Bibidibop

How Difficulty Levels Could Work

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On another forum I saw a very good set of proposals for how difficulty levels could work in a very innovative way. The best comparison is to the current implementation of how alien invasion escalates based on difficulty. Instead of buffing and debuffing stats, key features change in severity. I think some of this may already be in the works, but I'm not sure.

Soldier Death

- Easy: Soldiers only get knocked out.

- Normal: Soldiers get knocked down when "dead" and slowly bleed out, only being insta-killed by high-damage critical shots. (This adds another gameplay element where players can risk their men to recover and heal their wounded.)

- Hard: Soldiers die.

Alien Infiltration

- Easy: Aliens rarely infiltrate. If you kick their asses, the country will renege on their pact and rejoin the UN.

- Normal: If you kick their asses, the country will renege on their pact and rejoin the UN. (This makes infiltration a reversible event, allowing players who want to dig their heels in to set the pace of their own campaign.)

- Hard: Alien infiltration as normal.

Alien Missions

- Easy: You will be notified of alien missions, even if they are outside of radar range.

- Normal: You will be notified of important / long alien missions, even if they are outside of radar range.

- Hard: You will only be notified of alien missions after they happen unless they are within range of a friendly base (forces you to patrol aggressively).

Alien Reactivity

- Easy: Aliens will continue with missions as in the original.

- Normal: Aliens will prefer to pick areas of operation where you have had the relatively least amount of successful interceptions/missions. Aliens will search for your bases in areas where you have had over [threshold] successful missions.

- Hard: Aliens will aggressively search for your bases. Aliens will attempt to stage simultaneous operations attacking places where you are entrenched while performing other important missions (infiltration, terror, etc.) in areas where you have little presence. Aliens will not be slowed down for a time by shooting down their ships.

Base size

- Easy: Large starting base with everything you need, ready for expansion.

- Normal: Starting base has all the essentials, maybe not everything you need for a running start.

- Hard: You begin with only the bare essentials: living space for your troops, just enough storage to hold a little gear and a hangar.

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I think difficulty should also control the frequency of UFOs appearing on the Geoscape and the number of aliens present in ground combat.

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yeah and how quickly new alien races arrive, and how how quickly higher ranking aliens arrive...

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I heard that, as of now, cargo space will be unlimited in the base. It would probably be best if it was added back in by difficulty level, as you have written here. Chris said something about micromanagement and how the base-storage space is too small to worry about, but I, personally, love the micromanagement that came along with X-Com.

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Some of these are good ideas actually. I'm not convinced by the soldier death and alien reactivity ones, as I think they're important to the game even in easy mode. I rather like the starting base / starting resources one and the alien infiltration mission ideas though, I'll add them to the 'possible things to implement in beta' list.

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I'd say that as far as difficulty goes, for most players just changing in statistics such as soldier vs alien health and accuracy, prices of items and gains from succesful missions and problems caused by failed ones, maybe time required for research would be pretty much enough. No need to change AI, scripts etc.

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Some of these are good ideas actually. I'm not convinced by the soldier death and alien reactivity ones, as I think they're important to the game even in easy mode. I rather like the starting base / starting resources one and the alien infiltration mission ideas though, I'll add them to the 'possible things to implement in beta' list.

The way the soldiers die I think is the best one. In the old forum I think I even suggested something similar.

It might be best to have an over all difficulty slider, as well as individual sliders for customization. That way everything could be hard, but death could be easy, or everything is easy with a hard base to start.

I'd say that as far as difficulty goes, for most players just changing in statistics such as soldier vs alien health and accuracy, prices of items and gains from succesful missions and problems caused by failed ones, maybe time required for research would be pretty much enough. No need to change AI, scripts etc.

The problem with stat changes are they are simplistic, can act like cheats, and can be boring. Normally, I like a certain pacing in games, and when the hit points of of opponents goes up, I don't find it harder, I find it slower. If they were purely better at dodging and blocking, and still die in the same number of hits, then that's great.

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yeah there'd be no real challenge if you played the game on hard, but had actually gone into the files and changed the stats to make it easier...

Things that change the pace of the game, the flow and feel make much more convincing difficulty modifiers, IMO

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Normally, I like a certain pacing in games, and when the hit points of of opponents goes up, I don't find it harder, I find it slower.

This is precisely why the final act of BioShock felt like a chore.

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I find it slower. If they were purely better at dodging and blocking, and still die in the same number of hits, then that's great.

No problem with me, health etc were an example. Just general messing with stats I had in mind.

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Normally, I like a certain pacing in games, and when the hit points of of opponents goes up, I don't find it harder, I find it slower. If they were purely better at dodging and blocking, and still die in the same number of hits, then that's great.

yeah, that's the problem with lots of boss fights. Rather than requiring some certain kind of skill, they just have you fight an enemy with way too much health, and who has a set attack pattern that you have to learn and get around.

First time it's fine. 100th time it's boring as hell

Edited by anotherdevil
Mind control... bzzzt!

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The flip side of having the AI get tougher as the difficulty setting goes up is that it means you're not getting good value for your development efforts - not many people will see the genuinely intelligent alien behaviour because its only in the hardest game settings. If you have weaker, but still genuinely intelligent, aliens in the lower game settings then everyone gets to see the aliens being smart. But then you get the super-random-insta-death problems you mentioned on higher difficulty settings, which annoy the hell out of me because I always play FPS and strategy games on the hardest difficulty settings these days.

The soldier death thing is an okay idea, but to me it is tweaking the X-Com formula a bit too far. It's possible to make the soldiers die less often (vs. being seriously wounded) on the lower difficulty settings, but not allowing soldiers to die at all would be madness even on the easiest difficulty setting.

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...but not allowing soldiers to die at all would be madness even on the easiest difficulty setting.

Indeed! The permanent death is one of the cores of the game. I berate myself heavily if a soldier dies in battle, and it's a disaster if more than one goes. I did a lot of loading in UFO EU to save my men and women. However, now I'm a bit more mature and I'll just slap myself and congratulate me on a job poorly done. That, and loading in Xenonauts atm is risky business! :D

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Personally I like the idea that when xenonauts get fatally shot they collaps and bleed out over 1-3 turns first so that you have a shot at saveing them. But if you neglect them they die permanently and if they take any additional damage like explosion damage they die. On harder difficulties (or just smarter aliens later in the game) the aliens could possibly keep fireing at xenonauts bleeding out to finish the job so to say. Higher difficulties could also add the chance to make the xenonauts resign after such a close encounter meaning you have a chance at loosing them despite manageing to save them in the battle.

Critical fatal shots would kill the xenonaut outright preventing you from beeing able to save them from bleeding out and firedamage would tick again the next turn killing them as well. possibly smoke form explosions would cause asphyxiation as well or something.

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I think Chris already plans to put in a system of some soldier surviving what would be fatal shots, however when they do survive opposed to those who die outright hasn't been finalised yet, if I can remember correctly...

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but not allowing soldiers to die at all would be madness even on the easiest difficulty setting.

I actually have to agree. I love the new build and how all the shots are now tighter, and how it's actually a fight to keep my soldiers alive.

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Making it more difficult to get them killed would be fine though for people who may not have much experience of this type of game.

No matter how much damage they take they always stop at 0 health and tick down to -5 or so before finally dying.

That gives a new player 5 turns to try and save their trooper or to finish the map.

If base hospital speed is also increased the new players would still be penalised for letting them get shot to bits but not end up with 50 troops all sat in hospital beds.

Of course getting hit again or caught in an explosion while down would still finish them off, even in the hospital (I'm looking at you Sathra).

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Hey, I may use heaps of explosives, but I rarely actually hit my own troops. Comes from using them so much you can eyeball the blast ranges and get apparently insane results where a trooper is standing on the tile just outside the range routinely. Or having the ground scorched on 3 sides around them with some careful planning and knowledge of blast resistance of walls and how they attenuate explosions.:cool:

But on topic: Bleed-out sounds pretty good. Adds tension.

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One of the things I hated about grenades in X-Com, especially alien grenades, was having some of my troopers in the blast radius. In Apoc though, I've actually dropped grenades at my own feet to get rid of those nasty hyperworms. Taking some damage and losing my pants armour was better than a good chance of dying anyway.

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I just madly sprayed the area in HE autocannon fire. Or grenades. Or stun gas, then grenades. For some reason you don't get penalised for killing civves in Apoc so the only real concern to not use explosives is the building collapsing on your troops or (more importantly/more often) destroying loot.

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It'd be great if on top of the easy/medium/hard difficulty settings there was also option of custom difficulty, where player could choose all the different settings influenced by difficulty (enemy AI difficulty, ufo spawn rate, how often aliens try to attack player bases, numbers of ...)

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Yeah but it depends on what actually gets affected. If it actually is different AI patterns etc. it might not be that easy...

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yeah, you're probably right. creating different sets of AI patterns for different difficulty levels would probably be a lot of work

maybe just use different numbers of aliens in ground missions instead

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Some of these are good ideas actually. I'm not convinced by the soldier death and alien reactivity ones, as I think they're important to the game even in easy mode. I rather like the starting base / starting resources one and the alien infiltration mission ideas though, I'll add them to the 'possible things to implement in beta' list

just more aliens per attack+a few more attacks would do the trick without changing code much or game mechanics, maybe more ratio of -elite- aliens all around, nerfing research/ money/ and the soldiers will cripple the game

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You can even do it Silent Hunter 4 style where there are several options for difficulty rather than having them all slabbed under one. For example, I want my troops to die when they're out of HP but want alien accuracy to be low. It would be set up kinda like graphic settings; some default leveler that sets them all to a certain set and then more "advanced" fine tuning.

PRESET: EASY/NORMAL/HARD/INSANE

Advanced Mode:

Enemy Accuracy Easy/Normal/Hard/Insane

Soldier HP Loss

etc etc etc

That would be a lot of work, though.

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