Improving GearHead Caramel’s Combat Interface

GearHead Caramel has been out for a week and a half, gotten its first update, and so far I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about it. I’d like to thank everyone who has supported GearHead development whether through code contributions and bug reports, itch.io and Patreon, or just sending me encouraging messages.

One area where GearHead Caramel needs to improve, though, is its combat interface. Several players have pointed out that it takes an awful lot of clicks to do anything. In places it’s not quite as intuitive as I hoped it would be. Plus, allowing some more configuration options would make the game more accessible to a lot of players. So here is what I’m planning to do:

  • Consolidate all of the action types into a single library. Right now you have to switch between movement, skills, attacks, and EW programs using the radio buttons on the upper left. It would be better if you could access all of your abilities through the up/down keys and the mouse scroll wheel. The buttons can stay, but they’ll be bookmarks rather than completely separate sections.
  • Speaking of consolidation, right now every skill gets its own action library shelf. But most skills have only one use. So, I think it would be best to move all of the skills to a single “Skills” shelf.
  • The movement widget should be redone in the style of the action widgets, with each available movemode shown as an action icon. That would make it much more obvious that you can switch your movement mode.
  • Speaking of movement modes, I don’t think there’s any reason to store them outside of combat. During exploration the party should only be able to move through tiles that all members can move through (excluding immobilized members, who should get left behind!). Once combat starts, each player mecha should start in the fastest movemode that can legally enter the tile it’s currently in.
  • The action counter that was previously part of the movement widget. It can be moved to the upper left hand side of the screen, and changed to a counter/hourglass display similar to that used in certain other RPGs (I think Temple of Elemental Evil had something like this). The rule is supposed to be that you can move up to half your movement rate as a free action before performing an action. However, this was not obvious in-game, and the only pre-action movement allowed was the automatic moving into position that was done when you tried to make an attack/use a skill while out of range. The new display would show your number of actions as a number and your movement allowance as a color behind the number.
  • Hotkeys support. If you press an alpha key while hovering over an action icon, that action gets tied to the key. How do we keep track of keys when the action library is dynamically generated every time? The key stores the names of the shelf and option.
  • Aside from props which have a destroyed sprite and remain as obstacles even after they’ve been destroyed, models will be moved off the board when they are destroyed. There’s no reason to leave them lying around as gear icons.

What do you think? Is there anything else you’d like to see changed, or anything you don’t want to see changed?

1 comment

    • AmkG on April 30, 2020 at 5:35 pm
    • Reply

    Destroyed models should not be removed from the board outright I think; my initial mpression was that the gear graphic was a placeholder graphic for smoking wreck. A pile of smoking wrecks after combat just feels more immersive to me, and if I squint I can pretend the gear is a big pile of wreckage. Mecha suddenly disappearing after being destroyed would break immersion. Maybe you an move the model off the board but just leave behind some wreckage gear.

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