Monday, September 7, 2015

Back on Track!

Howdy everybody!  Great news!  

I am coding for Battletech again!  After a long hiatus, lots of frustration, many other games, and far too many purchases of Micro-Armor recently, I am going to start coding for Battletech again.

There were a few things that brought me to this:
#1.  I still play Battletech every couple weekends with 8-12 people.  This means I *need* the ability to design a mobile structure, infantry platoon, or support vehicle.  

#2.  There was a thread started a couple weeks ago on the official Battletech forums.  While I can't post over there, it is obvious CGL is back into the "OMG, we can't design stuff because its too hard!" mentality.  A couple years ago, long before I was banned, I was approached by somebody who sent me a copy of an email that Herb had sent out.  Basically he was freaking out about the fact nobody could build things consistently without tons of bugs.  I said I could do it, then basically sent a list of "holes" in their design systems that needed fixing.  I think the list was too long, that was the last I heard from them.   Apparently though they are still just as bad off, which is no surprise, I don't think anybody but myself really understand the scope of a product that can design *everything*.  As far as I know, I'm the only one who has entered in the 120+ pieces of data, per 2200 or so pieces of equipment, that is *required* for construction.  This is on top of 170 or so pieces of data for around 650 unique chassis!  Its just daunting, really.  This is why the HeavyMetal products haven't been updated since Total War, and why I personally don't think they ever will. This is also why no company would want to take this on, as it is minimal profit (if any) and a *HUGE* amount of work.  But anyway.

#3.  I went through and cleaned up years of email in my inbox.  I saw a lot of emails in there from various people who have been interested in my projects over the years.  A lot of good support in there, and it made me feel bad.  As I've mentioned many times, I don't like to let people down, and if 50 people emailed me every day asking for something I could do I'd damned sure get it done because I don't want to let them down.  It isn't like there is much in my life that is all that important (Just the wife/dogs, everything else is transitive).

So, I wrote a few people I knew emails for that were moderators in some form or fashion, but don't expect any replies.  If folks want to pop over to the thread and maybe mention me (though it could get deleted, if history repeats itself) or at least PM Bosefius about me, it could get them on my side.  I  am not sure of the relationships between the moderators and the actual CGL employees, but surely one can trump another.  About 25% of the reason I went to GenCon in 2014 was to talk to Randall and see if he could get me unbanned based on my development skills.  He gave me a card and told me to write him, but was very busy and slammed with fans while there.  I wrote after GenCon, unsurprisingly haven't heard anything.

So, official or not, I'm going to build a designer for *everything* in universe.  I mean *everything*, and yes it'll even be crazy stuff like a character generator for  a time of war (that'll be last though, completely different code set).  I'll do what I can to support importing/exporting to megamek and HMP formats, though no guarantees as both of those formats have some pretty serious flaws.  I'll also be supporting the IO Beta rules, so LAMs and stuff, though until IO is no longer beta those units will be flagged as not-canon.  

So, here is what this downloadable application will design:
- BattleMechs (15-300 tons), 2, 3, or 4 legged, plus LAM/Quad-Vee
- IndustrialMechs (15-300 tons), 2, 3, or 4 legged
- ProtoMechs (3-15 tons)
- Battle Armor
- Conventional Infantry Platoons
- Combat Vehicles (including superheavies, Wheeled, Tracked, VTOL, Hover, WiGE)
- Support Vehicles of all types and sizes (Even things like 100kt naval, satellites, and maglev)
- Aerospace and Conventional Fighters
- Small Craft
- Dropships
- Jumpships
- Space Stations
- Warships
- Mobile Structures
- Buildings
- Integration with the MUL
- Multi-Structure Bases (lower priority)
- Character Generator (lowest priority)
- Application will update itself as necessary, run on Windows, and probably be under 10mb total with no 3rd party application dependencies.

So *everything*.

I am currently planning on supporting the following features, though subject to change:
- Import/Export to MegaMek
- Import/Export to Heavy metal Pro
- Import/Export to Solaris Skunk Werks
- Import/Export to XML
- Import/Export to Text
- Export to HTML
- Export to PDF
- Export to PNG
- Export to a PDF Record Sheet (same format as canon record sheets)
- Custom components
- Printing of record sheets with all environmental considerations applied
- Ability to modify a dynamic record sheet (for the few of you that hate paper)
- Various refit and repair calculations
- A lot of support for campaign games
- Force builder/tracker, including noting which miniatures you own
- Planet/System Generator (pending rules getting published)
- Random unit tables
- Full support for Alpha Strike in every way
- Full support for *ALL* published rules, even the April Fools stuff 
- I plan on including as much support for German as I can, though my google translations may suck and need some typos fixed :)
- When I release this application, I'll kill my engineer site as it will no longer be necessary.  I suck with web code anyway :D

Some things I'm thinking about, but not sure yet:
- Map Maker
- Planet Mapper (stitch maps together, make a planet)
- Combat simulator (think real time megamek, but with any unit types)
- Random unit designer
- Planetary database
- Dynamic system for mech availability that would allow creation of random units based on any era, by denoting how popular a mech is per faction, per era.
- Inner Sphere in Flames, or whatever it is to be called, game.  I can't use current IO Beta stuff though, its very broken and would not allow for recreations of in-universe events (1 planet can make more mech regiments than all of the Capellan Confederation in 3025 could in a single year!).
- Stellar map support.  I kinda already wrote this with my ISMapper thing, but this will be an updated version that is a bit less klunky.

Obstacles I may encounter:
- Hitting a wall with the way certain rules are implemented.  For example humans kind of assume a lot when we are reading about rules.  Computers though, they can't do that.  So I can come across a system that simply has an unknown interaction with another system.  Or worse, and I know I'll encounter this often, many systems are missing certain data or the data is inconsistent.  What is the BV of the Centurion Weapon System from Jihad Hot Spots: Conspiracies?  Does a full head ejection system count as an ejection seat in Alpha Strike?  Can a combat vehicle really have an aerospace cubicle?  Maglev's have no availability or introduction dates!  There are a lot of things like this I'll have to work around, note, and correct whenever I can get an answer.
- Real life.  I can't predict what will happen, but in the past few months I flooded my house, almost died and had to have a surgery to fix what the army screwed up and said was fine 10 years ago, got sick for 2 weeks, had to take a work trip, and various other things that just kill free time.  I'm also a 90% disabled veteran who has all sorts of medical issues that could interfere.
- Project creep.  I will document EVERY feature when I start, and will stick to that list as much as I can.  I will add other things once I get certain portions done so I don't end up with endless project creep (where I never finish as I'm always adding new features).
- hmmm.... actually, I think that is it, everything else with this project is within my capabilities.

I will release beta's once certain portions are finished.  I'll have more info on how to apply when I actually have one.

I'll try to post an update a month, and an update with any significant milestones, but don't hold me too closely to that :)

I need to go architect this out, but I should have some rudimentary screenshots of the interface within a month.  Luckily the *really* time consuming part I have already finished :D

Off to start design work!

If you got this far congratulations, you get a cookie! Ok, no cookie, but I did start a facebook group for kind of a dev diary and a place to discuss features and issues.  I am BadSyntax on facebook, and the group is "Battletech Design Works" though it is currently closed and you have to request access.


  1. So for what it's worth, at Origins one of the canon event GMs was telling me they're apparently no-kidding looking for someone to do an "official" unit creation application for them. You may want to actually ping them and offer your services, and at least try to start a discussion.

    1. Well I wrote a few of the moderators I had an email to, but since I am banned on the forums I can't PM the moderator that started the request. Basically, if the people I emailed just delete them, it'd be up to the fans to get me in front of the official folks, as I have no way to.

    2. I actually just now happened to see the actual announcement in the BT "Computer Games" sub-forum. Didn't realize they'd made that public. I was just going off a conversation I'd had.

    3. This is the actual thread talking about it: but it looks like it has died already with nobody stepping forward.

      Funny, I didn't get a single reply from the 3 moderators I wrote... guess they aren't that serious about getting a designer wrote.... or they are kinda slow for some reason.

  2. Looking forward to your efforts as usual!

  3. Hey, nice to see you back in action!

    I was going through some of your old posts regarding the fonts being used. You don't happen to have the latest set of fonts being used that could be sent to me? I have gone through the comments section where you and someone else were going back and forth on the fonts, but wasn't able to find the exact fonts you were using.



    1. I was referring to the fonts being used on the Alpha Strike cards (figured I'd add that for clarification).

    2. Try this link:

  4. Aww, but I've always really liked the Battletech engineer site (though I already have all of the record sheets that I need for my 2 lances).

    1. Well the new app will provide *ALL* the same functionality, though I guess it won't be web based anymore.

      When I'm all finished with this, and in the "update only" mode and done implementing new features, I'll look at converting what I wrote back to a webpage for folks that stick purely to phones/tablets/macs so everybody can build stuff and not just us winders folks.

    2. Mac user, that's me! Home, work, phone-all of it.

      But like I said, I only have 2 lances and have all that I need already downloaded from your site (I also have a motorized inf. co., but I made my own sheets for those in illustrator as I don't like the official ones).

  5. I'd love to use this, but "windows only" is a killer for me. Emulation isn't that great; SSW does at least run anywhere by virtue of being in Java, but it's also dog-slow by virtue of being in Java. What language/platform are you thinking of using?

    1. I'll be doing it all in .NET 4.5, which may make a few Windows 7 users have to run a .net update, but it'll be win7 compatible.

      I know there are a couple linux users out there, but they represent such a small part of the market (1.8% according to wikipedia) it isn't worth supporting. When finished I'll look at a new website, but until then I'll be focusing support for the 90% of users out there.

      As for the 8% of OSX users, well, sorry, check into parallels which will let you run windows apps.

  6. hey welcome back to the game! if you need help building your app (just not with coding, as I am SOOOOO outdated with that) you have my email address. Feel free to throw stuff at me. BTW, have you seen the Human Sphere PDF maps I made using our data? All that's possible because of what you started all those years ago!

    1. Thanks! Yeah, those maps were a daunting amount of work. Something like 110,000 planet names, X, and Y coordinates I imported from various PDFs, those sheets that came with the original house books, and all sorts of graphic manipulation. Glad I got that done tho... well, assuming you did have the HBHK stuff updated in them, as getting banned on the forums dealt a pretty serious blow to my desire to make things for the community (plus, I have bought zero miniatures since). Teach me to tell the DFW Mechwarriors Guild to "being some money, I have a few extra miniatures" twice.

      Oh well, not sure what kind of help I'll need. I made the facebook group, where I've started putting the "development diaries" to show my progress. Only 1 day so far, but it was progress. I may be able to have a significant portion done pretty quickly. The time consuming parts will be making all the record sheets, especially for those that are currently not supported by CGL, but by that time I should be in an alpha state and have a few copies floating around for people to play with.

      Welp, off to do my nightly development. I can probably get 3-4 good hours in tonight. Hopefully I'll have structures done, which is the 5th in about 10 steps to complete.

      Thanks for stopping by!