Frontier Pilot Simulator

Originally published at: http://www.mudspike.com/frontier-pilot-simulator/

With a focus on flying skill and efficiency, Frontier Pilot Simulator is a standout experience for fans of stick-and-rudder type simulations… While browsing through the annual Fall season Steam Sale, I came cross the thumbnail graphic for Frontier Pilot Simulator, clicked on it, and started reading the description. The intro paragraph was a pretty easy…

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Until clicking the review link, was thinking this was a bush flyer or something oldy-worldy. Interesting concept and nice review!

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Dang it @BeachAV8R, that’s another $25 out of my wallet due to Mud Spike, I’d never have joined up if I knew how expensive it would be.

Thanks for the heads up on this one, it looks great.

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To quote Chris’s article: “You will crash.” Yes you will, repeatedly.

Quick tip that just dramatically reduced my crash numbers, make sure to set your thrust/throttle axis for both your normal flight and your VTOL flight modes (yes I know the assignment says it’s for “both” modes, it LIES). I was wondering WTF was going on when I was dropping like a rock when I switched to VTOL mode, making sure that your engines keep working is a pretty important requirement for any flight sim/game.

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Yes…and there is another quirk…or feature to the flight model that I didn’t really explore. You can set the middle point of your throttle to be neutral…or engines off…no thrust. So that if you move forward, you get positive thrust and if you move the throttle backward you get negative thrust. I never really could figure out why the option for negative thrust was there…although I did see some options for the Scarab such as waterproof engines. I don’t know if there were more options for waterproofing but the negative engine thrust can allow you to briefly go underwater - which can come in useful retrieving lost cargo from earlier um…anomalies. The other point at which reverse thrust can come in useful is if you screw up a landing end up on your back, but still with a functioning craft. You can use the reverse to reverse your engine nacelles and power yourself up and flop over to right side up. This is a pretty sketchy maneuver that works sometimes. Anyway - you can remap your throttle on the fly in the options while in game…so I just left mine to idle power on my HOTAS being idle power in the game and full forward being 100%…all positive thrust. If I needed to do the turtle flop maneuver, I would just remap the center of the throttle for that specific event, then put it back to “normal”…

Were you able to switch modes prior to getting the wing upgrade? I think I was not even able to switch between VTOL and airplane mode. Also - airplane mode has very little “horizontal component of lift” working for the turn (meaning you bank but don’t necessarily turn all that much)…so you have to use a lot of rudder. I chalk this up to the planet atmosphere maybe not being all that thick or something. Suspension of disbelief or something…

No VR :frowning: Did the devs talk about this at all?

It was brought up on their Discord channel and just isn’t quite a priority for them at the moment.

Genuine question here. There is a lot of grammar and spelling mistakes on the steam page. Are they a non English based team working on this? Its not an issue I was just curious at to the dev teams origins.

Yeah…looks like they are from the Czech Republic (there aren’t too many spelling/grammar issues in the game though):

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Thats cool, like i said it wasn’t a problem I was just curious as the game looks pretty amazing. I might buy it with the left over money on a voucher I got for Christmas.
STeam however, proves time and again that they have no input on what goes on their store. Spelling mistakes, broken games, scams, porn. Its open season :money_mouth_face:

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I was nodding along enthusasically, slowly reaching for my credit card, until:

“but in an unfortunate omission, neither TrackIR or VR are usable in this sim”
[sound of record scratching to a stop]

I dunno man; a flight game with a hard-core flight model in early access for 3 years and neither VR nor track IR are implemented? Those are two very big “not great at ‘reading the room’” type of omissions in modern flight sim land…

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Yeah…I agree. Both would be a great improvement…although I will say, being non-combat, there isn’t much need for a ton of situational awareness…but it would make getting into tight landing areas easier.

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So by default for me at least, my throttle is set to neutral, which needless to say felt a bit odd. I haven’t run into a reason for using negative thrust, thanks for the heads up on using it in the water.

No I haven’t, it was referring to the translational forward/back/left/right VTOL controls versus the traditional pitch/roll controls.

First off I’d say the “hard-core flight model” is more “hard”, then hard core. It’s challenging but not particularly realislistic, unless they did some NASA level atmospheric simulations to figure out rules for aerodynamics in a non-earth atmosphere. Due to the setting it works, and can be nicely “hand-waved” away as a concern. Secondly I would argue this is probably a title aimed far more at folks who play titles like ARMA and similar FPS titles with vehicles. The general setup is much more inline with that genre, and the help screens feature diagrams with dual stick controllers not HOTAS or joysticks. I would suspect that very few folks in that market segment have a Track IR or are worried about VR in their flight sims. We are the far end of the bell curve in that regard right now. Don’t get me wrong I’d love to have the functionality, but I really don’t find it a problem for gameplay purposes. Additionally the cockpits aren’t particularly well fleshed out or functional, it’s pretty much all done in the HUD. I would like the support just be able to look around and enjoy the view more however.

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Just a couple shots from yesterday. The first one is as your are leaving the starting island, headed out to the much larger game world. And your first real exposure to the mega flora and fauna to be found.


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Some of the passengers can be jerks… :rofl:

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So verdict at the moment:

The concept pushes so many of the right buttons. Sci-Fi cargo pilot, with an engaging emergent misson driven story line, with a real time economy with free flight and trading, on a alien world to explore? All in customizable upgradeable, well simulated VTOL craft with real weather, and flight dynamics? I can’t really come up with much more I’d add to the list of wants.

Graphically it’s a little behind the times, which is a shame, as on occasion it’s down right beautiful. And unfortunately far to many people will discount a title if the graphics aren’t cutting edge.

Gameplay wise, it does what it says on the box. However there are some caveats. Flying isn’t quiet what you’d get on Earth is probably the best I can put it. I don’t know if the atmosphere is modeled as way thinner or what, but in “plane mode” your bird doesn’t seem to handle like an equivalent body would. Now without having a lot more background to say why that is, I’ll chalk it up to an alien planet that requires pressure suits to be outside. VTOL is effected in the same way it just doesn’t seem to have quiet the responses you’d expect. Now once you get used to that, it’s very consistent, predictable, and you can definitely fly just fine. I can say that after the initial learning curve, all of my crashes (and there have been a lot) are all the result of me doing something stupid or rushing it (which is the same thing).

The title is still in development, and you can tell. There are some game breaking problems if you do something stupid like crash when you have mission cargo (the mission stays open, but you can’t complete it). The “tutorial” is nothing more than a series of static screens that pops up on occasion. Entering and exiting the map interface is more complicated than it needs to be, and you can’t pull the map up in flight (in 2021 I can have my phone, via my watch find a restaurant, order and pay for my meal, and give directions, and I can’t pull up the map?!) The trading concept is based on fixed containers of goods versus tonnage of items (which sort of makes sense in the modern shipping container concept), and each location has only 1 of any given good in stock at a time (the part that doesn’t make sense).

There is no real AI traffic in the skies with you (there is an occasional 3 ship of something that will blow your doors off if you’re near the military port). Which considering there is only 1 landing pad at each location is probably not a bad thing. The weather changes instantly (you get a prediction so it’s not a surprise) going from 0 visibility raging sandstorms to clear weather in the blink of an eye. The planes don’t have much system simulation, and the cockpit has no real functionality.

With all that said, there are plenty of positives. You can land anywhere, and I do mean anywhere. If your landing gear can fit you can set it down. This is pivotal in a lot of the missions where you are dropping of survey equipment to field mining camps or doing surveys in canyons when a sandstorm blows in. A lot of the missions where you drop off cargo for mine surveys, result in new locations to fly to with gradually expanding mining camps turning into full fledged mines. The weather system, feels good, the winds shift, the radiation belt moves up and down, the clouds range from wisps to impenetrable, and it all looks great doing it. The winds are blocked by terrain (and there’s a lot of it), so sometimes picking your way through kilometers of kilometer tall cliffs is the best option to make it out alive. If they added some transition between the weather it would be a really remarkable weather engine.

The ships are distinct and different, with their appearance reflecting their roll and handling characteristics. The upgrades are varied and have real affects, and they have a good variety that don’t appear to have a single “meta” group that provides the best results. Both VTOL and “plane” mode have their advantages and disadvantages, and you have to be smart to figure out when to use them sometimes. For example: carrying a full cargo in the largest craft available you’d think using the runway to take off in plane mode would be the best option. However due to the mountains and canyons at the end of the runway you are asking to be swept into a canyon wall as soon as you clear the far threshold by the crosswinds that are funneled down the cayon. A VTOL or VSTOL take off while burning a lot more fuel lets you get airborne well clear of the terrain, so you can safely transition to plane mode.

Overall, with some polish this could be an outstanding title filling an interesting niche. For now I am having a lot of fun not really worrying about the story line and just trying to amass a fortune. There are certainly some bugs that drag down the whole experience (having my escape pod get lodged in the terrain crashing the game, and when I restarted being at a different location that was on the other side of the map), but it’s a great relaxing time killer.

Some of the wildlife


I love the Augmented Reality display, it is an absolute lifesaver in bad weather



The arrows show wind direction and intensity, and if you ever see “!” symbols, don’t fly into that, just don’t.

Similar situation, except this time I’m in high terrain. The yellow/orange “overcast” layer in the AR is the radiation ceiling you can’t exceed. You can see the cliff peaks are way up there, meaning I can’t climb out. There really wasn’t a safe way to get through without using the AR.


What Canyon N started out as, a dirt temporary charging spot and few prefab buildings. Followed by what it looked like after all the materials and supplies got flown in for the mine to open.


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Wow! That’s a lot to unpack, can’t wait to find a minute to read it!

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:coffee: :nerd_face:

Agreed. It isn’t cutting edge for sure…but it does make up for it with some really nice scenery. It does get a bit repetitive over the entire gameplay length…but it also became comfortingly familiar.

Yeah - that is what I felt too about the missing “horizontal component of lift” where banking doesn’t quite result in the aerodynamic forces you hope for (particularly as that cliff face is looming). It requires a LOT of rudder and anticipation to stay out of trouble.

All your points are spot on. As a matter of fact, some of your observations had me wondering because I thought I had put them in the review article - and I realized why a couple of them weren’t - they were on the BACK side of my notepad :rofl: On there, I had scrawled under needed improvements:

  • AI Traffic
  • Ability to purchase equipment for your other vehicles, load them, and take them to the base they are located
  • Quicksave ability mid-mission

The bugs in some of the missions…particularly ones where you crash with cargo, can best be avoided by saving a LOT and making a backup of that save folder.

Yeah…there are a lot of fun missions…and the game stresses the flying aspect which is a lot of fun.

Great comments and observations on the weather (definitely changes too fast, but is enjoyable with the different types of conditions you encounter) and the observations about the ships. At maximum weights, they are a blast to fly because they teeter on disaster. It feels exactly like what a fly-by-night space cargo operation would be like… :rofl:

Great recap on your time with the game! Thanks for the time it took for the extensive write up.

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I just got this and am quite stuck at flying the start ship. I can’t seem to really move about properly and am constantly fighting a balancing system that wants to bring the ship back in neutral. I have to push the stick fully foward to gain a slight amount of forward speed. Any advice?

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