Category Archives: Shows

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 v0.6.04: 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:

See Auto Fire at Seattle Indies Expo!

On PAX Sunday (September 1), there is an special event at the Motif just down the street from the Convention Center… The Seattle Indies Expo 2019. In this magical place you will find a great selection of local developers showing their newest stuff and I’m super-excited to say that Auto Fire was selected to be among the games featured!

The Seattle Indies group is a vibrant community that supports the work of game creators across the Pacific Northwest. It’s a pretty amazing group, and it’s exciting to see such strong support for game development in the Seattle area.

The SIX is separate from PAX and free of charge, so it’s a great chance to slip in and see games that you won’t find anywhere else. I’ll be there demoing from noon to 9PM with the most polished auto combat yet. Some rad games have kicked off here, so if you’re in the area, come on down and check everything out!

Back In It

Depth Graph

After a week or so in my old stomping grounds of Madison, Wisconsin, I’ve returned from GLS.  It was an intersting show, with lots of folks with interesting stuff to stay.  It was also great to see some old friends, talk some shop and reminisce. 

Certainly my favorite thing at the conference is my former Raven cohort Nathan McKenzie’s presentation of some great, fun-looking games that also have some incredible potential to teach as well.  Nathan is preaching a philosophy (which I fully agree with) that instead of trying to make the existing, must-maligned “learning games” into fun experiences, we should instead consider making fantastic games that apply learning to existing play patterns that demand learning from the audience already (such as memorization of real spanish words rather than game-fiction terms like “Bulbasaur”).  His two demos were really cool to see.

By popular(?) demand, below are the slides for my GLS presentation, “Combating the Curse of More: Focusing Your Game”.  It was a bit different than most of the heady topics discussed at the show, but it seemed to go over well for those that were looking for more of a “dev” point of view.  An overview of the talk seems to have popped up on Gamasutra as well.

This week also marks the start of a new role as Lead Designer at Hidden Path Entertainment in Bellevue (Seattle-area).  Once again, I’m diving into some new, exciting stuff with some incredibly talented and capable people…  I’m utterly excited to see where this path (ha, a pun) will lead.

Click on the Banana to get the file.

I am a banana!

More Talk Powerpoint

Conference-bound

It’s been a pretty scattered summer for me so far…  Lots going on but some weird lulls in between.  Most recently I found out that I’m going back to my hometown of Madison, WI to attend the Games+Learning+Society Conference on July 10-11.  It’s not a huge GDC-type affair, but a show in its fourth year put on by people from the University of Wisconsin…  In my last year at Raven my friend and cohort Nathan McKenzie introduced me to incredibly smart UW folks like Constance Steinkuehler, Kurt Squire, and Jim Gee, who as I’d said before, exposed me to a refreshing outlook on games.  It’ll be great to see them again.

Games+Learning+Society

I’ll be giving a short talk on scope, vision and just good game design practices, which you know I’ve been thinking about a lot lately…  It’s the first talk like this I’ve given and hopefully there will be a lot I can offer the attendees.  There’s an interesting mix of academics and development people, and while my talk isn’t as heady as some, I’ve been told that there is a lot of interest in more traditional game development issues.  In the end, the goal of a lot of these people is not to wrap a bad game around education (as has been done in the past), but to create great games that have educational merit.  I think it’s a fantastic objective that is still underestimated by the game industry.

Anyway, wish me luck!

One Last PAX Experience

I hit PAX on Friday and Saturday, so I should post my notes before they become irrelevant…  It was my first PAX, although I’ve been to many similar con-type events in the past.

General show:

  • With its unabashed “nerdcore” attendee list, PAX is better described as a mini-GenCon than a mini-E3. They have an impressive size for being a fairly young show, but it still is very much centered around fandom of the Penny Arcade comic. The sessions with the authors and on the PA game were some of the hottest tickets, as opposed to other sessions talking about more “serious” topics of development.  Not surprising, it’s not supposed to be a GDC or anything, despite heady topics about PR and episodic content.
  • On the upside, it actually had a fairly impressive turnout of games in playable form, including many that I hadn’t seen before in any form. I assume that falling at the same time as Leipzig gave the publishers some ready-made material to show.
  • Aside from what I mention below, there was a great spread of playable games:  Haze, Eye of Judgment, Metroid Prime 2, Conan (console), Heavenly Sword (a new demo), Warhammer Online, a big America’s Army thing, and several dozen more I’m not thinking of here.
  • Nintendo, Microsoft, Sony and EA all made an appearance, which is impressive given recent news that E for All won’t have that sort of backing.
  • Overall PAX surprised me with an air of “legitimacy” as a serious show. It would take a couple more years, but if it ultimately balloons into a notable national event, it’ll be cool for Seattle. Continue reading One Last PAX Experience

PAX Day Friday!

Surreal sent the entire company to PAX (the Penny Arcade Expo) on Friday…  It was conveniently located in downtown Seattle this year, at the Washington State Convention Center, not too far away.  A few of us actually found a reason to take the semi-famous-but-usually-useless Seattle Monorail (it only travels end-to-end from the Space Needle to downtown, not very far).  The rest of us found that it wasn’t that far of a walk… and we were able to stop at Shorty’s for a dog in the process!

Some of the guys have some impressions that will be posted shortly.