What the fuck does an antigrav generator look like? What about a hyperdrive?
An artist doing a piece on a ship with an inertial confinement fusion drive has reference material on it. They can make a pretty good guess how big it is and much shielding you need to avoid giving the crew free x-rays. All that good stuff.
Star Trek and Star Wars has it good too. Their tech just needs to look cool? Why does an X-Wing (or Voyager) need variable geometry? It looks cool and we all know vehicles go faster when they look cool.
Anyway here's my latest offering. Skippy is a lifter built with variable geometry. Here she is at rest:
There she is hovering:
Here she is moving fast. The foils on the back manipulate the properties of the field that provide thrust. Here Skippy is moving all out forward. The foils are dropped down to provide most of their force as thrust. The little foils in the front provide enough lift to stay in the air and a little extra to maneuver. The aft foils drop down when she's booking:
Hard deceleration looks like this:
A very sharp turn will look like this (also referred to as the Wash Evasion):
I like it. The render gives you an idea how the vehicle works. More to the point it has gaming applications. A pilot can state they are setting their foils to optimize performance, trading maneuverability for speed. I like putting allocation decisions into a game. A pilot being chased between buildings might decide to put it all to speed or keep some maneuver power in case they run afoul of ,say, a floating fruit stand (I have no idea what floating fruit tastes like).
It will also be pretty obvious what the general intent of other pilots are, like the little old lady flying along in the fast lane with her foils pointing up.
You can also extrapolate where the thing gets hit in a fight. For example damage that reduces speed could hit the foils themselves. Reduced maneuverability could be damage to the rotator shaft.
As for controls you could have the old plain vanilla stick/yoke. the air foils will rotate through prefigured configurations based on the stick position. More complex and high performance lifters could have a separate dial for each foil to let a pilot use the moves Wash put the Serenity through or compensate for battle damage.
One more thing to consider is the canopy. It is a single unit and locks down. If you want to add gunplay to your air chases you will have to detach and lose the canopy. If you want a different design to enable gunplay you might like this variant:
Just don't blame me if the referee says it's raining and your guns get wet.