Monday, July 30, 2012

1 Heat Sink

So after not really finding a BV bug, but still working on all the code for calculating BV, there are some serious issues with it, more than I had ever realized.  For example:

Take  a 75 ton Clan Mech
4/6 movement, standard engine/structure/armor
Maximum armor
10(20) heat sinks

That unit is 1027 BV.

Now add 3 ERPPCs, it goes to 2181 BV, a bit over double for a unit that went from 0 damage over range 1, to 15-45 damage out to range 23.  

Now something interesting.  10(20) HS = 2181 BV2, however, the unit has the exact same BV for 11, 12, or even 13 double double heat sinks.  Well that just *can't* be right, those additional HS make a big difference in the a game  However, adding 1 more heat sink, so 14(28), the unit BV jumps to 2412 BV2, or a 231 BV increase for a single heat sink.  10(20) HS allows the unit to generate 27 heat in a turn, 14(28) allows 19 heat.  I blame this issue on the fact that the game designers were trying to work with people, when computers would have allowed a much more granular change in BV without the spikes.  I don't fault anybody for that, but a computer could come up with much more realistic changes.

Another example.  A 20 ton clan mech, 8/12 move, XL, max armor, standard everything else, 10 double HS.   Armed with a single clan ERLL it is a great sniper mech, and is only 814 BV.  However, fight in heavy woods.  The 25 hex range of that ERLL becomes 3, the movement goes from 8/12 to 2/3, and it is probably worth at most about 300 BV (change move to 2/3, 5xER Micro Laser instead of 1xERLL).  Terrain reduces the effectiveness of that mech by nearly 2/3rds.  Now the really wacky thing, lets give that same mech 8 jumping movement, its BV with the 5xER Micro Lasers jumps to 442.  The mech is no more effective than one with a single ERLL in this scenario, but is HALF the BV.  Again, I can't fault anybody for this.  A sniper is obviously not very good at room clearing, and bob with 2xColt 1911's sucks at killing the baddies at 200 yards.

Another example.  An inner sphere 75 tonner, 4/6 move, XL engine, max armor, and 2xLRM 20 w/24 shots.  The BV is 1433, however, make it 3 LRM20s, or a 50% increase in firepower, and the BV only jumps up to 1687, or about 15%.

Lets get nuts.  75 tons, Clan, XL, 4/6, max armor/std structure, 10(20) HS.  40xMachine Guns with 500 rounds.  The BV is 1203.  Replace the MG's with Flamers and the BV drops to 1137.  So these 2 designs are roughly identical in capabilities, damage output, and range.  However, the MG armed unit can fire all 40 MGs with 0 heat, while the Flamer version can only fire about 6, and if it fires all 40 it shuts down immediately.  Yet they are essentially the same BV.  Change the heat sinks to single and the flamer version drops all of 10 BV, to 1127.  Loose the ability to fire 3 flamers for a unit barely able to fire 3 flamers and move, or about a 50% loss in firepower, and the BV loss is only 10.  The MG variant would chew up lots of the flamer variants, doing 80 damage with ranged weapons vs 6.

Another out of the ordinary comparison.  100 ton IS mech, moves 4/5 (7), XXL fusion, 10 compact HS, hatchet in both arms, TSM, 307 points of hardened armor, reinforced structure, standard gyro, torso cockpit, Null-Signature System.  This mech is 2829 BV without a single ranged weapon, wowza!  It is *extremely* hard to kill, but yet can move 7 hexes in a turn while wildly swinging hatchets at you, doing 40 points for a hit.  This mech could easily wipe out anybody else in melee combat.  This mech just rocks.  Now compare that to a Spider SDR-7Kr, a 30 ton mech with 8/12/8 movement and a single medium pulse laser.  Regardless of the terrain, given enough time, the spider will *always* win (jump away when init is lost, close when its won). That awesome 100 ton melee monster will simply never get an attack roll, as its chewed up by 6 point pulse hits all day long.  The Spider is 775 BV, if you really wanted to be nasty, you could take 3 of those spiders, and something else, against that one awesome mech.

FYI, I used heavy metal pro for all these designs.

I know these are all extremes, and hardly the rule.  A typical 1800 BV mech is roughly equivalent to another 1800 BV mech, in most situations, and in most environments.  However, if there is a patch of woods on your table, it could make one of those mechs 20% less effective in some circumstances, or another 20% *more* effective.

If your games used *only* random tables, this may not ever be very pronounced, but if you let people pick and choose, well, it will make a difference, assuming things like die/init rolls are the same.

So, I'll finish up the code to calculate BV on everything (mechs are now done, minus a few bugs that are sure to creep up), but will not use it for any purposes whatsoever.  I think I'll optimize a few of the formulas (like figure the OBV per range band), and divide by 250 or so, meaning mechs would have a "point cost" of about 2 to 12 instead of 400 to 3200, and those costs will be generated based on the terrain, gravity, temperature, environment, etc, so any "extreme" issues like I mentioned above would be extremely rare.

In conclusion, I'm not complaining about BV in any way, but instead just saying don't rely on it to be balanced in any games.  Instead, use scenarios, be creative, and have fun.  

Personally, I think all BT games should simply be based on victory points.  You get VP equal to BV for each unit you kill.  However, you then multiply that VP by the ratio of BV's.  If you have 500 BV, and your enemy 750 BV, you get 150% of any BV you kill, while your opponent would only get 67% of any BV he killed (half BV for crippled units).  Tally those up at the end of game to determine a winner.   Divide winners BV at end by the losers BV, and each 25% or so is a victory level (draw, marginal, victory, decisive, heroic, etc).  This way games don't need to be balanced, and if you win at 3:1 odds, you really know you won... if you won at 1:1 odds, you could have just been lucky with dice.


Time to go be productive now :)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Bugs! (or not!)

So I'm finishing up helping with TRO3063, got my cost calculator working, and started working on BV.

I used the Tech Manual (and a few rules from Tactical Operations) to do the BV.  I then went to Heavy Metal Pro and Solaris Skunk Works for validation....



I thought I had found a bug with heat/weapon calculation, but it was me not reading the rules quite clear enough.  So basically, everything below is in error, and you can skip it.

Thanks ncKestrel for pointing that out!!!
*************** SNIP! ***************
Both of those applications are not calculating BV correctly according to the Tech Manual (v1.2, based on first printing, PDF).  Granted, this is just the first thing I noticed, but maybe somebody can get an answer on this from the official forums (I searched, and found nothing about it).

Here is the issue.  Page 303, Tech Manual, second to the last bullet on the right side.  It says:

"If this new heat is less than the ‘Mech Heat Efficiency, 
repeat the above steps. Otherwise, add half the BV for 
all remaining weapons to the Base Weapon Battle Rat-
ing, then continue to the next step. The BV for the first 
weapon to equal or exceed the ‘Mech Heat Efficiency is 
counted at its full value, however."

Then, while looking at the TYM-1A Toyama design within the Tech Manual, it didn't calculate this properly.  Funny how both HMP and SSW used the design example as validation, when those are so notoriously full of errors.  Both SSW and HMP do not calculate that first weapon at full BV (EDIT:  MegaMekLab also has the error), which in the TYM-1A's case is only about 25 BV as its only a medium laser, but a *LOT* of units have stuff like 2xERPPCs, and not quite enough heat sinks for them.  In these cases the BV can be off by *hundreds*.  

While some may not think this is that big a deal, it actually can make a few hundred BV difference in many designs.  Its a very large bug IMO.  Perhaps the sentence needs removed from the Tech Manual, but I'm far more apt to believe the Tech Manual than any of the designer software out there.
*************** SNIP! ***************
Sorry for the lack of updates.  Between a new job as Director of IT and cramming to help with TRO3063 I just haven't had time to update the blog or site.  The good news is when I update it I'll be creating much better record sheets, have automatic cost/bv/rule level/tech rating/availability/year calculations, better BF/QS calculations (with an option for 100% canon, or with my optimized values), and many other new features.... and then adding user support so you can have your lists of damaged units and stuff.  I may knock out a little game after that part is done, who knows ;)

I may knock out the ability to add your own custom units too, its actually really easy for me to make you a page with a hundred blanks or so, you fill them in, and can then add the unit to the database if it passes all the validations.  Basically it'll be an online designer.  Still thinking about that part, gotta get the site updated, finish 3063, and get the user code implemented first.

On other news I just purchased a FN SCAR-L (Mk 16) and Kahr PM9 ($3500, OUCH!) to add to my Mossberg 88 shotgun.  Somebody broke into my house recently and while they didn't get anything as I interrupted them, they still got away and "violated" us.  Then a month later, which prompted me to get additional hardware, the guy behind us had all 4 tires stolen off his vehicle.  

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Funny, I just loaded up the page to do a quick blurb on what I've been working on, and whoever was right before me was viewer 10,000!

Anyway, I have now finished record sheets for quad mechs, wheeled/hover/tracked/VTOL vehicles with 0 or 1 turret, and aerospace fighters.  I also have an option for hexagon armor points, square armor points, and graphic or text circles (in a hexagon like pattern).  All of the files used to generate record sheets are pretty easy to read and heavily commented text files.  I might release a standalone record sheet creator.

I have learned something over the last week too.  I will *NOT* support megamek files (MTF or BLK).  They aren't very consistent, and the megamek source a shambles (I really feel for those maintaining it), and I simply can't support that system with 100% accuracy, heck, I'm not even sure how it does it itself.

I will also have support that nobody else out there has.  I'll be able to print a series of logos in out of the way corners on sheets to show you factions the units are available to.  I'll calculate availability and tech ratings and have them on there as well.  Cost and BV will be calculated, no more relying on published and inaccurate figures.  On a mixed  tech frankenmech with patchwork armor I'll be able to show the armor/structure type and tech for each location, as well as the structure weight for all components.  I can show alternate BV's like "underwater".  I can modify the movement/BV of the unit based on planetary conditions you specify.  Heck, want to multiply the range of all weapons x4 (I highly recommend you try this, the game is SO much better IMO by doing it, at 1:300 scale it means each 1" is really about 300", and its like playing battletech in "1:1 scale"). I can do that too.  

AND, since I know lots of you want this kinda functionality.  Want to have a damaged mech?  Sure, I can cross out some crits, fill in some armor, and print your pilot stats in there.  Heck, I think I'll even have little kill icons at the top of the sheet if you want to get arrogant.  And yeah, I'll be able to calculate BV and stuff based on the current condition of the unit.

Oh, and now for something else I know ya'll will want.  Need to know how long it'll take to repair your mech with 1 elite and 6 veteran techs?  Sure, I can do that.  Hows about the cost of that repair and what parts are needed.  You got it.

What do you mean you want access to all that online?  Ok fine, you got that too.  So yeah, with my site soon you will be able to track every single thing about a mech, in fact, I'll even eventually support combat.  You will be able to play your unit, against somebody elses unit, online.  You'll have the option to just move your miniature and put in some modifiers, OR, you can use a built in map I'll provide to move your stuff around and shoot.  All from your browser, touch friendly, so you can just bring your phone to the next game and leave the books at home.  Heck, use top down megamek counters I released a utility to print and you can go to your local game with a phone, ziplock full of units, and all the rules on your phone as well.  Groovy eh?

Oh, and another feature I've mentioned before.  Lets say you just can't find a copy of TRO 2750.  Well shucks, you are outta luck.... unless you come here, select TRO 2750, and push print!  You'll get the ENTIRE TRO, with any errata I've found, minus the covers and breaks between chapters, all indexed, with a RS file if you so desire.  Aren't computers wonderful?

I'll be working on record sheets for at least another week or two.  Once I'm done with *ALL* of them, I'll start working on the site to integrate in all the changes, and hopefully make it a bit prettier and maybe even get it on a faster server.  

Great stuff to come!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Field Manual 2750 Review

14 July UPDATE (See Bottom)

I love the days of the Star League, and to see CGL finally coming out with books like Reunification War, Liberation of Terra, and now the Field Manual 2750 kept me from falling asleep with the BattleTech universe.
Now, first, a complaint, I just paid nearly $70 for the PDF+Book combo.  I can not STAND companies that charge you for a PDF, when you already bought the physical copy.  Its unethical, its double-charging, its downright freaking wrong.  I'm stupid enough to do it, as I want both versions, but I really should just wait a few days and grab a copy off bittorrent... at least I saved a whole $3 from my stupid battlecorps membership (funny, I can still post messages there, oh well)

Ok, so now a quick review of Field Manual 2750.

Its 264 pages.  It has about 32 pages of typical field manual stuff.  Ranks, organization, a short bit of history, typical stuff you'd see in any other FM, and formatted about the same.  The next TWO HUNDRED pages, yeap, thats right, TWO ZERO ZERO pages, are devoted to giving a few lines on every single division the SLDF deployed in 2750, as well as some notes on a few of the independent regiments.  If you love the SLDF, like many of us do, you will WANT this book.  I haven't read it yet, but sheesh, its more on those 469 divisions (I assume they got them all, roughly 6 on a page so I think so) than we have ever gotten before.  Oh, and just as a bonus, they give some fluff on the fleets as well.  

You then have your silly RATs, with Mechs/Vehicles/Aerospace, in both Royal and standard variants, nothing surprising.

Then a few pages with some special unit abilities of about half a dozen units per army, including some independent regiments.  Just a select few, far from every one.  

Then you get a couple pretty pages with color ranks/awards, then about a dozen color maps.  These maps are like the recent books where it shows division deployments on the map.  You have a map for each inner sphere and major periphery power, plus the hegemony.  Then you get a nice map showing the whole inner sphere with lines denoting corps level operating areas (no planets, just region lines).  Then you get a beautiful 2764 color map.  Not sure why CGL is stupid about sending these off to the online print companies so we can order posters, its free money for them, oh well.  Then you get a little map of the hegemony with SDS/Castle Brian icons around the systems that had them.

There is ONE thing missing from this book IMO.  That would be a few pages, listing the divisions, and the QUALITY of them as well as their homeworld.  All the other Field Manuals had that, and we just don't know the quality of these divisions.  That one thing would have made this book perfect, and it was sorely missed.  Perhaps they just forgot to add it and will update the PDF :)

In short, buy this book if you care about the SLDF in any way, or even BT history.
#1.  You get some info on every freaking division and fleet
#2.  You get great deployment maps of the SLDF

I'd recommend waiting for the DTF and avoiding the PDF if money is tight though, its a big book, with great looking color pictures, it'll look great in real life.

I'd LOVE to see this same sort of detail in the next Liberation of Terra book.  It'd be great to see the SLDF in 2750, before/after the uprising and coup, and then what they left the Inner Sphere with.  Don't know how much of that we'll get, but its great stuff.  Once I get all my record sheets done and a few new features, I'll be focusing on my computer game that recreates a Battletech/Succession Wars type system that plays in the same style as the universe is written.

On to other news, I *am* still kinda sorta working on the record sheets.  I'm actually trying to help with TRO3063 by creating methods to create a record sheet file that isn't huge, but still looks great.  I've made a LOT of progress creating record sheets in PDF format instead of PNG, and have gotten 75 mech sheets within 4mb of space, with indexing, all automated, using MegaMekLab MTF files.  All this work will translate over to my stuff when I'm done helping out Steven Satak.  This is a *great* TRO, and is just as good (and in some ways better) than canon TROs.  The artwork is often by the same artists, and looks great, the designs are cool, the book is great.  If your waiting for it give Steve some money to help out with expenses, you'll love the book.

EDIT:  I've been data-mining this book the last couple days.  I'm about halfway done inputting division information, looks like if a corps had over 6 divisions, only 6 got listed.  I've done the first 10 armies, so I'm 50% done, and only 7 divisions have no description, and most of those are in the overstrength 1st army.  When finished I'm better under 12 divisions are skipped, all of 2 pages of text :(  However, the descriptions in many cases are pretty weak, often kinda redundant (supply issues, bandit raids, royals have best equipment, etc, etc).  I have came to the conclusion that the SLDF was at war in 2750 with warship equipped bandits throughout their deployment areas.  Where a bandit gets a warship in 2750 is far beyond my previous understanding of the BattleTech universe.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Computers and Wargames

Just a tidbit I thought about today.

Why it is that various board/miniature game manufacturers don't seem to really embrace technology?

Take these games for example:
Star Fleet Battles
Heavy Gear

All of these are some of the longest living games I know of.  All of these games have all had computer versions.  While I don't remember how well the old megatraveller game did (it did have a sequel, so surely not that bad) I know that the MechWarrior, Starfleet Command, Heavy Gear, and Dawn of War series of games all did VERY well, all of which had at least one sequel, if not many more.

So why is it that none of these companies seem to really embrace technology in their daily operations, or various methods that technology can help them get a larger audience, increase sales, etc, especially when their ventures into computer have been so successful?

Now I understand there is a different in a computer adaptation of the game and using computers more internally to help them with products, but no matter how much technology may scare you, to see success come from it I would really think would increase comfort levels in adopting such technology.

Take BattleTech for example.  There are thousands, if not tens of thousands of written pages on the universe.  Each product that comes tries to not change anything that was printed.  With so much data, this becomes an *extremely* difficult and time consuming task.  In a company, time = money, computers reduce time, thus computers increase money.  If every one of those words was in an easy to search format, indexed and such, that would make doing new products far easier, and far less error prone.  It does require time up front, but its an investment, just like any other.  Every one of these games has plenty of people that would give their time freely to help them endure.

I can only think of 3 possible reasons for the lack of these companies to adopt technology more:

#1.  They are truly fearful of new technology.  Some people just have a paranoia about technology, they don't understand it, and believe it is never worth the trouble.  While I don't want to say that is really a bad thing, there were people around when cars were invented that still thought horses were better.  At some point, they have to adopt, or go extinct, its just the nature of things.

#2.  They just can't stand change, in any form, in any way.  They do things the way they always have, and that is that.  Introducing anything new, in any manner, interrupts their "balance" and they hate that.  This is why our congress has a 15% approval rate, and 85% re-election rate.  It is one of the worst attributes man can have, and is always detrimental to the greater good. 

#3.  They don't have the knowledge, the expertise, nor the time to introduce technology.  They may want it, know it could help them, but it seems so daunting of a task that it is easier to just not think about.

I don't know which, but it saddens me to see these game companies stay stagnant instead of embracing all the new technologies.  Sorry, but facebook and twitter accounts don't count (but a facebook interfacing game might).  Kickstarter is a big improvement, Steve Jackson recently did a VERY successful Ogre one, and it looks like there will be an Ogre computer game.  Traveller5 had a good kickstarter as well, though not really technology related.

Oh well, who knows, perhaps a mix of all 3.

On a related note, I'm an IT professional, and have long been able to put every single person I've dealt with into one of 3 categories:
#1.  Knows nothing about technology, knows and advertises that.  This is your mom.
#2.  Knows something about technology, thinks they know it all, and advertises that.  This is somebody who works at Geek Squad, the Apple store, or anybody who says they are a "hacker" or "leet".
#3.  Knows a HUGE amount about technology, probably gets paid $30+ a hour (or much more) doing it.  Advertises they "know enough", but always acknowledges they could know lots more.

Stay away from the #2's, they break things.  Perhaps #2s burned all these companies :)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

4791 Quick Strike Cards

A tiny updated, ok, not really an updated, but while tinkering around I created a PDF a LOT of quick strike cards (apparently no particular order, oops).  The PDF has 1198 pages, with 4 cards per page.

They are highly compressed, so don't look real great, but they are readable, and the file is only 185mb (it was nearly 800mb without compression).  No indexing or searching either, sorry about that, this was just a test but I figured some of ya'll may like it.  

You can download it from mediafire (click the download link on that page, I think it'll work, never used mediafire before), which should be a bit faster.  The file will only exist until I use mediafire again (pretty rare, but I only get a 200mb limit).

Many of these may not have errors I found yet, so if you notice any (aside from the dropship/warship cards, which only kinda work and not according to the rules, or support vehicles which may also be broke), comment or shoot me an email and I'll go take a looksie.

Note:  Mad Cats are on page 773 or so, Marauders 778, Warhammers 756, Archers 708.  I see some blank images, usually a typo on my part, I'll fix any ya'll point out immediately.

Still working on the other record sheets, next major update will have them, I promise*! 

*Promise may be broken if I get off track, but I'm really trying not to do that

Monday, July 2, 2012

Android Battletech?

Sorry but I don't have the record sheets done yet, in fact, I haven't touched BTE since my last post.  Well, not the app, I did update all the 3057 Revised, 3067, and 3058 Update fluff data (it isn't on the site yet, but will be in my next data update).

But, while playing with my new HTC EVO 4G LTE (stupid name!) on the couch while watching Big Bang Theory I got file shares working on my phone, so I can access movies and stuff over my local network.

Then I pulled up some BTE Quick Strike cards, and they looked *great*.

So I went to the site and pulled one up, it looked GREAT too.  

Then I thought, if I cut off the right side, added 5 buttons or so to the bottom, I could have an assistant to play quick strike that could handle all your record sheets, do damage/criticals, get your to-hit numbers, hotlink to what the ability acronyms are, etc.  The assistant could even link with others online, and you could view your opponents record sheet without asking.  Lots of optional rules could take place, like using AEP to show different levels of data to your opponent, all my optional rules, more detailed system where I actually look at the *actual* weapons firing on a unit, and *actually* allocate battletech damage, and simply show the quick strike card of the underlying battletech unit.

So I sat down with the Android SDK, threw up in my mouth a bit, and decided all these phones are so proprietary, written so differently than real computers (silly, since they ARE real computers), every phone has different screens, and there are so many quirks I decided upon a different approach.  I do hope Microsoft gets it together with their next phone incarnation, at least they understand it is still a computer.

I'll make a website that can display a single card, has those buttons at the bottom, and hopefully can use  Ajax to make it run smooth (Ajax allows dynamic updates on a website without having to reload the whole thing, key for this, like google instant search).  I am not real familiar with Ajax so there will be a bit of time to figure it out, but all the rest is really easy.

I may end up using the cards I created earlier.  Though they aren't as pretty, they are a lot more functional.  For example I had blanks for the attack value and fire control criticals, the canon cards you just gotta write it wherever you can find room, not very eloquent.  I'll also be able to show numbers for armor on warships that would have 600+ circles :)

This is a lot easier to implement than the eventual version that helps with regular level Battletech games, but it'll help me learn the requirements for that project as well.

There are a few things I have to do to get this running:
- Implement a username/login
- Implement the ability to have lists of units (save, load, import from MUL, etc)
- Create new quick strike card.  I may make this modular enough you can design your own, adding themes and what-not, if you don't like my designs.

I'll try to knock out the remaining record sheets first, and maybe the cost/BV/construction calculation.  This will bump a web interface to design your own units for a bit.

Anybody wanna be my advocate on the official forums?  Occasionally I have somebody ask a question in some thread I started and I can't reply (rude of me for being in the ever expanding permaban group) or I need a place to announce major feature creation.

Here are some pictures of the latest quick strike cards I had created, though all could be completely changed when I do a computer conversion:

Also, chime in if this interests you, or what else you may want to see.  Feedback makes me work faster ;)