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Chris last won the day on August 2

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About Chris

  • Rank
    Beloved Leader


  • Location
    London, UK
  • Occupation
    Project Lead, Xenonauts
  1. Chris

    August Update

    Yeah, apologies for the confusion there. The August Update is just a developer news update, rather than a game update. All the code work on the maps has meant we haven't been able to release a build for the last few months but we're getting towards the end of that now and we're looking into when we'll start putting builds out again.
  2. It's time for the monthly update on our progress on Xenonauts 2. The stuff we've been working on this month has largely been nitty-gritty work on fundamental game systems like the fog of war / shroud and the way that levels load, which are necessary but broke our existing maps and prevented us from releasing new builds until all the code work (and the subsequent bugfixes) and the new maps were completed. We're now nearing the end of this process, and we've also been working on a few other systems you'll hopefully appreciate in the next release. This is a long post because these systems are complicated stuff and I know a lot of people in our community like reading it. If you're not in that category, just skip to the next heading once you get bored! Dynamic Map Loading: Maps in Xenonauts 2 are now created when the game tries to load the map, rather than being a pre-baked file. The map file exists as a sort of "plan" for the level, but some or all of the level can be randomised depending on how the map is put together. I won't go into too much detail because although this is an excellent system, it's not exactly groundbreaking stuff - the same system is used in Xenonauts 1, XCOM2 and is even used in the original X-Com to some degree. There were technical reasons that meant we weren't confident we'd be able to make it work properly in Unity at the beginning of the project but we've managed to overcome them and maps are now loading dynamically. This improves the player experience because it allows the Xenonaut base defence missions to mirror the layout of your actual base like they did in X1 and X-Com, because it allows more potential randomisation within a level, and because it will save you a great deal of hard drive space and download time when playing X2. It also means that fully-functional features will no longer be roadblocked because they require incredibly time-consuming map updates - something that recently affected advanced dropships and night missions (both of which worked but weren't worth updating the maps over). If you're interested in why this sort of thing happens, it's because a pre-baked map cannot be changed on load and thus you need a seperate version of each map for each ufo or dropship (or any other type of variant) it might support. If you take X1 which had three dropships, 7 UFOs and 6 map biomes, and assume you want five different maps per UFO per biome, the number of maps for crashsites is 3 x 7 x 6 x 5 = 630. And you probably want a landed (rather than crashed) variant of each of those UFOs, too, so you can double that to 1,260 maps. Each map is about 7 megabytes on the file system, so those crashsite maps would take up 10gb on your hard drive. The problem there is that if you implement a new feature like night missions, you often have to specify where those systems apply. For instance, Alien Base missions shouldn't be affected by the night / day cycle because they are underground. That means we need to update the map settings for every map to contain a value for whether that map should respond to the day / night cycle or not, and under the old system I would need to potentially update the settings on over a thousand different maps and then regenerate all those maps so the new settings are saved into them. Not only would that take me days, it means that that tiny change to the map settings requires every player to download a 10gb update. Clearly, that would be madness. Our new solution means a map can load in the desired dropship / UFO / etc at the start of the mission, so the number of maps is far lower and each one is only a few hundred kilobytes. Putting additional dropships into a map or activating night missions becomes something I can do in half an hour and is 10mb update for our players. Although this change has disrupted a lot of things over the past month, it's also going to pay big dividends very quickly. New Ground Combat Maps / Art Style: I've been very busy over the past couple of months making our new maps and trying to make the ground combat visuals more consistent. We've been working with an external studio to look over the 3d art we've already done and they've retextured most of the assets in the Desert and Polar biomes since then, and are just starting on the Farm biome. I hope that when you see the new designs you'll think they are already better than the old visuals, but in the short term the main focus is just consistency - everything in each map needs a consistent level of detail and texture style so individual parts don't look out of place and break the immersion. There's a few subtly different artistic styles / choices we need to explore before we can call anything final (e.g. do we want to lean more realistic or use slightly exaggerated black lines to make objects pop like they do in X1? do we want the ground tiles to be relatively low-detail to let the player focus on the units and props that make up the playable battlefield, or do we try to dial up the detail at the cost of clarity?) so hopefully our ground combat maps will continue to improve as the we work through the remaining assets. I've created a new set of maps for the Alien Base and the Desert, Polar, and Farm maps for the small UFOs (the first three UFOs that all fit within a 18x18 grid). Our previous set of maps were pretty much fully randomised, but I've taken a step back from this and created specific areas of the map that are randomised while other parts are not randomised at all. Personally, I think this gives a map that feels more "designed" while still supporting more randomisation than we had in X1, but hopefully the system below means we won't need the randomisation as much anyway. Biome / Map Randomisation & Raids: As well as the small UFO maps, I've designed a few Raid maps for the Desert / Farm / Polar biomes. These already exist in the game (they're basically mini-terror sites in tight urban environments with no UFOs) but I plan to make them occur more frequently and support all the major biomes. They'll contain Alenium Bombs which give the player a strategic resource reward (i.e. some Alenium) for completion so they don't become a chore in the same way that Terror Sites sometimes could. The reason why I think this is interesting is because it ties in nicely with our new system to minimise map repetition. Why is this important? In the first Xenonauts, most of the battles were crash sites - so if you build your first base in a desert region of the world then you'll mostly be shooting down UFOs near that base and generating a lot of Desert crash site missions. The maps are picked randomly, so if there's five Desert maps available that support the first three UFO types, there's a decent chance you'll see a map repeat before you've even played five missions (even though the game had 100+ maps in it). Nothing kills the excitement in a combat mission faster than immedeiately recognising the map. Our new system attacks this problem in multiple ways. Firstly, it tries to randomise the biome of a map if possible - each spot on the Geoscape can support up to two biomes, so if the mission occurs in a specific place on the map (i.e. a UFO crash site) then the game will pick the biome that has been encountered least often in the last ten maps. If the mission just spawns somewhere within a region (e.g. Raids) then the game will check all the biomes available within that region and spawn the mission in a spot that supports the biome that has occurred least frequently. Once the biome is set, the game will then check a list of the last 100 missions you've played across all of your different campaigns. It will check the map "family" of all valid maps and try to pick one that you've not already seen, and then it will look inside the map family and try to pick a specific map you've not seen before. If you're unclear what a map "family" is, it's basically a group of linked maps - every unique map has its own family, but if we then create variants of that map (e.g. changing the spawn or UFO location, slightly changing the layout) then they will share the same family as the original map. What this means is that every time you shoot down a UFO, the game will attempt to pick a biome you've not seen recently and will then search within that biome for any valid unique maps you've not seen before. If there aren't any available, the game will try to pick a variant of that map if one is available before it finally shows you a map you've seen before - and then then, there might be enough randomisation in the layout that you don't recognise it. The game will continue to track what maps you've seen even if you restart the game. Raids work well within this system because they offer lots of additional variation. The map pool doesn't overlap with the crash sites, and contains more densely packed buildings that should give the mission a different feel to the UFO missions. Most importantly, though, they allow the game to place missions in biomes you're unlikely to see much of otherwise - e.g. if you've mostly been seeing Desert and Arid maps and the game generates a Raid in North America, it'll probably stick it up in a polar outpost up in Alaska or Northern Canada. If the game mixes in one Raid for every two or three Crash Sites then I think it'll have a big effect on how repetitive the game feels. Or at least I hope so! Ground Tile Destruction: Although the ground in Xenonauts 2 isn't destructible in the sense that you can't actually blow hole in the world and then fall through it, it also hasn't shown visible damage up until now. Explosive weapons used to place a decal on the ground to show their point of impact, but this never looked particularly convincing and didn't really bear any relation to the tile grid and the objects on it. Making the ground tiles visually react to damage inflicted on them makes weapons (particularly explosive weapons) feel meatier and more powerful. We did some experimentation with 3d craters but anything that cuts into the ground looks kinda weird because units end up hovering above it, so we're just using a tile-based damage decal overlay system similar to what we had in the first game. It's not the most exciting feature ever, but honestly I'm happy to see it in because there we had some concerns it wouldn't be possible to implement the ground destruction without breaking batching on the ground tiles and thus causing massive performance issues (thankfully we found a way to do it that does not affect performance at all). Hopefully we can now use the same method to replace the blood effects with something that looks better, too. New Ground Combat UFO Style: The new UFO style that we've been showing off in recent months (a new set of UFOs using the X1 style) has finally made it into the ground combat, replacing the grey box style that we've been using up to this point. Implementing this has been challenging - the X1 system of hiding the hull when you see inside the UFO and instead showing the interior floorplan took a lot of time to get right back in X1 in 2D, and it proved even more complicated in 3D. But it's a good system and after a lot of trial and error we managed to iron the bugs out and now have the code side of things working as intended. The game now contains 4 UFOs, which have been modelled up but are currently untextured white models. The reason for this is that we want to playtest the interior spaces of these UFOs before we do the final texturing - if we want to enlarge / shrink them or change their shape, it's much easier to do that before the texture work begins. I'm currently expecting there to be 8 crashable UFOs in the game so we'll be unveling the larger ones as the designs for them are completed. Fog of War / Shroud Changes: We've been working on some really low-level stuff to do with the shroud and fog of war. It's easy to take for granted how smoothly the system in X1 works (one of the things the game does well is show what tiles are visible and what are not), but there's quite a few little edge cases that cause trouble with this sort of stuff. In X2 we darken everything that was in the shroud to black and return it to colour when the player has vision on it, which works pretty well in most cases but has a few issues that need to be ironed out. For example, if you have a tall tree sitting in the shroud directly below a group of tiles that you have vision on, you'll still be able to see the silhouette of a tree jutting into the playable area. This happens often enough that it gives the edge of the shroud an irregular and "cluttered" feel. So we've had to implement a system that actually entirely hides the models on any tile that isn't visible to the player. This stops objects you can't see from interfering with the playable area - but because we're now in 3D, there was knock-on effects. Those objects cast shadows, should the shadow of that tree be visible if it falls onto a tile even if the tree itself isn't visible? Or should the shadow only pop into existence when the model itself is seen? Anyway, there's still a few shroud / line of sight artifacts that we ideally need to fix up, but hopefully you'll notice that the vision feels a bit cleaner next time you play. Summary: I'm just going to wrap things up with a very quick summary, as this is a really long post already. In terms of 2D art things have been pretty slow this month; we got the final artwork for the new Phantom interceptor done but a couple of our important artists have been busy so not much else happened beyond some work on the end-game exosuit armour and some progress on the Fighter UFO design. A different artist we had high hopes for also seems to have disappeared from the face of the Earth too, which is frustrating because it means we've wasted some time and money there - but that sort of thing happens from time to time in game development. The timing of the next build is dependent on how well the level design work goes more than anything else, so I'm going to keep working at that and then see where we are in a couple of weeks (it's taking me roughly one week per biome at the moment so I'd hope to have five of the biomes done by then). Sorry everything's been a bit quiet here and there's not been a build recently, but hopefully now you guys understand why!
  3. Hi everyone - time for another monthly update, and lots of tactical combat changes to talk about! The first new thing we've been working on is the art for the modular MARS, and you can see a couple of the concepts below. The in-game models are nearly complete but not yet set up in the game. The MARS is now a vehicle that can use one of three primary weapons (rocket launcher, cannon, machinegun) that are all upgradeable as you research new weapon tiers. The MARS also has heavy / light armour variants (also upgradeable), which allows you to give the vehicle additional HP at the cost of slightly reducing its time units (the concepts above don't show this, but it's reflected on the model - the tracks and body have additional armour, etc). Finally, the chassis itself can be upgraded - once you reach a certain tech level you will be able to upgrade the tracks into a hover chassis which has additional TU and jetpack functionality. This replaces the existing "ARES" vehicle, so the MARS is now the only vehicle in the game - but a MARS vehicle you build at the start of the game can be continually upgraded all the way throughout the game to change from a tracked unit with steel armour and a ballistic weapon into a hovertank with alloy armour and powerful plasma weapons. We're planning to test this is the game to see if its fun. The idea is that your vehicle doesn't become obselete in the same way that a soldier doesn't become obselete; you just keep giving them new equipment throughout the game to keep them relevant. But the alternative setup is to split the hover chassis out into a seperate vehicle called the ARES with improved stats and then force the player to build a new vehicle. It's sometimes kinda fun to get a whole new unit rather than an upgrade, so we'll see how it feels. Secondly, we've been working a lot of things that improve the general look and feel of the ground combat. The first thing is updating the texturing and lighting in our tactical combat maps to be a bit more like the painted style in the original Xenonauts (softer lighting, less visual noise, etc). If you've not been playing the closed beta builds then the need for this visual update may not be obvious (because we don't tend to take screenshots of bits of the game that look bad), but the visual quality of the biomes and the objects within each is currently quite inconsistent. Some stuff looks great, whereas other stuff very much does not. This new approach is giving everything a more consistent level of quality and that means the scenes feel like they join together better. The new Desert and Polar biomes are taking shape nicely; I was hoping to show off some screenshots in this update but sadly we're still not quite there. Hopefully soon. We've also made two code changes that also improve the clarity of the maps. The first is that the shroud now hides objects on hidden tiles - whereas previously a tall tree on a hidden tile could cause a black tree-shaped shadow to rise from the shroud and cover part of the battlefield, now the tree only pops into existence when the tile it stands on becomes visible. This makes a surprisingly large difference to how clear and clean the map feels. Additionally, we've changed the height of our tiles to be 2.25 meters tall instead of 3 meters tall, which means our tiles are now very similar in dimensions to what they were in the first game. When we started development on Xenonauts 2 we decided to make tiles 3m tall because it was a nice round number (especially as tiles are 1.5m wide) and it's actually a more realistic ceiling height than 2.25m in most buildings, but in practice it causes problems because units are only 2m tall and so 3m high walls tend to obscure a lot of the action if you're fighting in tight enclosed spaces - which is a pity, because X-Com games are generally most exciting when you're fighting in relatively tight spaces. People playing the closed beta would probably have noticed that their interior spaces of UFOs feel quite restricted and hard to fight in; this should fix that. One final set of code changes we've made to improve ground combat is to speed things up a bit. We recently increased the run speed of units, and we've now updated the code to remove the pause before units die - they should now start playing their death animation instantly after recieving lethal damage (whereas previously they'd stand still for a second or so before dying). Combat in Xenonauts and original X-Com is actually very snappy - units move quickly, shoot quickly, and die quickly - and getting that snappiness into Xenonauts 2 helps make the game feel more responsive and fun to play. A couple more systems we've been working on but aren't quite yet finished are the new UFOs and the night missions. The night missions are pretty much done, but although the fog of war works correctly the shroud is ignoring lighting and being revealed up to the normal vision range of units, which feels kinda weird. Once that's fixed they'll be playable. The new UFO hull hiding system (i.e. when you see the inside of a UFO, the hull disappears and it turns into a floorplan like in X1) seems to be working well too, and we're in the process of blocking out the hull models and floorplans for the first 4-5 UFOs. Once we've playtested the interior spaces of these UFOs and we're happy with them, we'll do the final texturing on the outer hulls. That's enough from me for now - you can expect another update in four weeks time! Thanks for reading.
  4. Sorry for the slow reply. Are there major gamebreaking bugs (rather than missing content) that still need to be fixed in V13.2? I must admit I've been knee-deep in the new map stuff so I've not really been paying too much attention. I'm not entirely sure when the next major build is coming yet, as the maps are undergoing major surgery at the moment and we've made some big changes that should make the game much better but are gonna take a bit of time to work through the system. Realistically I guess about 4 weeks from now we should hopefully have enough assets and maps to put out a new release with the new UFOs and visuals?
  5. This is the second hotfix for Beta Build V13, fixing a several more important bugs. You'll need to be on the Experimental Branch to access the build. Changelog: Fixed a crash bug where if you saved and then loaded a ground combat mission the game would crash at the end of the mission. Fixed a crash bug where certain desert maps would crash at the end of the mission. Fixed a bug where the upgrade projects were not working for aircraft or for the MARS. Fixed a bug where the MARS rocket weapon fire costs were absolute values, not relative values. This meant if you equipped the heavy armour the weapon was too expensive to fire. Equipping heavy armour on an aircraft increases the max HP of the aircraft, but you now need to repair up to that new max HP. This means it is no longer possible to heal aircraft by swapping between normal and heavy armour and back again. Sell price of the MARS is now $50k instead of $10k. Please let us know if you encounter any further issues with V13, as we will make further hotfix branches if necessary.
  6. Perfect, thanks. I'll take a look at that and see if I can figure out what's going on.
  7. Thanks. Did you unlock the research / engineering project that allows the unlocking of Laser Weapons V2 by any chance? Because the upgrade process basically deletes all the old laser weapons and their projects and then recreates new ones that give you the upgraded weapons instead, so maybe that's part of the issue?
  8. Oh yeah - there's meant to be goodies. But I'm not sure all the research etc that's meant to be unlocked is ready to go, so I'll fix that in the next big build rather than in this hotfix.
  9. Thanks. We've fixed a few bugs as a result of this - the MARS sell value, the MARS rocket launcher using absolute fire costs rather than % TU fire costs, and the aircraft items not unlocking correctly. One thing I'd like a bit more info on if possible is 4) about the disappearing laser rifles and shotguns. If you have any more info on when that occurs that'd be great. If not then it's not a big problem - I'm sure I'll encouter it when I start doing my balancing playthroughs, but it'd be good to have some idea where to look.
  10. If it's based on the blue psyons specifically I've probably screwed up the loadout or the corpse items dropped by that unit - but the logs suggest it's actually linked to the map (could be a false positive). But we'll look into it - hopefully that in-mission save will help us track it down if not. Thanks.
  11. Thanks. This stuff isn't working for me either, I guess we've somehow broken the upgrade logic. We'll get it fixed.
  12. Hi everyone - it's only been three weeks since my last update, but the plan is for me to do these updates here on the forums on a monthly basis now. That will then allow Paul to edit them into something a bit more appropriate for a wider audience (i.e. less detailed, more art) and post them everywhere else. Development Progress: Over the last three weeks we've been working on a whole bunch of different things. The biggest news was probably the release of Closed Beta V13 on our Experimental branch, which is our first new build in quite a while. Unsurprisingly the build was kinda buggy and has already had one hotfix, but we'll be releasing at least one more hotfix as there's still several more serious bugs that have been reported. However it's always good to have people testing the game and finding the problems. Personally I've spent a fair bit of my time on the writing. I've completed twenty three of the research reports over the past six weeks or so, and there's a number more that are half-finished or were written previously and just need a little updating to mesh with the new setting. I feel like I've already done most of the hard work in terms of creating an internally consistent setting for the game, and now I'm just slotting things into it - which means the writing is going faster than when I was having to think long and hard about how to answer all the "big questions" in a logical way. A couple of these projects are starting lore projects that are already unlocked in the Xenopedia at the start of the game, and don't pop-up on the Geoscape (explaining the updated Iceland Incident story, plus the details on why your starting interceptor is so much more effective against alien technology than other aircraft). Anyway, this has required a few simple code changes, and in the next month we're also planning to spend a bit more time on the Xenopedia in general. At the moment the UI styling is inconsistent and every project is just added into a big unsorted list, whereas it should be set up so that each project goes under a category heading that is expandable / collapsible. The other major area we've been targeting are the ground missions, but the progress here has been a bit slower. We're continuing to work on the new art style and hopefully soon we'll have the first set of maps built with these new tiles. I suspect most people will consider the new art a visual improvement, but even if not the new style is undeniably more restful on the eyes - it's much easier to see the important things on the battlefield (the aliens and the cover objects). For all of its faults, one of the strong points of the terrain art in X1 was that it was relatively clean and clear. Anyway, I'll probably be showing some of this new art off in the next update. We've also continued to work on the code for the ground combat. Getting the hull-hiding system for the UFOs working properly continues to be a pain, but it's mostly working now. The night missions are largely functional but need a couple of fixes and we still need to add minor details like the headlights to the vehicles, etc. If we have time we also want to spend some time looking into fixing a few of the rough edges in the ground comabt - the camera jerking around and not showing the action during the alien turn and the fact that units take a couple of seconds to play their death animation after suffering lethal damage are two things that spring to mind. Finally, we've been spending time on the preparations for mod support. Making something moddable requires us to save the data in editable text files rather than having it hardcoded in the game's code, and since our last update we've moved the base buildings out into text files. We're also in the process of moving all the unit loadouts, UFO crews and UFO missions into text files too. Once this is done pretty much everything in the game will (theoretically) editable by modders - but in practice, modding the files is going to be hard without a mod editor tool to help you. We've therefore also been chatting to Solver about community involvement in the mod tools, because the tools we use are embedded in Unity and aren't exactly user-friendly. Goldhawk is planning to do a bit of work to prepare the code interface so external coders are able to build tools that can easily read and write to these text data files (and eventually hook into our mod management system), and then we'll let the community coders have a look at it and see if they're able to build anything useful on those foundations. There's no guarantee that anything will come of this, but I think it's definitely an opportunity worth exploring! Early Access plans: We're still not ready to set a formal Early Access date but our plans are progressing. We've decided to target an "Early Access build" that is time-limited to only contain the first three months or so of the campaign, which in X1 terms will take you roughly up to Landing Ships. The "full" builds will be accessible on a seperate branch for anyone that wants to play the whole game, but the default build people encounter when they buy the Early Access for the game will be this time-limited build. The reason for this is that it's much easier to get the content in place the first third of the game than it is to do it for the whole game. For Early Access we want to give most players a quick taste of the game that makes them confident that they've bought a game that they will enjoy once released, but doesn't allow them to accidentally play into the sections of the game that contain missing content or have balance issues that might spoil the game for them (or even just to burn through all the content before the game is ready to properly play). Anyone that wants to test the full game can just switch branches, but they'll hopefully do so in the knowledge that they're going to experience much less polished content. I'll be announcing an Early Access date for the game once I've finished writing all the research reports that appear in this part of the game and also created three maps per biome for each of the UFOs / ground missions in that section of the game (these maps will need to include the new UFO style and support night missions). At that point, we'll announce a date 2-3 months in the future and frantically start polishing the game to make the Early Access build as enjoyable as possible. The big unknown is still the maps right now. We're going to need another couple of weeks for the new art to solidify before we can make a decision on how best to move forwards with them, unfortunately. Anyway, hopefully that wall of text gives you guys a fairly clear idea of what we're working on at the moment!
  13. Thanks, we'll take a look at this and try to hotfix it!
  14. Yeah, I broadly agree - although capturing a Sebillian alive so you can extract all its blood more efficiently is a bit dark :P That said there's only so many items that can be created. Adding a whole new screen where you can manage what happens to each alien individually and chop them up into different parts is a nice idea but I think is turning a relatively simple system into something much more complex, and really I'm not sure there's going to be THAT many different types of armour that the game can support. To be honest, it's probably already going to be a struggle to think up a useful item that can be extracted from every type of dead alien!
  15. Please send Xsolla customer support an email, as they should be the ones handling the migration - if they don't respond in a week, send me an email at the address in my signature below and I'll take a look.