Jump to content


  • Content count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

  • Days Won


Drakon last won the day on January 31 2018

Drakon had the most liked content!

Community Reputation

16 Good

About Drakon

  • Rank
  1. Given that it has been months since that idea has been last brought up ... what about the concept of strategically adapting aliens that i posted in that old ideas for Xenonauts 2 thread? If the aliens simply get better and better at whatever they have to do, then the player intrinsically will not be able to do the same thing over and over for too long, because eventually the aliens will just out-stat him to the degree that it becomes impossible. This also adds an easily understandable and relatable soft game timer.
  2. Imagine this: one of your craft has been shot down, and you have been able to confirm via radio that several of the crew members, including a mid-level officer, a good scientist and some valuable engineers, are now stranded behind enemy lines. You can assume from previous engagements that the force that shot down your craft is assembling a strike team to take these soldiers prisoner or kill them, and obtain as much of your tech from the damaged craft as they can. Would you not send a strike team in to rescue them, and place a bomb at the crashed transport craft to render it worthless to the enemy? Why aren't the aliens doing this? I think that would be actually be an interesting (and reasonably easy to produce) addition to the game: if a UFO is shot down, a "Rescue UFO" is spawned not long after, which will fly to the crash site and render it unusable. That "Rescue UFO" would need to be accompanied by a strong fighter cover to avoid cheesing (shoot down one UFO, then intercept the rescuers for additional resources), and it might also be an idea that once a rescue party has been wiped out, the aliens will not send them any more. While this is stretching realism to a notable degree, it would even be an idea to have the alien rescue party show up after a certain number of turns at a crash site (optimally that number of turns is determined by the distance of the Rescue UFO to the crash site), introducing a believable game timer for wanting to clear the crashsite quickly enough.
  3. If there are night missions, there will be light cones, no? I think it might be an idea to distinguish tiles into "fully lighted", since they are completely under the cone of light created by whatever light source the soldiers are carrying, "not lighted" and "partially lighted". This would allow to keep the visual presentation from being jarring as you can just display a light cone as one would expect it, yet is easily understood by players.
  4. For me personally it would be really nice to see Earth's military forces put up the best fight they can on the screen, and then gradually see them ground down in their hopeless struggle against the alien invaders. I think it's a quite visceral experience to see one allied npc aircraft after another shot down, knowing that the nations cannot replace them at the rate they are losing them. It'd strongly reinforce both the direness of the situation and the importance of the fight I am in. I also see no reason not to integrate player options into this: the allied nations send up planes to shoot down UFOs, you can send additional planes to join into a squadron. The allied nations will, sooner or later, try and deal with a crash site themselves. You can either try to be there first so you get all the loot for yourself, wait until they are there and have some allied NPCs helping you, which will then also demand some of the spoils, or just decide that you don't have the time to deal with it and the crash site disappears eventually having been cleared by the nation it is in. As far as difficulty goes - i actually made a post quite a while ago, where i looked into possibilities of keeping the difficulty adapting to player skill and keep the game engaging and challenging throughout all phases. As far as i know part of the central idea - that the AI adapts to player behaviour - is going to be part of Xenonauts 2, albeit i have no information on how significant that will be.
  5. Haven't had too much time to keep up with things, but quickly wanted to post this: the release of the original StarCraft was postponed time and again, but that game became a cornerstone of establishing Blizzard as a gaming company. Bethesda on the other hand has by now acquired a reputation for consistently publishing unfinished and extremely buggy content, and i know a number of people who have openly stated they do not intend to purchase any more products from this company. I'd say that it is pretty clear on which side to err, and completely support you delaying any part of the release of the game until it's ready.
  6. I'm sorry, but as a programmer i can tell you that you are plain wrong. The basic steps for pretty much any unit in Xenonauts are virtually identical: move to optimal position, engage target if possible, repeat until no further effective moves can be made with the remaining TU. In the vanilla non-CE Xenonauts 1 i would even expect that all single tile ai-controllable units excluding reapers were using literally the same algorithms, with optional sub-routines for special abilities like flight or teleportation. Please keep in mind that the original topic of discussion was primarily whether the question "Is this an AI that is challenging due to strategic/tactical decisions rather than just stat / number superiourity?" can even be reasonably objectively answered. Actually, you just wrote a good scenario of how reapers could be shifted from slightly annoying nuisances to the actual terror troops they are supposed to represent. I tell you if reapers acted that smart, even if their stats were sub par, players would break out in cold sweat as soon as they hear that reapers might be in the operation area. And that will get you WAY better player reviews than just a super tanky no brain reaper that runs straight at the player, where it is not a skill challenge of positioning and identifying threat areas but instead a test on if you brought enough equipment to be able to gun down the reaper before it reaches your troops. Again, you might want to leave these things to people who are actual programmers. The fine tuning you speak of is definitely good and necessary, but implementing things like basic AI squad tactics is something that needs to be done before you can even send out your prototype to the testers for them to evaluate whether what you consider squad tactics is even worth anything ... and writing that AI code costs time and money.
  7. Drakon

    Why so Serious?

    There certainly are a lot of games that do this wrong, but there are also some that manage to pull it off. Again, i'd like to point to Prison Architect as an example that also manages to not attempt to bludgeon you over the head with a binary morality. In one of the Fallout games you run into a slaver who is using the resources of his "trade" to research a cure for an epidemic that is causing great suffering in the region - with the option of either helping him or disposing of him and freeing the slaves. I've also heard that there are several ethically complicated quests in the Witcher series ... i have the games sitting at home, just cannot find the time to play them. If you want one that will really weird you out, try Sunless Sea. As an industry, we actually even know reasonably well how to do a game like that well - but that requires us to avoid the binary "good versus evil" morality, and especially large US game developers are very unlikely to do that. You just made the perfect point on why including this as just a wikipedia style information mod is a sub-par option. I personally was a little miffed that you were basically forced to wipe out humanity at the end of Xenonauts 1 ... i'm not so sure if people would appreciate it if the Xenonauts organisation just goes ahead with these highly ethically questionable options without the player having any say in it. If global events are moddable in the final version of Xenonauts 2 it might be a project worth looking into, since there probably will be simple choices like "Dispatch Agent for Z days to gain XXXX $ or Do Nothing".
  8. Yes. In pretty much any game review, the critic will comment on whether the graphics are good or not so much, so there's pretty obviously an industry standard of what is considered "good graphics", and same goes for AI. If you want a testable metric: if you give the AI the same units that the player has, and your test players react with "That was tough" or "That was a challenge", then you almost certainly have an AI that is good because of tactical / strategic decisions rather than number superiourity.
  9. I asked in the Xenonauts 2 Kickstarter Stretch Goals thread at about which sums we can expect better AI that will be able to prove a challenge due to strategic / tactical decisions rather than merely stat superiourity and larger numbers - a question that was echoed by one of the next posters, yet there was no answer. You chose to hide all replies to that thread and lock it, so i ask again here.
  10. Drakon

    Why so Serious?

    In part, yes. What i wrote was, i think, initially primarily created as an attempt for myself to understand why i am taking the stances that i take, and to put them up for discussion, so that they can be torn apart if i am wrong. Internal logical consistency is in my opinion a key quality for pretty much any thing created by man, including video games. At any point in a book or movie or game when i start thinking: "This is nonsense, why didn't they just ..." it throws me off and makes me like it less, whereas whenever i see something well executed or even a practical idea i myself didn't come up with i feel delight and get immersed more. But beyond that i feel that looking at things realistically gives us perspectives we elsewhise wouldn't have had. Wondering pragmatically how robots bound by the laws of Asimov can allow humans to work in dangerous environments like space give us one of his great short stories. Thinking about the technical limitations of near lightspeed travel gives us the exploration of society through time in Haldeman's Forever War. X-Com, Firaxiscom and Xenonauts are all works of science fiction (with a bit more or less science in it), and there are very different ways of approaching that. The original X-Com was somewhere between pulp and horror, Firaxiscom closer to a Hollywood interpretation of nigh-superheroes. What if Xenonauts went the way of great classical science fiction authors like H.G.Wells, making us look on our own society and the preconceptions that we hold? In Xenonauts 2 the player is in charge of what by and large would be categorized as a terror organisation by most super powers in the world right now. It could ask the very uncomfortable question of whether drug trafficking can ever be considered ethically or morally permissible, if the alternative is that your entire group of people - in the Xenonauts case the humans - will be enslaved. If not doing so will lead to some of your subordinates being tortured by your enemies, can it ever be forgiven to agree in helping an organisation that exploits forced prostitution? Through action or inaction, you consign feeling individuals to hell. Can sacrificing a smaller number of individuals for the good of the many be forgiven? As a military commander, isn't that the very definition of your task? And i do not see asking these questions just as a means to get a quick emotional response out of the player, but would hope that if done well they might inspire thought and discussion similar to how Prison Architect did.
  11. Drakon

    Why so Serious?

    I actually feel slightly different about this. To go for a power fantasy rather than a more instrospective, thought provoking alternative was a design decision, not a design error (though Firaxiscom has enough of those as well). It even goes a step further. Actual organisations involved in assymetric warfare are pretty much always involved in drug rings, human trafficking or extortion to fund their war efforts. That isn't necessarily because they are the most abhorrent human beings you can find, but rather because these fields offer some of the highest revenue margin, and fighting a nation state costs A LOT of money. Remember back when critics found out that in a GTA game if you modified the game files you could spend some nude quality alone time with your girlfriend and a lot of the US press completely freaked out over it? Well, imagine those same journalists found out that in X-Com 2 the most efficient way to appropriate funds was to help a criminal organisation set up a human trafficking ring for forced prostitution, utilizing either heroin or crack to keep the victims from running away. It doesn't even matter whether Firaxis wants to delve into deeper topics of warfare, they can't. They cannot afford to. For Goldhawk Studios on the other hand a public press outcry about their game would probably be a net win: they'd basically get a lot of free advertisment time, and a lot of people would pick up the game for themselves to figure out how much of the press gossip is actually true. And i admittedly do blame Hollywood in part for some of the things like the US loss in the second Gulf war. The public demanded that the forces secure victory without significant losses, without civilian casualties, and it really shouldn't cost too much. Heinlein would have said: the public demanded the welcome impossible and got the very unwelcome possible instead. But a lot of these people didn't think and reflect, they were just so used to that a small group of rogueish heroes can overcome any odds if they just believe in themselves, since they saw that in movies all the time, that when casualty lists started pouring in and news of killed civillians came out, there was a public outcry and even worse strategic decisions were made. I'm not a game elitist. There needs to be place for a game like Candy Crush or Hearthstone or League of Legends or Firaxiscom. But there also needs to be space for an X-Com successor that takes you to uncomfortable places and makes you think ... and the original X-Com was not a game that you played and felt safe and comfortable with. There are a number of hard SF stories that start with a very unrealistic premise. The Salvation War comes to mind: YHWH has forsaken humanity, the armies of hell come to invade Earth and find out we changed the rules of warfare a bit in the last 150 years. Quite a good read in my opinion. But having dabbled in robotics, i'd say that most of Isaac Asimov's work could be considered to be in the same category: his entire concept of "Positronic Brains" has no basis in actual science at all. Willing is one thing, but a lot of this wouldn't even cost that much. There already needs to be a function like displayPopupMessage to alert players to research being complete and the like, so expanding that slightly wouldn't take too much work. Hiring three more writers for three months also shouldn't make too much of a dent into production costs. Basically, all of that would probably cost about as much as implementing jetpacks. I am not entirely sure if we are talking of the same thing, but an example that would come to mind for me would be The Last Federation. I haven't had much time to play games recently, but i'm pretty sure several of the newer 4x type games would also go in the same direction. Having events happen in game and having those events influence other events in the future (without necessarily explicit story branches) would seem fairly common to me. Yeah, that actually is more along what i would like to see considered. Just get a military advisor and ask him: "In this scenario, what would actually happen and how would the different organisations react?" Sure, there are some cases where you need to deviate from a realistic response of the world to make the game more enjoyable, but by and large i'd think that would yield a much more relatable and realistic world to play in.
  12. I've been been an advocate for a more realistic and grittier version of Xenonauts 2 than what some others on this forum believe to be optimal, and realizing this, i started to ask myself ... why exactly? Is more realistic and more gritty intrinsically better? No. More realistic generally is, as it helps with issues like relatability or immersion, but there are some great games out there that care little to not at all about being realistic - Tetris comes to mind as an obvious example. A game like Xenonauts 2 is not a reflex based game, like a twitch shooter or some console game waving around lightsabers at shiny bits. It is not a game of social organisation like a MOBA or getting a guild to work in a MMORPG. It can be a game about exploring a story and consequences of choices, like the classical Telltale games. It definitely is a game for people who like reading text and numbers and solving strategic/tactic puzzles. Ultimately, this is a game about a war. Xenonauts 1 was a war between two nation like societies, with taxes and armies and fairly clearly defined battlefields, and Xenonauts 2 is intended to more closely mimic the modern assymetric wars that are beginning to be the norm with a small group trying to do what they can while having to avoid open battle, utilizing abductions and assassinations and the like. So where can this game go? I basically see two options: either leaning towards a realistic, potentially harrowing, or instead towards a super-hero-esque power fantasy. People here know which direction i prefer, but don't get me wrong: i do not think that a power fantasy is bad at all. There are solid reasons why films like Rambo 2 are more popular amongst children coming from war zones than a film like the first John Rambo, which shows the protagonist disempowered, traumatized, and forced back into a warrior personality he had hoped to leave behind. Still, i asked myself: why would i prefer the more harrowing version? I think i can safely say i have more experience with horror and violence than the average of those who frequent this forum ... so why go back to that place after i finally left it behind? Analyzing that, i realized that a large reason for that is that a game pandering to power fantasies is so far removed from the reality i perceive that it feels bland, disconnected and unrelatable. The reality i know is not one where all soldiers in a company will survive, excluding the token black guy who will die as inspiration to the rest of the troops. It is not one where if you just try hard enough and believe in yourself enough you can overcome any odds. Instead, my reality is one where sometimes your best just isn't enough, and sometimes you have to make hard decisions and live for the rest of your life with the choices you made, and the consequences of your actions. I know some people think that we should rather tell stories that propagate these lies rather than face reality and be disheartened, but i do wonder if doing so does not actually cause way more harm than good. Because reality does catch up eventually, and it seems obvious that one of the evolutionary purposes of games includes preparing us for real challenges. Still, there are probably way more 11-14 year old kids out there that love power fantasies than there are people like me ... so why not rather have the game pander to the power fantasy? My answer would be that a game like that is already out there with Firaxis X-Com. When i played Firaxiscom i felt mostly bored, detatched from the conflict. Humans are the most amazing beings in the universe, easily capable of defeating psionic-wielding superminds, out-tech ancient races that had aeons to advance science to it's peak and stomp on warrior races genetically engineered for their purpose, and ultimately, OF COURSE the humans are the very key that the aliens have looked for so long. On the flip side, the intro screen from Xenonauts 1 immediately drew me in. A number of older military commanders look at you with facial expressions ranging from doubt to slight disdain, as if to tell you: "We've given you a lot of money and hardware, and a lot of good men. We all advised against it, but our governments ordered us to. Do not disappoint us!" And the game continues to tell us that we are nothing special at all, just another world to be conquered and added to a giant empire spanning multiple galaxies. If anything is to make us special, it is our choices and actions as a player that are to set us apart. The two moments that got the biggest emotional response out of me were quite minor sidenotes in the game. With stun guns and gas grenades i captured multiple Sebillians alive in an early mission to advance my research. The post mission run down made me pause for a short time. 1 Scout Data Core .................. Sent to research division 6 Alenium .............................. Sent to storage 12 Alien Alloys ........................ Sent to storage 4 Sebillian Corpses ................. Destroyed 1 Sebillian Non-Combatant ...... Sent to research division 3 Sebillian Non-Combatants ..... Executed I sat in silence after reading that last line. I understood why we did it, but we were murdering civilians. This gets even worse when you learn that these beings were actually forced into slavery and combat service, and we probably just wrecked our chances at a potential diplomatic solution. Are we really the good guys? The second happened when i looked at the research files, and found that the researches for the alien species are actually titled "vivisections". If i remember correctly it was the great author Isaac Asimov who wrote that science fiction is not about the technical advancements - the lightswords, lasercannons, jetpacks or teleporters - but what how we interact with the introduction of these new technologies reveals about us humans. While i do not think that it should be every game's purpose to do this, i do maintain that it is good to have games that give us pause, make us think, challenge our moral assumptions and our perception of the world. Reflex or coordination based games are unsuitable for this, games centered around social interaction would be an interesting option yet i've never seen it done in any, but games focused around story are definitely most suited for this. I personally maintain that a strategy game like Xenonauts might in many aspects be even better at this than pick your poison games like the Tell-Tale games or those from Quantic Dreams, because i believe that implications created through game mechanics resonate far stronger than these very obvious choices. A good example in my eyes would be to compare Prison Architect to the recent game Detroit. In Detroit you have the choice to either push some buttons to disobey your orders or not to, in Prison Architect due to the game mechanics you just end up making more money by constructing tight housing for prisoners than by focusing on optimizing their recidivism rate, mimicing a real life fact. Imagine that you had the option to work for criminal syndicates to up your budget in Xenonauts 2. Would you do it? How much would they need to offer? At what type of missions would you draw the line? How bad would the war against the aliens need to go for you to reconsider? If one of your agents was about to defect with information to the aliens because they are disgusted with your cooperation with organized crime, would you let the crime lords kidnap his family to stop him, or would you accept that some of your agents in the field will be killed because of the information this man will leak? The X-Com developed by Firaxis is a game from a huge company, developed on a hefty budget with shareholders expecting optimized returns, so naturally it will pander to the biggest crowd and try to go for as instant gratification as possible, no matter how shallow it may be. So why should Xenonauts or Xenonauts 2 be any different? Because it can. Creating a product for a more niche audience is a good business decision for a smaller competitor, and Goldhawk can afford to ask the questions that Firaxis wouldn't dare to touch. If Goldhawk won't create an adult, uncomfortable, complicated, ethically challenging and thought inspiring X-Com successor, then my question is: who will?
  13. Drakon

    Typical Xenonaut Mission

    You juxtapose a game being realistic and educating with engaging with it for recreation like those were opposing goals. By and large more realistic implementations are also more fun ones ... or game companies wouldn't pay so much to obtain realistic physic engines. While it's from a different genre, a friend of mine recently sent me a video on the importance of physics in superhero movie fights of all things (Link here)... A lot of people would be inclined to say that here the audience is already expected to accept individuals that spit on most laws of physics to begin with, so why bother? But if you look at a well implemented superhero fight comparing it to the "Batman versus Superman" scene at the end of this movie, i'd wager you'll have to agree that actually a realistic implementation of physical reaction does help in making the movie a better one. Same goes for games.
  14. I talked with several military personnel about this, and every single one of them agreed that at ranges above 20 meters chances to get some hits with a weapon on full auto that is not mounted decrease to nearly zero. Some of them had even done practical experiments where they had soldiers shoot at targets with single shot, burst and full auto and compared the hit rate. There was exactly one guy who stated that he sees value in full auto: not to hit anything, but to cause a distraction while another team tries to get in position elsewhere. If i heard the sound of a sniper rifle, i'd be very keen on wanting to stick to cover. If i heard full auto fire from an m16 or kalashnikov type rifle, i'd probably feel pretty safe in sticking my head out and returning fire. I actually happen to know of several cases where exactly that happened, and the individuum shooting single, targeted shots did not get injured while being engaged by several people using their weapons on full auto. I'm very ready to believe that weapons on full auto can be used to intimidate poorly or untrained personnel, but starting your strategic planning on the assumption "Our enemy sucks" seems ill advised to me.