Saturday, September 14, 2013

Pieces Coming Together

I haven't been updating the blog as much lately, instead focusing on my far easier to use, and easier for ya'll to reply to, forum at, however, since not many folks are posting there, nor creating accounts to download the latest versions of various apps, I figured I'd throw out a blog posting for the few of you left reading it :)

Well the forum is up an operational.  The original black theme I had the highlighting was screwed up, and polls didn't work.  I reverted back to the default, but it was ugly as American politics.  So I found another more black one, made a little header, and left it at that.  I kinda wanted to move towards the color theme I have on the color Quick Strike cards, but, well, its a pain and I've been spending time on other things.  If anybody knows how to skin phpBB and wants to take it on, be my guest!

As for the other things.  I've been working on the BattleTech Engineer site, quite extensively.  Not many huge code changes, but a lot of minor bug fixes.  See, the way I've been designing things from the start was in a modular manner.  This means I tried to avoid hard-coding anything, created equipment and chassis tables with hundreds of variables, and essentially created a format that would be versatile enough to not require much work when things like superheavy mechs come out.  In many cases, new equipment can come out and I make a simple change in an excel file, run a script, and the application handles it from then on out.

Another thing this modular system allows me to do, that *nothing* else out there does, is design every single type of equipment with almost the exact same code.  For example, I made mechs work first with the Alpha Strike cards.  It took me under 30 minutes to get Aerospace and Conventional Fighters implemented.  It took a couple hours to get Dropships *nearly* done.  In fact, with just a few more days of good programming strides like today, and I'll be able to design, validate, and create record sheets and Alpha Strike cards for *everything* in the BattleTech universe.  I will be the first to get a mobile structure generator out there, the first to programatically determine things like warship factors in Alpha Strike, the first to let you build a city with unique buildings, and the first fully functional support vehicle creators (excluding excel, which is NOT fully functional).

Right now however, the site is an eye sore.  Its ugly as sin, and full of bugs.  I *am* working on it, but the aesthetics are low on my priority list.  For example, many dropships now work and you can see the Alpha Strike cards, in both color and black and white.  BUT, they have screwed up text (the abilities are most of what is screwed up right now).  When I finish the back end code I'll be changing the way I'm doing the Alpha Strike cards.  

Speaking of Alpha Strike, I am going to stop using the canon templates as I find them extremely non-functional with a lot of wasted space (do you *really* need to see "ALPHA STRIKE STATS" in big letters on them while movement is shrunk to tiny text?).  I have been creating a new card drawing system, about 95% done, that no longer uses a big file template.  Instead the entire card is rendered from nothing.  It resizes blocks and scales all the stuff so things can fit.  For example, a dropship can have a capital, sub-capital, standard, and capital-missile S/M/L/E values.  There is simply no way to do that on current cards, not to mention armor points.  My new system will increase the height of the attack block, remove the heat block, and add armor rows as necessary.  This method will actually work with all but the most powerful warships, and I'll be working on a way to programatically create those too.

Oh, and all that garbage underneath the Alpha Strike cards on the Battletech Engineer site is unformatted debug like data.  Eventually it'll show every calculation step on how the final tech ratings, battle value, cost, earliest date, date extinct, date of reintroduction, rules level, cost, all the Alpha Strike data, and the 4 availability ratings (yes, there are 4 now) are determined.  The record sheets may or may not work, they used to work, but I haven't double checked them.  If they look ok (no blanks, missing stuff, etc), they are probably right still.

And a surprise for those of you who have read this far.  If I can get a few people to say they want it, I'll finish another project I started.  This project is a web based Alpha Strike game play assistant.  Basically, create a game, select the armies and players, and then everybody can sign in on their tablets and/or phones and play against each other.  Well, they still have maps and miniatures, but it'll let you track damage, crits, hidden stats, etc with Alpha Strike cards.  This is a preliminary design to test out how I'll be doing it for full blown record sheets later.

Please go post stuff on the forum.  The more people are showing activity around what I'm doing, the more productive and less distracted I'll be towards these projects.  Plus, it'll give you a head start when I start my "he who contributes the most on my forum gets a company of miniatures in the mail" contest ;)


  1. want extremely bad, been checking your forum daily since you mentioned it, would make my printer so happy

  2. Might I recommend creating a link to the forums, maybe even with a call-out tag [ex: Forums (*NEW!*)] on the blog's tabs. I know the blog is usually my first stop.

  3. The only change I'd recommend to the card generator -- and I say this as someone who isn't using it, so don't necessarily take me seriously -- is outputting as PDF rather than bitmap. This lets you scale things ad lib for high-resolution printing, as well as letting you combine cards into a multi-page document. I have no idea what the back-end libraries for PDF generation are like, though, so this may be way too much work...

  4. I have done the PDF thing before for the TRO 3063 Record Sheets, but its really slow and a big pain. Perhaps as the last step :) I can combine multiple cards into a single PNG without too much work though. I'll keep it in mind.