I always envisioned the initial sequence of diving into The Ring as a short cutscene showing starship on final approach on a pillar of nuclear fire, providing a comfortable standard gravity for the crew for hour long travel from Enceladus Prime, correcting it’s trajectory with thrusters and finally dropping to microgravity just before the edge. Now I got an opportunity to make it:
It is lot more involved than a simple animation. Whole cutscene plays out using same in-game physics. I made an autopilot routines that translate desired location, velocity and orientation of the ship into thrusters response, and it worked beautifully. There are some loopback loops ensuring that correct thrust is used whatever cargo ship will carry, some convenience features, like desired acceleration / gravity. It examines the ship to discover what thrusters are available – and in what condition, so it should adapt seamlessly to different ship designs.
This reflection ability actually backfired in early iteration, as autopilot decides it’s perfectly normal to slow down using main mass driver.
While you may think that it is an overkill to make such routines just for a cutscene, there is more to it. This autopilot will be both usable by player (provided his ship has it and it’s powered up), and it will control NPC ships.