Chris

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About Chris

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    Project Lead, Xenonauts
  1. It's probably best not to turn the thread into a discussion about DLC, as it's a bit of a tangent to the main discussion - it might be that I'm overestimating how hard it is to make DLC and it would be more worthwhile than I think, but with Xenonauts being released two years ago now we're past the window where DLC would be a smart thing to do (plus we're fully committed to developing Xenonauts 2 now). Even if I did make the wrong decision back then, we can't change course now. Still, hopefully the goodwill towards Xenonauts that would lead people to buy DLC would also lead them to buy a sequel instead (I think that signature issue is fixed now too.)
  2. The problem with DLC is that the pool of people that could buy it is limited to the pool of people that own the original game; that's only about 220,000 people (and about 100,000 are Humble Bundle buyers who may well have bought the bundle to get other games). Let's say that means there's 150,000 people out there that have intentionally bought Xenonauts at some point. It's impossible to know what percentage of them would be interested in buying a DLC, because it will be impossible to tell all the owners about the new DLC that's available on sale, not everyone will have enjoyed Xenonauts enough to buy a DLC, and some people just don't like DLC on principle. But for the sake of argument let's say 10% of all users buy the DLC (which I think is *far* too high) and are prepared to buy it for $10. That's only $150,000 of revenue, and once Steam's cut and sales taxes are taken off we'd only have about $90,000. If only 1% of users bought the DLC, we'd only get $9,000. To be honest I'd say the second figure is more likely because we saw almost no increase in sales or player count after we announced our big V1.5 update and did some promo work on it; most of our sales just seem to come from being featured by Steam. Anyway, as you receive about 90% of the money that is pledged to you on Kickstarter, so you don't have to sell many copies of a $30 game to make that sort of money. I don't really think the maths works on DLC unless you've sold a lot of copies and have a game designed for it in advance that allows you to produce it for minimal effort. It's unfortunate but Xenonauts only partially fits into the first category and definitely does not fit into the second one. And as you say, even if I did make the wrong decision, it's probably too late to start making DLC for Xenonauts now
  3. We'll still make Xenonauts 2 if the Kickstarter fails - it's going to be pitched like the original one, where raising the money just lets us spend longer developing the game and make a better final product. We might have to scale back elements of the design if the Kickstarter gets a poor reception but you'll still get Xenonauts 2.
  4. 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!)
  5. That's kinda strange, I just tested a random mod and it worked fine for me on Steam workshop. Can you restart Steam, and give everything a bit of time to download before you load up Xenonauts? I can't really think of any other reason why Steam might not be downloading the mods correctly ... the issue there just seems to be getting the mod files from Steam onto your computer, which is kinda weird.
  6. Is that still an issue? I noticed your signature now has working images in it, whereas before they seemed to be broken?
  7. Yup, we're planning to make the UI scaling work much better this time around. The target platform is still going to be 1080p but we're designing the UI to allow more flexibility this time.
  8. It's not really worth me writing a long explanation at this point of why particular aliens work in the way they do etc because most of the information isn't public yet and as soon as it is, most people will immediately understand why many of the assumptions made based on X1 are incorrect (there's some big changes). It's not too long until all that will arrive, but in the meantime I'd just caution against making too many assumptions based on Xenonauts 1. Similarly, if Jasmine feels that having a time limit on the game through limited numbers of aircraft is a deal breaker then ultimately that's their decision - I can't tell them what to like and what not to like. Maybe the game will turn out to be something they don't want to play, and whilst I hope that's not the case they are entitled to feel that way if they want. But the mechanic might not turn out to be exactly what they think it is, or they might actually end up enjoying it once they see it in action. I'm just saying I suspect a couple of lines of text description is probably not yet enough to decide whether one of the mechanics / whatever is enough to ruin the game, and people should wait before making too many serious judgements about it.
  9. You're assuming the aliens and the setting behave the same as in the first game there though, and I've already said that's not the case. Maybe the game will end up being something you're not interested in playing, but you'll only know that for sure when there's enough info out there for you to properly evaluate the game.
  10. This is a test message :D

  11. Ah, they're fixed now. Great
  12. 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).
  13. I 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. Overall: 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!)
  14. About 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: http://eepurl.com/4FKe9 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: http://eepurl.com/4FKe9