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Everything posted by Chris

  1. TURN-BASED GEOSCAPE: In Xenonauts 1 the Geoscape layer handled time in accelerated real-time - the slowest you could have time pass was 5 seconds per second, and the fastest was something like 1 hour per second (until an event popped up and paused time). In Xenonauts 2 we are going to try moving the Geoscape to a turn-based system where each turn is a single day. Because it's actually easier to implement the Geoscape in a turn-based setup, we're going to implement it as turn-based right from the start ... but if it turns out not to be that great then we can always switch back to the old way if required! The main advantage of a turn-based Geoscape is clarity and ease of displaying information. In most cases the real-time Geoscape in X1 was effectively played in a turn-based manner anyway; you issue your orders and then step forward a "turn" to the next event and issue fresh orders, then skip forward another "turn" (the only exception I can think of is when managing airborne interceptors). A turn-based setup consolidates all of this so that when you advance time you get a whole host of decisions to make simultaneously, rather than drip-feeding them to you one by one. There's also quite a lot less time-related confusion and annoyance in the game. When a research project or replacement soldier or item etc is due to arrive, you'll know how many turns until it arrives - if they're all due to arrive in three turns, you'll get them all at the start of that turn. No messing about or misunderstandings. In X1 the research project might be 12 hours from completion and the replacement soldier be 18 hours away and the item be due to arrive in 7.5 hours. Is there any advantage to getting them at slightly different times? And what if you have item shipments arriving in 7.5 hours and 7.6 hours, should they be combined into a single "item arrived" notification or not? Easier for the player to understand and easier to code too. For the sake of convenience and for old times' sake, we'll likely have two speed buttons - one that advances time by a day, and one that advances time until the next event. As the alien waves will likely come every four or five days, there'll probably be quite a lot of days where nothing happens. Hopefully "fast forward until next interruption" will make the game seem less outright turn-based whilst still retaining all of the advantages of that system. PROS & CONS: So the turn-based Geoscape is much clearer and easier way of organizing the information, but it does remove certain features from the game. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it could be. For example, when an alien attack wave occurs all of the UFOs will simultaneously appear all over the world. We'll probably have a system where you can assign a squadron of interceptors to attack one target and the resolution of air combat only occurs after you press End Turn, so you lose the ability to have a single squadron run multiple interceptions on the same day. Is that a bad thing? Maybe not. Unfortunately, you also lose the whole section of the game where you watch your planes trying to intercept the UFOs, flying after them and trying to reach them before they disappear off the radar screens (and potentially trying to tail them back over land so you can shoot them down and get a crash site). That part of the game probably isn't something you'd describe as a fundamental part of the X-Com experience, but if you strip back the mechanics too much then there really isn't that much happening on the Geoscape screen. You're just clicking on abstract icons and watching numbers go up and down. The old system did at least feel like something was happening when you saw your little plane icons flying around the map and chasing UFO icons. There are probably ways around that problem - I guess you could stage an "interception attempt" for each squadron that simulates the planes chasing the UFO after you press End Turn? Fundamentally I think a turn-based system is a better foundation for the strategy layer but we definitely need to take steps to avoid it feeling too abstract.
  2. DESTRUCTIBLE UFOs: One of the biggest issues with Xenonauts 1 was that we chose designs for the UFOs that looked cool, rather than ones that would work well with our ground combat mechanics. The long sweeping exterior curves of the UFOs did not fit with the tile grid at all well, causing all sorts of horrible line-of-sight and line-of-fire issues when you were outside them and making the interior spaces far smaller than the footprint of the UFO suggested. This also deprived players of one of the most interesting features of the original game - destructible UFOs that allowed you to make your own entrances. There are two approaches we can take to designing UFOs for Xenonauts 2. Both of these should be an improvement over what we had in X1, but they sit at different places on the looks vs. gameplay continuum. Fully Destructible UFOs: So this involves going back to our X-Com roots, and making the UFOs entirely out of destructible thin walls. Pros and cons: Maximum playability, as you can blow a hole in the UFO anywhere you want Maximum amount of interior space is actual usable space for units to fight in Minimal line of sight / line of fire issues because the UFO matches the tile grid almost perfectly The nature of the tile grid means that you'll have angular, boxy UFOs that will almost certainly look crap Semi-Destructible UFOs: This is a hybrid system where UFOs are built as 3D models with specific destructible areas in the outer hull. These areas are designated as "destroyed" or "undamaged" at the start of combat (potentially based on the damage suffered in combat), and either load in an empty space or invulnerable piece of hull respectively. Damaged UFOs will therefore have extra entry points in their hull compared to undamaged ones. UFOs don't have to look like ugly angular boxes System could potentially be expanded to allow the player to blow holes in the hull at those predefined spots, but you can't make an entry anywhere you want Walls are thicker, which means reduced interior space Outer hull is not perfectly angular, and therefore some LoS / LoF issues are to be expected The decision basically comes down to how angular and boxy people are willing to have the UFOs look. Fully destructible box UFOs are undoubtedly superior in gameplay terms, but if they look genuinely terrible then the broken immersion may not be worth it (remember this will also affect their combat). The semi-destructible UFOs might look significantly better with only a small reduction in playability ... and in either case they will play be much better than the X1 versions! We've got models for both types of UFO and we'll probably test both types during development to see what the community thinks. I've not really made my mind up at this point so gameplay testing will be very important here.
  3. I felt that the inventory system in Xenonauts 1 was a bit clunky to manage, but overall just didn't really provide much in the way of interesting gameplay choices. A soldier could carry large amounts of equipment and there was no link between the equipped armour and the carrying capacity (other than the weight of the equipped armour). In most cases the player never had to use the inventory screen, but when they did it wasn't the most intuitive thing in the world. The new system I'm about to propose has the advantage of linking carrying capacity to the type of armour being worn, and also allows us to add more interesting equipment because carrying capacity is more limited (so the player can't stack equipment like they could under the old system). The disadvantage is you lose some of the freedom of the old system. Armour Equipment Slots: All the equipment in the game goes in one of four soldier equipment slots: Primary (x1) Armour (x1) Quick (0-1, dependent on armour) Belt (0-6, dependent on armour) Primary slots hold the soldier's weapon, and armour slots hold the soldier's armour. Quick slots are for larger items like secondary weapons and medpacks, or possible new items like motion trackers / psionic shields etc. Belt slots are for ammo and grenades, with each grenade and clip filling a single slot (though potentially heavy weapon ammo may fill multiple Belt slots). The starting armour has 1 Quick slot and 6 Belt slots, but armour that offers more protection may not have the full selection of slots available. This means that armour is no longer just a series of straight protection upgrades. Primary Weapons & Sidearms: So the problem that most people are going to pick up on immediately is that each soldier only gets a single weapon, whereas in the old system you could happily equip a soldier with a rocket launcher and then stick a spare rifle in his backpack. The new system doesn't really work well with the concept of a general-purpose backpack for several reasons: You then need need to add a whole new combat UI screen to manage moving items from the backpack to the appropriate slots Having limited space for Quick and Belt items means we can make them more powerful (as the player can only take one of them), but if we let the player stack them in their backpack then this no longer applies The new UI gives you a contextual list of equippable items when you click on any slot, but you can't have a contextual list for a slot that can contain any item (unless you want the list to be massive) So, yeah. I appreciate you lose a bit of the inventory functionality from Xenonauts 1 but I think we can make up for it with the new features this system allows. Units can pick up equipment items from the ground, but if they do not have a free slot then they need to drop the contents of a slot first. So you can still loot a weapon from the battlefield but a soldier will need to drop their current weapon first. All soldiers have a sidearm pistol of the same class as their starting weapon (so a soldier with a laser rifle gets a laser pistol) and this pistol has unlimited ammo. We'll reduce the stats of the pistols relative to their equivalents in X1. We'll probably add some Quick slot weapons that replace the standard pistol with something more powerful, for example a SMG. These weapons still have unlimited ammo and are almost as powerful as conventional weapons, but obviously you're giving up the Quick slot to make your soldier more versatile. I think that tidies up the system from X1 nicely; it means that we no longer have to worry about making pistols balanced weapons compared to "proper" primary weapons and it removes the requirement to find inventory space for the pistol and the ammo. It also prevents a situation where a soldier runs out of ammo and becomes totally useless ... but most of all it gives you more choice about how to fine-tune your class. For example, here's three different loadouts for a sniper: A dedicated sniper with a Quick item that boosts Accuracy (e.g. a rangefinder?), but is largely useless if he runs out of ammo A versatile sniper with a SMG in the Quick slot, allowing them to fight effectively in close combat An armoured sniper who has more survivability, but doesn't get a Quick slot at all Conclusion: I think that this system would give us a lot more freedom to create interesting soldier loadouts. Sure, it's less flexible (and a bit less realistic) than the old system, but I really like the idea. Fundamentally I think tying the inventory slots to the equipped armour will add a lot to the game, and I'm keen to put it in. Pistols and grenades were always a bit awkward in the old inventory system too; I think moving the pistol to being an upgradeable "free" item is a good gameplay move that also has the benefit of making the UI much cleaner. Balancing the number of grenades carried against the amount of primary weapon ammo and the number of belt slots of the equipped armour should also help us deal with grenade spam; or at least create some disadvantages for loading a soldier up with grenades. I'm open to thoughts and suggestions, though. Feel free to post them up here. (EDIT - I've expanded my thoughts on the Quick slot and secondary weapons in my post here:
  4. CROUCHING & COVER ADJACENCY BONUS: The crouching system in Xenonauts 1 was functional, but it did have some issues that could be addressed: Crouching at the end of a move was pretty much always the correct thing to do - and if it's not an actual decision, clicking the crouch button after moving each soldier is just pointless busywork that we could automate away. Crouching is actually extremely important - giving your soldiers an accuracy bonus and reducing their chance of getting hit - but new players often didn't realise this. This makes the game unnecessarily hard until they figure out pretty much everyone should be crouching almost all the time. There was also an issue with the cover system in Xenonauts that we would also like to address: Taking cover behind something doesn't actually make your soldier any safer - the object reduces the hit chance of incoming fire by the same amount whether it is 10 tiles away as it does if the unit is hiding directly behind it. This cover problem doesn't necessarily need solving though, because taking cover behind objects has other advantages - most importantly, it allows you to shoot over it without penalty. It does also offer more cover in some senses; being closer to cover makes it harder for the enemy to flank the unit and remove the cover from the equation by getting it out of the line of fire (if the cover is an adjacent tile you need to get alongside the target to do it). Maybe that's fine as is? The crouching problem, though - we need to make some changes to it. We can either tweak the numbers and try to balance crouching a little better (e.g. making crouching cost 8 TU) or we can try an entirely new system that attempts to solve both issues. Here's an idea for a new system: Manual crouching is removed. Units receive 1.5x the normal cover bonus from props and walls in adjacent tiles, representing the unit hunkering down behind that cover. Units will crouch automatically when they are receiving this increased bonus from an adjacent prop / wall. This occurs when a unit finishes its move and has no TU cost, nor does it provide any accuracy bonus. The idea of this system is to remove the pointless action of having to click the crouch button at the end of every move, and provide a more obvious bonus for getting up behind cover. PROS & CONS: So we've actually already implemented this auto-crouch system. Here's the negative points we discovered with it: Manual crouching actually has quite an important (if situational) mechanical effect in that it allows you to shoot over crouched Xenonauts. Removing it gives the player less to do during their turn. When player movement is limited to clicking on a tile to order a unit to move there, things just feel a bit simplistic. Auto-crouching makes movement feel less snappy, because it adds an extra stage onto quite a few moves. The cover adjacency bonus made the accuracy calculation seem a bit more complex to the players, because the cover provided by each prop was not always the same. The positive point was that auto-crouching did reduce the amount of busywork, but I don't think it was worth the negatives. The cover adjacency bonus didn't really seem to have much effect on gameplay and I think it'll need to be tested later in development when the ground missions are a bit more structured and have more content. As such we've disabled both systems for now, but re-enabling either or both of them only requires a few lines of code. The auto-crouching may also make a return at some point, but I think a better approach might be just to try and balance manual crouching better. I'm open to ideas on how to do that, but a few ideas do occur to me: Increase the cost of crouching / uncrouching to 6 TU or 8 TU - if the cost is high enough, the player will need to consider whether crouching is worth spending the TUs on. We could increase the Stopping Chance of all intervening objects when a unit is crouched, which would have the following effects: There is no change if the target has been caught out in the open, as there is no intervening cover. It negates the accuracy bonus of crouching if the target is behind cover themselves, because that piece of cover will always be intervening. The shooter needs to be in an adjacent tile to any cover they are hiding behind, because adjacent cover is disregarded from the accuracy calculation. If they are further away then shooting over their own cover will be twice as difficult as if they were standing. My preferred option would be to give crouching some disadvantages that mean that it is not something you should always do. Increasing the stopping chance of all intervening objects is one way we could do that, but I've never tested it in practice and I don't know whether it will improve things. I'm open to ideas on the topic anyway!
  5. I've seen you mention this a few times - it's not really possible to do this though. Or, rather, it can be done but the effects are not desirable (and we know this because we've tested it). Xenonauts uses an abstract calculation for hit chances at the moment with intervening objects having stopping chances and so forth, and the chance of hitting an alien not being modified by the actual size of the 3d model etc. As soon as you move away from this by doing raytraces to calculate accuracy / cover protection, hit chance becomes impossible to predict with any degree of certainty. You simply don't know if moving a unit one tile in any direction will dramatically change the accuracy of a shot or not, and because of the number of raycasts you need to do in order to approximate a hit chance from any given location, it's pretty performance intensive too. But in general it's just annoying that the game doesn't behave in a predictable way; it means you have to spend ages moving your soldiers around to find a "good" shot and in many cases it's just guesswork as to whether any particular move will increase or decrease your hit chance. Trust me, the game is much more fluid and enjoyable when the rules are more predictable.
  6. Unfortunately not; having destructible walls only really works if they are "thin" walls like buildings have. You can use a bit of artistic license to make them look a bit less blocky but in general they're still going to look angular whatever you do. We'll probably test both methods and see what people enjoy.
  7. You actually seem to be arguing for us to make Jagged Alliance rather than X-Com irrespective of the relevant gameplay considerations, which means I think we're going to have to agree to disagree on this topic.
  8. BASE STRUCTURES / UPGRADE SLOTS: The first Xenonauts game lifts the base construction system directly from X-Com, giving you a grid on which to build your structures. The only problem with this is that our other changes to the game slowly whittled down the number of useful buildings to the point where the base-building really wasn't particularly interesting. We're going to be stripping out the ability to build bases on the Geoscape map in X2, for reasons covered in the Geoscape - Stripping it Down thread. Please put comments relevant to that decision in that thread; this thread is about the decision to move the main base from a "grid" system to a "slot" system. I thought the base system was ripe for an overhaul even before we started considering changes for Xenonauts 2, and some of the changes we're planning make this even more true. For instance, merging together Research and Engineering projects may improve overall gameplay but will remove yet another structure from the base. Basically, I don't want to be avoiding making changes that I think will improve the overall game because I'm worried about further gutting the base-building screen, so I think we need to consider something new. To be clear, I'm not suggesting these changes because I want to cut corners during development. We've already implemented the grid-based building system, so it'd be less effort for us just to stick with it ... and, indeed, we probably will until we hit our first milestone and have a working proxy of Xenonauts 1. I just genuinely think we should be looking at alternate base construction systems that give the player more interesting choices to make. Here's what I'm thinking for the new system: The Xenonaut base has a total of fifteen building slots in it, with five of each assigned to Military Division, Research Division and Operations Division. Each division gets a unique set of buildings to put in its five slots. You can demolish existing buildings to free up slots, but you can't build new slots. You can get more efficient, but more expensive, versions of buildings. For example a Radar Array that fills a single slot might cost $100, but a Twin Radar Array that counts as two radars but still only fills a single slot costs $300. So you can emphasise reduced cost over available space. The concept is to heavily limit the amount of slots and require the player to juggle increasing amounts of things that all require space. The different Divisions all have different roles within the organisation and all are interconnected. Here's a basic example - although it assumes that we go ahead with the Soldier Stress System and The Translocator: Operations Division: Radar Arrays - if you have more radars, you can track more advanced UFOs. Living Quarters - many buildings require personnel to run, and those personnel need somewhere to live. Crisis Center - this building allows you to autoresolve certain Geoscape events and avoid a relations penalty, rather than sending out your ground troops. Medical Room - this speeds up the recovery of wounded soldiers. Research Division: Laboratory - generates the research points required to research new tech. Alenium Synthesiser - generates the raw materials that power advanced weapons and fuel advanced interceptors. Hyperwave Decoder (advanced) - once you research the hyperwave decoder, you'll need to find a slot to build it in. Translocator Expansion - this allows you to deploy more soldiers on a ground mission. Military Division: Barracks - allows the recruitment of a certain number of soldiers. Rec Room - reduces soldier stress at a faster rate. Hangar - houses a squadron of interceptors. Alien Containment - allows the player to capture and interrogate alien units. Those specific examples might not be particularly well balanced (e.g. it looks like the Military Division will get pretty crowded once you start expanding your air force) but it gets the point across. If you have enough money you could buy the most efficient versions of each structure and be able to fit everything you want in your base, but you won't have enough money for that and you'll have to make tough decisions about your priorities. I want to introduce a tension between your ground troops, your strategic control and your research progress. This is why I've put buildings that support each objective into each Division, as that way you can favour a specific playstyle. For example, if you wanted to have a lot of soldiers you could fill Military Division with Barracks and Rec Rooms, Research with Translocator Expansions and Alenium Synthesisers, and Operations Division with Living Quarters and Medical Rooms. Not being able to shoot down UFOs effectively would means you'd be dealing with more damaging and dangerous ground missions (e.g. Terror Sites rather than Crash Sites) but you'd find the missions easier to deal with as you'd have larger combat teams, more advanced weapon ammunition and a larger soldier pool to absorb casualties and the extra soldier stress. The buildings suggested above are by no means final - I'm just using them by way of illustration! PROS & CONS: Removing the old base system from an X-Com game is at best a difficult decision (and at worst an act of heresy) so you definitely need something equally complex to replace it with. I think this system would actually be *more* complex than what is currently there, but we still need to be mindful of the public perception of the changes. So let's start with the bad stuff - this system involves moving to a single base and making base defence missions less cool. The idea of reducing the player to a single base was heavily tarnished by XCOM 2012 in the eyes of some fans, because it's associated with the heavily simplified strategic layer used in that game (and even as a big fan of XCOM 2012 I agree the strategy layer is overly simplistic). Thing is, I don't think allowing satellite bases on the Geoscape really adds much to Xenonauts 1 because there's no incentive to set them up with secondary combat teams and science / engineering teams. Sure, it's possible to add in incentives for doing so ... but quite honestly I think having a single base with limited space is a better solution. The unfortunate side-effect of doing this is that base defence missions are less cool, because you're no longer designing the layout of your own base. Fighting a battle in an exact recreation of your base is probably going to be less special if you hadn't chosen the layout yourself. Onto the good stuff: hopefully everyone can see the potential of the new system and realises that it's not necessarily a move that will dumb down the game. If we balance the mechanic properly I think that the player will spend the whole game trying to balance their different priorities and building / demolishing the structures in these slots to use their space more efficiently as new buildings become available and their funding situation changes. It'd be nice to add an element of efficient long-term planning vs. cost-effective short term construction to the game, rather than just having a base that expands in size as the game progresses like in Xenonauts 1 and X-Com. I definitely think it could be a cool addition.
  9. Thanks for all the continuing feedback.
  10. This new version of Xenonauts 2 is the first build in our new fortnightly release schedule - we'll release a new build every other Tuesday, the next being due on 28th Feb. This is a free public test build, released free because it is still an early build and we don't yet think we can justify charging for it; full details on where to get the build can be found in this thread. Quite a few changes this week, many of which represent cleaning up issues linked to the new UI and the new maps. We're hoping to publicise this build more widely on Friday so please give it a go before then and let us know if you experience any critical issues. We'll try and push out any hotfixes needed before the end of the week. CHANGELOG: New Map: The maps from the last build have been replaced with a single new map skinned in five different biomes (arctic, boreal, temperate, tropical, desert). There's no randomisation in this map other than the biome-swapping, but that's because we're expecting to have to build some entirely new maps for the next build in two weeks time anyway. Cover & Line of Fire Updates: The new map fixes the issues of units being able to shoot through solid cliffs, and should help clean up the amount of cover shown on fire paths previews etc (it's still pretty excessive, but it is better than before). Note there's not actually less cover in the map; it's just that there's less elevation changes. Out of Ammo Notification: When a weapon is empty, the ammo number now turns red and the empty weapon sound plays. You also get a 1-second pop-up that explains there is no ammo. Map Border: Maps now have a 5-tile border of unplayable space around the edge of maps, currently displayed as black space that hides the terrain objects that go off the edge of the map / poke through the bottom of the map. Adjacent Cover: Adjacent cover was not always being correctly removed from the shooting formula, and was also being hit by "miss" shots (resulting in units destroying their own cover when shooting). This should no longer occur. Gameplay Tweaks: Cover values have been adjusted downwards as pretty much everything was offering too much cover; gameplay is a bit more fluid now you can actually hit enemies that are in cover. Props have had their HP increased to be in line with that in Xenonauts 1, as large rocks etc were previously being destroyed by a couple of bullets. Shotgun range reduced down to 8 tiles; previously it was 30. LMG now has a reload cost of 25 TU (previously 1 TU). Vaulting now costs 6 TU instead of 4 TU. Hotkeys: You can press Enter to End Turn. You can use + and - keys to raise / lower the camera level. Visual Updates: Sped up bullets and other projectiles by ~30% Crosshair graphic has been shrunk down by 20% Cleaned up some of the Psyon Drone move animations that were "lurching" before. Blood sprays on bullet impacts have been made smaller. Alien plasma bolts are smaller and better match the "plasma blue" colour in the weapon art. Bullet impact decals (bullet holes) have been shrunk down to a more realistic size. Line of Fire now displays correctly from the central part of the shooter's tile, rather than the bottom right part. Camera no longer gets "stuck" on map edges when scrolling. Camera is now locked to the map edges, rather than allowing you to infinitely scroll off into empty space. Fixed the 1px border in the darkness around the map that was not previously being properly covered by the shroud. Damage text now appears above the heads of aliens, rather than in the middle of their chests. UI Updates: The end mission victory / loss screen has been reskinned appropriately and now contains a nice message. Reskinned a few of the phase notifications (Enemy Overwatch / Alien Turn / Alien Activity). Move paths now only display a "?" on the final tile if they include a tile that is unrevealed (rather than just not currently visible). Hidden movement screen is neater and generally more like the one in X1. Weapon element now has a full-size clickable area, rather than just the weapon image itself. Deprecated leaning icons (they looked like eyes) should no longer appear on the ground when standing behind cover. Updated the UI hover / activate button colours to be more consistent with one another. Small Bugfixes: Crosshair should no longer occasionally disappear when targeting aliens. Alien reaction fire was incorrectly interrupting player actions in some situations in the previous build, often triggering on a unit rotating or uncrouching before taking a shot (and preventing the shot occurring). This should no longer occur. Fixed an issue where aliens that were one tile beyond / beside a soldier's vision cone were being revealed anyway. Force-fire cursor should no longer turn red if you mouseover a tile outside of line of sight that contains an alien. We spent this week tidying up the code and fixing issues with what we already had, so hopefully this is a noticeably more polished version than last week's game. For the next build due on Tuesday 28th Feb we're hoping to add a UFO to the map and a mission debrief screen to the game ... but they'll be pushed back to the following build if we can't get them working in time. Either way, I'm starting to feel like the core gameplay is getting back towards what we had in X1 and we'll be targeting additional content (new maps, missions and enemies) in the coming builds. As a note - the Geoscape is being worked on behind the scenes and is coming along well, but we're not going to be showing it off until it's properly integrated into the ground combat. So that's probably at least three builds away still ... but it's definitely coming along quickly too!
  11. I think that's too big a change from the original Xenonauts; you're talking a complete change of the setting at that point. And the factions thing is an interesting idea but I don't really think it works on a global scale, it's something that works better when you have multiple factions operating pretty much on top of each other (e.g. when they're all sharing a city). But yes, it would be nice to make the regions feel a bit more alive somehow.
  12. SOLDIER STRESS: In Xenonauts 1 there was no attempt to model the psychological well-being of your units beyond them occasionally panicking on the battlefield. They would happily march into battle and fight at full strength even if you'd sent them on half a dozen battles in the past week and every single one of their friends had been killed in action. The practical effect of this was that you never had to rotate your squad unless one of your soldiers picked up a battlefield injury and needed some time to recover. I think this is a bit of a missed opportunity, because a stress / fatigue system could allow the player some interesting decisions and also add an opportunity cost to combat missions. Let's assume that a soldier accumulates stress each time they take part in a mission, and this begins to reduce their stats once it reaches a certain level. That means the player has to decide how important a mission is and then choose the soldiers based on who they are willing to assign the stress to. If the mission is a routine crash site, do you really want your best soldier to accumulate more stress? Maybe you should give him the day off and send a rookie instead. Or what if the mission is a critical terror attack that you NEED to win - should you send out a high-level soldier who is already stressed, knowing that will just give him an even longer recovery time afterwards? The opportunity cost for missions is another thing that was lacking in X1. The only cost to fighting a ground combat mission was injuries or death to your soldiers; if you managed to avoid them then there were no downsides to fighting that mission. Unfortunately, this meant that the optimal playstyle involved grinding out dozens of crash sites rather than airstriking them for cash because you got more money from completing a mission and good players could minimise the risk of losing troops. Problem was, playing the same crash sites over and over was really boring. But if it's the optimal way to play then some people will do it anyway. Adding soldier stress to the game means that every mission has a cost, even if nobody actually gets hurt. Maybe you can run a few extra crash site missions for the extra cash they give, but if you fight too many of them your troops will be tired and ineffective when an important mission comes up. I think this system has the potential to neatly balance a mechanic that was causing problems in the first game. The simplest form of stress will just assign stress points to a soldier when they fight a mission, and have them gradually dissipate when the soldier is allowed to rest for a day. We'll probably start the testing with that setup. There's plenty of scope to make the system more complex though; adding factors that increase stress based on what happens in a mission would be the obvious one (e.g. suffering suppression, experienced colleagues killed, being wounded). That could potentially tie into a more interesting Bravery system. Morale isn't a particularly interesting or important stat in the ground combat at the moment, but having high-bravery soldiers be able to better deal with psychological issues would make the attribute more interesting. Having a distinctly average soldier who has the ability to keep his stress levels under control might be more useful than an excellent soldier who needs to spend a week resting after every mission. If there was limited space on the soldier roster it might be a tough choice for the player to make. PROS & CONS: As with anything, there is a development time and cost to implementing the feature. I can see this system getting quite complex and so this might require a significant amount of work to implement and then a lot of balancing to get it working properly. It's also a pretty major change to the game mechanics and might have some unintended consequences, and it'll likely require UI revisions because seeing a soldier's stress level would arguably be more important than their HP level when you're managing them on the Geoscape. I doubt this will be a small task. However, the system could make managing your soldiers and your squad a more interesting and strategic experience. Having units get traumatised if bad things happen to them on a mission could make the world seem more alive and add more emergent stories to a campaign, and it also contributes a mechanic that would allow us to organically manage the number of missions a player can run (rather than imposing a hard limit, like XCOM only allowing you to do one mission of every three).
  13. BUILDING ADVANCED WEAPONS: Building advanced weapons like Lasers or Plasmas was a little lacking in the original Xenonauts. One issue is that the weapons were just straight upgrades over the previous tier, but this isn't the thread to discuss that. What I want to discuss here is how to make deploying advanced weapons to the battlefield an actual choice. In the original game, once you'd build a laser rifle there was no reason not to use it on every mission until you built a plasma rifle to replace it. That's kinda boring. One of the more effective changes in X1 was to remove ammo management from the game - nobody wants to be preparing for an important mission and discover their secret organisation has accidentally forgotten to buy enough M-16 magazines, and now the world is doomed. But I do think there is an argument to be made for the advanced weapons having a degree of ammo management this time around. I don't want to go back to the setup where you get your engineers to build specific types of clip and all that stuff, though. What I'd prefer is to have a "fuel" of some kind - let's say Lasers run on Enriched Alenium - and then have each laser battery you take out on a mission have a cost in that resource that is deducted when you put it in a soldier's inventory on the mission equip screen. If you don't use the battery, you get the resource back at the end of the mission. This Enriched Alenium would be generated by a base structure rather than recovered from the battlefield, so building the structure just gives you a certain amount of it per day. If you want to use a lot of advanced weapons on the battlefield, you'll probably need to invest in several of those structures. This would make using advanced weapons a choice. It's much more interesting to have to choose which soldiers get a new laser weapon and which ones are stuck with ballistics, or even to have to consider whether the mission you are about to do is about to is worth taking using advanced weapons on at all. Indeed, you could actually make the advanced weapons themselves free once researched ... because they're useless until you've built up the infrastructure that allows you to use them. This is particularly relevant if we go down the route of the slot-based base, because space in the base is more limited under this setup and building a bunch of Alenium Centrifuges (or whatever) takes up space that could be used for actual laboratories. The system can be further developed, too - different weapon tiers can use different fuels, so going heavy into Enriched Alenium puts you at a disadvantage when you develop Plasma weapons that need a new type of fuel. You could also have the advanced jets run on the same fuel, so building an advanced jet doesn't immediately make all your older jets obsolete unless you've also invested heavily in producing the fuel it needs to run lots of interceptions. PROS & CONS: Implementing a system of ammo management runs the risk of putting more fiddly parts into a game that deliberately streamlined that out because they were annoying and largely pointless. I don't think that's an issue here though because you're essentially just "buying" advanced ammo at the start of a mission using a specific resource, which involves a lot less annoying busywork than having to start manually crafting clips for each type of weapon as a workshop project several days before the mission begins. So really I think it should strike a neat balance between adding complexity to the game without making it tiresome (although we'll need to test the system to confirm this). Making advanced weapons free might annoy some people, but the change would also involve adding the infrastructure required to produce the ammo. Some people might still consider it to be dumbing down in some manner but I just see it as a like-for-like swap. The unadulterated good stuff with the system is that it means you might have to think a bit harder about how to equip your team for each mission, and also that you should get more of a mix of weapons on a mission. It's all more choices for the player to make and more potential tactical variations for the player to encounter, and we want as many of those as possible! Of course, the system will take time and effort to implement, as always - UI changes and new art will be necessary here as well as programming work, but I think the idea would be worth testing nonetheless.
  14. REMOVAL OF VEHICLES: We are not planning to include Xenonaut combat vehicles like the X1 Hunter Armoured Car in the sequel. I understand this will probably be a controversial change, so this post explains the decision in detail. It's probably best to start by defining what I mean by "vehicle" by saying it is "a multi-tile armoured unit". Each tile of the battlefield is larger in X2 than it was in X1, and we may well include single-tile mechanical support units of reasonable size like drones / SHIVs etc in the game, as you can fit quite a lot inside a 1.5m x 1.5m x 3m space. What I specifically want to avoid are large armoured vehicles that have to operate through different rules to normal human-size combatants. I mean that primarily in terms of combat balancing: including armoured vehicles is going to stretch infantry vs. infantry combat rules to breaking point. The most obvious issue is that any weapon capable of punching a hole in an armoured vehicle would logically also be able to instantly kill any infantry unit that it hits. This problem turned up in the development of the original game, as we originally included armour-penetrating rockets for the rocket launcher which were designed to help the player counter Androns and large alien drones. What actually happened is that people started using them like enormous shotguns, because they could instantly kill pretty much anything other than an Andron in a single shot. It's quite difficult to avoid the contradictions without coming up with contrived solutions. The vehicle-mounted weapons in Xenonauts were still very powerful when the game shipped, but even those had been nerfed to unrealistic levels. The Hunter had dual .50cal cannons but we had to reduce these to primarily suppression weapons in order to stop the Hunter being some kind of overpowered super-unit (if you can kill something with an M-16, I'm pretty sure a burst from dual .50cals will make mincemeat out of it). For the Androns we could just tone down their stats a bit, but that's not so viable when you're dealing with "real" units like an armoured car. Fundamentally, Xenonauts is a game about squad-based combat and I think the vehicles detract from that. They were only included in Xenonauts 1 because we felt we had to do so because the original X-Com had them; we actually probably made an error by including such large vehicles as backup. Having small single-tile support vehicles like the SHIV from XCOM 2012 would have been a much better idea (except, y'know, they don't exist in real life, so you can't start with them). As I said, we might consider adding something like a SHIV to Xenonauts 2, and it'd certainly be possible for modders to do it if they wanted to - basically, they'd just be a special type of a soldier. But we're not including armoured vehicles with their own screen and special rules and weapons etc like we had in Xenonauts 1. PROS & CONS: The main advantage of the above is a gameplay experience that is better balanced and focuses better on the core X-Com gameplay, revolving around your soldiers. It also saves us implementation time across a number of fronts, which we can instead spend on other things which will improve the final product. The disadvantage is that the game then has one fewer feature than Xenonauts 1 did. However, I've never thought that you should add something into a game just because you can - there's a danger of diluting the core experience of the game. I think X2 will be better for not having armoured vehicles in it, but I know that not everyone in the community will agree with me on that count!
  15. REDUCING AIR WAR DOMINANCE: The air war in Xenonauts 1 was more important to your success in the game than your success in the ground combat, which was kinda backwards - the ground combat is the meat of the game and really that should be more important to the player's success. We really need to change that for Xenonauts 2. The main problem with the setup in Xenonauts 1 was that the entire alien invasion is generated through UFOs. In a sense this is cool because, for example, shooting down a UFO on the way to a terror site stops the terror site happening. That's cool and reactive to the player's actions, right? Yes, it is. But it also has problems. The most obvious one is that if a player gets ahead of the invasion curve and is able to shoot down all the incoming UFOs, they can almost entirely shut the aliens down. This is a problem because all you get is UFO crash sites. You don't get Terror Sites or Base Defence missions, and no Alien Bases spawn for you to attack. This is fundamentally pretty boring because you only get to play crash sites, but it kinda also breaks the tech tree and makes it harder to capture the aliens you need to win the game. In hindsight, fully simulating the alien invasion was a bad idea. What are the key things to do differently in Xenonauts 2? Some missions of each type need to spawn even if you shoot down all the UFOs, or the player is potentially deprived of some of the mission types. There should be alternate pathways for region relations gain / loss other than just shooting down / failing to shoot down UFOs. Here's some ideas as to how we can handle that: Reduce the number of alien ground missions directly spawned to a much lower number, say 50% or even as low as 30%. Dominating the air will reduce the potential relations damage inflicted by the aliens because you reduce the number of terror sites / whatever spawned, but even full air domination will not stop them all. You can play with that idea if we implement The Translocator, where the aliens regularly use teleporter tech to launch small raids etc, but sometimes send in bigger forces via UFOs. If the player has sufficient air dominance then they can shoot down the UFO and don't need to play the mission, but if not then they have a hard ground mission to fight. That would make emphasising the air war vs emphasising the ground war a strategic choice that plays out differently depending on which one you go for. We can make crash sites rarer and more important by setting it up that UFOs on scouting missions periodically appear on the Geoscape, and if the player has the planes available to successfully shoot it down then they get to do a standard crash site mission with the appropriate tech rewards. If they do not, the UFO has a 50% chance of just disappearing and a 50% chance of landing. Fighting the landed mission gives the same tech rewards as the crash site, but the ground mission is harder because the entire crew are still alive and there's no extra holes in the UFO hull. If a UFO is carrying a ground attack team, no relations loss occurs if the UFO is shot down before it reaches its destination or if the Xenonauts respond to the mission and successfully deal with it. Relations loss only occurs if the mission is spawned and is failed / not dealt with. I think those changes would probably fix most of the issues from the first game, but they are all assuming that the Geoscape does not undergo any further changes of its own. Most likely it will, and those might also solve the problem! PROS & CONS: There's not many cons to these ideas - they're not overly expensive to implement, as they just requires some changes to the balancing and alien AI logic on the Geoscape. Given we'll need to implement those things anyway it's no more effort to do it with these new changes than it is to implement them the old way. So we'll almost certainly test some or all of them out. The main disadvantage is that you lose some of the responsiveness to player actions - being able to stop the missions by being able to shoot down the UFOs is a cool concept. But I think we took it to extremes in the first game and it'll be much better if it only applies to some missions rather than all of them this time around.
  16. MERGING RESEARCH & ENGINEERING: In Xenonauts 1 the Research and Engineering departments are separated from one another, with entirely different staff and screens. I am proposing to merge them together in Xenonauts 2, which would effectively involve removing engineers entirely and giving all of their projects to the scientists instead. Why would I want to do that? Firstly, I believe that giving the engineering work to scientists will make the research tree more interesting. Secondly, it was kinda hard to find enough work to give the engineers in the first game to warrant them existing as a separate entity (they'd often sit around doing nothing between research tiers). Merging the two departments solves both problems. Let's take a basic example from the first game: I've just researched Laser Weapons, so I can now build lasers for my team. I also have Plasma Weapons available for research. If you have separate science and engineering teams, there's no choice here. Your engineers build the lasers and your scientists research the plasmas. If they have been merged, you've got a choice to make. Do you tech straight for plasmas or do you delay your research by actually building some of those laser weapons that you've just researched? To me, this seems a good way of adding more choice to the game. Rushing tech in X1 is more a case of knowing the best order to research your tech projects; this new system would give you the option to pass up building new gear to get the next tier of tech faster. It's also simpler for beginners to understand - you want to get better tech, you spend more on scientists and science facilities. No need to worry about whether engineers or scientists are more useful; your scientists can do either job as the situation dictates. PROS & CONS: How the Chief Scientist cope when he's become everything he hates? Fundamentally I think this is going to come across a simplification to people that play the game (even if it improves the game). It will need to be paired with additional changes to the research tree or the research mechanics that add a bit more complexity or I think it will be received badly. I also have concerns that our cumulative streamlining / tweaking of various mechanics has had unintended effects on the base management part of the game, as there's far fewer useful buildings in your base compared to in X-Com. Removing engineering removes another of them, and although you'd just be building a Laboratory instead of a Workshop it contributes to that area of the game feeling increasingly lightweight. However, I don't think those are really arguments against these changes - it just means that these changes should ideally be made as part of a package of changes. There is also a time saving in terms of not having to implement a new screen, a new personnel type, and new base structure etc (although kinda minor because engineering functions a lot like research so the code is likely to be quite similar). Because we can test this change simply by not implementing the engineering screens, we'll definitely be trying it out. If it makes the game worse then we can always add the engineering department back in afterwards!
  17. MIXED ALIENS IN COMBAT MISSIONS: In Xenonauts 1 all missions were spawned by a UFO, and the UFO had one of three primary races - Caesan, Sebillian or Andron - and each of these primary races had one or perhaps two secondary races associated with it (e.g. Reapers would only turn up in Sebillian UFOs). This meant that every mission would include at most two races. You might get a mission that contained Sebillians and Reapers, or you might get Androns and Wraiths. You'd never encounter Sebillians and Wraiths together, and you certainly wouldn't get a few Androns mixed in there too. In some ways this is better, because it makes the aliens feel a bit more like a military force rather than the random zoo they were in the new XCOM games. But in other ways it is worse, as alien abilities are much less interesting when you are facing multiple units with exactly the same ability. The regeneration ability of a Sebillian means you need to focus fire one to kill it effectively ... but if you're fighting but Sebillians, it's not a very interesting decision because there's nothing to shoot at but Sebillians. The "zoo" approach of XCOM throws out more interesting tactical situations where you need to effectively prioritise targets from a group of different aliens. I don't think I want to go full "zoo" here, but I do think we could mix the alien units up a bit more. There's a few possible approaches: We can set up groups of primary and secondary aliens of equivalent power (e.g. eight Psyons or three Androns might be considered equivalent) and then randomise the primary and secondary races for every UFO. That gives a much higher number of possible combinations of different aliens for the player to encounter, which should keep the battles a bit more fresh We could define a primary race for each mission and then do away with the secondary races altogether, and instead just deploy an assortment of "support" units instead. You might encounter mostly Psyons on a mission, but then you have the odd Andron or Wraith or Reaper mixed in there too. That gives more chance to generate the interesting tactical situations you get in XCOM. I'm not completely sure on how we'll test this out if we go ahead with this idea, but I think the first idea will probably retain the feel of the first game but add more variation. If we find that it does not add enough variation then we can look at the second one, too. PROS & CONS: Other than the standard disclaimer that implementing something costs development time and money that could be spend elsewhere (although this is one of the simpler features for us to implement), the main con that I can see would be that it we take the randomisation too far we'll end up with a disjointed feel to the alien forces. There's also the problem that if we make the alien forces more reactive and start granting them upgrades in response to strategic events (e.g. winning a mission against Psyons makes them upgrade their armour and makes them tougher), then mixing the aliens up too much means that the opportunities for strategic decisions are taken away ... e.g. it'd be hard to specifically avoid or target these powered-up Psyons if they could appear on any mission. However if the system is done well the possibilities for interesting alien combinations are much higher and the gameplay will be more varied. That's always going to be a good thing, right?
  18. ALIEN RACIAL ABILITIES: Many of the aliens in Xenonauts 1 had racial abilities, as the list below demonstrates: Sebillians: regeneration, can see through smoke Wraiths: teleportation Reapers: spreading the love Harridans: jetpacks Androns: could not be suppressed, do not use cover Caesans: psionic powers Problem was, many of them were not used effectively or just weren't that interesting. I'll exempt the Reapers from this criticism as they were pretty good at scaring people, but the racial abilities of the other aliens did not dramatically change your battlefield tactics when you fought them. It'd be nice to give them something a bit more distinctive. I've listed a few thoughts on what we could do below, and I'm open to thoughts and suggestions! Psyons: These guys were the Caesans in the first game and were pretty boring. They were just normal guys with average stats who occasionally had annoying psionic powers. This time around they've been split into small hunched Drones armed with plasma pistols, and larger and stronger Officers who have plasma rifles. The racial mechanics could work as follows: Psyons Officers are good shots but only average HP and the Psyons Drones are distinctly fragile. Psyons are deployed in pods of one Officer and three Drones, which stick together on the battlefield. Each Drone in the pod that is alive reduces all incoming damage on the Officer by 25%. This gives the officer a 75% reduction on all incoming damage until you start taking out Drones. The Psyon Officers are the dangerous ones, but they draw a protective psionic shield from the weaker Drones. Attacking the Officer before you tackle the Drones means they will take a lot more firepower to bring down, but tackling the Drones first gives the Officer more time to kill your troops. Off the top of my head, there's a few tactics that could work here - suppressing or somehow disabling the Officer while you kill the Drones could work. Alternatively high damage weapons might be able to burst through the shield even if you've not killed any of the Drones. Maybe a rocket or grenade would be good if they were bunched together? Alternatively, you could just use plenty of soldiers and fight them in the conventional way. Sebillians: In the first game Sebillians were big and beefy, and regenerated any damage they took over three turns. If you didn't focus fire them, they could be quite difficult to kill. However, I think the regeneration mechanic could be made more interesting: Sebillians have average HP values. When a Sebillian takes damage, its max HP is reduced by 25% of the damage it takes. Sebillians only die when their MAXIMUM HP is reduced to 0. When a Sebillian is reduced to 0 HP, it does not die. Instead, it just goes prone. At the start of the alien turn, any prone Sebillian stands up and returns to full HP and TU (but can only move, not shoot, that turn?) Prone Sebillians takes double damage. Basically the concept is that Sebillians are generally rather hard to kill, but are vulnerable once they have been temporarily "killed" and are regenerating the damage. Provided you can reliably score hits on a downed Sebillian, you can finish it off pretty quickly - somewhat effective with sniper weapons, but especially effective at short range with a weapon that can burst fire. Makes rifles and LMGs potentially more useful than before. I think seeing a "dead" Sebillian get back up again for the first time would be a bit of a shock to new players, particularly if it then runs off into a nearby building or something. Having to chase a fleeing Sebillian you thought was dead into a building that could contain other aliens might be an interesting experience! Wraiths: Teleporting was a cool idea but turned out to either be overly powerful or essentially useless. Apparently it wasn't a lot of fun to play against the Wraiths when they were allowed to teleport at the start of their turn, because they would just teleport right next to your troops and then immediately gun them down or blow them up with grenades. But limiting their teleport to the end of the turn didn't prove particularly effective, and sometimes created an awful situation where you were trying to hunt down a single Wraith on a massive map. I like the visual design of the Wraiths so I'll probably keep them in the game, but no more teleporting. Another skill that might better fit their name: Fade - after the first attempted attack (or damage taken) against a Wraith, they turn semi-transparent and all further attacks against it that turn suffer a -35% accuracy penalty. Basically, the idea here is that you want to choose very carefully who takes the first shot at a Wraith because everyone else is going to struggle to hit them afterwards. Might present some difficult decisions in certain circumstances, given the famous X-Com tradition of missing shots at inopportune times. Other alternative / additional ideas: Defensive Teleport - the Wraith could automatically teleport to a new location within a certain radius when it takes damage. This would make them strong against shotgunners, because you only get one shot at them after you've closed the distance before they teleport away again. Reapers: Reapers are already pretty cool and I can't see us changing their core mechanic too much. One small tweak to their ability has been suggested though: the "zombify" effect only triggers if the Reaper attack kills a unit, and their attacks would no longer be instakills. They were a bit strong against late game power armour previously. It makes sense they could take down even heavy armour in a couple of swipes but a single-touch instakill in any situation was a bit much. We also had an idea for the first game where Reaper Alphas would have a psionic power that could paralyse nearby soldiers, but it never made it into the game. I guess it might be interesting to allow some form of psionic or latent ability: Paralyse - prevents a nearby hostile unit from moving, although it can still fire weapons as normal Terror - the nearest hostile unit receives -20% hit chance against this Reaper Basically the some kind of gameplay change that forces the player to treat the Reapers a bit differently; for example never sending troops in alone etc. But they're already pretty cool so I don't see this as particularly urgent. Androns: The Androns are now significantly larger and more obviously robotic than in the first game. They had three abilities from the first game which I think we'll retain: Androns cannot be suppressed and never suffer morale penalties. Androns cannot crouch. Androns never actively seek out cover. Essentially Androns are big killer robots do not make any attempt at self-preservation. If you take that behaviour and combine it with the fact they look like big killer robots, that might be enough to make them a distinctive enemy in their own right - but I think they probably do need something else too. Something that makes you change your tactics against them. Maybe one or all of these: Androns can only rotate a maximum of 90 degrees per turn (they'll need to be able to crush walls and props underfoot in this case). Androns take extra damage if shot from behind. Androns could have the Cyberdisk death-explosion from X-Com. Basically the Xenonauts can employ the tactical equivalent of circle-strafing to either avoid the Andron's attacks or inflict extra damage on it. Harridans: We're not going to include the Harridans in the game, at least in the short term. They didn't work particularly well in the first game and I'm thinking that an entirely new race would be more effective in their place.
  19. HUMAN PSIONICS: In Xenonauts 1 certain aliens were able to use psionic attacks against your men, but you never gained the ability to use them yourself. My experiences playing the original X-Com convinced me that psionics were too powerful and easily abused to give to the player. There was the occasional grumble in the community about this but in general people were fine this. However, my opposition to human psionics has mellowed over time and I'd consider implementing them in Xenonauts 2. I think the nature of the alien bad guys in the game lends itself well to allowing humans to develop psionics too, and also allows more interesting mechanics than would otherwise be the case. Without going too far into spoiler territory, the setup could be as follows: The aliens have natural psionic powers, but humans do not. You can create a human psion by capturing an alien and then splicing their mind together with one of your soldiers (I'm being vague here to avoid story spoilers). This psionic soldier acts like a normal soldier, but is also able to use psionic powers on the battlefield. Unfortunately, doing so gives the alien part of his mind a chance to disable or even seize control of the soldier. This means that a psionic attack is always fundamentally different to shooting something with a gun. Any time you attempt to employ a psionic attack, things can go very badly wrong - you might find a malevolent alien possessing your psion and temporarily turning him against you. In X-Com psionics were pretty routine and the worst that could happen is that you would fail the attack. I've always quite preferred it when books portray magic as a dangerous, unpredictable force rather than an applied science where the same action always gives the same result, and I prefer my psionics that way too. I quite like the portrayal in Warhammer 40K where you are literally trying to harness the power of a hell-dimension and demons eat your mind if you get it wrong. I think there's also something to be said for limiting the most powerful alien psionic powers (like mind control) to something that is self-inflicted. Mind control is pretty annoying, but if you want to make sure it never happens then you can just not make any psionic soldiers ... but then you're depriving yourself of potentially quite powerful units. Gives the player another choice to make, and the debate over whether psions are too dangerous to risk using is one you could definitely imagine happening in-universe. You could play on some of the tensions on the topic within the Xenonauts in the research reports and cutscene dialogue. PROS & CONS: There's currently no support for psionic abilities in the game, and even though we'll have to add the basics in order to give the aliens access to them, adding human psionics is going to be a big job. It'll require a whole new ground combat UI element just to be able to use them, and we'll need to design and code all the different powers and no doubt spend a long time balancing them too. Unlocking them on the Geoscape will need new research projects and perhaps new base structures, and that requires more coding work and more artwork and more writing to be done. Because it touches almost every part of the game, this system is even potentially big enough to be a DLC pack after release. If we can get it working properly, it'll be a really cool system both in gameplay terms and in terms of building up the settings. More content is always good and having extra research projects and extra battlefield options will make the game more interesting and varied to play, and my intention of making the setting a little darker is well-served when turning a soldier into a psion involves splicing a dangerous alien into their mind, leaving them battling for control of his own body for the rest of their life. Problem is this is going to be a big and expensive system to implement. It might well work best as a post-release DLC if our budget is quite tight before release, because this is a system that could unbalance the game badly if we implement it in a hurried or half-assed way. It's something we'll have to do well, or not at all. But if we've got the money for it I'd love to put it in the base game; it's something completely new and different from the original Xenonauts and we definitely need some of those.
  20. Managing your mercs and your limited weapons and supplies and attachments in JA2 is pretty much the entire strategic game in JA2, so you'd certainly it hope it was more advanced that what you get in X-Com. Getting more powerful rifles and scopes and grenade launcher attachments etc is the whole "tech tree" in JA2. I'm a big fan of JA2 myself and I may consider turning the X2 engine towards making a proper sequel to it in the future, because it's another game where the core mechanics are still rock solid despite the packaging around it having become dated. But a load of the cool mechanics (e.g. detailed weapon customization, movement stances) just don't belong in an aliens vs. humans context imo.
  21. This is a relatively small change, but it's still worth discussing because it potentially gives us additional ways to differentiate the weapons in the game. In Xenonauts 1 units have an armour stat and weapons have an armour mitigation stat. The calculation is simple - armour reduces incoming damage its own value, so if a unit with 10 armour is shot with a 30 damage weapon it will suffer 20 damage (with 10 stopped by the armour). Armour mitigation on a weapon just reduces the target armour, so if that 30 damage weapon also has 2 points of armour mitigation then the target will suffer 22 damage (8 is stopped by the armour). This is a simple calculation that's pretty easy to understand, but it's kinda boring in practice. The only interesting interaction is when you create a weapon with low damage and extremely high mitigation, which creates a weapon that always does full damage to a target irrespective of the armour (making it optimal against high-armour targets but a bad choice against low armour targets). In almost every other case adding a point of mitigation to a weapon has the same effect as adding one point of raw damage to the weapon; it just inflicts one extra HP of damage per shot. In Xenonauts-2 I'm proposing we move armour penetration to a modifier that controls how many points of damage are required to punch through one point of armour. Let's take an example where we have a weapon that does 60 Damage and a target with 25 Armour: 1x Penetration Modifier: The armour absorbs 25 damage and the remaining 35 HP of damage is applied to the target. 0.5x Penetration Modifier: in this case, it takes 2 points of Damage to negate 1 point of Armour. The armour absorbs 50 Damage and the target takes 10 HP of damage. 2x Penetration Modifier: in this case, 1 point of Damage negates 2 points of Armour. The armour absorbs 12.5 Damage (rounded up), so the target takes 47 HP damage. This solution should scale better than before; even a weapon with a high penetration modifier (like a precision rifle) might still not be able to break the armour of a target if it's outdated technology. Similarly an advanced weapon with a low penetration modifier like a shotgun might be able to punch through the armour of a weak enemy by virtue of sheer raw damage. More interesting is the fact that it opens the way for more potential weapon archetypes. There's room for separating out the shotgun and carbines / SMGs within the close-range weapons if armour penetration differentiates them, and we can tone down the damage on the precision rifle whilst increasing its effectiveness against armour in order to make it a bit less dominant relative to the assault rifle in normal play (but particularly good against armoured enemies). Do you guys have any opinions on this? (EDIT - please also see my post two posts down.)
  22. GEOSCAPE: STRIPPING IT DOWN Our first major development milestone involves creating a working proxy of Xenonauts 1, which we will then use to test the changes we have planned for Xenonauts 2. However, we will be removing a number of features from the X1 Geoscape for this first milestone in preparation for a bigger overhaul further down the line. We are doing this because we need to create a blank canvas on which we can test new ideas for the game's strategic objectives, the region relations / territory control system, and for how the alien invasion functions. Those are going to be HUGELY important changes (really they define the whole purpose of the game) so they'll be discussed in a separate thread (Geoscape: Building it Up). The purpose of this thread is to explain what we'll be stripping out of the current Geoscape design and why we have chosen to do so. So, what were the issues with the core Geoscape map mechanics in Xenonauts 1? If bases have on-map radar ranges, there are always some base locations that will be better than others (as the shape of the continents means more landmass will fall within their radar coverage). If national relations are primarily defined by the level of air coverage in a region, the optimal Geoscape strategy is always to rush air global air coverage with two or three well-placed interceptor bases. If national relations are not primarily defined by air coverage, there's not really much point building additional bases as your main base is perfectly capable of doing everything except provide radar / interceptor coverage across the whole planet. In short: bases exist pretty much only to provide radar and interceptor coverage, but don't actually do a very good job of it ... and there's almost nothing else to the X1 Geoscape if you disregard the base-building mechanics. Most of the issues are pretty fundamental. Any time that you're modeling the radar coverage of a base in a "realistic" manner (albeit not accounting for the curvature of the earth) you're going to limit strategic choice, because the demographics of the world and shape of its landmass is going to create clearly optimal base locations. Similarly, given that the only function of secondary bases in X1 was to provide radar and interceptor coverage over distant regions, we have the choice of either finding a way to encourage the player to build secondary strike teams and research labs etc in their satellite bases, or removing making radars / interceptors and trying to find a better mechanic than basebuilding to go on the Geoscape. However, we did actually try giving the dropships limited range during X1 development to try and encourage the player to build up a secondary team ... and both the team and the community hated it. So I think we'll try and come up with something entirely new for the Geoscape instead. For those reasons, we will be making the following changes to the Geoscape: The Geoscape will be turn-based. The Xenonauts only have a single base and it is not shown on the map. Your interceptors have a global range, so they can attempt to intercept detected UFOs anywhere in the world. Instead of specific areas of radar coverage on the map, the Xenonauts have a global Detection Level score that is dependent on how many Radar Arrays they have built. UFOs are detected when they spawn on the map if their Stealth score is lower than the Xenonaut Detection Level. The UFO spawning / mission system and the regional relations system will remain the same as in Xenonauts 1 for now, but will be replaced by whatever we decide needs to replace the X1 Geoscape mechanics. This is going to create a situation where the only thing that appears on the Geoscape are ground combat missions and UFOs that you can attempt to shoot down - as I said at the start of the post, it's going to be an empty void where we can try out our new map mechanics. Hopefully you can understand why I feel we need to remove those systems and seek a better alternative. You're welcome to post here if you want to discuss those decisions, but if you want to critique or make suggestions about what should replace them then you should check out the thread on Building Up the Geoscape.
  23. THE TRANSLOCATOR: One of the mechanics we may explore for Xenonauts 2 is equipping the main base with a translocator - a device capable of instantaneously transport a small number of soldiers anywhere in the world for a short period of time. Once this time is up, the soldiers "snap back" to their previous location at the main base. The basic idea is probably going to be divisive, but I think it could improve the gameplay and also fix some lore holes that exist in the game. We can assume that the translocator is recovered alien technology - without going into spoiler territory, that would fit with the planned storyline. This post is my way of putting forward the benefits I believe it might bring to the game. Gameplay Benefits: There's several gameplay benefits that arise from having the translocator in the game: It allows a collective "weight limit" for your squad, rather than individual ones. In X1 there's no reason not to load your troops down with more equipment than they could ever use on a mission, because extra grenades etc really aren't that heavy compared to what a soldier can realistically carry. Implementing a collective weight limit due to teleporter capacity would get around the realism issue and could create a situation when you genuinely have to choose between things, e.g. giving your sniper a secondary weapon or giving your shotgunner heavier armour. It gives us an excuse to add unique mission conditions: e.g. custom mission spawn rules, mission timers, caps on soldier numbers, etc Potentially it could also be used to travel to alien planets, if we decide we want to go that way with the plot / mission structure Lore Benefits: The Xenonauts having access to what is essentially a teleporter might sound ridiculous, but it does actually solve a number of questions about the Xenonauts: A clear reason why the Xenonauts are more effective at fighting the aliens than other military forces (and thus why they are actually needed) - their elite troops can respond almost instantly to alien attacks anywhere in the world. A clear reason why the Xenonauts use such small units of soldiers on important missions. Logically the Xenonauts should be deploying hundreds of troops backed by armour and air support when they go to battle, given the future of humanity is at stake, but a teleporter allows us to place a logical limit on this. A justification for why the Xenonauts are able to reach combat sites anywhere in the world in time to do something useful - even with the fastest transport aircraft, they might not reach a combat zone until many hours after the aliens attacked (at which point there probably wasn't much they could do to help the locals). It could give us an excuse to limit the number of missions a player could do in a certain period, e.g. "the teleporter needs to recharge". That might help us prevent players feeling obliged to do tedious missions just because they get more rewards for doing it manually than airstriking it. In short, the translocator would make the Xenonauts special within the universe and give them unique capabilities that allow us to create a more fun experience without breaking the in-game logic. PROS & CONS: The biggest barrier to this idea is people's gut reaction - creating a relatively realistic setting and then giving the main characters a teleporter sounds kinda wrong. I actually think people will get over it pretty quickly if we have consistent internal rules about how the translocator can be employed, but I still think we need to consider the initial reaction when we evaluate the system (they might not give the game a chance if they think the setting is too ridiculous). The advantages are pretty clear - much more interesting gameplay possibilities. There's also an advantage in asset terms as we can remove the dropships from the game, saving work on both the strategy and combat layer. We can mirror the important mechanics of dropships with alternate translocator mechanics, e.g. upgrading the dropships to carry more troops can be done by upgrading the translocator instead. Implementation time isn't huge from a coding point of view because this is a change to the setting, but it will require rewriting the game lore and cutscene dialogue where appropriate (and likely changing the screen background on the soldier equip screen). Testing and implementing new mechanics like the squad weight limit will also take development time, and ultimately I think whether we give the Xenonauts a translocator will depend on how fun the mechanics it enables are. If we think they add to the game then we'll change the setting accordingly, but if not then I guess we'll stick to the old set-up.
  24. Musing on the above for a bit, I think we can make a good "before" system to compare any strategic changes we make to. Basically we can keep interceptors global but make radars coverage based on requisitioning existing radar facilities on the map (or upgrading them with alien detectors or whatever). These would cover pre-set areas on the map - and importantly most regions would have two or three of them. UFOs in a region are assigned to each radar station at random, so controlling half the radar stations detects half the incoming UFOs etc. If we then give the player enough money to buy multiple radar installations at the start of the game, you've then got the same strategic setup as X1 except there's more choice. You could buy a single radar installation in each region, or max out a couple of important regions instead. In X1 a single radar base can cover an entire region (often more than one) so breaking it down into smaller units make sense. As I said before, I'm not sure this is enough to save the Geoscape by itself - but I think it'd fix some of the problems with the X1 system so we may as well give it a test too.
  25. Right, OK - we're going to push back the PR work due to start tomorrow. This crosshair issue (and some linked issues) are sufficiently problematic that I'm not happy promoting the build right now, but fixing the issues has proved to be more difficult than expected. The whole section of the code that handles the crosshair, the fire preview path and the damage numbers is currently being cleaned up and rewritten. That means we can either spend our time fixing a bug in code that is literally a couple of days from being thrown in the dustbin forever, or we can just use the new "clean" code as the hotfix. The second option seems to be more efficient so we'll be going down that route, but that does mean the hotfix might not be quite as quick as normal. Anyway, once we've put the hotfix out and had a few people give feedback on the build, we'll start the PR process. Hopefully the hotfix will arrive tomorrow or Monday.