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!)