Chris

Mixed Alien Missions

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MIXED ALIENS IN COMBAT MISSIONS:
In Xenonauts 1 all missions were spawned by a UFO, and the UFO had one of three primary races - Caesan, Sebillian or Andron - and each of these primary races had one or perhaps two secondary races associated with it (e.g. Reapers would only turn up in Sebillian UFOs).

This meant that every mission would include at most two races. You might get a mission that contained Sebillians and Reapers, or you might get Androns and Wraiths. You'd never encounter Sebillians and Wraiths together, and you certainly wouldn't get a few Androns mixed in there too.

In some ways this is better, because it makes the aliens feel a bit more like a military force rather than the random zoo they were in the new XCOM games. But in other ways it is worse, as alien abilities are much less interesting when you are facing multiple units with exactly the same ability. The regeneration ability of a Sebillian means you need to focus fire one to kill it effectively ... but if you're fighting but Sebillians, it's not a very interesting decision because there's nothing to shoot at but Sebillians. The "zoo" approach of XCOM throws out more interesting tactical situations where you need to effectively prioritise targets from a group of different aliens.

I don't think I want to go full "zoo" here, but I do think we could mix the alien units up a bit more. There's a few possible approaches:

  • We can set up groups of primary and secondary aliens of equivalent power (e.g. eight Psyons or three Androns might be considered equivalent) and then randomise the primary and secondary races for every UFO. That gives a much higher number of possible combinations of different aliens for the player to encounter, which should keep the battles a bit more fresh
  • We could define a primary race for each mission and then do away with the secondary races altogether, and instead just deploy an assortment of "support" units instead. You might encounter mostly Psyons on a mission, but then you have the odd Andron or Wraith or Reaper mixed in there too. That gives more chance to generate the interesting tactical situations you get in XCOM.

I'm not completely sure on how we'll test this out if we go ahead with this idea, but I think the first idea will probably retain the feel of the first game but add more variation. If we find that it does not add enough variation then we can look at the second one, too.

PROS & CONS:
Other than the standard disclaimer that implementing something costs development time and money that could be spend elsewhere (although this is one of the simpler features for us to implement), the main con that I can see would be that it we take the randomisation too far we'll end up with a disjointed feel to the alien forces.

There's also the problem that if we make the alien forces more reactive and start granting them upgrades in response to strategic events (e.g. winning a mission against Psyons makes them upgrade their armour and makes them tougher), then mixing the aliens up too much means that the opportunities for strategic decisions are taken away ... e.g. it'd be hard to specifically avoid or target these powered-up Psyons if they could appear on any mission.

However if the system is done well the possibilities for interesting alien combinations are much higher and the gameplay will be more varied. That's always going to be a good thing, right?

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I agree some more mixing is good, and I agree that the zoo effect should be avoided. It is also important to keep alien variety on a single mission low enough so that you'd have different ideal loadouts for different alien crews, or else decryption intel is worthless.

Seems to me that the solution would be to create "roles" for non-primary races. Populate your crew with some aliens of the primary race. Then assign a few spots to different special roles, depending on UFO type / mission / game phase, and fill each role with an alien that can assume it. So you have an "artillery" role, and that is going to be someone tough, slow and with a big gun. Can be an Andron with a Plasma Cannon, can be some drone that has a very strong weapon but cannot move. You have a "sniper" role, which is perhaps a Wraith with a precision rifle, or an alien with a jetpack (make them possible equipment for most races). You have a "skirmisher" role which is an alien that's not too tough but has a burst weapon. This way, for each role you will have defined several aliens (with specific equipment) that can assume that role, and so you'll get a lot of tactical combinations just by combining the roles.

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in general, sounds like a solid idea, although i do enjoy full out zoo in XCOM 2 :) .especially with the codex in the mix

 

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I think a simple way to add diversity but at the same time not get the zoo effect is a standardised organisation for the aliens. Say their a research (testing out something new to see how effective it is against humans) or scouting (learning about earth) or resonance (finding the player buildings or main base) mission. Then there should be a smart race or race trying to play for its objective such as ceaseans scientist looking like their doing something. While there is an escort race specifically a war centred race like  Sebillian and  Andron working together to protecting their comrade that is doing their objective (does not have to be programmed in just has to be lore or reasoning behind the divesety). In conclusion, I believe having some sort of pattern to missions where you put an escort and objects playing races to achieve alien diversity while still not getting the zoo affect.

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You can exploit the full zoo effect when your soldiers go and attack an alien base (That will be in the game yes? Please!) as these bases can have all different personnel to send on alien missions.

Edited by thixotrop

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I actually preferred the "pure" alien missions from Xenonauts 1/original X-COM to the "mixed" alien missions you got in a game like the Firaxis X-COM. Why? Simple reason: It keeps missions varied.

 

If a mission is purely against the Snake Dudes(tm), then it's got one flavour. If it's against the Big Dudes(tm), then it's got another flavour. Maybe each group has various troop mixes they can deploy(fast, light guys for a terror mission, heavily armoured dudes for assaulting a Xenonauts base, psi officers along for the ride on a kidnapping expedition, etc.) or certain support units they can bring(Snake Dogs for Snake Dudes, Big Robots for Big Dudes, etc.) or leave at home. But ultimately they stay somewhat segregated in most situations.

 

However, if EVERY mission is against a Level Appropriate Mix of Alien Dudes, then that mix of dudes is gonna be the same all the time. So every UFO that you intercept or every terror mission you interdict during a given section of the game... is gonna be very much the same, rather than having a lot of different ways it can go.

 

I think I prefer the approach of having a narrow selection of "primary" species, only one of which goes on a given mission, and then having a side order of "support" units, some of which only accompany one(or two, or three, etc.) species, and others of which have a chance of accompanying every species. Different support units can keep up the tactical challenge of a given mission, but I think it's also important to ensure that not every Psyon or Sebilian is the exact same, they need to have different combat roles with varied gear/abilities, just like the Xenonauts have. If the Sebilians are genuinely the alien heavy infantry, then they shouldn't all just be interchangeable guys with assault rifles, they should have the occasional marksman or heavy gunner backing them up, and possibly an officer at the back giving out orders.

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I think that having mixed races is good with a caveat. Just make the mixing happen mid to late game and make it so that it doesn't happen all the time. Also make it so that each race provides a different tactical challenge. Maybe one race is really good at up close melee and another is better at psi, and another have good sniping abilities. In the early game you can tailor your team to counter that specific strategy, but in late game you have a mix of the abilities to provide a more challenging experience.

Edited by CptJstank

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Shouldn't possible crew combos depend on the craft?

 

I don't see the "zoo" as a problem if it's a big ship or a transport

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Perhaps in the last mission in the game (mega ailen base or something) you should face all the different kinds of alien together. That would make it a tough nut to crack!

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On 17/2/2017 at 8:26 AM, TrashMan said:

Shouldn't possible crew combos depend on the craft?

 

I don't see the "zoo" as a problem if it's a big ship or a transport

maybe the bigger the ship the bigger the group of aliens, that way some airships can have a really big zoo while smaller ships have more militarized groups

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7 hours ago, ooey said:

Perhaps in the last mission in the game (mega ailen base or something) you should face all the different kinds of alien together. That would make it a tough nut to crack!

Well that kinda was the case already with "Xenonauts 1" end-game-mission.

But indeed , "Xenonauts 2" could possibly make it even grander, and hopefully not turning too big of a "spectacle creep".

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I see nothing wrong with letting the 'terror' units be a general pool.  So you could have an andron group with a reaper and a wraith.  I mean, they're all on the same side, I see no reason for them to essentially be racist and picky.  Keeping primaries separated is fine, but not necessary.

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On 23/02/2017 at 8:06 PM, Pave said:

Well that kinda was the case already with "Xenonauts 1" end-game-mission.

But indeed , "Xenonauts 2" could possibly make it even grander, and hopefully not turning too big of a "spectacle creep".
 

I'm ashamed to say it, but I still haven't finished xen1 yet! I do play on Veteran and iron mode only though. If you mix them up too much though pre-end game then it makes it less special that you get to face them all at the same time in the end mission.

Edited by ooey

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Maybe have the mixed aliens come in as "reinforcements" if your squad is too slow or you leave the leader baddie alone in his ship while turtle clearing the map first?  I know that is similar to firaxis XCOM but its still a good idea that adds some tension to missions.

Note- this shouldn't happen on terror missions where you have to find that one reaper hiding in a 3rd story closet... I'M LOOKING AT YOU FRED!

Edited by CheekyCT

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