A small update coming down the pike today, but one big one comes along for the ride. Objective pointers! When a boss appears, the game will help guide you to the opponent, and once the boss is destroyed, you will be pointed to the exit. It’s a frequently-requested feature, and it will only get more robust as time goes on.
Objective pointer appears when boss appears and then the exit gets a pointer when the boss is dead.
Game doesn’t slow down quite as long when an enemy dies, and it doesn’t slow down at all if the victim is offscreen.
Rebuild some shader files to reduce hitches.
Visual quality defaults to Very High rather than Very Low(!). (Auto Fire is 3D but it’s not that taxing on your machine…)
Fixed the spacing for the inventory/buy/sell screens a little, and a few other quirks.
The loadout and settings screens had some fixes to make them more usable with a keyboard.
Fixed some things interfering with the cargo screen when used with a mouse.
Fixed some bugs when using the repair screen.
Removed a rare combat result in the loot crate encounter for the time being. (Caused you to get stuck in the encounter popup)
When expanding the feature set of Auto Fire, an important element was to finally make the overworld play more of a role in the game. As a first step, the badlands now have roaming gangs that run convoys from place to place (having an agenda that will grow over time). These clouds of dust have an unknown number of cars in them, and eventually they will hold a variety of characters within, including lone drivers, hit squads, innocent settlers and good ol’ cargo convoys.
Each roaming enemy gang has a generated miniboss that runs it. If they see you, they’ll interrupt what they’re doing and come after you. If they reach you you’ll be dragged into full combat with their crew… but if you take down the boss you’ll earn yourself some extra fame. Make sure you defeat them or they’ll come back to haunt you…
Some other changes with this build:
Created overworld bosses (as described above). These roam the world using a FSM via the Unity Animator (unorthodox but seems to work fine).
Added a lot of infrastructure to make free bosses and track the player’s kills in each faction.
Bosses now have a “spotted” shout that occurs both in the overworld and in combat.
Cleaned up the UI for weapon aiming. The player can’t accidentally advance the clock by targeting empty ground.
Buffer keystrokes now so that the player cannot target when the enemy is still in the middle of its move. The result was a bunch of misses due to bad UI… Ugh it was driving me nuts! Fixed now, yay!
Revised the combat hit resolution from an older system, which was Diablo-like (and tended to create more misses and less impact due to bonuses), to one that is more of an opposed roll with positive and negative modifiers (more like D&D). It creates a more distinct feel to good and bad weapons and situations.
A really quick update today. The update that applies a new turn system with more reinforced simulation updates is now live. To reinforce this system, I was pretty aggressive:
I pushed the turn thing pretty hard. Some changes include:
An action counter in the lower left that tells you how many actions you’ve got and used.
I finally got the hang of Amplify shaders and used them to project vehicle silhouettes in front of the player’s car replace the player’s arrow-based speed indicators at its rear. These silhouettes help indicate how far you’ll move that turn.
Weapons and equipment now recharge on the turn boundaries. It doesn’t mean cooldowns are exactly X turns (yet) but I round the recharge so it always arrives on the turn.
Since the turn is more important, I play a low-volume snare drumbeat on the turn. That might be too damn much… I like it because it drives home the concept, but it’s a bit noisy. We’ll see about this one.
This has been an exciting week for me… As Hidden Path puts the final digital shrinkwrap on my most recent VR title Raccoon Lagoon, I’m bidding the classic nine-to-five a temporary adieu. As of yesterday, I’ve started focusing my full attention on Auto Fire! It is my hope to get it into solid, pro-tier shape over the summer, and see what happens!
In celebration of this moment, I’ve put together an early trailer, complete with some pro-tier voice acting:
Auto Fire needs a lot of work yet. I need to make the interface more approachable, flesh out the content, and improve the basic art so that the game starts turning heads. I need to deliver on the fantasy of driving a combat car… that’s skidding, shooting, hauling convoys, maybe even launching from jumps? The possibilities are endless!
Adding gamepad support should help people get comfortable with it quickly, and improving the mouse interface will hopefully do the same. Anything that helps people ramp up and be gripped by the promise of a muscle car bristling with chromed-out weapons.
As an inaugural step for my all-in on Auto Fire, I’ve been deeply examining my turn model… something I haven’t touched in like two years. The way it used to work is that each team would execute their moves when the timeline reached it, so that if you were moving at 60 mph (3 moves per turn), and the enemy was moving at 40 mph (2 moves per turn), the simulation would resolve with:
You move (progressing to 0.333 seconds)
They move (progressing to 0.5 seconds)
You move (progressing to 0.666 seconds)
They move (progressing to 1.0 seconds)
You move (progressing to 1.0 seconds)
Guh. This might sound sensible if you are a realism fan, but when many entities are moving at different speeds, the turns all interleaved and the player never knew who was going to move when. It was confusing and could get frustrating as an enemy vehicle suddenly drove right into your path or out of your line of fire.
The new model is pretty simple: Each turn you execute your moves, then the rest of the world executes their moves. So in the above example, you’d get your 3 moves, then they would get their two. It’s basically X-com style, but you know what?
It ended up playing exactly the same.
Yeah, you can’t really tell there’s any difference at all, it flows great. And while I was worried that you’d be irritated by that long pause for your opponents to do their thing during your fancy driving , it actually feels a lot better than when your opponents interrupted you at odd, unpredictable times during your turn.
This is an important breakthrough because if I can make the player keenly aware of what a “turn” is, I can help them understand what acceleration does (more moves per turn) and how weapon cooldown works (most weapons can only be fired once per turn). I might not need a hojillion progress bars (a weapon is either available or not). Since the core goal is to make the game more accessible and less math-y, I’m optimistic that this is a good step that doesn’t sacrifice the core gameplay.
Finally, along with this exploration I started experimenting with better shaders using Amplify for Unity. It’s another useful step, because there will be a lot I want to convey in-world and good shader control will help me make better 3D and mouse-driven interfaces. Things are looking up!
I’ve been laying the foundation for a trailer over the last couple weeks, so most of my progress in Auto Fire has come in the form of cleanup, although there are a few gameplay tweaks, mainly to make that early experience a bit better. On the upside, there are less-soldier-y gang members, a cleaned up HUD, some new lighting and vehicle trails, check it out.
Starting next week, I’ll be able to work on Auto Fire full-time for a while, so prepare for some meaty updates. The goals are to significantly improve the player movement, reveal more options when driving, and fleshing out systems that have only been teased, like a more alive overworld.
See you on the road!
Upgraded to Unity 2019.1, which seems to have gained a little performance.
Cleaned up UI
The equipment quotes in the info popup are now aligned correctly
Revised weapon icons
Revised window frames, etc.
Removed the skid meter behind the car, since it didn’t look great.
The player can turn the skid meter on or off in the options screen
Remove random encounter dialogues until they are ready.
Revised the road decals to make for softer edges
“Soldiers” are now desert warriors
Foot gangers now use the proper pose to match the weapon they are wielding.
Added headlights to the player car when in a ruined city
Lowered overall brightness of the city map, so that the light sources could stand out.
Increased the light brightness for streetlights and barrels and fire.
Revised the trails from the taillights of vehicles entirely. They use a new system that makes them very smooth.
Improved the detection of offroad when a vehicle is driving, for visuals and gameplay ramifications
Gangers now use battle cries rather than military radio transmissions when they spot the player
Vehicles now rev their engine instead of honk when the spot the player
Improved the visibility of enemy cars (they were very short)
Increased the range of junkthrowers since they were still kind of frustrating to use.
Adjusted population cap to accommodate new fuel dumps and watchtowers.
There has been a solid amount of progress on Auto Fire in the last month, though not everything has been visible.
There’s a condition system now, where entities can be stunned, set on fire, made to skid, be blind, etc, and that will last a fixed number of turns before automatically removing themselves. Nothing super fancy, but it allowed me to do stuff like cause a vehicle to spin out when it hits an oil slick.
It also allowed me to give the player’s radar more functionality, because it now “paints” targets within a specific radius for a set amount of time. Ideally the player should be able to build up sustained fire on a single opponent, or race through a group (at high speed to avoid being shot) and hit everyone with a radar ping before swinging around and taking advantage of the higher hit rate (and eventually critical hits spurred by this).
There is a new icon system above vehicles to show their current conditions, which hopefully will teach players more about the advantages of speed and choosing targets.
I did a bit of work on weapon resolution to clean up some weirdness, as well as allow for effective area effects over various volumes. I can have weapons with blast radius at impact, cone effects, lines, and more. This gave me some vastly improved versions of scatterguns, flamers, and so on.
I also switched over my missiles to LeanTween (a great Unity package that’s freeeee, although the Editor that goes with is worth throwing a few bucks at) so that I could use more sophisticated arcs (splines, eases, etc) for the projectile travel. This gave me some great drunk missiles and so on.
A somewhat smaller bit of work but vastly important was looking into problems I was starting to see in my city layout.
A couple of years ago I put multiple months into a city generation method that took pre-crafted blocks and spliced them together, street-to-street, with props and so on. It worked pretty well… However, lately the cities seemed to have wayyyy too many skinny alleyways and dead-ends, even though I remember putting a fair amount of effort into reducing these.
Worse yet, I’d started to see some passability issues and unplayable maps, which I know I did checks for. Ugh. I love dusty Mad Max wastes, but the cities are just as important a part of the game and they weren’t fun.
I spent some time trying to re-learn what the hell the 2016 version of me had made. For a little bit I thought 2016 me was a bit of an idiot… but it turns out he was somewhat clever. It was 2018 me who introduced a number of bugs that caused loops to no longer form… that guy was a jerk. Specifically I had some code that overlaid roads over previously populated obstructions to create extra loops, and those no longer overlaid properly. In addition, my passability checks were not properly busting holes through the buildings and obstructions when needed.
I added a bit more two-lane roads and discouraged alleys from forming very often. In addition, I added some new block types to my definition that had fewer buildings, so some extra open spaces could be formed. I can pretty much make an infinite number of city block components, so I’ll keep adding ones that give some more driving freedom.
Anyway, I hope to have a new version out this weekend, it’s been too long. Wish me luck!
I’ve had a pretty busy last month (and some weather drama), but luckily I did get some meaty things done on Auto Fire.
Many people have lamented that it is difficult to control Auto Fire because the “forward” key also accelerates. Responding to feedback, the new controls are thus: If you press forward, your speed is capped at 40 MPH (that is, 2 actions per second). This way you can manage most maneuvers without crashing into everything around you (previously a popular activity in urban areas).
Speed is still king however, especially out in the badlands! A separate Boost key is used to accelerate beyond 40, up to your vehicle maximum.
A citadel is a civilized city where you can take a break, get repairs, and buy/sell items. Eventually different citadels will have their own specific functions, depending on which corporation owns it.
The cool thing is that you can now load up courier missions at a loading dock, giving you a non-combat way to earn more cash.
Gaw’bless Unity. It took like a half hour to put ragdolls on the soldiers.
I’ve also got some transition improvements, added new features in the overworld and improved the entrance/exit of areas.
We now save out fog of war between maps. (Whew that was annoying).
Quests work better! They’re improving all the time… but in this case I needed to create a quest on the fly when the player had to deliver cargo. This way I can use all the quest features like lists of rewards, player tracking, unique generated descriptions, and hooking into triggers such as arriving at a destination and showing quest markers.
Some significant bugs were also dealt with… I had previously been very diligent about properly and safely deleting entities, so that I wasn’t deleting them from a list I was parsing through. Unfortunately I wasn’t doing so when adding entities to the list. Thus C# was complaining at me nonstop, and it was nice to deal with that.
I also had a few remaining Entity pointers that I was saving across frames, which was not safe. I had changed everything over to a unique token method of tracking entities, but I had missed a few things previously. Again, good to get that out of the way and run some stress tests!