Auto Fire v0.6.55: Citadels and Renown

Some great new updates to Auto Fire this month.  The UI got another level up with some improved screens and a more lived-in look.  You can now go to the citadel and help those people out, building renown with that city.  Citadels are a little more solid in their representation also, with one of only a few corporations keeping control of the populace across the country.  Finally, the visuals took an uptick with better lighting, new desert terrain visuals and cleaned up foliage.  The time to check it out is now!

Click here to find it on Itch.io!

Content:

  • Sectors now have a renown level that gates new sector quests.
  • Tutorial also now uses renown sector quests.
  • Cleared up the skull rating and show it on the challenge tablet app.
  • Cleaned up factions signficantly.  At campaign generation there  are only four corporate factions, two military factions, one citizen and one duellist faction.
  • Set up each sector now with a consistent resident and enemy faction.
  • Changed enemy and sector definitions to be able to be controlled on a per sector basis, allowing for better channeling of content across the overworld maps.
  • Quests now have a clearer faction reward and renown award for sectors
  • Fixed up sector leader quest arcs.  The player can eliminate an enemy entirely from the overworld of a sector.
  • Quests now have a goto step or a load cargo step.

Citadels:

  • Each citadel is run by one of the 4 corporations.
  • The mayor or citadel leader will dole out a quest for you, which gives you an opportunity to increase your sector renown
  • The player can now abandon cargo in a citadel and it will be returned to the quest list
  • The player can even abandon sector quest cargo and it is returned to the sector quest list.
  • Cargo cannot be returned for salvage profit unless it doesn’t have a quest attached.
  • The player cannot accept a cargo quest unless they have room to haul it.

HUD:

  • Dashboard elements now have schmutz on their frames as well as the glass
  • Sped up zooms and added functionality to make any panel zoom, plus zooming recenters the view based on the visible portion of the screen.
  • Improved the Travel and reward tablet app visuals
  • New Challenge popup when entering a combat area
  • Fixed up the quote panel in the upper right.
  • Quest steps now read out as crossed out if completed in quest list

Menu:

  • Mayor feed in the citadel ticks out like the quest panels do.
  • Revised automap and travel panels to use the same look
  • Menus and screens also have some schmutz added for a bit more lived-in look
  • Added macros for if the player chooses the gender “they”, so we can say “who [is] [he]?” as “who are they?”
  • Added a feed to the loading screen so we can have a colorful quote from the populace on the current situation.

Visuals/VFX:

  • Fixed up quality settings in the settings panel, as well as setting the default quality to high.
  • Revised all desert terrain textures to something a bit more stylized and cleaner (Deep Desert Pack asset)
  • Fixed up all terrains to properly display grass again (broken links abound)
  • Adjusted lighting to not overbright, and made sure all views use deferred lighting so that VFX lighting shows up more effectively.
  • Put dirt decals under shacks so as to make them a bit clearer as obstacles.
  • Zoom makes a whoosh sound

Bugs:

  • Fixed improperly LOD’ing models by a windmill
  • A courier quest to a combat area now can complete and the combat quest continues properly.
  • Fixed bug that if I killed the sector boss, the game would eventually crash
  • Boss camera on encounters now zoom into the proper target again.
  • Fixed several bad citizen tweets, some of which sounded extra dumb and others crashed the game(!)
  • Fixed crashes based on occasionally building battlegrounds.

Tech:

  • Adjusted night lighting settings (to be used in the future) for some experiements.
  • Updated to Unity 2020.3.33f

Auto Fire v06.52: Cleaning Up and Paving the Way

Some cleanup updates today, just paving the way for setting up new content in the future.

Gameplay/Content

  • The tutorial encounters aren’t as punishing as they were.  Sorry! 
  •  You don’t have to fight as long to reach the boss in the first outpost. 
  • Significantly more parts are awarded on the field.
  • Flamethrower line can now target the ground.

Settings

  • Did some fixes to how I was handling settings for those of you with laptops and unusual screen limitations.
  • There is now a minimum allowed resolution (Horizontal at least 1024, Vertical at least 720)
  • Graphics Settings should properly record your selected resolution.
  • Music and audio should also set and record properly in the main menu.

VFX/Visuals

  • The floating text and the pillars showing at an exit was creating a pretty bad experience.
  • Adjusted location labels for visual appeal
  • Made label ping show through world for visibility (hard to see the exits in canyons)
  • Location labels do not obscure your view when you enter a zone.
  • Fixed up flamethrowers on player as well as enemy flamers

Bugs

  • Entering combat in the field (via random encounter) now works properly.
  • Buying and selling at the citadel now properly supports stacks of items.
  • Repairs now work properly, you can’t get free repairs if you are near zero resources.
  • Small visual fixes and typos
  • Impassable outpost entrance now fixed (the outpost generator wants a larger palette to place protective walls)

Big UI Update! (it’s about time)

It’s been a long time coming, but Auto Fire is back in action with a bunch of updates and improvements!

There has been a major UI revision for just about all of the supporting screens and menus. Consumable gear was added so you can manually heal up in the field if you have the right items. There is a significant and growing tutorial that pops up how to play the game as situations present themselves. (And yes, you can turn them off in the settings!) More is in the works, including the long-promised arenas, hope you enjoy!

Loadout, repair and all the city interfaces are revised and much cleaner and easier to parse.

Gameplay

  • Some garages and repair outlets have a limited amount of gas or ordnance they can sell you.
  • Consumable gear was created that can repair your internals, drop mines or smokescreens, or basically enact any normal equipment’s function.
  • You can also target yourself on specific sides for armor repair gear, and the UI reflects it on your armor display.
  • When you complete an encounter, the loot is generated immediately rather than waiting until you move.
  • Radar is now a dedicated equipment type and slot called “Sensors”.  All cars have a default radar sensors package, but this can do a lot of different things.

Combat

  • Desert encounters now include combat moments that will drive you into a fight.
  • AI Updated for more responsiveness when spotting the player.
  • AI consider facing when planning their navigation routes, meaning that vehicles will plot paths more naturally and loop around their targets.
  • The line flamethrower can now target the ground.

Content/Tuning

  • Starter car only has 1 plate of armor all around, and no minedropper.  You’ll have to buy your own upgrades to get the good stuff.
  • Equipment crates now drop more items (versus from normal vehicle drops)
  • Crates on the field should never be empty.
  • First outpost in the starter sector now requires some vehicles to be killed before the boss emerges.
  • Old instant repair and armor pickups removed from drops in favor of the repair consumables.
  • Desert sectors should no longer have random encounters, only emplaced ones (that is, glints and smoke columns rather than just rolling dice)
  • Adjusted grip recharge rate to be a bit more generous.
  • Significantly more parts are awarded on the field.
  • Controls:
  • Big cleanup to allow for gamepad control of menus without losing focus.
  • Made accelerating into a skid work better, should not infinitely skid if you thrust against it.
  • Acceleration now waits until the next move to reduce your move’s time slice, so as a player you cannot reach max speed in a single turn the way you previously could.

HUD

  • Rework of the HUD colors and aiming interface.
  • Shrank the HUD components (gear, armor, social) slightly to allow for more playable space.
  • Changed social feed to dark mode, because the bright display was distracting from the gameplay.
  • The boss is removed from the HUD once you wipe them from a location.
  • Event-based tutorial popups appear when the player experiences various events, from taking damage to skidding to picking up gear.
  • The player’s challenge is now expressed with skulls, which is conveyed in the travel/gas popup to tell you what you’re getting into.
  • Added a real date display that updates based on player turns.
  • AL has a new look.

Menus

  • Complete rework of the character and loadout screens.
  • Complete rework of the repair experience.
  • Complete rework of the vehicle stable, to show all stats for all vehicles.
  • Complete rework of inventory, buy and sell screens to add categories and better controls.
  • Complete rework of the loading dock experience to show a map where you must deliver your chosen item.
  • Automap re-envisioned to use a higher quality smooth shader.
  • Automap locations are now interactive and can be hovered for popup info, and they ping indicating where quests are directing you to go.
  • Quest display revised to display a map telling you where you must go.
  • Quest steps are now crossed off in the Quest character panel.
  • Faction and skills are now shown in the character panel.
  • Entirely new inventory icons, for a punchier and yet colorful look
  • All item UI buttons are have a new shiny shader.
  • Items now display with level badges, indicating the raw progression tier the item has.
  • The loadout view shows pips that indicate when a higher-level item is available to be slotted in that location.
  • The inventory view shows pips that indicate when an item is new and has not yet been examined.
Cleaner HUD and gameplay interactions

Visuals

  • Enemy shouts appear in bubbles both on the HUD and over the enemy vehicles in-world.
  • Agents no longer echo their encounter dialogue into the social feed (it was cluttering the experience too much).
  • Zoom in moments happen after the level fades in rather than zooming when you can’t see.
  • New power lines, cargo containers, and other assets
  • Adjusted lighting on tail lights.

VFX

  • New explosion and fire VFX from toon explosion to a better stylized/realistic hybrid.  (It doesn’t block the player’s view as much)
  • Revised fire oil, burning objects and flamethrower VFX
  • Revised occupation VFX
  • Added decals on the ground from gunfire and explosions.

Audio

  • Vehicle audio uses Realistic Engine Sounds package and adjusts and shifts gear based on speed.
  • Use audio mixer to duck car audio when waiting between turns.
  • A new stinger or tutorial popups and specific informational moments.
  • Revised boss music slightly to stutter less, and use a continuous loop sometimes for quality’s sake.
  • Audio is set properly on startup from the prefs now

Bugs

  • Fixed several bugs with how bosses dole out their quests and get resolved at the end of a combat.
  • Fixed several screens where their text didn’t align properly.
  • When returning to a previously visited map, we handle the population correctly.
  • Fixed speedometer flashing visuals to properly flash at the end of a turn.
  • Made reverse skidding work better, it had some really bad behavior.

A Side project to my side project

While Auto Fire is my main passion, it’s always fun to do something just because it’s damn fun.  I had this past week off from my day job, and here I thought I’d be diving deep into more car combat as always, but something drew me to start messing around with an old Ludum Dare project I did several years ago, at the time called Cardinal Cell.

Giving it some groove and turning it into Skate Knight was quite a blast.  I learned a bunch about Unity’s 2D tileset system and their new UI system.  Then I dipped my toe into some tweaks to make things match the BPM of the new disco-y soundtrack.  I still have a ways to go, in particular I need to build some more stages, but the foundation is now laid.

The best part is that you just need a browser to play.  I’ve been playing it for five years now, it’s a fun little diversion for a quick break!

Is this a distraction from Auto Fire? A little, but we could all use a reset from time to time. I’m looking forward to doing more Auto Fire even more refreshed than before.

Auto Fire v0.6.26: Talkin’ about my Generation

Another update is inbound!  This one is focused on revising the world generation methods for more interesting and playable maps.  This lay the system foundation for new types of biomes and better overall map layouts moving forward.  You’ll see the biggest example of this with the walled outpost maps, which are entirely revised and much more look the part.

There were also a lot of stability and quality of life improvements along the way…  You can shoot mines!  Car control and skidding interact a bit better, armor repairs cost less parts.  There was a bug with missions that people who liked to haul cargo ran into.  For keyboard and gamepad players, the dialogues should not lose their selection (which required you to touch the mouse if it happened)

Gameplay:

  • You can now shoot mines!
  • Cars no longer get to move immediately upon being knocked to the side…  It looked strange and could cause some popping.
  • Tuned an issue where sometimes the car would not be able to regain their grip by accelerating out of a skid without easing off the gas pedal.  You can power through these now.
  • Repairs at station now cost 2 parts per 5 armor

Bugs:

  • Fixed a big issue with quests…  it turns out that if you filled up your car with cargo, the game would reject kill quests such as the basic ones when you encounter a gang in the overworld.  This should improve quest stablity a bunch.
  • Ramming a high cliff should damage the correct side of the vehicle.
  • Ramming backwards should not heal the vehicle anymore.
    The interactive location now spans the entire width of 2-lane highway exits, so the player can exit via either lane.
  • Fixed an exception that occurred if the player completed a quest and returned to the quest panel.
  • Fixed a couple of dialogue typos in toots and encounters.
  • Fixed an issue with rigidbodies generated on destruction, sometimes they would not work properly or even cause exceptions (which could result in cascading gameplay issues).

Environment:

  • Completely revised the desert buildings and shacks to use a double-size scale to better match the car’s scale.
  • Added wires to a telephone pole asset and for hanging.  Only used in specific biome patches.
  • Added real cargo containers to walls, which looks far better.
  • Wrecked car piles are now scaled up to be more in proportion with real gameplay cars.  Doesn’t look as weird.
  • Spindly shrub now doesn’t block line of sight.
  • Revised dirtroad decals to use more alphaed components… the tire ruts look a bit better.

Map Generation:

  • Completely revised how outposts are created.  They now use a combination of terrain and the city blocks biome (with a block size of 4).  Looks so good!
  • Revised the patchgenerator to also support terrain use, which makes the above possible.
  • A crapton of new clusters and crafted blocks for the new desert set were created.  Focused on single-lane alleys for that meandering dirt road look.
  • Revised desert ground to be more rolling.
  • Added in a smoothing function to make desert ground not roll too violently, as well as not allow roads to move diagonally along cliffs.
  • Fixed an old-old-old swapping bug with collision upon rotating certain long vehicles and buildings. DAMN that was written two presidencies ago(!!)
  • Added trash sockets to patches so that refuse can accumulate in logical places, with more accumulating within the walls.
  • Added deadend detection to avoid having a map seal itself off too easily before the road tree really flourishes.
  • On the same note, added intersection detection to encourage a map to branch out early for a good target number of roads
  • Mountainous borders now coexist with exits better.

VFX:

  • Revised Break parts VFX (which is on boxes, lamp posts and a bunch of stuff) to not be a giant obscuring cloud.
  • Fifle and machinegun muzzle flashes were teeny-tiny and not really visible.  It felt like something was missing there, got those fixed!
  • Improved bullet projectile trails.
  • Pumped up the visibility of location labels.

UI:

  • Fixed multiple issues where buttons would get deselected and the player had to mouse-click rather than navigate using mouse and keyboard.  It was really annoying because some basic dialogs like leveling up had this going on.  Should feel a whole lot better now.
  • Default buttons (such as in conversations and popups) should now consistently light up rather than be “invisibly highlighted”.
  • Damage numbers don’t appear on harmless or fluff hits (like loot crates).
  • Fixed flying resource icons to go to the right spot in both the game and the garage.
  • Resource icons fly back to the vehicle if spent.
  • Better icon/delta feedback on money/parts spent even in cities/garages
  • When missions are completed, the objective says head to the exit.
  • Picking up Health (which fixes chassis health) says “Repair” now.
  • Target kill feed is verbed by entity type (killed, wrecked, destroyed)
  • Fixed prestige display in main game screen, which just had a default of 11.
  • Added a Vertigames logo to bootup

Audio:

  • Garage reload ordnance and repair sounds are not scaled by timescale anymore (which sounded terrible).

Tech:

  • Upgraded to 2020.2.4f
Click here to find it on Itch.io!

Desert Generator at Full Power!

Something that is really enjoyable to me, believe it or not, is refining ways to generate cool maps. To see the result of a mad pile of code and some assets turn into something you can play can be a bit addicting. I’ve certainly got a lot to do for entirely new content, but since I was working on creating new types of maps, it was worthwhile to look back at how I was generating outposts.

I was really happy with how the new outposts came out.

Auto Fire uses a few different generators, one for rolling terrain, one for piecing together city blocks, one for populating hand-crafted levels… Originally I had been using the straight terrain generator that I use for battlefields and the overworld maps… a method of laying out blobs of varying terrains using Voronoi regions. If you’re unfamiliar those may sound froo-froo-fancy but for grids they are almost embarrassingly simple: Throw a bunch of spots down on the map that have a particular terrain type: mountains, clearing, rough terrain, etc. Test every tile on the map and mark it as part of whatever spot it is nearest. Add some noise and various other properties of each spot/region, plow roads to get you from place to place and you’re pretty far along. It’s at least enough for stuff like the overworld, where the specific terrain isn’t so important.

The desert overworld, using Voronoi regions

For outposts, however, that was only part of the equation… I needed walled areas, I needed an “inside” and “outside” area. I wanted buildings to make the interior more interesting. I managed to piece together features like the walls and special setpieces like water towers and little dwellings. In the end the placement of buildings were random, which created a lot of unbelievable areas and many dead-ends… a curse for a driving game where speed is king.

The buildings were also single-tile affairs… This scale mismatch was deliberately set on early in the game’s development for cities, but have since been changed to a double scale that allows buildings to be more interesting and for roads to have more width in cities.

What I realized is that I had a really refined measure of control in cities, with varying width roads, support for passability and large crafted areas, and just overall a less random feel.

The revised outpost uses larger buildings, but also build from an entirely different generator structure.

Cities are constructed using 8×8 blocks (which was 4×4 back when buildings were single-tile) that are crafted to hold a 2 or 4-lane road connector or a 1-lane alley (either left or right side). Each block has one or more exits, and a bunch of places where optional exits can be punched through if the system needs to create extra loops.

So why not do this with desert maps? Walls can be made this way of course, but we don’t want a desert map to look like Manhattan… Luckily there are a ton of tricks to keep roads from being straight and buildings falling in irregular patterns. This generator set used 4×4 tiles and almost entirely 1-lane roads, which can meander within a block like a Carcassone tile to keep things from looking too precise. One set of blocks can be used for the inside of the walls, and another for the lighter desert features outside. Everything’s great except that terrain needed to come back into the fore.

And so it did! Parts of the terrain generator came over to the block generator to give the map a more natural appearance… considering it was largely giant squares. With it we got terrain rendering thanks to Microsplat and some pretty nice grass from Advanced Terrain Grass. Our road-plowing routines guaranteed passability and some other code helped give the driveable spaces a little bit of vertical rise and fall.

So “why now” might come to mind… “You’ve had outposts for years now, so what’s the big deal about revising them now?” Fair question. The main reason is my recent investigation into new map types: Industrial parks! Dueling arenas! Race tracks! I have some examples that I’ve hand built with assets I have, but I want to get those generating also… and this same method will work for all of them.

Highways are also a culprit, because they are okay maps, but the road is arrow-straight and can’t really incorporate curves. With my current overworld system I can’t draw two-lane roads without using this block method. Also, a road that curves gently like a highway or race track is best laid out on an 8×8 tile… or even a 16×16. These things are all possible in our brave new world!

That’s the big news of February… a new build will be coming out tomorrow. Excelsior!

Auto Fire v06.25: Stable Stability

It’s been a month, so there’s a pretty chunky update this time.  The player now has access to a vehicle fleet, and as such starts with a pretty basic car until they can afford something better.  There is a vehicle stable at garages for swapping vehicles as well as weaponry, and then the citadel has a variety of cars you can purchase.  The UI has gotten a bit cleanup as well, with the garage, character and citadel screens looking and operating with a lot more similarity.

Since you start with just an Econo Stallion, I took the opportunity to kick off the story a little bit more as well.

Click to go to download Auto Fire! Still free to try!

Emergency Fixes:

  • Enemies were using your gas and ordnance to fire their weapons.  Oh man, had to jump on that immediately.
  • Fixed a problem where the automap would sometimes show as blank.

Vehicle Stable:

  • Added a vehicle switching “stable” where you can swap cars at a garage.
  • The player can now purchase new cars at any citadel.
  • Players should have a lot more information about the features (such as speed perks) of the vehicles they are driving.

Vehicles:

  • The player starts with a single vehicle type, and must engage with the vehicle pool to purchase new ones.
  • Created purchasable versions of all levels of cars.
  • Special moves and speed perks were moved only to upper-level vehicles.
  • Added new vehicle types, the Plaza and the Falconer.
  • All vehicle prices are level-driven but adjusted to end with $xx95 for added Ameri-flavah.
  • Added and revised sales descriptions for each purchasable vehicle.
  • Revised curves for player vehicle health levels to not *quite* ramp up as hard as it did before (+15 per level rather than +20)
Everybody’s gotta start somewhere… This Econo Stallion was like a lifeline to you.

Equipment:

  • Adjusted the per-level data curves for item prices and cash drops.
  • There are now bladed ram plates which do extra damage to humans, and spiked ram plates that do extra damage to armor.

UI:

  • Revised the campaign launch screen in the frontend to tell more story and remove the vehicle selection.
  • Revised the appearance of the citadel, garage and character screens.  Information is displayed more consistently and is a lot cleaner.
  • Both vehicles and equipment now have a consistent “power” number displayed in the corner so that it is easier to sort through weapons and items.
  • When Damage is displayed, it should be appropriately multiplied or annotated to reflect a weapon that fires multiple shots.
  • Made equipment stat readouts more consistent in color and style.
  • Weapons now display crit percentage.
  • Built-in Ram Plates now properly show damage.
  • Fixed some issues with selecting items in some inventory slots, such as “vibrating” mouse conditions and text being obscrured inappropriately.
  • Adjusted the size and placement of the equipment info popup so it doesn’t obscure the UI so much.
  • Fixed the social feed so it scrolls all the way to the bottom when new content is added (and not clip it off on the bottom).
  • Fixed the automap so it looks correct if the aspect ratio is not square, such as highway maps.
  • Updated steering wheel emoji to black and white.
  • Health widget on enemies now uses the same color as other health meters.
  • Buttons that are auto-selected should highlight more prominently when screens change or popup dialogues like travel and leveling up happen.
  • Loadout selection should not as easily unselect when it pops up.
  • Button highlighting in loadout selection popup is revised, less ugly.
  • Loadout selection and vehicle stable now adjust their scroll bars as the player uses keys or gamepad to scroll up and down.
  • Adjusted loading screen delays to better display the help text in a readable way.

Garage Repair:

  • Increased the parts price somewhat to repair armor damage.
  • Fixed an issue that kept players from being able to repair the last bit of armor.

Map Content:

  • Fixed the footprint of the oil tank in tactical maps.  It should work more clearly and you can drive through the corners that are clear now.
  • Added some new shrub variants, and they should respond like the others when passed by a vehicle.
  • Fixed a bug in gas popup descriptions.
  • Flamers don’t drop at low levels, because players could get stranded in the starting location if they use up all their gas as ammo.

Graphics:

  • Al now has a revised portrait, his emoji will be more important as he gets new personality implants in the future.
  • Added animation controller to enemies, so that they have move, damage and attack animations.
  • Fixed some ugly flickering on the big orange explosion from mines and barrels.
  • Fixed ragdolls, which were detaching all limbs on death (causing them to stretch).
  • Added new enemy portraits to the roster.
  • Fixed some flickering shadow issues on highway map terrain.

Audio:

  • Fixed an issue that was making music not consistently play.
  • Loading cargo now uses a different sound.

Tech:

  • Updated to Unity 2020.2