1. Core Concepts
  2. Controllers

Core Concepts


Get to know the heart and soul of Nova - controllers.

What is a controller?

Controllers are the heart of your application as they determine how requests from the browser are handled by Nova. A controller is simply a PHP class that is named in a way that can be associated with a URI. In fact, Nova's URI can provide some insightful information about what controller and method are being used for the page being viewed:

  • When a controller’s name matches the first segment of a URI, it will be loaded.
  • The second segment of the URI determines which method in the controller gets called.
  • If your URI contains more than two segments they will be passed to your method as parameters.


In the above example, the main controller will be loaded and the contact method will be called.


In this example, the characters controller will be loaded and the bio method will be called. Additionally, you'll be able to add an argument to your controller method to access the 77 in the URI. (This is what allows Nova to have access to the necessary data to show a specific character bio without having to hard-code everything.)

Extending controllers

In order to provide as much flexibility as possible, Nova is split up into two distinct layers: the core and the application. Any work Anodyne does on Nova lives inside "the core". Any work that you do on your game's site is "the application". This is done to ensure that any update to Nova doesn't reset the changes you've made to your installation of Nova.

Core controllers

The "core" layer of Nova is considered anything that lives inside the nova directory. (As an aside, this is what allows for the simplicity of only needing to replace the nova directory when updating to the latest version.)

When it comes to controllers, you'll find that all of Nova's core controllers are located in the nova/modules/core/controllers directory. To avoid naming conflicts, all of Nova's core controllers are prefixed with nova_.

Application controllers

The "application" layer of Nova is considered anything that lives outside of the nova directory.

When it comes to controllers, all of Nova's application controllers are located in the application/controllers directory. Nova comes with all of the needed controllers out of the box, but if you want to create new sections with new pages, you can add your own controllers here.


When you open an application controller, you'll see a file that looks something like this:

require_once MODPATH.'core/controllers/nova_main.php';
class Main extends Nova_main {
public function __construct()

Nova starts by pulling in the core controller. This allows us to use the PHP class that we defined in the core. Once that file is loaded, we can extend the application controller with the core controller.

Because of PHP's inheritance and how CodeIgniter treats controller, this means you can add any new methods you want to this class and you'll be able to access those controller method as pages of the same name (i.e. a method named foo will map to a page with the URI of /main/foo). This also means is that you can override any existing method with one of your own by adding a method of the same name in your application controller.

Understanding controllers

Now that you understand how to extend one of Nova's controllers, let's dig deeper into the various pieces involved in a Nova controller.


Any data that will be sent to the view is stored inside of an array in the controller method called $data. This array stores things like language items, form fields and controls, raw information out of the database, and much more. The odds are that anything you want to do or change is stored in the $data array.

Since $data is sent to the view in its entirety, this also means that if you want to add additional data to a view, you can simply assign it to a key on the $data array and you'll have access to it in the view files using the key name as the variable.

// In the controller...
$data['foo'] = 'bar';
// In the view file...
echo $foo; // will print out "bar"


Nova takes a similar approach to passing data from PHP to Javascript as well, but with an aptly named $js_data array. Everything mentioned above applies to Javascript data.


Nova uses a simple template library to render the entire page to the user's browser. Each individual piece of the template is called a region. As Nova is executing its code, it will assign data to specific regions. The library will take all of the regions and render them to the screen.

Nova defines the following regions for templates:

  • title - The title of the page used in the head of the HTML page
  • _redirect
  • javascript - The Javascript for the page
  • nav_main - The main navigation for the page
  • nav_sub - The secondary navigation for the page
  • flash_message - Flash messages for indicating success/failure after a create, edit, or delete action
  • content - The content of the page
  • ajax - Secondary content for the page in the way of modal pop-ups

Nova's controllers are responsible for assigning the regions to the template and then instructing the template to render itself to the browser. In most controllers, you'll see code like this near the bottom of each method:

$this->_regions['content'] = ...
$this->_regions['javascript'] = ...
$this->_regions['title'].= ...

The first set of lines are telling Nova what to put into specific regions. These are most often view files or strings of text that Nova will add to the template library.

Next, Nova assigns all of the regions to the template.

And finally, Nova tells the template library to render everything it has and push it to the browser.

Further reading