A bit of an update

And it’s bad news on the MC: TW front. Most likley, anyway.

The fact is, I haven’t been able to commit a lot of time to continuing work on the mod since my last update. A variety of real life things are responsible for this, but suffice it to say that it is unfortunately no further along now than it was then: a somewhat functional ‘alpha’.

I’ve also upgraded my system, and while I still have all the files for the mod, I have yet to reinstall MCG to further work on it. Admittedly, this would be an easy obstacle to overcome were I to start working on the mod again.

Another note of importance is the fact that I have enrolled in a game software development degree program which I will be starting next month, January 2010. It is something I’ve been interested in for a long time, so it is exciting to finally get going on it.

I will be focusing on those studies rather extensively in the coming months. It is a rather intense program since it is accelerated, and it should only take me two years to get the Bachelor’s degree (since I already have one in a different field).

That said, I have a handful of neat ideas for games that I plan on fleshing out during the course of my studies, and a couple are even fan-games for the great BattleTech universe (e.g. I always thought a MechCommander 1.5 would be cool and not too hard to write once I have the necessary skillset). I am not making any promises that any of these ideas will ever see the light of day, but if I have my way, I will be working on them as part of or in addition to pursuing my game software development degree.

On that note, this blog will more or less be morphing to cover my path toward obtaining that degree, and the programs I will be writing on the side for fun.

Because my classes don’t start until January 28, I cannot say how frequent my updates will be in the meantime. You are welcome to continue leaving comments and I will try to respond to them in kind.

Thanks for the interest you’ve shown in the Total Warfare mod, and perhaps [no, hopefully] someday I can deliver something even bigger and better to the BattleTech/MechCommander community!

-Z

Total Warfare Alpha Screens

Hail and well met!

I know it’s been about a month since the last update. I was wrapped up in other projects and this just kept getting pushed to the wayside.

However, I have prepared some screenshots of the alpha build. It’s hard to actually capture the rate at which the weapons fire now, so things like the Rotary Autocannons and Hyper-Assault Gauss Rifles I just left out. Most of what can be seen from the screenshots are the aesthetics of how things look now, how names have changed, etc.

So without further delay, the screens:

Ignore that bit about the LB-20X doing a whopping 24 damage every 4 seconds. That’s a bug I literally just caught. It was coded to do 8 damage every 4 seconds, so it’s curious that it is displaying 24. Probably has something to do with the LB-X flag… I’ll tinker with it and get it nailed down.

You may notice that I undergunned the ‘Mechs in some cases… that was intentional; I was just seeing how much “extra” room I had to play with after loading a “stock” weapons configuration. On the Atlas, for example, I configured it to reflect the AS7-D. The Awesome was the AWS-9Q. Both Clan ‘Mechs were in their PRIME configuration, and so on.

That’s it for now, just a quick sneak peek! Also ignore the V1.0 on the drop screen ;) Clearly it’s not to that point yet, but that’s just a working screen.

Enjoy, and stay tuned!

Halfway through Alpha!

Greetings once again!

I would just like to announce that the bad news from the last post is slowly but surely turning around into good news. Several bugs have already been worked out of the code and the alpha is about 60% operational. All of the new components themselves are fully functional. I ran them in several ‘Mechs today in several scenarios and it is a whole new ballgame out there!

There is one recurring error that I just haven’t pinned down yet, but I hope to have that fixed soon. Additionally, I have to restart work on the ‘Mech and vehicle profiles and figure out if that’s what crashed the mission editor the first time (I’ve had no such problem since reinstalling and reapplying the components half of the mod).

Perhaps soon I will throw some screenshots up.

Stay tuned!

MechCommander: Total Warfare

How’s it sound?

I think that’s the name I’m going to go with for the mod. It’s fitting, because almost every single component modded for this project was lifted out the pages of the Total Warfare rulebook for BattleTech.

That said, I have some good news, and I have some bad news.

First, the good news! MechCommander: Total Warfare has reached alpha testing. All the components are fully spec’d and all of the artwork for the NEW components has been finished. I am especially pleased with the way things like the ATM Rack and Plasma Rifle turned out.

In that vein… ah heck, see for yourself!

Pretty exciting stuff if you ask me! :)

Some of the in-game display text needs a little tweaking (some of the component names came out a bit long), but those will be quick fixes once I get to that point.

That said… now for the bad news.

I broke something somewhere. The Mission Editor crashes when trying to generate a new mission, and in order to properly test the new components, I need to create a new solo mission for each tech base. You can see how this is problematic for me. The silver lining here is that I haven’t even begun looking for the actual bug causing this, because I was just too excited about getting to the alpha testing stage that I wanted to get an update up pretty quick. Fear not, I will be combing over my component files for errors (I am almost certain the bug is hiding in one of them, I just don’t know which one yet), and I have a backup directory ready to bail me out anytime I need it in case things get too messy.

In the meantime, I just wanted to share some of the cool new component artwork and drop the name of the project on ya.

MechCommander: Total Warfare will be here soon!

Stay tuned!

E3 2009

As any real gamer would know, E3 2009 was last week. This wealth of gaming information and countless time spent watching videos on the latest and greatest coming out has, unfortunately, pushed back the MechCommander mod project by, you guessed it, a whole week. Since my last update, I have accomplished little. I have put a little work into it, but it’s still squarely in implementation.

I am also tossing around a bit of a new idea regarding load values that I’m not quite sure if I want to use yet or not, but I probably will because I think the original devs did. This means rewriting a lot of text and recoding a lot of components. It will be work I didn’t count on, but it’s just load values, not whole weapons at least.

So while the project is still well underway, the original timetable is out the window. Implementation could take anywhere from a few days to a week or more depending on my focus (and how quickly I can get some job applications out of the way, ’cause those are important, too).

I might yet peck away at it a bit tonight still before sleeping, but I’ll try to keep this updated with my progress.

Stay tuned.

Looking for a name…

MechCommander Gold.

Perhaps my favorite game of all time. I am not going to get into the details of the game; those can be researched on Wikipedia or some such outside source, but I am going to talk a bit about the BattleTech-accurate mod I am in the process of creating for it.

After uncompressing some of the files within the game and getting a good look at them, MechCommander was intended to be far more accurate with regards to the BattleTech universe than I think it eventually became. Things like heat management and critical slots (and even locations) seem to have been cut in favor of simply “load value”. There is little that can be done about this switch in concept, but that’s ok.

What the mod is being designed to do is take the weapons in the game and re-spec them to BattleTech standards, blurring the abstraction of the “10-second” BattleTech turn into a real-time engagement sequence. For example, in a game of BattleTech, an ultra autocannon can fire two shells in a 10-second turn, doing X damage with each shell. In this MechCommander mod, I’ve stepped back from that hard-lined 2-shots/10-seconds and halved it, so now an ultra autocannon will fire four shells in a 10-second period of time, but each shell does half damage. Additionally, heat is halved and ammo is doubled. All considerations have been taken into account to keep all the weapons BattleTech accurate while maintaining fast-paced and visually engaging gameplay.

So let’s get down to the gooey of it, shall we?

This project kicked off a week or so ago and is just now getting its proverbial feet wet. The first step was design: which weapons to use, how to balance them, getting them all spec’ed according to BT, taking all the firing rate multipliers into effect, figuring out ammo loads, load values, ranges… truly meticulous work all summed up in one glorious spreadsheet.

I had been bogged down in design for quite some time, making the critical desicions that would affect implementation in every way. Some decisions were not easy, but adjustments had to be made. For example, originally there were plans to include the incendiary Flamer weapons. Unfortunately, MechCommander cannot display more than 50 components, regardless of how many I add to the game. Components sorted beyond 50 on the list simply will not render on the in-game purchasing tab, leaving only black space where the weapons should show up. Due to this restriction, some items in the original game had to be nixed in favor of new, accurate weapons and other weapons I wanted to add had to either be dropped or… creatively worked around.

The Flamer simply got dropped. I couldn’t justify 2 of my 50 component slots going toward such a weapon when the Clans were lacking a long-range autocannon and the Inner Sphere were lacking a medium-range standard autocannon. So the Flamers were dropped in favor of the Clan Ultra Autocannon/5 and the Inner Sphere Autocannon/10 (yes, most of the weapons have the BT accurate names now).

But, you say, that’s stuff that’s more or less already in the game. Tell us something to get us excited, you say. Tell us about the new components.

Ok.

Would you be excited to know that Clan Advanced Tactical Missiles are in? What about the Snub-Nosed PPC? Clan heavy lasers?

They are all in. So are MRMs. So are light and heavy PPCs. Even the Plasma Rifle made the cut!

And more. But first I want to talk sensors. What a mess! I don’t know how they locked the ECM and Active Probe to three ‘Mechs, but if I can figure it out, I plan on unlocking them. Unfortunately, I haven’t found it yet, so the 1.0 release of this mod may still have those restrictions. But enough about that. What I really want to talk about is how many component slots were being hogged by sensors! Inner Sphere: 3 sensors, 1 ECM, 1 Probe. Clan: 2 sensors, 1 ECM, 1 Probe.

For those following along at home, that’s 9 component slots out of 50, nearly 20% of the available component slots, dedicated to sensors and electronics instead of weapons. I cut that number down to 4. I hybridized the ECM and probe on either side to make one standard-issue component that both sides can use, and I repackaged the Basic Sensor to be used by both sides, nixing the Clan sensors completely (they will share the Inner Sphere ones now). The Intermediate sensor was repackaged as a Command sensor with the power of the Advanced sensor, which was dropped completely. This was a bit of a workaround to “unlock” the Advanced sensor, but it works.

In the end, both Clan and Inner Sphere have access to the BattleMech Sensor, and the Command BattleMech Sensor Suite. However, due to the high power of the Command sensor, it has been balanced by requiring additional load value (essentially acting as a Command Console in BattleTech) AND being limited to 1 per player. This prevents players from loading “teh uber-s3nsor” on all their ‘Mechs. Instead, each player will be able to designate a “command ‘Mech” to carry the powerful sensor, and the more players in the game, the more command sensors will be capable of deployment. I am a big fan of this concept and am really excited to see how it will turn out.

But right now, I’m still in implementation. After this comes preliminary testing, artwork, “beta” testing, tweaking, final testing, compression, and finally distribution. Of these, implementation and artwork I expect to take the longest, possibly 3 days for implementation and another 2 for artwork.

Oh, and as a treat for those who read through the whole thing, here are a couple of the more exciting weapons also in the mod: Rotary Autocannon/2, Rotary Autocannon/5, and Clan Hyper Assault Gauss Rifle (based on the HAG 20).

I also need to come up with a name for the mod, as the title implies. But I’ll have one by the time I package it up.

Stay tuned!