Chris

Xenonauts 2 - November Progress Update

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Despite Xenonauts 2 being available as a free public build that anyone can try, I think it's time for us to do an overall update on our progress on the project.

Ground Combat:
We're making decent progress on the ground combat coding overall, although the system rewrites we've been doing over the last two or three weeks have been slower than expected. Some stuff has improved dramatically (such as load times) but other things have been frustratingly circular - an example of which is our work on the cursor selection box. We wrote a shader to display this above the decorative vegetation but below the props, granting the visual selection box effect from X1, but the new system had side-effects that made the UI ugly and occasionally buggy ... and eventually we abandoned it, and started down the route of switching from deferred to forward rendering.

If that doesn't mean anything to you (and I wouldn't expect it to), this is just a long-winded way of me saying that sometimes you can sit and work at something for a week and actually end up taking a step backwards in terms of progress. So, to summarise, progress has been patchy on the coding front recently. However we're working hard on finishing up various systems designed to deal with the more fundamental issues in the current builds and I'd expect to see several new builds in the next couple of weeks as we finish them up and roll them out. You can find more specifics about this in the various release threads.

Artwork:
On a happier note, we're doing well on other parts of the game. The artwork in particular is coming along nicely in several areas!

The first is our battlefield environments. You've all seen the "temperate / jungle" wilderness biome tileset we've currently got in the public build, but our tundra and desert biomes are now mostly complete. These are largely retextures of existing assets with some unique props mixed in, and the idea is that we'll have six or seven of these biomes that will allow us to "skin" a level with only a few clicks (long term we want the same for our urban environments too). The code is not yet in place for this palette swapping but we can already construct maps manually with these new tiles if we want; however once we've got some map randomisation code in place (which isn't too far away) we won't need to. We'll be able to have randomly generated wilderness maps across any biome from polar icecaps to tropical jungle to desert wastelands.

map_tundra.pngmap_desert.png

The second is the aliens and Xenonauts themselves. We've modeled up some new ones, and done a fresh texture pass on those that already exist. The basic Sebillian and Andron are modelled up and being rigged / animated, and the textures on the Psyons and Xenonauts have been reworked to show more detail at our default camera zoom level. You can see an image of how they look below:

aliens.png

A few things of note: the added detail is most obvious on the heads of the Psyons, as they were essentially just yellow blobs in the previous build of the game but the improved contrast on the new textures means you can now see much more of their bone structure. The new aliens look pretty good too, I think. The Sebillian is perhaps uglier than his X1 counterpart, but he's also much more visually distinctive and intimidating (particularly when equipped with his massive gun) this time around. The Andron looks more mechanical and is significantly larger than his X1 equivalent, and again I think he's got a lot more character than his predecessors.

laser_machinegun.png

Other minor things to mention - we've decided not to go for 3D faces on the soldiers, but stick with 2D ones with semi-randomised features that should allow a much larger portrait pool than before. We're using a different artist for the portraits this time and I think the new more realistic style will be better received than last time. We've also been concepting up some of the advanced weapons, specifically the lasers. We've got some cool designs for them but it'll be a little bit of time before we can show them off properly, as right now they're rough untextured models we're using to test animations with. You can see one of them above - hopefully even in this primitive state you can see they may be more interesting that the ones in X1.

Strategy:
The strategy layer hasn't been getting much love in recent times, as the coders have been working flat out on the ground combat ever since we started to prepare for the first public build (a good three months ago now). I've started to move more resources towards the strategy layer in recent weeks.

The main thing I've done is to clean up the appearance a bit, so the game feels a bit more polished and playable, and to try and merge in some of the old functions from Xenonauts 1. I do have new ideas for the strategy layer but a lot of the functionality of the Geoscape in X1 was pretty simple and can be replicated fairly easily in X2 given we already have all the art assets from X1 to use as placeholders. A primitive strategy layer coupled with a bit of the map randomisation tech mentioned above should actually give us the beginnings of a playable game.

I'll detail the mechanics later - most are pretty similar to X1, and those that are not may change in the future. But I figure there's not too much point debating the mechanics until you can play and experiment with them first hand!

Promotion & Monetization:
As most of Goldhawk is disappearing off for our Christmas holidays in mid-December, I doubt we'll do any promotion of the game until the start of next year. Sadly we're in a boring stage of development right now where we're not adding content to the builds, we're just adding new systems and fixing bugs - which is great, but playing the same map against the same aliens every time is pretty tedious.

However, the more observant among you might have noticed that most of the things we've been working on recently are important steps towards a paid alpha release. Having a functional strategy layer that spawns ground combat missions is a necessity for that. Having more battlefield environments and randomised maps are key features too. Going with 2D portraits instead of 3D ones means we can easily create a "portrait customiser" for people who want to back a Kickstarter tier that allows them to put themselves in the game in the form of a custom soldier.

head_test.png

Basically we're hoping to launch a Kickstarter around March, which should be accompanied by a free build of the game that contains both the strategy and combat layers linked together. The Early Access launch would be about three months later, I guess.

Conclusions:
As this will probably be my last development update of the year (though not our last build), I'll close with my thoughts on the progress so far. I'd kinda hoped that we'd have made more obvious progress (i.e. added more content) over the past couple of months of public releases, but I'm not too down on things overall. The work we've done is all essential work and the issues would have been exposed as soon as we started doing public builds, so it's probably good we're getting them out of the way now. 

Things probably still feel a bit basic right now but that'll change once we start releasing all the new content we've been working on. Thanks for following our progress through the most boring part of development, and I hope you'll tune in next year when things start to get exciting!

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I can say that i liked the models pf aliens very much. Will have have more variants of them? Different armor, different head shapes for different ranks? 

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Yup, we'll almost certainly have additional variants of each alien race in terms of armour - but that's a lower priority than getting all the main races modelled up and put in the game, so not for a few months at least.

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3 minutes ago, Chris said:

Yup, we'll almost certainly have additional variants of each alien race in terms of armour - but that's a lower priority than getting all the main races modelled up and put in the game, so not for a few months at least.

Not is not important when there is awesomeness. Just please make the "textures" modable so when a modder want to create a new alien with same model, he can play with colors at least. I know it's at ultra stage but somethings are easier to handle at beginning, rather then adding it later.. just a tip for future modding..

 

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8 hours ago, drages said:

I can say that i liked the models pf aliens very much.

Ditto, really like the alien designs and I can clearly see the follow-though on the point made ages ago after X1 released about making the alien silhouettes distinctive.  The Andron in particular I really like - if I'm honest, the X1 Androns looked a little strange, while the new design has a really solid feel to it.

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5 minutes ago, kabill said:

Ditto, really like the alien designs and I can clearly see the follow-though on the point made ages ago after X1 released about making the alien silhouettes distinctive.  The Andron in particular I really like - if I'm honest, the X1 Androns looked a little strange, while the new design has a really solid feel to it.

X-1 does not allow very quality sprites because it's 2D and units are very little. X-1 Androns fit well to the X-1 atmosphere. I think the only fail was the caesans at X-1 and new caesans are enough alien!.. I can say that X-2 is doing very well at visuals..   

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I haven't played the free public build yet, due to lack of time, but I want to comment on the maps.

Yes they look great already, with its detail and the feel for reality in the textures. However, it looks a bit blocky. What I mean is the knife-cut edge of the river and the terrain level change. Some piles of rock are blurring that at some spots but in general it is blocky. Do you plan to change that?

Such cliff-like terrain level change maybe OK for some maps but not for everything. Sorry to say, it looks a bit of a cheap solution. It will not stop me from playing, but...yeah.

On a side note, will the water flow? Grass moving and sand and dust blowing in the wind? Would give the maps a lively touch. I think here in the way of "Divinity: Original  Sin"


Comming christmas holidays, I will definitely try the public build then.

Edited by thixotrop

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1 hour ago, thixotrop said:

Yes they look great already, with its detail and the feel for reality in the textures. However, it looks a bit blocky. What I mean is the knife-cut edge of the river and the terrain level change. Some piles of rock are blurring that at some spots but in general it is blocky. Do you plan to change that?

I actually think they're ok.  But now you mention it, I am inclined to agree there's a certain 'blockiness'.  I think it's mostly being caused by the sharp edges produced where the ground meets a change in height (e.g. where the ground connects with the dip into the river) where there's almost perfect straight lines.  Don't know how much work this would be but it might be worth looking at texturing the ground around these transition points, to make it less sharp.  (Does any of that make sense.  I can't find a better way of describing it.)

1 hour ago, drages said:

X-1 does not allow very quality sprites because it's 2D and units are very little. X-1 Androns fit well to the X-1 atmosphere. I think the only fail was the caesans at X-1 and new caesans are enough alien!.. I can say that X-2 is doing very well at visuals..   

I appreciate the technical limits and they're probably why the Androns in X1 feel so compacted to me.  Although I think it was their waddle/shuffle movement animation which I found most problematic - they never felt like deadly killing machines but instead... I don't know.  Not deadly killing machines, though.

In contrast to the X2 Andron model, which feels like it will have nice, clompy, robotic movements and looms large over the other models in a (satisfyingly) intimidating manner.

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Hi Chris, its great to hear all these news regarding X2, and like others have mentioned already the new Androns do seem very interesting. As for the Seb - I really hope that they will get a more grim look then the current one which makes them look like a kids toy to me. The new Caesians also seem interesting-ish but for the most part i'm concerned that we're going to see a rehash of all the previous races which were all bipedal and kinda boring after 1 playthrough (with the exception of the reapers that just kicked ass).  Are their any plans for anything new in X2 in terms of alien species? Can we get some details on those ?

As for the weapon techs, will they all go through the same route - 4/5 weapon classes being upgraded with tech tiers? Will their be more interesting classes of equipment like jetpacks or flamethrowers (oh how I mourn the flamethrowers...) ? Generally...were does X2 pick up beyond the 3d engine over X1?

Back in X1 their were numerous cool ideas that were abandoned like the mech suits, are these kind of details already decided? While I definitely appreciate the added graphics tech, i'd like to know in how the game actually sets itself apart from X1 or if its just more of the same in 3D (sorry for the harsh tone of these questions) ?

Oh and the new environments look awesome! :)

 

P.S. Admittedly, i didn't get to play the new version yet, hopefully i'll get to it soon,  it just seems like their is not really that much more to experience in the current build  over the previous ones.

 

Have a merry Christmas and a kick ass new year!

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15 hours ago, thixotrop said:

Yes they look great already, with its detail and the feel for reality in the textures. However, it looks a bit blocky. What I mean is the knife-cut edge of the river and the terrain level change. Some piles of rock are blurring that at some spots but in general it is blocky. Do you plan to change that?

Such cliff-like terrain level change maybe OK for some maps but not for everything. Sorry to say, it looks a bit of a cheap solution. It will not stop me from playing, but...yeah.

Yup, the maps are kinda blocky at the moment. That can be changed, but it's a question of whether we want to. There's two reasons why the maps currently look a bit blocky:

1) The cliff walls are only 10cm deep at the moment, as they sit on the edge of tiles and intrude into them. If we make them too thick then they'll potentially clip into units that are standing in those tiles. The cliffs were 20cm thick in our earlier builds but I had them reduced to make the map tidier; potentially I went a bit too far though because the tiles are 1.5m wide and there's quite a lot of space in each one. Having more depth on the rock walls makes the map look a bit less blocky.

2) The second thing is battlefield readability. We actually had a less blocky looking map before our initial public build, with lots of vegetation and detail rocks breaking up the shape of the level and making it look more natural ... but it turns out it's actually very hard to figure out where tiles start and end under that system, so it's difficult to process where you can move your soldiers and so forth. Makes it a bit frustrating to play. There's probably a balance to be found but you don't want to make the map feel too natural.

11 hours ago, raziel1981 said:

Hi Chris, its great to hear all these news regarding X2, and like others have mentioned already the new Androns do seem very interesting. As for the Seb - I really hope that they will get a more grim look then the current one which makes them look like a kids toy to me. The new Caesians also seem interesting-ish but for the most part i'm concerned that we're going to see a rehash of all the previous races which were all bipedal and kinda boring after 1 playthrough (with the exception of the reapers that just kicked ass).  Are their any plans for anything new in X2 in terms of alien species? Can we get some details on those ?

As for the weapon techs, will they all go through the same route - 4/5 weapon classes being upgraded with tech tiers? Will their be more interesting classes of equipment like jetpacks or flamethrowers (oh how I mourn the flamethrowers...) ? Generally...were does X2 pick up beyond the 3d engine over X1?

Back in X1 their were numerous cool ideas that were abandoned like the mech suits, are these kind of details already decided? While I definitely appreciate the added graphics tech, i'd like to know in how the game actually sets itself apart from X1 or if its just more of the same in 3D (sorry for the harsh tone of these questions) ?

Xenonauts 2 will initially be a lot like a stripped down version of Xenonauts 1 with better graphics, but that'll start to change once the game is playable and we can start experimenting with the new mechanics we have planned. However we've gotta make the game playable across both strategy and ground combat first, which means we'll draw heavily from X1 to get there.

We'll probably add new aliens in X2, but even the existing ones should have more interesting abilities this time around that make them less samey. Things like the weapon tier upgrades are balance issues that we'll have more time to discuss once the game is playable but yeah, the idea is that X2 will build on the foundation of the first game and improve on the things it got wrong. Boring aliens and repetitive tech progression are two things we want to address but I think the solutions are better developed in conjunction with community playtesting than me theorycrafting about what the ideal solution is :)

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@Chris

Dunno if this is the correct place to ask but I was rereading the X2 website place holder and wanted to know if the plan is still to make air combat turn based?

I know this is probably too early to have a final decision on but I would love for it to be turn based. The air mini game was cool in X1 but I was really bad at it and auto resolving wasn't optimal. 

Happy Holidays! 

 

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The air combat is pretty subordinate to the strategy layer design at the moment; we've got a few prototypes for how it could look but right now it's autoresolved with a UFO requiring a certain number of aircraft to shoot it down and having a % kill chance for each one that is tested independently. We'll choose an air combat model once we have an idea of what the strategy layer needs it to do. It would be good to have more complexity in terms of how many aircraft you are committing and what they are equipped with, though.

@StellarRatThere's not going to be any vehicles in the game, I'm afraid. For now the planes are just the X1 equivalents as well, but we might make redesign them and make nice animated 3d models of them once we know the shape of the air combat a bit better.

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38 minutes ago, Chris said:

There's not going to be any vehicles in the game, I'm afraid. 

Even 2x2 sized or 1x1 sized.. there should be a vehicle mechanic which you can use it as an expendable aspect. If there is no vehicles, there won't be any big sized aliens i guess. Don't go for 3x3 but have 2x2 for sure..

Don't simplify your game.. don't let it have lesser things then preview games.. Even X-1 got many less things then UFO like a special alien system with containments, special ammo system as more then 1 ammo type per weapon, no psy warfare.. i can understand those days limitations and the game engine you worked. But you don't have those limitations today.  If you won't replace something with much cooler and accepted idea, just don't delete it all..

I think vehicle system is one of classic and core aspects Ufo games have. It makes it much more richer.. Not having it is a big step back..

For example at openufo, the modders created 1x1 dogs... you can improve this idea.. u can even create dogs, which leveled.. then that doggy can be mutated with alien tech, or you can have your own alien dog..

If i were you, i open all the ufo type games and use it with mods and see how creativity you can catch from them..

Deleting vehicles is a huge mistake back, when you got opportunities to improve that aspect.

Edited by drages

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Vehicles are silly in any setting that is predominantly about small-squad infantry vs. infantry combat because they're simply too powerful. If a weapon can put a hole in an armoured car, why would it not instantly kill any human (or biological unit) that it hits? And why would any vehicle mounted weapon not be far superior to any infantry weapon? Even a basic humvee usually packs a 0.50cal machinegun that can put out an order of magnitude more firepower than a standard man portable rifle or LMG.

And why would a dog need to be a vehicle? Just make it a standard combatant instead.

In any case you're extrapolating based off your own assumptions (although kinda understandable given you've played X1) rather than genuine facts; you don't know that the game won't have 2x2 units and you don't know that you couldn't add dogs or whatever to it. This is why I don't want to go into much detail about specific systems until people can play with them themselves - focusing on a specific mechanic or feature removal can give a misleading overall impression.

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We don't talk about manned vehicles here as big as humvee or a real tank. I said 2x2 vehicles like at original X-Com which got a bit more hp and armour and got some a bit bigger guns. They are used for safe scouting, some fire absorb and gaining time at battlefield. It was a tactical aspect and a balancing point against alien counterparts. So can you answer me about, if there is big aliens like 2x2 or 3x3, won't they have a bigger "gun" to kill any soldier with ease?.. so if the aliens will that kind of power with big units, what will we use against them? Maybe you got some very heavy armour or mech idea, but it goes to same point "big unbalanced weapon caring capacity of a big unit"..

X-1 Vehicles got big problems, because they were huge as 3x3 and the maps are not created to use them at first place. Any 3x3 drone or vehicle could not move far because of the undestructable flowers on the ground. 

I don't know what you plan, you are right, but i can see the possibilities. Your map design with different layers as high and low grunds, is not looking to work with more then 1x1 units. Because there should be a flat ground to move something bigger then one man. You can create some four or more legged big units to able to move that kind of ground system but i don't expect such mechanic too because it would need a huge work.. Even you try to use 2x2 or bigger units on that map system, it will be same as X-1.. big units, which can't move more then 10 tiles..

As i said, if you plan to replace a mechanic with much cooler and usable one, i don't worry about it. You should already got an idea about the game you are making, so tell us the big picture even the possibilities so we dont mislead. You are the only dev who works with player base at the very beginning. So i am giving my opinion about it as someone who is modding X-1 for 2 years nearly, not only as a player..

 

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You're talking more about drones and support units more than X1-style vehicles then ... and there's no real reason that they couldn't exist, it's just that we're not planning to include them in Xenonauts 2 as a default player feature. I imagine adding a 1x1 scout / support unit like the X1 alien Light Drone would require very little effort at all, it'd probably just be a case of ensuring it didn't receive any combat XP. Potentially a human version of them is something we could even put in the vanilla game if I felt there was a niche for it.

I have no intention of adding armoured cars and tanks to the game like we had in X1 though; I only did that because I felt I had to because the original X-Com had them. They're too big and powerful to work within the scale of combat we're looking to do.

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4 minutes ago, Chris said:

You're talking more about drones and support units more than X1-style vehicles then ... and there's no real reason that they couldn't exist, it's just that we're not planning to include them in Xenonauts 2 as a default player feature. I imagine adding a 1x1 scout / support unit like the X1 alien Light Drone would require very little effort at all, it'd probably just be a case of ensuring it didn't receive any combat XP. Potentially a human version of them is something we could even put in the vanilla game if I felt there was a niche for it.

I have no intention of adding armoured cars and tanks to the game like we had in X1 though; I only did that because I felt I had to because the original X-Com had them. They're too big and powerful to work within the scale of combat we're looking to do.

Yeah i tried to say that, they were huge compared to battlefield. Even 1x1, it's something for tactical enrichment of the game. More feature to have, more options to choose. I still like to have 2x2 ones too for same reason.. not make them game changer.. 2x2 units never changed any xcom games but without it, i feel that something missing.. like many UFO games just did not use air games at all which you done well.. 

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2 hours ago, Chris said:

I have no intention of adding armoured cars and tanks to the game like we had in X1 though; I only did that because I felt I had to because the original X-Com had them. They're too big and powerful to work within the scale of combat we're looking to do.

This probably isn't the right thread to discuss vehicles, drones and other non-living units, BUT I have to point out that vehicles were the only reasonable way to deal with Reapers in the old game without a lot of casualties, at least in my opinion, I would hope that we will have something highly effective against them in X2 if vehicles are not included.  Also, vehicles were also excellent scouts, again, I hope we some piece(s) of equipment that is capable of performing the same function (night vision scopes, motion detectors, binoculars, dogs, etc..).  With some ability to see hidden aliens at the least the chance of being "Reaperized" is reduced if you're careful.  A dog would be cool because they can detect moving and non-moving aliens (maybe at a lesser distance.)  I'd also really like to have something like the old proximity grenade / land mine back AND/OR an autonomous non-moving light machine gun or shotgun ala "Aliens" the movie.

Edited by StellarRat

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On 1.12.2016 at 11:50 AM, Chris said:

Yup, the maps are kinda blocky at the moment. That can be changed, but it's a question of whether we want to. There's two reasons why the maps currently look a bit blocky:

1) The cliff walls are only 10cm deep at the moment, as they sit on the edge of tiles and intrude into them. If we make them too thick then they'll potentially clip into units that are standing in those tiles. The cliffs were 20cm thick in our earlier builds but I had them reduced to make the map tidier; potentially I went a bit too far though because the tiles are 1.5m wide and there's quite a lot of space in each one. Having more depth on the rock walls makes the map look a bit less blocky.

2) The second thing is battlefield readability. We actually had a less blocky looking map before our initial public build, with lots of vegetation and detail rocks breaking up the shape of the level and making it look more natural ... but it turns out it's actually very hard to figure out where tiles start and end under that system, so it's difficult to process where you can move your soldiers and so forth. Makes it a bit frustrating to play. There's probably a balance to be found but you don't want to make the map feel too natural.

snip...

I understand 1) and maybe you can change the tile size and show some pictures here. Just to see what impact that will have. But I won't press you to do so :)

With 2) I may have an understanding problem, not what you said, but how it is possible to not see where you can go or not. I mean, when you see a battle zone map the very first time, you will not know what is what. It was so for X1. I did not know that units can't go over walls, through bushes or pass the grassy bump next to the roads. And in the UFOs a lot of structures exist where you can not see where your soldier could go and hide. But you know that once you have tried it. So I guess it will be the same here. And furthermore yoou will have the cursor that goes red or so to tell you there is no path.

I admit in a real time game you would need to see that at a glance more desperately, but even then no guarantee. In Arma 2 (I know poor comparison) you thought your tank can drive through the desert easily, but then stop dead at a fence or flip over at mid-sized pebble if drifting over it. But in a turn based game you can plan with your cursor.

Maybe I have to see or experience that myself.

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I know this is a kind of a late comment as I only just signed up a fan account so I could get access to the community edition download, but I wanted to say what I really enjoy most about X1 is the ground combat and what was really a letdown was that the combat maps were not full random/procedurally generated maps. To be honest with you all, I have never completed/beat the game due to difficulty towards the end. But what I have done is start many a new game so as to play the easier first part because each ground combat mission is fresh and almost unique (at least with more maps provided by Skitsoo's Map Pack).  So if you can really focus on delivering randomly generated ground combat maps and not just randomly selecting pre-built maps that is going to be a standout reason for a lot of gamers to buy your game and make it a true classic that stands the test of time!

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P.S. - You should also make your Xenonauts 2 Developer Notes fully accessible to the public without having to setup a user account to access the community forum.

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Is the forum not fully visible to people who haven't got an account? I was under the impression everyone could read it.

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6 hours ago, Chris said:

Is the forum not fully visible to people who haven't got an account? I was under the impression everyone could read it.

I know for sure that people who have no account cant use the download section. Apart from that, no clue.

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