This week I made more progress on getting crew stations sorted out. This required a little bit of refactoring of how the server is started and stopped, which should make it easier for Thorium Nova users to access someones server and start playing faster.
I also started planning and building out the station complement system. A station complement is the collection of stations which a ship supports. Most bridge simulators have built-in station complements of 6 stations: Captain, Pilot, Weapons, Engineer, Communications, and Science. As you saw two weeks ago, the Quick Start menu lets you choose your crew and ship. Thorium Nova then automatically generates a station complement for however many crew members you selected based on the systems available on the ship.
So, if you choose a ship that has a stealth field system, then Thorium Nova will make sure one of the stations has the stealth field system. Of course, which station gets it depends on how many stations you chose.
Of course, every station complement will have openings for the Viewscreen and, if you included one in your configuration, a Flight Director. I decided to make it so Flight Directors are assigned directly to on player ship. This makes it much easier to keep track what’s going on with an individual ship, and the narrative nature of Thorium Nova lends itself to each player ship having its own Flight Director. Don’t worry, though, I’ll make it so it’s easy to switch the Flight Director controls from one player ship to another. Also notice that the host can choose to assign themselves to a station as well, making it really easy to go from starting the server to playing the game.
Once you get a number of clients connected - that’s the individual player computers and browser windows connecting to the host server - you’ll see them on the Flight Lobby screen. The names are automatically generated (I personally enjoyed “Starship Folly”), but each client can choose to rename themselves. Assigning clients to a ship and station is as easy as choosing it from the Unassigned list and clicking the ‘Assign Client’ button next to the station you want it assigned to.
In the future, I’ll make it so 1) clients remember what ship and station they were assigned to, so they automatically connect and 2) you can create Bridge Configurations that automatically assign clients to specified ships and stations. That second one is intended to be used by permanent bridges.
There will also be a Client Lobby for any clients that have connected to the server but haven’t joined. They’ll be able to choose their own ship and station, unless the host has disabled that ability.
One of the most requested features of Thorium Classic is new layouts. Apparently people really like being able to customize and personalize the way the crew stations look. In Thorium Classic, there’s a bit of programming know-how necessary to create a layout, so to date only one person other than myself has ever made a layout for Thorium.
That’s changing with Thorium Nova! I’ve simplified and enhanced the layout system making it possible for anyone to create a theme. Themes can be applied on a per-station or per-ship basis and control the appearance of the crew’s controls.
I’ve created a theme editor that gives you a preview of the crew station, including a special card that shows any control elements, like buttons, list, input fields, etc. Below that is a code editor that lets you write CSS or LESS code, giving you unfettered access to the style of the screen. Yes, anyone who wants to create themes will need to know CSS, but CSS is a fairly approachable language, and I’ll make sure all of the styleable elements in Thorium Nova are well documented. Plus I’m planning on including most of the existing Thorium Classic layouts as themes, so you can use them as templates.
On the right side, there is an area where you can upload assets. For this theme, I’ve uploaded custom font files; you can also upload images to use in your theme.
Thorium Classic currently has 10 layouts built-in; the way that I’ve designed this system should make it possible for all of those layouts to be replicated as themes. If that isn’t flexibility, I don’t know what is.
I’ve also built out all of the logic and screens for clients to assign themselves to stations, and for displaying the crew station inside of its frame. With all of that infrastructure in place, I can start on the more exciting parts: building cards that can control the ship. Stay tuned!