Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Battletech Encyclopedia (Formerly Master Unit List) Updates

The  Battletech Encyclopedia , my version of the MasterUnitList, is chugging along.  At this point I have over 99% image coverage (buildings/infantry are the only empty ones), and all stats are synched up with the official MasterUnitList (really only the years, as the official MasterUnitList is horribly inaccurate in every other way).  I didn't copy over any of the faction users, as there are just too many errors, and the official MasterUnitList is only looking at the Jihad anyway (under 10 units have any data for any other eras).

There are still lots of little issues, and your just as likely to see an incorrect mech record sheet as a correct one, but I'm working through bugs.

It'd be helpful if somebody posted a couple links to my site on the BT forums, as apparently that is where nearly all my traffic was coming from (google too, but I think most people found me through images there)

I do still have hexes for armor points on mechs, I think they work ok (I do hope to center them a bit better in the future) and set my record sheets apart from any canon produced ones.  I can change it to circles easy enough, and will if enough people complain, but at this point nobody has said either way how they feel about them.

I update the Battletech Encyclopedia page often multiple times a day, so it is a much more constant stream of news and what I'm working on.

I have no idea why I'm still doing so much of this, perhaps because I spent a HUGE amount of time getting to the point where I got the axe, and didn't want that effort to be for nothing.

I will say that even though my version isn't as pretty as the canon MasterUnitList, it is more accurate, and far more complete, and at least sometimes right now lets you see mech record sheets.  So if you aren't building a force, my data is far more useful than the canon MasterUnitList.  

I will have an equipment version up soon, the app is using it, the database built, and I plan on linking all the equipment on TROs to their appropriate pages.  Basically, all the behind the scenes code is complete, I just need the presentation layer.

I am thinking about making an "Issues" page, that queries the database for all units/equipment with issues until they get resolved from official errata.  I couldn't tell you how many times I've submitted errata to not see it make it into an updated product (hell just look at the latest WOR supplemental update to see all the screwed up record sheets) or how many times errata is just forgotten or lost.  So basically I'll keep track of it on here.  I don't care about grammer, just data, so it should be easier to read and deal with than the silly forums over at Battletech, The Board Game, plus, I will actually keep it updated a LOT more than TPTB there do.  They are obviously too busy being ass-hat moderators to care about product accuracy.

Here is the latest tidbit on my Battletech Encyclopedia page

Currently Known Issues:
 - Text for mechs isn't pretty, its a high priority fix
 - Items with split locations don't show up at all
 - Some items, like a retractable blade, should have a different crit description for slot #1
 - Items like hatchets and swords, that get criticals from their weight, aren't displayed yet
 - I have no support for Frankenmechs with different tech bases for each structure type yet, same with patchwork armor (I don't think there is any canon unit that does either of these)
 - No support yet for multiple images
 - I've only tinkered with battle armor and mechs, everything else is "raw" and unformatted, and BA/BM/IM aren't done yet
 - I could have typos anywhere, let me know if you see any and I'll fix em quickly

 - Support for Quad record sheets, easy to implement, just not very fun :)
 - Ability for you to submit a change online for any typos you ever encounter
 - Better formatted TRO like text for all unit types
 - Construction validation (this has the side effect of letting you design a unit online, and validate its legality) for all units
   - Cost, BV1, years available/extinct/etc, tech ratings, and availabilities will all be determined
 - QS/BF stats and QS/BF cards.  I already did this with a QS program, so its just a matter of copy/pasting the code into the website.
 - Go through all books and add all images to units, and add support for which one you want to print
 - Add megamek icon with your preferred camo scheme on the initial search list
 - Add LOTS more features to the search page, and the resulting table (BF/QS data will be added pretty soon on the resulting search page)
 - Pretty it all up a bit, just need to find a few good stylesheets...
 - Add color coatings to units.  Basically the B&W images will have maybe 2-4 images and a spot for a logo, and based on your settings, it can color those images when you look at them automatically
 - Add all fluff and manufacturing data, which is all searchable.  Also, the manufacturing still will allow a production map so you can see where all the parts from units come from
   - Side affect will be a method, based on where parts come from and final assembly location, a dynamic way of determining what factions have what units
 - Unit combat simulator.  Pick 2 units, pick a range, and the two will slug it out until one dies, multiple times, to let you know which is "better", more features will eventually be added
 - Save to Megamek, SSW, HMP, etc
 - "Export PDF" option, that basically takes a known published book, and creates a PDF with all those units in typical TRO format, optionally with record sheets within or at the end of the PDF.
 - Ability for you to upload your own designs, that can be selected as an option when doing searches (by default they will always be off however)

 - A system that lets you use this site to track your mech stats in game, even against an opponent
   - You can select weapons your firing, and the modifiers to hit, and it'll do everything else
   - All players can see their own mechs, or a limited view of their opponents mechs, without any paper or pencils required!
   - Stats can be saved and resumed later
   - If mapsheets are used, it would be possible to use this for double blind, and it'll let you know when you put a unit on the table
   - The system can tell you BV at any given time, calculate repairs between games, etc, etc

Over on the BT forums, notably this one, there were some good comments I thought on improving Quickstrike/Battleforce.  I'll implement some of these following rules as options when you generate QS/BF stats:
- Attacks are divided by 5 and rounded normally, not 10 and rounded up
- Armor is divided by 15, not 30
- Range brackets will be 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, for +0/+2/+3/+4/+5/+6, each is still 90m.
- I'll have the option to generate energy only, and with ammunition (along with the # of turns it can be sustained) attack factors, not just 1 generic one.
- I'll give the option to calculate "best possible", which determines the best possible attack for each range band with available heat sinks, instead of the methods already given.  This will be much more accurate to BT.
- I was thinking of doing something special with XL/XXL/Light/etc engines.  Instead of reducing structure points, add a critical for them if they exist, and adding an ability like "XL", "LE", or "XXL" to the units.
- Instead of doing all damage from left to right, what about rolling 1d6 and starting that many points in?  Perhaps a minimum armor equal to size class can be avoided (so an assault mech always has at least 4 armor, a light 1).  This would replace "head criticals", and often result in dead units with a few points of armor remaining.  I need to think about how to do it more, but just think how often a mech dies with an untouched leg or quite a bit of armor remaining.
- Now in BF you have stats for 4 elements in a lance, I am going to create the ability to average all that out into a single statistic, allowing an entire company to be represented by 1 "element" (which is really a lance).  I'll do the same thing for a battalion, where each "element" is a company.  Computers are awesome for stuff like this ;)
- It wouldn't be too hard to write a computer based version of quick strike or battleforce.

On to an unrelated topic, the Ogre Kickstarter project is now over $420K with 8 days left, holy hell that is awesome!  I am thinking about increasing my order from the $335 level to something a bit higher.  If you haven't bought into it yet, you really should, its a fun game that isn't played near enough, and would be a welcome relief with its simple rules, fast gameplay, and zero arguments over Battletech.

And onto some other quick gaming stuff:
I found this Strike Legion game system and was quite impressed.  I typically hate the whole die based system of games (like stargrunt and dirtside) but this guy has made a really complete system, where you can have aliens, steampunk, floating battleships, naval units, ground units, ogres, starship, strategic starship, walkers/mecha, and now released a preliminary version of a squad based system, all interact.  I bought everything for it, and it is pretty good stuff.

And because people love to see images in google image search, here is a Record Sheet created with my site, that I think is all correct:
BattleTech Encylopedia Master Unit List


  1. I'll post some links around, but you shouldn't worry too much about traffic at this stage. As long as the Encyclopedia is useful (or easier to use) in a way that other programs/services/sites aren't, people will find it and use it. For instance, I often have access to internet and printers without access to my desktop computer, so the ability to spawn record sheets online will be really nice (and much more attractive than the .txt sheets I'd planned to fall back on).

    I don't have a preference between hexes or circles, as long as it's easy to count damaged and undamaged armor. Your hexes seem easy enough, but if you end up switching to circles, I suggest breaking them up visually into groups of five. (If you're open to more extreme changes, a group of Spanish players have created a unique layout that people seem to like, though someone would need to produce a few hundred wireframes for you.)

    Aside from spot-checking the official MUL's accuracy and trying out features, the only thing I've used it for is to create a list of Level 1 (introductory tech) 'Mechs and sort them by 2*SQRT(offensive BV2 * defensive BV2). I'd like to do the same with later groups of tech, but none of the official MUL's search options let me sort tech the way I've sorted it here. (*Ideally* I want to then be able to sort results by user-selected calculated values, like "(armor points)*(Walk MP)+(BV of all other equipment)," and a couple others, but I doubt anybody but me would find that useful.)

    How complete *is* your list - if stats or a record sheet has been published somewhere, but later errata'd or superceded, could I use your list to find the old or illegal versions? (Akin to the "issues" page you proposed, I'd find it useful to be able query for unit versions that have *been* errata'd or superceded or were illegal or whatnot.)

  2. Suggestions/Comments/Ideas:
    - You have a field that lists sources, but when the stats differ between different sources cited, it would be nice to have some kind of notation indicating that.
    - When I first tried your BTEncyclopedia, I didn't realize I could click on a search result to get expanded information. You may want to make that more obvious.
    - It would also be nice if I could sort results by real-life date of publication (rather than in-game year).
    - What do you mean by an "equipment version" of the BTE?
    - Like your links to the official MUL, consider linking manufacturer & primary planet to the Inner Sphere Atlas.
    - You say cost, BV1, years available/extinct/etc, tech ratings, and availabilities will all be determined - I assume this would be done dynamically in the same way as you described for the factional availabilities? If so, it might be nice if the user could selectively "exempt" items from the date calculation.
    - Are you planning to exclude BV2?
    - A couple guys (Gauss Bear and, later, Fugan) worked out how to reverse engineer stats for the collectible card game. That would be another thing you could auto-generate fairly easily (I can send you their notes if you're interested).
    - If/when you add fluff (especially if you allow for visitor editing), could you include fields for not just the book and who inputted the data, but also the specific printing, whether another person has verified the data, and maybe space to note differences between printings or errata or whatnot too? I recall visiting HMP some years ago to find TR:Revised fluff misattributed to TR:original and the LCT-3V misattributed to TR:3025 instead of whichever unit book it was actually from.
    - Since you're calling this an encyclopedia, if you do allow for visitor editing, could you also make a field where people can enter page refs for places the unit is pictured?
    - Consider including designs from magazines, CritterTek, or other such sources in the encyclopedia (excluded from searches by default, of course).
    - I'm still experimenting, but I think I've found a clear & concise way to format TRO-like text so it looks good in a forum post (1, 2, 3).
    - Have you considered incorporating Xotl's availability tables? Considering his volunteer position, they're probably as correct to the present "canon" as you'll find.

    I've been lead to believe that the '96 reprints of the old Vol 1-6 of the Record Sheet books differ from the original printings of those books. Do you happen to know what any of the differences are? I'm specifically interested in whether the reprints inserted new variants or renamed any old variants.

    Also, I have some thoughts relating to your unit combat simulator, my 2*SQRT(offensive BV2 * defensive BV2) ladder, and these (1, 2, 3, 4) posts from Giant Battling Robots, but I'm going to have to continue that later.

  3. I wanted a few more hits as the more feedback I get, and the more I see people wanting what I'm doing, the more likely I am to stay focused on it and not stray off to other projects :)

    I looked at those spanish sheets, but they are all custom made and pretty much impossible to make programatic like I've done. Besides, I can't do the art, and doubt anybody else would step up :(

    I'll add making a custom sorting method sorta thing that'll do what you asked, but it'll be a while before I get to it. I had already planned on giving people the ability to say "find all mechs that move 6+ with 5 or more medium lasers and no heat buildup" sorta stuff, just have to code it in, or perhaps just allow regex expressions, not sure yet, but its on the todo list.

    My list is 100% completely, it has everything that I know of that I know is canon. However I only use the latest data. So if a unit was in 3 record sheet books, the latest would be the data that is in the database. So no, you can't really use my list to find versions that are no longer valid. However, I do have some illegal designs, like the Super Griffin from the Black Widow scenario book, as it *was* published in a canon source. I didn't include battletechnology units like the Rhino or Wolfman (I actually entered them, and then removed em) as battletechnology isn't canon, but did include it as a source (and its images) for mechs like the Osprey that were eventually converted to canon.

    There is an "issues" field that has any descrepancies, but I rarely noted in all the data entry I did for these 5200 or so units which book had what, unless they were in conflict and I wasn't sure of the canon result.

    I'll add a note to click on links on the search page. That whole results page was just a placeholder, I planned on adding a LOT of functionality to it at some point.

    The equipment version of the list would hyperlink the weapons on units to a page with all the stats on the item. So clicking on "AC20" brings you up with a page that shows its cost, bv, weight, ranges, damage, heat, slots, and dozens of other statistics about the item. I just have to add the hyperlinks, look for it in the next update.

    The IS atlas is woefully outdated. Once Handbook House Kurita is out I'll finalize the planets list that I initially created and voltampre on the forums is keeping updated, and it'll be in there as well. You'll be able to hyperlink between facilities and produce maps and stuff from it.

    The calculation stuff is all going to be done using the regular rules. Basically, I entered in all the unit stats, then I'll write all the code to ensure its weight is right, get the correct BV values, determine years and availability, etc. I have to do this as so many units simply don't have that data, and if you look at many of the recent designs they don't even have BV, and none have availability except some power armor and support vehicles.

  4. I'll include BV2, unless they release a new point system, at which point I'll use it if it isn't lame. If its really lame, I'll just create my own. I can do my own as I'll have all the data, all the units, and the engine modeled, so I can put each unit against each other unit thousands of times, and determine how they stand against each other. Eventually you'll even be able to tell it the weather/environment and maybe even mapsheets, and it'll give you BV for those units. I'll also take into account gunnery skills when doing the calculations, so an elite gunner is far better with a pulse boat than with a MRM boat, to match the bell curve. Computers rock for stuff like this, I can put a mech against another in seconds, more than has ever been played since the beginning of battletech, combined, and squared.

    Shoot me the stuff for the CCG, and I'll add it in there, I never played it and have no interest, but could make cards with graphics and add appropriate values easily enough.

    My fluff will have a title, like "Capability", "Overview", or whatever, and if it doesn't match it'll be assumed to be a pilot name. Then it has a source, which is a text field, but I would think it'd be something like "TRO3025(1P) Page 24" or something. Then the big 8000 character text field (if more ends up being needed, I'll have to move that outta the database to flat text files, but that is pretty easy). Eventually I'll try to implement a system to allow you to submit a change, and if verified (I'll verify them, I own every BT book) I'll approve and implement it. If there are a few people who want to assist, I can give them some access to do so as well. I know the fluff can be problematic.

    Picture sources I haven't tracked at *all*, and it'd be a pain to do so as I'd have to define a max # of images up front. Instead, one could just rename the image to the source, and it'll show up as the name of the image. Actually, it may not be a bad idea for me to add a little block of text to the bottom of the image (ensuring not to overwrite the image itself) with a source/artist/etc. I'll think about how to deal with that better. Right now you can kinda see where images come from via the path to it (like "TRO 3050\Atlas AS7-D.png"), but that isn't a very eloquent solution.

    I thought about having non-canon designs, and I may do that at some point. I personally really want to see the Wolfman from battletechnology 0102 and Rhino from Battletechnology 12 in there, but right now I'm trying to keep it to canon. Once I get the design validation setup so I can make sure I entered in all the data right, and the designs are valid, I'll add a flag to the database for the type (0=canon, 1=non-canon, 2=user, etc) and allow searching on it, but everything will always default to canon only.

    One of the issues with a really readable format (I liked yours) is take a mixed tech mech, make it a frankenmech with mixed tech and mixed weights for each location, add patchwork armor, and you end up with some pretty complex info that really needs to be in a TRO in order to recreate the unit. I've been trying to spit it out with code in HTML, but that isn't very likely to produce pretty results. Instead I think I'll end up making it in excel and creating a table format as a text file, then just replacing strings like %%STRUCTURE_TYPE%% with strings I input, and then presenting that to the user instead. It'll be much easier to do, and people can make their own files that get created straight from database data, so it'll be very versatile. Next update I'll try to have it :)

  5. I've looked at Xotl's tables and they are pretty good. I can include them easily. However, they are only for 2-3 eras IIRC, so there is a lot missing. And since they are non-canon anyway, its hard for me to justify using them. I'll probably have all the canon RATs supported at some point, but they kinda suck too (they are to sell mini's and introduce new units more than describing actual unit breakdowns - straight from Herb). Once I have all the factory information inputted, if there is enough data, I'll write something that looks at factories, items produced, where everything is at, and combined with mech survivability (based on things like ammo or XL, tech ratings, and even weapon damage of the period) I *might* be able to dynamically produce some random tables with decent results. However there may simply not be enough data to do so, so I'm not real sure.

    Some interesting links about armor distribution, though I would think overall mech and pilot survivability would modify those values above and beyond a to hit table. Lets face it, its more important that the pilot lives than the mech, and getting a leg blown off might be more important to a locust than an Atlas, so consistent armor distribution may not be all what us math junkies would like to believe. I'll include something like that whenever I get around to an online unit designer though.

    As for the V1-V6 of the record sheet books... hmmm... never heard such a thing. Going through my 6, that were acquired over years in all sorts of manners, I get 2 from 1990, 2 from 1991, and 2 from 1992, so statistically I would think if there was a second printing in 96 that was any different, at least 1 of those 6 would have a new year in them. There are a few units from those books that have yet to be reprinted though.

    Thanks for all the feedback! I hope to fix a lot of the issues and have a lot of new features implemented in a few days.