We're now at the end of July and it's time for my monthly update. There's been no public releases this month (the stuff we've been working on has taken us off in some unexpected directions), but we'll resume those next month.
This month we've spent a fair bit of coder time improving the tactical AI. It now has a much better understanding of the battlefield and the weapons it is equipped with (certainly better than the X1 AI did) and is ready for some combat balancing next month. We're also planning to look into some "advanced" behaviours as part of this, whether it be squad behaviours that allow alien units to move and fight as teams or unit-specific special abilities (e.g. you could imagine a large Sebillian having something akin to the XCOM Berserker ability where it moves a couple of tiles towards anyone that fires a shot nearby). I think making the aliens feel more intelligent and the different species feel more distinct would give the game a lot more character!
We've also worked on various other aspects of gameplay. Performance on the Geoscape has been improved significantly, and we've implemented difficulty settings (although I need to balance the campaign properly before I make them too different from one another), and we've revisited the soldier medals and finished implementing them. We've also had support in the game for Landed UFOs for quite some time, but someone on the forums pointed out recently that UFOs weren't actually landing. I spent a bit of time looking into that and the coders fixed some related bugs, and now UFOs are landing like they should.
Rather a lot of new art assets have been added to the game as well. The last of the remaining Xenonaut armours was modelled up in 3D and sent off for rigging today, so I expect all the final Xenonaut 3D models to be in the game by the end of August - you can see a couple of the designs in the images in this post. There's also been a new alien model added to the game, the Cyberdrone. This was previously a big white sphere but now actually has a unique design. There's now at least one 3D model for all of the aliens in the game, and we're going to turn our attention to making the different variants distinct from one another (so you can better tell an elite alien from a standard alien of the same species, etc).
There's also new 2D art. We redesigned the Gauss weapons and have new 2D art for that entire family of weapons, as they could previously be quite difficult to tell apart and the art wasn't as good as some of the other weapons in the game. We've also added the top-down art for the two advanced dropships (as seen when arranging your troops inside them on the Aircraft screen), and as the 3D tiles are already complete we just need to paint the background art on the Soldier Equip screen for those and then they are done. That should be done next month too.
Finally, we've brought back a freelance artist who was working with us on improving the look of the ground combat tiles. The quality of the ground combat environments still varies wildly from the dockyard maps we used in the Steam Demo which I think look pretty great through to biomes like Arid or the American Town which I think look rather less great. We'll be working hard on retexturing some of the less attractive assets to bring them up to final quality, and we'll also be adding the final destruction states to them too. It might take a few months for this to bear fruit but I think you'll see quite a big improvement in the way the game looks when it does!
Oh, one more thing on the art front - the new UI art style also continues to develop. Hopefully next month you'll see the new main menu screen and it's various sub-panels in the game (the start new campaign screen, load game screen, etc). Maybe even the new topbar too if things go well.
Aside from the gameplay things, there's also been some time spent on technical stuff. We're continuing to work on translation support, but that hit a speedbump this month because we had previously been linking items / projects together via their name (e.g. when specifying which item unlocks a Research project). Unfortunately this system falls apart once the name becomes a value that changes based on language, so we had to rewrite quite a lot of code relating to that too. But hopefully next month translation support will be finished too.
So yeah, that's what we've been working on this month. It's been a busy month. I had intended to be working on the actual game balance but I got pulled into all the stuff listed above. Fingers crossed I can get back onto it next month though!