Emergency Bugfix: GearHead2 v0.701

Turns out there were some problems with GearHead2 version 0.700, uploaded yesterday. It crashes on Windows, contains a spelling error, and I even forgot to update the version number on the title screen again. A new release that fixes all of these problems has been uploaded to GitHub. Sorry for the inconvenience.

GearHead2 v0.700: All Caught Up

I’ve just uploaded a new version of GearHead2 that catches development up to the current state of GearHead1 and fixes a number of bugs that have been hanging around since the switch back to SDL. You can download the source code and binaries for Windows or Linux from this link.

Going to Kaigai Manga Festa Again

Cover of “Sci-Fi San Francisco” by Chuck Whelon

Tomorrow I’m heading to Tokyo for the Kaigai Manga Festa, where you’ll be able to find me at table F-2. After I get back to Korea next week I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to finish off the much-delayed next release of GearHead2, and after that I’m going to try to get a minimally playable mecha combat scenario done for GearHead Caramel in time for Christmas.

In other comics news, I have a story in the upcoming Sci-Fi San Francisco anthology which is now on Kickstarter. There are a lot of very talented people involved so check it out if that’s the kind of thing you’re into.

GearHead Caramel Effect System

This week, I got the modular effect system working in GearHead: Caramel. This is pretty much the same effect system as used by Dungeon Monkey Eternal, but generalized and expanded to handle the GearHead rule system. The two effects needed for a basic attack (AttackRoll and DoDamage) work, and there is a new option to target more than one tile with a single action (which will be useful for burst fire weapons and missiles).

Weapons will generate their list of effects dynamically. It will be possible for a weapon to have more than one effect- for instance, a railgun can be fired in either single shot or burst fire modes.

This also opens the door to non-physical attack effects such as electronic warfare.

GearHead Caramel Damage Update

Work continues on the GearHead Caramel damage handler. Today I added damage animations; the more damage done, the bigger the explosion. There’s a special extra big explosion for the shot that destroys a target (pictured in the animation). I think everything is more or less ready to get the effect system working.

Troubles with Iconic Life

The Troubles with Iconic Life was an adventure game I started working on during university. The player character is an icon living inside a computer world- sort of like a low-fi Tron. Your mission was to solve some sort of crisis by traveling through this world and playing a bunch of buggy minigames. In each case, the secret to winning each game is to exploit its glitches.

The only minigame I remember clearly was a text adventure called Irrevocable Loss. You start in a gothic mansion and travel through various depressing locales, every step reminding you of the horrible thing that happened but which is never clearly explained to the player. Through solving puzzles, it was possible for the player to reach both heaven and hell, neither one of which provide release. To win the minigame you must enter the command “get over it”, at which point the protagonist stops moping and orders a pizza.


The puzzle above, as I remember it, involved a monster that could kill the PC in three hits, a single life restoration heart, and a switch that toggled the room memory. If memory is “on”, changes to a room are recorded when you move to a different room. If memory is “off”, the changes are lost and so the next time you enter the room it will be exactly the same as it was originally. To defeat the monster you would have to hit it, turn the memory “on”, retreat to the room with the heart, turn the memory off, restore hp, then return to the room with the monster and repeat the process until the monster was dead.

The iconic computer world featured a lot of memory switch and sokoban puzzles, which I apparently liked at the time.

The one bit I remember from the PC’s house in the computer world was the bed- attempting to use it would produce a number of messages telling the player that it isn’t functional, that it’s only there as a decoration.

Some of the content planned for the game. I barely remember most of this stuff; I think “The Forest of AntiHappy Endings” was a previous title for “Irrevocable Loss”, but I’m not sure. The “Ring of Wishes (Shareware)” was a nice idea, though these days it’d have to be a “Ring of Wishes (DLC)”.

Origins of GearHead

Homemade Battletech Counters

Some old Battletech counters I made on computer, then colored with colored pencils. Probably from the late 80s or thereabouts. These resemble the original top-down sprites used in GearHead-1.

I am currently visiting my parents in Canada and trying to sort through all the junk in my closet. I’ve found a bunch of notes which predate GearHead development, but which show many of the influences that went into it.

This page from my 1993 university notebook describes a method for generating random sentences- basically, replacing tags denoted by square brackets with phrases chosen from a list. I think this was being planned for the game “Troubles with Iconic Life”, which I’ll say more about later.

I didn’t start working on GearHead proper until I moved to Korea in 1998, but during university I did work on a different mecha game called Z-Warrior. As far as I remember Z-Warrior never made it to a playable stage. However, several of its mecha designs were brought into GearHead.

The Strongarm was in GH1, and the Hoelvetican (with an “o” added for some reason) was meant to be included in GH2.

Finally, here are my notes for a Mekton campaign I ran sometime around 1995-1997. The influences of Warhammer 40,000, Battletech, and Final Fantasy are pretty clear.

Instead of drawing my own illustrations for the campaign mecha, I copied pictures from various Mekton and Palladium sourcebooks.

Shooting Anim Working

The shooting animation is up and running in GearHead Caramel; just look at how smooth those bullets are. As in Dungeon Monkey Eternal, different weapons will be able to have different projectile sprites.

Death Sword

Death Sword is a haunted 1980s-style adventure RPG. There is a malevolent presence trapped in the program; as the game world breaks down, you will learn more about this entity and the fate of the teenage programmer who created Death Sword. Developer Ranilda Baeddel is currently running a GoFundMe so she can finish this game over the summer. If you could contribute something I’d really appreciate it because I really want to play the final version of this game. I spent an entire morning when I should have been working going through the demo on itch.io, advancing through the chapters and discovering all the ways to die.

Is there a name for the genre of horror in which a familiar thing is twisted into something scary? The fear comes from systems and rules that we thought were stable suddenly breaking down, allowing horror to seep through. I’m thinking about works like this, Candle Cove, or Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared.

GearHead: Caramel Combat System

Today I tried to figure out how attacks and other such effects are going to be modeled in GearHead: Caramel. If you’ve ever checked the GH1/GH2 source code, you’ll know that the old GearHead attack routine is a confusing mess of spaghetti that handles everything from beamswords to smoke bombs all in the same place. On the other hand, Dungeon Monkey Eternal has an elegant modular effects system where complex actions can be built up from simple components. Unfortunately, I don’t think the DME system is going to work in GHC without some major modification.

The two big problems that DME doesn’t have to deal with are moving areas of effect and chain reactions. In GearHead, an area of effect attack will sometimes deviate from its intended position. Also, effects often lead to additional effects: a body slam can result in the charging mecha taking damage, a mecha’s engine can explode causing damage to units around it, etc.

Here’s an example of the sort of complexity the GearHead system should be able to deal with: A Harpy launches three blast-radius missiles, each at a different spot, to take out a cluster of enemies. One of the missiles misses and deviates by a few tiles. Another of the missiles is shot down by an enemy’s anti-missile system, exploding several tiles short of its intended destination. One enemy is trapped in the blast radius of two missiles, taking damage from each. It suffers an engine explosion, further damaging its nearby allies.