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!
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.
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:
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.
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:
Auto Fire has been going through a lot of work focusing on making the game more approachable for someone that might want to sit down and play. This is specifically useful in preparation for the SIX show in Seattle on September 1.
In particular, I put a fair amount of work into adding Gamepad Support to the game. Yeah it’s still turn-based, but driving with the stick feels pretty good. Here’s the quick rundown, assuming you have an Xbox-style stick:
Hold the Left Stick in a direction, and you’ll get a preview of the result:
Up-Left/Up-Right: Swerve Left/Right
Left/Right: Turn Left/Right
Down-Left/Down-Right: Hard corner Left/Right
Centered: Coast (if moving) or wait.
The Left Trigger will commit the move and advance the turn.
If you hold the left trigger you can move multiple times in a row.
The Left Shoulder will Boost your vehicle, allowing acceleration over 40 MPH.
Tap the Right Stick in a direction and you will target the nearest enemy that uses that weapon.
The Right Trigger will fire any available weapon at the nearest target, or the targeted enemy if one is already being targeted.
The Directional Pad can adjust your aim target.
The A Button will Activate an entrance.
The B Button will Brake.
The X Button activates the radar.
The Y Button brings up the Character screen.
The Right Shoulder and A/B/Y will use the appropriate Equipment slot
The Start button brings up the settings menu.
The Back button brings up the Automap.
The game is still the same at its heart, but holding a controller just immerses you just that much more, plus you’re not stretching your fingers over the keyboard. I’d be thrilled to take any feedback you might have on it.
In addition, there should be a lot more information in the game about speed and what direction everyone is travelling in. As is natural, a common player instinct is that if a vehicle isn’t moving onscreen (while the simulation is waiting for you to make your next move) that it is not currently moving at speed. The wheel motion, dust from the tires and indication of speed changes should help you digest what the simulation is up to!
As always, there’s another grab bag worth of things that happened along the way:
The HUD adjusts the key prompts based on whether the player is using the keyboard or gamepad.
Radar now uses the R key (and resides in vehicle equipment slot 4). It has a separate spot on the UI.
Enemies now do not shoot every possible chance they get (rather than move). They are just as likely to try maneuvering than shooting.
Improved AI will not try to move directly in front of your vehicle anymore. This was really frustrating because they’d keep forcing you to maneuver around them to keep from colliding, rather than shoot them.
Enemy cars are more likely to get moving rather than sit-n-spin.
Fixed issues with auto-targeting with specific weapon sides.
Adjusted some female surnames so I avoid generating women named “Scott” or “Howard”
Control remap interface is temporarily disabled until it can be properly revised.
So this blog continues to be a main platform for documenting the things that I’ve been working on, but I wanted more immediate access to enthusiasts for the car combat genre. A new Discord has been launched as the answer to this.
Not just for Auto Fire, I wanted to participate with fans of Car Wars, Gaslands, Dark Future, Mad Max, and any other type of media where a motor vehicle shoots at another motor vehicle. Click below to join up!
I am rolling off of a bunch of updates by the first coder to touch Auto Fire outside of me… My friend Jim streamed his work this past Saturday and Sunday and helped get some cool functionality in that I hadn’t done before.
Along the way he also added some Quality of Life improvements to some of the code, for his convenience but of course it will be helping me even more. Friends are nice to have!
In particular, I’m looking to snarf some of that ram functionality to wrap it up into a couple vehicle gadgets: A Ram Piston and… a Bootlegger somethingorother. Plus it lays the foundation for me to knock enemies around as the result of player action… something that ramming desperately needs.
For the time being, the new build has some fancy new features:
Weaponry now has a critical hit functionality when fired… By default a weapon has a 5% of delivering a critical hit, with a crit dealing 2.5x damage. You can improve that crit chance by 25% by painting your targets with radar (the 1 key) before attacking. Sustained fire does still improve your chance of hitting (as does radar painting) but only radar enhances crits.
Critical hits are a core method with which I want to handle skill improvements, electronic warfare, and general hit bonuses. Improvements to hit chances are also in there somewhere, but I don’t want to have a lot of shots missing in the game… that can be frustrating. Hopefully this will be a whole new angle by which players can decide what to do next.
Revised repair functionality
While gas and ordnance still cost cash to purchase, repairs to your car now need precious parts to fix up. You can refill your resources and make repairs in 10-unit portions now, rather than in an all-or-nothing fix.
Resources will become all-important as time goes on, an cash will mainly be focused on acquiring new gear, doing deals, making bribes, and so on.
Improved smoke screens
Smoke screens are a staple of car combat, but to date it hasn’t really been effective at getting anyone off your tail. I already had wide smoke screens but decided that it should be the norm… you should feel good about spending your action using one if you are in trouble. These wide smoke screens will nearly fill a roadway, to help you make an emergency escape… It really can deliver the goods.
…and other stuff
Gas now informs you if you are full and can’t pick up any more.
Some improvements to UI and feedback
Menu/UI Usability improvements.
Links to the help page and Discord from within the game.
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)