I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around the transformations required to bind two objects together in either a two-way or one-way relationship. I will need to implement both types.
For the first case, I want to be able to 'couple' two ships together in space. The ships have different mass, of course. Forces applied to either ship will use combined mass and moment of inertia to calculate and move both ships. The trick is, being sure that the point at which they are coupled remains the same, and they don't move at all relative to each other.
The second case is similar: I want a ship to be able to enter the atmosphere of a planet and move relative to the planet. The planet will be orbiting the sun, which is fixed at 0,0,0. Essentially, when the ship is sitting still outside of the atmosphere, the planet will move past it on its course-- but when the ship is sitting still inside the atmosphere, it moves and rotates with the planet, so that it is always relative to the horizon. Essentially, the vertices which make up the ship are now transformed just like the ones that make up the planet, except that the ship can move itself around relative to the planet.
I get the feeling I can implement both of these with the same code. Essentially, I am thinking of giving each object (which I call Fixtures) a list of "slave" Fixtures onto which that Fixture's world matrix is imposed. So, this would be the planet imposing its world on any contained ships. In the case of coupling, I would simply make each ship a slave of the other, somehow.
Obviously I can't just multiply the ship's world matrix by the planet's, or each ship by the others. What I'd like some help with is what calculations to make in order to get a nice, seamless relative world to the other object. I was thinking maybe I could just multiply the world of the slave by the inverse of the master, but then when you couple two ships you would lose all that world data. So, perhaps I need an intermediate "world" which is the absolute world, but use a secondary "final world" to actually transform the objects?