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Railjack - Why don't we have a compass? (solution included)


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Some obvious reasons as to why we don't have a compass:

  • it's in space, where exactly would the "north" be pointing to?
  • it's in space, where exactly would up/down be pointing to?


And to that, I say: Just wrap a coordinate system around whatever large celestial body is nearby.

  • If a planet is nearby:
    • Compass is relative to the rotational north/south of the planet in the skybox, with "down" pointing towards the planet.
      Basically our geographic coordinate system that we're all used to, except REEAAALLY high off the ground (which will be readily apparent in Earth Proxima missions).
      For the sake of being intuitive, rotational poles are considered rather than magnetic poles.
  • If a planet is not nearby:
    • Same as above, but relative to the sun instead, with "down" pointing towards the sun.

HOWEVER: I get that it's important to have the planets gracefully appearing in the skybox as you spawn in, and that players will often want to orient themselves in the plane of the compass (i.e. place the planet beneath them). This could be problematic.
So, alternatively: make the compass relative to the centre of the galaxy instead.

  • ALTERNATIVE 1: "Down" pointing towards centre of galaxy, "North" pointing toward the north galactic pole, and "South" pointing toward the south galactic pole. (Geographic coordinates, just like above, but centered around galaxy centre.)
  • ALTERNATIVE 2: "Up" pointing towards centre of galaxy, "North" pointing toward the north galactic pole, and "South" pointing toward the south galactic pole. (This is similar in setup to the galactic coordinate system, which is used for locating extragalactic objects in actual astronomy. Very different in execution, but similar in setup.)


At this point you may be wondering:

"But SortaRandom, who the heck will care where the centre of the milky way is when playing a Railjack mission?"
- some dude, 2019

To which I say: exactly.

Since the Milky Way doesn't appear in any of our skyboxes, and the players typically won't know/care where the centre of the MW should appear in the sky, it would be easy to get away with setting the in-mission compass to some completely random orientation and explaining it away as "it's galactic coordinates, don't question it". Bonus points if Cy gets a dramatic "CALIBRATING TO GALACTOCENTRIC COORDINATES." voiceline when first launching the railjack.



~~ TL;DR ~~
- Align the compass to the nearest planet. OR,
- Point the compass in some random direction, and pretend it's a modified galactocentric coordinate system. (Maybe give Cy an extra voiceline to explain away any confusion.)


Edited by SortaRandom
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Great idea, dunno why they didn't include such a thing.

If it were up to me, though, i'd make the compass something similar to a 3D-modelling program's 3-axis gizmo, with distinctive colors for each axis.

This would eliminate using descriptions like "up" or "north", which aren't exactly useful in space... instead replacing them with, I dunno, "Positive Z" or "Negative X".

It could also be simplified to X and Y with the third axis ignored, as most maps I've seen are more flat than evenly sized, and Railjacks do tend to align themselves with the artificial horizon dictated by the game.

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