Plain Walls and GH2 Thoughts


There’s a wall type in GearHead that is described simply as “Wall”, and now it has a fancy new sprite. Well, maybe not fancy, but what do you expect for the most generic wall in the game?

I’ve been thinking about the improvements to GH1 that I need to port to GH2. I think my next big programming task should be to catch up the GH2 source to the current state of GH1. The longer I leave it the more of a nightmare it’s going to be, and it’s already kinda scary. Here are the main things that need to be updated:

  • Resizeable window with GH1 style panels.
  • Move the saves and the config file to the user’s home/config folder.
  • Copy the much-improved GH1 character generator and training layouts. Add instructions to the phone interface.
  • Update the romance and gender options.
  • Allow lancemates to purchase skill training, and allow cycling of lancemates from the backpack interface.
  • Update the colormenu with the improvements made in GH1.
  • Make sure status effects don’t have any effect during quick time. Also make sure that the DirKey function updates the screen correctly.
  • Update the GH2 logo, and give it a proper name. GH1 is “GearHead: Arena”, but GH2 is just GH2. Right now I’m leaning towards “GearHead: Superstar” but I’m not sure whether that is too cheesy or exactly cheesy enough.
  • Add the animated water and thin door sprites.

That should bring GH2 into line with GH1. Later on I’ll post about my plans to finish GH2 properly.

GH1 v1.301: Shaking out the hunter-synths


I’ve just uploaded version 1.301 to GitHub. This is largely a bugfix release; there were several problems with the improved SDL interface, as expected. I also fixed some problems with the content, including what I hope is the cause of the mysterious villainous reputation  Thanks to everybody who submitted bug reports.

The other big thing is the inclusion of some features to hopefully make the ASCII interface work better on a braille reader. The Accessibility_On config option changes the navigation display from a compass to plain text.


Complete list of changes below the fold. Continue reading

GearHead1 Character Creation

There aren’t a lot of GearHead videos on YouTube, so I made this one to showcase the character creator. I’m going to try an make another video showing the start of the RPG campaign soon.

Dungeon Monkey Campaign Idea


The original monster sprites I made for DME. Should upload these to OpenGameArt someday.

As I’ve mentioned before, Dungeon Monkey Eternal was created to help me learn Python and to try out some new systems that I hope to include in a new GearHead game. Unfortunately, because DME creates short static adventures rather than a large dynamic world, it isn’t really a good test for some of those systems. Recently I came up with an idea for a campaign world that I wouldn’t mind trying.

It all starts out generic-fantasy enough. Ages ago there was a devastating war; the winners sealed off the underground empire of the losers, and the kobolds have remained trapped under the mountain ever since.

Yes, kobolds. Nasty kobolds. The big bad will be quite small, actually.

So at the very beginning of the game, the kobolds have broken free. Kobold scouts have infiltrated various areas. Some people have been kidnapped. The PC could be sent to investigate, or fight some of them, or travel to a nearby polis to gain support against this ancient evil. These kobolds are quite nasty. But it seems like a manageable problem; after all, they were defeated once, they can be defeated again.

At some point the PC will find out more about the kobolds, either by infiltrating their mountain or by the kobolds themselves launching a real attack. It turns out that the kobolds have been busy during their imprisonment. Their society has transformed, they’ve had an industrial revolution, and they now possess steam-powered mecha + war machines that the surface world is mostly defenseless against.

All hell breaks loose. Different factions try to fight the kobolds, or turn the situation to their advantage. The PC gets to play through a GearHead-style randomized core story cumulating in a battle with the ultimate kobold death machine… probably. Might be nice to have several different endings depending on which way the campaign goes.

The human royals are mostly concerned with preserving their own power. As long as they aren’t the ones who have to suffer, they don’t take the kobolds too seriously. In fact, maybe it was a royal who released the kobolds, hoping to use a new war for political aims, probably against the guilds or the peasants.

Previous to the war, the lower classes (guilds, peasants) were starting to organize and agitate for better conditions. The growing wealth of the guilds, and the sheer number of the peasants, meant that it would not have been easy for the royals to simply stomp out these heretical ideas. Now that the kobolds have returned, any such reformers can more easily be charged with treason.

The Shining Temple has a secret weapon: an urn containing an angel that was sent to punish the world during a past age of sinfulness. But, not everyone in the temple agrees with using this weapon. The scriptures are incomplete; how can we be sure that the being locked in the urn really is an angel? More to the point, how do we know what side it will be on if released?

The rival human city-state plans to use the kobold invasion to take over the first human city-state. More royals, more problems.

The druidic forest-folk are neutral; aside from protecting their wilderness areas, they do not want to get involved in the conflict. This makes perfectly good sense, since they know empires always mistreat nature and break their promises, so whichever side wins makes no difference to them.

The mountain folk, dwarves and gnomes mostly, still bear a lot of grudges against the kobolds and are making plans to strike back on their own. The dwarves are searching for a legendary metal that can easily pierce the steam mecha, while the gnomes are working on steam mecha of their own.

The orks also bear grudges. But then they also bear grudges against just about everyone in this world. Still, it’s gonna be one hell of a battle, innit?

The chaos raiders (Mammoth Tribes?) are really happy about the return of the kobolds, because it’s more chaos. If they can topple the royals, the kobold leader, and maybe the pope of the Shining Temple, they win.

The reptals, already teetering on the edge of extinction, just want to survive. Unfortunately their last hidden village is in the middle of the warzone.

The wizards want to find out more about kobold technology, and to make contact with kobold mages in the possibly mistaken belief that all academics are on the same side. So far the wizards have resisted calls to get involved in the battle, but it’s not clear how much longer they can hold out.

A martial arts temple sends a student to fight the kobold war machines in order to prove that spirit is mightier than steel.

Let me know what you think.

The Cavalier Code


Obviously, when you have a large number of people walking around in colossal death machines, you’re going to need a few ground rules.

The Cavalier’s Code is an honor system followed by cavaliers. It regulates many aspects of the job such as combat and employment. There are several local variants, such as the Crihna Rede and Neo Duello, but they all have the same basic structure. A copy of the rules can be found at most cavalier clubs and arenas.

Most of the rules deal with the use of deadly force. To minimize damage, there are several restrictions placed on where and when cavaliers are allowed to fight. Attacking civilians is forbidden. Attacking a cavalier who is not prepared for combat is also forbidden. Battles must begin with a formal challenge. Note that the definitions of “prepared for combat” and “formal challenge” are pretty loose- if a cavalier is awake and inside of a mecha, they’re fair game. Also note that local laws may place further limits on mecha combat; in general, it’s illegal to challenge someone within city limits.

Next are the rules regarding contracts and employment. It’s important that employers can trust cavaliers, otherwise there’ll be fewer jobs for everyone. Once you agree to a contract or a duel you must honor your word. If you enter a long term contract, you may not refuse missions from your employer. Renegotiation may be possible if the situation changes.

Cavaliers have a duty to protect those in need. Cities allow cavaliers to operate within their borders knowing that in case of attack, those cavaliers can be rallied to defense. You are expected to aid those who provide you with food, lodging, and repair. Failure to do so is not strictly forbidden, but will result in great loss of face within the cavalier community.

Finally there are some philosophical ruminations on the nature of being a cavalier. By entering the battlefield you are assenting to your own death. Your enemy today may be your ally tomorrow. Your goal is to complete the mission, not to kill your opponent. Leave grudges on the battlefield. An honorable death demands no reparations. This is the section people quote when they want to look wise and mysterious.

It should be noted that even pirate and outlaw pilots follow these rules. To follow the code is to be a cavalier. A pilot who intentionally breaks the rules is no longer a true cavalier, and as such is no longer entitled to the protections and benefits that cavaliers depend on.

New Rock Walls


I just added some new rock walls. I think they came out pretty nice.

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