October Gameplay Update

Testing out my new hardware in the run-up to my first stream, I whipped up a quick video blog showing off the most recent changes to the build and its vehicle playstyles. Enjoy!

And hey, yes! I did stream for the very first time this week. I unfortunately didn’t know that Twitch didn’t default to saving past broadcasts so the first session isn’t viewable, but head over to my channel and give me a follow! I promise to save all future sessions!

Auto Fire v0.6.06: Perk-olation

It’s been a couple weeks since the last build, but a lot has happened due to things that I’ve wanted to get in for the Rogue Celebration 2019​, which I’ll talk about in another article.

For Auto Fire, RogueCel primarily meant that I had a lot I wanted to do in proving out playstyles.  This manifests in the player’s vehicle chassis selection…  It includes speed perks (passive effects triggered when driving at 60 MPH or higher), and special maneuvers (gas-consuming all-in-one moves that launch the vehicle to a new location and affects everything around it.

As always you can check out the state of development for free on Itch!

Explode-o-Ram Speed Perk

General Improvements

  • Cached Line of Sight: I used to do a pretty dead-simple Line of Sight test… I traced from one tile’s center to the other. Sounds simple, but there are a ton of edge cases that come about from testing that way.
    • To get it right requires a couple extra tests, primarily tracing to each far corner of the tile.
    • This allows you to see tiles that are partially obscured by walls, as well as being able to target walls themselves (such as when shooting the destructible outpost borders).
    • To reduce the load of this, I cache the results of these multiple line traces in all directions out to 15 tiles (this is tunable). That way I can look at the offset from the viewer and quickly retrieve all the tiles I need to query for blocking. Is it done in the most efficient way? Not yet, but it definitely is an improvement so far.
  • Improved item gathering: Vehicles now automatically pick up items from the ground adjacent to the vehicle, rather than requiring the radar to be used.  It feels so much better!
    • The player also automatically picks up adjacent items in the overworld!
Jet Wash Speed Perk

Gameplay Systems

  • One thing I really needed was to introduce more playstyles for players to choose from. I decided to bake in special abilities into various vehicle chassis.
    • To facilitate this, I created the ability for equipment to have passive effects when installed, and remove them when uninstalled. 
    • Effects have an ambient effect on their target, and can also trigger gameplay or visuals as a result of having triggers on its target… such as being hit, losing control, or colliding.
    • Vehicles now have two new equipment slots (which are not player-editable):  Speed Perk and Special Maneuver.  This equipment will in most cases be baked into the chassis itself when used.
    • A minimum speed can now be defined for effects, allowing for things like speed perks which trigger whenever the vehicle is traveling 60 MPH or over.
  • The stun condition keeps an AI (or player) from firing or controlling their movement until it wears off.  This means pedestrians stay in place while vehicles will continue forward at their existing speed (or until they hit something).
  • The focus condition increases the subject’s ability to hit targets and inflict crits.
  • Turret fire (the F key or the gamepad triggers) now can launch any weapon or special ability.  It also won’t attack the ground the way it used to.

Vehicle Upgrades

  • Ram Blast (Stallion):  Speed perk that triggers an explosion whenever the vehicle collides at high speed.
  • Ram Piston (Stallion):  Special maneuver that launches forward and bashes through the selected target, knocking it aside.
  • Advanced Radar (Stallion):  The Stallion has special radar that has a bigger radius than other vehicles.
  • Hyperfocus (Panther):  Speed perk that increases the hit and critical chance when at high speed.
  • Jet Thruster (Panther):  Special maneuver that launches forward and puts the car at max speed, leaving a trail of fire behind.
  • Jet Wash (Cricket):  Speed perk that stuns vehicles and foot soldiers that are passed at high speed.
  • Bootlegger (Cricket):  Special maneuver that launches forward and spins the car around, ending with a large stunning pulse.
  • Note: Special Maneuvers all consume gas!
Jet Thruster Special Maneuver

Visuals

  • Created new shader for the fog of war that scrolls and has interesting edges. 
    • This was only my second or third foray into Amplify shaders… It’s been great to be able to the work in the editor rather than have to code them, since I really did a lot of experimentation here.
    • The main goal was to create something more dynamic on edges and more particular to have fewer tiles obscured by half-opacity textures, which made things feel extra floaty and mushy on a large part of the screen.
  • Destroyed vehicles now do not fly into the air as ridiculously far.  It was fun but you often never even saw the vehicle because it flew so high.
  • Adjusted the color of the ordnance and gas can icon and model to be more prominently colored, so they are easier to spot.
  • Added glinty materials to pickups to make them catch the eye better.
    • This is mostly by cranking up the brightness of the specular in the toon shader I’m using for gameplay objects. It looks pretty nice when the objects spin.

Content

  • Adjusted the loadout of starting vehicles to match playstyles. 
  • Updated start screen to give more description of cars. 
  • Updated some tutorial text to match the new control method.
Revised fog of war using Amplify shader

Bug Fixes

  • Fixed bug with effects such as dropped items. One symptom was smoke and oil overwriting each other. This may also eliminate some of the mysterious crashes I’ve seen.
    • It turns out that in a specific case I was passing a single dictionary around for effects rather than properly instantiating it for each instance of an effect. That caused some serious weirdness, glad to have tracked that down.
  • Fixed a problem with firing while stationary, which remained in slomo during execution.
  • Changed the ragdolls for humans and dogs to move smoothly.

Audio

  • Added audio mixer slowdown when slowing down time. 
  • When destroyed vehicles are flung into the air, they now play sounds when falling to the ground.
  • Added a techy burst sound for the bootlegger.

User Interface

  • Targeting squares are more yellow now, rather than green. 
  • The (A) button prompt disappears when the player centers the gamepad stick.

Auto Fire v0.6.05: Advancing the Experience

It’s been a few weeks since the SIX update, and there’s a lot of meaty gameplay work to show off.  Ammo! Maneuvers! Slo mo visuals! Better ramming!

Slo Moooooo

  • One of the biggest issues of having a turn-based game with realtime visuals is that a lot of the time people don’t grok that the game is waiting for their next input.
    • As a way to get around this, I added a slowdown when the game is waiting for player input. 
    • As a delightful side effect, it looks pretty damn cool. 
  • Had to move a number of UI inputs to use unscaled time so it ignores slomo. I might have missed a few, so will be on the lookout.
  • Made a bunch of UI effects use unscaled time so they play at a normal rate even during slowmo.
  • Fixed camera and a bunch of other elements that slowed down inappropriately during slowmo

Special Maneuvers

  • Special maneuvers appear as “equipment” (currently occupying gadget slot 3), but are eventually going to be baked into specific vehicle chassis, which allow you to take special actions in a crisis.
    • This means that different vehicles will help with different playstyles.
  • The first special maneuver is the Ram Piston
    • This maneuver launches the car forward 2-4 tiles within a set arc and rams an enemy out of the way.
    • You can also use it to get out of a jam by launching to an empty tile.
    • It has a cooldown and also uses gas as its ammo, which you can find out in the field or purchase at a garage.

Resources as Ammo

  • Players have always been able to collect gas, ordnance and parts around the battlefield.  These items are now used as ammunition for some weapons and equipment.
    • Mines and rockets use ordnance
    • Ram piston, flamers and flaming oil takes gas.
  • Many weapons do not require ammo (just a cooldown), so ammo-consuming equipment will be stronger for its limitation.
  • When you highlight a weapon, it should explicitly say the ammo it uses, if any.
    • If you’re out of ammo, hopefully it will be very easy to see and understand.
    • There is a dry-fire sound when out of ammo. 
  • All game hints are now moved to middle-screen and important information such as being out of ammo also appears in that space as needed.
  • Now that ordnance and gas are much more needed by players, I added significantly more drops of them to the loot lists.
    • Loot dropped from cars and crates now has a new definition type, so every drop won’t have 5-6 items in them (it was just out of control)

Ramming

  • Ramming something at a high enough speed will now knock it to the side rather than stop you dead.  It’s far more fun.
  • The mass of an opponent or object now matters more. Your speed and your mass is factored against their mass.
    • NOTE:  More will happen with this in the future, since relative speed and resultant velocity aren’t all factored as they should.

Additional Targeting Changes

  • Area-effect weapons such as rockets, shotguns and flamers can now be aimed at the ground if you want to position their blast for maximum effect.
  • Some weapons and abilities now have a minimum range.
    • Rockets have a min range of 2. 
    • Multifire rockets have a min range of 3.

User Interface

  • Updated the position of resources in the HUD.
  • Revised frames in HUD to use a superthin frame.
  • Updated skid meter and needle, and repositioned turn pips.
  • Boost hint only appears when at max safe speed now.
  • Cleaned up the UI camera for inventory and garage. It’s not blurry anymore. 
  • Fixed broken portrait from game startup.

Audio

  • Revised the collision sound (hated the old one).
  • Added a new wood break and revised rock break sounds.

General

  • Edited the speed lines for movement and ram tile with a new graphic.
  • Fixed some rare crashes

Rammalamma

We’ve been working on some new special abilities for the vehicles in Auto Fire, including the ​Ram Piston​​​.  ​Different vehicle chassis types can have some crazy maneuvering abilities, although they’ll consume resources such as gas, so make sure to use them wisely!

The foundation of the special moves system was pitched in by developer comrade Jim, created during this stream where we talked through some of the system updates needed.

The followup was transferring it to on-demand equipment, which didn’t have the ability to be aimed yet. The plan is to get some more moves in like bootleggers, side swipes, and some weirder stuff. Stay tuned!

Auto Fire v0.6.04: SIX Build Update!

On September 1, Auto Fire was demoed at the Seattle Indies Expo, a companion exhibition to PAX West in Seattle, held just down the street.  It was an exciting time and an exciting place to be, where 25 local game developers showed their stuff in a chill environment where players could interact directly with creators.  

The good news for those of you who didn’t make it out there is that there are a ton of updates that came in to make that demo play well, and you can now check them out for free on Itch.io!

Fame 

  • Made changeover of interactions in the direction of social media to start to push the build-your-following gameplay.
  • Fame is now “likes” and bosses now have their own followers that reflect their level of fame.
  • Dialogue is now flavored as a chat/twitter interface.  More of this to come.
  • A media drone can now follow the player and take shots of their kills for extra fame.  The specific drone loadout slot is coming soon.

Gamepad and Controls

  • Revised gamepad controls!  A button drives, B button brakes, B button enters location.
  • D-Pad will aim vehicle weapons if not in targeting mode.
  • You can now select all squares with the cursor keys or gamepad when the vehicle is aiming diagonally (it had “the bishop’s limitation” before this)
  • Improved the inventory and loadout to better work with keyboard and gamepad.  There still is a bug with the gamepad if you have a lot of items when loading out.
  • Gamepad buttons have cooldowns before auto-repeat.
  • Gamepad move marker now renders through the world if you are controlling next to a wall.

UI and Presentation

  • The speedometer is now centered onscreen, and the boost key is hinted when the player reaches the 40 mph “safe” speed.
  • Resources have been moved to the right side, and the armor is now in the lower-left, making for a less-cluttered interface.
  • Icons now fly to their locations onscreen with some more panache.
  • Easier to buy and sell in the store.
  • Loadout popup is easier to use.
  • Gamepad buttons are now prompted, and are put up instead of key tips if the gamepad is currently in use.
  • New key art is used for the title and loading screen.
  • Fixed some sounds in the store.
  • Cleaned up the targeting panel somewhat.
  • Tutorial dialogue and loading screen hints now include some gamepad hints.
  • Armor panel now uses an alternate visual
  • Offscreen objective pointer now pulses and shows over more UI elements.

Content

  • There is an invisible, harmless barrier behind the exit square on terrain maps.  This keeps players from moving “past”.
  • Loot drops now include a large variety of new drops, including some weapons with modifiers (such as high-density machineguns).
  • New levels of tires, armor, ram plates were all created.
  • The multi-rocket damage was brought down significantly, it was pretty silly.
  • Adjusted the price of repairs (chassis costs twice as much, armor costs half as much) and gas.
  • Large cities (the 5×5 ones) no longer generate in the overworld.  They were cool but just stupidly complicated to get through.
  • Fixed some agent names so that females don’t get stuck with a male surname that looks like a first name.
  • Fixed some bad results from the procedural boss quotes.

You can download the newest gameplay (linked below) or check out this quick video showing some of the revised gameplay/gamepad experience:

New art from an exciting guest artist!

​I just wanted to take a moment to crow about Auto Fire’s new title image, which was commissioned from legendary car combat illustrator Denis Loubet​!  

​This is super-exciting and my inner 1984 kid is absolutely nerding the hell out right now. He’s created art for a lot of my favorite things from that decade from Car Wars and Autoduel to Ultima and Champions. He did almost all the art for the original Car Wars​ pocket box, and created so many iconic works from that world. I feel like he was pretty instrumental in establishing what I thought was key to the Car Wars universe: The people and culture around the cars being as important as the cars themselves. It’s something that I think has been lost a bit and would love to be able to bring back.​

In another coincidence he also just so happened to create the cover art for the very first game I worked on​ (which I only participated on for a couple weeks), and I even met him when I interviewed at Origin waaaaaaay back in 1993.

Anyway, it was super-exciting to finally have a chance to work with him!  He did a fantastic job.

New Vertical Slice video!

It’s been a while since I put out a video illustrating the core features of Auto Fire, but a variety of reasons made me sit down and capture some magic.  Consider this a vertical slice, although edited for length:

  • Player customization
  • Intro scenario
  • Starting region
  • Tutorial combat
  • Overworld with roaming gangs
  • Garage repairs and loadout
  • Outposts and badlands maps
  • Citadels with shops and loading dock
  • Ruined city maps

Enjoy!