Chris

Base Structures & Upgrade Slots

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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.

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Sheer. rampant, HERESY

seriously, no don't do this, their are few things i loved as much as base building, actually i'd go at it from another angle - make base building more interesting/engaging, find a way to make those satellite bases more useful. For instance - more bases, more intel, new missions types that open up which may allow more specialized tasks like abducting alien leaders and then dragging them into interrogation or taking out alien "pawns"  or countering alien attempts at taking control of neutral/xenonaut pawns?

could seamlessly join the shadow war concept that you mentioned.

 

 

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I agree with raziel, the base system   in some way is a must.

 

I ask  why is a problem that the expansion bases  are simplified? Isn't that  how real world operations work? Headquarders are headquarters for a reason,  forward bases are called forward bases for a reason.

 

That  also can be mitigated with a change on your concept of aliens only attacking the XCOM once, you can keep each base under threat of being detected and attacked.  You can make it important to keep defenses and Soldiers on EACH base.  Hell you can make important to have reaction soldiers  in every continent ( by simply making  the need to  get to the target faster and faster the more the alien treat advances. You  can also  make research work faster if it is spread (as real research companies do  to keep the innovation on ideas  more independent).

 

Instead of removing  the whole system because of a perceived weak point, why not remove the reason for the weak point?

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---
(( There are some things related to "Geospace - Building It Up"-thread, but I found them to be more appropriate mention here instead. ))


As some (might) have said, a fusion of things could be a workable solution too:
You would have your main-headquarters. And then you could have extra bases for specializations and such.

In fact you could make it so that each "base" basically would be just a facility, each possibly also having a stand-by security team which could react to "retaliation"-attacks and other sabotage-attempts.
This system would make a lot more sense (and be realistic) than indeed building a whole new "total-base" for just to host interceptors and radars (and perhaps a "factory").


Of course you could make the bases be more "modular" too, in which you'd have the facilities close to each other (E.G. once again having numerous "radar-dish-hangers"). But larger they would be, the more likely they'd be possibly spotted by scouts thus would be more likely become under sabotage-attempts (which in turn would mean you'd need to increase the amount of surveillance to increase the chances to intercept sabotage-attempts).


On the other hands "chopping" your infrastructure(?) and spreading it all around might also decrease the productivity and all the other related things until you'd have better communication-methods (like "internet" as partially hinted to be discovered in "Xenonauts 1").


In a away this could bring up some other dynamical possibilities: For example if one is able to find and capture an alien-base, this base could be possibly turned into a temporary Xenonauts-base, or perhaps later a permanent-base (once there would have been enough progress done to "anti-alien-bacteria"-medicines or something similar); this could create some temporary or permanent boosts in various areas (E.G. converting an alien-base into permanent-xenonaut-base could make aliens more hesitant if done a number of times already).

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 I am very certain you are able to think this whole thing to be more sophisticated than what I've written here.

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Edited by Pave

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I've edited the original post to reflect the fact that the discussion about removing the ability to build bases on the Geoscape is covered in the thread Geoscape - Stripping it Down. Discussion about that decision should be done in that thread, because the reasons for the decision are explained in more detail there.

This thread is about the decision to move the main base from a grid system to a slot system, although I understand why that was confusing beforehand.

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I think the argument of having a "unique" base mission is a little moot, as all my bases are built the same way. Even in the 1994 Xcom, I would build the same bottleneck and everything. The coolest part was seeing the buildings "up close" which would still be a thing as each building would have a few versions. 

I am concerned what the lore-related reason will be to have strict divisions like that, but you've mentioned the idea of having "characters" and plots, so these characters having tense relationships would make sense, as the military and the research guys would each rather appropriate the other ones building space for their own projects. It might still be hard to swallow not being able to build another Hanger because the only available slot needs to be research related. 

Other than that, this still sounds like a grid based system, just not as free. I think it could lend some flavor to the lore if done right.

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I'm personally conflicted.

 

There are pros and cons to almost every approach, but what pros/cons are more important will vary depending on whom you ask.

 

As it is, there was little reason to have secondary combat teams. With stress, injury and aliens being more aggressive in attacking other bases and not just your main one, as well as soldiers in other bases having some utility (improving relations, special options, patrols...) that might negate the problem.

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I don't like the slot system because it feels very artificial. It's a hard limit on the size of each division and on the size of the Xenonauts organisation itself, as if those were defined by treaty or something. They might be though. Either way, may I suggest ditching this hard cap (the slot number) for a soft cap? For example, base visibility. A small base, with efficient and stealthy infrastructure will attract less attention than a sprawling mess of low-tech buildings. This may have a number of effect:

  • The obvious: aliens may find and attack a bigger base more often, and may do so with better scouting and planning (allowing for more/better units)
  • They may read Xenonauts' logistics easier and hit our supply lines, cracking down on the activities of a specific division (research, recruitment, UFO detection)
  • They may scout the base for infiltrators to sabotage interceptors or buildings (not enough aliens for a mission, just an event)

It's then possible to adjust the numbers to act similar to the hard cap. With the current number, a division will find itself focused if it grows bigger than 5 buildings and alien attention in general will spike sharply if the base goes above 15 buildings. This way, the system is effectively the same but it makes way more sense and the player has the option to challenge these rules, with all the assorted risks.

Of course, this probably takes a bit more design space than you might want to use there.

Also, if you're going to have an abstract base layout with slots and stuff, I would suggest doing away with a graphical representation of the base entirely. I mean, if the base size is abstracted away by slots, if the location of the buildings doesn't matter and if the base defense map is unrelated to the base layout, there's no point to the base visually existing in-game. Seeing the buildings is nice and all but that's it.

Edited by TideofKhatanga
Typo

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So the game justification for limited space is that that the base is a secure underground facility with different divisions controlling their own areas of the base (of roughly the same size). Much of the base is unused at the start of the game so there's plenty of room for expansion at the start, but excavating through the solid rock around the outside of the base etc is a bit beyond the short-term capacity of the Xenonauts. Instead, once they've expanded to fill the base then they just have to use their existing space more efficiently.

Also, there may well be practical reasons why one division does not build structures in the middle of another division's area - for example, a lab might need to be linked into the Research division power grid and computer networks. Hangars might need access to heavy-duty goods lifts, which only exist in the Operations division areas. Building a Barracks might not be a good idea in the middle of Research division, because presumably dirty soldiers and clean rooms do not mix particularly well. Plus, history would suggest an impending crisis often doesn't override bureaucratic territorialism in the way you might think it would, so there's that too.

You can come up with a game logic reason for most things with some thought, so I wouldn't worry too much about the idea seeming arbitrary from a player point of view - the important thing is how it affects gameplay.

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I'm really starting to loose faith in you and this project. First it was manufacturing of items to sale is banned because you thought it was the one thing you hated about the original, now you will ruin the geoscape by making it a turn based board game , after that you will butcher the inventory system by adding inventory slots, and now base building!!!!!!!!!! You are no longer the sheppard of XCOM, You are just another Fraxis. I can't understand how you can come on here and be like, "We'll we are thinking about doing xyz what do you think?" Then turn around and go on defending exactly what you said in the first place. Why do we even have a discussion if you are just going to go and do whatever you want anyhow. You are being brash in opposition to 90% of this forum. I can't understand why.

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Because testing an idea involves playing it and seeing if it's an improvement, then deciding whether to keep it or not. Not just throwing it away before anyone has a chance to try it out.

If the discussion is "I don't like this idea, I'll never play a game with this idea in it, I don't want to even try it out!" then yeah, you're right that the discussion is pointless.

To be clear, the purpose of these threads is to let people critique and suggest improvements to the ideas for their first implementation, not to veto them at the design stage. Decisions on whether to keep or abandon the new designs will happen later, once the games have had a few iterations to see if we can make them work and judge the community reaction to them (based on the actual gameplay feedback about the system).

As I've said a million times, we can always go back to the old ways - but that's no excuse not to try some new stuff first.

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The original XCOM is good but it has been rebooted and revamped in several incarnations. There is no need to cling to the mother game and preserve its every feature - open xcom does that faithfully enough. Keep the good bits and twist everything else.

That being said, building bases is a core part of most strategy games so it certainly belongs, undiluted, in xenonauts. It doesn't have to be redone in the same way for nostalgic purposes but it shouldn't lose the best bits. If everyone enjoys the tetris of fitting rooms into square tiles then the reception to a demo without it will speak for itself. Personally, I like the subterranean base building in Dungeon Keeper because you are constantly micromanaging and defending the base, but the point of xcom is not micromanage. I'd be happy to see an element of building base defences, which you then see in a map at some point, but the rest can go slot style.

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In addition to defence oriented layout, I also like xcom 1 and 2's base facility adjacent bonus.  They make you think about base layout, but (in case of xcom 2) not too much.

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"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."

Why just not try to invent bycicle, and leave thing go as it was, or with less radical difference? 

"I think this system would actually be *more* complex than what is currently there"

This system WILL NOT be more complex, than "old" one (explanations later)

"So let's start with the bad stuff - this system involves moving to a single base and making base defence missions less cool" 

The only thing, I agree in that post =)

 

First of all: there are many "strategicall" points on globe, where it will be good to place bases (in X1), some are better because of more land coverage, some better with better sea coverage (UFOs terrorising rigs and ships hits payments as good as flying over land surface). Also base defence, and base constructing... I don`t think, that I`m the only person, who builds specific bases- some for labs and research, some for manufacturing, some for fighter operations, and so on... actually in X1 I usually lack 2-3 base slots for my needs, and actually its fun and strategy deeper to create own project base, and then if neccecary defend it.

If you want to make something with base constriction, I may advice, to split bases on two branches (both buildable anywhere on geoscape in numbers):

1. "big" Operational base: main Xenonauts facility, where can be built Hangars, living quoters, labs, workshops, medblocks... it have same "tetris" style as it was in X1, but half smaller than X1 base. there may be only one Operational base per "country"

2. "small" Auxillary base: smaller, cheaper and more numerous facility: may contain radars, SAM-complexes, "frontline" warehouses, "UFO"-bays (I like idea to decomission UFOs at some special place, not in field just after it capture). Auxillary bases can be build anywhere, and in any number you need, but they are more detectable for aliens and much more vulnerable. They have same "tetris" style, but have only 4-6 squares for facilities. 

Also, after alien attacks Aux.base there should be spesial mission, to prevent it destruction by alien ground force, and player shoul bring his own strike team to that base whitin limited time (mission itself hasn`t time limit, but if player loose\retreat, base will be destroyed immidiatly). I will be glad to see bases mplemented something like that more, than that  nightmare you want to put in game.

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1 hour ago, Severvus said:

"I think this system would actually be *more* complex than what is currently there"

 

This system WILL NOT be more complex, than "old" one (explanations later)

Your arguments didn't really convince me that have one base is less complicated than having multiple bases. You described running multiple bases, each for its own purpose: research, defense, manufacturing, etc. The fact that these exist in separate locations doesn't make it more complex; the decision tree is just "What do I want to prioritize? Do I have the money?" The proposed system will have the player make decisions like "What do I want to prioritize? Can I do so at the cost of X?" Because space is limited, money is not the only resource at play.

I will say that having a single base will reduce the feeling of "global coverage", but perhaps like you suggest, having a single Head Quarters with multiple auxiliary sites could provide that feeling. Having a single unchanging base may also hinder re-playability, but it doesn't reduce complexity.

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20 minutes ago, Shoes said:

the decision tree is just "What do I want to prioritize? Do I have the money?" 

No! Decision tree is actually: "What do I want to prioritize? Do I Have money? Is what i want to prioritize actually what I need at certain moment of the game? Where i should place it to make it work as I need. Single base make decisions like "How to place all I need in space it never will be fitted as I need it". Multiple bases not only give sence of  "global coverage", but it also giving global strategy sence, sence of realism of what hapens in game, and really makes game much more complex and strategically.

 

43 minutes ago, Shoes said:

Having a single unchanging base may also hinder re-playability, but it doesn't reduce complexity.

Hindering re-playability is the thing, that IS reducind game`s complexity.

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Yeah, I suppose if a base is laid out the same every time, it's not complex. But the questions you suggested in the decision tree still don't convince me that complexity rises with multiple bases. Having more room in which to build things is not complexity. Having multiple bases is like excavating the elevator shaft in XCOM2012: you get more space. In that game, adjacency bonuses actually forced you to plan out your base ahead of time. Unfortunately, there was an "optimal" base layout independent of play style, so it didn't quite hit the nail on the head.

Seems we've reached common ground though: a base that is built differently game after game implies that base building is complex/interesting. "Multiple bases" is not inherently complex if each base is a copy of a base built in a previous game. "Single base" is not inherently complex if it is identical from game to game. We'll have to wait and see for the implementation of the proposed system before we can be certain of its complexity.

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31 minutes ago, Shoes said:

We'll have to wait and see for the implementation of the proposed system before we can be certain of its complexity.

We already seen such system in XCOM2012. And it`s bad because of base is same from game to game, there is one and only one scheme to build it. Multiple bases... they at least may be built in different places in different games, their projects may be different from game to game (purposes of bases may be the same, but there is not all-right scheme to build, for example, industrial base, there always are decision how you want to run it)... so Multiple bases may be inherently complex for re-palyability, and single base already IS NOT inherently complex at all- there will be one and only one scheme to build it.

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3 hours ago, Severvus said:

so Multiple bases may be inherently complex for re-palyability, and single base already IS NOT inherently complex at all- there will be one and only one scheme to build it.

What exactly does running multiple bases add? The only bases where location matters would be bases with radar installations and hangars. This adds something, but it's shallow; there are optimal base placements that cover the most area and the biggest funding regions. To play optimally is to decide between building a base in two or three different locations. If that is all the complexity gained from running multiple bases, then it would be easy enough to replace that with another game mechanic while maintaining a single base system.

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7 hours ago, Shoes said:

 

What exactly does running multiple bases add? The only bases where location matters would be bases with radar installations and hangars. This adds something, but it's shallow; there are optimal base placements that cover the most area and the biggest funding regions. To play optimally is to decide between building a base in two or three different locations. If that is all the complexity gained from running multiple bases, then it would be easy enough to replace that with another game mechanic while maintaining a single base system.

What actually will give "one base" one complex, that may be built up in only one way? And how it may replace multiple bases, that may be built in different ways, with different purposes, at different places (I have about 300h in X1, and I never build same bases, at same places), as I said earlier, even radar coverage is not so simple as you try to explain, and sometimes water coverage is as important as land one, also place whee to build base is very important if you have (like me) separate industrial, research and operational comlex, there is very big value of logistic between several bases and so on. At least multiple baes are realistic- you cant maintain global war, by secret division, having only one operational center, thats quite impossible.

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I've already argued the points you bring up, so we've come full circle. My before last post sums up my thoughts.

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On 16.02.2017 at 5:28 PM, Chris said:

As I've said a million times, we can always go back to the old ways - but that's no excuse not to try some new stuff first.

Actually, main pretension for most of your ideas is that you blindly copy everything from Firaxis`s XCOM... without even attempt to make something new with "classical" UFO mechanics.

Here, for example, there may be really different base types, taking radars, SAM sites, and even hangars out from main operational bases, with only left there storage, production, research and ground teams dispatching. Numbers of Op.bases may be limited as one per continent (as, for example it done with interceptor bases in XCOM 2012), and that bases should be needed  suphort from smaller installations around globe. On such system may be created new events, and mission types. For example- alien sabotage on power lines, that turned off one or even several radars in some region. Aliens may attack convoys, that moving captured UFOs to decomission sites, or transporting captured alien officers to one of player`s OP.bases (and there, if they success in any case, it will be easier to hem to attack that base, because they will have more specific info about where that base is), and much more in that way.

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On 19. 2. 2017. at 8:08 PM, Shoes said:

. Having more room in which to build things is not complexity. Having multiple bases is like excavating the elevator shaft in XCOM2012: you get more space.

Not really. When you have one base, everything is on the same location - meaning part of the same cluster and defenses. You don't have to worry about protecting that new room. Flight time to transfer equipment? Flight time for reinforcements to get there? Not a factor.

When you have multiple bases, you have to defend all of them. And your one super-team can't be everywhere at the same time.

For example:

Do you place your base close to a friendly base (the closer it is, the faster friendly reinforcements may come. Does it affect tensions?)? Do you place it closer to a major city (you can respond faster - might be important if the time the player takes to respond has an effect - like the number of civilian casualties)

 

On 20. 2. 2017. at 0:34 AM, Shoes said:

What exactly does running multiple bases add? The only bases where location matters would be bases with radar installations and hangars. This adds something, but it's shallow; there are optimal base placements that cover the most area and the biggest funding regions.

I think you're forgetting that there's ALWAYS an optimal way to do something, with a given set of information and set goal. I've seen games do the mistake of trying to make every choice equally important - that's bullshit. The existence of an optimal path to the goal doesn't make something shallow. It just means you're smart enough to find that optimal path (or it might mean that it's too obvious)

That said, you can always add more factors. What if there isn't ONE goal? What if your data set is incomplete? IF there's more than one goal, and persuing one hinders another, then the choice becomes of what goal you choose - but again, you're going to be able to calculate an optimal solution for you. It's what we humans do.

 

And how would you propose to fix it? Make Afghnistan as rich as the US? Make every region equally important? Not only is it unrealistic, but it underlines a major problem - if all choices have the same result, they might as well not be there or matter. Common sense decisions are called that for a reason.

You could have Xenonauts get a fixed monthly funding - but that wouldn't fix anything. Frankly, I don't think there's anything to really "fix" as its' core, but you can add some more uncertainty to it.

 

If you have multiple bases, the questions become:

- how much funds am I willing to devote to base building? (funds needed for quipment, production, training, etc..)

- where do I place those bases (distance, coverage, purpose)

- what do I prioritize in those bases? (base defense, research, production, military projection, etc...)

The funds are limited and you have to juggle several needs, and that become more pronounced with several bases, as they all have to be defended. Do you specialize a base? Doing so means loosing one would be a heavy blow. But by not specializing, each department is not performing as well. Do you go for efficiency or security? How much risk are you willing to take?

 

Sometimes tiny changes make a huge impact on the planing the player does - for example, hoe aggressive are aliens in attacking your bases? What exactly impact do base locations have?

 

 

 

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I think perhaps we should keep the base part simple until the geoscape has a more solid direction.  Too many geoscape ideas floating around and many of them have a direct impact on what we need the base(s) for.

I mean, if we put enough facilities on the globe (labs, hangers, radars, refineries, operation centers), and put the rest in tech tree (adv. medicine for faster healing, human computer interface for faster stress relief due to better entertainment system), we may not even need a slotted HQ at all.

Edit: Of course this is still firaxisation - civilization is a firaxis game too - so can't help with that label. :p

Edited by Sheepy

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It would be nice to have an "Escape Tunnel" base structure so that if you are going to loose, exiting your best men will save them (if they can get to the exit that is...). Then they just appear at the nearest base that has capacity.

To be honest, the system you had in Xen 1 was just fine. But I like the reinforcements argument (it reminds me of when the Rebels knock out the lazer defence turrets in Rebelstar on the Sinclair Spectrum - what a game that was where a few reinforcements appear outside the base). You could have a turn countdown ETA for this depending on how far away the nearest base is. That way, if your last man can run, he might be able to save the base - which adds a bit more strategy depth (if you build your base like a maze he may be able to hide long enough).

Edited by ooey

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