Category Archives: Video

Turn Execution Experiments in the Arena

Something you never hear about in game development is the challenge of capturing footage for a trailer or some amount of publicity. Few games, particularly those with any kind of randomness or procedural generation, look 100% perfect at every moment during development. Even if there aren’t bugs, you’re trying to take a slice of time, a single image, where the game shines as what you envision it to be. It can take weeks and weeks and at the end of the process you feel a strange mixture of pride in what you have created and despair over all the things you have left to do.


So over August and September as I’ve been catching snippets for use in the Seattle Indies Expo, I got a face full of the driving experience at times when I wanted to feel the Drive Magic. However, as you drive and shoot there are stalls (put in there intentionally) as the game resolves projectiles and impacts.  That sort of turn resolution is pretty common in tactics games, it lets you see the results of your attack (or attacks against you) and process the result before moving on.  I originally set the system up that way because “that’s what Roguelikes usually do“.

However, the frequent halts during my drivin’ and skiddin’ started to bug the crap out of me, especially when there were a lot of enemies nearby. Of course I don’t pause the game when something happens offscreen, but when there are a lot of enemies it can happen often, especially in the arena where enemies were attacking each other.

So, to the experiments!  I decided to try a couple things:

  • I removed the projectile pause entirely and let attacks just resolve while the various vehicles moved to new positions. 
  • I adjusted the speed at which the turn played out based on the player speed, so turns (including those of opponents) just play out faster when the player vehicle is moving at higher speed. Turns at 25 MPH play out faster than turns at 100 MPH.

The results were interesting. Keep in mind that this is still 100% turn-based.  The only thing that has changed is how turn results are represented.

A quick experiment with turn execution

You can specifically see the lack of a delay when the player fires machineguns and rockets.

Yes, the result needs a bit of work, specifically:

  • Bullets don’t yet “lead” their targets so they are striking behind the vehicle.
  • Some slow weapons like rockets that take longer than a typical move duration (generally between a quarter and a half second) need to be converted to take multiple turns to reach their destination.
    • …but hey that’s gameplay, y’all!
  • I still need to make sure combat resolution is as readable as possible, such as:
    • Armor impacts and damage numbers are still getting obscured.
    • The armor side that gets hit isn’t as obvious as it should be
  • And of course, special moves will still need to stall the game, but that’s fine for something that doesn’t happen often.

However, in all it did improve the overall feel of driving and smoothness. This was a worthwhile experiment and I’m all in on making sure the game feels great and still has a clear turn-based combat resolution. Not sure where this will lead, and I know that a certain segment of the audience will want to be crystal clear on what’s going on in combat, in the same way that another segment will want to cut loose and skid around fluidly.  Possibly I’ll leave a toggle for the roguelike turn resolution if the player wants that (should be possible).  

More to come as the game continues to evolve!

Auto Fire at the Seattle Indies Expo

A couple of weeks ago, Auto Fire got taken out for some air at SIX, the Seattle Indies Expo.  This show was an in-person event in conjunction with PAX, and featured indie games from around the rich development community around the Seattle area.

Check out the other games that were displayed at

It was really fun to get the game into people’s hands and take feedback, to learn about what got them excited, and of course where more work had to be done.  In all it was a great show for all.

There’s a corresponding online event on Saturday Sept 24th, that will be going live on Twitch!

In preparation for the event I assembled a new teaser filled with updated footage and cool stuff.  Hoooo boy that’s a tougher job than you think… It took the better part of a couple weeks, but I think it paid off. Enjoy!

Dev Streams!

I’ve been doing development streaming on Twitch lately, and it’s been pretty enjoyable actually. It’s early afternoon for me, Tuesday at 1PM Pacific, and it’s been fine. I worried about the cats disrupting things but I just embraced the cat break. I worried about boring people with some noodly code problem on camera but there’s always something I can pick up that’s interesting to work on and talk about. I’d like to think that people are learning things about game development as well, which it turns out is part of what it’s about.

I’ve saved some of these streams on Youtube, which has been good since there are sometimes concepts that I want to convey to people that are helping me out… and having a demo of its use is super-handy.

In stream #2 I showed off how patches are created in-game, and punch up some in-game objects. (The first stream was unfortunately lost to the fact that Twitch doesn’t save broadcasts by default). We also got our first visit from Sam.

Stream #3 started pretty weird because I had the mic off for a good chunk of the start. In this I actually crack open the very improved Blender after only an hour of watching tutorials and use it to update and break up some models, to improve the physics impact of destruction. Then we cut loose with some rockets.

See you on Tuesday!

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!

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


Auto Fire Status Update – Oct 2018

Over the past several months I’ve been working through some significant issues to get Auto Fire up to snuff…  Good ol’ Jim talked me into going to the Roguelike Celebration 2018 in San Francisco this weekend so I could start showing my game to people more widely.  Pretty exciting!  Also pretty nerve-wracking given all the other stuff going on this summer.

Unfortunately there were a ton of things about my game that still drove me crazy…  For example I wasn’t able to save the state of maps between visits… which meant that the overworld in particular would regenerate every time you left a location.  I had to finally take the plunge and deal with that particular issue.

Man I hate two-years-ago me.  I did some real hack jobs to get that 7DRL challenge done, and I guess I wasn’t done paying off that technical debt. 😛

Luckily I got all the proper stuff to function, save off map states and basically am ready for honest-to-god savegames (although I don’t do save/load just yet.)  I’ve also made a whole bunch of quality-of-life improvements based on early player feedback:

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  • The camera is now behind the vehicle at all times.  This way the WASD weapon keys are always consistent and understandable, and you don’t have to envision tank controls.  I had always suspected this would be a problem, but I think I was so used to camera-always-north that I didn’t have any trouble playing.  The added benefit is that the game has a fairly unique look as compared to other Roguelikes now.
  • Improved feedback for speed.  This is always a work in progress.  The player needs to know when they are speeding or skidding.  Putting the camera at a shallow angle and adding speed lines is my current strategy.  I also shake the camera a bit, but that may just be too much.  We will see where things go as feedback comes in.
  • Recolored environment.  A good friend did a paintover of a screenshot of my city environment a while back and it helped me gravitate towards dark ground surfaces, light obstructions, and bright colored gameplay elements.  This wasn’t the case with deserts (because, y’know, desert), but I’ve been darkening things quite a bit and trying to get the colors to pop.  Still a work in progress.
  • Revised balance and loot drops.  This isn’t really finely balanced, but I did make the early-play experience quite a bit easier so that people that wanted to try out the build could get a good idea of what the game was about quickly.  I also brought down the size of the average “loot pinata” that existed when I was testing loot out.  I really still need to do a huge push towards making content, maybe after the RogueCel.
  • Revised location names.  More on that next article!
  • New garages in the overworld and desert outposts.  I’m trying to make sure that the player has plenty of places to equip all the weapons and vehicle components I’m dropping.  That includes in hostile areas.  That will be a balancing act in the future.
  • UI improvements.  Again from feedback, I flash the weapon when you try to use it but can’t, and flash the grip meter if you are skidding and try to accelerate.
  • Music and sound improvements.  I got some new weapon sounds and hooked them up.  The quality is steadily improving there.  On the music front, I went back to Michael La Manna‘s excellent western apocalypse music… The quality is really high and fits the feel of the game really well.

My next step is to get the game out onto so that more people can play.  That will be sooner than you think!

Brass Tactics Postmortem Complete

Brass Tactics was a really invigorating project to work on and I felt that we as a company (and I personally) learned a tremendous amount about VR in general as well as general player interaction and behavior.  Over the past several months I’ve brought the key takeaways and posted them on the Hidden Path website.

Since them I’ve cleaned them up as a series of blog/articles on Gamasutra.  I also will be giving a talk at the XRDC conference at the end of the month talking about some of our particular solutions in more detail.

Part 1:  Designing the map and player navigation

Learn about our experiments and pursuit for the most physical environment in this Gamasutra article.

The accompanying video can be seen here:

Part 2:  Designing the command interface

Learn about how we started with some traditional control models and eventually created something that felt closer to dancing in this  Gamasutra article.

The accompanying video can be seen here:

Part 3:  Designing the economy and additional interactions

Learn about some of the general interaction experiments we tried, and why we did or did not pursue them in the final game in this Gamasutra article.

The accompanying video can be seen here:

After my talk at XRDC I will probably be pestering y’all less on Brass Tactics.  I do still make the occasional update but at home my focus in almost entirely on Auto Fire.  It’s been fun!