- THE CURRENT SYSTEM -
This will be a brief description of how the current system is percieved to work.
On the bridge a variety of monitors can be found. There are four main screens, each representing the four main computer modules on-board:
The Nav Screen (Lower-middle) represents the NavComm module.
The Helm Screen (Upper-right) represents the Helm module.
The Sens Screen (Upper-left) represents the Sens module.
The Comms Screen (Middle-left) represents the Comms module.
The screens are somewhat dependant on their respective module. For example, if the Helm module is disconnected, the Helm screen will not work. If the helm module is damaged, the helm screen will flicker. The following is a list of what is lost, when a specific module is disconnected:
NAVCOMM MODULE > Nav screen
HELM MODULE > Helm screen, RCS control, Main Engine control
SENS MODULE > Sens screen, Extirior Environment on Nav screen, Sensed vessels on nav-screen stops updating
COMMS MODULE > Comms screen, E-mail screen in the comms-room
- A REAL WORLD SYSTEM -
This is a brief description of a real-world system, that is the ‘technical base’ of my proposed re-modelling of the systems on-board spaceships.
The system I will describe is the computer system on-board a real world commercial aircraft, namely the Boeing 737-800. I have flown this as a simulation for about ten years now, the last five of which with study-level simulated aircraft (PMDG 737-800 for P3D and Zibo 737 for x-plane for those who care). Most of what I will explain is also true for many other aircraft.
Let’s consider four ‘modules’ of the 737: IRS, TCAS, NavData and the Weather radar.
IRS stands for ‘inertial reference system’. It’s basically three extremely accurate accelerometers, measuring the three axial forces acting upon the aircraft. This way you can tell the IRS ‘You are now at this coordinate’, and later (after moving around some thousand miles) pull out your current coordinate, all without in-accurate sattelite based GPS.
TCAS is the Traffic Collision and Avoidance System. It basically listens for all other planes’ TCAS-signals, and based on that your TCAS will know where they are, how high they are and if they are climbing or descending.
NavData is well… navigational data, duh. It is simply a database containing the coordinates and additional attributes of several objects, such as airports, runways, radio stations and non-physical navigation-points (called Fixes). It’s simply put a large book of tables, from which you can get the position of important stuff to fly after along your route.
The Weather Radar is placed in the nose of the aircraft, and can pick up precipitation in the air ahead. It is also able to differentiate between a light drizzle and heavy thunderstorms.
As I previously hinted, we can consider these four systems ‘modules’ in the 737. But the important thing is, that none of the modules have their own reserved screens. In the cockpit of the 737 there is a screen that displays information from several modules at once. It can display the weather ahead (from the Weather Radar), traffic in your vicinity (from the TCAS) and nearby airports (from the NavData combined with the IRS). If one of the systems fail, it cannot be displayed. It requires the entire ‘common display module’ to fail, for the screen to go black.
I feel It’s important, at this stage, to state the following:
The usage of the example of the 737 is driven by my extensive knowledge of aviation and of that plane in particular. My proposal, however, is not. This is not a post going ‘Geez I’d wish I could fly a 737 in this game.’ The entire comparison with the 737 came to mind AFTER thinking about how the OiS system could be better, and I found the 737 to explain that quite well.
- COMPARISON -
I have made a comparison. It’s not in-depth, and drives no real point, but I made it and here it is. You can skip this, really.
While is is somewhat difficult to do, we could try and compare the systems. In this comparison we will pair the modules from OiS and the 737 as follows:
NAVCOMM MODULE = NavData
HELM MODULE = IRS (And the entire Autopilot system…?)
SENS MODULE = TCAS/Weather Radar
COMMS MODULE = VHF/UHF Radios (for talking to people on the ground)
I have added the 737’s Radios, as it is fitting for the comparative aspect of that module. The 737’s radios is nothing fancy. It’s just a walkie talkie that can talkie at real long distances, with less walkie and more flyie. What a ridiculous name for a communications device. ‘Walkie-Talkie’. Good Lord…
- MY PROPOSAL -
I would find it rather interesting if the OiS systems mimick the systems of a 737 to some extent, particularly the seperation of modules and screens. The Nav Screen should at all times display all relevant information it can gather from the different modules. The following is a breakdown of what each module should do:
This is like the NavData of the 737. It uses GPS-like technology and built-in databases, and present information about planets, moons, stars, and nebulae.
HELM MODULE: This is like the IRS and autopilot. It knows what way we are pointing and at what speed we are going. It is able to command the RCS and main engines, to perform simple maneuvers such as flying a plotted route, as well as the current “stop now” feature. Without this module it is still possible to manually control RCS and Main engine, as long as those respective modules still are connected.
This is like the TCAS/Weather radar. It can detect the immediate exterior surroundings, such as being in a nebulae or asteroid field. It can also detect and transmit IFF signals, and detects other vessels’ and stations’ emissions IN RELATION to you current position.
This is like the 737’s radios. You can transmit and receive messages through E-mail or radio communication.
Now to the screens. Below is a breakdown of what should happen when a given module is disconnected:
Most of the ‘map’ will disappear from the nav screen. You will still see other vessels and stations, as well as yourself, but not planets, moons, stars and nebulae.
The autopilot will no longer work; you must fly manually.
The SENS screen will be mostly useless, and other vessels and stations will disappear from the NAV-screen. Exterior environment information will not be available on the nav screen. IFF will be disabled.
Communications will not be available.
- WHAT WILL THIS GIVE US? -
More than just being a fun gimmick, I think this will give a more strategically exciting experience when it comes to damage control. When you’ve been hit by a torpedo right after going through a red nebula, and you are juggling your spare module components, there is now more of a real decision: What shall be prioritized? Do I really NEED autopilot, or should I let go of Nav?
As it is now, all you can really afford to shut down is the COMMS module and the SENS module. This will bring the other two modules into play as well, when doing damage control.
Further, it ‘just makes more sense’ in a ‘realistic way’. As it is now, it doesn’t make any real sense why the disconnection of the NavComm module, disables you from seeing what the sens module is picking up in relation to your vessel. This proposal is one way to solve that.
- ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS -
These are thoughts that I have not really thought through, but still worth mentioning, in my opinion. I know this is a very drastic change to the game, which is why I don’t expect it to be implemented. I would assume that these very systems and the game mechanics they touch have been discussed countless times at 11 pm at the Flat Earth office, as they are what I would consider the main part of the user interface. But now my thoughts are here, at least, in case they are useful.
One additional feature that might be considered, is how damage of modules interacts with the modules themselves. The screen flicker should maybe be tied to hull damage (to indicate loose connections in the cables running along the hull), and module damage should make the modules function improperly… properly. For the Helm this could be false speed readouts, and for the NavComm it could be missing nebulae and flickering planets.
I know this is a long post, and I also know that it is now a quarter to four in the morning, which is why this post must come to an end.
Thank you for reading this. I do appreciate it. If you have any thoughts/comments/critique, please discuss it below!
P.S.: If you have no idea how the 737 works, you can go to this website to find out. This is the link to the ‘displays’ section. Enjoy!