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.
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?
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.
I also found this paperdoll avatar worksheet I started but abandoned. The bellbottom pants would have been authentic to Mobile Suit Gundam, at least.
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.
The inventory/equipment interface has a new look. Next step: expand and improve the item descriptions.
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.
There are a few improvements I plan to make over the basic GH2 model:
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.
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…
For design inspiration I’m looking at computer interfaces and HUDs featured in giant robot cartoons.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Is that a weird idea, or do you think it works? The control menu would probably also be semi-transparent.
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.
I just started a new campaign, this time with a cyberdoc/robotics expert. My plan is to concentrate on personal scale combat and eventually retrieve the Argoseyer. I can’t remember where all the bits of it are but I’m not about to let that stop me.
I’ve started work on updating GearHead’s graphics. The first step is to clean up some of the weirdness inherent in the source, which honestly is a whole lot of weirdness. Today’s big accomplishment: the game window can be resized, and the dialog console reacts to the size. It’s the only part that does react but at least that’s a start.