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)
It’s arrived… a big update, worthy of a full point! Auto Fire has had a lot of work put into it over the last month, not the least of it being the revised onboarding (that’s fancy-pants dev talk for what a new player experiences). A lot of players’ first experience with Auto Fire was tough, because there were some really dangerous enemies out there in the badlands, and you were just as likely to meet them while you were still trying out your training wheels as any other time.
In the spirit of making the game more playable and easier to understand, there’s now an intro that eases you into things a bit… and sets up the conflict against your (generated) rival down the road! Clear out those bandits and get back to civilization!
The game also tailors that early experience when you’re stuck with a couple of junkthrowers and not a lot else, so that you are less likely to encounter enemies that want to come punch you in the fun bits right away. This way you can pick up some loot, head to the garage, and upgrade away!
In addition, the player can now customize their character more fully upon startup. You can choose your portrait, and the dialogue (even the procedurally-generated stuff) will adjust for male, female, etc.
There are a ton of changes that came in, but a lot of it is nerdy stuff that only I care about… Oh, hey, here’s some cool stuff you might actually notice!
There’s a new encounter system that extends the random encounters in the game previously. You now can see your opponent, they can call you by name, and choose a course of action.
The game starts with some intro encounters that help give you a sense of what you’re doing there and what to do next.
Character customization has been extended to support player portraits as well as choosing gender.
Both enemies, players and any NPC can now be male or female. Dialogue is set to use the correct language to address them as it comes up.
You now have a (soon to be) publicity agent and a rival that are generated on campaign start. These are referenced and used throughout the game.
Agents are now handled outside of factions. Thus agents (any NPC) can join you, an opposing faction, or be an independent operator like the player.
A story manager presents basic encounters that drive the initial experience forward. This will hook in as more cause-effect things happen with the player.
Naming has been adjusted to better fit categories of civilians, punks, drivers and corporate suits.
Female names have also been added since we can generate those NPC’s now.
Chests now break open when moved onto in the overworld.
Weapons now start with a higher amount of damage (junkthrower starting around 10) but don’t increase as drastically (the maximum is about 250% of the minimum, rather than the former 1000%)
Weapons have less of a randomized spread in their damages (used to be 70-130%, now is 80-120%)
Armor for the player’s vehicles have correspondingly been increased, from 100 per side to 150.
Armor repair kits now repair 15 per side rather than 10.
When the player is ambushed into a battleground, they start in the middle of the map rather than near the entrance.
There’s a new intro cutscene that sets the situation when the campaign is started.
Because I know dying would be a chore if it couldn’t be, these can be skipped.
Encounter text also has a teletype-style reveal, which again can be skipped if the player is impatient.
Portraits can show or not show in encounters, and can even show as a transmission.
The loading screen shows hints and has a spinner so you know if the game is live.
The cursor keys have been remapped to work properly within menus. Key navigation of menus still needs improvement, but it should be better than it was.
Fame/Prestige is displayed properly on character and city menus.
Adjusted a bunch of buttons to be more visually interesting.
Cars now don’t kick up much dust when travelling on roads.
The gas can in the world is now red, matching the icon(!)
There is a quick stint of slow-motion when cars are destroyed, and the same effect is back when the player died.
Revised some of the stingers when entering maps.
The turn-end sound was revised to be less in-yo-face.
Button presses have more audio feedback in more cases.
This coming month will be all about adding variety and continuing to improve the interface. If I demonstrate the game at a show, what will draw players in? What will it take for them to understand what’s going on? What last flourishes or abilities would really sell the whole package?
When expanding the feature set of Auto Fire, an important element was to finally make the overworld play more of a role in the game. As a first step, the badlands now have roaming gangs that run convoys from place to place (having an agenda that will grow over time). These clouds of dust have an unknown number of cars in them, and eventually they will hold a variety of characters within, including lone drivers, hit squads, innocent settlers and good ol’ cargo convoys.
Each roaming enemy gang has a generated miniboss that runs it. If they see you, they’ll interrupt what they’re doing and come after you. If they reach you you’ll be dragged into full combat with their crew… but if you take down the boss you’ll earn yourself some extra fame. Make sure you defeat them or they’ll come back to haunt you…
Some other changes with this build:
Created overworld bosses (as described above). These roam the world using a FSM via the Unity Animator (unorthodox but seems to work fine).
Added a lot of infrastructure to make free bosses and track the player’s kills in each faction.
Bosses now have a “spotted” shout that occurs both in the overworld and in combat.
Cleaned up the UI for weapon aiming. The player can’t accidentally advance the clock by targeting empty ground.
Buffer keystrokes now so that the player cannot target when the enemy is still in the middle of its move. The result was a bunch of misses due to bad UI… Ugh it was driving me nuts! Fixed now, yay!
Revised the combat hit resolution from an older system, which was Diablo-like (and tended to create more misses and less impact due to bonuses), to one that is more of an opposed roll with positive and negative modifiers (more like D&D). It creates a more distinct feel to good and bad weapons and situations.