Development Updates Latest Topics Updates Latest Topicsen<![CDATA[Xenonauts 2 - Feedback & Priorities]]> 'll move this thread to the Xenonauts 2 discussion area once we open up those subforums, but I'll stick it here for now. This is the thread where I outline the issues that are on our radar right now and how we're intending to prioritise them, and also where the community can give their own feedback (which might make us aware of additional issues or make us rethink our priorities).

At the moment I think we should be concentrating on getting the game stable and the fundamental combat systems solid. It's easy enough to imagine extra content being added to a game that is in development, but when the core game systems are not functioning correctly it can give a pretty bad impression of the game. Therefore the feedback we're looking for from you guys would cover these areas:

  • Did you encounter any critical bugs that ended the playthrough?
  • How did the game perform on your machine? Were you getting noticeable slowdown in any areas, or did you experience bad framerate or bad loading times?
  • What issues (gameplay or graphical) did you encounter, and which ones had the strongest negative effect on your play experience?
  • Is there anywhere that the game balance seems so glaringly bad that it is ruining your play experience?

Other feedback is welcome too, but it'd be good if you could cover the points above. We've made a LOT of improvements to the game over the past couple of weeks but now we need to know where to focus our efforts in the coming weeks to make this mission as polished as possible for our "proper" free launch (the one where we promote it through every channel we can). We're expecting that to happen in two or three weeks.

Once we've fixed these key gameplay errors, we'll be adding new content like new enemies and randomised maps and suchlike. This means you'll probably have a pretty repetitive testing experience for the first few builds - for which I apologise - but it should lay good foundations for the rest of the project.

FUNDAMENTAL ISSUES (short-term focus):

  • Missing Animations - at the moment, units don't play an animation in response to being shot and they play their vault animation when climbing / jumping up or down the 1m terrain sections. This breaks the immersion pretty heavily so we'll be fixing both of these as a priority (we already have the animations, we've just not had a chance to set them up in the code yet).
  • Terrain & Elevation LOS / LOF - in X1 each level was 2m tall, and there was no other types of elevation - e.g. you could either be on the ground at 0m or on a roof or raised area of terrain at 2m or 4m and so on. In X2 each level is 3m tall but the ground of each level can be raised or lowered by 1m ... so even a map built entirely in level 1 can contain both 1m sunken river beds and 1m raised areas, both of which offer half cover along the edge. This will be great when it works correctly but we only implemented it last week and we're still suffering issues with the line of sight and line of fire as a result.
  • General Line of Fire Issues - there's a bunch of issues with the fire calculation and line of fire stuff that we need to fix up as a priority, including:
    • Line of fire seems overly permissive and is including quite a bit of cover that doesn't actually appear to be in the shot path
    • Cover only adjacent to the shooter is correctly being disregarded, but "miss" shots can still hit it
    • However this adjacent cover is not being disregarded for the target; i.e. if the shooter and target are standing on either side of a rock, the rock should not offer cover to the target ... looks like it currently is, though.
  • Crosshair - I'm aware that the crosshair is a bit jumpy when you are targeting aliens; it has multiple allowable positions and none are quite right. We need to rewrite the input system a bit and that should allow us to fix this.
  • Camera - the game camera is not working as intended yet. There's several areas we're specifically targeting:
    • If you target an alien and the selected Xenon is not visible, the camera should snap back to show the Xenonaut doing the shooting.
    • During the alien turn, the line of sight of your Xenonauts is not being shown.
    • When the aliens are shooting at your Xenonauts, the camera often doesn't seem to focus on the correct location.
  • Corpses - corpses are not being handled correctly; dead units still block the tile they were standing in when killed and they can still be targetted through the standard fire crosshair.


CONTENT IMPROVEMENT (medium-term focus):

  • Suppression / Morale - this is an important mechanic, as burst fire and the LMG are significantly less effective if they do not have a suppressive effect. Apparently the code for this has been implemented and should theoretically work, but I'm taking that with a pinch of salt and I'd expect it to take a number of days to get up to the standard needed for a public release. The nice thing about suppression in a 3D engine is we can model suppression in a more realistic way based on how close missed shots actually passed to the target, which means that suppression is more reflective of the action happening on your screen and also generates an effect where long-range fire tends to be less suppressive than the same burst at close range.
  • Secondary Equipment - at the moment we only have the weapons and armour in the game; we need to add in secondary equipment like grenades and medikits. Pistols are already in the game but aren't being used in this build.
  • Map Randomisation - anyone who played X1 on release can tell you that playing the same maps over and over quickly loses its appeal, and it was far worse during the development cycle as we only added the majority of the maps in the final six months. Randomised maps will help keep the experience fresh for playtesters, and we plan to do it by slicing up the map into standalone "sub-maps" that are 10x10 or 20x20 tiles and then assembling them randomly. I'm not sure this is a viable approach for our urban maps but it should be totally fine for our wilderness maps (hence why we're starting with them).
  • UFO Crash Site - deathmatch missions are fine, but sweeping a map and then clearing a UFO is trademark X-Com and tends to pace the mission quite nicely. We've actually got a small UFO modelled up and theoretically ready to go (concept / model), but we've not tested it in a level yet and I'll be amazed if adding it to the game as a playable environment is not a massive amount of work. These UFOs will still have indestructible hulls, but they have pre-defined "weak spots" which can either be undamaged or destroyed depending on how much damage the UFO took when being shot down, with destroyed weak spots providing alternative entry points (on the Probe they are the weapon pods on either side).
  • Soldier Loadout - you have a pre-set team in the current mission and that's not very exciting. In the strategy layer we'll be implementing a squad equipment limit, where you get a set number of equipment points per soldier on the mission and each item of equipment has a specific cost. Heavy armour costs more than light armour, powerful weapons like the sniper rifle or the LMG cost more than the basic rifle, and grenades and extra ammo also cost extra. However this is a collective squad limit, so you could tool up a couple of soldiers but then the rest would have to be more lightly equipped. Can your sniper get by without his pistol? Then you can give your shotgun guy an extra flashbang (/ heavier armour / whatever).
  • More Aliens - the Sebillians (concept 1 / concept 2) are being modeled up as we speak, so hopefully we can have them in the game in a few weeks. As you can probably tell we've tried to make the aliens a bit less generic this time round; they've got more variation in terms of proportions and design now.
  • Editors - we're not releasing the game editor or map editor etc right now (we're focused on fixing up the ground combat right now), but they are in decent shape and we'll be doing that sooner rather than later.

So that's our roadmap. It's notoriously difficult to estimate how long things will take, but a rough guess might be that the fundamental fixes are another couple of weeks of work and the content improvement stuff would be for the couple of months after that.

Please give your feedback on the current build and your thoughts on our plans in this thread. We may revise our plans based on what issues appear in the first build and what the community reaction is to it (no promises though!)

13498Mon, 24 Oct 2016 16:13:41 +0000
Xenonauts 2 - Public Build Date Set The first Xenonauts public build will be arriving on Monday 24th October and will be completely free to anyone that wants to try it. The game is still too incomplete for us to consider a paid release, but we want as many people generating ideas / feedback and reporting bugs as possible. We'll therefore be making the first few builds free.

However, we will also make optional pre-orders for Xenonauts 2 available at the same time. This is purely for people who know they want to support the project, as they won't initially confer any extra benefit - but they will automatically convert into a Steam or GOG key for the game when we transition into paid Early Access later in development. We're planning to charge $24.99 for the game during development and then $29.99 once the game is finished and released.

The first build will be a simple test build - a combat mission between eight Xenonauts with basic armour and the starting weapons from X1 (shotguns, rifles, sniper rifle, LMG) and roughly six Psyons (formerly Caesans). The battle map will be an outdoor forest map with no UFO; it'll just be a straightforward deathmatch between the two sides. There will be strong similarities with Xenonauts 1 in the first build, which is intentional - we want to reassure people that we're not planning to dumb things down for X2 despite moving to 3D, and because assets from X1 make excellent placeholders until we create the new X2 assets to replace them. That said, the sequel is not simply a remake of Xenonauts 1 in 3D ... we just want to make a fun and playable foundation for the game based on the first game before we start changing things up. After all, it's much easier to test a new or altered mechanic if it is embedded in a working game and you are able give it a proper playtest.

The build that comes out on the 24th is going to be a "soft" launch for us. We'll be releasing the first Xenonauts 2 build and unveiling a new website for the game, but we're not actively promoting it via Twitter or by contacting journalists or by messaging our mailing list / Kickstarter backers. This is because the initial release of any piece of software almost invariably reveals huge numbers of bugs and issues that the developers were completely unaware of, and we'd like to do a small release to our existing community to identify and fix the biggest issues before we then announce things more widely and try and expand the community.

We have the first week after the build releases set aside for bugfixes, so we're planning to release updates until the 31st that are just bugfix patches and then do our wider announcement on the game on that date. If you've found this information organically by reading our forums / from the Xenonauts 1 launcher RSS panel / from friends / whatever then please help us out by being part of the first wave of testers (and if you're a game journalist, please hold your coverage until the 31st). Similarly, if you encounter any issues with the new website when we unveil it then please report it to us.

If all goes well, we're planning to release a decent chunk of new content for the project every two weeks - we're intentionally holding some back from the initial builds for this reason. This means that in theory there should be a second build of the game with new content available to play on the 7th November (although we may find a fortnightly release schedule a bit of a struggle over the long term), a week after the large-scale public release. We'll continue this pattern of public iteration until we feel that we have a project developed enough for an Early Access launch, at which point we'll likely do a quick Kickstarter and then launch on Steam as a paid-only project.

I'm personally very keen to get the game out into the hands of the community, even if it is still quite rough at this stage. I'll release more on this forum as details firm up, so stay tuned for updates and make sure you come back and visit on the 24th! :)

P.S. - As always, if you want to stay informed about our plans, please sign up to the Goldhawk Mailing List here. We're going to start using it very soon!

13444Thu, 29 Sep 2016 14:12:15 +0000
Xenonauts 2 - September Update Apologies for being quiet for the last few weeks; this post is going to explain what we've been up to recently. I'll also explain when we'll be making the first version of Xenonauts 2 available to play and when you can first buy the game.

Strategy Layer:
I've spent quite some time talking about our new strategy design in my previous posts (the one with the defensive lines etc), but having implemented it and given it a decent playtest I've decided to drop it. Most people won't care about the reasons why, but if you do then there's an explanation in the spoiler tag below.


The idea involved a "defensive line" of AI-controlled local forces and a "timeline" of alien units marching to attack it. The player could use their aircraft to shoot down UFOs spawned on the timeline (creating a crash site) or use their Xenonauts to attack any of the alien units on the timeline, triggering a ground combat mission. The problem was that the player could only knock out a single alien unit per mission, which was not enough to turn the tide if the player was behind strategically and facing numerous powerful alien units. The reverse situation was also problematic, as if the strategic situation was good the player would not need to do any ground combat missions. These turned out to be fundamental issues that (for various reasons) I couldn't solve without a major rework of the design.

The replacement is a reversion to something much more like the strategy layer in the first Xenonauts. Although we've made quite a few changes to the way it plays, the Geoscape is still recognisably the Geoscape. I'll explain in detail the effects of the changes at a later date, but the overall theme is giving the player more strategic options and making each playthrough of the game less repetitive. 

There's a few fundamental changes which we're unlikely to revert (Geoscape is now turn-based, you now build directly in regions rather than via bases) but we now have the freedom to change as much or as little about the Xenonauts 1 strategic design as we want. The risk with fundamentally changing the strategy layer was that we couldn't just revert to familiar stuff from X1 if it turned out our new ideas weren't as much fun to play as the first game, whereas now we know the worst that can happen is that we'll end up with a strategy layer equal to that of the original Xenonauts.

We finished implementing the basic blocks today (geoscape, research, regions and relations, regional outposts, UFO attacks, etc) but there's still quite a bit to go. The priority is to make something playable and hook it up to the ground combat as soon as possible; our initial plan is just to mirror much of the early Xenonauts 1 gameplay / alien activity / research tree and then see how our new mechanics mix things up and go from there.

Ground Combat:
We've been producing an outdoor mission for playtesting over the past couple of weeks. The idea is to test the concepts behind our new level / sub-map editor combination, and then experiment with palette swapping (more on that below), but it has also led to us sharpening up the combat.

At this point, almost all of the game logic is in place for the ground combat - it's only really the morale and suppression system (now calculated in 3D space) that need to be implemented. This doesn't mean the combat is finished, though, as there's still large amounts of assets and animations and visual effects to be added. All the code to support those also has to be added - which is probably more code than the actual game logic was! Still, we're not far from being able to play out a recreated Xenonauts 1 mission like it would play in the original game, just with shonkier graphics. 

The game tools are the Level Editor, Game Editor and Translation Editor. The Translation Editor should only be a couple of weeks of work but we've not started it yet, as it's a lower priority compared to the other two. The Game Editor is a visual editor that lets you create and edit the stats of the game assets (weapons, aliens, etc) and is coming along well, but is currently limited to the ground combat stuff. In the next couple of weeks we expect to have all of the weapon and combatant properties editable and feeding through into the ground combat missions. It's pretty cool stuff for modders, as it automatically integrates the V1.5 / X:CE mod management system into the mod and also allows a bunch of extra properties (e.g. you can set a weapon to have multiple ammo types with different properties).

The Level Editor is a pretty serious piece of kit these days but still has a way to go. We still need to add in the functionality to paint raised areas in the game (both the 1m tall raised areas that offer half-cover around the edges, and full 3m tall cliffs) but once that is in I think we'll have all the gameplay basics done. However there's still a lot of work to be done on the procedural generation side of things - at the moment we're creating levels as a single big map, but we want to split them down into little sub-maps that can be assembled together to create larger maps. We can (eventually) make much better use of this system in 3D than we could in 2D Xenonauts 1, so expect a higher amount of map randomisation this time round. We're also planning biome-based palette swapping - e.g. a few clicks can turn a jungle map into an arctic map / desert map / whatever.

Release & Sale:
We were initially planning to have our Kickstarter as the first opportunity to buy Xenonauts 2, but the plan is now to start releasing free builds of the game in about a month on GOG Galaxy. Anyone who wants to buy the game will be able to pre-order it immediately, but initially won't get anything extra for doing so. We will spend an unspecified amount of time putting out free builds, then we'll do a Kickstarter and ideally launch on Steam Early Access after that. Once we're on Steam, the free builds will disappear and anyone who has not pre-ordered the game will not see any further updates.

I've pushed back the Kickstarter date because we want to push digital rewards over physical rewards this time, and by far the most popular in the X1 Kickstarter was being added to the game as Xenonaut soldier. We want to build a soldier face creation tool (i.e. the sort of thing you see during RPG character creation) which will allow people to create their own soldier face, so adding soldiers does not impose any extra workload on us. We can then price it relatively cheaply ($25-$50) and hopefully enough of the community will be happy to pay that we can get our Kickstarter moving that way. Problem is, we've gotta build this tool first - and I'm not going to delay commercializing the game just for that.

The initial release is likely to be a single ground combat mission from the start of the game. You'll get your starting eight soldiers from X1 and you'll be up against half a dozen Psyons (formerly known as Caesans). There won't be any UFO; it'll just be a straightforward deathmatch against basic but serviceable AI. Later iterations will add in the UFO and improve the UI and AI, and then likely introduce the strategy layer, soldier progression and extra maps. 

One More Thing:
Our coding intern has been working on various things over the past year, including prototyping up some of our other game ideas - one of which turned out to be so much fun that we decided to turn it into a full game. It's a small and lightweight game best described as a cross between FTL and Space Hulk. We'll release more details about the game once we've got the Xenonauts 2 public build out there, but I think a lot of you will be excited when you see it in action!

Anyway, that's all for now - and please bear in mind that "one month" is an internal goal for the X2 public build, not a cast-iron promise. We've never been great with deadlines, as I'm sure many of you are aware :)  

13434Wed, 21 Sep 2016 16:24:45 +0000
Xenonauts 2 July Update I think it's time for another update on Xenonauts 2. Lots to say but I'm going to try and keep it short, as things are moving quite fast at the moment. 

Where are we right now?

  • We have a playable ground combat mission
  • We have a playable version of the new strategy layer
  • We have a working level editor which we have used to build the level for the ground combat mission.
  • The strategy layer and ground combat are not linked together, and all three elements still need lots more work before they're a finished game

This week we hit our internal milestone to have both parts of the game playable, and we've got both the ground combat and strategy layer working outside Unity as standalone executable builds. This is pretty big news for us, but for the sake of brevity I won't go into exactly why (basically the game logic and properties are not tied directly into Unity, which gives us some advantages but means we needed to do extra work getting the standalone builds working).

Playable does not include ALL the mechanics, just the core ones - the ground combat contains basics like walls and prop objects, time units, line of sight, shooting, cover, destructibility, basic AI, overwatch, etc. The strategy layer has working research, alien / UFO generation, item recovery, air combat and ground combat autoresolve, soldier leveling, etc. As an example of a missing feature, soldiers don't currently have inventories - you just pick their current weapon from a list of all those that exist in the game.

It's therefore definitely a playable game, but there's still a lot missing. The question we're asking ourselves now is "do we want to show the game off yet?" and so far the answer is "no". This is why we've not announced the game, even though we're putting in place all the pieces that will let us do so as soon as it becomes a "yes" - for example, upgrading these forums etc.

The main reason for this is that we've been concentrating on functionality rather than aesthetics recently, and now we have standalone builds functioning I expect us to make significant progress in terms of visuals, game balance and usability in the next few months. Please don't take this to mean that there will be an attractive and mostly finished game appearing in a month or two, but I honestly do think the extra time will dramatically change the reception to the game when we announce / confirm / whatever it.

What needs to change before full announcement?
The announcement of Phoenix Point by Julian Gollop (the creator of the original X-Com) demonstrated to us that a few nicely-chosen pieces of promotional art can be very effective. Historically we've taken the reverse approach where we get the game functioning first and start implementing the art when we have a better idea of the parameters it has to exist inside, but we've decided that spending a bit of money now should reap rewards.

The two specific areas we're waiting on are the 3D character art and the UI art. We've got a production-quality Xenonaut soldier being modeled up at the moment, which we can use for promotional showbox renders and also to replace the more primitive Xenonaut we're currently using in the ground combat. On the UI front I realised it's going to be important to have some screens to show off that will show customers the visual style we're aiming for, even if the actual game doesn't look that way yet. The UI artist currently working on the "look and feel" pieces has recently worked on Destiny, and if he can nail the "military command-centre" vibe then it'll really help the game stand out.

I'm also writing a series of long forum posts on a (currently) hidden sub-forum that explain a bunch of new mechanics or discuss design decisions made on Xenonauts 2, and I'll make that visible when we're good to announce. It's quite detailed and involved stuff, but historically the forum has liked that sort of discussion. If I've not been replying to posts on design suggestions or sounding grumpy when I do, it's probably because I'd just spent a couple of hours writing a post on that exact issue but I'm not able to show it to you yet :)

What happens after the full announcement?
Other than the fact we'll open the Xenonauts 2 Design sub-forum mentioned above, we'll most likely also make an early version of the strategy part of the game available free. I'm internally referring to this period as the Free Alpha and the purpose of it is to create as large a community around the game as possible prior to the Kickstarter that will follow it (which will be the first time you'll be able to buy the game).

I've chosen the strategy for this free release because it's much faster to iterate than the ground combat. It also gives a better representation of the "feel" of the game (more opportunities for lore / worldbuilding text), and you can play through a whole strategic game by autoresolving the ground combat. At the same time, it should still give people plenty to look forward to - it'll obviously be a dramatically different experience once the real ground combat is added in, which will only happen in the paid version of the game post-Kickstarter.

I don't know exactly when the announcement will come, but I'm looking forward to sharing the strategy layer with you all. I'm sure the design will improve dramatically when there are hundreds of people contributing ideas to it instead of just a few of us - and I hope the experience of seeing the game change and evolve through player feedback will convince people to support the Kickstarter!

(Looks like I failed to keep it short!)

13401Fri, 22 Jul 2016 16:29:30 +0000
New forums online! As you can see, Goldhawk has got some new slick new forums! I'm pretty pleased with the way it's turned out, but let me first start by explaining what it means to you:

  • All existing users and posts have been migrated over (as far as we're aware), so you should still be able to log in with your old username etc
  • Features in the old forum that were broken should now work properly, e.g. requesting password reminders, search functionality, etc

We've not yet had time to test all the forum functionality (and I've also hacked up the forum skin a little too) so there may well be errors with this new forum that we're not yet aware of. Please take this opportunity to try as hard as you can to break the forums, and also post here if you notice any obvious styling issues that you think should be fixed. It would be good to fix up any serious issues before these forums start getting more popular again!

For those of you interested in what's happened, we've migrated the forums from the old vBulletin 4 system to a new IPS board. The visual styling is much nicer, the admin backend is much easier to use, and I'm hoping the overall user experience of these forums will be vastly improved over the previous ones. Once again, our thanks go out to Solver for donating his time to make the migration possible.

Some Xenonauts 2 boards may start making an appearance in due course, as it'd be good to get some community feedback before we make our "official" announcement of the game (but more on that soon).


13382Fri, 08 Jul 2016 13:35:20 +0000
Forum Migrations all - so in preparation for some kind of announcement (what could it be? :) ) we're considering migrating these forums to a new system in the next few weeks.

These forums have served us well for the past few years, but there's also quite a few problems with them that moving to a new system should fix - the search function not working properly, the email password notifications not working properly, the rather poor support for attachments and file hosting etc. Fixing this during a quiet period on the forums seems sensible.

I'm planning to move from vBulletin to IP.Board, having been part of a community that uses IP.Board and been fairly impressed with the functionality and interface. However I think we'll still be able to migrate the users and existing posts across fine, so for the average forum user it won't have too much effect. But non-standard functionality (I assume things like attachments and our file upload plugin) will probably be lost, so likely people will have to re-upload important files etc hosted on this forum after the migration.

At the moment, though, I consider that a price worth paying for a nicer-looking and more functional forum in the long term. However I just wanted to put this post up so people could ask any questions they wanted about the move, and to raise any points that I may have forgotten that I should factor into my decision.

We won't be doing the migration for a couple of weeks yet so there should be plenty of time to discuss things before we make any final decisions!

13368Mon, 20 Jun 2016 13:57:13 +0000
Xenonauts 2 Easter Update hope everyone had a happy Easter, and I figured that I should probably post something up to explain what we've been working on lately with regards to Xenonauts 2 given the unveiling of the game has not yet happened.

That unveiling may be a little further away than we thought thanks to a few snags coming up with the promotional art. The most obvious of these centers around the design of the UFOs, which we haven't yet finalised. The artist who was working on them (the UFO artist from Xenonauts 1) has had to drop out because of the demands of his full-time role, and the work was already proving more difficult than we expected.

What we want to avoid is a repeat of the UFO problems we had in X1, where we designed some cool-looking UFOs and then found putting them in the ground combat missions to be a rather painful experience. This negatively affected the gameplay too, as it forced us to make the UFO hulls indestructible (reducing tactical possibilities) and it led to situations where players found tiles around the edge of UFO hulls to be unexpectedly blocked for line of sight / fire purposes when the tile grid failed to cope with the curve of the hulls.

We're therefore making sure we get things right with the UFO designs this time, but this is awkward from an art perspective because the "main promo image" (the X2 equivalent of the "command room" image from X1) features a captured UFO in an underground Xenonaut hangar, surrounded by the various Xenonaut staff etc. It's going to be a really cool image and the captured UFO is a major plot point ... but if we're not 100% certain what the UFOs will look like yet, it's a bit difficult to finish it.

The other art issue is that of in-game screenshots; we're not yet in a position where we can show off high-quality in-game art assets. To be honest, Xenonauts only started looking presentable about 50-60% of the way through development and the real polishing didn't come in until it was 80-90% done. Xenonauts 2 has some way to go before we're at that stage, particularly because now we're working in 3D it takes more effort to make even good-quality art assets look good (in a 2D game you just stick the pretty art in the game and that's that, but in 3D you need to make sure all the materials, lighting and render settings are all done right to get maximum effect.)

So that's the bad news; we need to at least finalise the UFO design language before we can properly announce the game ... so now I'll try to give you some good news to counter-balance that. We are obviously still working on the art despite that, and we're developing a more realistic and cohesive style for the Xenonauts and their world than before. As an example, here's the rough concepts for the Xenonaut uniforms for X2.


From the left, the characters are: you (head of the Military Division), the Chief Scientist (head of the Science Division), Operations (head of the Politics & Operations Division), and a (unnamed) Xenonaut soldier. We've tried to make the soldier look a bit more modern than before; the basic uniform was pretty lame in X1 but this retains the essence of the original design whilst also looking a bit more believably military. The other three characters have been designed and coloured so the three divisions of the Xenonauts look distinct from one another, but clearly all belong to the same organisation. I think the dark grey also looks more "secret organisation" than the designs from the first game.

We've added a new character to the game for plot reasons, but also because I want there to be another voice in the game other than the Chief Scientist - I want to keep his personality the same as it was in the first game, but I'm concerned the joke will get a bit old if he's the only person talking to you in both games. Splitting the Xenonauts into three divisions doesn't have any gameplay effect, but it should help us add a bit more character to the world and help with the storytelling; your character is very much the junior member of the trio at the start of the game.

Also, I finally bit the bullet about a month ago and learned how to code so I could properly prototype the Xenonauts 2 strategy layer. I implemented most of the strategic game in Excel / Visual Basic, using an auto-resolve system for the air combat and ground combat missions. A bit of experimentation allowed me to figure out which of my ideas for the strategy layer was the most fun, and I'm confident that the one I settled on is going to work for us - even playing the spreadsheet version of it is quite enjoyable!

I imagine most of you will be pleased to know that we think we've found a way to integrate the Xenonaut ground missions into a wider strategic struggle; the final design incorporates elements from a number of the different strategic designs I've raised on the forums in the past and even some elements from our previous concept Pathfinders. In the absence of pretty pictures, I'll give you a bit of information on what we're planning:

Strategy Design:

Defensive Perimeters: The basic idea is that humanity has five "defensive perimeters" against the aliens, with the most remote and least important regions of the planet being the first perimeter and the Soviet / NATO heartlands being the final fifth perimeter. There's no longer any concept of regional funding etc; you lose the game when the final defensive line falls to the aliens (although there may be some kind of super-hard mission that appears if you fall *too* far behind, either getting you back in the game or ending it immediately).

A defensive perimeter contains Infantry units, Armoured units and Interceptor squadrons. Infantry units are the most numerous and soak up most of the damage from alien attacks; if an alien unit attacks your defensive perimeter it will generally kill several units of Infantry before being destroyed (the effectiveness and survivability of Infantry depends greatly on how advanced their gear is). Armoured units are few in number but act as a counter to armoured aliens like Androns; you will automatically lose an Armoured unit to counter a unit of attacking Androns if one is available (if not, expect to lose a LOT of Infantry).

The Interceptors are the planes you control in each region. You use these to counter alien UFO activity in the perimeter, but they are a precious and non-replenishable resource (and attacking a UFO *is* going to cost you a number of planes). However, the key thing here is that the only reliable way to capture most technology for research is through shooting down UFOs and doing the crash site mission - and the UFOs bombing your defensive lines are not necessarily the juiciest targets for this. You've got a limited number of planes and you need to balance protecting your territory against shooting down the UFOs that offer the best potential research rewards.

Event Timeline: The Event Timeline displays all the alien events occurring in the next ten turns / Geoscape days. The Xenonauts start with only limited visibility of the Timeline (e.g. only three days of warning for each attack) but investing in improved intelligence / code-cracking will allow the player to see further into the future.

The Timeline is split into aerial and ground sections, and alien units spawn at Day +10 and work their way towards the player one turn at a time. If they have not been dealt with by the end of Day +1, they will attack the current defensive line and reduce the number of defenders. To prevent this, the player is able to attack any visible alien unit on the Timeline with their Xenonaut soldiers / interceptors. Successfully winning the mission removes the alien unit from the Timeline entirely, and if a defensive perimeter falls then the entire Timeline is cleared and recalculated.

The player can launch one ground mission and one air mission each turn, but in practice the soldier fatigue system and the limited number of interceptors means that this cannot be sustained for long. What actually happens is the player has to makes choices about what rate of attrition is acceptable for their defensive line, and pick off any alien units that look too strategically threatening by running a ground mission against them.

Obviously, this is made more complex because the aliens all have different abilities and some are far more dangerous than others at any given time. For example, in the current draft:

  • Alien "thralls" have no special abilities, so generally are not worth wasting time on
  • Psyons (aka Caesans) gain +1 ATK for every Infantry unit in the defensive line, so are extremely dangerous early on
  • Harridans kill a single Infantry unit every turn, but take no damage in return. Never the most urgent threat but can accumulate a lot of kills if left alone too long!
  • Androns are harmless if you have an Armoured unit available to deal with them, but are extremely powerful otherwise
  • Wraiths will raid your Interceptors or Armoured units and destroy a unit of them if you have any left in the defensive perimeter, if not they will take on your Infantry (which they are much less strong at)

Therefore the strategic calculation is always changing. Letting a unit of Wraiths destroy a full squadron of five Interceptors would almost certainly be a mini-disaster for the Xenonauts and in that situation the player would probably want to intervene to take them out before that happened ... but if there was only one or two planes left in that squadron, it might not be worth protecting them. But in that case, you'd have to keep your air force grounded until the Wraiths had come and gone - after all, if you lose a couple of planes on the next mission, those Wraiths are suddenly targeting a full squadron of five Interceptors again, etc.

Similarly, if you can see from the timeline that a defensive line is about to fall but there's only one alien unit marching towards it in the next three or four days, it might be worth doing even a tough ground combat mission in order to win a few more days of "free" research before the aliens overrun the territory.

Proliferation & Resistance: One of the key mechanics in this system is proliferation of newly discovered alien technology from the Xenonauts to the rest of the world. Doing this brings major benefits; firstly the Xenonauts get access to an unlimited quantity of the proliferated technology (e.g. laser weapons), and secondly it improves the stats of all of the Infantry Units holding the remaining defensive perimeters ... effectively slowing down the alien invasion and buying you extra time to complete the game. We're not sure yet if you'll get controllable local forces backing you up on ground combat missions supporting the defensive perimeter, but if you do then they will also only have access to proliferated technology (so will be much more useful if you've proliferated them some good gear).

Sounds pretty useful, right? Unfortunately, the aliens gain increasing resistance to your newly-developed technology the more it is used against them. Tech that is not proliferated will stay effective for much longer against the alien forces (particularly if you use it sparingly), whereas the aliens will quickly build up a resistance to tech being used against them on a global scale. Coupled with the fact you can further improve and develop tech once it has been researched (e.g. Laser Weapons V2, Laser Weapons V3, etc), the choice of which tech to research next and whether you should proliferate it should be much more interesting than the research choices in Xenonauts 1.

Regional Infrastructure & Population: Under this strategic design, the X1 system of building bases in various regions doesn't really fit in any more. However, I'd like to preserve an element of base-building that exists beyond the abstract main Xenonaut base; I think we can do that by adding infrastructure to each defensive perimeter.

These ideas haven't been tested so they remain just ideas right now, but we'd like to have buildings in each perimeter that they player can build and buy. A lab provides a fixed amount of science, but buying a lab behind the final defensive line would be much more expensive than buying one behind the third line. If you can hold it long enough, the cheaper lab would be a much better investment. But doing so might force you into proliferating tech earlier than you might have wanted to, etc.

Similarly, things like the intelligence level (how many days you can see into the future on the Timeline) could be tied to buildings constructed in each perimeter. That gives the player choices about how much they want to invest in defending a specific defensive line.

The other mechanic I'd like to implement in some form is an evacuation mechanic for the local civilian population in each perimeter. A certain number of turns would be required to evacuate the civilian population, but launching an evacuation too early would prematurely abandon all the local infrastructure and deprive yourself of resources you would otherwise receive. However, allowing civilians to be overrun and harvested by the aliens is also bad news for humanity, as it gives the aliens major bonuses. Maybe this could be made more interesting if there's a random element to how smoothly the evacuation goes; so in some situations players may find themselves needing to hold out longer than they originally expected.


That's not a full explanation of everything in the strategy layer, but hopefully it explains the basic principles that we are working towards. I've been working hard on a design that puts the actions of the Xenonauts in a wider strategic perspective and I think the "defensive perimeter" system and the proliferation mechanics mean that the player will have to think about more than just their own soldiers.

Playtesting suggests that the basic strategic mechanics are good fun, and they should also take Xenonauts 2 in a rather different direction to that of the other X-Com successors that have been and gone. X1 always had the trappings of a somewhat realistic military wargame, but the mechanics never really matched up ... hopefully this time around we'll be able to deliver on it.

This is all I'll be revealing about Xenonauts 2 for now, but I just wanted to thank everyone for their patience and assure everyone that things are coming along nicely at this end. It may be disappointing for some that we're not announcing quite as quickly as we initially suggested we would, but hopefully this post gives you some insight as to why that is (and reveals just enough to keep you interested!) :)



13326Tue, 29 Mar 2016 16:40:58 +0000
Thoughts on XCOM 2 I've now completed XCOM 2 on Commander (using voluntary Iron Man mode) difficulty and I figured I'd post up some quick thoughts on it:

1) Bugs / Performance Issues: The first thing to mention is that the game is in need of another patch. I had pretty serious performance issues even on a powerful machine until I turned down shadows and occlusion, and it still started chugging in some sections. It has long load times even on a solid-state drive, and there's also annoying camera delays at some points, as well as visual and animation glitches. I also encountered some gameplay bugs that stopped me completing missions or got soldiers killed - whilst this really isn't unusual for a newly released game, just be aware they exist and I'd probably avoid using Iron Man right now.

It's not like Xenonauts doesn't suffer some of these issues too - I'm just saying that if you're not in a hurry to play it, maybe wait a few weeks before picking up XCOM 2.

2) Repetition: I found the game got a little repetitive towards the end (I played 31 missions). The game starts off being really hard because four low-level troops don't have the skills required to win a mission if the aliens score a couple of lucky crits and kill half your team, but once you go up to 5 soldiers and they collect a few more abilities you can handle even large groups of aliens without too much trouble. Mid-to-late game is a bit of a cakewalk ... but more on that later.

I think part of the issue is that the XCOM 1 mechanics have become ubiquitous over the past few years. I have over 200 hours in the original game and the expansion, and I've played several other games that use the same basic formula. The dominant strategy in XCOM 2 seems to be stacking damage so you can kill all the enemies before they get a chance to attack you, and the type enemies you are fighting almost don't matter when all they do is get riddled with bullets before they have a chance to move. There's some cool enemy designs and tweaks to the rules, but the same tactics seem to work against all of the enemies so I didn't find the gameplay changed dramatically throughout the game.

3) Difficulty: The game is pretty easy even when going in blind on Commander difficulty, at least once you've got past the first two or three missions ... although weirdly the reasons for this are all quite positive.

Firstly, they've improved the "pod" system ... although the mechanics remain the same, so I'm not quite sure how. Maybe bigger maps? Anyway, in XCOM 1 the main challenge was essentially to fight each batch of aliens without accidentally activating another nearby pod and ending up massively outnumbered. The problem was that this discouraged mobile and tactical play - running a soldier around the side of the map to flank an enemy was a bad idea, because activating an additional pod was a bigger risk than the potential gains of gaining a flanking shot.

Accidentally activating additional pods of aliens is much less common in XCOM 2 even when you are using melee troops, which I assume is because the pods are more spread out. In any case, this allows you to play with a bit more freedom and makes the game more fun ... but it also makes it easier.

The other thing is that your soldiers now have the ability to gain abilities from outside their class. This can lead to some EXTREMELY powerful combinations and is a lot of fun to play with - and you obviously get far more attached to a truly unique soldier too. Problem is, these abilities tend to be fun because they are totally broken, which naturally screws up the difficulty curve of the game.

The only addition to the game that makes it more difficult is the turn limit for missions (about 50% of them have one), which I like as they speed up the game dramatically. I've had frustrations with them - reaching the target on the last turn and then finding out you need an action available to actually disarm the bomb - but they're definitely a good idea. They don't make the game that much harder unless you're a compulsive overwatch crawler though!

4) Combat Mechanic Changes: A few changes to the combat mechanics worth touching on, I think. The first is the much heralded concealment mechanic, which is initially fun but I actually don't find has much impact on the gameplay. I started ignoring it entirely in the later stages of the game (it only affects the first fight) and I still did fine.

The changes to melee are more significant. Melee units in XCOM 1 were pretty weak, but melee units in XCOM 2 are totally overpowered as they can move an absurd distance (both moves) and still attack. Chryssalids don't one-hit-kill like they used to, but along with the early-game Stun Lancers they can still feel a bit cheap.

Thing is, the reverse is true too - your Rangers have melee attacks and they are easily the best soldier class in the early / mid game until their lack of armour shred becomes a bit of a problem. Their mobility and reliable damage is so high than you can just swarm the enemies and shotgun them in the face / hack them to death before they have a chance to react. The net effect somewhat trivializes the tactical game, because cover and positioning doesn't matter too much when most of the action takes place at melee range.

The addition of an Armour system is a neat one though, and their system has some similarities with the one in Xenonauts 2. But basically splitting hit points and armour makes the combat more interesting, as some weapons remove armour whereas others just do raw damage and the interplay between the two adds an extra layer of strategy to the late game. I think I'd definitely miss armour if I went back to playing XCOM 1 now.

5) Map Variety: Their randomised maps work really well as far as I can see; I never saw a repeated map in all my hours of playing. A really good addition to the game, something we'll definitely have to study for Xeno 2 (it looks like it works on a sub-map system similar to what we had in Xeno 1).


Overall, I'd say XCOM 2 is a good game and one that will be very good once they've patched some of the more obvious bugs. It's a big strategy game with good production values and interesting core mechanics that I think is worth paying full price for. I'm not sure it's quite as good as the reviews made out, though - I'd probably rate it at 8.5/10 and I'd probably bump that up to a 9 once the bugs are fixed.

My problem with it is that it doesn't feel as fresh or as interesting as XCOM 1 did, and that's why I'd say the predecessor was a great game and XCOM 2 is merely very good. It has added quite a bit to the game overall, but I think the only mechanic that fundamentally altered the way I played the game were the melee changes (which are a bit overpowered). So for me it came pretty close to greatness but didn't quite make it. That said, Firaxis have a good track record with expansions and it'll be interesting to see what they have lined up for the inevitable XCOM 2 expansion!

(There's not really that much that changes our plans for Xenonauts 2, though - the big successes in XCOM 2 for me are the randomised maps and the armour system, both of which were already on our radar.)

13284Tue, 09 Feb 2016 15:59:58 +0000
Xenonauts 2 confirmed!, some big news - we entered full production on Xenonauts 2 at the start of the year and we are now in a position to officially confirm Xenonauts 2. You can read the full statement on our placeholder website here:

This is probably a bit of an open secret given how much in-depth discussions we've had on the topic on these forums over the past few months, but there was always a small possibility that the game would be cancelled and we'd try something else instead. That is now officially not the case; we are making Xenonauts 2 and we are *hoping* to ship it in 2017.

As a result of this, I have now removed (or rather made invisible) the posts in the Xenonauts 2 Idea Discussion forums. I'm doing this because they contain a jumble of ideas from several months of brainstorming and I don't want people to read older posts and get confused as to what features are or are not planned to be in Xenonauts 2. A complete outline of the planned gameplay is going to be laid out (along with a website, concept art, lore, etc) with the full announcement of the game due in the next couple of months.

Thanks to all the people that were involved in the initial round of discussions regarding Xenonauts 2, as it really helped shape the concept we are currently working on and I am looking forward to revealing it to you when the game is fully announced!

13274Wed, 03 Feb 2016 17:28:05 +0000
Christmas Shutdown quick note as the festive season is upon us - Goldhawk is shutting down for Christmas holidays and we'll officially be back in business on the 4th January. I did write a long post detailing some of our plans for next year but the forum ate it and left me in a spectacularly bad mood, so I'm afraid you'll just have to wait until early next year to find out instead (there's some cool stuff to tell you about) :)

Anyway, I hope everyone has a great Christmas / festive season and I look forward to seeing you all at the start of the new year. I may pop onto the forums in the interim to check there's been no major disasters, but no promises!

13177Tue, 15 Dec 2015 12:02:19 +0000
Xenonauts 2 - Update six weeks ago we posted up a thread discussing the possibility of Xenonauts 2, so I thought I should post another thread letting you know what we are thinking.

In short - we're still evaluating the possibility, but I'd say the chances of us making Xenonauts 2 as our next game are better than even. The response to and feedback given on a potential sequel by the community has been remarkable and has gone a long way to convincing us that it would be a good idea.

If you're interested in hearing about any possible Xenonauts 2 announcements, remember you can sign up for our mailing list here:

So, what have we been working on?

Game-Independent Coding: Well, the majority of our work has actually been to continue developing a codebase we could use for any squad-based tactics game we want to make. If we choose not to make Xenonauts 2, this code will be equally useful to any other game we decide to make.

At the moment we're working on the integration of the combat mechanics with 3D animations (so units point their guns in the right direction when they fire at enemies etc), working on the level editor (which is pretty impressive now) and working on the game editor / translation editor / game launcher systems.

I could talk all day about what features we've been implementing recently but without the context of a game design to put them in it probably won't mean anything to you. But we've got all the basics in place, and guys are running around the map shooting each other. There's just not much in the way of art assets yet, because...


3D Art Style: The image posted above is NOT our final art style. Our biggest concern regarding Xenonauts 2 is whether we can create a workable 3D art style - this not only has to look good in 3D but ideally will also reference the 2D sprite style of Xenonauts 1.

The image shows the sort of quality we think we can reasonably generate in a mission using a standard realistic art style (admittedly we're cheating a bit with the placement of some of the wooden pallets). We've deliberately recreated some assets from Xenonauts 1 to allow us to test and compare it more effectively.

Now we have some decent-quality assets in the engine, we're going to run some tests over the next few weeks on how we can try to make the art style look a bit more 2D and hand-painted. A very important element of this could be creating an outline shader for the game that adds a thin black outline to all of the objects; this was actually something we used extensively in Xenonauts 1 and it played a large part in making props and units "pop" from the background. Unfortunately it's much harder to do in 3D than it is in 2D, but we'll spend some time on it and see if we can make it work.


Aliens: We're working on redesigning the aliens from Xenonauts 1 to make them more interesting, both visually and in terms of the core mechanic for each race. We've got some new ideas for all of the races and we've got some concepts done for the updated Sebillian and Caesan designs that look quite a bit more "alien" than before.

We're playing with the idea of making the Caesans a hive consciousness, with weak drones (above) and more threatening officers. The officers get significant bonuses in combat for each nearby drone, and there is a single collective psionic power attack performed each turn. This might lose power as more Caesans are killed, or perhaps it just gets stronger each turn to encourage the player not to turtle when fighting Caesans (or possibly both).

The Sebillians might have their regeneration turned up to eleven to make them more interesting to play against. At the end of each alien turn, all Sebillians will return to full health ... but in exchange, every time they take damage their maximum health falls by, say, 25% of the damage sustained. However, getting a Sebillian down to 0 current health will only temporarily incapacitate them and they will stand up and start fighting again after two or three turns.

To actually kill a Sebillian you need to reduce its maximum health to 0, but units will get significant bonuses when aiming at an incapacitated Sebillian. Getting up close and empting a few rounds into it would finish it off pretty quickly ... but trying to do it at long range is much harder, so it gives these guys a passive semi-resistance against sniper tactics.

Air Combat: I'm actually pretty happy with the design I have for the air combat now, which is a minor evolution of what I posted in this thread. I think that design could work with some modification even in the strategy layer for Xenonauts 1, so maybe we'll mock that up and start testing it properly in the near future.

Strategy Layer: We've done quite a lot of development on this, but it's still not nailed down yet. I'm relatively relaxed about this because I know the ground combat is the meat of the game and if our attempts to come up with a new strategy layer fail, we could just use the Xenonauts 1 strategy layer with a few modifications and the updated ground / air combat.

Of course, I would much prefer to have a wholly new strategy layer - and I'm actively working on it, I just don't know when it'll be done or even what form it will take yet. I'll let you know when I do!

So that's basically where we're at. Xenonauts 2 is looking more likely than not and we're actively designing and prototyping it at the moment, but it'll probably take a month or two until we're ready to make a final decision.

I'll keep on posting stuff up in the Xenonauts 2 forums, but again if you're keen to stay in the loop about development but don't want to commit to regularly checking our forums you can just sign up for our mailing list here:





12984Fri, 11 Sep 2015 17:42:25 +0000
Debating Xenonauts 2've got back from a brief holiday and I'm once again considering the options for the next game(s) we release. After some pondering, I've decided Xenonauts 2 might be a possibility.

Xenonauts 2 would be an upgrade on Xenonauts rather than a direct sequel, so would cover the same events. This thread is about the changes you would want to see if we were going to start from scratch - I want to see if I can come up with a design that improves sufficiently over the original game to warrant us actually making it.

Why a remake rather than a sequel?

I've been considering ideas for sequels to Xenonauts for a while. Sadly the tech level of the humans at the end of Xenonauts is so powerful that narratively I don't think there's anywhere we can go that would not take the series into completely different territory (e.g. dealing with a societal collapse caused indirectly by alien technology, fighting aliens across different dimensions, fighting a Skynet-style entity etc).

If we're going in a different direction, we may as well start with an entirely blank slate rather than tenuously tying the game to the events of Xenonauts. We'd get much more freedom that way, so in my mind there's no sense in making a Xenonauts 2 that covers different events.

But what about your other games?

This is just something I'm thinking about - remember we've not made any final decisions yet, and I'm just gathering ideas to see how tempting I can make Xenonauts 2 look as a proposition. It has to be different enough from Xenonauts 1 to work as a standalone game (albeit we may give a discount to people who already bought the original).

Still, it's no secret that we've been working on other game design concepts recently. All of these have been squad-based combat games with split tactical and strategy layers. We've been working on tools and code that will support us making any game of that type - the difference between each design is just the story / setting, the design of the strategy layer, and a handful of specific tactical combat mechanics.

Therefore moving to a new design wouldn't cost us too much in terms of development time (this is why I've been bouncing ideas around so much). Moving to Xenonauts 2 would actually be far easier than developing a new game because we know the first game inside out ... although because we could pretty much develop it on autopilot, we'd probably develop it alongside another squad-based tactics game that would be rather more innovative.

Intended Improvements:

These are the improvements to Xenonauts that I'd like to make in a sequel:

  • Full 3D - We'd make the game in full 3D with a (90-degree) rotatable camera. I'd also want to replace soldier paperdolls and painted screen backgrounds etc on the strategy layer with 3D models.
  • Aliens - I'd like to add some more aliens, rework some of the existing ones mechanically to be more interesting and also redesign them so they look more striking and "alien" in the ground combat.
  • Research / Development - I want to add the concept of 'development' to the research tree, allowing you to continue researching "hub" technologies (like laser weapons etc) to increase their effectiveness if you choose. Choosing whether to improve existing tech or research new stuff should add more choice to the research tree.
  • Destructible UFOs - the UFO outer hulls should be destructible, which means we'll have to redesign them visually too.
  • Vertical Terrain - we should have hills etc in the game, rather than purely flat maps with buildings offering the only verticality.
  • XCOM Cover System - I think the cover system in XCOM was very easy to understand and also integrated 'leaning' in an intuitive way, whereas our cover system was a bit of a mess. I think we'd probably switch to their cover system.
  • Soldier Colour Customisation - I want to redesign the armours so they are more recognisable from silhouette, allowing people to customise their colours of their troops (including having role-specific colour schemes).
  • UI - the existing UI is a bit of a mess, particularly with regards to the strategy layer, so we'd redo that.
  • Air Combat - I'm not sure exactly how I'd redesign this yet, but I think it could do with further improvement.
  • Tutorial - the game should use the Iceland Incident as a playable tutorial that explains the setting and the basic game mechanics.
  • Modding Tools - we've been working on some pretty cool game editors and level editors, so the modding / translation / level creation tools will be much better than in Xenonauts 1 and will handle the "modular mod" stuff automatically.

Two questions - one, would you buy an improved version of Xenonauts again if we made it? Secondly, what annoyed you about the first game and what do you think we should improve?

12900Sat, 25 Jul 2015 13:11:08 +0000
<![CDATA["Pathfinders" Update #1]]>'ve now started proper production on our next large game (working title: "Pathfinders") - i.e. we've stopped work on the prototype and are working on the final codebase. This post doesn't constitute an official announcement of the project as details are still subject to change; it's mostly just so you guys know we're not dead!

Prior to this point we had a Unity prototype of the game that has gone through a whole bunch of different incarnations that ended with a test of the basic XCOM ruleset plus some of our own additions. During the past year or so we've tested everything from the simple XCOM 2-action system to a completely free move system (no tile grid) to the first-person shot-aiming system as in Valkyria Chronicles to a staggered Initiative-based turn order system (rather than the standard player turn, computer turn system).

So we've tested a LOT of things during this period, and it has helped us understand what it is we want to achieve with our next game - for example, we've decided that we are definitely a fan of tile grids, because they keep things simple and easy to understand both in terms of movement and shooting. We had bright ideas about a free-move system but it turned out to be horrible in practice.

XCOM 2012 also held some useful lessons for us. There were quite a few things in their design that I like:

  • I like their "board game" accuracy calculation - basically the Accuracy of the soldier is their chance to hit, then you get flat additions and subtractions based on wargear and enemy cover etc. This makes it much easier for a player to understand why a shot is high or low accuracy than the somewhat impenetrable calculations in Xenonauts.
  • I like the way that movement is partially decoupled from shooting, so most weapons are equally accurate if you stay stationary or if you move a short distance, allowing more fluidity in the battles. A full TU system encourages a player to keep all their units stationary all the time because that maximises the firepower they can deliver, which leads to very static battles. The XCOM system was kinda restrictive in that you only got one move and you couldn't move >> shoot >> move, but I want at least some of the weapons in our game to allow a "free" move without losing accuracy / firepower.
  • I like the "chunkiness" of their action system. Having a "Main Action" and a "Move Action" allows rules that players understand more intuitively:
    • An Aimed Shot can use both actions, a Snap Shot just the Main Action. Easy to understand, and because there is only one Main Action the player can't just fire two snap shots like they could in a full-TU system where TU are totally interchangeable (which was a major design problem for us).
    • Alternatively, take a grenade attack as an example. By default a grenade might consume both actions, but an underslung grenade launcher could allow it to work as just a "Main Action"...and thus would also allow it to be used with reaction fire (see below). Cool special abilities are much easier to communicate to the player than in a TU system.

    [*]The overwatch system in XCOM is a bit lacking; we'll probably give units an Initiative score when overwatch is triggered and resolve their actions in order ... including allowing the moving unit to use their Main Action to attack the reaction firing units (if they have it available). That means high-Initiative units can charge into a room and potentially kill all the defenders before they attack even if they are all guarding the door on overwatch. Again, much like Xenonauts system in effect but much simpler for the player to understand.

This doesn't mean we have a complete design for the finished game yet, rather that we've now got a reasonably good idea of how we want it to look and the level of complexity we're aiming for. It's probably best summarised as the complexity of the combat in Xenonauts with the intuitiveness / ease of input from XCOM 2012.

The game mechanics themselves will likely be iterated heavily within that framework during the "Early Access" period; what we're actually working on right now is the code foundations for the game and what we need to formally announce it from an art / worldbuilding perspective. Both of these are rather a lot of work.

The art side of things is coming along well but it's still all concept art at this point. We've concepted up a bunch of cool sci-fi buildings to go in the game, we've started work on the character portraits and their stories / bios, we're working on the soldier armour and weapons and also the various body shapes for the 3D models. These are all going well, but they're not ready to show off yet because it's still being iterated. I think you'll all be impressed with the quality of the art when we do announce the project though.

The code "foundations" for the game is the stuff around level generation / modding / translation. We've had several (very long) internal design meetings about game should handle this stuff, discussing how we wished we'd done things on Xenonauts if we'd been able to rewind the clock. It turns out that the building blocks for 3D tile-based squad based tactics games are actually pretty similar and these things would apply just as much for Xenonauts 2 as they do for Pathfinders or even a real-time squad-based tactics game if we were minded to make one.

The flipside of this is we'll be creating editors that will automatically create modular mods and easy methods of translation for the game, and a level editor that we believe will be extremely powerful but very easy to use and almost impossible to create "broken" maps with. The latter is what we've been programming recently; we're working on the code governing the tile grid and level creation and so forth.

None of this constitutes anything particularly exciting for the average gamer, but it's all stuff that needs to be done before we can do all the flashy game mechanics stuff and it'll reap major rewards later. I'll close this post with a tiny taster of what we're working on; here's a couple of building concepts to whet your appetite:



We'll have plenty more artwork and worldbuilding to show off when we announce the project; hopefully at that point we'll have started on the basic combat mechanics too. Anyway, that's enough from me for now. Stay tuned!





12500Thu, 19 Feb 2015 15:19:42 +0000
Update on Future Projects Christmas holidays are now done and we're back to work. Our first priority is launching Xenonauts V1.5, but once that is out we will be back at work full-time on our future projects. It's been a while since I posted up an update on how they are progressing, so I figured now would be a good time to do it.


We're seeking feedback and suggestions for our methods of community interaction for our upcoming games. Basically, we want to make it as easy as possible for you to help us. If you've got any thoughts, here's the thread:

Small Game:

This game uses our own engine and was originally designed for both PC and tablet. It's gone through a lot of iterations from everything from a space RPG to a hard sci-fi FTL and now eventually settled on more of a fighter / bomber squadron control game.

After a bit of thought, I've decided to fork this game into two games. The art and setting and working title are being forked into a new tablet-only game that is not in development at this point. I've got some nice ideas gestating for it and perhaps we'll bash up a prototype at some point, but right now they have been parked up and the garage shuttered.

The current game mechanics are getting rebooted into a PC-only game. I like the idea of a squadron management game, but there were too many units to control for a tablet screen and it also limited the size of the battlefield. It didn't seem like a good idea to compromise the design of the game in order to support tablets.

We only made that decision a few days ago, so I'll still mulling over the consequences and how we use this newfound freedom to expand the game. We might release our current prototype for people to play with at some point so we can solicit suggestions, but don't hold me to that!

Big Game: Pathfinders

I've posted up some basic info on our next game on the forums here, including the working title:

We've done quite a bit of prototyping over the past six months and have a fairly good idea now of what works and what does not work. We're currently trying to code in some of the more advanced features for combat playtesting before we chuck away all our code and start development for real.

We're also working on some of the art and trying to figure out what works best with Unity, particularly with regards to animation and experimenting with shaders that we might use in the final art style. As we're used to working in 2D rather than 3D there's been quite a lot of adjustment required.

I'm not sure we'll ever release screenshots or videos of our prototype, but I'm hoping in the next few months we'll settle on an art style and be confident enough of the mechanics that we can get a website up and a trailer done, then formally announce the project. I'm looking forward to this; I can only sketch a rough outline of the game with these posts and the website will be the first time you can really get a "feel" for the game.

I don't have an exact timeframe right now, but I am flicking through website themes right now. Some time in the next four to eight weeks, maybe?

12302Mon, 05 Jan 2015 16:43:47 +0000
Development Update - 10 November 2014's been fairly quiet at Goldhawk HQ of late, but we're still working hard. I thought it'd be nice to give an update on what's been going on behind the scenes and what we have planned for the future.


We released V1.52 Experimental recently and V1.53 will likely be arriving this week. The main item of content that has been added is an epilogue to the game that appears after the victory screen - it's just a short text entry from the Chief Scientist, but hopefully it'll add a little more closure to the ending than what we had before. We've also done quite a bit of bugfixing in recent times, including addressing some of the minor issues that have afflicted V1.09 for a while.

As the Steam Workshop stuff now seems to be working well and we have the intended featureset for V1.5 in place, any future updates will simply be around bugfixes. We're unsure exactly when V1.5 will get an official release and be put on the Stable branch (and Humble Store / Desura / GOG) but most likely it will happen this month. Please keep reporting any bugs you encounter as we want to avoid accidentally introducing new bugs in our last big game update! :)

Next Small Game:

This is our fighter squadron management game. We tried releasing a simple pen-and-paper version of one of prototypes on the forums but it never really took off, so we've been working on an electronic prototype of the game for everyone to play.

We think we've got the basic combat model for this game largely nailed down, but we want some suggestions and ideas for the strategy layer and general feedback on how we can keep the mechanics interesting. We've pretty much finished the combat system and we'll implement a rudimentary strategy layer in the next few weeks, which will give us a "complete" and playable game containing one or two levels.

We'll probably release this for free on the forum and get initial feedback and suggestions from you guys, then publicly announce the project so we can get feedback from the largest number of people possible. Once we've pondered what the feedback says and had a chance to work out where we want to go with the strategy element of the game, we'll stop releasing free iterations of the game and move to Steam / Kickstarter / whatever.

If you want an idea of how our prototype currently looks, here's a concept (which is pretty much how it currently looks in-game):

I won't be answering questions on the mechanics work until we release the prototype...but they draw inspiration from Dan Verssen's "Leader" games, so if you're familiar with them then you'll be familiar with some of the rules (though the idea is the game will increasingly go its own way during the development process).

Next Big Game:

This has continued to change and evolve, which is why I've not done any more of my brainstorming threads. The game is still in very rough prototype stage at the moment as we're messing about with systems and mechanics more than graphics or UI; it's changed so much over the past 6 months that in all likelihood the entire prototype will be abandoned and rewritten from the ground up once we settle on the core game mechanics.

We've pretty much settled on a turn-based, tile-based "board game" ruleset - i.e. we couldn't find a way to make our first-person aiming / free movement system work in any way that was not incredibly fiddly and annoying. We're still hoping to have elements of our realistic shot tracking system in the game but it's no longer a fundamental part of the accuracy calculation; rather we use something more like the XCOM system where hit chance is derived based on the tile rather than 3D raycasting (hence the "board game" system).

We're currently working on the AI so we can test the mechanics against a facility full of AI soldiers rather than head-to-head dev team multiplayer, but the intention is to mix things up from XCOM a fair bit...but exactly which of our ideas will turn out to be fun in practice is still kinda unknown. We also don't know how long it'll take for us to settle on the core mechanics of the game, which means we don't know how long it'll be until we can drop the prototype and enter full production (and announce the game etc).

So wheels are still turning on our next big game, but we've got a way to go before we can even think about releasing anything for public consumption; it's not really like Xenonauts where we knew exactly how the game was going to work right from the outset so we could announce the project right away!

Anyway - remember, if you want to be informed when we do finally announce / release these games then you can sign up for the Goldhawk mailing list by clicking this link.

12090Mon, 10 Nov 2014 18:13:51 +0000
Steam Workshop Testers Needed! are looking for people to test out our Steam Workshop mod implementation before it goes live! There's two main categories of people we're looking for:

  • You create mods and want your mods to be compatible with Xenonauts V1.5 & Steam Workshop
  • You like Xenonauts and know your way around the Experimental Steam branch

We're not going to be able to officially launch Steam Workshop until we launch Xenonauts V1.5, otherwise it will appear for the public but won't function for anyone who is playing on the main branch (most people) and they'll get annoyed / confused about it.

I'm therefore going to create a Steam usergroup for people who want to have pre-access to it. You will need to be on the Experimental Steam branch to take part. Hopefully this will mean that when the upgrade happens, the best mods will already be set up correctly on Steam Workshop and will be available for download immediately.

If you're a mod creator, you'll be able to follow these instructions to create a Steam Workshop mod once you've been invited to join the group:

All you need to do to take part is to join this public Steam Community group (and remember that all of this is still in beta):

To download a mod:

12017Tue, 21 Oct 2014 16:52:30 +0000
Goldhawk Mailing List've now set up a mailing list for future updates from Goldhawk Interactive. We'll be using this when we do major announcements in the future, so it means you guys will be able to keep up with what we're working on without having to continually check our forums! (please don't abandon the forums entirely though)

Sign up for the mailing list by clicking here!

11922Wed, 01 Oct 2014 15:53:39 +0000
Xenonauts V1.5 Plans we released Xenonauts, we decided we were not going to do any further content patches for the game and so forth - instead, we would move onto other projects. Our position remains broadly the same, but we have decided that the game requires some extra work that will be released as Xenonauts V1.5.

We are hoping to release a version of Xenonauts V1.5 that contains the following updates:

  • Steam Workshop support
  • Vastly improved mod loading support, including a better launcher mods interface
  • An updated line of sight system that fixes the sight issues between different terrain levels and better communicates the corner shooting system
  • Soldier nationality flags
  • Geoscape notification feed information on aircraft readiness ("Condor-1 Repaired" etc)
  • Terrain transparency on cursor
  • Ability to hide all props /walls on a level using "Hide Roof", showing only units
  • Mind Control now activates with a turn delay
  • Morale regeneration added at end of the turn, rather than the start
  • Berserk no longer always targets your own soldiers
  • F5 quicksaves the game
  • Numerous visual / stability bugfixes
  • Many more things made moddable

The observant amongst you will have spotted that most of these things are things that have been implemented by the Xenonauts: Community Edition team - this is because V1.5 is going to be a modified version of X:CE. This is going to be a one-off merge; X:CE will continue to develop in its own Steam branch after this but future changes will not be rolled into the official version.

This decision was going to be inevitable as soon as we decided to integrate Steam Workshop and llunak's mod loader. All the extra moddability offered by X:CE means that if we did not adopt it as the base of Xenonauts V1.5 we would end up splitting the mod community in half and confuse players (as many mods would need X:CE and others would not).

Additionally, X:CE has been carefully maintained so that it is essentially a better version of Xenonauts V1.09. Having played around with it a bit myself I can say that the quality of life improvements add a lot to the gameplay and take nothing away from the original experience. It makes sense to merge them into an official release and push them out to everyone that owns Xenonauts.

From the Goldhawk side, Giovanni's going to be putting in the Steam Workshop integration and rewriting the launcher. We're going to want your feedback on how this should work - if you're a modder (or avid mod user), please read this thread and comment. We're also now going to have to officially support the additional code written in X:CE up until now, so expect V1.5 to spend quite some time being iterated on the Experimental branch before we release it as a Stable build.

We are planning to publicise the release of Xenonauts V1.5 when it comes - it is not a content patch, but it will fix most of the major gameplay issues in the game and make it substantially easier for people to access and load mods that address what they may consider balance issues in the game. The modding community and X:CE team are then well placed to take Xenonauts in whatever direction they see fit.

We'll also release a demo for the game, as a few months have passed since release and there's now much less chance it'll cannibalise our sales. We're not sure on the ETA for all of this yet, but we figured we should make you aware of our plans now we've settled on our final course of action.

11731Fri, 29 Aug 2014 13:40:27 +0000
Development Diary / Post-Mortem of the Kickstarter rewards was a "Development Diary" - basically a lengthy writeup of the development process. After a bit of thought on how best to format this, I've produced a 5,000 word post-mortem article on the development process.

This will be included in V1.09 and all future versions of Xenonauts in the launcher (under the Extras button), but I figured I'd post it up here too so people can read it if they like.

If you spot any typos, please let me know - I'm not planning to update the content or the choice of words, but the spellcheck isn't working on my home PC. It might save me some blushes before I send out a Kickstarter Update about it!




11326Sun, 20 Jul 2014 10:52:09 +0000
Upcoming Projects - (Very) Basic Details is not an official announcement post, but I thought I should probably let everyone know our future plans in a bit more detail as I've hinted at them strongly prior to release but then not actually said anything concrete.

Some of the team (myself included) are currently working on a few Xenonauts-related things still - the Kickstarter rewards, the Steam Mac builds, Steam Workshop integrations and ongoing bugfixes where required. But we're not a million miles away from finally being done with Xenonauts entirely.

However, other parts of the team are working on prototyping up two new titles. One is a "big" game which can be considered the successor to Xenonauts, the other is a "small" game which we are hoping to finish more quickly and put out on multiple platforms.

The specifics on these games are subject to change, and I will not announce the name or much of the setting / background of these games until their formal announcements. However, this is how they currently look:


The "big" game is a futuristic turn-based, squad-based strategy game. It is likely to have the same split strategy level / tactical level that you see in Xenonauts and Jagged Alliance etc.

It is currently a mix of Jagged Alliance, Valkyria Chronicles and the new XCOM. The idea is currently to to use the smaller teams and simple, elegant mechanics of XCOM, but with the strategic elements (i.e a grid map) and deeper soldier customisation (weapon attachments / ammo types etc) of Jagged Alliance.

We're also playing around with Valkyria Chronicles-style - i.e. first person - aiming which allows a fully realistic cover system and bodypart-specific damage. Obviously, this means it is going to be in full 3D.

All of that is subject to change if we find it impractical or not fun, but we'll see. I just thought I should tell everyone that we're working on some form of turn-based, squad-based strategy game that will use what we learned from Xenonauts.


This game is planned to support tablets too. It's currently a turn-based sci-fi strategy game about managing a warship as it attempts to infiltrate an enemy system and destroy a specific target (one per level).

Again, it has a split strategy / tactics level. The strategy layer involves moving the warship around the system and equipping, supporting and deploying fighter squadrons on ground attack missions to destroy targets. The tactics layer involves playing out the ground attack missions in turn-based combat (using a totally different to the air combat in Xenonauts).

This is not going to be as deep or complex as Xenonauts or our "big" game, but the idea is that the pilots will be persistent in the same way the soldiers in Xenonauts are and it should be a nice strategy-lite experience. We're rather hoping it will be completed significantly before the "big" game is.

This too is subject to change, though - this game has been everything from a space RPG to a hard sci-fi FTL game to the current incarnation during prototyping and there is no guarantee it will not change again. But that's what it looks like right now and it is likely to be the first project we announce post-Xenonauts.

In terms of formal announcements, monetising these ideas or making either of these prototypes public - no details yet. We're planning to announce these projects and start making money from them relatively later than we did with Xenonauts, once the design is more settled. It's a bit exhausting to develop an entire game from scratch in public!

11296Fri, 18 Jul 2014 16:14:52 +0000
New tile atlases for testing! a number of people have been experiencing performance issues in the game - massive slowdown when they see a particular tile type. It is particularly pronounced on the Mac / Linux versions of the game but also affects Windows users on less powerful PCs.

There's a patch here that contains an updated /assets/tiles/ directory (just delete the existing one and replace it with the one in the patch):

I want to roll this out globally but it needs more testing first for display issues like maps where props are not appearing correctly. It contains changes to some of the tile atlases and therefore may lead to some props not loading properly...but hopefully will be fine!

10958Fri, 04 Jul 2014 15:57:16 +0000
Max_Caine: Forum Moderator update as I'm busy: I figured it couldn't hurt to have a second forum moderator besides Gauddlike, as our first moderator Sathra sadly appears lost to the sands of time (after several years of faithful service).

I've therefore appointed Max_Caine as a forum moderator. There are a number of long-time posters on this board who are always polite and willing to help others, but Max seemed the most obvious of them to me as he's been around for literally as long as I can remember.

Thanks for agreeing to take on the responsibilities, Max - I'm sure you'll do an excellent job!

10858Mon, 30 Jun 2014 19:40:27 +0000
Mac Steam Build Needs Testing! folks,

So we've uploaded a Mac build to Steam. To access it, install Steam for Mac and then activate the Experimental builds:

It should download the game to Steam directory. It won't launch directly from Steam, but if you go to the Steam directory manually it should be there and ready to install / play.

Please can a few people give it a test to see if it works?

10812Sun, 29 Jun 2014 10:40:35 +0000
Community Coder Program! Coders are members of the Xenonauts community who will be given access to the game's source code via a semi-private git repository on our website.

The idea is that they will be able to add new features / fix bugs and release patched versions of the Xenonauts .exes, which will be distributed on these forums or via Steam Workshop. They will not be official Goldhawk-endorsed releases, but may be incorporated into future official patches.

This will also make things easier for non-programmer modders, as a few Community Coders could make moddable areas of the game that are currently hardcoded. Essentially they can act as enablers for the wider modding community as well as modders in their own right.

If you are interested in becoming a Community Coder and would like access for the source code, these are the requirements:

  • You are a good coder, so you know your way around git and have a programming degree or a coding job in the industry or so forth. There are two reasons for this:
    • Our codebase is a mess and you are unlikely to be able to achieve much if you do not have good coding skills.
    • We want to ensure you don't end up breaking everything for the other coders on the project (and they don't break everything for you).
  • You are willing to sign a NDA / agreement which states:
    • The source code remains our property and you will not discuss / distribute it outside the hidden Community Coder forums. We'd rather not have it leaked across the whole internet!
    • You may freely distribute any executables compiled from the code provided it is on a non-commercial basis.
    • We're allowed to (and will) sue your ass in the UK if you break either of those rules :)
    • The work you produce from the source code can be used by Goldhawk for any purpose without requiring permission or attribution if we so choose (you do not lose the right to distribute it if this happens).

If you're happy with those terms, please send me an email with your details and we'll consider and hopefully accept you. It'd be really great to have a larger team than just Solver working on this sort of thing - I'm sure the rest of the community would really appreciate it!

10689Wed, 25 Jun 2014 16:37:11 +0000
Linux Steam Builds (Sort Of) Working! need some brave volunteers to help us to test Xenonauts on Linux.

I think we've managed to set it up so that the game will run from your Steam library, provided you already have WINE installed on your machine. We'd like some confirmation that this is correct, though.

To test, you'll need the following:

- To be on the Experimental Branch

- To be on Steam for Linux

- To have the appropriate version of Wine already installed on your PC

If you have all those things, you should just be able to download Xenonauts. When you double-click on the game in the Steam library, it should boot up as normal. Let us know if that works for you!

10683Wed, 25 Jun 2014 14:39:11 +0000