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Frequently Asked Questions

About the Game

What is Pioneer?

Pioneer is a freeform single player space adventure in the spirit of Frontier: Elite II.

Is this a game or a simulation?

Frontier was a game, but with a newtonian flight model and a slightly more scientific flavour to the universe than usually in space games. Pioneer follows this same path.

Can I play multiplayer online?

There will be no multiplayer. This does not rule out the possibility of minor network features, but multiplayer as it is commonly known is not compatible with the core mechanics of Pioneer. See for instance Network features, and ServerAgent for more, or our dev forum here. Pioneer will never have multiple players in different ships, as this is incompatible with time acceleration feature. For comparison: the Elite Dangerous dev-team chose to prioritize multiplayer over Newtonian mechanics, and make it more like the original Elite, we choose to stay true to the core concepts of Frontier Elite II, which is Newtonian mechanics, with time acceleration.

Can I colonize planets, build space stations or conquer the universe?

No, these are out of the game scope. While the game universe might not stay static for the duration of a game, the player can not generally influence major events.

Can I walk around space stations and planets?

No, you cannot exit your ship. The ship is always your avatar. The development team does have aspirations to push in this direction, for future versions.

Is the universe pre-defined or randomly generated?

There are millions of stars in the galaxy. A few hundred on them are based on real-world astronomic catalogues. some of the planets (obvious ones being in the Sol system) are pre-defined, but most things are procedurally generated. This means that a planet does not exist until you actually visit it, but it will be generated the same way for every player.

Can I hire crew for my ship?

Yes. You can hire crew. But they don't do very much at the moment.

Are savegames compatible between releases?

The development of the game can happen in sudden bursts, some of which change the game universe, or save/load routine, such that old saves are blocked from loading, lest the game might crash. The player can start a new game, and "give" themselves back money, kills, reputation, ship, as it was in the old save, by using the lua console. You probably want to keep a copy of your old Pioneer, to read off your player statistics, write them down, then download and open the latest Pioneer version, and give yourself those stats. Note: it's only cheating if you give yourself back more than you had, remember: God is watching over your shoulder!

Are savegames compatible between Mods?

Again as with savegames between different versions of pioneer, compatibility between mods can not be guaranteed. It all depends on what mods you have installed.

Where is star system X from Frontier? Can I buy ship Y?

Although Pioneer started out as a clone of Frontier, it no longer is, thus references to the Frontier universe have been removed, and we aim at making Pioneer far better than Frontier. Thus, you will have to figure out new trade routes! But don't worry, Newtonian physics will remain, as well as single player.

Can I build and control a fleet, or a factory, or run/own a station?

No, this is not on the agenda, and none of the developers are motivated to push for this, but who knows, perhaps in the future, some skilled developer, who knows how to implement this in a way that makes game play interesting, joins the dev-team. However, we are currently planning to have mining machines (like in Frontier Elite II), and ship system management (heat, energy, repair components, etc.) on the agenda.


How do I take screenshots?

Ctrl+Printscreen saves .png files in the same directory where the game .ini and savegames are. You can cycle through full HUD/HUD without labels and cursor/No HUD and cockpit using TAB as described in [1].

How do I record a video?

To record video directly from Pioneer you will need to add the line RecordVideo=1 somewhere within your config.ini file. Then once ingame you can press Ctrl+ScrLk to start or stop recording.

How do I find star X in the star map

First it is important to note that just like in real life, names are not unique. The star map allows the player to search for either name or coordinates of a system. The search is done in the local region of the currently selected system.

Thus a standard way of finding a system is to type in the name in the search field in the star map (generally refereed to as "sector view"). If you know the system is within a few ly from your position, then have your current location selected when you do the search, since it only does a "local" search in space. If the search fails, go to the sector where the star is supposed to be, either by typing the coordinates into the search field, or by using arrows, mark a nearby star in that system, and do another search. You can scroll the star map super fast by holding in the Shift key.

I have a Taxi mission to system X, but which starport?

For Taxi missions any starport will do, as long as you dock before the deadline.

Starsystem names are not unique

This is not a bug, space is big, and just here on Earth it is quite common with cities and villages sharing the same name, sometimes quite close.

I picked up a mission to a starport in a system, but when I search for the system, it seems that it doesn't have the destination starport, or even uninhabited.

As mentioned above, there could be multiple systems with the same name. Each mission states the coordinates (Sirius (1,0,-1) for example) of the destination system, and you can enter them into the search field on the sector map, to find the correct system.

I end up "a big number" AU away from the star when I hyper jump to a system

This happens in binary star systems. You can select the star you want to jump to from the System View.

Map survey / scan mission does not progress

Make sure:

  • if you have an orbit scan mission, you need an orbit scanner, and if you have a surface scan mission you need a surface scanner.
  • Also make sure you're flying above the minimum altitude, and below the max.
  • Also make sure you're in the right system (both coordinates and name must match), and at the right body.

Major/Minor Import/Export is wrong

There are two levels: system and station. A system can be an importer of X, but a station in that system can be an exporter of X relative the system as a whole, meaning the import/export of a specific station is relative to the import/export price of the system as a whole.

Technical FAQ

What is the system requirement for runing the game?

Current "stable" (if indeed we have one) release is 2021-02-03, and is built on Ubuntu 20.04 Linux machine and a Windows machine, and requires OpenGL 3.2 compatible hardware. We also offer a flatpak script. If you want to compile the game, then please install requirements listed in COMPILING.txt

Installing the game

The releases are made when developers feel it's been "a while", relative to the number of new additions that have been added that they want players to enjoy / playtest. Releases for Windows and GNU/Linux are now (2021) found on the github releases page, and Linux versions are currently built on a Ubuntu 20.04 (virtual) machine, thus that system should not have any compatibility issues.

Build from source

The best way to ensure your pioneer is compatible with you Linux system, and of latest, "bleeding edge", version is to install from source. This is described in COMPILING.txt. Playing this way is also the best way you can help the developers, i.e. find and report the latest bugs you encounter.

Installing using flatpak

If you're having trouble getting pioneer to run on your Linux distribution, and you do not want to build from source, then we recommend flatpak that resolves dependencies for you. Follow this on how to use it, if need be. E.g. on Linux Mint these images are already included by default in their app store. On other distributions it is at most needed to install flatpak and then issue, from a terminal:

 flatpak install net.pioneerspacesim.Pioneer

Error loading shared libraries (e.g.libassimp.so.<x>)

The linux version of Pioneer is build on a Ubuntu 20 machine. Currenlty (2021-05), this can cause some debian machines, that have an older verison of libassimp, to throw an error, e.g.:

   error while loading shared libraries: libassimp.so.5:
   cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory

This is fixed either by building pioneer from source, against the shared libraries that are on your particular machine (then you get an even more updated "bleeding edge" build of pioneer!), or install the correct version of the package that is missing: https://packages.debian.org/unstable/libassimp5 (or try to find an older release)

Where is the Mac version?

Pioneer's development team is mainly on Linux and Windows, and does currently not have the ability to build and maintain a Mac version. To build a Mac release we actually need access to a Mac machine, which, unfortunately, none of the developers currently have. If you have a Mac which can compile and upload pioneer for us on a regular basis, then please contact us (IRC).

Update: OSX builds have been discontinued due to lack of maintainer and Apple's deprecation of OpenGL. We do not intend to offer them in the near future - we will need to migrate the rendering path to Vulkan and have enough of a user base to warrant spending time on OSX compatibility.

Where do I find nightly builds of Pioneer

They're available on github actions page. Note: thuis currently requires login to github to download. A new build is made each time a pull request is merged with new code, and also each proposed pull request is built, which is a great way to test features prior to them being merged into the master branch.

Where do I find older versions of Pioneer

You can find older versions starting from December 2014 (2014-12-05) on our sourceforge page. 2014-11-18 was the last version supporting OpenGL 2, between 2014-11-19 to 2014-12-07 Pioneer required OpenGL 3.2. From 2014-12-08 only OpenGL 3.1 is required. Over at moddb they have windows version going further back in time.

How do I play on old computer

Your best bet is to use an older version, or if you have another computer you can use virtualGL to let pioneer run on a remote (modern) machine and forward it to an older machine, as described on the forum, this command works best (but combat/action is too laggy, so it is only a viable solution for playing peaceful missions):

 vglconnect user@server_executing_pioneer_ip -CY -p SSH_port 'cd /path_of_pioneer_compilation_folderme/ && ./pioneer'

How/where do I report my bug/crash

Bug reporting is the most important part where you as a player can help the community. When you encounter something that seems strange or odd in the game, please report it, preferably to our issue tracker, but you can also stop by the IRC channel. When you report it, always mention pioneer verision (shown in lower right hand corner in the starting screen png)

When having problems with graphics, or pioneer not starting/crashing, please attach the files output.txt and opengl.txt from the pioneer config folder in your home folder / My Documents folder. If you didn't get the output.txt file, then make sure RedirectStdio=1 in config.ini.

It is important to include as much of the following information as possible in each issue report, much of this is available to use from the output.txt and opengl.txt but if you cannot attach them then please tell us:

  • The version of pioneer you are trying to run (build date or ingame version number)
  • What operating system you are running, Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10, Linux (what distribution), OSX.
  • Your computers system specifications - CPU / RAM / Graphics card.
  • Whether you have downloaded it from our site, or if you are building it from the source code.

Debug backtrace

When the game crashes, one of most valuable pieces of information you can provide the development team, is a backtrace. To get a backtrace, the game must have been compiled in debug mode, and then started through a debugger. If you compile the game yourself, from source, it will by default build a debug mode.

Windows Visual Studio

  • Compile the game in debug mode (should be the default setting).
  • After building it, press F5 or go to Debug->Start Debugging. Note: it will run slowly, starting a new game or loading a new one in particular. That's normal.
  • Instead of a full out crash, you'll get a freeze and it should automatically switch back to Visual Studio. If it freezes and doesn't switch back, do that manually.
  • At that point, Visual Studio should have opened a couple new panes/sub windows at the bottom. One of these is 'Call Stack.' Right click in it, select 'Select All.' Then right click in there again and select 'Copy with source paths.'
  • Then paste that information into the bug-report (preferably as a code formatted block)
  • After that you can Debug->Stop to shut down Pioneer again.

Linux gdb

  • Make sure gdb (The GNU Debugger) is installed on you system (available in package managers of all Linux distributions).
  • Then start pioneer by prefixing the command with gdb followed by the normal command to start pioneer. Eg. if you normally do:
 cd pioneer/

then to run in debug mode, you need to run it through gdb:

 cd pioneer/
 gdb ./build/pioneer

then from inside gdb, type "run", which starts pioneer. Play until you get the crash, which drops you out to gdb again. Type 'bt' or 'backtrace' in the gdb command line, and save the output to you bug-report.

Where is the configuration file, saved games, screenshots?

  • Windows: My Documents\Pioneer
  • OS X: /Users/your_username/Library/Application Support/Pioneer
  • Linux: /home/your_username/.pioneer

New pioneer version doesn't start

This could be because new configuration is incompatible with the local, try remmoving your pioneer configuration folder, such that the game will auto-generate new configuration file anew.

I'm getting graphical issues

Such as wrong textures, ships missing from the view, text display glitches. Updating the display drivers usually solve these problems.

These usually occur on older graphics adapters, or because of outdated GPU drivers. Not too old NVidia and ATI cards are usually enough to play the game, but integrated GPUs are usually not enough.

I'm getting graphical issues, such as snow-like sky and transparent terrain

This is probably caused by the eclipse shader which isn't supported by some open source graphic drivers. You could install the proprietary drivers, if available, or disable the eclipse effect by adding DisableEclipse=1 to your pioneer configuration file (config.ini).

My OpenGL Version is below 3.2, "Pioneer cannot run on your graphics card"

UPDATE: Pioneer dropped 2.1 support in September, 2018. You need to checkout and compile a version prior to this, and do:

Open your pioneer configuration file, and set: "RendererName=Opengl 2.1". This should allow pioneer to run, provided your hardware supports OpenGL 2.1, which it should if you were able to run Pioneer up until 2014-11-18 when support was dropped. Note, support for multiple renderers was added 2017-03-03, i.e. both OpenGL 2.1 and 3.1; however, you need to edit your configuration file to select the proper one, as no auto-detection is done. Actually, if your hardware isn't extraordinarily old, OpenGL 3.2 should be supported if you update your drivers.

You can also find older versions (pre 20141119) on moddb.

I see blank untextured Gas Giants and I'm using an ATI graphic card under GNU/Linux with open source drivers (Mesa R600)

With chipsets using the R600 gallium drivers the shader fails to compile. There is a workaround that uses less noise octaves. This produces less detailed texture maps for the gas/ice giants but they still look good and at least the program runs.

Try setting AMD_MESA_HACKS=1 in ~/.pioneer/config.ini or disable GPU jobs entirely by setting EnableGpujobs=0

I'm getting text rendering artefacts

Some system monitoring HUD utilities, like MSI Afterburner, and Steam overlay can cause distorted text rendering. Try switching them off. 

The game freezes at the intro screen

If you cannot start the game at all, edit the configuration file and change value DisableShaders to 1.

The game crashes on start with an error message about imgui_draw.cpp

Check if any parent folder of Pioneer has any accented letters (e.g éáűúóü etc.). If so, copy the game to somewhere, where there's none of these in the folder tree.

The game crashes after the loading screen. I'm using ATI free drivers on GNU/Linux.

If you are getting a GL_INVALID_ENUM in console, could be because some ships uses textures in a format that, because of patents, is not included in the main mesa package. Search for libtxc-dxtn or libtxc_dxtn in your distribution and install it.

The game hangs when I turn on the Enable Cockpit (EXPERIMENTAL) option

It's because it's an experimental feature right now, infrastructure mostly. You need a cockpit model for to be able to use it.

You can find one heavily WIP one posted on the Community Forums. Note that it's a highly experimental feature right no, so please treat it accordingly.

My joystick is "drifting"

It's recommended that you calibrate your joystick using the OS facilities (Joystick Settings on Windows, jstest-gtk on linux) as this fixes 99% of all issues with incorrectly configured joysticks. However, if you want to adjust specific parameters for each joystick axis, support for customizable deadzone and sensitivity is available through the configuration file. Open config.ini and adjust the deadzone (DZ) and sensitivity exponent curve (CV) values of the corresponding axis to your liking.

; example joystick configuration
Axis0=DZ0.0 CV1.0
Axis1=DZ0.0 CV1.0
Axis2=DZ0.0 CV1.0
Axis3=DZ0.0 CV1.0
Name=Saitek Cyborg USB Stick

I'm getting poor performance

The heaviest part of the game is planetary terrain generation. Turn down the "Detail distance" and "Fractal detail" settings, they have the most impact for performance. Reducing screen resolution is also recommended, this can be done in the Settings Menu, or manually to a custom values by editing your personal configuration file, on Linux: ~/.pioneer/config.ini. On Windows: Documents/pioneer/config.ini Look for ScrHeight and ScrWidth entries. Also consider reducing number of buildings in cities.

I've enabled anti-aliasing in the config file, but it does not work

Make sure the AA settings are not overridden by your graphics card settings, on NVidia AA should be set to "application controlled" mode.

Full screen mode is incorrectly scaled

If you are on Windows, try:

Sounds like windows 7 desktop-scaling issues.
Try adding some compatability modes to the Pioneer.exe.
Right click it and Choose properties -> Compatability -> Tick
Disable desktop scaling, and Disable desktop composition.


What's the history of Pioneer

The project started in 2008 by Tom Morton, and was announced in 2010 on the Space Sim Central forum (for space games), and on frontier forum. For more history, see Rock Paper Shotgun article, and Media_Coverage

How much development is being made?

Development is sporadic, but no month goes by without some change to the source, fixing bugs, cleaning up code, introducing new content and/or features; see Changelog.txt. All contributors work on pioneer for free when they have time and motivation.

What's the deal with the inconsistent UI interface?

Basically, Pioneer has during the 2013-2020s had up to three different, simulteneous, UI systems, for a background and screen shots, please refer to: GUI_introduction#Background_history

Do you accept contributions?

Hell yes! Pioneer is not any one persons personal project. It is the sum of the contributions made by the people who play and care about the continued development of the game. See: How to contribute.