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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Targeting squares are more yellow now, rather than green.
The (A) button prompt disappears when the player centers the gamepad stick.
We’ve been working on some new special abilities for the vehicles in Auto Fire, including the Ram Piston. Different vehicle chassis types can have some crazy maneuvering abilities, although they’ll consume resources such as gas, so make sure to use them wisely!
The foundation of the special moves system was pitched in by developer comrade Jim, created during this stream where we talked through some of the system updates needed.
The followup was transferring it to on-demand equipment, which didn’t have the ability to be aimed yet. The plan is to get some more moves in like bootleggers, side swipes, and some weirder stuff. Stay tuned!
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.