Mar 17

Today’s Progress: Wargear Menu

GH1_WolframWargear

The menu that pops up when you select a mecha or item from the FieldHQ is now working. To make up for the fact that this display looks just like the FieldHQ display, this time I present my results in glorious AnimGIF format.

Mar 15

New GH1 FieldHQ

GH1_NewFieldHQ

I’ve arranged the new Field HQ display, which now shows info about the team’s mecha in the right side panel. Unfortunately, I can’t find several of the original mecha portrait files, which is a problem because I’m resizing them to 160×160 instead of 100×150*. One of the problems with the 100×150 GH2 mecha pics is that large, bulky units such as the Savin and the Zwar come out looking smaller than tall skinny units like the Ice Wind and the War Cry.

The mecha info panel could probably use some more information:

  • Separate tallies for internal and carried mass, showing the MV/TR penalty associated with each.
  • The number of hands and weapon mounts, as per GH2.
  • Damage status. I just realized that’s not even shown.
  • List of defensive systems: ECM, shields, anti-missile weapons.
  • Daemonward’s encumberance display.

That seems like an awful lot to fit into a single 250×300 panel. Anything else that should be displayed?

*Yes, I’m aware that this Savin is being depicted as a Zerosaiko. The Savin portrait is one of the ones I can’t find. 🙁

Mar 14

Lancemate Switching from Backpack

GH1_BackpackSwitch

Today’s achievement is that you can now switch between lancemates using the left and right keys from the backpack display. This feature should be applied to the Character Viewer and Shop interfaces as well.

Mar 13

Busy Sunday

I will be busy today getting my pages ready for the California College of the Arts comics anthology. No GearHead for me until they’re finished. Instead, please enjoy the Cybertronic Spree performing the theme song from a Canadian cartoon.

Mar 12

The Old Old Days

robots

While backing up files today I found some pictures from GearHead’s past. The initial version of the isometric SDL interface was, as you can see, a mess. There was an earlier graphical version of the game that used an overhead view and a different FreePascal graphics unit for rendering (I think it was called GraphiX? I can’t remember), but I can’t find any screenshots of that one.

I wonder what font I used in pre-release GearHead?

swap_portrait_2

Initially, I planned for each portrait to have five facial expressions depending on the character’s mood. In retrospect I’m glad I didn’t go with that because it would have been tons of work.

GHRPG_PaperDolls

I also found this paperdoll avatar worksheet I started but abandoned. The bellbottom pants would have been authentic to Mobile Suit Gundam, at least.

GHRPG_Lobster

Finally, I was reminded that several of the monsters in the game started out as clay models that I photographed with a webcam and traced in Ultimate Paint.

Looking at these old pictures makes me quite proud of how far the game has come.

Mar 11

New Backpack Display

GH1_NewInventory

The inventory/equipment interface has a new look. Next step: expand and improve the item descriptions.

Mar 10

Knowledge is Power

One of the big problems with GearHead1 is that the game just doesn’t provide all the information that the player needs. Even when information is provided, it’s not always in a useful form. As Powerglide says, knowing is half the battle.

The next interface that I need to work on is the inventory/equipment menu. I’ll be importing the system from GH2 in which item info is shown as the menu is browsed. This makes it much easier to see what you’re carrying, and understand the difference between different items.

GearHead2 Inventory Menu

GearHead2 Inventory Menu

There are a few improvements I plan to make over the basic GH2 model:

  • Show the PC’s name and encumbrance level, and allow switching to lancemate inventories by pressing left or right (as in Dungeon Monkey Eternal).
  • Show volume. It’s an important stat for Mecha Engineering, but at the moment it’s completely hidden in GearHead1.
  • Instead of showing a weapon’s Speed stat, convert that into an exact recharge time. Along the same lines I should show the PC’s exact reaction time on the character sheet.
  • Also for weapons, show which skill it uses. Bonus points for showing the weapon’s attack score (user’s skill + stat bonus + accuracy + MV/TV/Se).
  • Allow some way to see a list of the character’s defenses, in order of precedence, indicating the attack types each is good against.

I don’t think I’m going to import the item images yet since not every item has an image and the last thing I want right now is to add something else to my list of needed content.

Mar 09

Character Generator Arranged

GH1_NewChargenLayout

I’ve updated the character generator with DynamicRect objects that reposition themselves according to the size of the window. I also fixed some of the problems and inconsistencies in the character generation process. For instance, the “Select Job” menu now shows the skill bonuses and staring cash of each job.

Please note that at this stage I am merely arranging panels; making them beautiful will come later. There were a number of missteps along the way…

GH1_NewChargenDev

For design inspiration I’m looking at computer interfaces and HUDs featured in giant robot cartoons.

Mar 08

The Ugly Part of Refactoring

Refactoring

Today’s commit of GearHead-1 is at that ugly stage of refactoring where everything compiles but nothing works properly. The TSDL_Rect records which previously defined the positions of various bits are being replaced with DynamicRect objects that update their position based on the screen dimensions. My next step is to rearrange all of the needed zones so they end up somewhere sensible, and after that I can worry about making them pretty.

I’m thinking of adding the open source font Orbitron for titles and headers. Actually, if it reads well, it could probably also be used as the main text font. Unfortunately, playing with fonts will have to wait until the game is fully playable again.

Mar 07

Full Screen Map Working

GH1_FullScreenMap

Two tasks complete- the game screen is resizable, and the map display takes up the entire screen. The next big challenge is to decide how I’m going to arrange the UI components.

The Original Layout

GH1_OriginalLayout

This is what we’re starting with. Much of the screen is filled with blank space. The map takes up a little over half of the visible area. It is clearly a product of the 90s, if not earlier.

Idea #1: Ultimate Layout

GH1_UltimateDisplay

In this layout, styled after a game I may have played far too much of in my childhood, all the UI components get shoved over to the right hand side of the screen. When the mecha control menu is active it takes space from the top half of the message console. This display scales well as the screen gets bigger since the height of the message console can always be increased.

Ultimate layout with full-desktop window.

Ultimate layout with full-desktop window.

One problem is that because of the shape of the isometric tiles, horizontal screen space is more valuable than vertical screen space. At 800×600 you can see further up and down than you can left and right. Even at 1366×743, you can see one tile extra in the vertical direction than in the horizontal. Also, it may just be because I’m not used to this layout yet, but I often missed messages popping up in the console.

Idea #2: Wizard Layout

GH1_WizardInterface

In this version, also named after an RPG of yesteryear, the interface is scrunched to the bottom of the screen. The message console retains its original position, while the character info display gets cut down to just the most important info and moved to the lower left corner.The panels are transparent so they don’t block the map display.

Originally, I planned for the mecha control menu to appear to the right of the message console, but I’m not sure that’s the best place for it. Another option would be to extend the message console to the full width, and stick the mecha control menu above the PC’s head as needed, as shown below:

GH1_OverheadMenuConcept

Artist’s conception.

Is that a weird idea, or do you think it works? The control menu would probably also be semi-transparent.

Wizard layout with full screen window.

Wizard layout with full screen window.

As the window size changes, the Wizard layout UI elements remain centered at the bottom. Personally, I think this looks better than the Ultimate layout since the play area covers the entire screen. It also has the advantage that it’s basically the same interface as used in GearHead-2. One concern is that it may not be easy to read text on the semi-transparent panels. My other concern is what to do with the mecha control menu.

So, what do you think? Please vote for your favorite layout in the comments.