Author Topic: Working on Character Builder.. questions  (Read 692 times)

Trent

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Working on Character Builder.. questions
« on: 19 March 2017, 17:23:32 »
Hey guys. Been a long time since I've been on the board! Some of you old timers might remember me from the XNA 3d engine thread, where I was working on a hex based 3D engine, before Microsoft killed off the whole XNA engine thing.

Anyway was idle on BT for a long time. Recently I dusted off some old books and bought some new books.. and I'm getting a campaign rolling with my buddies.

The character creation process about killed the whole thing before it got underway. 6 hours in a room with scratch paper and at the end of it I had a bunch of confused players. :)

So I've been working on this spreadsheet thingy... Normally I'm a .NET programmer and doing work in VBA makes me feel like a 1995 throwback (where's my flannel shirt and grunge music?)

Ahh I regress. I was going to do this as a .NET program (and still might) but for cross platform functionality (many of our players have Apple stuff) I decided to stick straight with MS Office (Excel, specifically).

In the beginning it was just to help them keep track of XP but it's... growing.

All of the aToW life builder stuff is there (note you still have to, at this point, look at the book and add your skills and track prerequisites)



Started doing an inventory system...

[imgwidth=1024 ]http://i.imgur.com/GfN4blK.jpg[/img]



Which involved a whole lot of data entry (still not done with that...)



Some custom VBA forms code to "buy" stuff... (starting funds works off of Wealth, while inventory selection works off Equipped trait to check availability based on game year, faction, etc.)





Printable character sheets...





So my question is here, there's a LOT of stuff in this spreadsheet which has been typed in straight off of aToW book.

The character sheet, for instance, is a direct PDF print capture with fields overlaid, and it still has the Catalyst logo, etc.

While not a big deal for an in-house thing only for our group... I want to find out from the powers that be what your thoughts are on what needs to done for a more public release? I certainly don't want to step on any lawyers toes. I'm a fan of this franchise (a big one, for multi-decades), and want to make sure that I go about any sort of public domain (read as; free) release of the spreadsheet when it's completed properly.

Thoughts?

Trent

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Re: Working on Character Builder.. questions
« Reply #1 on: 19 March 2017, 17:29:03 »
Also for the record I *really hate* excel VBA programming and at some point, once the batteries recharge, want to do this as a full on .NET program - would be much easier to use a SQLite DB w/ a proper object model, to track prerequisites, etc.


Trent

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Re: Working on Character Builder.. questions
« Reply #2 on: 19 March 2017, 17:53:45 »
One other tidbit.

Works for point-buy as well.

The secondary objective of the spreadsheet (beyond helping my players) was to create a fast way to do point-buy NPC's for the campaign I'm running.

Takes just a few minutes to knock one out and print off a sheet for an important NPC (or make a template for a non-important one, like a guard).

Maelwys

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Re: Working on Character Builder.. questions
« Reply #3 on: 19 March 2017, 18:01:41 »
Looks really interesting. Not sure about legalities, but I will say one thing. You might run into trouble with the Traits section of the character sheet. With the optional rules in the ATOW Companion, where some of the traits that you used to be able ignore after chargen now have an in-game use, you might need a larger trait section.

Not sure how much of that you can change since you're basing it off of the original sheet, but its definitely something that might pop up early on.

Trent

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Re: Working on Character Builder.. questions
« Reply #4 on: 19 March 2017, 18:18:20 »
Yeah at some point I have to rework the character sheet and just discard Catalysts. It only has 30 skills and 8 trait slots.

Half of our PC's ended up with > 30 skills after character generation, and a couple had >8 traits.

The current spreadsheet warns you when you hit Print, "you'll have to pencil these in..." :)

Excel doesn't have much in the way of "good" report building capability out of the box (for something like a character sheet), and I'm hesitant to introduce any dependencies since we have Apple users in our group.

So eventually it'll get re-written as a .NET program with full Telerik UI and reporting components.  (I can design *beautiful* software in .NET and have some really kick-*** reports for character sheets. My day job for the last 20+ years has been building windows business system software for a fortune 100 in visual studio.. it's my bread & butter lol).

(I'd done a mech builder and aerospace/small craft/large craft builder program at one point as well, in .NET, but couldn't release it because HeavyMetal has the rights to that stuff.)

So, yet another reason I stuck with a spreadsheet.

I doubt I could get permission to release anything in executable form.

There's still a damn big gap with Aero stuff. HeavyMetalAero doesn't fit the rules quite right and still have to manually work the XML files to integrate in to MekHQ/MegaMek (which lacks aero building). I've been using my own program for that to kick out XML data for customizing dropships/etc.

But again, can't release the thing because of the old HeavyMetal rights issues.

So a followup question would be "is there any legal restrictions on releasing a full on PC/NPC character building for aToW or does that fall under the blanket license HeavyMetal has?"

« Last Edit: 19 March 2017, 18:19:59 by Trent »

daskindt

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Re: Working on Character Builder.. questions
« Reply #5 on: 19 March 2017, 18:20:37 »
Looks interesting.

We recently struggled through chargen with my group and I'll say the standard character Sheet definitely doesn't have enough room for Traits. I don't think a single character had enough room for Traits out of the half dozen characters generated.

Trent

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Re: Working on Character Builder.. questions
« Reply #6 on: 19 March 2017, 18:27:47 »
Yeah ideally skills, traits, and equipment should be subreports on a character sheet. (If we're talking about dynamically generating them.)

The default character sheet definitely doesn't have enough room.

I've done stuff for a variety of systems for character / unit editors over the years, D&D, battletech, etc. Every time I get one done (which works great for our own group) I get stymied on release though. "Can't do that, XXX has the contract" .. lol.

Aside from the initial math issues people had (and trying to explain how to optimize points / etc) it became crystal clear that the average person just getting introduced to the system needs a LOT of help building a character.  SO I started working on this.

Then we get characters (more or less properly) done and the next hurdle is Equipment. A couple of my guys just gave up in frustration trying to figure out what they could or could not buy based on their Equipped score vs. availability.

So I started working on the inventory system. :)

Eventually, if it goes to a .net platform, we can introduce a little networking code and just forego paper sheets altogether. Click a skill, set the modifiers, hit Roll... 

Go back to the old XNA hex engine I'd made, convert it to mono, get a virtual tabletop going for the RPG... lol.

Yeah maybe in a year or three. Only so much spare time.

Trent

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Re: Working on Character Builder.. questions
« Reply #7 on: 19 March 2017, 18:31:31 »
For those who weren't around half a lifetime ago, here's a link to the old videos of the 3D hex based game engine I built from scratch in .NET.

https://www.youtube.com/user/Trent1098S

Trent

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Re: Working on Character Builder.. questions
« Reply #8 on: 19 March 2017, 18:34:17 »
Kind of the story of my life with building software, BTW.

Have the talent to build anything.

Always have releases shut down because "someone else has the contract", "we're terminating the XNA engine", "{insert stoppage clause here}"

I've learned to ask before release and then just humbly accept that my code will never see the light of day. :)

Maelwys

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Re: Working on Character Builder.. questions
« Reply #9 on: 19 March 2017, 18:36:11 »
Well, I think Microsoft technically holds the rights for everything electronic, and HMP last I heard had the license to produce designers, but there are some free open source software bits out there, like MegaMek and Solaris Skunkwerks, so I think as long as you're not profiting from it, no one is going to go after you, but it can be pretty tricky.

Trent

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Re: Working on Character Builder.. questions
« Reply #10 on: 19 March 2017, 18:49:27 »
Kind of what I remember. Last time I ventured around these parts was 5 years ago and didn't figure much changed. Sure doesn't look like HMP changed. I ventured over to their website to see if they had any updates. Looks the exact same it did last time I looked at it 5 years ago. Dug up the copy I'd got eons ago off a backup HDD... and also not very friendly to use on 4k displays, lol. So been using my own .NET stuff.

I need to get Eclipse and get brushed up on Java, maybe do the missing aero builder in MekLab. Already built it once in .NET, shouldn't be TOO hard to do in Java. Only problem is there, I'm facing three learning curves - learning someone else's java project, learning java again, and getting used to Eclipse which has surely changed since I last used it a decade ago. Visual Studio has been my daily dev environment for 20+ years and it's tough to change!

:)

Trent

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Re: Working on Character Builder.. questions
« Reply #11 on: 19 March 2017, 18:58:48 »
Regarding aToW companion / traits; I've integrated a *little* of that in to the spreadsheet already - note the life rolls in the background builder section on the left of the main screen.

The dropdowns all through there are dependent on one another; sub affiliation is filtered by affiliation; class 3 stages reflect your initial selection; taking 2-3 stage three options works properly (e.g. you can choose just one advanced field, or an advanced field and then either another advanced field or a specialty).

The problem I'm running in to is the ceiling of what you can do with Excel. It's only going to go so far before it can't go any further.
 
To do a proper character designer I need to have far more advanced parsing than what Excel has available in functions and clunky VBA code.

Which means to do a proper release, with every little nuance included (tracking/enforcing pre-requisites properly, weapon mods, etc) I'd really need a proper back end database (SQLite would do) with a modern front end dev environment. I can only go so far (without wasting an enormous amount of time or causing the spreadsheet to grind to a crawl) with what it has to offer. I need Transact SQL, and modern objects and interfaces to do this justice. :)

Problem is if I go there - an actual program - I may run in to the HMP licensing issue.


Maingunnery

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Re: Working on Character Builder.. questions
« Reply #12 on: 19 March 2017, 19:16:11 »


Would it be possible to utilize custom faction data (Affiliation, Equipment, Life Modules)? Preferably as a separate file in the same folder?
Herb: "Well, now I guess we'll HAVE to print it. Sounds almost like the apocalypse I've been working for...."

Daryk

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Re: Working on Character Builder.. questions
« Reply #13 on: 19 March 2017, 19:17:01 »
When I built my spreadsheet (years ago), Herb (the line developer at the time) asked me to "limit verbatim content", so while I had the data tables built for skills and traits, I didn't publish any modules except for the ones I used for the sample character build.  Here's the latest posted version.

Trent

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Re: Working on Character Builder.. questions
« Reply #14 on: 19 March 2017, 21:54:59 »
When I built my spreadsheet (years ago), Herb (the line developer at the time) asked me to "limit verbatim content", so while I had the data tables built for skills and traits, I didn't publish any modules except for the ones I used for the sample character build.  Here's the latest posted version.

Right now you have to look at the book to find what skills / attributes / traits to plug in. The spreadsheet doesn't do that for you at present. It'd take a lot of work to *make* it do that, since many of the stuff allows "choices"

The inventory stuff - all the stats are entered but no fluff text.

Would it be possible to utilize custom faction data (Affiliation, Equipment, Life Modules)? Preferably as a separate file in the same folder?

Hmm. Maybe? Right now you'd just have to extend the tables. Nothing is externalized.

Trent

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Re: Working on Character Builder.. questions
« Reply #15 on: 20 March 2017, 01:16:45 »
UGH THE END IS NEAR.. my frigging fingers hurt!




Trent

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Re: Working on Character Builder.. questions
« Reply #16 on: 20 March 2017, 01:44:40 »
Ok inventory is done. Pretty much ready for a 1st release pending what CGL says.



semper ubi sububi

I'm a little rusty on my Latin but I think it means "always wear underwear." :)


Trent

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Re: Working on Character Builder.. questions
« Reply #17 on: 20 March 2017, 01:49:04 »
Well inventory is *almost* done.

I need to do just a little bit of scripting for calculating encumbrance level, and get those packs / packframes integrated to the encumbrance. (If you equip one bumps STR accordingly for encumbrance calc)

Encumbrance is one of those things that is a PITA to do by hand but makes a big difference in tweaking a combat guys loadout...

Maelwys

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Re: Working on Character Builder.. questions
« Reply #18 on: 20 March 2017, 01:55:29 »
*cough* Dunno how to tell you this, but gear now has a fourth availability rating, that takes it into the Dark Age era.

Trent

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Re: Working on Character Builder.. questions
« Reply #19 on: 20 March 2017, 13:12:56 »
*cough* Dunno how to tell you this, but gear now has a fourth availability rating, that takes it into the Dark Age era.

How about a big cup of NOPE!

Can't I just run an algorithm to make it 2 levels more difficult to obtain everything? :)

Hythos

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Re: Working on Character Builder.. questions
« Reply #20 on: 23 March 2017, 12:18:31 »
Looks good Trent!
** I'd like to help, if needed / possible.

A couple others of us have been working on character generators; My current project is creating a random-generator which currently looks at life-paths and compares the skills in the end to the characters' ultimate profession.
The idea is that randomly-created characters could be spit-out 25 at a time (current variable) which would range from combat, non-combat, support, and even civilians - all with stats, equipment, back-story, enemies, and allies.

While I do have a simple mechanic to influence XP off of the Random Life Events Table (ATOW:C pg77), my next step is to build-in an option for events taken from MW:3rdEdition (and others, like LosTech, Merc Handbooks & Supplementals) random-events which will look at each Lifepath and create a character-history based on where the character was during different periods of its life, and compared to Canon events.
These would allow for a select-able variation in the game-date and just simply apply the respective time-frame against the characters' birth-date & Lifepaths.


All of this is still WIP - with some functionality, though I'd like to someday convert it over to a web-based form for anyone to access / upload / download data from a MYSQL DB... 
If anyone would like to talk about it further, PM me with your Slack or email address.
« Last Edit: 23 March 2017, 12:22:36 by Hythos »
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Lazerwulf

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Re: Working on Character Builder.. questions
« Reply #21 on: 24 May 2017, 20:46:55 »
IS this working enough that my party can try it? Mostly we just want something that does what it says on the tin. Would be awesome if we could just choose life paths and fields and have that auto calc.

Cybertec

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Re: Working on Character Builder.. questions
« Reply #22 on: 29 July 2017, 05:34:29 »
Very interested play tester/user at the ready. Has there been any official attention to your release query yet?
Still interested in your work. Hope all is well.
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