Friday, April 25, 2014

Secret Project - Revealed

Tonight my friend Charlie and my uncle Ralph stopped by to help me with some testing, and design suggestions for my secret project, which I'll now reveal, although I'm a long ways off from it being ready for public consumption. Since a large portion of my wargaming energy will be focused on this project I'm going to spill the beans now so I can blog about it.

The project is a new computer-moderated set of wargaming rules that I'm writing and programming. The system will use mobile devices (tablets, phones, etc.) for data entry. Each player can either enter their own information or have an opponent do so for them. In use the device screens serve many of the same purposes as the quick reference sheets most rules use, and after a test session Charlie and Ralph think using the mobile device as a 'smart' QRS and doing your own data entry while playing may be preferable to having an opponent do the data entry for you.

Using multiple tablets streamlines the data entry process. This eliminates the need for players to wait for the GM to enter data for them, while still providing the fog of war and detailed record keeping that the computer allows. While we only used 2 tablets for our test session, the system will be able to scale up to huge games with dozens of tablets if desired. This is a mobile-friendly web application and not a device specific 'app'. This allows it to function equally well on Apple, Android and Microsoft portable devices. Entering each unit's information is done completely with button clicks in the interface. No typing skills are needed and everything is simply presented to further streamline use. I wanted this system to enhance the gaming experience, not get in the way.

As expected, the play test revealed many places that need a large amount of improvement. My test scenario was a reduced order of battle of the battle of Freeman's Farm. While we were happy with the flow of the user interface, I still have some significant adjustments to do in the morale calculations. I also still have to add passage of lines and fatigue to the system. During play several other smaller suggestions were made which, once implemented, I feel will be great improvements.

The system will handle battles from the black powder era: post 30-years war up to about the Franco-Prussian war. My play test progression will be AWI, then ACW and finally Napoleonics. Each period adds additional complexities which will fully test the development of the system. For the foreseeable future this is a personal project. Possibly a year or more from now I may feel it ready for public consumption. Until then please feel free to comment and live vicariously through the blog posts....oh and wish me luck!

Video of a couple of units being entered into the system:


Rodger said...

I will follow this with a lot of interest Aj! I have been pondering something very similar few a few years but my programming skills are a bit limited. I wish you the very best of luck!

Loki said...

Looking forward to seeing how this develops, could be a most useful addition to the armoury

Ian said...

That's a massive task, wish you luck with it, what scales will it cover, just the larger or down to 6mm?


AJ (Allan) Wright said...

Ian asks, "That's a massive task, wish you luck with it, what scales will it cover, just the larger or down to 6mm?"

Each unit is a single piece with the individual soldiers modeled in the computer. Any basing method and scale would work. For 15mm and below I'd use centimeters instead of inches for ranges.

You do correctly asses the size of the job. I have over 6,000 lines of code and I estimate complete it will top over 10,000 lines of code, not including programming libraries and frameworks.

DeanM said...

Very impressive project! Such talented folks in our community!

Ray Rousell said...

Sounds interesting!!!

Old Fritz said...

very interesting AJ I will be looking forward to more on this and hope to see it first hand soon

Jason said...

Very interested in following your progress.