Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

New Battle screenshot for Gratuitous Tank Battles

I thought it about time I posted a new full size screenshot now most of the UI is done. I’ll be back on gameplay / battle / balance stuff now. Here is a clickable (to full size) image showing a fairly laid-back minimal nighttime battle, mostly to show the current GUI more than anything else.

Proper battles will likely be more frantic, and videos are needed to really do it all justice. Lots of fun ahead :D Criticisms and feedback / suggestions are most welcome. I stuck this image on the GTB placeholder site too.


I should probably also remind everyone that the Gratuitous Space Battles parasites expansion pack is now available from my site too…

Here is a video of them…

When does the sci fi realism bubble burst?

This is prompted partly by the slight debate over whether or not mechs would have lights in their cockpit during night-time battles :D

Obviously they wouldn’t, but that’s nitpicking in comparison with everything else wrong with the situation. If World War I was being fought with mech technology, it would be fought with nukes, from thousands of miles away, and the mechs themselves would certainly not be manned. Why bother? we already have unmanned drones fighting in wars today.

Many Many years ago I remember playing a PC game, it might have been called EF2000 (edit: it was see here!) And although it was fairly accurate and technical and probably very ‘realistic’ it was dull as hell. You never *saw* an enemy plane. The onboard computer identified it, locked the target and you just said “yeah… go on then”. Realism++, fun–.

Most games these days do not take that approach, but more of a laughably shallow and innocent view of what we wish the future would be like, but secretly know it won’t be.  When the black and white flash gordon serials were filmed, they *might* have been able to say this will be the future with a straight face, but not now. Star Wars was world war 2 navy battles, inexplicably in space. Star trek was a western, inexplicably in space, but it almost made sense. There was enough stuff that *did* make sense, and come true, such as hyposprays, communicators, voice recognition and translation in real time, cloaking devices… etc.

Also, there was some stuff we haven’t cracked yet, like time travel, teleporting, blah blah. But that doesn’t mean this can’t be done one day…

Where it all goes wrong is weapons. The Star Wars / Flash Gordon / Star Trek weapons are laughable. Which would you rather have in a fight? An AK47 or a phaser? An Uzi or han solos blaster? The weapons are woeful, doing laughably poor damage, over hilariously short distances. The phantom menace battle droids are truly rubbish. Mechs make no strategic sense. Helicopters are better in every way.

We stick with this, for entertainment purposes, because we suspend our disbelief and remember being 7 years old and ‘buying in’ to the idea of the laser rifle, but for how long will this laughable fantasy work? A kid these days won’t have any innocent years where the whole world believes in laser pistols and space fighter planes dogfighting. These days sci-fi isn’t flash gordon, it’s Iain M Banks and his amazing worlds of smarter-than-us AI fighting battles between self-aware starships millions of kilometers apart using invisible weapons in battles that last fractions of a second. Awesome stuff, but shit for games.

So what do we do? will the belief-suspension bubble burst for sci fi weapons? How long can we keep re-fighting the battle of stalingrad with lasers and shiny space robots? A long time, I hope :D


I’ve been working on fixing a ton of lightmap-related bugs for the night time battles in Gratuitous Tank Battles. At one point, it suddenly occured to me that something that wasn’t glowing in the dark, and should be was the internal cockpits of some of the larger mechs.

Tada! (decided to test it in green)

This effect took way more effort than you would have thought, and possibly slows things a tad, I will do some more optimising nearer release. I think it looks quite cool though. And yes, the player can customise the brightness / color of the cockpit just like any other layer in the mechs. Support for lightmap attachments to a layer should also mean that modders will be in paradise, as you could have all sorts of Tron style glowy effects on units if you really wanted it :D


The Gratuitous Editor and UI flow

I’m working on the GTB map editor.  Editing the maps won’t be just for modders, but for everyone, so this is a very important part of the game and I need to get it right. I’m going to really encourage custom maps as a big part of the game, with the singleplayer campaign maps acting purely as examples and tasters of what can be made.

Here is a Work-In-Progress screenshot with some old GSB UI still in place:

Given my plans for it’s use, it’ s important that the editor looks easy to use. I’m wary of making mistakes in terms of UI flow. Essentially, the editor works in 3 modes, which I’m currently calling ‘normal’ ‘prop’ and ‘ground’ which is a bit rubbish, but I need to split things up somehow.

Normal mode, lets you edit individual tiles, by setting up routes, toggling them as attacker or defender-deployable, and placing ‘whole-tile’ items like trench sections, emplacements, or sections of path.

Prop mode is basically where you add, move, rotate and scale decorative items like barbed wire, trees, tank traps, and other fluff that exists to make the world look interesting

Ground mode lets you edit the background tiles, which is again, purely visual.

The window on the right changes with each mode to display the relevant items (tiles / props / textures).

A right click menu, mainly for normal mode, lets you carry out actions on all the selected tiles. The editor supports zooming in and out with the mouse, WSAD movement, drag-selection and ctrl-selection.  It adjusts ( a bit) to different resolutions.

The thing that concerns me is the UI ‘flow’ of those three modes. I wonder if I can somehow squash all 3 modes together. Hmmmm.

Gratuitous Space Patch 1.57

Just made patch 1.57 live. it will auto update over the next 24 hours, and make it to steam once a day or so has passed without incident. It’s mostly stuff to support the parasites expansion.

version 1.57
1) New Feature: Support for longer race descriptions.
2) New Feature: Modding support for custom bullets textures.
3) Support for return-to-sender capability on missiles.
4) Support for more than one plasma missile in flight at any one time, per launcher (if configured for that module)
5) Support for flak guns (bullet modules with area-of-effect damage).