MattEvansC3

Cover System needs a lot of work

20 posts in this topic

Just downloaded the demo and there are definitely issues with the cover system.

The cover penalty is applied, or at least displayed as applied, irrespective of what side of the cover you are on. That means hiding behind cover inccurs an accuracy penalty from the cover you are hiding behind.

How cover impacts LOS seems "unrealistic". Shooting at a standing alien through a medium obstacle has a 30% chance of being blocked. Have your LOS clip a three pixel corner of a large obstacle and your shot has a 50% chance of being blocked. It's easier to hit an alien through three blocks of shoulder high raised terrain than it is to hit an alien who's elbow is in cover.

There needs to a two block area around the xenonaut where cover does not affect LOS. Also the chance of a piece of terrain to block LOS should be worked out on how many LOS pixels cross through the terrain not a flat rate.

Edited by MattEvansC3

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Thanks. Yeah, there's some issues with the fire path tagging cover that isn't really in the line of fire that needs to be looked into. However the game shouldn't be including cover you're hiding behind (or cover in any adjacent tile to the shooter) in the accuracy calculation. If that's happening, can you post up a screenshot please? It's be useful for us to work out what's going.

Calculating cover based on how much of the cover is tagged by the line of fire is going to be difficult to do, and it's quite a long explanation as to why that is. Basically though shot accuracy ends up being quite unpredictable if you try and model the 3D path of a shot rather than use abstractions where intervening cover has a set % block chance; neither method is perfect but the first makes it hard to know whether any particular mode is actually going to improve your chances of hitting a shot (which is frustrating) and the second causes odd situations like the ones that you are describing.

That's at a high level; at a low level you have to ask questions like how wide a fire path actually would be in the real world? The width of a bullet, or something wider? It's quite difficult to mix 3D and abstractions together unfortunately.

 

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...and don't forget the fact that, with a turn- and square-tile-based "combat sim", everything is an abstraction at some level...and something like cover is deeply abstract.  Just because Xenonauts 2 is using a 3D graphics engine doesn't mean that it suddenly can, or even should, become more "realistic" than Xenonauts 1 was; just because you think you can see an alien's body better from one angle than from another doesn't mean that, in the meta-game, that alien can't duck behind that heavy cover to get the 50% bonus, or is so much behind the lighter cover that no matter how your soldier might be aiming they're still at a 30% penalty.

Now, that thought does pose a question/idea: why not create "dodge" animations for mobs - possibly just three each ("step to the left, step to the right, hunker down in place" - and that last could be a quick up-and-down of the crouch position, even), and have them use whichever is appropriate by having the shots pathfinding splitting the highest-level intervening cover object into 3 quadrants and, based on which quadrant the shot passes through as a straight mid-square to mid-square line, does the appropriate animation to indicate that the target is "making use of the cover?" That's a pretty simplistic description for the idea, but hey, "abstractions", right? :)

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Posted (edited)

Ducking behind cover is a good way to make the battlefield feel more alive than having the shot miss.  I think XCOM's action cams would feel a lot more static without the enemies or soldiers actively dodging shots.

Turning miss chance into dodge chance - where you can see your soldiers hitting the alien's normal position, may also reduce that "are these soldiers blind" feeling...

Edited by Sheepy
typo

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21 hours ago, Sheepy said:

Ducking behind cover is a good way to make the battlefield feel more alive than having the shot miss.  I think XCOM's action cams would feel a lot more static without the enemies or soldiers actively dodging shots.

Turning miss chance into dodge change - where you can see your soldiers hitting the alien's normal position, may also reduce that "are these soldiers blind" feeling...

Yep, agreed; I wasn't even thinking about XCOM's implementation of "dodging" when I wrote my post - it was just the first thought I had to help with the whole "abstracting line-of-sight vs. cover bonuses" thing - but you're right, that really did give a better feel XCOM combat. So, hey, I guess that means the idea is time-tested and proven to be successful, eh? ;)

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On 3/7/2017 at 2:19 AM, Sheepy said:

Ducking behind cover is a good way to make the battlefield feel more alive than having the shot miss.  I think XCOM's action cams would feel a lot more static without the enemies or soldiers actively dodging shots.

Turning miss chance into dodge chance - where you can see your soldiers hitting the alien's normal position, may also reduce that "are these soldiers blind" feeling...

This is a good point - I hadn't considered that having the aliens duck would make your soldiers look less comically bad at shooting.

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5 hours ago, Chris said:

This is a good point - I hadn't considered that having the aliens duck would make your soldiers look less comically bad at shooting.

It wasn't an issue when using much more static, 2D sprites, but adding the third dimension and more realistic environment(al effects) does make it seem more than a little strange that the best soldiers in the world can't hit the broad-side of a barn (very often quite literally :p) until after they've been in a dozen battles.

Another idea: maybe adjust the actual stance of mobs that are behind cover - both if they are standing or kneeling - as if they are "using" the cover even when not being shot at, probably based on the direction they are facing. For example, if there is a tree next to them and they are facing in any of the 3 directions that would put it "in the front arc" of their LOS, have them lean behind/around it; if it is a wall, they suck up to it and glance around the corner. (The latter would be especially good since it would really give a visual explanation of how the "you can see around a corner, but the enemy can't see you" mechanic works. Really, there's no good reason - besides time/money/animators, granted :D - not to make use of the new 3D models to "explain game mechanics" in whatever form they can.)

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On 3/7/2017 at 3:19 AM, Sheepy said:

Ducking behind cover is a good way to make the battlefield feel more alive than having the shot miss.  I think XCOM's action cams would feel a lot more static without the enemies or soldiers actively dodging shots.

Turning miss chance into dodge chance - where you can see your soldiers hitting the alien's normal position, may also reduce that "are these soldiers blind" feeling...

I am heavily in favor of this!
We can still have a bit of deviance on the shots for realism, but the shot spread can be reduced drastically.

The dodge animation itself will already clearly show the miss for most intents and purposes, doubly so because the camera is so zoomed out.
 

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6 hours ago, SebilIAm said:


We can still have a bit of deviance on the shots for realism, but the shot spread can be reduced drastically.

 

If shot spread is reduced, as makes sense, given that the hit system is percentage-based it would be easy enough to determine if 1) the shot missed due to cover, 2) it missed by a near margin (say, 50% or something), or 3) it missed by a far margin (everything else).  If split up that way - or split up even more, if the time/money exists to do so - then you could have specific reactions to each "miss category": really dig in behind the cover if that's what blocks it, dodge/step towards cover if the shot comes close but misses, wince and glance to the side if the shots go wide, etc.  Even the sounds of gunfire could change some due to misses: they already seem to sound different when some types of terrain are hit (or did I imagine that? :confused:), in certain cases (such as really close misses) you could change one (or more, in the case of a burst) sounds of gunfire into the zip of a bullet nearly missing you, occasionally have cover-blocked shots make richocheting sounds, etc.  Just a few more (relatively) little things that would make the combat much more "alive". (I'm not even sure I've even seen any other games in the genre that have taken this "multiple reactions and sounds" sort of approach beyond a single level, like XCOM's dodging..?)

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Posted (edited)

12 hours ago, Drahkan said:

Then you could have specific reactions to each "miss category": really dig in behind the cover if that's what blocks it, dodge/step towards cover if the shot comes close but misses, wince and glance to the side if the shots go wide, etc.  ...  Just a few more (relatively) little things that would make the combat much more "alive". (I'm not even sure I've even seen any other games in the genre that have taken this "multiple reactions and sounds" sort of approach beyond a single level, like XCOM's dodging..?)

I fully agree, currently the units all feel "static".
Even the idle animation of the soldier has the soldier standing almost completely still, which feels incredibly off-place in a combat situation.
I feel the soldier should be looking around a bit, maybe even have a different animation for overwatch vs. "at-ease".

Edited by SebilIAm

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6 hours ago, SebilIAm said:

I fully agree, currently the units all feel "static".
Even the idle animation of the soldier has the soldier standing almost completely still, which feels incredibly off-place in a combat situation.
I feel the soldier should be looking around a bit, maybe even have a different animation for overwatch vs. "at-ease".

We do already have a secondary idle animation for all units where they look around but it's currently unused for all but the small Psyons; we just need to add some code to randomly mix it in with the more normal idle. Might try and bump that up the priority list for the build next Tuesday because I think it'd make a big visual difference for not very much work.

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10 hours ago, SebilIAm said:

I feel the soldier should be looking around a bit, maybe even have a different animation for overwatch vs. "at-ease".

 

4 hours ago, Chris said:

We do already have a secondary idle animation for all units where they look around but it's currently unused for all but the small Psyons; we just need to add some code to randomly mix it in with the more normal idle. Might try and bump that up the priority list for the build next Tuesday because I think it'd make a big visual difference for not very much work.

As a latter add, I second SebilIAm's idea of an "overwatch stance" as well, both for players and for enemies; not only do I sometimes forget which of my soldiers might actually react to enemy movement, it also seems unusually stressing to wonder which aliens might be ready to shoot at me when, if they are visible at the time of my movement, there should be some sort of hint that they are essentially "waiting in ambush".  It wouldn't have to be anything huge, basically a stance half-way through the animation that plays when the model goes from standing to shooting..?

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It's possible, but remember that units in Xenonauts are effectively in overwatch if they have any TU left at all so it's not as clear-cut as it is in XCOM (where you manually activate overwatch).

You can tie an "overwatch stance" custom animation into having enough TU remaining to fire your weapon at the lowest accuracy level, but then remember that at the start of your turn all of your units will apparently be on overwatch,

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I agree that the reaction shot system seems to be confusing to quite a few players.  Providing an indication of who may shot you and how close they are to shot you is going make the system more obvious and "less random".  We may even show a "reaction fire meter" on lower difficulties, so that players can learn about TU% and multiplier.

As for idle stance, if the soldiers are going to look around them, we'll need to get rid of vision cone to keep it consistent.

Or we can have the soldiers flex their muscles without turning their heads, like command Shephard.
Whether those exercises are obvious when viewed from third person (instead of first person) we'll know after trying them out. :rolleyes:

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8 hours ago, Chris said:

It's possible, but remember that units in Xenonauts are effectively in overwatch if they have any TU left at all so it's not as clear-cut as it is in XCOM (where you manually activate overwatch).

You can tie an "overwatch stance" custom animation into having enough TU remaining to fire your weapon at the lowest accuracy level, but then remember that at the start of your turn all of your units will apparently be on overwatch,

Ugh, yeah, I forgot about that "start of turn" issue. :-/  However, couldn't it be something that only happens when you click End Turn?  As in, when your - or the alien's - turn ends, anyone with enough TU's to fire go into "overwatch stance", and stay that way until they no longer have enough TU's to shoot (at which point they go back to default stance or what-not).  It might even give a neat "end-turn aesthetic", since you'll get to see all of the overwatch-ing mobs all suddenly shift their stance right before the other side's turn begins.

7 hours ago, Sheepy said:

As for idle stance, if the soldiers are going to look around them, we'll need to get rid of vision cone to keep it consistent.

Or we can have the soldiers flex their muscles without turning their heads, like command Shephard.
Whether those exercises are obvious when viewed from third person (instead of first person) we'll know after trying them out. :rolleyes:

Just because mobs are glancing around doesn't necessarily mean that their vision cone must change (or go away); it's kinda like how this thread started, there's got to be some level of abstraction with any game, let alone a turn-based one using some sort of "action points", and ambient animations is probably the best kind of abstraction to justify at the sake of "realism".  There's already the (glaring?) issue that vision cones seems waaaaay too constrained, as it should be ~115 degrees not counting peripheral vision (which gives almost 180 degrees of "situational awareness" total).  So if anything, I'd suggest that, if adding in animations involving head movements, to just increase the vision cone (which I vote for, period :D) to make it seem more realistic...and in a sense to actually explain what's going on, given that the current vision cone literally makes me feel like my soldiers have had all their vertebrae fused together. :confused:

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18 hours ago, Sheepy said:

As for idle stance, if the soldiers are going to look around them, we'll need to get rid of vision cone to keep it consistent.

I think there's definitely a middle ground between idle animations and having to completely remove the vision cone.
I'm personally a fan of the vision cone as it drastically alters the feel of the game.

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Posted (edited)

I've been (re-)playing a bit of X1 lately and I found myself missing a clear differentiation between LOS and shots barriers. The former would affect the probability of seeing a unit as well as the accuracy of hitting hit ("sight" cover), while the latter would affect the probability of a shot being "intercepted" by some obstacle ("shot" cover). Even though they are similar in practice (both affect the prob of hitting the target), theoretically, are quite different. I think it would be really nice to have these two kinds of cover more explicitely defined. For example, on X1 combat map, when you see the cover signs, what does it mean? That aliens cannot see my soldier? That cannot shoot him? Or both?

So, what if we'd had:

  • only "sight" cover (or some with small shot penalty) = big objects that obstruct vision/accuracy but do not really affect bullets: bushes, trees, thins walls (like wood or thin metal), smoke, ...
  • only "shot" cover = objects that affect bullets (are hard) but not big enough to completely block LOS: rocks, small concrete blocks, low walls, vehicles, etc...
  • full cover = big and heavy/hard objects = high concrete walls, thick metal structures, etc..

Right now on X1 there is an attempt to model this but most objects that provide sight cover also provide shot cover (e.g. bushes). In this case, I think it should provide a small shot penalty but a full sight penalty. This would allow for another layer in the gameplay where a unit is shot wihtout seeing the enemy: ambush.

It would also be nice to have a more direct idea of the type/level of cover provided by each object. Current system (with the small color marks and the letter L/M/H/F) is quite good but maybe it could be tweaked so that (e.g.) color applies to sight and the letter for the shot (or vice-versa).

Edited by krolyn

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Yeah, in real life there's definitely a distinction between concealment and actual protective cover - it doesn't exist in Xenonauts 1 though (and additionally those cover indicators don't work that well given the way that intervening cover is often quite a few tiles away so I wouldn't worry about them too much).

It's quite hard to model though - really, if you wanted to model concealment and cover differently then you'd need special types of prop that block line of sight in a specific way. For instance, a waist-high wall or hedge would make any unit crouching behind them invisible until they were flanked or they popped their head over the top. Jagged Alliance does something like this and it's pretty cool, but it does add a lot of complexity to the combat that I'm not sure fits in an X-Com game.

It generally requires a more detailed body stance system (lying down, crouched, standing) and more importantly it also adds a layer of uncertainty to the line of sight system. You can see a tile and it looks empty, but suddenly an alien appears from nowhere on that tile (having uncrouched from behind a wall)? Not being able to properly know if a tile is empty or not can be annoying. We've taken the opposite approach in Xenonauts where props are transparent to line of sight but not bullets; you can see right through crates and trees so you'll know if there's an alien behind them ... but you might need to reposition to fight them better. This makes missions much faster and easier to understand - I think the JA2 approach has its merits but I'm not sure what Xenonauts 2 needs is to slow combat down further.

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10 hours ago, Chris said:

I think the JA2 approach has its merits but I'm not sure what Xenonauts 2 needs is to slow combat down further.

...especially when I already move my soldiers at a snail's-pace so that they are always behind cover (if possible), kneeling, and have at least one overwatch shot available...;)

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Tabletop wargames, with particular reference to miniature-based wargames have to be able to model cover that is both reasonable and authentic, but without making the model too complex as the more rules that apply to cover, the more time both players spend on the cover rules. Xenonauts could benefit from taking such a tabletop approach to modelling cover, as it would provide a means of more accurately presenting cover without heavy use of modelling. 

 

Some tabletop games do what kroyln suggests - cover is defined as both being able to obscure a shot, and prevent a shot from striking a target. However, cover is usually defined as one or either, so cover is "soft", when it can obscure a target and grants a minus to-hit, or "hard" when it can physically block a shot and grants a saving throw. Some games roll both soft and hard into one mechanic, such as W40K  which grants a saving throw when a target is in coverbut that saving throw cannot be reduced except through certain special rules. Infinity grants a negative to-hit, and a bonus to the armour stat. Bolt action treats hard/soft cover as different attack modifiers. 

 

Something like Inifnity or 40k's ruleset may be beneficial to Xenonauts. If cover granted a bonus to armour (or granted armour at all!) or granted a easy to understand saving throw then both concealment (in terms of cover making a shot miss) and protection (in terms of cover blocking a shot) could be modelled. 

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