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Doctor Machete

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I don't regularly use your builder but I downloaded it and tried out due to curiosity. Knowing that you want feedback I'll give you some, but taking into account that's my particular vision and I have numerous biases. That's the reason why my own planner has no resemblance with the ingame mech bay, like for example I don't care about how much armor exactly has each location, only about max total armor, max frontal armor and current armor; or I don't care about melee damage. Those kind of details are only accounted for when I translate the setups from the planner to the game. I mention all of these so you are aware of my biases and preferences.

Also it should be unnecessary to mention that all of the following are just my opinions, so don't take it as facts, and (again) remember this suggestions are after a very short time of using the app.


Not in any particular order:
  • I feel the weapon selection, while very compact is very clunky, annoying. A floating window which you could pin and put it aside would be much better and clearer, even as a fixed toolbar at the left, for example. Then if you don't select any location before clicking on a weapon to add it, it will be added automatically on the first free slot available for that kind of weapon, provided you have enough available slots.
  • An option for choosing favorite variants for each weapon, the same for mechs. So if for example the setup you want to build has 5xML++ and 1xML then you click six times on ML, adding 6xML++ and modify one of them afterwards to a regular ML, for example.
  • Related to the above, when choosing a mech automatically selects the favorite variant of the mech, but with the possibility of changing that variant once the mech is generated. Weapons are readjusted to the new positions whenever possible. If some weapon could not be reallocated then show a warning indicating that, with a chance to change to a a different mech/variant before committing. This allows you to think first about a role with a basic set of weapons, and then see how it would fit in several mechs and variants.
  • A quick access toolbar for mechs which you perhaps could select the position (left side or down, for example). That could be just the mechs you save in a specific folder inside the install folder. That way if you want to load one of your favorite setups you just click once on that always shown panel (which you can build already (and always) shown in the screen (because you save it as *favorite* or quick access). So the few ten or so builds that you use most of the time will be always at one click of distance.
  • Get rid of the the Focused/Scatter damage thingies. It adds to the information clutter while not being useful. SRMs with 12 damage per missile are scatter damage but 20 dmg SLs or AC2s aren't?. I think it's not useful because while there is some truth to that, it lacks the nuances, like a 6ML 6SL will scatter a lot, but it won't with a high level Precision Shot. A big LRM will scatter but not nearly as much as many people think, and in fact a big LRM boat (few but very big LRM weapons) will scatter less than a ML/SL boat with regular non-PS salvos due to clustering.
  • Now, if you don't mind to add more info to the clutter that I think may be useful, it could be showing damage per range, like 90m -> 75 dmg, 270m -> 200 dmg, 360m -> 50 dmg. Personally I wouldn't add it, though. If you're into mech planning then you should have an approximate idea of the weapon ranges.
  • I think it would be a very good idea to revamp the data presentation, mostly font sizes; perhaps even colors, if you want to go wild. Things like DFA dmg, DFA self damage, Heat damage... should not have the same visibility as Alpha damage or Heat per turn. That should streamline the info in a better way, and perhaps even allowing you for adding more info, but just not competing in visibility with more important data. And that kind of thing helps even when you're used to the layout.
  • As mentioned before, max frontal armor and current frontal armor I think is a valuable stat, because although you don't always neglect rear armor, is useful knowing that for example one mech may have less total armor but more in the front than a different setup.
  • Probably related to the use of my own planner I miss the damage for each weapon each weapon or group of weapons (like 4xML --> 100 dmg) not being show, although perhaps not practical with your layout, not sure about how to deal with it without messing a lot.
 

MasterBLB

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@Doctor Machete thanks for feedback, it's pretty interesting and even inspiring.

I feel the weapon selection, while very compact is very clunky, annoying. A floating window which you could pin and put it aside would be much better and clearer, even as a fixed toolbar at the left, for example. Then if you don't select any location before clicking on a weapon to add it, it will be added automatically on the first free slot available for that kind of weapon, provided you have enough available slots.
Just checked documentation, and indeed, it is not mentioned that add new equipment window has an option to switch into floating mode. Good catch!
Anyway, look for green balloon icon in top-right corner of the window to enable floating mode. It is still linked to the same mech, and you need to click on mech's parts to move where the new stuff will be inserted, but overall seems to be exactly you needed.

An option for choosing favorite variants for each weapon, the same for mechs. So if for example the setup you want to build has 5xML++ and 1xML then you click six times on ML, adding 6xML++ and modify one of them afterwards to a regular ML, for example.
Hmmm...both new equipment window, and weapons already equipped can have their variant changed by simple right mouse button click, and pick from context menu. Besides, new equipment window stores selected variant, so after closing it the desired ++ variant will still be presented - so I see little sense in implementing such feature.

Related to the above, when choosing a mech automatically selects the favorite variant of the mech, but with the possibility of changing that variant once the mech is generated. Weapons are readjusted to the new positions whenever possible. If some weapon could not be reallocated then show a warning indicating that, with a chance to change to a a different mech/variant before committing. This allows you to think first about a role with a basic set of weapons, and then see how it would fit in several mechs and variants.
Switch variant after mech is generated is in fact creation of a completely new mech. Besides, while designing a mech, say Hunchback 4P, I see no reason why suddenly I'd like to change it to Hunchback 4G. But let's say I got a stroke of genius about loadout fof HBK-4G - still alternating current HBK-4P makes no sense while I can open "New Mech" option, that dialog keeps tree state from last use so Hunchback branch will be expanded providing fast, direct and convienient access to other HBK variants. What's more, multi mech windows designs allows me to put another mech onto drawing board without disturbing designing of original HBK-4P. And for the last - thanks to be able to have both HBKs design windows allows me to compare them in real time.
So in short - too much clutter for no real gain.

A quick access toolbar for mechs which you perhaps could select the position (left side or down, for example). That could be just the mechs you save in a specific folder inside the install folder. That way if you want to load one of your favorite setups you just click once on that always shown panel (which you can build already (and always) shown in the screen (because you save it as *favorite* or quick access). So the few ten or so builds that you use most of the time will be always at one click of distance.
That sounds interesting. However, I see it rather similar way like text editors, developing IDE behave - under "File", in Mech Designer case it's "Main", it'd a section for recently used files. Also, there isn't anything against to have both of them, Favorities + Recent here.
Thanks Doc Machete, that's something will appear in a form in future release of Mech Designer.

Get rid of the the Focused/Scatter damage thingies. It adds to the information clutter while not being useful. SRMs with 12 damage per missile are scatter damage but 20 dmg SLs or AC2s aren't?. I think it's not useful because while there is some truth to that, it lacks the nuances, like a 6ML 6SL will scatter a lot, but it won't with a high level Precision Shot. A big LRM will scatter but not nearly as much as many people think, and in fact a big LRM boat (few but very big LRM weapons) will scatter less than a ML/SL boat with regular non-PS salvos due to clustering.
That Scatter/Focused damage is very important information once you'll understand what these terms mean - hovering a mouse pointer over them till tooltip will pop up will help. 6ML + 6SL will scatter a lot, true, but if used with Precision Strike by a skilled pilot there are actually high chances all of these lasers will hit the same spot. For missile type weapons and machineguns, due to their nature, that is unlikely. And that's why I introduced Focused and Scatter damage info label, and won't forsake it.

Now, if you don't mind to add more info to the clutter that I think may be useful, it could be showing damage per range, like 90m -> 75 dmg, 270m -> 200 dmg, 360m -> 50 dmg. Personally I wouldn't add it, though. If you're into mech planning then you should have an approximate idea of the weapon ranges.
I admit these would be nice, and was even planned at early stages of development, where all heat, damage etc info were going to be placed where "Tags and Description" is now residing. In current layout though I have no space to add such data, and I don't like to enlarge design window - but maybe in tooltip for Alpha Damage? We'll see.
However, I'm working on extending add new equipment window, and equipment tooltip below "Ammunition stock and comsumption" to add information about ranges.

I think it would be a very good idea to revamp the data presentation, mostly font sizes; perhaps even colors, if you want to go wild. Things like DFA dmg, DFA self damage, Heat damage... should not have the same visibility as Alpha damage or Heat per turn. That should streamline the info in a better way, and perhaps even allowing you for adding more info, but just not competing in visibility with more important data. And that kind of thing helps even when you're used to the layout.
This indeed might be nice, however I need some more specific hints, or perhaps altered screenshots.

Probably related to the use of my own planner I miss the damage for each weapon each weapon or group of weapons (like 4xML --> 100 dmg) not being show, although perhaps not practical with your layout, not sure about how to deal with it without messing a lot.
Seems you've missed from Mech Designer user's manual:
Mech Designer user's manual said:
Middle mouse button is used to disable/enable equipment. Disabled equipment is not used for calculations for jump jets, heat generation and dissipation, damage, ammunition count etc. The function is used to test during design process what influence an equipment piece has without constant adding and removing stuff. There are also two shortcut buttons whose enable/disable all weapons, just for convenience.
As you can see, you can do it by disabling all weapons, except these you're interested in. You can also check ex. how well it'll behave it you'll lose a torso with 3xDHS etc., and all just by simple middle mouse click.
 

Doctor Machete

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Just checked documentation, and indeed, it is not mentioned that add new equipment window has an option to switch into floating mode. Good catch!
Anyway, look for green balloon icon in top-right corner of the window to enable floating mode. It is still linked to the same mech, and you need to click on mech's parts to move where the new stuff will be inserted, but overall seems to be exactly you needed.
Yep, I didn't see that xDDD. As I said I've only spent a few minutes with it (and didn't read the manual, as I bet most users neither do). I'd make it default and use the center as extra space, for example for the most relevant stats.

Hmmm...both new equipment window, and weapons already equipped can have their variant changed by simple right mouse button click, and pick from context menu. Besides, new equipment window stores selected variant, so after closing it the desired ++ variant will still be presented - so I see little sense in implementing such feature.
That's another thing I didn't realize, modifying the weapon in the weapon panel. Not the same as favorites but good enough. Probably better for your layout than adding an extra setup screen.

Switch variant after mech is generated is in fact creation of a completely new mech. Besides, while designing a mech, say Hunchback 4P, I see no reason why suddenly I'd like to change it to Hunchback 4G. But let's say I got a stroke of genius about loadout fof HBK-4G - still alternating current HBK-4P makes no sense while I can open "New Mech" option, that dialog keeps tree state from last use so Hunchback branch will be expanded providing fast, direct and convienient access to other HBK variants. What's more, multi mech windows designs allows me to put another mech onto drawing board without disturbing designing of original HBK-4P. And for the last - thanks to be able to have both HBKs design windows allows me to compare them in real time.
So in short - too much clutter for no real gain.
Perhaps it's only me, but many times I don't say "I'm going to build a Hunchback 4P" but "I want a medium brawler", not a specific mech but a role in mind. And then I switch between different mech/variant which could work with that idea. It's much faster than going to the New Mech process, even better if you also add a duplicate setup button on top of that.

That sounds interesting. However, I see it rather similar way like text editors, developing IDE behave - under "File", in Mech Designer case it's "Main", it'd a section for recently used files. Also, there isn't anything against to have both of them, Favorities + Recent here.
Thanks Doc Machete, that's something will appear in a form in future release of Mech Designer.
That's not the same as a recent list. Being able to open specific setups with just one click, and they are always visible so you always know what favorites you have (like in a status bar or perhaps another floating window independent from all mech setup windows). Kinda always visible bookmarks in web browsers, very different from last visited.

That Scatter/Focused damage is very important information once you'll understand what these terms mean - hovering a mouse pointer over them till tooltip will pop up will help. 6ML + 6SL will scatter a lot, true, but if used with Precision Strike by a skilled pilot there are actually high chances all of these lasers will hit the same spot. For missile type weapons and machineguns, due to their nature, that is unlikely. And that's why I introduced Focused and Scatter damage info label, and won't forsake it.
Yeah, but if you don't Precision Strike then the 6ML 6SL will scatter more than a 4LRM20. Those 12 energy hits will go all around the place while the missiles will cluster around only four locations. Still some spread but you'll get more focused damage on the first missile hit locations. Don't forget that LRMs work very differently than SRMs or MGs. And even with these (specifically the dmg SRMs the difference with SLs is not that great). For example, each ML/SL will have a 20% of landing at the CT, but if the first missile of a LRM weapon lands at it, all following missiles will have a 45% to hit it, if the first missile lands at a leg, subsequent missiles will have a 36% of hitting it, instead of a 10%. And also the adjacent locations will have increased chances while all the rest outside the cluster will a reduced percentage.

I admit these would be nice, and was even planned at early stages of development, where all heat, damage etc info were going to be placed where "Tags and Description" is now residing. In current layout though I have no space to add such data, and I don't like to enlarge design window - but maybe in tooltip for Alpha Damage? We'll see.
However, I'm working on extending add new equipment window, and equipment tooltip below "Ammunition stock and comsumption" to add information about ranges.
You could add a toggable sticky window for extra info that you could hide or show. So you keep in the main window only the info you consider most important.

This indeed might be nice, however I need some more specific hints, or perhaps altered screenshots.
There is no magic solution, but for example I don't think any DFA, heat damage and more stats should have the same visibility as other info like alpha damage. It may require some experimentation and more than one take to see how looks better. And looking nice and tidy is important once you're sure it works, don't underestimate it. Even if it's only for your own use (which is not the case).

And I'd say it can be far more important than the features themselves, if you want the app to be more popular. I don't have a lot of experience but for example I've been very involved in android skins modding scene using apps like uccw, klwp and tasker, and when intervening in forums I realized that my very complex feature rich setups mostly passed unnoticed (besides my last one, but that had a lot of cool animations and effects without being cluttered). Then one day I made a minimal one in half an hour to make a point in a separate discussion but posted in the scene and gained a lot of attention, much more than what I was used to. And it was super simple, very cool imo but a barebones really.

As I see it, the challenge is not getting the people to download the app (mostly because you have no competition) but to keep them using the app, and often. And for that the UI makes wonders. A pretty UI helps a lot, a nice streamlined way to do things makes wonders. If it's not funny and fast to do things most people only will use it when they think they have to; when could open it just because are a bit bored and it's funny open and close builds, moving from one setup to another in a seamless way.
The one-click list of favorites from the main global window I think it's a good step for that, and another smaller idea would be just adding a few builds as default favorites, which you can later delete and/or replace for your own. So for example, a noobie with only a few hours of play download the app, open it, and now see the usual but also with a floating (or fixed window/panel) with a list of predefined setups name like "Medium LRM boat", "Medium mech brawler", "Advanced medium mech brawler", "Light skirmisher", ... so they can get a feel of what a custom loadout is. And this, having a few predefined custom setups, I think is a must have for your app, favorites or not.

As you can see, you can do it by disabling all weapons, except these you're interested in. You can also check ex. how well it'll behave it you'll lose a torso with 3xDHS etc., and all just by simple middle mouse click.
Yeah, I know. But having to do that is annoying from my perspective, as I'm used to know at a glance what (approximate) percentage of the damage comes from what weapons without having to do anything.
 

ronhatch

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  • Now, if you don't mind to add more info to the clutter that I think may be useful, it could be showing damage per range, like 90m -> 75 dmg, 270m -> 200 dmg, 360m -> 50 dmg. Personally I wouldn't add it, though. If you're into mech planning then you should have an approximate idea of the weapon ranges.
I strongly suspect that a histogram showing damage by range would be useful information and simple enough to understand intuitively. You could also show the effect of high Guts on minimum range by using more than one color, I'd think.

I've wanted to make some mock-ups for a long time, but it's just not a very high priority.
 

MasterBLB

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Perhaps it's only me, but many times I don't say "I'm going to build a Hunchback 4P" but "I want a medium brawler", not a specific mech but a role in mind. And then I switch between different mech/variant which could work with that idea. It's much faster than going to the New Mech process, even better if you also add a duplicate setup button on top of that.
Morphing one mech into another is overcomplicated, and won;t be introduced. However, I reconsider old, abandoned feature of the New Mech dialog - ability to select and create multiple stock mechs at once.
By the way - duplicate button exists since early alpha stage, and was one of key features I wished my application will have. Look for "Clone" button.

That's not the same as a recent list. Being able to open specific setups with just one click, and they are always visible so you always know what favorites you have (like in a status bar or perhaps another floating window independent from all mech setup windows). Kinda always visible bookmarks in web browsers, very different from last visited.
While recently loaded designs makes a sense, favorites in such way not much:
1st, I'm using Windows system dialog for opening file, which presents globally set favorite locations on the left.
2nd, since 0.75 I added association of *.mechDesign files with Mech Designer, so you can create shortcuts to your favorite loadouts on desktop, and open them by double click, even without need of starting the application.
So I see this rather as redundant duplication of already existing system features.

Yeah, but if you don't Precision Strike then the 6ML 6SL will scatter more than a 4LRM20. Those 12 energy hits will go all around the place while the missiles will cluster around only four locations. Still some spread but you'll get more focused damage on the first missile hit locations. Don't forget that LRMs work very differently than SRMs or MGs. And even with these (specifically the dmg SRMs the difference with SLs is not that great). For example, each ML/SL will have a 20% of landing at the CT, but if the first missile of a LRM weapon lands at it, all following missiles will have a 45% to hit it, if the first missile lands at a leg, subsequent missiles will have a 36% of hitting it, instead of a 10%. And also the adjacent locations will have increased chances while all the rest outside the cluster will a reduced percentage.
The tooltip for Focused and Scattered damage deliberately mentions Precision Strike, and likeness to deal all of the listed damage in a single spot when using Precision Strike. Without considering Precision Strike actually only Alpha matters. All 3 types Alpha + Focused + Scattered give full spectrum of useful information how the damage is dealt for current setup, and I won't remove any of them.

You could add a toggable sticky window for extra info that you could hide or show. So you keep in the main window only the info you consider most important.
I strongly suspect that a histogram showing damage by range would be useful information and simple enough to understand intuitively. You could also show the effect of high Guts on minimum range by using more than one color, I'd think.
Yes, at very least I will ponder about this topic how such information can be presented.

There is no magic solution, but for example I don't think any DFA, heat damage and more stats should have the same visibility as other info like alpha damage. It may require some experimentation and more than one take to see how looks better. And looking nice and tidy is important once you're sure it works, don't underestimate it. Even if it's only for your own use (which is not the case).
For You DFA is not important, but imagine someone is designing a mech for such type of combat. That person rather won't be happy if ex. I would make font size for DFA 3x smaller. However, I agree some damage informations are more important than others, and it is reflected by order - on the top the most important, on the bottom the less. I also need to ensure all the info can be read without issues.
So in short, it rather won't change for now. Later, when skins will be introduced, there might appear different colors for labels.

And I'd say it can be far more important than the features themselves, if you want the app to be more popular. I don't have a lot of experience but for example I've been very involved in android skins modding scene using apps like uccw, klwp and tasker, and when intervening in forums I realized that my very complex feature rich setups mostly passed unnoticed (besides my last one, but that had a lot of cool animations and effects without being cluttered). Then one day I made a minimal one in half an hour to make a point in a separate discussion but posted in the scene and gained a lot of attention, much more than what I was used to. And it was super simple, very cool imo but a barebones really.
As I see it, the challenge is not getting the people to download the app (mostly because you have no competition) but to keep them using the app, and often. And for that the UI makes wonders. A pretty UI helps a lot, a nice streamlined way to do things makes wonders. If it's not funny and fast to do things most people only will use it when they think they have to; when could open it just because are a bit bored and it's funny open and close builds, moving from one setup to another in a seamless way.
A final 1.0 release of Mech Designer is going to have kind of skin engine, with and API for users to create their own ones - here is an example how it might affect overall GUI look'n'feel. A loong way to that point, though, and the fact I'm a good programmer, but poor graphic designer won't help either.
And from the feedback I got so far from my betatesters @Amechwarrior, @XTRMNTR2K , and later from @Xeryx they use Mech Designer not for fancy graphics, but because of ability to validate and properly save custom *.jsons, ability to design a whole opposite forces lance simultaneously for a flashpoint, and quickly prepare many different, custom stock loadouts for mechs. And all of that with modded weapons and equipment (as long as it is placed in usual location, that is)

(...)another smaller idea would be just adding a few builds as default favorites, which you can later delete and/or replace for your own. So for example, a noobie with only a few hours of play download the app, open it, and now see the usual but also with a floating (or fixed window/panel) with a list of predefined setups name like "Medium LRM boat", "Medium mech brawler", "Advanced medium mech brawler", "Light skirmisher", ... so they can get a feel of what a custom loadout is. And this, having a few predefined custom setups, I think is a must have for your app, favorites or not.
Hmmm...if somelike this will appear I see it as custom option in the installer in addition to current ones, named say "Example loadouts", and if chosen it will add subfolder called Examples in the <Mech Designer installation directory>, put several *.mechDesign files here, and alter setup.ini so 1st use of "Load mech" option will open that folder.
However, I doubt if it will make sense, and won't be out of scope a bit - the application is a drawing board for designers of loadouts, not a tutorial how to create a good mech. Nevertheless, this is another idea worth deeper consideration.
 

Doctor Machete

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Morphing one mech into another is overcomplicated, and won;t be introduced. However, I reconsider old, abandoned feature of the New Mech dialog - ability to select and create multiple stock mechs at once.
By the way - duplicate button exists since early alpha stage, and was one of key features I wished my application will have. Look for "Clone" button.
No problem. That only was a suggestion and I understand it may be not worth the effort.

While recently loaded designs makes a sense, favorites in such way not much:
1st, I'm using Windows system dialog for opening file, which presents globally set favorite locations on the left.
2nd, since 0.75 I added association of *.mechDesign files with Mech Designer, so you can create shortcuts to your favorite loadouts on desktop, and open them by double click, even without need of starting the application.
So I see this rather as redundant duplication of already existing system features.
Having the favorites always visible rather than having to bother in generating the shortcut in the desktop is a biggie IMO. As I said it's like having shortcuts always visible bellow the URL bar in the browser instead of having to launch webs from the recent list or from desktop shortcuts. The difference in usability is VERY big imo.

The tooltip for Focused and Scattered damage deliberately mentions Precision Strike, and likeness to deal all of the listed damage in a single spot when using Precision Strike. Without considering Precision Strike actually only Alpha matters. All 3 types Alpha + Focused + Scattered give full spectrum of useful information how the damage is dealt for current setup, and I won't remove any of them.
We'll have to disagree here XDD. I don't think it's useful and can be very misleading. Because SRMs definitely scatter a lot by default (in fact much more than LRMs), but they can do massive focused damage precisely when using Precision Shot. As an example no builds have better chances for headcapping than massed small weapons with PS, and that's a typical scenario where focused damage is of utter most importance.

When you build a 6xML++ and 4xSRM6+++ setup for the purpose of headcapping with Precision Shot the whole point is about getting the most amount of focused damage in the same low chance location, yet more than half damage is shown as being scatter damage. I think that's very wrong.

Also it's not true at all that without PS only alpha matters, and that's not the case even when only considering big hitters. A 2xAC20 and a 4xLL+++ both deal same total damage but it's not done in the same way. The dual AC20 will be much more likely to deal near max or no damage at all to a desired location, while the 4xLL+++ will be much more likely to do at least some damage to the location but much less likely to do max or no damage at all.

For You DFA is not important, but imagine someone is designing a mech for such type of combat. That person rather won't be happy if ex. I would make font size for DFA 3x smaller. However, I agree some damage informations are more important than others, and it is reflected by order - on the top the most important, on the bottom the less. I also need to ensure all the info can be read without issues.
So in short, it rather won't change for now. Later, when skins will be introduced, there might appear different colors for labels.
Someone designing a DFA setup will know for sure it is a very niche setup and I don't think he will care, provided the info is available when he needs it, and I bet most of his builds also won't be DFA based. I don't think you can make a good case for the DFA info being of equal importance as heat or alpha damage. The order is not enough, not by a long mile IMO because at a glance you don't necessarily know that the importance is the criteria, you just see a list in an alphabetical way or with no specific order.

In fact it gives the impression that no particular info is very relevant at all, because not only they all have same sizes, styles, they're also packed together, with no separation or grouping for different kinds of info.

Playing with font sizes, position and effects make it clear which data is more relevant more often. And allow you to read it faster, which is nicer for the user.

If you look into thousands of apps you'll see that most of them (the most successful ones) unless they have a huge feature advantage over the competitors (and even then) tend to manage super carefully these kind of things, not only font sizes but styles, position (some positions are super high value because they're far easier to reach, for example), effects added and so on. Choosing between the exact palette of colors or the precise shape for prompt confirmation buttons can take a very long time. Of course that's the extreme, but I'm trying to make the point that it matters and in many cases lots of money and effort is employed into refining the UI. I don't say this must be the case as well, that it should be the absolute priority, only that it is important how you do present the available info, and that should be a hierarchy with some data having more importance than other or at least presented in a different way.

For the skin capability IMO is an error to implement it before a better layout is achieved. Unless the skin system is highly configurable, in which case the default layout could also be a skin itself and later be modified as well.

A final 1.0 release of Mech Designer is going to have kind of skin engine, with and API for users to create their own ones - here is an example how it might affect overall GUI look'n'feel. A loong way to that point, though, and the fact I'm a good programmer, but poor graphic designer won't help either.
And from the feedback I got so far from my betatesters @Amechwarrior, @XTRMNTR2K , and later from @Xeryx they use Mech Designer not for fancy graphics, but because of ability to validate and properly save custom *.jsons, ability to design a whole opposite forces lance simultaneously for a flashpoint, and quickly prepare many different, custom stock loadouts for mechs. And all of that with modded weapons and equipment (as long as it is placed in usual location, that is)
I'm also no designer and my understanding is a very basic one, but I have a bit of amateur experience and I'd like to think I have not bad taste. And IMO if you want the app to be much more regularly used by non hardcore players and more popular then you'll have to put effort into the UI. Because it matters, and really a lot. And remember I'm not so much into using vs not using the app (as I said there is no competition if you want a mech builder) but more into getting the app to be used more often. A nicer looking and more streamlined UI which allows you to do the same more easily and with a better flow will encourage you to use the app more, because it's more fun to use it, to play with it, even when you have not an specific purpose in mind.

Now, if your goal is as a tool just for the most hardcore players then that's fine too, just be aware of it. But they'll care too about the UI, not nearly as much as the regular Joe but they'll do in some degree even if they're not vocal. Because everybody cares, knowingly or not.

Hmmm...if somelike this will appear I see it as custom option in the installer in addition to current ones, named say "Example loadouts", and if chosen it will add subfolder called Examples in the <Mech Designer installation directory>, put several *.mechDesign files here, and alter setup.ini so 1st use of "Load mech" option will open that folder.
However, I doubt if it will make sense, and won't be out of scope a bit - the application is a drawing board for designers of loadouts, not a tutorial how to create a good mech. Nevertheless, this is another idea worth deeper consideration.
The idea for that was not as a tutorial but for a newcomer to get a feel of some custom setup archetypes, like a couple snipers, a few brawlers (with different weights), and so on. They don't need to be minmaxed but just to be half-decent and use some unusual equipment like weapon variants, TEX, arm mods, rangefinders...
 

MasterBLB

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We'll have to disagree here XDD. I don't think it's useful and can be very misleading. Because SRMs definitely scatter a lot by default (in fact much more than LRMs), but they can do massive focused damage precisely when using Precision Shot. As an example no builds have better chances for headcapping than massed small weapons with PS, and that's a typical scenario where focused damage is of utter most importance.

When you build a 6xML++ and 4xSRM6+++ setup for the purpose of headcapping with Precision Shot the whole point is about getting the most amount of focused damage in the same low chance location, yet more than half damage is shown as being scatter damage. I think that's very wrong.

Also it's not true at all that without PS only alpha matters, and that's not the case even when only considering big hitters. A 2xAC20 and a 4xLL+++ both deal same total damage but it's not done in the same way. The dual AC20 will be much more likely to deal near max or no damage at all to a desired location, while the 4xLL+++ will be much more likely to do at least some damage to the location but much less likely to do max or no damage at all.
You still don't understand - Focused/Scatter labels are not about damage, but probability that ALL potential hits will hit the same spot. To get the idea, take such Centurion for test:
CN9-A Focused vs Scatter.png
and use Precision Strike to hit a component other than head using only one of installed weapon systems (laser, SRM, LRM, or machine guns), then report back how many times in case of weapons whose shot in salvo all of the projectiles hit the chosen location, without spread to nearby ones. Damn, you're the author of "Mechanics of Called Shot and Clustering" thread, so you should know how it works.

Someone designing a DFA setup will know for sure it is a very niche setup and I don't think he will care, provided the info is available when he needs it, and I bet most of his builds also won't be DFA based. I don't think you can make a good case for the DFA info being of equal importance as heat or alpha damage. The order is not enough, not by a long mile IMO because at a glance you don't necessarily know that the importance is the criteria, you just see a list in an alphabetical way or with no specific order.

In fact it gives the impression that no particular info is very relevant at all, because not only they all have same sizes, styles, they're also packed together, with no separation or grouping for different kinds of info.

Playing with font sizes, position and effects make it clear which data is more relevant more often. And allow you to read it faster, which is nicer for the user.

If you look into thousands of apps you'll see that most of them (the most successful ones) unless they have a huge feature advantage over the competitors (and even then) tend to manage super carefully these kind of things, not only font sizes but styles, position (some positions are super high value because they're far easier to reach, for example), effects added and so on. Choosing between the exact palette of colors or the precise shape for prompt confirmation buttons can take a very long time. Of course that's the extreme, but I'm trying to make the point that it matters and in many cases lots of money and effort is employed into refining the UI. I don't say this must be the case as well, that it should be the absolute priority, only that it is important how you do present the available info, and that should be a hierarchy with some data having more importance than other or at least presented in a different way.

For the skin capability IMO is an error to implement it before a better layout is achieved. Unless the skin system is highly configurable, in which case the default layout could also be a skin itself and later be modified as well.
Mate, I don't negate that pretty GUI is very important. I simply don't have graphics skill to create one, and till I get few thousands $ from donations I can't order it from a professional graphics designer. What I could do is to ensure that Mech Designer uses correct, default system style, so it won't look worse than usual windows seen every day, and also some fancy styles like Aero Glass, or what someone uses, are also handled.

Things like custom font sizes and colors for labels however are great candidates to be placed in options, so everyone could set them to his/her like. Hmmm, I think I got first idea what put in the unimplemented so far "Options" from "Main"...

The idea for that was not as a tutorial but for a newcomer to get a feel of some custom setup archetypes, like a couple snipers, a few brawlers (with different weights), and so on. They don't need to be minmaxed but just to be half-decent and use some unusual equipment like weapon variants, TEX, arm mods, rangefinders...
I think a total newcomer just plays the game, with better or worse result. Then, after getting some familiarity with Battletech he/she starts to search forums/reddit etc. for hints about mechs, and perhaps asks question about a mechlab application - if he/she does, will be pointed into my thread. But Mech Designer not only allows to design and test loadouts, but also share them by saving to file, and "Screenshot" option. I expect the community will use these given tools to share ideas among them.
 

Doctor Machete

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You still don't understand - Focused/Scatter labels are not about damage, but probability that ALL potential hits will hit the same spot. To get the idea, take such Centurion for test:
View attachment 497452
and use Precision Strike to hit a component other than head using only one of installed weapon systems (laser, SRM, LRM, or machine guns), then report back how many times in case of weapons whose shot in salvo all of the projectiles hit the chosen location, without spread to nearby ones. Damn, you're the author of "Mechanics of Called Shot and Clustering" thread, so you should know how it works.
How can you say that? it is about damage. It literally says "Focused damage". You're not showing chance numbers, not probability but damage. And even by your definition, unless you use only one single hit weapon there is always a chance some of the damage will land at the aimed spot and some part won't, technically always there's some potential spread when using more than one weapon.

For example, you have more chances to land all 16 damage from the SRM2 damage at the same spot than all the LLs 160 dmg. The LLs actually will spread more.

And as I said before it's shocking to me that a mech specialized in head/leg/whatever capping using PS will be shown as having much lower Focused damage than a dual Gauss, when the second deal much lower focused damage and it's much worse to headcap or blow legs.

Mate, I don't negate that pretty GUI is very important. I simply don't have graphics skill to create one, and till I get few thousands $ from donations I can't order it from a professional graphics designer. What I could do is to ensure that Mech Designer uses correct, default system style, so it won't look worse than usual windows seen every day, and also some fancy styles like Aero Glass, or what someone uses, are also handled.

Things like custom font sizes and colors for labels however are great candidates to be placed in options, so everyone could set them to his/her like. Hmmm, I think I got first idea what put in the unimplemented so far "Options" from "Main"...
But you don't need to be an expert. I already said I'm also not one. But that doesn't mean you can't improve it a lot. The results probably won't be as good as the job from a professional and for sure it will take you a lot more time, but it can be done to work better.

Just to try to show what I mean by groups of information, font sizes, ...:
If you were a pro designer you'll have instantly a bunch of ideas of what to do with it to make it well. Because you aren't you'll have to experiment, just like I did. This setup I don't think it would work well for and independent app, too colorful and I'm being limited by the spreadsheet capabilities, but I think you can get the idea.


A couple examples of what can be done by a total amateur:

This is the über simple theme I mentioned which took me half an hour, including the icons, which were modified from standard ones using a third app on the go. In the version with icons, those are random chosen and meant to show and hide depending on manual/automatic activation.

On the other side this other took me a very very long time, hard to say how much because part of it is incremental from other setups I've done, but the animation part was almost new for me. For a pro for sure it would have taken a very small fraction of the time. And there are a LOT of features not shown in the video due to not being easy to record (automation related).


That's the thing, you don't have to do it all at once, not being a designer. You can try experimenting a bit, let rest a couple days to look at it with fresh eyes, try a couple new mockups, search the web for some ideas you can incorporate into your design..., and so on. Until you click with one idea that looks and feels very nice, even if it's not perfect. You don't need to focus entirely on the design, just work a bit on it, one step at a time. And it can be a funny process in itself.

I think a total newcomer just plays the game, with better or worse result. Then, after getting some familiarity with Battletech he/she starts to search forums/reddit etc. for hints about mechs, and perhaps asks question about a mechlab application - if he/she does, will be pointed into my thread. But Mech Designer not only allows to design and test loadouts, but also share them by saving to file, and "Screenshot" option. I expect the community will use these given tools to share ideas among them.
Sure, not saying that's absolutely necessary, but I don't think it would take much time. What I say is mostly about streamlining the app, to make it the easiest and funniest possible to use. The less steps for doing anything the better (provided it's still easy to do that). If you see a link just because you were searching in google, download the app and already see a list of prebuilt custom mechs, that's better.
 

MasterBLB

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Maybe other way:
1) Focused damage = sum of damage from all weapons whose deal all listed damage in one shot, like lasers and autocannons.
2) Scatter damage = sum of damage from all weapons whose deal listed damage in few shots - missiles and machine gun.
3) Due to nature of scatter damage weapons it's very unlikely when used with Precision Shot that all salvo will hit the chosen spot, opposite to single-shot weapons.
So for me such information is perfectly fine and helpful, but propose something else instead of trying to make me change my mind about how focused/scattered should be understood. Something else assuming I will drop Focused/Scatter Damage, and will have 2 free labels to use for something.

About GUI:
Well, such set of icons is beyond my skill :/ Speaking about GUI, I'm more interested in the screenshot you've provided, as it looks unsettling.
1st, equipment in right arm seems to have incorrect position, like it'd be drawn too far to the left
2nd, pilot's piloting bonus combobox shall not clip the text 'none'
3rd, looks like you have CombatGameConstants.json bug when starting Mech Designer, and I can see that because there are no internal heatsinks cooling included. Fix is easy, just download corrected by my CombatGameConstants and Panther from the post with download link, and replace the broken files.
A hint for the future - use "Screenshot" button for the next time, it'll make a nice photo of the whole design, without need of using 3rd parties like Snipping Tool.

About example loadouts:
As I said I can easily add such examples to the installer, however the problem is these examples needs to be created. Would you like to make some, and provide them?
 

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@ DR. MACHETE
Actually the damage thing is not a big deal like you are making it. Mainly because the rules change with modding and of course modding has to be accounted for because the majority use it. We really only need to get a rough approximation of damages or hit%. When Custom ammo and custom weapons modes are involved everything else changes anyway.

I think mech designer does it's job just fine. It isn't meant to me a complete damage calculator. It would need to implement a far more advanced system that includes MANY more variables. Such as mods, and damage ranges, Much like Heavy Metal does. Plus, it would have to now account for CAC ammo, which a majority of mods now use.

But your argument about Melee and DFA only applies to you! not everyone else! Those elements are very important in my mod!

BTW MB&B I am still having issues with saves being recognized as being completed. I have reinstalled and even to a new directory. Any ideas? maybe the registry settings?
 
Last edited:

MasterBLB

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BTW MB&B I am still having issues with saves being recognized as being completed. I have reinstalled and even to a new directory. Any ideas? maybe the registry settings?
Well, the most important - create a bug report thread here, and remember the guide. Without exact step by step what you've done I won't be able to help :/
 

Doctor Machete

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Maybe other way:
1) Focused damage = sum of damage from all weapons whose deal all listed damage in one shot, like lasers and autocannons.
2) Scatter damage = sum of damage from all weapons whose deal listed damage in few shots - missiles and machine gun.
3) Due to nature of scatter damage weapons it's very unlikely when used with Precision Shot that all salvo will hit the chosen spot, opposite to single-shot weapons.
So for me such information is perfectly fine and helpful, but propose something else instead of trying to make me change my mind about how focused/scattered should be understood. Something else assuming I will drop Focused/Scatter Damage, and will have 2 free labels to use for something.
3) is misleading, because while true also suggests there is no downside to it, that's the hidden assumption. Also seems to imply that dealing "only" some damage to the aimed location is mostly worthless. The fact is that while certainly a big hitter setup has much higher chances of dealing all the damage to the aimed spot, also it's true that it has much higher chances to deal no damage at all at that spot, or to do a lot less damage just because one of the weapons missed the mark. It's far more unreliable at hitting specific locations and much worse when you want to follow up with a second salvo (from the same or different mech).

You don't get a medal for only hitting the aimed location, I don't understand why do you care if exactly all or not all the hits are landing. And don't forget PS helps multi hitters (and small single-hit weapons) way more than big hitters.

So the new definition, while I think it's a bit more consistent and less arbitrary still suffers from the same problem: 1xSRM2, 2 total hits = scatter damage and 4xLL 4 total hits = focused damage?. Sure, the number of the second comes from four single hit weapons but it is a number representing 4 hits vs 2 of the SRM2. Also it gives the idea that it matters where the damage comes from when (in principle) it doesn't. It's how likely are you to put X damage into Y location (with certain chance) and needing Z damage to do it what is really important. And that's a much more complex problem to solve than just adding up damage from single hit weapons on one side and multi-hit on the other for two final numbers. And on top of that, single hit weapons vary spectacularly in damage potential plus some can be easily massed and others can't. In fact I'd say that a SRM+++ (12 dmg per missile) has more in common with a ML (25 dmg) than with a AC20+++ (120 dmg). One has multihit and the other doesn't but both deal the damage in small chunks and you can deliver a lot of hits with both kind of weapons but you can't with AC20s. Also this concept ignores damaging a certain location may help securing a second salvo in a very high degree. If you fire 2xAC20 aiming at the head you have 67% of not landing any of the AC20s, and if that happens the follow up salvo will have to start from scratch. A 8xML (or the equivalent in missiles), even if it doesn't get the kill it's likely will do some damage, and the follow up salvo will have a much easier time.

About GUI:
Well, such set of icons is beyond my skill :/ Speaking about GUI, I'm more interested in the screenshot you've provided, as it looks unsettling.
1st, equipment in right arm seems to have incorrect position, like it'd be drawn too far to the left
2nd, pilot's piloting bonus combobox shall not clip the text 'none'
3rd, looks like you have CombatGameConstants.json bug when starting Mech Designer, and I can see that because there are no internal heatsinks cooling included. Fix is easy, just download corrected by my CombatGameConstants and Panther from the post with download link, and replace the broken files.
A hint for the future - use "Screenshot" button for the next time, it'll make a nice photo of the whole design, without need of using 3rd parties like Snipping Tool.
Just in case I wasn't clear I didn't create the icons from scratch (I could probably do it but it would take me a very long time... each one) but batch modified a preexisting iconset using a third app to add effects and then exported, that's why it took me so little time, which was the original point (being very easy-fast to make a minimal desktop theme). My point was that people respond to simple / clear designs, and also that not much skill is required if you're done a bit of research beforehand.

For the issues you see with my screenshot I haven't got deep into using the app, as the threat title says I'm (still) a non user. And I'm also used to utilize third party screenshot apps so I export the images in the format I want (and had to use it anyway for the other screenshots).

@ DR. MACHETE
Actually the damage thing is not a big deal like you are making it. Mainly because the rules change with modding and of course modding has to be accounted for because the majority use it. We really only need to get a rough approximation of damages or hit%. When Custom ammo and custom weapons modes are involved everything else changes anyway.
Sure, I also don't think that's such a big issue. It's just that I get I carried on when discussing this kind of things XDDD. My main point is that the main screen feels very bloated, whether you consider DFA/melee as having the same importance as alpha damage (or heat or armor) or not. And it's not so much about prettifying it (although it is to some extent) but mostly about making it easier to read, more organized.

I think mech designer does it's job just fine. It isn't meant to me a complete damage calculator. It would need to implement a far more advanced system that includes MANY more variables. Such as mods, and damage ranges, Much like Heavy Metal does. Plus, it would have to now account for CAC ammo, which a majority of mods now use.
My criticism of that specific issue wasn't not being detailed enough but misleading. Because it may be easy to think a build is bad having less "Focused" damage than other, when actually it may be a very specialized and super effective setup at just what the numbers say it's quite bad. If the app is not going to be a damage calculator, why include that kind of value?. If it doesn't conveys useful information in vanilla how do you expect to be the case when mods are involved (introducing more complexity)?. I'd just get rid of it.

But your argument about Melee and DFA only applies to you! not everyone else! Those elements are very important in my mod!
I haven't said it should not be shown, but are you telling me that DFA heat damage should have the same level of visibility than alpha/heat/JJ/weight, for example?. And that's not the only one. All of the info should be in groups, like one for melee, another for JJ, melee, heat, ...


The point of making this thread was that me not being a user of the app, and because I'm not invested on it, I have no qualms about telling what the bad things the app has IMO, things than that many users very into the app (like being betatesters or already heavy users) perhaps would never tell because they're happy with the features.