Young Joe is lucky I don’t have a time machine


Going through the mission scripts, I found something so weird and bad that I can’t believe it hasn’t been noticed before. Apparently at some point in time I decided that faction missions shouldn’t scale by the PC’s renown; instead, each faction has an independent difficulty counter that increases each time the faction loads a new story. This is not necessarily a bad idea. What is a bad idea is that the difficulty counter is raised by 16-25 renown points every time the story changes. At that rate, the faction mission difficulty level could potentially reach 70 in the first week of the game.

As near as I can tell this system was introduced around release 0.600 and abandoned shortly thereafter. However, I didn’t bother to refactor all of the missions that use it. So now it is randomly scattered throughout the series folder.

This is going to be more fun than a locked room full of monkeys.

Standardizing Missions


One problem in GH1 is that there is no rhyme or reason to the mission rewards. The cash prizes and other bonuses don’t strongly correlate with the risks and requirements of the job. As I’ve said before, I was just making things up as I went along.

Here’s what I think should be the new mission standards. The basic mission reward should be either 100% cash plus salvage or 200% cash without salvage. Completing the mission should give 1 point of renown and 100XP. The THREAT and REWARD functions should be used to set the difficulty of the encounter and the cash reward, respectively.

If the mission has special bonuses, the standard reward may be decreased:

  • Increase a desirable reputation (Heroism or Lawfulness, usually)
  • Special rewards, such as a mecha prize
  • Bonus experience or skill experience
  • The PC would not normally qualify for the mission but is offered it at a lower pay rate, as in the city defense mission

If the mission has extra requirements, the standard reward may be increased:

  • The mission requires a particular skill, reputation, or faction membership
  • Personal scale mission (300% base pay? No salvage because no mecha.)
  • Increase an undesirable reputation, such as Criminal or Villainous
  • Higher than normal difficulty

If I’m going to recalibrate all the mission rewards, this would probably also be a good time to either add the procedural text generator or decide that I’m not going to bother with the procedural text generator.

Being a Cavalier


A typical cavalier dressed for work.

Cavaliers are the wandering adventurers of the GearHead universe. The only things you need to join their ranks are a mecha and a blatant disregard for your own personal safety. Being a cavalier is more than simply being a pilot; it is a way of life, a statement of personal freedom, and quite often a cause of long term unemployment. Those who excel at the job can look forward to riches and glory. The most successful cavaliers are as famous as pop stars. In fact, some of them are pop stars.

Most cavaliers are fairly young. 16 is the youngest age for getting a mecha operating license in most jurisdictions. By age 30 or so, most cavaliers have either earned enough to retire or have gotten into a safer line of work. A small but growing number of cavaliers do things the opposite way, and take up adventuring after they retire.

Cavaliers come from all walks of life. Among their ranks you can find soldiers, truckers, doctors, and monks. For the downtrodden this job offers a chance to change the world, or at least their own personal situation. For the wealthy and privileged it can be a chance to prove themselves. For the solidly middle class, becoming a cavalier might be their one shot at an interesting life… or in the worst case scenario an interesting death.

The first modern cavaliers appeared right after the Night of Fire. As civilization broke down, so too did what was left of the military. Many units refused to acknowledge that the war was over and just kept on fighting. Some built strongholds which would become the first fortress-cities, while others abandoned their post altogether and became wandering marauders. The common people were left to the mercy of whatever mecha-equipped bandits happened to be passing through their refugee camp on any given day. Not all mecha pilots took advantage of the chaos to enrich themselves. The first cavaliers were those who wandered the wastes, helping people and righting wrongs. They defended villages from marauders, rebuilt homes and power plants, and helped establish communication between the settlements. When a problem was solved they moved on to the next town.

Note that according to modern historians, there probably wasn’t as much difference between the cavaliers and the marauders as people would like to believe.

On Earth, cavalier culture is strongly associated with the Pro Duelist Association. Although cavaliers have existed in the space colonies for decades, it wasn’t until the 50s that Earth-style Cavalier Mode was popularized by the pop band Love Magnet. Even on Luna a small number of cavaliers are allowed to operate, so long as they pass a test of ideological purity first.

GearHead 1 v1.300

"Words of the Spacegod", printed in DoubleThink Spring 2015

I’ve just uploaded a new release of GH1 to GitHub. This one overhauls the SDL interface, updates the gender and romance options, allows skill training to be purchased for lancemates, and fixes a whole lot of bugs. Precompiled binaries for Linux and Windows are available; unfortunately, I don’t currently have access to a Mac.

Detailed change list and gratuitous plug below the fold. Continue reading

New Release Soon


I’m getting ready to make a new release of GearHead-1. The graphics changes seem to be working, but there are a couple of issues I’m hoping to iron out this weekend. Also, I’m pretty sure that there are going to be some problems that just slipped through my fingers, since you can’t really switch up the entire UI without at least a few unintended consequences.

Kettel Industries

The town of Gyori is nominally part of the Federated Territories, but the real power in charge is Kettel Industries. This company has divisions for everything from real estate to toothpaste. It is the wealthiest corporation on Earth, and consequently one of the wealthiest in the solar system.

Tybog Kettel was a warlord in the period shortly after the night of fire. She attempted to capture and preserve technological facilities, as opposed to many of her contemporaries who would strip any building they came across for mecha parts. Gyori Fortress was built atop the ruins of an industrial complex.

The Kettels ran their growing community with strict law and order. For those seeking an escape from the horrors of the deadzone, Gyori became a safe haven. There were plenty of jobs in the factories and mines. However, even minor transgressions could be punished by exile or worse.

In NT40, people from the space colonies began to return to Earth. A spaceport was established in Namok, and the factories of Gyori started producing goods for the L4 and L5 regions.

Elijah Kettel I was the last warlord of Gyori, and the first president of Kettel Industries. He sought to return the world to its former glory; he was fascinated by the age of superpowers, and believed it was only a matter of time until the start of a new golden age. Kettel updated the Gyori legal system, throwing out some of the more draconian laws and instituting a number of democratic reforms. He pushed for ratification of the Sunrise Pact and the establishment of the Federated Territories of Earth.

His son, Elijah Kettel II, built Kettel Industries into the powerhouse it is today. He had little interest in politics, but excelled at business. The younger Elijah expanded Kettel holdings to all parts of the solar system. He founded the Kettel mecha design division. He was also responsible for a certain ill-fated defense contract, but thanks to some deft maneuvers the public would never associate that disaster with the Kettel brand.

Elisha Kettel was born in NT125. She became president of Kettel Industries in NT151 when her father was assassinated. Elisha has continued the family tradition of searching for PreZero technology, and has recently come into possession of a couple of very valuable artifacts. Under her leadership Kettel Industries acquired Zero Tech, manufacturers of the popular Zerosaiko mecha.

Water and Stats


I did some work on the new interface today. The PC info box to the left of the message console now displays character stats, mecha movemode, and status conditions. Also, I’ve been playing around with seamless animated water tiles. I’m still not entirely happy with this version but it’s less bad than the first few attempts. With all of the displays now working and several new features added, a new release might be just around the corner.

In other news, I found out that there’s a fair amount of the GearHead Wiki archived at the Wayback Machine. This should be helpful to anyone seeking more information about the game, since a lot of the information that was out there went poof with the previous site.

Shuttle Service Interface Done


The shuttle service has been updated to the new SDL UI system. As far as I know, this means that everything has been updated, though not everything looks good yet and I’ll probably have to move some things around.

This interface includes a picture of the destination town. For now, it’s just a screenshot of the world map. I would like to replace these with more evocative pictures later. Not sure yet whether I’d rather show the skyline of the town in question, or show a representative scene closer up.

I’ve been looking at the PC info box in the lower left corner, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t display all the information of the old one. The only thing holding that back is the fact that the navigation info block is too tall- 65 pixels, as opposed to 48 for the health diagram and 39 for the HP/St/Me text. I plan to shrink the nav bits down to 48 pixels tall, and that should leave plenty of space for two lines of info text above the clock.

Skill School Updated


The skill trainer interface has been reworked, and it is now possible to purchase skill training for your lancemates by pressing right or left to cycle through them. The best part: this also works in ASCII mode.

CBG-87 Ice Wind


The Ice Wind is a light general-purpose battroid produced by Cobolt Battle Group of Wujung. It comes equipped with twin laser cannons and a variety of externally mounted weapons. Despite being the second most common chassis in the solar system, the Ice Wind is not popular with pilots, and is frequently denigrated as a “henchman’s mecha”.

The first Ice Winds rolled off the assembly line in NT139. The founder of CBG, Alexandr Cobolt, had great ambitions for this design. He intended the Ice Wind to serve as a modern replacement for the badly outdated defense mecha currently in use on Earth- the Buru-Buru, Condor, and Corsair. To this end the Ice Wind was equipped with the latest in modern technology. Of course, in order to keep the cost down some sacrifices had to be made.

At 13m tall the Ice Wind is fairly small for a main line combatant. Its general build has been described as “sleek” by proponents and as “scrawny” by people who are being perhaps a bit more honest. Its standard weapon complement is fairly light, consisting mainly of swarm missiles and an 8mm railgun. The cockpit is spartan and doesn’t even include an entertainment center.

Although the Ice Wind performed well by any objective standard, its various deficiencies meant that it would never be accepted by pilots as a “sexy” machine. In order to boost sales CBG began offering bulk discounts to governments and individuals who bought five or more Ice Winds at once. The strategy paid off. Within five years Ice Winds were in common use from Earth to Mars.

Nobody buys an Ice Wind so they can use it themselves. No, it’s definitely a henchman’s ride. It’s short so it won’t show up the captain on the news footage. And the weapons? That slivergun isn’t designed for destroying enemies, oh no, it’s just there to soften them up a bit. Same with the missiles. Send in the Ice Winds, soften them up, then swoop in and claim the kills. It’s a brilliant machine Cobolt designed. It’s just something that no self-respecting cavalier should ever be forced to pilot.

For the design’s tenth anniversary in NT149, CBG released a new mid-range variant known as the Ice Fox. This version featured a redesigned head, heavier missile racks, improved electronics, and enhanced mobility. The Ice Fox has avoided the stigma associated with the Ice Wind and is generally hailed as a good mecha, but ironically it hasn’t sold nearly as well as its predecessor. According to rumor CBG is planning to release another new design in NT159 for the twentieth anniversary.