The day job has been burning me at both ends for most of this past month, but I’ve still got some stuff to talk about. Working under a less comfortable time budget than the last time I touched the project has prompted me to turn my attention away from the more toy-like facets of it and refocus on making it something to play. The third arm of the project, ASTools, will thus languish until I really need some part of it. That said, the most recent release of AST is now available from the links up top of the page if you want to fiddle with it.
Centrally, there’s the display of motion, with the purple line being the player’s ship, the ring at the end representing the present location and direction. I usually refer to these as the motion plots. You can also see markers for each planned maneuver. The icons for this are a bit shaky and could do with a revisiting soon, especially since the direction indicator is a bit too easily lost in the lines. Currently the plot is shown for approximately one orbital period in the future, relative to the object’s current orders in case of a ship. I’m experimenting with ways to improve the utility of this as the player probably wants to see the entire future course of a maneuvering ship, and in more complex systems than the one shown here one orbital period might not be sufficient. For instance the shown system has only Jupiter and it’s moons, no sun. If you added the sun you could want to see where the moons would be for an entire Jovian year.
Another objective for the plots is to show some sort of marker or gradation for passage of time along the plot, so it’s easier to identify what’s moving fast and slow, and perhaps easier to line up encounters as a result. The exact means of doing so is still up in the air, my past attempts to do so weren’t very pretty or fruitful, but I mean to try again.
Down at the bottom are the time slider and scale. The scale is the smaller box in the center, where the white line is the length stated in the label there under it, in scientific notation. what that means is that that little 100 pixel bar represents about 556 thousand kilometers, or 345 thousand miles. That makes the screen itself about 10.6 billion km, or 6.6 billion miles, wide. A trip all the way around the earth is at most 40 thousand kilometers, for scale’s sake.
Above that is the time slider, which you can grab and move anywhere along. Right now in ASR motion through time is entirely manual, you have all the time in the world to solve the mission’s challenges. Challenge modes where you only have a certain amount of time to figure things out and your start time is always moving forward, or replay modes where it auto-advances from start to victory, both seem like they’re worth looking into later.
Top right is the info panel. You can get a lot of information about your current position and motion, as well as that information relative to a given target. Right now targeting the relative display requires typing in the name, eventually a dropdown and some clicking should be able to do it. Also here is the ‘burn’ button, which gives you a manuver node at the current time to attempt to put you into a circular orbit. Right now this assumes you have essentially infinite acceleration capacity. Also it requires you be close enough to an object to orbit it, naturally. Trying to orbit Io from your starting location will give you a burn, possibly an exciting one, but it won’t put you in orbit of Io.
Top left and far right respectively, we have the listing of maneuvering burns, where you can select existing maneuvers or add new ones, and the edit panel for setting up the details of a burn. You do this by entering a direction, an acceleration, a duration, and a time for this all to happen. As you can tell, a lot of manual figuring currently. Ways to more visually edit things is on the to-do list, but I want to always leave the option of precision, and a little trial and error have gotten me solutions to my test objectives far more easily than I ever expected. Not seen here is a relatively recently added button that auto-fills the start time of the burn with the current position of the time slider. A near term goal is similar buttons to set the heading to standard useful directions, like with or against the current motion, or at right angles to it.
I recently noticed that this is not helpful and following a more broadly understood convention might be helpful and am in the process of fixing it, but got detoured into a bit of code cleanup that should have happened a long time ago that should prevent weird inconsistencies from cropping up as a result of the change.