now follow IC-1 around. You can watch them both on Tacops (ALT+S).
While interceptors may be piloted by your pilots (essentially the computer), you can also take direct control yourself. First, ensure your battlecruiser is ordered to do nothing, since while you are away your crew (the computer) will take control. Select Command Menu–BC Orders–Orders–Halt. You may also wish to raise shields and turn weapons and PTA systems on to give your battlecruiser some protection should the enemy attack it. Don’t expect these measures to be combat effective against anything more than the odd fighter – they give you enough time to regain command should you need to.
Press ALT+F1 or left-click on IC-1 and select Switch To. You are now in the cockpit of IC-1. The basic controls are similar to those of the battlecruiser, except commands are entirely keyboard driven and there are slightly fewer indicators. For example, only one ‘scanner’, Tacscan or NID is shown at a time. By default you are in Tacscan, which means cycling targets using , and . will only ever show targets such as spacecraft and stations. To show targets such as jump points, press J to select the NID and J again to cycle through NID screens. To return to Tacscan press K, and K again to cycle through Tacscan modes. In space, Tacscan has two modes, SPC and SUL. SPC shows all appropriate targets, SUL restricts the list to ships you own – in this case the battlecruiser and IC-2. Another useful key to know is L, which cycles through different CVD modes. Between J, K and L you can access almost all of the same information available on the bridge view of the battlecruiser. There are a few short-cut commands to jump to certain screens, such as V to show the target camera view of the target: Ultimately familiarisation with the keyboard template pays dividends.
The interceptor has fewer strategic commands available. For example, one cannot issue orders to other ships without entering Tacops (ALT+S). Activating the autopilot will cause the interceptor to carry out its original order, in this case to patrol the region. If you wish to perfect your dog fighting skills, once this part of the tutorial is over, quit to the main menu and select Xtreme Carnage. Xtreme Carnage is pure interceptor-to-enemy combat, allowing you to experiment without worrying about your battlecruiser – see section below for further notes and walkthrough. For now, press Esc to return to your battlecruiser. IC-1 will automatically revert to its former order (patrol).
Interceptor fuel and servicing
Interceptors and similar craft do not use fuel, but they must be charged. You can see the current Reactor Charge towards the bottom of the Tactical–Launch–Int-n screen (this is also shown on the bridge by selecting CVD–Craft–Int-n, but the value shown there may not be accurate). Pilots become fatigued, and inevitably craft will take damage and need repair. Order the two interceptors back to the battlecruiser. Either issue the order RTB to each interceptor separately (left-click on the name on the right-hand side and select Orders–RTB) or call them all back using Command Menu–BC Orders–All Interceptors–RTB.
When the interceptor(s) dock, Flight Engineers will ready them again in preparation for re-launch. Interceptors cannot immediately be re-launched. If the interceptor has little or no damage, and enough flight engineers and the Combat Officer are on-station, readying will start automatically. This is indicated by the colour of the craft on the right hand side of the bridge view turning to yellow. If the craft is heavily damaged (normally having a critical system inoperable) it cannot be re-launched until heavily damaged parts are repaired. In this case, it will appear in red, and Flight Engineers will not start to ready it. Readying can be controlled via the Tactical-Launch screen. No more than two Flight Engineers can ready one interceptor; two typically take 6-8 minutes. Readying does not repair craft, merely charges their reactors, reequips missiles, and cleans dead enemy off windshield. Repair is a separate process, conducted by Systems Engineers and controlled using the same Logistix–Crafts interface as battlecruiser repairs.
Controlling support craft via Tacops
The bridge interface is quite effective at issuing simple orders to interceptors. Tacops is a far more powerful, detailed method of control. Return to the bridge and open Tacops (ALT+S). Press Esc to show the Command Palette. Freeze the game by pressing the Hold button – this will avoid anything else happening while assigning orders. Waypoints are used to build a set of orders for a craft or unit, which they will automatically carry out once launched. Waypoints contain two elements: a location and an action. The craft will first travel to the location, then carry out the action, then move to carry out any order in the subsequent waypoint.
Select IC3 from the lower-left of the Command Palette – cycle through units starting with BC using the arrow buttons on the palette or left-click in the box and select IC3 from the list. Add Waypoint 1 near Jupiter: Zoom close to the planet (stay in space, do not observe). Click the Add button on the Command Palette. Select the type of operation from the bottom box, in this case the default Proceed To Next. Click the Place button. Now click once somewhere near the planet to locate the waypoint. A white waypoint marker labelled “ IC3” will appear. Since you are attempting to create a point in 3D space using a flat screen, precise positioning can be somewhat difficult. Try to not rotate the map, and place the waypoint only in the centre of the screen – this will tend to create the point ‘in the middle’ of space. Once the point is placed, you can rotate the map slightly, click and hold down on the point, and move the mouse to move the point to a slightly different location. Since there is no physical target here, just an area of space, precise positioning is not particularly important.
Specific objects can be assigned as waypoints. Create Waypoint 2 by clicking the Add button again. Now find the Grazer ODS orbiting Jupiter – do this visually or by left-clicking Zoom To on the right hand side of the screen, and selecting Friendly–Jupiter Ter Mil Grazer ODS (if you cannot spot it, it is possible that it has already been attacked and is offline – check under the Other or Disabled categories). Next click the Target button on the Command Palette, and then click on the ODS until a waypoint appears (a white “ IC3”) – sometimes the target does not take immediately, try clicking round the edges of the target. Set the order to Patrol.
You can review the waypoints by cycling through them. Assignment/loadout can be selected from the Command Palette – Intercept is perfect. Unfreeze the game by clicking the Update button on the Command Palette. Click the launch button on the Command Palette – just once, there is a chance the game will crash if you click it twice quickly. Watch as IC3 (hopefully) flies the course. If the pilot’s chatter becomes annoying, they can be muted by left-clicking IC-3 from the right-hand list, and selecting Gag Pilots. If enemy units appear, IC3 may break off from its orders. Once the threat has passed you might need to remind its pilot of the waypoints by left-clicking IC-3 from the right-hand list, and issuing the Order, Resume Waypoints. Resume Waypoints can also be used if you place a new waypoint after the interceptor has launched and need to alert the pilot to the new waypoint. When the final waypoint has been completed, the craft will return to base. A final extra waypoint could be set as a Halt or Wait order if you did not want the interceptor to dock. One can create loops by making the final waypoint order Repeat Actions. Full explanations of each order are given in chapter 18 of the manual.
Waypoints can only exist in sectors you have current Tacops information for. This normally means sectors in which your battlecruiser or probe(s) are stationed. Since we have a probe in Lyrius, waypoints can be set there. View Lyrius region (left-click PRB 1 from the right-hand list and select View Probe Region). Find the enemy ODS near the planet, “Mul Rai Trancor ODS”. Now setup a single waypoint for IC4. Hold to freeze the action while you are doing this if you wish. Add to create the first waypoint. Click the Command Palette Target button, and then click on the ODS. Change the order to Strike. Strike instructs the interceptor to make a passing attack at the target primarily firing missiles. If no further waypoint is assigned, as will be the case here, the interceptor will automatically return to base once it has run out of munitions or the target is neutralised.
With the waypoint setup, return to real-time (Update if you used Hold earlier), and launch IC4. IC4 should immediately jump to the Lyrius and attack the ODS. With a little luck, the ODS will be destroyed or disabled, and the interceptor will return undamaged.