Been working frantically over the weekend to iron out the last bugs on Auto Fire so that the newest build can be put out in time for Roguelike Celebration 2020. The changelist should be several pages. O_o
While you’re waiting, I took some screenshots for the virtual showcase hall they are going to have:
Hope to see you (once again, virtually) at the show next weekend!
It’s been a hell of a long time, but I’m finally gearing up to put out a big Auto Fire update. The visuals got a big overhaul, we’re getting a new UI, and there’s even the start of a new story. Lots to talk about, and maybe I’ll show a before and after, but for now I’ve got some last bugs to iron out…
It’s been a while! I’m about a month into ramping back up after the spring got eaten up by a much-needed personal break, and it’s been a while since I’ve shared the ongoing improvements to Auto Fire, so let’s get back to it! Getting things rollololling by pulling together the assets for some possible arena layouts and maybe even a racetrack or two… Been fun to explore!
One of the biggest changes I’ve been working on is a scale revision which will open up those cramped streets and other areas for more driving fun, as well as giving more impact and drama to features such as buildings, walls and streetlights.
I’ve also got some help from a talented friend in a much-needed overhaul of the UI. Just to whet your appetite, here’s a quick peek at one part of the dashboard… I’m already in the midst of revising the grip/skid meter to tie it all together a much clearer package in this new speedo.
About a year ago, I pitched in on a Kickstarter that was near and dear to my heart… the reprint of a vast library of early-80’s games from Steve Jackson Games. Many of these games came in a specially designed “pocket box” that was more durable than a ziplock bag and were the perfect size to fit on paperback book racks in stores.
These little guys held the first copies I owned of Car Wars and its supplements as well as other titles like Ogre. The manuals were small, and inside were super-folded maps as well as thin sheets of game counters that you cut out yourself. Perhaps these weren’t the honkin’ miniature-heavy boxes you see nowadays, but it was amazing how 5 bucks could buy you in to a whole world back then.
So today a big ‘ol box showed up. It was bigger than I thought it would be, although I did recall pledging the mammoth $200 “Car Wars and seven more games” package as a tip of the hat for everything SJG gave me in 1983. While I bought nearly everything from the Car Wars line back in the day, a number of cross-country moves separated me from my collection, and only a precious few pieces remained… This was a chance to get them back into my grubby little hands.
The first thing that struck me when taking the first of the contents out was how chunky big these new pocket boxes are. They were streamlined to remove the now-unneeded clasps and hooks, but they’re also a lot thicker.
The first set is the classic boxes of Illuminati, along with some Illum-themed folders as a bonus. We’ve got Illuminati Deluxe, but it’s great to have the real deal.
Ogre and its sequels/spinoffs/addons! Yes! What classics, and I’d always wanted a copy of Battlesuit in particular. I love these folders as well.
I’ve certainly never owned a copy of Undead or Kung Fu 2100, and it’s been soooooo long since I’ve played Awful Green Things (I think literally since it debuted in Dragon Magazine?). These are some awesome treasures.
Finally get to compare a new Pocket Box with the old. I put an original copy of Ogre against the new one… It appears about double thickness.
Now I should say that all those other SJ games were great, but I was eager to hit the star attraction and crack open the vaults of Car Wars loot. Look at the size of these crates!
Opening box #1… With Convoy peeking out at me like a long-absent friend.
And so it begins… Car Wars, Truck Stop, a couple expansion sets, the arena book, Convoy, GURPS Autoduel and a spare pocket box to put the expansions in. It starts strong!
I’m so glad to have a printed copy of this version of GURPS Autoduel. I have no problem with Darryl Elliott’s cover for the 2nd edition, but Denis Loubet’s original cover is my absolute favorite Car Wars illustration ever.
Convoy was one of the best supplements, as sort of choose-your-own adventure with Car Wars battles along the way. Whenever I wanted to immerse myself in that world or think about Auto Fire, I’d page through a bit of this guy. The book was one of the hardest losses from the move (or whenever it disappeared), and the PDF was I think my very first purchase from Warehouse 23.
I cracked open the bonus pocket box for the first time and it feels nice and solid. Feels similar to a slightly-undersized clamshell VHS case (for those that know what those feel like).
Once again, comparing old (right) versus new (left).
Comparing the old with the new here (new on top), the inside was lovingly recreated with all the usual inserts, with some bonus surprises including a set of two d6’s (which conveniently fit in the larger boxes!).
The new edition (right) is pretty much a direct scan of the original books (aside from a small note in the header), so this is as close to 1983 as you can get. This does mean you should expect whatever typos and game-balance quirks existed at the time.
My old copy (left) has a promo for Sunday Drivers for $5, while this reprint advertises Crash City (Sunday Drivers’ revised name) for a slightly higher price. The reprint also promotes Car Wars Deluxe, which was released closer to the mid-80’s. Not sure of the exact year of each.
These tiny little bonus notebooks they tucked into each pocket box are delightful.
Keeping with absolute authenticity, there are uncut counter sheets included as the originals had, but there are also die-cut versions of every counter so you don’t have to crack out the scissors.
The die-cut counters have a bit of extra thickness to them, which is great: The original 1/2″ x 1/4″ counters in particular were so thin and light that they were very hard to handle, and don’t you dare sneeze…
Moving on to treasure trove #2!
Two more expansion sets, Crash City, an Autoduel Quarterly collection and one of the Uncle Albert’s Catalogs, along with Zombietown and another bonus pocket box. Zombietown USA for GURPS Autoduel is one I’ve never owned and am eager to dig into.
Opening Box #3!
There’s some beefy stuff in here: Autoduel Champions(!), Chopper Challenge, the vehicle counter expansion set, another Uncle Al’s, and the AADA Vehicle Guide. A couple bonus pocket boxes and two folders are also tucked in here…
This book is iconic to me, and I’m super-glad they reprinted it with the foil cover… It’s so pristine it feels locked in time. (The AADA stands for the American Autoduel Association, natch).
The vehicle counter expansion set is chock full of game pieces for all the vehicles in the AADA guide above. They’re double-sided so you can flip them when destroyed. You can see from comparing the cut-out to the die-cut sheets that it wasn’t just a quick job to transfer them, they had to completely revise the layout to switch over.
Comparing new with the old again… Autoduel Champions was a crazy supplement that added Champions-style superheroes to the game, although more importantly it was the only way to get helicopter rules at the time. Notably, it also served as a Champions supplement, providing autoduelling rules for that game. I had completely forgotten that it included giant vehicle and helicopter counters for play to match the larger Champions scale.
While I loved all the color cover art, this piece by George “Speed” Webber was my favorite piece of interior art (Sorry Denis!). When I was a kid I must have recreated this drawing half a dozen times in varying media including pixel-plotting on my Apple II plus.
Finally to bundle #4!
Good ol’ Off Uncle Al’s maks a couple more appearances (so great to have all four together again!), another arena map expansion as well as the offroad duelling supplement. One of those cool bonus folders along with one last pocket box fill the gaps, and finally a copy of Boat Wars! That’s one of the few supplements I never owned, should be fun to check out.
The off-road expansion was lovingly crafted, with those cool trike counters and one of the very few color maps they printed. I also loved getting full-sized expansions because the maps didn’t have to be folded a dozen times over!
Looking back on all the Car Wars loot, I feel it’s money well-spent.
And with all those other games I think it might have been an alright deal for $200 even back in the 80’s… The platypus seems to agree.
One last peek at the rad little notebooks from the Car Wars packages…
…and a look at the bonus pocket boxes once I got stickers on them to hold my expansions. The stickers were extremely hard to peel from their backing, but I got them on okay. The stickers are a bit narrower than the boxes themselves, however, so I can’t say they’re particularly centered.
Anyway, feels good man. My collection is finally back to beefy.
It’s been about a month since the last update of Auto Fire, and I’ve been focused on the content arc. In between hitting “refresh” on the Kickstarter page for Car Wars Sixth Edition (really excited to see car combat come surging back), I managed to assemble a build with a good chunk of stuff.
The upcoming goal is to really focus on content generation, bulking out how sectors are laid out and how quests are encountered within them. This helps draw players through the various sectors and really gives some needed context and narrative to the play arc.
Some notable elements below are a larger emphasis on characters… They are more prominent in encounters and they now are equipped to refer to each other in dialogue (which will continue to grow). The player’s “feed” takes the place of a traditional Roguelike combat log, fielding tweets by your opponents as well as residents of the current sector.
More gameplay-relevant is the introduction of highway maps between the various overworld sectors. These will continue to evolve and reflect the hazards of traveling long distances. Eventually they will be the setting of convoy missions, but first things first…
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.
There have been improvements to Auto Fire both big and small! There was a list as long as my arm of bugs and nitpicks that I discovered when showing off the game at the Roguelike Celebration. Quality of life improvements are always crowd-pleasers, and they happen to also be me-pleasers since I’m playing the game everyday.
More importantly, I started setting an eye to a longer play arc than I have now. That includes laying the foundation for loot, health and damage that’s defined by a progression arc. This means that I can balance numbers globally, as well as more easily drop in enemies and items to the game and have the system distribute them more easily.
This may not affect your experiences that much just yet (aside from some new items dropping!) but I’m looking forward to bulking up the content soon. (If you’re impatient, here’s the download link now)
Rams are more sophisticated in their detection now! They now check relative speeds, and factor in the ram plate only when your front is colliding with the enemy.
The relative mass and levels of the vehicle are also factored into the damage that is done.
The Cricket’s Bootlegger now executes a stun burst upon completion! (Like it’s supposed to!)
Sectors are now set up to control the challenge within them! This gives me the first tools to really smoothly lay in progressively advanced content.
There are now tables that control the base amounts of health, damage, fame, item value, vehicle value, and various resource drops.
Varying the content from this baseline will help generate new content and help balancing as the content grows.
This was waaaaaay harder than it should have been, except it’s because vehicles have a fairly involved way of installing themselves on various vehicle chassis. Players do it differently than enemies, but they all use the same basis.
Loot tables now spawn based on the challenge level of a map or opponent as well. Items are now set up to drop in quickly via a spreadsheet, allowing content growth to be much easier!
Part of the result of this is that there are some new tires, engines, blast gadgets, and weapons that took a few minutes to whip up. A significant improvement.
Adjusted the fire trail from exploding barrels and vehicles to be more flamboyant.
Added physics objects to destructible entities.
Fixed orientation and camera angles of special moves.
The overworld vehicle is a tad smaller now, to better fit the other elements within.
Automap is (finally!!!) closed with the Escape key
Objective Pointer improvements!
Objective pointers now can point to things that can be killed in the map if there are more than one.
When there are multiple objective targets, only show the ones that have been seen so far.
Pointer flashes regularly and is pushed slightly further inward for better visibility.
Pointer starts in the center and moves out when changed.
Revised the feel of the ground, leaning a little bit in the direction of more detail. I don’t want it to get too busy but it was blandtown.
Experimenting with grass, textures, some more boundary variance, and so on.
Outposts now have some slightly more interesting walls.
There can be breaks on multiple sides, and now the break isn’t always predictably on the south end either.
There are some corner variants now, just to mix things up.
The walls have a bunch more variance and they are not always rail-straight.
Wanted a little more verticality, so I made the guard tower and water tower taller.
Physics objects like exploding cars now have sounds when they collide with the world!
Some sounds are no longer affected by slowing down time, because they sounded pretty dumb (like the “clink” of a dropped item)
MasterAudio (my sound system) was logging all sounds, spewing into the text log. Turned this off, which could improve performance slightly.
It turns out I wasn’t reading my data files in an internationally friendly fashion. PC’s with Russian language, for example, would have empty levels and no weapons. Derp. This should be fixed with new parsing improvements. Hopefully Russian computers can run the game better now!
When attacking with a ground-only weapon or special move, don’t snap to an enemy.
Vehicles now have their special moves and speed perks built-in as vehicle defaults. This makes them not part of the inventory and not removable.
Fixed some targeting issues caused by weapons with a minimum range calculating incorrectly.
The Steamworks library has been added to the game! It doesn’t do much yet, but it’s a start!
The game has been updated to Unity 2019.2.9f, and now uses Unity Plus. This means no more Unity splash screen for extra Pro Points(TM)
As always, you’re welcome to try out the current build at Itch.io!
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!