The Roadmap

Alex Anderson 🚀Alex Anderson 🚀, October 21, 2020
The Roadmap

I talked before about what Thorium Nova will keep from Thorium Classic. Today, we’ll talk about the new stuff that Thorium Nova will introduce. Before I get too far, I want to make it clear that this is my vision; I don’t know if it’s technically possible for a single developer to accomplish all of this, but I’m certainly going to try.

The Star Map

If you’ve been following along at all, you already know about the 3D Star Map. This is the first centerpiece feature that Thorium Nova brings to the table. The Star Map has a huge impact on everything in Thorium Nova and will affect how nearly every ship system operates.

  • Engines, navigation, and thrusters will properly move the ship in space according to realistic physics and around real planets and stars.
  • AI and automation for NPC ships.
  • Combat will happen in real time, with real enemies. The Tactical officer will actually have to target the ship with help from the Flight Control officer to rotate the ship until the weapons can lock on.
  • Ranged systems, like transporters and communications, will properly behave when the crew’s ship is moving in and out of range of other ships and planets.
  • Shuttles, fighters, and support craft will actually be able to launch and be given specific orders by the crew.
  • Tractor Beams will properly drag their targets behind the crew’s ship.

And so much more. The Star Map will totally revolutionize the depth of Thorium simulations. However, it’s only the first part of Thorium Nova’s development. Once I’m satisfied with the Star Map, I’ll begin work on the second centerpiece feature, the Crew Map.

The Crew Map

Each ship in Thorium Nova can be configured with a detailed map of its corridors and rooms. With this in place, it will be possible to track the movements of the crew members on the ship. Each crew member will have a job to do, along with several attributes which can affect how well they do the job and how they interact with other crew members. All of this can affect the rest of the ship - a crew member not going to do his work is going to decrease the efficiency of the system he is supposed to work on!

It will be up to the First Officer to monitor the duty roster, the Security Officer to manage crew morale and keep the peace, and the Medical Officer to make sure everyone is healthy and fit.

The Crew Map will also provide exciting opportunities for Engineering and Damage Control. A utilities layer can be superimposed upon the ship to show the electrical, water, HVAC, and computer networking systems. Monitoring each of these utilities will be crucial to keeping the ship running well.

On top of that, the ship will constantly be consuming supplies, like torpedo warheads, probe casings, damage repair equipment, fuel, and coolant. These supplies will literally be consumed as the crew uses their controls over the course of the mission. The Quartermaster on the ship will have to monitor these supplies and requisition replacements from the ship’s Cargo Bay. Once the requisition is ordered, cargo transfer drones will automatically load, move through the ship to the appropriate room, and unload the cargo.

Damage Control will also have access to Exocomps, which are small robots that can travel around the ship to assist with repairing the ship.

Thorium Nova will also have a nuanced power management system. Each system will draw power from the main reactor and onboard batteries, but only when that system is in use. The Engineer will be able to connect the ship systems to different power grids so the load is evenly distributed. Every system will draw from the available power until that power is exhausted, at which point the system will not work as well.

Power use and heat generation will also be affected by the efficiency of the system, which will steadily decrease over the course of the simulation. Getting hit by enemy weapons or sabotaged by intruders will make the system efficiency decrease even faster. Less efficient systems do less work while consuming more power, so the Damage Control officer will have to continually be working to keep the ship in tip-top shape.

Flight Director Controls

That’s a lot of ambitious features, and I haven’t even talked about the Flight Director yet. Flight Directors will have a lot of direct control in Thorium Nova, but changes will be made to make it simpler to control the ship, while still providing a lot of power. One new feature will be a Command Palette. This is a search field that can be brought up at any time with a keystroke. Most things that can be done on the Core will be available from the Command Palette, such as changing the lighting, flashing the crew screens, advancing the timeline, composing a long range message, accepting an incoming call, damaging a ship system, or playing a sound effect.

However, a lot of effort will be put into eliminating the need for a Flight Director. I think we all can agree having a Flight Director improves the bridge simulation experience, but some Thorium Nova crews might want to try it without having a dedicated Flight Director. Also, automating the Flight Director responsibilities will give the Flight Director fewer things to worry about, letting them focus on the crew.

For example, lighting and sound effects will be automated based on the actions of the crews. Music will play through Thorium Nova, and will automatically change mood based on the situation the crew finds themselves in. If they are under attack, the music will be punchy and climactic; if they are flying through space, they’ll get driving, exciting music; and if they are sitting still, they’ll get peaceful, contemplative music.

Thorium Nova will also feature auto-advancing timelines. Mission timelines will still be able to adjust nearly every aspect of the simulation, but a new tagging system will make it easier than ever to specifically target individual aspects of the simulation as part of the timeline action. Timelines can also watch for events that automatically advance the timeline step when the crew completes a certain action, such as sending a message, repairing a system, destroying a ship, or entering orbit of a planet. Many of these events will be based on a system similar to Thorium Classic’s task system, which will make it easy to indicate to the crew what things they should be working on to complete their mission.

On top of that, we’ll have multi-bridge support, so you can do joint flights with the crew of another ship; customizable ship controls themes; a built-in voice changer for the Flight Director; and revamped training for both the crew and the Flight Director.

If you can’t tell, this is an ambitious endeavor. Considering my current pace, I have no idea when all of these features will be completed. That said, I’m confident if I can keep making continual progress, eventually Thorium Nova will be something magnificent.

What new features of Thorium Nova are you most excited for?