Saturday, November 23, 2013

Battletech Record Sheet App

So I was playing our game today, and one of the guys uses a tablet computer with PDF notes to track his sheets.  It isn't as fast as paper, and doesn't really buy him anything, but as a computer professional and avid gamer I really can't see why a computer couldn't be used to speed up play... especially in BattleTech.

So I started thinking about how much work would have to be spent on such an endeavor.  While technically any aspect of it wouldn't be too hard, design wise I really wonder what people would really want to see, and just how much they'd want to see automated.

For example, one option would be to just have the entire mech armor diagram be a single "hot spot".  Press on it, and it asks for how much damage, what grouping, various special abilities, incoming arc, partial cover, etc.  From there it could automatically calculate all the locations, roll all the crits, update the sheet with the new weapons/heat capabilities, roll pilot skills, and so forth.  This would be the *most* automated method, and IMO probably what people would want most.  

The other option would just be a "hot spot" for each location, where clicking it brings up a drop down with, say, 1 to 25, for damage to that location.  Internals would be selected individually, damage transferred manually, and so forth.  This would be the *least* automated method, and would probably be slower than just using paper.

However, rolling dice is a key part of enjoying a game, so removing that aspect (as in the *most* automated method) would maybe make people enjoy the game less, though speed it up by an order of magnitude.  Heck, if your like me and would love to take 4 SRM carriers, but rolling the dice or "box of death" makes you cringe, the fully automated way would be totally worthwhile.

Either method could include double blind.  You could push a button and then show the mech to your opponent.  Instead of seeing circles, they see black/red/yellow/green for each location, and no critical details.   Other things they could do is track unit position on the battlefield, and automatically determine line of sight and to-hit numbers.  This would be close to playing with Megamek, except you'd still manually move your miniatures but everything else could be done by computer.  Either method could also determine time and success of repairs, current "bv", overall force capabilities, ammo resupply required, etc, etc.

An Alpha Strike version would, of course, be far simpler and the only randomization I think would be an option for each structure hit to "roll critical?" as an option. This is already planned.

So let me know if you'd like a fully automated record sheet utility, or just more of a replacement for paper (I'd be less likely to be interested in the latter).  Who knows, if I keep playing the game, I'll feel a need for something better, and that motivates me to actually do things.  Feel free to post on the forum.

On another note, I haven't done much the last couple weeks.  Just not "in the mood" for some reason.  I did fix a bug today in regards to things like "EndoSteelEndoSteel" in mech structure diagrams, but it shouldn't have been broke so my fix could have already broke it (and I didn't clear the cache, so if the time/date of generation is before this morning, it is an old PDF and wasn't regenerated yet).  

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Alpha Strike Card Maker Update Next

Well thanks to the whopping 5 people that voted, I know what I'll work on next!  The overwhelming majority (3 of 5!) said they wanted an Alpha Strike Card Maker Update.  So, I'll start working on over the next few days.  My preliminary list of "todo's" for it.  Let me know if I'm missing something you wanted:

Primary Enhancements, WILL be in the update:

  • Define all the colors, textures, fonts, font sizes, orientation, location, etc.  These settings can be saved/applied in various ways.
  • Ability to highlight certain special abilities in different colors.  Weapons could be red and defenses green for example.
  • Ability to create a "roster" you can load/save/print.
  • Ability to specify special Alpha Strike abilities (those on the Ad-Hoc cards from ATOW) on your cards.
  • Option for each of my various enhancements like separate rocket launcher attacks and rounding.
  • The heat area is hidden for units that do not use heat.  Weapons area gets larger for units with multiple arcs, etc.
  • Dropships and all smaller units will work.  Mobile Structures/Warships/Stations/Jumpships may not however.
  • Search and filter ability with the MUL data.  This includes filtering by special ability, faciton, TRO, type, as well as tech/cost/year which isnt really supported in AS anyway.
  • Specify DPI and card size, and the output will be scaled accordingly
  • Option for hex or miniature play.  Hex = 1 MP per Inch, Miniature = 2" per MP.

Optional Enhancements, will probably be in the update:

  • Use my data as well as the MUL
  • Output a "roster" to PDF for printing, or sending to a specific company for printing on playing cards.  A back image would have to be specified as well in this case.
  • Pre-existing damage.  Crosses through circles, abilities crossed out, etc.
  • Ability to print out counters, on square or hex
  • Options for circles, ovals, or hexagons for the armor/structure
  • Submit a bug, auto-update check

Possible Enhancements, *might* be in the update:

  • Option for my custom looking cards
  • I may support much of the data I have as well, like factories, weapon types, various equipment, etc.
  • Ability to colorize units, much like what I do on my BTE website.
  • Interface to track your cards, and fill in circles/add crits, from a web interface.
  • Support various random unit tables, and my unit generator I built a while back, to generate a PDF for a unit of any size.
  • Cards like this, but for planets.  Shows their location, nearby worlds, who owns them in each era, various stellar/world attribute, units on planet, etc, etc.
  • Pre-existing lists of units.  Royal mechs, phoenix mechs, WoB units, etc.
So in short, it'll be a vast improvement over the previous version.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Banned User

After talking with a buddy of mine over the weekend who ended up getting banned because CGL doesn't understand network address translation, and then seeing links on the Iron Wind Metals site that went to the official forums, I came to a revelation.

When you get a "perma-ban", Catalyst Game Labs is saying that they no longer want you as a customer.  You are not allowed to ask rule questions, download files, or communicate with CGL partners.  CGL is, from a company standpoint, saying they no longer want you as a customer.  They may argue this, but it is kinda obvious what their stance actually is by their actions.

Basically, that is "perma-lame" on their part IMO.

Go Vote!

On another note, I put up a link on my forum asking the viewers what they want me to work on next.  Go vote, once I get a few more I'll start working on my next update and/or new product!

Till next time, happy gaming!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Slow month!

Well its been a couple weeks since my last posting, so I figured I'd throw something up.

First, while reading the official forums the other day somebody mentioned the 2 month moratorium and it made me wonder if you users think I should do the same.  I'm ok with it, but if most people don't want me to I can continue to post all data within days of release.  Anyway, go vote.

Next, what have I been up to lately.  Well, the last 2 weeks I've spent FAR too much time prepping a big scenario here in Dallas.  I've been making maps, terrain, buildings, airports, etc, etc, etc, and since its tomorrow, I'm ready now (I think).  I may post some pictures of the game, not sure yet, dunno how many folks care about other people's games.

I haven't done much on the code side, and I really need to jump back into it.  I get really frustrated when I go over to the forums, see people posting things like this starmap which is still in progress, yet I finished *YEARS* ago.

I've also spent a lot of time reading up on local traffic law.  I have gotten a lot of speeding tickets over the years.  When I say lot, I mean at least 50 or more.  Deferred adjudication keeps them off my record, and I have plenty of money to just pay fines typically.  However, this time the cop literally jumped out in front of the street in front of my "dangerously speeding vehicle", without any identification, and he was very unprofessional. So I figured I'd try my hand at fighting one.  I've got like 6 precedents now, and will be spending all next week preparing to get in front of a judge to justify all the information I've requested in the discovery process. Fun stuff, but time consuming.  It gives me a lower level of respect for lawyers, as all they really do is find a way to manipulate words instead of doing what is morally right/wrong.  Oh well, that'll be my time soon.

I've also spent a lot of time with the new Ogre kickstarter boxed sets.  Sheesh, $120 for like 30 pounds worth of stuff.  The maps are just slightly bigger than my never used, but pretty, new hard battletech maps, which is slightly unfortunate.  But the 3D ogres are a pretty cool concept.  I'd LOVE to see somebody do that with some mechs!  However now I'm stuck with 2 extra HUGE boxes in my closet, probably soon to be joined by my Zombicide 1 & 2 boxed sets due any day now.

And finally I spent some time with the Bladestorm boxed set by Iron Crown Enterprises.  I *really* love this system.  It is much like Silent Death, and is a great way to not only use miniatures, but to play even a modern game.  I'm just digging it, and may base a ruleset on it since its totally out of print.

Speaking of rules, did you know you can't copyright rules at ALL?  So I could make a new game, call it "Wartech", have "robots" 10 to 200 tons each, and have weapons like "cannon/1", "Heavy laser", and "Short Range Missile Pod" and CGL could do *nothing*.  Maybe once I get this site done, and my full blown succession wars game, I'll dive into that.

Speaking of polls, I think my next posting will be a list of things "on my plate", to see which is in the most demand and which I'll focus my time on once I get back on BattleTech.