How to pilot a ship effectively and usecases of piloting a ship.
So, you've probably jumped into the cockpit when you're on a hijack mission to return the ship to the nearest starbase. Or perhaps you tried to pilot, and realize it is much different than your pod.
The basics are that it has the same basic controls as the pod, except instead of a brake, you can fire weapons (right-click by default). Ships are very cumbersone, although ships that have more engines have an easier time being piloted than ones that have less or missing engines.
First off, it does not matter the orientation that a ship has, you can direct your thrust anywhere as it rotates. Rotation is more important when in combat, but otherwise it shouldn't matter unless you want to undock and redock with your pod (quickly spinning ships are much harder to dock with than non-spinning or slowly-spinning ships).
Next, generally don't use fast-forward while thrusting. It makes maneuvering more difficult, and if you are on patrol to find ships to intercept, you may not slow down quickly enough because you sped up too much. If you do use fast-forward, you can avoid the autopilot by directing your thrust for a little time to keep it on. Just enough to cancel it.
After a while, you should get the hang of being able to match speed and tail other ships fairly easily.
What is a game about doing dirty deeds in space without combat?
Most ships come with cannons that launch missiles. Normally it's 2 cannons, but some have more, some have less, some have none at all.
There are two firing modes that depend on how your cursor is pointed at the target. The first is dumbfire mode. This is what you'll be firing with most of the time, especially on accident. The missiles will rotate their trajectory based on your ship rotation. It's kind of strange to get used to. That often means that a firing solution you had becomes obsolete once your ship rotates out of position, thus accuracy suffers.
The second firing mode is what you see the AI use all the time. You may have noticed that you can't seem to dodge enemy missiles. This is because they have a supernatural ability to always click on your ship. If you click on another room on another ship, you should notice your missiles actually track the room and eventually hit it or something else in the way. Accuracy is much higher, but tracking the ship on-screen is much more difficult. It's mostly meant for close encounters and where you'd want to disable specific rooms like engines or the captain's chair. You should also notice that the room will turn red like you see when you're on a warzone mission or being retaliated against. It's kind of cool that the AI and you play by similar rules.
You do not have to worry about your own missiles hitting your ship. They will travel through the space you are occupying, even if you catch up to the missiles you've launched.
Rotation is much more important in combat. If you're in a Foundry or Glitchers ship where the cockpit can often be next to the exterior, one lucky hit can render you wounded and sucked out into space. On the other hand, Sovereign and Offworld ships have a little bit of a buffer between the pilot's chair and space, making them more ideal for general combat where threats are on any side. Since you can get sucked out and start bleeding out, Offworld Angel is the recommended pod since it will prolong your career as a hitman in space.
If all else fails, you can also ram other ships for an impressive amount of damage.
Glitchers ships might have an advantage in that their engines are all over the place, so it is more difficult to render them motionless, although at times entire parts of the ship can fall off with a well-placed hit. They may be able to tank more hits than any other ship due to the complex geometry of the ship, but it would be very important to make sure the rotation of the ship is just right.
Sovereign ships have a longer profile, but are skinny as compared to Offworld ships. Offworld ships are noticeably wide. Foundry ships are often long, with skinny variants that can take one well-placed shot to break off the engine bay, and fat variants where it's noticeably harder to kill their engines. Glitchers ships are not consistent at all, and often have entire arms of the ship held by one hallway.
If I needed a ship for combat, generally I'd go Sovereign first, Offworld second, Glitchers, and finally Foundry. If certain factions don't exist in your nebula, you might have to improvise.
So, you might be asking, "Why would we use ships?". There are a few ways they can become useful.
None of these cases are useful if you have the Silence or Pacifist clauses. Bloodless clauses are at great risk as you can easily space personnel.
Assassination missions are the first and obvious choice. If you can nab a ship and space your target with a well-placed hit, you can get an assassination mission done very quickly. If you space a Foundry captain, since their pilot seat is often on the side of the ship, you can make sure they can't retaliate while you grind the ship down with your missiles.
Second, if you took a mission with the Enigma clause and you can't kill certain targets who have seen you, you should be able to destroy the entirety of the ship and get back with the clause intact. This is highly useful when you have to space shielded enemies and all the plate glass windows were broken.
Third, if you are under attack in a warzone, you might try fighting back as a last ditch effort to save your objective. It's very difficult to do, and mostly useful on hijack missions where you can't spend time on board the hostile ship.
Fourth, you could create new openings in ships for your pod and bypass a lot of the maze within ships for rescue, capture, and steal missions. It's like having a breacher pod, but you don't have quicktime events to save yourself. You just need to deal with the other ship shooting the ship you're on, and possible alarms.
Finally, perhaps you want to have a little fun and lay waste to all of a faction who houses your mother's murderer. I don't judge. Your mother was a kind, loving soul. You're not.