Pip Dancing for Fun and Profit

Sometimes the art of flying any ship is the art of Pip Dancing.

Cockpit Pips “Pip Dancing” is the practice of modifying your power distribution settings effectively to match the situation you are in.  It is so called because most ship power distribution displays represent the power distribution biases as three little pips below the power bus status bars. The more pips illuminated, the higher the power distribution bias is to that subsystem.

There are three major subsystems

  • Systems, which affects shield recharge rates among other useful things.
  • Weapons, which most notably affects energy weapon recharge rates and possibly reload rates (YMMV).
  • Engines, which (no surprise) most notably affects engine capacitor recharge rates and total thrust availability, as well as your turning “sweet spot” on the throttle.

Your skill in manipulating these three settings can affect the outcome of an encounter tremendously.

There are generally four controls associated with these settings – a “reset” button that returns all controls to defaults (two pips each), and then one button to increase the level for each of the three systems.  I generally bind these to buttons that are easy to get to. In current conditions, there are six buttons surrounding the joystick, so I’ve delegated three of those to subsystems, one to reset, and one to reverse thrust (unrelated).

The tricky part is that there is a maximum amount of energy to be distributed, represented by the six pips.  If you crank one system up to maximum (four pips), the other two will decrease equally to compensate.  So, for example, if you set Weapons to three pips, then increased Engines to four, then Weapons would decrease to two and Systems to zero.

Anyway, it’s good to keep these four controls mapped to easy-to-find buttons, so that you can adjust things appropriately.

Let’s run some scenarios.

  • You materialize in a group of highly skilled, heavily armed pirates.  You’re going to run, but you need to survive the onslaught as well.  Initially bias to four Systems, two Engines, zero Weaps.  After you survive the initial onslaught, drop chaff and crank Engines to 4.  Run like the wind, engage jump drive, and pray.
  • You materialize in an area that is full of weakly armed, inept wanted pirates.  Boost Weaps to 4, Engine to 2, let Systems fall where they may.  The need for efficiency overcomes the need for safety when your opponent can’t hit you.
  • Your opponent realizes he’s going to die and runs for the hills.  If you don’t stay in firing range, he may escape. Crank up Weaps and Engines and hope for the best.

Generally speaking, if I’m fighting smart (i.e., against an opponent that can’t pod me), I’ll be less concerned about incoming fire and more about shutting her down before she decides to jump out of the system. Therefore, I’m going with three weaps, two engine, and one system. If they have decent weaponry I might bias more towards systems than engines, but I keep weaps as high as possible.

These are the fundamentals. As with all things, learning comes with practice.

You have all the weapons you need. Now, fight.


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