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Author Topic: New Battletech Software Discussion Thread  (Read 21955 times)

Bison AIs

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Re: New Battletech Software Discussion Thread
« Reply #120 on: 29 April 2021, 14:52:10 »
...desires from the community.. All that have been posted here have been added and categorized (mostly) for a version schedule.

Might be helpful to list those out — I started skimming the thread but it's a bit to catch up on casually.

Personally, I'd desire to know what the value proposition would be over MML, SSW, Mordel.net, MechFactory, etc.

The smell in the air is 'mobile first / mobile friendly' but that's really a gut read, so I'll table the questions it raises in my mind.

I ask because it seems to me like there's an obvious area of opportunity but that's also a bit fraught.

Ultimately, it seems the biggest possible value of official design software is that it'd be controlled by the same people who control the actual construction rules. But that comes with a kind of sword of Damocles. An official tool would grant at least a lead on other programs when it comes to implementing new rules, changes, errata, etc. e.g. the BV for over-heat weapons could be tweaked and the rule change could roll out with a release — but a primary value in BT is rule stability. Plus — and this is just my take — another 20 years of accumulating equipment seems... unlikely...

Though certainly there is room between, on one hand, another implementation of construction rules and on the other hand disrupting the status quo. For example, rules around field refits, frankensteining, and customizing stock units are neither as ossified as core construction rules nor are they as well supported by existing tools. There's also soft implicit rules official designers seem to follow regarding regional equipment availability that have never been codified to my knowledge.

So yea, my desire is to know more about the project motivations / goals / angles.

Cheers!
« Last Edit: 29 April 2021, 15:11:42 by Bison AIs »

Bison AIs

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Re: New Battletech Software Discussion Thread
« Reply #121 on: 29 April 2021, 15:07:32 »
( Full disclosure, I personally became less interested in construction the more into the game I got due to how easily it could be abused to take advantage of saddle points in the combat system (e.g. if you're playing not-to-loose then you're likely to end up building 'flashbulbs') and when interested in flavor, adopting ghost rules about what's allowed somehow yields something with less flavor than just pulling out a weird stock variant. So anything that makes the system relevant again would be rad to me at least. That said, I wouldn't bet a lot on that opinion being a significantly common one. )

rjhancock

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Re: New Battletech Software Discussion Thread
« Reply #122 on: 29 April 2021, 19:47:20 »
Might be helpful to list those out — I started skimming the thread but it's a bit to catch up on casually.

Personally, I'd desire to know what the value proposition would be over MML, SSW, Mordel.net, MechFactory, etc.

The smell in the air is 'mobile first / mobile friendly' but that's really a gut read, so I'll table the questions it raises in my mind.

I ask because it seems to me like there's an obvious area of opportunity but that's also a bit fraught.

Ultimately, it seems the biggest possible value of official design software is that it'd be controlled by the same people who control the actual construction rules. But that comes with a kind of sword of Damocles. An official tool would grant at least a lead on other programs when it comes to implementing new rules, changes, errata, etc. e.g. the BV for over-heat weapons could be tweaked and the rule change could roll out with a release — but a primary value in BT is rule stability. Plus — and this is just my take — another 20 years of accumulating equipment seems... unlikely...

Though certainly there is room between, on one hand, another implementation of construction rules and on the other hand disrupting the status quo. For example, rules around field refits, frankensteining, and customizing stock units are neither as ossified as core construction rules nor are they as well supported by existing tools. There's also soft implicit rules official designers seem to follow regarding regional equipment availability that have never been codified to my knowledge.

So yea, my desire is to know more about the project motivations / goals / angles.

Cheers!

The value is having something official from CGL vs fan projects that could disappear at any time due to lack of interest or burn out. MML, SSW, Mordel.net are all valuable resources but are ultimately fan projects running at the whims of their maintainers. Same as your Flechs. MechFactory is operating illegally (to my knowledge) and usage shouldn't be encouraged if true.

An application that works on virtually any platform, easy to use, translatable, accessible, and is kept current with the latest changes would be absolutely essential for gaining new players around the world as well as younger players who don't like physical books. An understanding of construction would still be needed for finer details but the basics wouldn't need the books so it's a bit of a trade off but one that I believe would be worth it.

As for a feature list,

MVP:
- BattleMech Construction
- Record Sheet/Alpha Strike Printing
- Faction/Unit Images
- Sorting/Searching
- i18n Support
- WCAG2.1 AA / ADA Support
- Social Media Sharing
- Variant Selection on Chassis w/ option to customize a private copy.
- BV/PV Calculations

2.0:
- Unit File Importer
- BBCode Formatting
- Rule Reference Tool Tips
- Drag/Drop support
- Quirks
- Custom Equipment
- Miniature Collection Indication
- Allow construction with specified limits (BV, Era, Tonnage, etc)
- Compact Display of multiple units
- MegaMek Export
- Custom Artwork for private units
- Faction/Era availability information

All taken from this thread.

Again, we're looking into this and not promising anything. The end goal being seeking a license to do a collection of game aids and offer them free of charge while being allowed to accept money to support ongoing expenses and development with royalties back to CGL.

FenderSaxbey

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Re: New Battletech Software Discussion Thread
« Reply #123 on: 30 April 2021, 00:30:39 »
I think things like MM and SSW have longevity largely because they're fan projects and, most importantly, Open Source. Having a company behind it or being "officially licensed" has never been any indicator of support or availability, much less quality or longevity.

In then end, best of luck to anyone wanting to try their hand at a licensed BT digital tool, but personally, I don't see the ROI on CGL's part nor do I think they have the manpower to really support such a thing right now. As we've seen with the last mobile app preview from the KS, any app produced now would have a lot of catching up to do with the likes of MM or Flechs.

rjhancock

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Re: New Battletech Software Discussion Thread
« Reply #124 on: 30 April 2021, 08:29:59 »
I think things like MM and SSW have longevity largely because they're fan projects and, most importantly, Open Source. Having a company behind it or being "officially licensed" has never been any indicator of support or availability, much less quality or longevity.

In then end, best of luck to anyone wanting to try their hand at a licensed BT digital tool, but personally, I don't see the ROI on CGL's part nor do I think they have the manpower to really support such a thing right now. As we've seen with the last mobile app preview from the KS, any app produced now would have a lot of catching up to do with the likes of MM or Flechs.

Im aware both projects have stuck around because they are fan projects and open source, but it's also a matter of, taking SSW as an example, was on hiatus for several years because the developers up and left. I don't see that happening to MegaMek anytime soon, but the possibility still exists. Same as with a commercial product.

I'm not coming at this with the expectation of CGL supporting anything we produce, only that we work with them to get it produced and we support it. That being said, also not looking to replace existing tools, just provide another option for those that don't want to install java or use Flechs for whatever reason.

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Re: New Battletech Software Discussion Thread
« Reply #125 on: 30 April 2021, 08:34:25 »
I'm gonna jump in here and say what I want to see as a start, sure Mech Construction is cool and all, but to me it is a nice to have, not a must have.

As a Demo agent/Home GM, I just want a program that allows me to use a tablet (iOS or Android or what have you, needs to be ALL not forcing me to support a product I don;t own) and use the current 3000+ units.

So, at a minimum allow me to import a mech/Combat vehicle, etc, and mark off damage easily/ammo usage, and heat build-up. This is the starting point.

Then allow me to track To Hit numbers based on Move/range/pilot skill/damage etc.

And all of the above need to be done WITHOUT internet access. If I'm playing at home, I have wifi, have a Fibre-Optic internet connection, and enough bandwidth and unlimited data to choke a herd of horses, but if I'm at an event, I doubt I'll have free wifi access, and don;t want to pay for extra data for my devices...assuming they even have access to the Cellular Network, so offline access/use is a MUST.

EXAMPLE, if I'm at GenCon, last I remeber they didn;t have free wifi in the hall, and if they did, it was spotty at best. Add to that as a Canadian, my Cellular plan is not valid in the US, so I would need to pay extra for Data usage, and that costs $$$, and depending on how much this software needs access that can be a lot of $$$. Example is FLECHSSHEETS, awesome software (THANX BISON AIs!), it needs constant access to a server to work. No Access, no functionality.

So, past all that, the rest is icing.

« Last Edit: 30 April 2021, 08:38:22 by NeonKnight »
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Re: New Battletech Software Discussion Thread
« Reply #126 on: 30 April 2021, 08:59:04 »
I'm gonna jump in here and say what I want to see as a start, sure Mech Construction is cool and all, but to me it is a nice to have, not a must have.

As a Demo agent/Home GM, I just want a program that allows me to use a tablet (iOS or Android or what have you, needs to be ALL not forcing me to support a product I don;t own) and use the current 3000+ units.

So, at a minimum allow me to import a mech/Combat vehicle, etc, and mark off damage easily/ammo usage, and heat build-up. This is the starting point.

Then allow me to track To Hit numbers based on Move/range/pilot skill/damage etc.

And all of the above need to be done WITHOUT internet access. If I'm playing at home, I have wifi, have a Fibre-Optic internet connection, and enough bandwidth and unlimited data to choke a herd of horses, but if I'm at an event, I doubt I'll have free wifi access, and don;t want to pay for extra data for my devices...assuming they even have access to the Cellular Network, so offline access/use is a MUST.

EXAMPLE, if I'm at GenCon, last I remeber they didn;t have free wifi in the hall, and if they did, it was spotty at best. Add to that as a Canadian, my Cellular plan is not valid in the US, so I would need to pay extra for Data usage, and that costs $$$, and depending on how much this software needs access that can be a lot of $$$. Example is FLECHSSHEETS, awesome software (THANX BISON AIs!), it needs constant access to a server to work. No Access, no functionality.

So, past all that, the rest is icing.

All valid but I believe this thread was for unit construction, not management. That being said, we're also looking at that as well. We have many ideas we want to implement for an entire collection of aids. Offline use for a web app wouldn't be that much more difficult but would still need an occasional update from the server for bug fixes and what not.

monbvol

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Re: New Battletech Software Discussion Thread
« Reply #127 on: 30 April 2021, 09:18:20 »
Plus a goal of the kickstarter was supposed to be a unit management app.  If it'll be offline functional as desired is unknown at this time.  But either way it may well already be under progress.

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Re: New Battletech Software Discussion Thread
« Reply #128 on: 30 April 2021, 09:55:26 »
Plus a goal of the kickstarter was supposed to be a unit management app.  If it'll be offline functional as desired is unknown at this time.  But either way it may well already be under progress.

and is iOS only...so, as an android Tablet user, unavailable to me
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Re: New Battletech Software Discussion Thread
« Reply #129 on: 30 April 2021, 10:13:00 »
Plus a goal of the kickstarter was supposed to be a unit management app.  If it'll be offline functional as desired is unknown at this time.  But either way it may well already be under progress.

The current app is an offline app however it's very early stages. Assuming they are still working on it, it would be over a year before I believe it would be ready for use. As for Android or desktop versions, unless developed at the same time, several more years.

But I haven't seen any updates on it and I'm not in the loop of anything still going on.

Bison AIs

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Re: New Battletech Software Discussion Thread
« Reply #130 on: 30 April 2021, 10:15:52 »
Thanks for consolidating a list!

First, more power to anyone working on BT tools. I want more cool things! And I'm just generally really fascinated in the product-design space around hybrid digital/analog games.

Second, apologies for any ambiguity on my part -- by 'value proposition' I mean this: from the a user's point of view, in the context of what they would like to do, what is it that the official software will offer that other existing software does not.

Setting aside for a moment the question of whether or not an official product can be supported more sustainably, it sounds like the primary vp is a kind of guarantee that it is up to date and accurate. However, until such a time that existing software is not up to date and accurate, I'm having trouble seeing how this constitutes a concrete vp.

If the idea is that my custom unit data is presently at risk of being lost and the vp is that my data will be in some sense 'less at risk', I'm not sure I follow that either, as even if MML stops being supported today, the software's actual expiration date will extend up until a compatible version of JAVA is unavailable, which could be a year or ten years, and in that time my designs can be soft exported to paper for forever.

Moreover, to FenderSaxbey's point, MML's demonstrated longevity allows them to make a much stronger claim to any risk mitigation perk. For example, I trust my MML data to be way way less at risk than any units I have in RemLab, which is way newer. On this front the trust comes from history, and a CGL stamp comes with no history, so though it's better than nothing it's not... a lot. The only way I see mounting an argument on the risk mitigation front is if the team responsible for the software has a history of similarly long term support of similarly complex projects. Maybe your team has that pedigree though! In which case it might be helpful for making that case.

But even if there's a history on which to base trust, existing software still needs to drop the ball first for that value prop to become concrete...
« Last Edit: 30 April 2021, 10:18:34 by Bison AIs »

Bison AIs

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Re: New Battletech Software Discussion Thread
« Reply #131 on: 30 April 2021, 10:27:53 »
Also, I think accessibility related stuff would be super rad and I wonder if there are any orgs already funding work around accessible table-top game aids... I've been meaning to look for a while but just haven't gotten around to it :/

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Re: New Battletech Software Discussion Thread
« Reply #132 on: 30 April 2021, 10:38:56 »
Moreover, to FenderSaxbey's point, MML's demonstrated longevity allows them to make a much stronger claim to any risk mitigation perk. For example, I trust my MML data to be way way less at risk than any units I have in RemLab, which is way newer. On this front the trust comes from history, and a CGL stamp comes with no history, so though it's better than nothing it's not... a lot. The only way I see mounting an argument on the risk mitigation front is if the team responsible for the software has a history of similarly long term support of similarly complex projects. Maybe your team has that pedigree though! In which case it might be helpful for making that case.

But even if there's a history on which to base trust, existing software still needs to drop the ball first for that value prop to become concrete...

Honestly that sounds like why a soft RFP like this hasn't gone anywhere. It feels like a toe in the water for CGL, which is appropriately cautious. They're a small business after all. But without strong commitment to a degree, say, the MUL is supported, MML remains the default standard.

At this point, I'd honestly rather think about platform porting and UI/UX design rather than building an alternative to MML. I assume the license is GPL or something similar?
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rjhancock

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Re: New Battletech Software Discussion Thread
« Reply #133 on: 30 April 2021, 12:28:03 »
Honestly that sounds like why a soft RFP like this hasn't gone anywhere. It feels like a toe in the water for CGL, which is appropriately cautious. They're a small business after all. But without strong commitment to a degree, say, the MUL is supported, MML remains the default standard.

At this point, I'd honestly rather think about platform porting and UI/UX design rather than building an alternative to MML. I assume the license is GPL or something similar?

It is a Soft RFP looking for someone/company who has already invested and built an alpha state of an app to do it. From my perspective, they want "official" software that is supported someway and kept current with rules and allow for day 0 use of new units/errata/rules/etc. MML is GPL and work on the UI/UX is ongoing as well as accessibility. But it is still limited to platforms that support Java.

I have NO desire to replace MML and what the MegaMek team continues to do. What I DO want to do is provide comparable software on a platform that can reach far more people without having to install any additional software and interact with existing software.

Bison AIs

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Re: New Battletech Software Discussion Thread
« Reply #134 on: 30 April 2021, 13:11:51 »
reach far more people.

To take a risk at oversimplifying things, this all smells like two things:

1. It's better for CGL if the standard mech design software was theirs. Well, yea. Of course. The providence of the software has almost no relevance to users though. (Example: Last I checked, the x-wing and 40k communities consensuses for squad builders were strongly for third-party ones even though official ones exist.)

2. Opportunity for a minimal-friction on-ramp into a core single-player play-pattern aimed generally at greenhorns and the BT curious — people who might have a fleeting itch to poke at something so long as they can do it right when they discover it (e.g. mobile-first web), or who aren't yet deep enough into the game to stomach the firehose of a complex fully-featured desktop tool with an Open Source UI / opportunity for a bit of a HALO product.

#2 makes total sense I think; It also means prioritizing a narrower audience for whom the vp could be 'immediate, easy, attractive' — at least compared to what's out there.

At the same time I'm not sure if the desires of an already deeply established player-base (the vast majority of the community here) is going to yield the specific items that are most relevant to that other audience...

Maybe you're doing this already, but I suspect adjacent gaming communities (e.g. XWing, 40k, etc.) might have people with needs / confusions / hang-ups closer to what the product might aim to address and for whom a low-friction alternative to MML etc. might be the most appealing...

Personally, I might also consider signing some newer players up for a custom-unit match, scheduling times for each one to come sit down with MML and just watch.
« Last Edit: 30 April 2021, 13:17:05 by Bison AIs »

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Re: New Battletech Software Discussion Thread
« Reply #135 on: 30 April 2021, 13:41:07 »
I've stated my reasons and I'll leave it at that. What I'm looking for is more input from the community for items they want as well as any CGL staff if they wish to throw in their 2 cents on a wish list for a Unit Designer software package. Trying to find a MVP to build to share with CGL in hopes of making an official project that complements the existing community projects, not competes with.

Having a tool available that is mobile friendly, works on almost all platforms with little issues, accessible and translated into multiple languages, and is compatible with existing projects would be a much needed addition and provide other options. Especially for those who can't install Java.

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Re: New Battletech Software Discussion Thread
« Reply #136 on: 30 April 2021, 14:06:27 »
The guts, the engine of MML is functionally entrenched into the game. That's why I think either a maintained port or some other wrapper system would be more sustainable. The accessibility and a new UI would perform all the needed functions. That's about the best I think CGL can hope for: more connective tissue in this little open source ecosystem. It wouldn't be a fork, really. But a relationship similar to, say, the Libretro project and Retropie.

I'm not that familiar with VMs or containers, but I'm wondering if a Java code-base can be maintainable in some kind of Docker development environment.

In part because this "RFP" was such a quiet trial balloon, I don't have a lot of confidence in their commitment to supporting such a tool or system and if I were to put together a package to submit along the lines of an entirely new construction system (which I remember from personal experience drove Rick Raisley up the wall with its inconsistencies), I would want terms to be a lot more favorable to me, including many questions of copyright and design ownership. That's just self-care in contracting.
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rjhancock

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Re: New Battletech Software Discussion Thread
« Reply #137 on: 30 April 2021, 14:24:44 »
The guts, the engine of MML is functionally entrenched into the game. That's why I think either a maintained port or some other wrapper system would be more sustainable. The accessibility and a new UI would perform all the needed functions. That's about the best I think CGL can hope for: more connective tissue in this little open source ecosystem. It wouldn't be a fork, really. But a relationship similar to, say, the Libretro project and Retropie.

I'm not that familiar with VMs or containers, but I'm wondering if a Java code-base can be maintainable in some kind of Docker development environment.

In part because this "RFP" was such a quiet trial balloon, I don't have a lot of confidence in their commitment to supporting such a tool or system and if I were to put together a package to submit along the lines of an entirely new construction system (which I remember from personal experience drove Rick Raisley up the wall with its inconsistencies), I would want terms to be a lot more favorable to me, including many questions of copyright and design ownership. That's just self-care in contracting.

My goal isn't to get them to buy it but offer a license for of a suite of game aids that are easy for new and old players and works WITH existing projects. Make an ecosystem of compatible projects so users can pick and choose what ever they want to use. All they have to do is approve and accept royalties.

Bedwyr

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Re: New Battletech Software Discussion Thread
« Reply #138 on: 30 April 2021, 17:27:44 »
Ok, that's fair.

I'll still say that most likely, the engine of any software package probably necessarily has to mathematically align with whatever CGL uses for unit generation which is currently MML with backup manual calculations AFAIK. If there's a disagreement between the two, the software CGL uses will win out. That's why I keep bringing up the idea of somehow using MML as the engine for any new product. It keeps the two in agreement.
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Re: New Battletech Software Discussion Thread
« Reply #139 on: 30 April 2021, 17:51:01 »

If you wanted something new to add, then maybe development tools?
Such as the ability to create new equipment & unit types, assemble them and put them through automated playtesting?
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Re: New Battletech Software Discussion Thread
« Reply #140 on: 01 May 2021, 09:02:03 »
Ok, that's fair.

I'll still say that most likely, the engine of any software package probably necessarily has to mathematically align with whatever CGL uses for unit generation which is currently MML with backup manual calculations AFAIK. If there's a disagreement between the two, the software CGL uses will win out. That's why I keep bringing up the idea of somehow using MML as the engine for any new product. It keeps the two in agreement.

Unfortunately the software I'll be using isn't compatible for Java so it won't work. But I'll be using MML and SSW as ways of ensuring my calculations are correct. :)

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Re: New Battletech Software Discussion Thread
« Reply #141 on: 01 May 2021, 09:04:03 »
If you wanted something new to add, then maybe development tools?
Such as the ability to create new equipment & unit types, assemble them and put them through automated playtesting?

That's in the queue already as a 2.0 release. :)

Except the play testing part.

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Re: New Battletech Software Discussion Thread
« Reply #142 on: 01 May 2021, 09:18:37 »
Plus given the nature of Battletech automated playtesting would only give an incomplete picture as AI scripts are not known for finding new and creative ways to use equipment.

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Re: New Battletech Software Discussion Thread
« Reply #143 on: 01 May 2021, 11:51:47 »
When you say "compatibility", you mean it can take data files from MML/SSW/etc., right?

As far as UIs go, I think SSW has the best one out there at the moment (for both SSW and SAW).

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Re: New Battletech Software Discussion Thread
« Reply #144 on: 01 May 2021, 13:36:44 »
When you say "compatibility", you mean it can take data files from MML/SSW/etc., right?

I mean it'll both read and write files in formats they both support.

As far as UIs go, I think SSW has the best one out there at the moment (for both SSW and SAW).

I'm thinking of a different UI. One that looks like the record sheet and just adjust accordingly.

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Re: New Battletech Software Discussion Thread
« Reply #145 on: 01 May 2021, 13:58:44 »
Plus given the nature of Battletech automated playtesting would only give an incomplete picture as AI scripts are not known for finding new and creative ways to use equipment.
It should just be used as an useful filter/check before regular human playtesting.
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Re: New Battletech Software Discussion Thread
« Reply #146 on: 01 May 2021, 15:14:27 »
It should just be used as an useful filter/check before regular human playtesting.

Which works fine if you want to introduce something like say, pretending it is before the introduction of the example I'm about to provide but blatantly choosing something that will not get this discussion split off into fan rules, the ER Large Laser.

It has no special case rules and if we want to figure out a new methodology for figuring out it's inherent BV, which will do most of said automated testing for us, can be easily achieved.

Something more complicated like Guardian ECM or C3 networks would take a lot more special case rules and be very difficult to do any sort of automated testing with that would be meaningful.

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Re: New Battletech Software Discussion Thread
« Reply #147 on: 01 May 2021, 18:04:39 »
Are we talking about a game or Mech building software? Because CGL does not have license for games
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Re: New Battletech Software Discussion Thread
« Reply #148 on: 01 May 2021, 18:40:43 »
That is a consideration too.

At what point does automated testing cross that line?

Which also raises another consideration.  Even getting MegaMek where it could import even say a ER Large Laser Mk2 or AC-2 as it should have been from the start with no special rules would take some not inconsiderable re-coding.

Talk about a dilemma.  I would absolutely adore having an easier way to make my AU/House Rule construction options revisions but even getting my AC house rules to work correctly would require a not inconsiderable amount of re-coding in MegaMek let alone actually adding anything new, especially if it has special case rules.

Maingunnery

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Re: New Battletech Software Discussion Thread
« Reply #149 on: 01 May 2021, 19:21:11 »
That is a consideration too.

At what point does automated testing cross that line?
I think that problem can likely be avoided by not including any visualization, especially considering that it may involve simulating 10000 matches in a reasonable amount of time visualization would just be a waste of processing power.
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