Docking System UI
Hey Folks! Hope everyone enjoyed their weekend. It was a cold one, here. By Seattle standards, at least. We even had some snow! Rainy, windy, messy snow that fell but did not stick. And as a result, mostly indoors and errands this weekend.
Back at the desk, I decided to try and setup some controls for docking. With the game starting docked at Ceres Station, we'll need a way to undock. And by extension, a way to dock again. And since the navigation computer isn't really the place for that (and is getting crowded anyway), I'm setting up a new UI.
Here's where one of the UI systems I planned starts to come into play. I'm thinking the user can jump between relevant UIs for their current station by using either hotkeys (like arrows) or on-screen buttons. So if you're at the navigation screen and need to access docking, maybe you tap the right arrow, and the nav screen slides left to be replaced by the docking screen. Like panning the control panels in a flight sim, except snappier (like <0.5s transition).
So in this case, we've plotted a course we like on the nav screen, and are ready to go. But there are two warning lamps on the UI: "DOCK SYS CLAMP" and "PROX WARN." This means the ship's docking system is clamped to station, and a station is nearby, respectively. And for now, that means you cannot engage the course yet.
So, we tab over to the docking system panel (the placeholder art in today's screenshot), and in theory, here's where we hit "RELEASE" to disengage the clamps. I've copied the warning lamps over here, since they kinda seem relevant here, as well. And we'll probably need some other stuff, too. But maybe for now, I'll just leave it at this: a way to release/engage the clamps.
I might also tinker with a sort of docking alignment mini-game. Like when the capsules are on approach to the ISS, they get within a certain range and then do alignment via camera view with HUD. The rings are out of alignment, and maybe even drifting, when you start. And it's up to the player (or an auto-dock CPU) to use the reaction control system (RCS) jets to stabilize the drift, align, and then approach at a safe speed before the clamps can engage.
I think between those two pieces, we should be able to do most of the game loop from undocking, to flight, to docking. There might be room for inserting an "approach" minigame in there before we get to the docking alignment. Something like a local map version of the system map, where the user requests permission to dock, receives instructions, then navigates to a specified parking orbit before disengaging the fusion torch and switching to RCS. (Or letting the tugs do their thing.)
It's all mostly just-for-show stuff here, I'll admit. Nothing strictly necessary or game-y. Just some UIs to immerse you in the experience of docking a real-live spaceship :)