Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Interstellar Expeditions & XTRO Succession Wars Reviews!

New products, awesome!

First up, another XTRO.  Great idea these XTRO's are, they are TROs that come out more often.  I would like to see them eventually compiled (and the massive amount of bugs fixed) and released in paper form however.

Anyway, the Succession Wars.  First, I must say, this cover is absolutely beautiful, one of the top mech color images I've ever seen (it just *feels* like BT).  It is a Marauder with dual blazers and dual SRM6's, plus some freezers.  The book has 7 mechs and 7 other vehicles.  I noticed that CGL apparently still doesn't have a decent method for making record sheets.  Freezers for example are just listed as double heat sinks, and its a bit confusing.  Think of a freezer as not a heat sink, but a device that uses 3 crits and eats up 2 heat.  Heat sinks are completely separate.  The designs are interesting, and we *finally* get stats for the Super Wasp and Super Griffin from the original Black Widow Company scenario book.  They don't match up unfortunately, but they can't, and the attempt was sufficient to make these units playable IMO.  Some designs were interesting and potentially usable (Marauder), others not so much (Buffalo).  In fact, the Buffalo is a 100 ton hover with a booby trap and drone OS.  Neato, but it also carries 900 shots of MG ammo to help make the boom bigger.  However, there are no rules that say carrying more ammo makes the boom bigger so it was kinda silly.  Oh well.  Anyway, in short, another XTRO, if you liked the others, you'll like this one, and for $5 you really can't go wrong.

And onto Interstellar Players 3, Interstellar Expeditions.

A pretty good looking cover.  A 120 page book filled to the brim with words.  I typically don't read the books, only skim them, but this one had a lot of little things that jumped out at me.  I will be taking some more time to skim it more thoroughly.  We do get a couple Clan Industrial Mechs plus a jumping vehicle along side the the Bug-Eye and Faslane updated warships.

We also get system stats for 27 new periphery systems.  More details on the 5 hidden worlds, though 2 are still "unknown" for location, which stinks.  This book feels like a GM's wet dream for scenario ideas and campaigns.  Though I do have my beef with various aspects of CGL, I really can't denounce their writing abilities in any way.  There are a few new critters, a couple RPG character generation templates, and a random assignment table.

Though I haven't read the thing, I can say if your into the RPG at all, its a must have.  If your into the universe, its also a must have... heck, unless all you care about it is simply rolling dice it really looks like a great book.  

Oh, and the best part IMO, we get maps of all 4 directions of the deep periphery, not just toward clan space.  While the maps aren't real detailed (they are like most deep periphery maps) they do give us a lot of information we have simply never had before in any way.

And, a surprise... took me an hour, but I merged all 4 of those deep periphery maps into 1.  Do NOT take this as exact, some didn't quite line up perfectly and could be off maybe a quarter diameter of a system circle.  BUT, it does let you look around a bit easier and see what all is out there.  Download the PDF here.

And finally, I added all the unit data from these 2 books, so I'm 100% updated again on my data.  However, like usual, many of these units don't work yet until I update my code for the record sheets.  I'll get to it eventually :)

If anybody is interested in an API for my data, let me know, I can put one together pretty quickly.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Encyclopedia Updates!

Just a quite update as I did a lot of work today on BTE due to a user requesting a bug fix.

I fixed all the primitive stuff, I think.  I went through all the mechs from the 3 XTRO Primitives books and they all loaded.  May not be correct because of other issues, but at least they no longer result in errors.  I think some other units were broken as well due to an engine bug, but its fixed now too.

I went and updated my code to read from the recently redon canon Master Unit List site.  They made lots of code changes (it looks nicer, but still not nearly as good as mine!) and all my code needed updating.  This of course broke the app I wrote a while back that used the masterunitlist.info site to generate quick strike cards.  They also apparently stopped supporting the XML data, which kinda sucks, but as I bet I was the only person using it I can work around it.

I have a big request for folks.  I can make record sheets (QS or Regular) in 2 methods.  One is a PNG, this is like you see on the encyclopedia now.  The other is PDF.  PNG allows you to view the record sheet quickly and easily online, as its just an image.  PDF allows easier printing and *much* smaller file sizes, especially if I combine multiple sheets together into 1 file.

So yeah, PDF sounds better in pretty much every way, but its soooooo much slower to work with. I can generate a 300 dpi PNG in a second, it takes 6 or so for each page of a PDF, plus 10 to create the PDF.  Another downside of PDF is the way I make them.  With a PNG, each value has an X/Y value, which corresponds to pixels on the screen.  I can jump into paint, and my mouse quickly tells me where I need to write text or a circle.  PDFs though, well, they are vector not raster.  That means that a line in a PDF is 2 points, with data for the line between them.  Raster would be every single point on the line.  This is why PDFs are much smaller (plus I can use an empty mech sheet as the background and it is only 1 image in a big file).  But when I need to put text on a PDF form, its wacky.  I can't just use the same coordinates, so making a PDF takes a LOT more time as I gotta write a bunch of them, wriggling the text around until it is in the right place.  Its amazingly painful.

So, do people have an overwhelming desire for one format or another?

If not, I'll probably do everything in PNG for now, then I'll print gridded PDF files so if you want PDF, just shoot me a list of the coordinates for each value on the page.  FYI a mech is about 90 various coordinates.

Also, a follow up.  If I make record sheets with all the same data as the canon ones, but change a few things around, perhaps the background silouhettes or logos, is that totally ok or would ya'll rather me make my sheets 100% canon (even circles instead of hexagons, though I liked hexagons as it differentiated mine from canon)?

Oh, and just FYI, the Encyclopedia is now 100% updated with data from every single unit in the game that has ever been published.  I also have TRO 3063, a few from Battletechnology (the ones with not-crappy art), and stubs for the big tri-legged MWDA mechs.  By default you only see canon designs.

Oh, and since I always seem to go off-topic.  I have 5 planetside 2 beta keys.  If anybody is interested shoot me an email.

MINOR UPDATE:  I've gone through my database and compared it to the latest canon Master Unit List   Roughly 3.8%, or about 200 units, exist in my database that do NOT exist in the canon database.  There are also quite a few units in the canon Master Unit List that do NOT exist in my database.  These are always simply units that haven't been published yet, with a few incorrect names tossed in.  There are about 517 of these, or about 9% of the canon Master Unit List   Not much point in having units in the master unit list when there is no record sheet or quick strike card available to support it.  If anybody wants a detailed list shoot me an email.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

New Products!

TRO Primitives volume 3 and the FWL objective books are out.  A quick review:

The objective book is, well, just like all the others.  If you liked one, you'll like this one.  Same format, template, map, descriptions, etc.  

TRO Primitives has a bunch of earlier models of designs we are already familiar with, though the 6 mechs have new (and very good, by 'JSN') art.  I hope this is the art style of the future, I think overall it looks a lot more pleasing to the eye.  I am very happy CGL has found some better artists over the last few years.

However, 1 glaring "oops" in the TRO.  It does have a TDR-1C thunderbolt within it, however, the cover is of a Thunderbolt that is a much later design and looks completely different.  I don't really review books for their words as much as their technical info and art, but in this case the only negative thing I can say about the book (aside from the horrible non-mech armor circle distribution) is that the cover has a pretty pic of a mech that technically isn't even in the book.

I'll get the new designs inputted from TRO Primitives v3 tonight.

However, the most exciting thing to me was the what is coming page.  Not the interstellar expeditions which I'm totally meh for, but the 2765 books for each faction.  That means we'll *hopefully* have orders of battle for the SLDF, and all the factions, at the time of the periphery uprising, and maybe a single update so we'll have data for the 1st Succession War... you know, the fun one.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Good News!

First thank gosh Romney didn't get elected.  I'm no Obama supporter, but to think that 50 million Americans are stupid (or racist) enough to vote for Romney, well... we obviously need a better education system.  Romney/Ryan never actually had any plan at all, changed their stories daily, and neither was of good character.  Obama, well, he sucks too.  It'd be nice if we could get a good candidate that would get over 55% of the vote again (meaning people aren't voting for the lesser of 2 evils).  Enough of that, I probably just lost 49% of my viewers :)

Anyway, a minor update....

Though I *really* wanted at *least* 10 folks to vote, it really appears that the people still around want to see me do what I've always said.  Makes sense.  So, it looks like my next big project will be the update to the Encyclopedia.  I won't be using all my free time, as there just isn't that much support (that could change), but I will "get er done!".

My tentative list of "todo's" for the Encyclopedia v2.

  • Standard record sheets for everything, that includes buildings, mobile structures, warships, power armor (both ATOW and CBT), etc, etc...
  • Quick strike sheets for everything.  That will include various options (like 5 point damage instead of 10, and my own math intensive but far more accurate attack factors)
  • You'll have a login.  This will allow you to have force lists.
  • Ability to mark damage on online sheets, with options for automatic damage.
  • Calculation of repair times, do the repairs based on provided techs, track every little detail of your whole force.  Display your force in ATOW, BT, QS/BF, or any scale.
  • Ability to design all the unit types online, including custom weapons if you so desire (canon and non-canon will be shown on final RS's).
  • Ability to get a PDF of your force, with every detail you could ever want
  • Save to various file formats a possibility, but there will be a web services API for those of you more web savy who want to write applications that integrate with it.  This could even support a web based version of megamek, as my system can track all stats on units by turn.
  • Ability to upload/add your own designs
  • Screen saver ability, that'll sit there and randomly show RS's and graphics while your computer is idle.
  • Ability to play another player, and show limited intelligence version of sheets (so an arm may be green, or blue, and no longer have circles)
  • ATOW character generator
  • A random force generator, random unit selector for any year, random system generator, any other random stuff I can think of.  
  • Support for multiple images (you can select one of many for printing on RS/QS, or just to see)
  • Better support for colorization of B&W images (adding your faction colors to the units themselves).
  • Much better and more complete searching, by any criteria
  • A planet database.  Very similar to ISAtlas, but with updated data from more recent books.  You can make a game from this, and move your units from planet to planet, do combat, and slowly implement various IO rules until its a complete web based game.
  • A forum.  I already have it setup, though I will probably redo it.  I will need a moderator or two (not for banning folks, but for watching spam and reminding people when they are being a troll).  Apply within.
  • A real time chat system.  Think of it as IRC, but it'll be Battletech based, with things like die rollers available.  It'll also integrate with the forum.
  • Fix the online displays so you get a much more "browsing a TRO" like experience.
  • Ability to take any 2 units, give them a to hit mod and pilots, and have them slug it out a few thousand times to see which is the "better" design in a very specific situation.
  • I'll be trying to make the site very touch friendly, for all the tablets and smart phones out there.  Its idiotic IMO to write an "app" these days, when everybody has fast web access and can just use their browser instead of VERY proprietary interfaces for Android/iPhones.
  • Of course all the units from the game in the encyclopedia.  I may add characters later, but as of today it has every single unit ever published, even some fan ones.
  • I will be supporting some "2nd generation" Battletech equipment (optional of course) that some of ya'll may find kinda cool.
  • I'll be moving my server to a hosted environment which means it'll never have a bandwidth issue again, and should be extremely fast.  I may even upgrade the hardware.
Timeline?  Beats me, but I'm betting me saying I'll be done with it all at my current job it'll be unlikely to be finished in 2013.

Other stuff:
  • I'll give somebody my MWO founders account ($120, 80 or so days left with bonus xp) if they get me reinstated on the official forums under my old account.  Tracking my other accounts and keeping them bouncing around is tedious and silly.
  • I need moderators (1-2) for my forum.  I can have this up and running, well, yesterday (guess a port and you can find it now!).  I won't be banning, and my only real rules are "don't be an ass" which kinda encompasses "no commercial advertising".  I say moderation, but right now somebody helping create the various boards would be helpful too.   I was using phpBB.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Interstellar Operations Beta!

So Randall finally released a beta of the Interstellar Operations system generation rules.  Awesome!  I got one of my accounts banned downloading it, oops, shouldn't have checked it from home.  Its ok though, I have 17 more accounts on the site and a near infinite amount of completely unrelated IPs to access it from (the company I work for is an MSP, and each customer has their own IPs, so its easy for me to jump around to IPs all over the nation).  Kinda wish they'd stop being annoying, every time they do I think "Screw em, I'll zip my PDF folder with *every* BT book, put it on thepiratebay.org, and ensure it stays updated with all the latest!".  But I talk myself out of it (so far anyway!) for a single reason:

Just because somebody else is being an ass, doesn't give you the right to be one back.  

I do hate that I still buy their products, however, I think I'll get them from ebay when people resell them in the future, so CGL will see no more profits from me. My impatience and hefty income probably will never see me wait that long.  Maybe I'll at least stop buying the PDF+Book combo's, just get the PDF, and THEN get the book off a ebay or something where CGL will less profits.

It absolutely amazes me how they can "cut off" paying fans like they did, its the exact opposite way of keeping the doors to a small company open.

Anyway, onto the rules.  First, they are an early beta, and I REALLY appreciate CGL putting this out there.  Unfortunate that I would be their #1 errata submitter and tester for it, but hey, their loss.  I won't judge it harshly as it is a beta (and unlike MWO, which blows and is stuck in its path, this could change dramatically before release).

First, I do love the cover, its been printed before, but there is no way in the milky way galaxy you would see another galaxy like that, and that should probably be a planet, but I'm nitpicking.  Great pic regardless.

The first 2 pages are really elaborate charts with all the star classes and stuff.  They could have created a formula for this to make it a bit less intimidating to me, but lots of BT folk are kinda dumb (no offense!) when it comes to science or a calculator, so a big table may be more to their liking.  It gets the information presented, so it works, but they do have formulas throughout... whatever.

Lots of rules for generating a generic BT themed star system.  It is pretty decent, pretty detailed, and good enough for the BTU.  We do now have rules for determining USILR, which is nice, as well as colony populations.  Also rules for determining HPG and Recharge stations, which has always been missing.

There are some good explanations of why some things were done the way they were, which is nice.  Ignoring non-main sequence stars for example (which are VERY uncommon).

Overall I think Randall is on the right track to a pretty good system generator.

I think there is one huge part missing however.  That big part is helping people create maps.  Just a page or two of text describing how things like rain shadows or deserts are formed could help people when making maps.  Even better would be a table saying something like "if a planet is this big, with this much water, and this kind of atmosphere, it is 20% table1, 20% table2, etc", with each table being a 1d6 or 2d6 roll for random BT maps.  They had something similar to this in the Reaving book, and its sorely missed here.

I think they need 2 forms in the back.  One for for the star system, and another for the planet.  The planet form is kinda like the one in the book, but with a bit more space for the details of the planet. The system form has the top chunk, or even better an area where you can draw out the map of the system and the orbit locations.  The system map could have a method, like on all the planet maps we have, to determine the chance of jumping successfully at various points in the system.  It could be pretty generic, but having some la-grange points, the zenith/nadir, plus places to put the # of recharge stations would be super handy.  Making it a hex map would also allow tracking of deep space interceptions and let you move around the system.  Would require a lot more thought but I think its really needed as otherwise there will be a huge chunk of invasions that is often spoken of in fluff, that will have no method to be modeled.

This *completely* replaced the generation in ATOW, and I don't think they are related.  The ATOW rules for system generation are pretty much now completely obsolete and should be ignored.

I'll go through and create a computer application that will create a few million systems using the method in the book, and probably post it online for everybody, but I'll have to keep up with errata or it could be buggy.

I do ask myself since when is the BTU about "exploring", but am quite happy to see it go this direction and upcoming books may flesh out some neat stuff with jumping into the unknown.

Some other stuff:

  • I still need votes on my last posting.  I need at least 10 votes with a predominate winner to start doing any of the projects on that list.  Sorry, but I simply can't dedicate that much time to a game that, well, even though they have new products coming out, appears to have a near dead fan base.  Plus, I'm really losing my love for BT, maybe if I could find a local player who didn't make me feel ashamed to be a gamer.
  • I think the NRA hates black people.
  • I had half a dozen slots in my voting district that somebody ran completely unopposed.  I abstained from voting for those folks without having a choice, but sheesh, people sure bitch, but nobody wants to step up to the plate.
  • Most of my "game time" lately (last couple months) has been taken up with playing Federation and Empire on Cyberboard.
  • My wife still gives me a hard time on why I haven't sold 1000+ BT miniatures... just not worth my time and they don't use up *that* much space, but I sure as heck don't want them anymore.  Got a few grand handy send me an email :)
  • I read up on IP law a bit more.  As wacky as it seems, you can't protect a rule system.  I can build an editor for everything BT, sell it, and CGL/Topps/etc won't be able to do crap, as long as I don't call it "Battletech" and don't use any of their graphics.  If I do it, I think I'll slightly watermark the images so CGL won't be able to use them without acknowledging I made em :)  Lets face it, they have no warship, mobile structure, building, etc, etc designer at all now.
  • These dice rings are cool, but I really wonder about their accuracy:  http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/critsuccess/dice-rings (I try to avoid kickstarter, watching a few grand go away in a month for stuff I didn't really want is kinda silly)
  • Planetside 2 is awesome, Mechwarrior online makes me regret giving them $120 for a crap pay to win game.
  • The new Xcom game sucked, why they dumbed down a winning system I'll never know.
  • Borderlands 2 is still kinda fun, its a great game, one of the better ones out there, and so far, it doesn't feel *too* redundant.  At least it throws some unique stuff in while killing the same spawn groups in an area.  Some of the voices are just awesome, especially killing engineers in Opportunity (not finished yet, so there could be more, but those guys are funny dying!)
  • Cracked.com is the best site on the internet, well, at least tied with wikipedia.
  • A Person of Interest is still the wife and I's favorite series, followed by Arrow (green type), Elementary (Sherlock Holms reinvented), Burn Notice (great, when its on), Royal Pains (the Hamptoms is a dangerous place!), Suits, Alphas, Last Resort (neat idea, getting better), Revolution (kinda stupid premise tho), Castle (always good), Continuum (awesome!), Falling Skies (kinda silly), Go On (hilarious), How I met your Mother (Barney Rules!), New Girl (its ok), Sinbad (in break, but good), Newsroom (great plots), Vegas (its ok), White Collar, and Two and a Half Men (still funny).  Basically we watch a lot of TV, but don't have cable so we just watch series.  Some of those we like more than others (they aren't in order) but those are the ones we like together.  Not sure why I posted this :)
I blab a lot eh?