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About Chris

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    Beloved Leader


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    London, UK
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    Project Lead, Xenonauts
  1. Nope, the graphics aren't final. The fundamentals are in place but we've spent very little time polishing them up and we're still using the old X1 UI too. There'll be more changes that improve the visuals as development continues.
  2. Apologies for not properly responding to this earlier. Basically most of the stuff you're talking about is currently at too early a stage for me to spend a long time considering it - but it seems like you can put a thoughtful argument together so I'll be happy to have a long discussion with you about this once we've got the strategy layer out. The problem with trying to do it now is that though the concept of how to balance the alien invasion has a huge effect on the overall gameplay of the game, it falls under the "fine balance" stage of the game because so many things affect it. You need everything working properly before you can start to tweak that, so it has to happen quite late. The difference between the ground combat enemies scaling with how well you're doing, and scaling to be even harder but then also giving more rewards (which I think is the point you made in the second post) is only a few lines of code, but has significant gameplay ramifications. Hence talking about it in the balancing stage rather than when we're still creating all the gameplay systems is the way to go. Re: the casualty list, I agree. Again however best to see the UI before we discuss where it could go.
  3. With the Christmas period only six weeks away, I thought I'd take a moment to tell everyone what exactly we're working on at the moment. The short version of it could be summed up as: we're connecting everything together, and things now work ... but are also clearly broken. What? Things work... but they're also broken? Let's start by talking about exactly what "connecting up" is - essentially it means we're now joining up all the information on the strategy layer and the ground combat layer. On the strategy layer you can hire your unique soldiers and put them to work in the base or send them out on missions, and if you send them out on a mission then we need to create a battlefield map with all the parameters sent from the strategy layer. That includes the type of mission (UFO crash site, VIP rescue, etc), the type of biome and sub-biome (arid wilderness, temperate farm, desert military base etc), the number of Xenonauts involved and their stats and equipment, the number and type of aliens, etc. The good news is that this all now works in the sense that data is correctly passed from the strategy layer to the ground combat, then results are passed back up to the strategy layer again once the mission is complete. However, making the gameplay correctly reflect all this information is an ongoing process that be going on for a long time. We're making a lot of progress fixing up the obvious issues, but whilst the code is indeed working the gameplay just isn't there yet. Anyone who played Xenonauts 1 more than six months before it was released will know very well what we mean when we say that! Can you give a bit more detail on where exactly you are and why this is so hard? The key issue here is the the missions in Xenonauts require a long list of design work, art assets and code in order to play like a game should play, and if any one is missing then the whole thing looks totally broken. I'll take the example of us implementing the VIP rescue mission which we put in the game a few weeks ago, because that both clearly works but is also obviously broken. These are the (simplified) steps required to get it working: Have a functioning Geoscape where missions can spawn Have the ability to hire and equip soldiers on the strategy layer Write the spawn logic on the strategy layer for when the opportunity for a VIP Rescue mission appears on the Geoscape Write the intended alien units that you should be fighting on the mission (these should change and get harder as the game goes on) Write code that defines the victory / loss conditions for this specific type of mission and implements anything new (e.g. you fail if the VIP is killed, you win if the VIP is evacuated even if everyone else dies) Have a level editor that can create a level for the game Implement VIP spawn regions and evac regions in the level editor and ground combat code Have a tileset with enough models that levels can look good Create a level for the mission with the appropriate layout, meta regions and visual attractiveness Create art assets for all the required aliens Create art assets for the VIP Set up combat stats / equipment for all these aliens Set up combat stats / equipment for the VIP Make sure this equipment also has the required stats and art assets Ensure you have the appropriate variety of maps to cater for all the different places this mission can occur Write the code that pulls this together and loads the appropriate map, mission type, aliens, equipment and Xenonauts when you fire up the mission Ensure the aliens have the correct AI behaviors to deal with the mission objectives (e.g. they will aggressively attack you and try and kill the VIP) Pass the results information back to the strategy layer and ensure the strategy layer acts on it (killing your dead soldiers, crediting you with a new unit if you rescued the VIP, etc) Something that sounds relatively simple - "adding VIP rescue missions" - therefore actually requires a huge amount of work across many different areas of the project if you want it to have an acceptable level of gameplay. And even when you've done all this, there's still plenty more to do ... for instance, the VIP currently doesn't get a little quick-selection minitab in the UI when you get control of him, and he doesn't start sharing his vision cone with your team until you select him for the first time. Those are pretty major bugs that clearly need to be fixed. And even when you've got the obvious bugs fixed, all you've done is created a mission that the player can play. Then the long and difficult process of balancing starts. Is the VIP too close to the spawn area, or too far away? Are the enemies too tough for this stage of the game? Is the map too open, making the VIP too hard to protect against alien snipers? Are shotguns too good? Does that alien have too much HP bloat? I'm sure you get the picture. The point of this update is to illustrate that the "fun" part of game development that everyone wants to help out with is the balancing and polishing stage, which happens right at the end of development. That's when you get to look at the game and say "hey, I've got this one great idea that'll make it much better!" and I find myself writing 1000-word forum posts about tiny details like why ballistic rifles need to have slightly higher armour penetration than they already do. I love that part of game development and we're getting steadily closer to it. We've nearly finished the box that sits around the game that we all want to play, and soon we'll be properly working on the game itself. The level editor and level creation process in general has sucked away a lot of this time, but we've now got pretty much all the functionality we had in the X1 level editor and therefore should be able to produce missions with the same complexity as the first game. Then we'll start pushing beyond it. We've got a few more things to fix up before we can put anything out, but what I'm currently planning for is to re-introduce the ground combat builds in the near future with the new ground mission types in them (currently we're working on UFO Crash Site, Alien Base Attack, Capture Supplies, VIP Rescue, VIP Elimination, Xenonaut Base Defence and they're all mostly working). Hopefully that gives a bit more insight into what we're doing right now, and why we've been quiet - although you'll get to see it for yourself soon enough!
  4. @Conductiv I think we're just looking at things from a different angle, perhaps. There's two main issues I see at play: 1) Should we have missions where taking a non-military staff member is better than taking a soldier? I think we both agree the answer here is yes. You gave the example of hacking a console, and another example might be if you broke into a lab to steal some research notes. Only someone with a scientific background would actually be able to identify the most useful notes to take, whereas a soldier would just have to grab them at random and hope they prove useful. We've not implemented anything like that yet but I'd like to. 2) For the spots in the combat team where you just want to put the most effective killing machines possible, should the player have access to enough high-quality soldiers to fill them? I would argue that this is a choice the player has to make for themselves. The game should not allow the player to do everything well, so if you have a large combat team full of high-quality soldiers then you can do so but obviously you won't have a very strong science / engineering / communications presence. Conversely hiring a lot of high-science staff doesn't mean that you simply can't do ground missions at all, but it does mean that combat missions will be more difficult because your "soldiers" are less effective. I guess in an ideal world the balanced strategy would allow the player to do a bit of everything, meaning that the player could field a strong team of soldiers for important missions but there's no backup if one of the good soldiers is exhausted or wounded or dead. That means the player would need to rotate their team so there's always a mix of good soldiers and backup guys on any mission, or rest up before a big mission to ensure all their good troops are available for it. So the reason why you might hire scientists / whatever and use them in battle in the place of soldiers is because they let you do more research / whatever on the strategy layer, and therefore you're willing to accept the fact that a few of your personnel on a combat mission might not be that good at shooting in order to speed up your research. However the effect of doing that (which I like because it makes the gameplay more varied) is that not all of your combat units are equally effective in a fight and the player has to think a bit more about who goes where than they did in X1.
  5. Hmm, although I agree with you that specialisms and alternative equipment is interesting, I'm not sure I agree with your argument that all classes of staff should be equally powerful on the battlefield just in different ways. Your soldiers aren't as useful as your scientists in the lab, so why should your scientists be as useful as your soldiers on the battlefield? Surely then nobody would hire any soldiers at all? Ultimately any kind of tactics game is less interesting if all your units are equally strong, because then they're all interchangeable. Conversely a mix of strong, average and weak troops makes you think about which soldier should be where and what each one should be doing with their turn - I mean, there's a reason why chess isn't just played with 16 queens on each side. (EDIT - with all that said, there are hopefully going to be missions where the combat strength of a unit (or some of the units) isn't actually that relevant to how useful they are on the mission, and their other specialisms like science and engineering might come in more useful. However I don't want to go into that in much detail yet because we've not implemented any of that stuff yet, but we do indeed want to go down that road if we can.)
  6. Yeah, so exhaustion is more important resource than health in the sense that everyone suffers it, but if a unit is wounded then they are unavailable for work / missions until they heal up (although they also regenerate fatigue as they heal up). So they sorta do slightly different things; getting wounded is a punishment for playing badly whereas exhaustion is a cap on the maximum amount of use you can get out of a single unit. The strategic operations are a bit of a wildcard here, as I don't know how much they'll sap the player's manpower. The basic concept is that a unit can be sent on a combat mission overnight, and assuming they survive they'll be back at work as normal the next day as if they'd just had a normal night's sleep (other than being much more tired). So a scientist doesn't generally lose any efficiency in the lab if you send him out on a combat mission when he's meant to be sleeping, assuming you don't do it so often he goes through the fatigue wall and has a nervous breakdown. It assumes that you can get anywhere in the world and back in 12-18 hours, which is admittedly a bit unrealistic, but we'll fudge it in the interests of making managing your staff easier. The strategic operations are longer text-based events that remove him from the base entirely for a certain number of days, during which the unit cannot take part in combat missions nor work on things during the day. So that scientist can either work in the lab or go out on a strategic operation, but not both.
  7. The whole 10-15 staff thing was a figure I plucked out of the air to illustrate the fact that we'd have smaller number of personnel around this time, rather than being the result of playtesting. It might well prove an underestimate once you get to the later stages of the game, we'll have to see. Alternatively, it might not - if you're assuming a team size of 8, then having two people available to fill each slot in a team (so 16 staff in all) might be enough. A lot of the posts I see seem to be assuming that you can only do a mission with a full team of very competent soldiers, but the idea is kinda that you're not likely to be simultaneously fielding 8 spec-ops soldiers unless it's late in the game and you've deliberately been resting everyone for a big operation. We'll probably have some weaker weapons that grant a +Accuracy bonus etc, so you can still send your relatively untrained scientists and engineers into battle but they just don't put out as much damage / have more limited tactical options than your more experienced soldiers. Your staff can run a mission on top of their normal day job once in a while without getting too stressed out. Obviously, this means the average mission may have to be a bit easier than in X1 to allow for the fact not all your troops will be as competent ... but we'll see how people get on.
  8. Yeah, this is generally pretty easy. In the first game we just had some text files people could edit to control the speed of the invasion and the size of the alien crew etc, which is basically how I tweak the balance as I play the game. The way Unity works means we have to spend a bit more effort to actually expose these variables compared to how it was done in Xenonauts 1 but it's still a pretty trivial thing to do overall.
  9. Some interesting thoughts here. Specifically @Alatar there's some scope to expand the "intelligence" aspect of the design, because currently all the staff have a score for Leadership / Communications which is meant to be the sorta "spy / agent" talent but it's a bit of an orphaned skill at the moment because I'm struggling to find much wider use for it beyond its primary use of boosting your (regional) funding income. Having a more detailed system of actually tracking down aliens or infiltrating governments etc might be a good way to give them a meaningful use. As to the wider discussion about the human opponents, there's definitely going to be some human opponents in the game ... but quite how many there is is still up for discussion. Is the correct number of aliens going to be a single very powerful alien plus a bunch of human sidekicks, or is it several aliens and a few less humans? Or even should the aliens have no human sidekicks at all (leaving fighting humans to a few specific human-only missions)? Ultimately I don't know and I'm not really going to make any decisions based on the forum feedback right now. I think you guys have made clear that it's something we should think very carefully about (perhaps more so than I previously thought), but it's very easy to tweak the composition of the alien / human mission forces once we start playtesting the strategy layer and we can play around with the different combinations then. I've got my own ideas and I'm not going to throw them until we've tested them, but I'm also happy to change them if testing suggests they're not fun to play.
  10. Also most likely I'll open a thread in a few days with details on the character progression system that people can comment in and make suggestions, as that's probably the place where the community suggestions and feedback is going to be most useful right now. There's some nice ideas scattered across some of the various replies to this thread, and pulling them into a single place might help us develop some potential paths down which we could go when we start to add more complexity to the character skills and development.
  11. It's always tempting to ask for more content just because more content sounds fun, but ultimately all games have a finite budget and decisions have to be made about where it's best to spend developer time and money to end up with the best final product. Unit models will be differentiated by hair and skin colour this time around, but detail like beards etc are barely visible to the player. Is the artist time better spent making sure the three pixels of visible beard are exactly right for each unit, or creating more props to make the maps more varied? I'd imagine the latter would be more fruitful. In particular, voice acting with lots of different actors is shockingly expensive, hard to localise and impossible to revise once recorded. Also, bad voice acting is much worse than no voice acting ... so I imagine that's expansion pack territory, if at all (although text dialogue is much easier to handle). Blanket statements about 40 starting characters not being enough aren't really worth much at this point either, as you've not yet had a chance to test that assumption. Note that JA2 has 40 starting mercs for hire and that's seen as the gold standard for this genre, so I figure it's a good enough number for now. Sure, you may be proved right in time - but I think it'd be best to wait and see before we jump to conclusions about where additional content is needed.
  12. In case it's not already obvious, the 40 starting available troops do all have a range of different skill levels and costs. You can hire level 5 soldiers who are also competent engineers or scientists on Day 1 if you want, they're just very expensive. Or you can hire a larger team of less skilled or less versatile staff instead. (Thats pretty much the entire point of having a static pool of unique characters to choose from.)
  13. Well the good thing is that there's already lots of people giving suggestions and their thoughts on how the game could be improved - there's still quite a long way to go with the game and feedback from the community is the best way to improve the game. Some of it is negative feedback but that's fine as long as it's constructive, which it nearly all has been so far. So this is great. I'll likely pick through the thread in more detail next week, as I'll do a second post with some art etc in the next few weeks as promised. If anyone else has thoughts or opinions in the meantime then put them in here. Regarding the 0-5 skill progression stuff, as I mentioned before it's placeholder. But we need to implement something simple first as there's no point discussing complex improvements until everyone has tested and understands the basic building blocks of the system. Lots has changed so I don't think even I have a totally complete picture of how all the parts of the new design slot together yet. PS - yeah the current build looks terrible, I'd wait for the new one before playtesting the game again!
  14. Yes, that's an excellent point. So Accuracy and perhaps Bravery are derived from the Combat / Military rating directly, and the other stats like TU / HP / Reflexes are now set on the armour. Heavier armour now boosts your HP as well as potentially adding armour (which may be a % damage reduction by type), whereas lighter armour boosts your TU so you can move further. We'll probabaly also set weapons to use flat TU costs rather than percentages so lighter armour actually allows you to potentially fire more shots too. This should make armour selection a bit more interesting than in X1 anyway. Regarding soldier progression, it's currently pretty lacklustre - after enough combat experience you go up in Military like you go up in rank in X1 (the other stats are raised on the strategy layer, like working in a lab slowly raises Science). This is one of the main reasons why I'd like to expand the soldier progression stuff. Moving from a scale of 0-5 to 0-10 allows more frequent progression, and adding other skills like medical or explosives or bravery allows you to level up more than just a single stat. Problem is, the existing four big stats are always going to be more useful than something like medical competence is (because they are used much more often) ... so maybe we need to make them minor stats or perks instead or something. Lots to think about there really, it's definitely a weak spot in the current design.
  15. I think you're still thinking a bit too much in Xenonauts 1 terms. Say these three staff with the following stats all cost the same: - 5 Combat / 1 Science - 1 Combat / 5 Science - 4 Combat / 4 Science There's also two levels of laser rifle available: - Laser V1 - 10 days to research, 3 Science required - Laser V2 - 10 more days to research, 0 Science required The lasers from X1 are Laser V2, and Laser V1 is an early lab prototype that works but doesn't necessarily handle much like a conventional gun. Anyway, choice is up to you whether you want to pick specialists or multi-role staff, but there's advantages and disadvantages to both. Your pure soldier has the highest accuracy % in combat and your pure scientist puts out the most research per turn, but your multi-class soldier / scientist guy can use experimental weapons before a pure soldier could. Of course, once you get Lasers V2 then the pure soldier is more effective than the soldier / scientist because he has a higher accuracy due to his higher Combat score. Does that explain things a bit better? You get the old X1 setup if you don't hire the 4 / 4 guy in the above example, he just opens up some extra options if you do.