Chris

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  1. INTERCEPTOR SQUADRONS: In the original Xenonauts each interceptor was a single aircraft that could be deployed to fight UFOs either individually or in a squadron with up to two other aircraft. In Xenonauts 2 individual interceptors will now be purchased in squadrons of five identical aircraft, and multiple squadrons can be formed together into a wing and send out to attach UFOs. Essentially the scale has changed but the gameplay is largely unchanged - each squadron of five interceptors in X2 acts collectively in the same way as a single interceptor did in X1. The only real difference is a change to how interceptor damage is represented. In the first game each interceptor had its own health bar. If it took damage in combat, it would be slowly repaired up to full health when back at base (but could still be sent out into combat if needed). If it took enough damage to be destroyed, it would be automatically replaced after a week or so of in-game time. Unfortunately, the time between UFO waves meant that an interceptor was usually either destroyed or on full health when a new batch of UFOs appeared. Having such a binary representation of damage made balancing the Geoscape problematic. Inexperienced players would get their planes shot down and be missing half their air force whenever fresh UFOs appear, whereas experienced players never got their planes shot down and so they were always at full health when UFOs appeared. There was never a choice as to whether to risk sending a damaged plane into combat; you could always match interceptor X up with UFO Y and get the same result. Difficult to balance and kinda boring too. Under the new system, each individual plane in a squadron is either operational or destroyed. A squadron with all five aircraft fights at 100% strength and effectively has 100% HP, but one with three aircraft has 60% HP and also only fights at 60% strength. Destroyed aircraft are replaced for free, but this may take a significant length of time. This allows us to represent damage in a more granular way. We can set the game up so even a good player will always lose some aircraft against certain UFOs, and that other UFOs can only kill so many interceptors no matter how badly a player plays the air combat. Everyone then gets to make more interesting decisions, because everyone has damaged squadrons - which have a reduced damage output. E.g. four F-17s will take down a Light Scout UFO without much trouble, but do I want to risk it with three? This adds in some uncertainty to the combat, and also means the player has choices to make about whether to ground a squadron until it recovers or continue flying missions and risk losing even more planes. Most UFO interceptions can also have a cost associated with them using this system, which means shooting down every UFO you encounter might not be the optimal approach this time round. PROS & CONS: The only potential gameplay issue I can see arising with this suggestion is that the individual interceptors can only be operational or destroyed, so don't have a damaged state. I'm currently doing this for the sake of simplicity but we might find that the lack of a damaged state is a bit limiting when it comes to designing the air combat - e.g. it means any interceptor hit by weapon fire would probably just have to make a simple survival roll based on its stats and those of the enemy weapon. This might well be fine, but if not then there is scope for expansion (e.g. a damaged state could just put the affected plane out of action for a shorter period than destruction). Some UI changes will also be required in order to show five planes where only one was displayed in the original game. Initially we'll keep this to a minimum but if they system is further expanded then something more fundamental may be required. Again, this all costs time ... but probably less than most of the features mentioned here. Overall I think this is a pretty good change. Deploying fifteen interceptors against a large UFO is just fundamentally more cool than deploying three, and I think it'll open up more interesting gameplay and help us correct some balance issues on the Geoscape. Should give us a pretty good return on the time invested in it.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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.)
  5. The research system in Xenonauts 1 is perfectly fine - we've already got it working in the X2 strategy layer and it does the job fine. That said, I think there's scope for making things a bit more interesting and I'd like to explore some of the possible ideas here. This thread is not for changes to the research tree, but for changes to the research mechanics. It's for discussion about the process of how you actually do the research, rather than discussion about stuff like making different tiers of weapons different from one another. Here's some of my thoughts, but feel free to add your own. RESEARCH AREAS & SCIENTIST SPECIALTIES: The most obvious change for me is to turn the scientists into proper individual characters with their own specialties and weaknesses. The player would start the game with one lab and one scientist (probably the Chief Scientist) and each additional lab building would allow you to hire an additional named scientist. Each scientist would have a % score in each of the following specialisations (not necessarily final categories): Theoretical Physics Materials Science Biochemistry Engineering The starting Chief Scientist has 100% in each of these categories, whereas the scientists you hire would probably have stats in the range of 50% to 200%. Having 100% in a skill will provide 10 points of research per day. The idea is that each research project requires a certain number of research points in each category. Let's say that developing laser weapons requires 100 points of Theoretical Physics, 100 points of Materials Science and 200 points of Engineering. That means it will take the Chief Scientist 40 days to finish the research by himself, as he produces 10 points per day (and you work on the different sections consecutively rather than all at once). If you had two of him, it would take 20 days each - one would do the Engineering section (20 days), and the other one would do the Theoretical Physics and Materials Science sections (10 days each). However, if you have a scientist with 200% in Engineering and 100% in Materials Science, you could set him to work on the Engineering element of the project. He would generate the 200 points in 10 days, meaning the project could be done in 15 days total if the Chief Scientist was helping out. Basically the idea is to add a bit more management to the research part of the game, forcing the player to choose which scientists to use on certain projects. I think we'd need to tie certain types of project to certain types of specialization though, so the player can choose what type of research he wants to prioritize when hiring staff. SCIENTIST PROGRESSION & DANGER: If we turn scientists into characters, it would be cool to have an element of progression for them too. The longer they spend working on a particular topic, the more their skill in that category improves. Potentially you could do something with this by having experienced scientists be expensive hires, but inexperienced scientists can be hired cheaply and learn fast. Maybe some of the more experienced scientist would have special perks that benefited the entire research team too, or something. However, if you're adding scientist skill progression then I think we should also consider adding an element of failure & danger to the job. A scientist might have a chance of failing the section of the research project he is working on (wasting the time and resources involved), or worse they might suffer a critical fail and outright kill themselves. You could mitigate inexperience by asking the scientist to work more slowly, which would reduce the risk of failure but also increase the time required to finish the section. IMPROVED EQUIPMENT: The other thing I'd like to have is some way to improve your equipment by having skilled researchers work on them. If you complete your laser weapons with a standard researcher, your laser rifle might have 80 Accuracy and do 50 Damage. But an expert Engineer might be able to get the Accuracy up to 100 and an expert in Materials Science might be able to get the damage up to 60 Damage. I'm open to ideas about how this should be done. I was thinking that the Laser Weapons project would have optional extra sections that can be completed which grant Accuracy and Damage bonuses. These would be gated so that only scientists with more than 120% (or whatever) in the respective fields could attempt them. That would give the player more of a bonus for hiring / training up an expert in that type of science. A few ideas there - what do you guys think? The complexity that we can offer is somewhat limited by what we can clearly display in the UI, but I'm definitely open to making the research and scientists a bit more interesting than they were in X1. Happy to listen to any ideas that other people have too ... just post them up in this thread.
  6. This new version of Xenonauts 2 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. The next update is due on Tuesday 28th March, although if necessary we will also release hotfixes for any game-breaking bugs encountered in this build. The headline feature in this new build is a UFO and various connected game features. The current UFO design will be rather familiar to most of you and is just a little joke on our part; it'll be changing shortly to something more original. There's only a single map (available in two biomes) this time around but we're planning to do a new batch of maps once the UFO has had a bit of testing. CHANGELOG: UFO: A test UFO is now in the game. As we're currently testing box UFOs with fully destructible walls like those in the original X-Com, so we've included a homage to the original game in this build (it won't stick around for long). Take-and-Hold Victory: An alternate victory condition has been added to the mission, allowing you to win the game if you clear the UFO of aliens and hold it for 5 turns. You should get a little pop-up at the start of the turn if you are making progress towards a take-and-hold victory. Defender Aliens: The AI is still basic in the extreme, but a few designated aliens should now stay inside the UFO rather than just rushing your team at the start of the mission. Diagonal Walls: The game didn't previously support diagonal walls, but it now (mostly) does. There's some ongoing issues with the line of sight, but we're getting there. Secondary Weapons: We've added a way to quickly access secondary weapons and equipment - pressing "X" or right-clicking on the weapon image panel swaps to the secondary equipment of the soldier. At the moment all the soldiers currently have access to a sidearm pistol with unlimited clips, and there's an empty slot which we will use to test out medikits / stun batons / etc in the coming week. Please give the pistols a test if you can, because the 1-handed animations haven't appeared in the game before. Unity 5.5: We've updated to Unity 5.5 now, which was a time-consuming necessary evil and should hopefully increase performance in the longer term. Bug Reports From Menu: You can now report bugs direct from the menu (Escape) rather than having to press Alt + F12. Visual Improvements: Main main screen 3D scene has had a texture update on the big background screens; these were previously quite low-quality textures but should now be a bit sharper. UI buttons have had a slight visual rework. We've added some post-processing to the ground combat - a slight vignette effect and a sharpen effect. We've also got a glow effect working, and have added glow to the alien weapons / projectiles and also to some of the stuff inside the UFOs. Units now splatter blood on the ground when injured - unfortunately the blood hovers about 10cm off the ground at present, but we'll fix that in the next build. Gameplay Tweaks: RNG is now fully random - in previous builds the game used the same sequence of random numbers each time you played, which is no longer the case. Pysons have been nerfed down to 50-60 Accuracy from about 80 Accuracy previously Aliens now have the same sight range as humans (18) up from 16 previously. Fixed a bug where being on raised areas would reduce the enemy cover by 20%, even if it was a 100% block object - allowing units to shoot through walls and cliffs. Fixed a bug where aliens were sometimes incorrectly visible despite still being one tile inside the fog of war. Quite a lot of work has gone into behind-the-scenes stuff required to get the UFOs working and enabling the animation / weapon swapping that occurs when you change to the secondary weapons (plus the migration to Unity 5.5). Next build we're planning to add some new maps and try to add a few more weapons to the game - grenades, the grenade launcher, the medikit and the stun baton are all on our work list.
  7. 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.
  8. STORY & CUTSCENES: The storytelling in Xenonauts 1 was a pretty minimal affair, conducted entirely through the research reports you received from the laboratories. This had a certain charm but it did leave the world feeling a little flat overall - although it was probably the correct choice, given that the original X-Com worked the same way. We want to tell a bit more of a story in Xenonauts 2. The research reports will still exist, but we also want to add story "cut-scenes" that will be played over a darkened Geoscape and will contain a conversation between the player character and one or more other Xenonauts. I want to keep these short and unobtrusive, but a few lines of dialogue can sometimes communicate a concept much more easily than a lengthy research text monologue can. The Xenonauts are split into three divisions: Military, Research and Operations. The three heads of the divisions (the player character, the Chief Scientist and the Operations Director respectively) jointly run the Xenonauts and therefore are the three main characters in these cutscenes. The player starts the game by heading to the Xenonaut main base to take command of Military Division after an alien biovirus kills his predecessor, so he actually finds the other two characters holding back highly classified information about the aliens and Xenonauts and only slowly drip-feeding it to him as he proves his competence. This is just a narrative device though; the player still has the same control over the organisation in gameplay terms as in X1. I think it'll be good to have a bit more of a storyline this time around, and I'm going to try and make the Xenonauts feel a bit more like a secret organisation fighting a shadow war with the aliens (I think they felt a bit too conventional military first time around). I also think the Chief Scientist will be a better character if he has a straight man / lady to play off in one of the other characters, his snark risks getting tiresome otherwise. PROS & CONS: Probably not worth discussing in too much detail as we'll be implementing these as soon as possible. I think it's going to be important to communicate to players early that the X2 setting and story will be different, given the gameplay will be quite similar to that in X1 in the early stages of development. This is a good way of doing it without slowing down the coding team, as it just requires a few nice character portraits and the time it takes to write the dialogue. There's definitely a risk that the cutscenes are long or boring, but I'm going to try and keep them short and to the point. It might take a few iterations to get the dialogue right but I think they should be a good addition to the game if handled correctly.
  9. A relatively short post here, this one justifying a change I've already decided to make: we'll be swapping out the Rocket Launcher for a Grenade Launcher. What gameplay effects will there be? The grenade launcher will be a direct fire weapon like the rocket launcher was; you won't be shooting it over walls. The grenade launcher will do less damage per shot, but cost less TU per shot. This makes it a more mobile weapon than the rocket launcher. The grenade launcher will have a 6-round magazine. Ideally the grenade launcher will support multiple types of ammunition, like the rocket launcher in X1 (and the old heavy launcher in X-Com). Most likely the weapon will primarily be used for removing cover and blowing up buildings. Basically a grenade launcher is much simpler in terms of making animations etc, and I think a lighter and more mobile weapon fits better with the setting and gameplay than a full-on rocket launcher does. Rocket ammo also will not fit in with the New Inventory System, whereas 6-round grenade magazines are more compact and would work fine. Overall there's a bit of a reality disconnect with us not allowing indirect fire (I don't like the idea of soldiers being able to attack enemies without exposing themselves to fire) but I think people will get over that pretty fast. I don't see any disadvantages other than that, but I'm more than willing to look over any potential issues that people post up in this thread.
  10. 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.
  11. Thanks. We'll have a look into these issues in a bit more detail; there's incoming fixes in the next build that stop the fire line tagging cover as intervening when it's blatantly not actually in the line of fire but it's not going to affect the elevation issues you brought up. I'm not sure what's going on with being able to see through the cliff though. We're going to have to sit down and figure out whether cover resulting from changes in elevation really should be accounted for in the same way as normal cover - if we do, you get some weird stuff happening like in your second screenshot. There might be a better way of doing it.
  12. They're not ready to go in the game quite yet, but the Reapers aren't far off being ready.
  13. Your post is too long to quote in full, but I did read the whole thing. It does kinda seem like you've happily swallowed a bunch of the flimsy lore "justifications" from X1 because you liked the mechanics they allowed - I obviously consider this a good thing, but it's worth unpacking a little. I think people will be equally willing to swallow a the translocator if it improves the gameplay and we've made an effort to integrate it into the game world in the same way that we tried to logically justify some pretty weird behavior on the part of the aliens / local forces in X1. I really don't think there's any realistic justification in X1 for dropships that can move fast enough to get to alien sites in time to help out in any meaningful way, or that carry such small teams. Or that eight dudes with M16s in blue overalls are going to do a better job than the SAS / Delta Forces / whatever, particularly if the alien invasion thus far has consisted of a couple of small UFOs flying about causing crop circles and the local forces are still in good shape. Ultimately, though, nobody really cared about the logical inconsistencies. We tried to come up with plausible reasons for all of it and that contributed to making X1 feel more realistic than XCOM did, even though fundamentally the game is deeply unrealistic on a number of levels. I think with a translocator there could definitely be potential uses for it that are too much and give a jarring / immersion-breaking moment; not everything I suggested in the OP is necessarily something that we will do the translocator. It's just stuff that we could do. If it makes the game better, I imagine people will turn a blind eye to the inconvenient truths just like they did with various aspects of X1.
  14. If I set up arbitrary rules for the setting and then break them, the setting has consistency errors and that's a problem for everyone ... but if someone else sets up arbitrary rules and the setting breaks them, that's only a problem for them. Whether an alien race advanced enough to travel to Earth has the technology to be able to disguise its infiltrators as humans is up for me to decide, and the precise parameters of how mind control or whatever "space brain magic" that the aliens are using to infiltrate governments for plot and gameplay purposes is also up to me to define. Sure, if I come up with rules for how those things work and they break the pre-existing X2 lore, by all means raise that as an issue. This isn't that, though. Whether intentionally or not, your posts just read like you're arguing about tiny details for the sake of it - I'm genuinely curious as to how you know for certain that these advanced aliens have no way to disguise their operatives as humans? And that there's no way I could ever plausbily write one into the setting? And that the logic chain therefore means that the entire setting has to be abandoned? That without passing as humans, the aliens therefore have no way of infiltrating governments, which therefore means that world governments can't be unreliable actors, and therefore that the entire of humanity would immediately and complete unite against the aliens as soon as a single alien body or craft was recovered by anyone, and therefore that the "secret war" idea can never work? Even if it were to provide a much better overall gameplay experience than the previous setting where a dozen soldiers and three or four jet planes stop the entire might of an interstellar alien civilisation?
  15. 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.
  16. 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!
  17. 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.
  18. So the intention is that the grenade launcher is used primarily for terrain / cover destruction. Having different ammo types is something I would ideally like but there is an element of balancing difficulty if you allow the player a portable 6-round grenade launcher that can fire explosive grenades that are effective against infantry targets - the blast radius on grenades is often big enough that even a miss will land nearby and inflict damage on the target. There's a real danger that it makes grenade launchers more effective than conventional weapons (especially with inaccurate rookie soldiers) and the optimal loadout is to give everyone a grenade launcher, which was only really mitigated in X1 by the rocket launcher being a rather impractical weapon in many situations. You can balance it, particularly once you add mechanics for damage falling off with range, but it's something that needs to be carefully considered. I must admit I still don't see a valid gameplay reason for keeping the rocket launcher over the grenade launcher, and I don't see the point of duplicating the functionality to support both. A grenade launcher is just a nicer "skin" for the ability to fire explosives at the aliens from a distance. That's the reason why it's a direct fire weapon, too - because it's essentially a smaller and more portable rocket launcher that doesn't require reloading every single turn. Sure, that's not exactly how real grenade launchers function, but I imagine people will get over it. Grenade launchers have a much flatter trajectory than hand-thrown grenades anyway, so their indirect fire capabilities were never going to be *that* great. We're not planning to change standard grenades much, no - although we may indeed reduce the accuracy of grenades thrown indirectly / out of vision. There's also work to be done on the grenade scatter trajectory to get it more realistic, which will both reduce the chance of your soldiers throwing grenades at their own feet but also reduce the chance of "miss" grenades ending up right next to their target like they usually do in X1. The biggest problem with X1 grenades is that they were too reliable at doing damage to aliens, except when they weren't (which usually ended with your soldier blowing himself up). There's probably a happy medium somewhere between. I think you need to take a step back and chill out a bit - nowhere in this thread have I said anything about removing normal grenades or removing the ability to throw standard grenades over walls. This thread is about swapping out a rocket launcher for a grenade launcher, and for balance reasons (because it's still effectively a smaller/ more portable rocket launcher) that grenade launcher will not have indirect fire capabilities. Lobbing a grenade over a wall is a different matter from being able to safely and invisibly bombard enemies with explosives at long range. I kinda resent the fact that so many of your posts are so combative that I feel the need to respond to them else risk seeing the thread get derailed. Perhaps in this case my original makes a reference to "disallowing indirect fire" that could be misconstrued as a blanket removal of that functionality from the game, but I still think you could get your message across equally effectively in a calmer tone - I'd appreciate it if you could dial it back a little in future.
  19. Yeah, that could work. You just have to reduce a Sebillian to -X HP before it fully dies, and it continues regenerating until it's actually dead. Reducing its modified max HP to zero could also kill it, although that wouldn't be a very efficient way of doing it). That would still give the initial shock when a "dead" Sebillian gets up for the first time, plus the tactical choices you mention in your above post. But it's much simpler than what I suggested.
  20. If it wasn't initially clear, the idea is that the aliens translocate their UFOs with the crews inside them when they are doing stuff that requires UFOs - e.g. scouting missions, raising tension levels by flying into restricted airspace while disguised as enemy bombers, etc. However, the aliens no longer have to deliver their ground troops via UFO any more because they can just translocate them to the destination directly, so not all alien activity is linked to UFOs any more ... but that's not a bad thing, because as discussed in the "Air War" thread we need to decouple at least some of the ground combat missions from UFOs to prevent a player with air dominance shutting down the entire invasion. Some UFOs would still be needed to support ground forces, though - e.g. a mission where aliens were abducting civilians would probably still need a UFO because the aliens could load the captured humans into it before everything "snapped-back" and took the humans with them. They're still useful for transport, just in a more limited set of roles than before. I'm less keen on the idea of a translocator exit you need to defend though (especially if aliens can use it to get into your base). I just don't think it'd fit with most of the missions - I'm not sure it'd actually be fun to have to leave half your soldiers defending the translocator instead of carrying out the mission. I think people will forgive the inclusion of the translocator even if they find it unrealistic provided it doesn't affect gameplay too much, but if it limits your gameplay choices by forcing you to leave units defending it every mission I think some people would rightly be angry.
  21. 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.
  22. GEOSCAPE: BUILDING IT UP We discussed in the thread Geoscape: Stripping It Down that we'll be removing many of the mechanics from the Xenonauts 1 Geoscape in order to create a space in which we can place a new set of Geoscape mechanics, so it's well worth reading that thread if you've not yet done so. The most important facts are: the Xenonauts now have only a single off-map base, and their radars and interceptors have a global range. So what are our objectives when trying to design some new mechanics for the Geoscape? I'd like there to be more complexity to the Geoscape than there was in X1 - I'd like there to be some things on the map to fight over. Having a clear loss condition for the player would be nice, ideally one that can cut a game short once the player gets badly behind. Relations / territory control should offer more interesting rewards than just monthly funding increases, ideally ones that give the player difficult choices about which missions they choose to take. I've also decided I would like to try and make the setting a bit more "clandestine military organisation" than the conventional military setting of X1. When you have only a small team of soldiers and limited resources, I think it makes more sense to create a setting where you are operating within certain limitations ... and it seems a waste to totally ignore both the mutual suspicion between the superpowers in the Cold War setting and also the Men in Black / secret government agency conspiracy lore that is heavily associated with supposed UFO sightings etc. The Shadow War: That made me think of an interesting Geoscape mechanic that played off the setting and gave the strategy layer a natural power progression. Here is the overall set-up for the Geoscape: The aliens do not have the military strength to take control of the planet through overt military force, but are attempting to weaken humanity to the point where they can by using infiltrators / mind control / etc to spread disagreement and discord amongst the human nations. Neutral governments are somewhat skeptical that there is an alien invasion occurring at all, which is made worse by alien agents actively trying to discredit the idea that the aliens exist and trying to blame the events and attacks on rival human regions instead. The Xenonauts are therefore trying to stop the alien infiltration attempts and also to influence the regional governments towards maintaining their support for the war against the aliens. The interesting mechanic revolves around the need for secrecy - although the aliens have limited military strength, they still have enough power to crush the Xenonauts at the start of the game. It's therefore important that the player keeps a low profile until the Xenonauts are strong enough to openly take the fight to the aliens. Here's how the system could work: Your strategic actions all have an "alert" cost to them, with more openly aggressive actions raising the alien alert level by a greater amount. This alert level slowly declines with time, but if it ever reaches a certain threshold then the will launch a retaliation strike against your main base that immediately ends the game if you lose. This retaliation strike only occurs once per game and the enemy units taking part are fixed, so initially you have no chance of victory at all - but this changes as you tech up and your soldiers improve. If you win the mission, the alert counter is entirely removed and you can act as aggressively as you like without provoking any further direct retaliation from the aliens. This system gives the player a set-piece Base Defence mission like the one in XCOM, but I think the system is far more interesting when the player has full control over when they provoke the aliens into attacking them. I really like the idea of the Xenonauts having their hands tied early in the game, having to choose targets carefully or risk being wiped out by a militarily superior foe ... then eventually getting through that phase and having the Geoscape gameplay change significantly. That gives a nice power progression curve for the game and a tricky balancing act for the player - hit the alert limit too early and the aliens will wipe you out, but leave it too late and you're needlessly sacrificing Geoscape control. "Pawns" Representing Territory / Influence Control: But even if we do use that mechanic, we still need something on the map to fight over. I think this could be the key civilian and military influencers within each region, which I'll refer to as "pawns". There are five pawns per region, and there are six regions. That gives thirty pawns that can each be in three states: neutral, controlled by the Xenonauts, or controlled the aliens. The loss condition is if the aliens gather enough military strength to defeat all of the human regions that are not under direct alien control. The aliens have a counter which represents their military strength (increased by them building bases etc) and each of the six human regions has a military strength score which the aliens will attempt to degrade throughout the course of the game. This can be done either through direct action, like ground raids or UFO bombing attacks, or through controlling the "pawns" mentioned above. Any alien-controlled pawn on the Geoscape will slightly degrade the military strength of their region each turn, and the aliens gain control of a region whenever they control more pawns in that region than the Xenonauts do. This removes it from the collective human military counter, but this can be reversed if you remove the offending alien pawns. All the alien activity on the Geoscape is tied into this battle for control, e.g: A direct raid on the military forces of the country with ground forces or UFOs would provide a one-off reduction to the military strength of the region. A "base defence" mission could see the Xenonauts scrambled to defend a human VIP in a bunker from an alien attempt to assassinate a Xenonaut-aligned pawn and reduce the region's military strength and potentially flip it to the aliens. An infiltration mission would see an alien infiltrator or psion moving to "persuade" a pawn to join the alien side; if the mission is not stopped then the pawn will flip to the alien or perhaps be replaced by an alien impersonator that you need to kill to remove. An abduction mission might have the same effect of flipping a pawn to the aliens, but be carried out by a UFO rather than an alien ground team. An alien facility might provide the alien military score a major boost while it is operational. The Xenonauts can prevent the aliens carrying out their plans by dealing with the UFOs or ground missions as they occur, but as pawns are neutral by default the player also has to actively tun them to the Xenonaut side. Doing this with combat missions means a single game would need to involve a LOT of missions, so I think we could add automatic ways of handling it. For example: You can spend money on the Geoscape to recruit neutral or alien-controlled pawns to your side - most likely over the course of several turns. If you need to remove a problematic human pawn in a hurry then you can assassinate them, which costs the same as normal recruitment but also ties up some of your soldiers and reduces the military strength of the affected region. They are then replaced by a neutral pawn. As the game goes on, the aliens could start replacing pawns with powerful psionic units like Praetors. Removing these from the board requires launching a ground combat mission to try and kill them - but obviously this is much harder than dealing with human pawns. The idea here is that the player has to pump resources into the strategic layer in order to keep the regions onside. You want to spend just enough to keep the region onside without needlessly wasting money, but if you spend too little then you're forced to react hurriedly when regions look like they're about to flip - either doing ground missions you didn't necessarily want to do, or doing assassinations that leave the region weaker in the long run. This also creates a situation where not every ground mission has to be fought, especially early in the game when you need to watch the alert level closely. For example an alien facility boosting the alien military score isn't really any threat to the Xenonauts unless the aliens are close to winning a military victory, so there's no reason to attack it (well, unless you want the research from it). Similarly an abduction mission can be countered by recruiting another pawn in the area to cancel out the extra alien influence, or by spending the money to wrest control of the pawn back from the aliens. Conclusions: I'm excited about the possibilities of these ideas, but they'll need extensive testing before we can come to any conclusions about them - it may well be that I need to come new set of ideas. This point of this post is to show that there are alternate mechanics that can replace strategic base-building and could actually be more interesting and more complex than what we had in X1 ... so when you see the stripped-down Geoscape in X2, don't worry too much about it. It's a temporary thing and there's plenty of scope to build something better in its place!
  23. No problem, I appreciate at the feedback. At the moment there's no damage randomisation in the game (because it's easier to debug problems in the calculations if everything does fixed damage), so once we add back in the functionality for weapons to do 50% - 150% of normal damage then not every shot will be an insta-kill any more. That'll arrive in a month or two I think!
  24. We could set up the translocator deployment to work like the final dropship if we wanted, but I'm a bit concerned that it's just adding potential busywork. Shuffling troops around in a small deployment zone doesn't really give that much utility for the time spent doing it, whereas choosing between multiple drop sites would be cool - but also requires a bit of a rethink about how the map is set up, because you'd need visibility over the whole map to make educated choices (likely plus some kind of minimap to make navigating the map easier). So we could do it, but we can't just slot it into what we currently have and have it work nicely. Yup, we'll likely use a soldier stress / fatigue system of some kind. That could indeed factor into the decision to keep troops in reserve or not - although maybe that's not a capacity the player would have at the start of the game. Perhaps the translocator is pretty basic in terms of functionality to start out, and the emergency evac / troops in reserve / etc functionality is unlocked via research? I think having both dropships and the translocator actually gives us the worst of all worlds, so I'd like to avoid that if possible. I do like the idea of translocator tech being inherently unreliable in some way (at least until you do some research on it) but I imagine that would get frustrating if you don't have dropships too and are therefore forced to use it. Might be interesting, though. This will be the last post I discuss the lore - but a qualified yes to both points. The Xenonauts would need to translocate in *something* to block the alien ability to translocate out, but it wouldn't necessarily have to be a team of soldiers. But the aliens would be able to send a UFO or a second team to be pick up the first within a reasonable timeframe, so killing the aliens and translocating out their bodies and tech is the optimal way of doing it. But yeah, potentially it opens up a way to "autoresolve" ground combat missions where you use your translocator to block the alien escape and then let local forces deal with them. Also, yes, the aliens could send in reinforcements to block the Xenonaut ability to translocate out if they wanted to - but Xenonaut troops being stranded on Earth isn't *that* much of a problem as they can be evaced through other means. The aliens might also not realize that their units are under attack in time to do it, even if they considered it important to do so. I'm more interested in why you have a negative reaction to the "easy retreating" - what's your logic behind it? Using the dropship to evac a mission in Xenonauts 1 was a rare occurrence because it was very fiddly and doesn't actually provide much useful functionality. The situation where one of your soldiers runs up to an alien and misses a point-blank shot, or walks around with limited TU and comes face-to-face with a Reaper is just a death sentence for that soldier because there's no hope of them getting back to the dropship. They're just dead. Sure, you'll likely argue that that's an acceptable trade-off for taking risks and losing out - but in most cases the player will lose the soldier and win the mission anyway. That's still an option here; you just have the additional choice of throwing away the entire mission in order to not lose that soldier (which is probably the wrong decision). I don't think any player is going to succeed at the game if they abandon missions at the first sign of trouble so I wouldn't get hung up about how it'll allow bad players to do better than they should. If anything it'll give cool-headed players a further advantage.
  25. Do you have the automated crash reports enabled? If so then we should be automatically receiving information on what's causing the crash.