E3 has hit once again and with it we’re seeing a new raft of games punctuated by the return of a favorite series of mine: God of War. But wait I’m sensing a trend over the past few years in game controls and setting:
So I love free-roaming adventure and I’m a fan of over-the-shoulder third person controls. I’m also unbelievably thrilled that lush landscapes are possible in modern games and that we are past our “green and brown” stage. Vegetation punctuated by ruined structures can be endlessly fascinating to explore.
However, the first three God of War games were pretty rad in their settings and control scheme. I’m sure I will play the hell out of the new one. But I do like it when not every game evokes Sky-Zero-Charted-Cry-Raider when it comes time to make another one.
Ironically, the lush greenery used to be the exception, not the rule… la différence. Now I’m totally interested in what never-seen fresh place games will take us next.
In case you’re new to Auto Fire, here’s an overview. If you are familiar with it, here’s a hint of what’s been happening over the past few months…
Auto Fire is a turn-based roguelike auto combat RPG set in the roads and cities of the shattered American west. Enhance your vehicle, take on missions and build your name in a world where the only way to thrive is to drive.
Auto Fire is a deep, randomly-generated experience that combines the free-roaming adventure of games like Autoduel and FTL with the turn-based precision driving of games like Roadwar 2000 and the original Car Wars tabletop game.
An important part of the game is the player’s relationship with his or her car, and the ability to mount bigger and better weapons and equipment.
I’ve been a game developer for 24 years, both as a programmer and a designer. In my past I have worked on titles like Heretic II, Jedi Outcast, X-Men Legends, and Dead Space 2 and 3. These days I do design exclusively for my day job, and I miss programming. I was also a big fan of the tabletop vehicle combat games of the 1980’s and want to create something worthy of that world.
I use Unity 5.6, Visual Studio, Adobe Photoshop. Blender and Perforce when I get desperate.
Over the past couple of months I’ve been reworking the weapons systems to allow for special attacks over time such as machinegun bursts and oil slicks. An equipment system is in place that allows for secondary abilities to be mounted on the car such as radar sweeps and targeting computers. These systems are coming on line as well as a new inventory system.
A city map can now generate complex environments with special boss arenas and repair stations. The starting enclave has now been enhanced with new assets. New music, vehicles and effects have worked their way into the build as well.
I should own up to not finishing my 7-Day Roguelike challenge this year… it was tough to admit defeat after two fairly successful years in a row. I had started up the Jam with plans to take last year’s 7DRL code and work in a campaign and convoy mechanics, as a way to prove out some things that I’d been considering for Auto Fire. However, I found it nothing but discouraging to work on such old decrepit code, trying to make something for a game that was so much farther along.
In the end it just made me want to push towards realizing those ideas in the current codebase of Auto Fire instead. Sooooo… I’d been working on tying up loose ends and prepping the driving feel and visuals of Auto Fire. Take a quick look:
Next up are my plans for improving the inventory and rounding out the campaign into a compelling loop. It should provide some much-needed depth, which will make me more happy to share my work more widely once it’s in. Wish me luck!
7DRL Challenge Day 1: Unfortunately GDC lay me flat on my back for five days straight through the weekend, so I’m getting a really late start on my challenge. I guess I’m be aiming for submission late Sunday to get as many hours logged as possible.
Today I was able to re-acquaint myself with the ugly-ass 7DRL 2016 codebase and temp sprites. <Shudder> All I had time for was to start working on road generation and take a step in the direction of transforming my combat movement into strafes, accelerations and so on. Still got lots of work to do. Still, fun to see things moving forward.
This is my third 7DRL, and this year I’m hoping to kill two birds with one stone by exploring some alternate gameplay concepts I first explored in last year’s entry, Auto Fire. Auto Fire introduced car combat and exploration of a (poorly-rendered) cityscape and in the ensuing year has been extended to 3D, with richer generation, an overworld countryside, and a variety of superior UI and tools. None of which I’m going to use this week, see below.
This year, with Westbound and Down, I want to explore some of the “Convoy” style aspirations that I have yet to put into Auto Fire… Traveling from town to town and taking on cargo missions between outpost cities in a post-apocalyptic western U.S. Instead of exploration combat, the player must drive “blocker” for a convoy of trucks that is continually harassed by bandits and other road hazards. Upgrade your car and convoy vehicles, hire drivers, maintain your stock of ammo and fuel, and take on loads with higher risks for greater rewards.
The tough part of this year is that even though I’ve progressed quite a bit with Auto Fire’s codebase over the last year… in the spirit of making this a fresh 7-day effort, I’m working from the code from 2016’s 7DRL and seeing what I can construct within those confines. I hope to create an alternate movement model (forced directional movement, with most of the maneuvering involving lane-changes and acceleration/deceleration), a regional highway map, a cargo quest structure, some interfaces for cargo and hireling loadout, and hopefully some FTL-style dialogue encounters which could lead to bonus salvage or ambush. That’s a fair amount of stuff, but I’m hoping I’ve got enough to build from… and if I have to hack up my code a bit to try something, that’s okay, I can take any successes and work them into Auto Fire later, hopefully the “right way”. 🙂
I just spent the week down in San Francisco showing my new game at Hidden Path Entertainment called Brass Tactics. It’s a real-time strategy game built from the ground up for VR. The reception has been quite good from the press and developers, and I think we’ve created something special. Looking forward to finishing it off this fall!
I had a lot of fun last weekend with my game Cardinal Cell. It was pretty fun in the end but it was ugly enough to make babies cry because I cobbled together the art on my own. I could have maybe increased the quality another quarter-point on my own before finishing off the 48 hours… I could have chosen a style. I could have smoothed out the busy textures. However, I was focused on closing the book with features-features-features.
I’m pretty confident that it was a mistake on my part… while I go through other people’s games I constantly have to tell myself to not let an ugly game influence my assessment of its fun… or let a pretty game get away with dull gameplay. Maybe it’s not fair, but that’s the way the world works. Those of us with weaker art skills have a challenge to overcome.
Because the game looked so bad I did a quick reskin this weekend to use some pixel art and audio that I had handy. I think the gameplay stands well on its own, but the revamp makes a difference in my opinion. A friend offered up some real art and we’re going to rebrand it as… wait for it… Skate Knight.
If you’re interested in seeing what a few hours of stock graphics and sounds can do for a game, check out the game on itch.io below.