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  1. I think it’s time to give a quick update on what we’re working on at the moment and our future plans. As we've mentioned before, we're aiming to have the game completed for the end of December. We're still unsure if we'll hit that deadline, to be honest. Delays to any part of the game, or even complications due to Christmas holidays mean that we could miss it. Ultimately it is an internal deadline that we can move if we have to…we just think it’d be nice to have the game done this year! You can probably see from the changelogs that we’re making fairly rapid progress these days. The artwork is progressing well and is likely to be finished for the end of the year, as the tiles are nearly all done and we’re working on the alien analysis / interrogation images at the moment that are the only remaining part of the Xenopedia. On the coding front, there’s not really any massive features left to implement. It’s mostly bugfixes, cleaning up systems that aren’t working correctly and balancing what is already there. GJ is working hard on the AI at the moment and just today put in a big update. Most interesting is tweakable AI variables for each AI race and rank, accessible (and documented) in a text file anyone can edit. We’ve also partially implemented AI grenades, which they should now be using to trash your base in Base Defence missions. Provided we don’t encounter any major bugs in it, that’ll all be in V20 Ex.6. We’re working on clearing up the bugs in the rest of the game. There’s quite a few of them and some of them (aliens shooting through floors) are quite major, but our ground combat coder has been busy writing his end of the AI interface recently so he’s not been able to fix them all yet. There’s quite a few little features or tweaks to make in the combat still, including testing out a sight system that only reveals what is currently in a unit’s line of sight - so if a unit turns or is killed, vision is immediately lost on those tiles. I suspect this will make the missions feel a bit more claustrophobic and reduce the effectiveness of long-range sniping (both good things) but we’ll see how it works in practice. If we don’t like it, we can just revert to the old model. Aaron is balancing the AI and plugging away at the maps at the moment, leaving only the Terror missions (Soviet and Western) left to do now. General game balance seems in a good place, but there are still things for us to fix up there too. We’re still hoping to add some Tundra tileset maps to the game, and some Abduction missions too, but we’ll see. It's probably unlikely to happen unless we're delayed into January. At my end, I’m mostly working on the new UI at the moment. There’s a lot of pop-up windows to reskin in our nicer style, and there’s still a number of usability issues with the new UI. A lot are to do with screen resolution and we’re looking into fixing them. I’m also working on the 48-page Xenonauts Art Book for the Kickstarter backers. Unsurprisingly it is proving to be a lot of work, but it needs to be done. It’ll make a nice memento for the project for the team, and also we’ll probably make it available for sale to anyone that wants to buy one once they’ve been sent out to the Kickstarter backers. Overall, progress remains good and I expect us to get another three weeks of solid work in before the team starts to dissipate for the festive season and things become patchier. If the game isn't finished by the end of the year, we won't be far away!
  2. Hello everybody. As it's been about a month since we brought V19 Stable out and there's no sign of a new experimental release, I thought I'd write a development update to explain what's happening. Firstly, it's vacation time for the team. Aaron is off on his honeymoon for two weeks tomorrow, which he'll spend hiking around glaciers in Iceland. My "vacation" is slightly less exciting and has come about because the flat I was due to be moving into last week has not been finished yet and now I have nowhere in London to live. I've headed abroad to visit my family for a bit and am still working a bit, but it hasn't really helped production. That's not to say we've not been making progress - it's just that we've been making progress on some rather boring things. We've rewritten the night mission lighting code, as that was very performance intensive and was causing noticeable slowdown particularly on slower machines. The new code is roughly 1,000 times faster, but ironing all the bugs and unusual behaviors out of it took the best part of a week. Similarly, we spent a week rewriting the accuracy code to make it behave a bit better. Previously it suffered from a problem where shots would ALWAYS hit a (standing) unit if they passed through that tile, which caused issues when shots missed. For example, at close range units would have to turn 45 degrees to not hit the target. There was also an exploit where firing at the ground tile directly behind a target would pretty much guarantee a hit on them. The new formula allows shots to pass through units. Missed shots can now hit behind the target, or even the tile they are standing on, without injuring the target. Additionally, all shots are 50% less likely to hit a unit unless you are specifically aiming at that unit. This fixes a lot of the exploits and should cut down on accidental hits and friendly fire by about 50%. This is a big improvement to the game, but it has been a *lot* of work and that's why we waited for V19 Stable to be complete before we started work on it. We're now working on smaller things like getting the new jetpack animations in the game etc. GJ is back at work on the AI. His most recent fix is that aliens now target vehicles correctly, but he's also working on fixing a number of other issues with the AI. Aaron's done new maps and increased the randomisation for the Industrial and Arctic tilesets significantly, and he'll do the remaining tilesets when he gets back. The new Tundra tileset, Abduction missions and indoor Terror Missions are also still planned, though the latter two may be rolled together. Tile paintovers continue and the Alien Base tiles are now all done (and look awesome), so we're on the Xenonaut base - the final tileset left to paint over. The new UI is coming along too. We're discussing the final changes to the last few screens - the big merge of the new UI code and our normal dev branch will probably start next week. The "progression" art for the various screen backgrounds is also on track to be completed for a Christmas release and I'm busy getting the new base tiles done to replace the existing base structure artwork. It's in a blueprint style that I think works much better than what we had before: http://www.xenonauts.com/devimages/basemap.jpg That's about all there is to report, I think. We'll start work on putting together V20 Experimental 1 in just over two weeks, as both Aaron and I will be back in the office then. Expect something around the end of the month.
  3. As V19 Stable has just been released, this development update is mostly concerned about what's been going on in the background recently and what we have planned for the immediate future. I think the first thing to do is to remind everyone of the huge amount of progress that has been made over the last three months since V18 Stable - there's been massive improvements to almost every aspect of the game (balance and AI most obvious amongst them), and it's easy to forget quite how much has been done. The V20 series of builds is intended to be mostly polish, with an emphasis on getting the new UI installed / fully functional. The rest of the game will see more tweaks, but it's not likely to change quite as much as it did from V18 to V19. There will be further balance work, further AI improvement, new maps, reworking of the way jetpacks work and probably the Geoscape UFO intelligence too. Aaron and I have been discussing internally and we would like to have the game finished for Christmas. Goldhawk is has never been particularly good at sticking to deadlines, so please do not take that as gospel...but we're hoping for a Christmas release. The biggest missing component is the new UI. We've actually been working on this for a loooong time now (it's been keeping me busy) and it's basically complete in functionality terms. We're now working on finalising the formatting of each screen - making sure all the text is aligned correctly and all the scaling works correctly and so on. The only completely finished one is the Research screen, but they're 90% done at this point. There also needs to be further work done on the existing UI, such as the Geoscape notifications, Main Menu screen, combat Inventory screen and the pop-up menus. A different coder is working on these, but they all need to be skinned correctly and set up so the text scaling and so on is no longer a problem. It would be nice to have all of the game assets in place by the end of November - so all of the tiles are painted over, all the Xenopedia art is in the game, every UI background is painted and so on. I've been able to find a bit of time for the writing and I'm hoping to have a final Xenopedia complete next week, as I've now done about 65 of the Xenopedia entries and have another 23 to do. I know there have been delays there, but I'm just as keen as anyone to have that finished and locked down so translators can get to work. All in all, we've had a really good three months and the game is really quite playable at the moment - so I'm hoping that with three months more we'll have a genuinely good game that will deliver on what we've been promising for the best part of four years.
  4. It's about time for another development update. Probably the most interesting news is that we've decided the next V19 Experimental build will be the last one to add new features, so once that arrives we'll go on another bug-fixing drive. Once we've fixed all the major bugs affecting play, we'll release it as V19 Stable. The next build is going to include the new Geoscape alert style, which matches the new topbar style and is quite a bit more attractive than the current "black box" style we use (the content remains the same). It will also contain the air combat auto-resolve, and improvements to the alien bases and final mission. What it will not contain is the updated UI for the various non-Geoscape screens. Progress on that has been slower than I was hoping (largely because the programmer responsible for it has been on holiday), and we still need to do the new Base screen and then fine tune all the other ones that have already been done. We're continuing to plough through the remaining art that needs to be done - hopefully all of the autopsy art will be done by the next build etc. I need to finish off editing the Xenopedia, as that's slightly fallen by the wayside recently but needs to be finished. Aaron is continuing to work on the balance and improving usability. Once we start working on the bugfixing, I'll also review the community maps and probably build a few new ones too. So I'm not sure V19 Stable is going to blow anyone's mind, but it should be a steady improvement over V18 Stable. After the next experimental build we'll be posting up some threads for people to report the bugs that are annoying them the most, and we'll start prioritising fixes for them. I've also started work on putting together this art book for the Xenonauts Kickstarter - once I finished drafting that, we'll be getting that and the T-shirts / posters printed out. So if you're a Kickstarter backer, we've started the wheels moving on getting the physical goods going. That's been hanging over our heads for a while now, so I think it's best that we start to tackle that sooner rather than later. In terms of general updates, things are going well here at Goldhawk. We're in the middle of a heatwave here in London (apparently it's meant to be 33 degrees Celsius today), which predictably means it is incredibly hot and stuffy in a room full of computers, and catching the tube is much like standing fully clothed in a sauna with a bunch of sweat-drenched strangers for half an hour. It's even reached the point where Aaron is no longer wearing heavy black jeans every single day...he turned up in (camouflage) shorts on Friday! Quite something. Oh, and I now have internet access again. I have been moving house again recently, and two of the people I lived with moved out a month earlier than everyone else - and helpfully cancelled the internet when they did so. My new place has teh interwebz though, so I'll probably be better at answering emails or checking the forums etc than I have been over the past month. So overall things are good, and hopefully V19 Stable will be along soon.
  5. Time for a development update. Firstly, Steam: you probably noticed we launched on Steam Early Access a couple of weeks ago. We're pleased to say that the game has sold strongly on Steam, and it's nice to see a number of people who weren't previously aware of the game finding it. The reception generally seems to have been good from the people who have played the game, so all in all I think it's been a successful launch. It has, however, been an enormous amount of work. Lots of customer support and marketing stuff to do, as well as the technical work involved in a launch (I've also been enjoying having a life outside the office over the past week). In the meantime, Aaron has stepped up his work on the balancing of the game. This seems to be working pretty well - the first Experimental build was released yesterday and there will be more of those coming in the near future. You can see most of what we've been working on in the Experimental build, but in addition to that we've been working on updating various parts of the UI. The Hidden Movement screen is getting an overhaul, because people were complaining that the full-screen pop up was a bit jarring. However, we didn't want to get rid of the HM screen entirely, because it is very X-Com, so we came up with a compromise that you can see here. We're also working on getting the Soldier Inventory screen to be a pop-up rather than a full-screen window. That would make loading it up much less jarring, and generally improve the experience. Regarding the long-awaited Geoscape UI updates, that's coming along OK. We're finishing off the updated Soldier Equip screen at the moment, after which there's only the Base screen and the Geoscape to go (so we've done the Research, Workshop, Stores, Vehicle Equip and Aircraft Equip screens already). Giovanni has already started work on the Geoscape, although that's a BIG job, so that'll take a bit of time. Also, even when actually released I'm sure the UI will need several iterations to tighten it up...but we're getting there. We'll keep you posted with how things go, but here's a possible spoiler for you - as the game advances, new background screens are unlocked for the important screens. Here's the final one for the Research screen, if you want a preview. So it's been a good couple of weeks and V19 is marching steadily closer!
  6. A development update to go with the new build, because it's been a while since I've done of these. Right now we're concentrating on the Steam release build. Ideally I want to have V18.5 locked down at our end by the middle of next week so it can get a couple of days of testing on the forums before we port it to Mac / Linux and start uploading it to Steam. V18.5 will have only minor improvements over V18.4, it'll mostly be bugfixes to get it as stable as possible (we'll also create a new demo from it). If we (that's the royal we there) can get the Xenopedia finished and GJ can get an AI update done, we'll probably add those into V18.5 too. Taking the project forwards, we've decided to split out some of the responsibilities on the team further. Previously it was my job to do pretty much everything, but currently I'm in the process of handing over the project management and beta balancing to Aaron. This means that he'll be the one checking the Beta forums and doing the task management for the coders. I'll be focusing more on the creative side of things. In the short term, that means getting the Xenopedia finished. There's still art to do on it and only about 2/3 of the research descriptions have been written. I want to get at least the writing done in the near future. After that, I'll be working on the air combat auto-resolve and getting the new UI done. Oh, and probably maps. The split will therefore be that I'll be designing the systems / content and getting them implemented, and Aaron will be in charge of polishing the overall project along the guidelines that I've laid out. This is basically because I have far too much on my plate at the moment and project management is something that requires your full attention. Honestly, the community shouldn't see too much different except that it'll be Aaron posting in the beta forums instead of me!
  7. OK, time for a quick update. We're still planning to make a release next week, though it's still up in the air as to whether it will be beta or not. If it is not beta, it will still probably be the biggest update we've made since we joined the Geoscape and Ground Combat together. The reason it may not be beta is I'm not sure we'll have time to get the final mission working properly and we probably won't have the final two UFOs in the game in time. Also there's a whole bunch of niggling things we need to do, but the coders are busy with more important things to do them. We'd like to have the following in the next build, whether it is beta or not: New launcher: will look much better and be platform independent (so it'll appear for Mac users too), have a built-in RSS feed for the forums, stat tracking disable, let you change save game location and will contain Crimson Dagger novella Improved AI: GJ should have another AI update for us. Wall Transparency: Humans and visible aliens should have an aura that turns nearby walls invisible so they no longer get "lost" behind them. Tile Rendering: This should fix those pesky rendering issues where things were incorrectly rendering on top of other things. UFOs: the UFO maps should be done for 2/3 of the UFOs, though this is just their undamaged landed state thus far. Research Tree: Most of the research descriptions (re)written, new research art added (including the first few autopsy images). Maps: I've added 2 new maps for the Light Scout for every tileset now, I'm hopefully going to add the same number for the Scout / Corvette by next week too. Usability Fixes: Too many of these to list here, but we've fixed a LOT of the little things that have been annoying people for months. Game Balancing: Again, too many to list here. The game will be heavily, heavily rebalanced in the next release. The meat of the update will be in the last two bullet points. The new features are all well and good, but from next release onwards we're going to be paying a lot of attention to the user experience rather than just saying "leave us alone, we'll fix that in beta". I'm not sure when the release will occur next week, but there will be one.
  8. I can't believe February is nearly finished already, but apparently it is. Time for another development update. In short, we're really gearing up for beta now and V18 should be beta. As V17.6 seems mostly stable, I don't think we'll be releasing any more builds prior to V18. Happily for Mac users, our porter David (ko2fan on the forums) has managed to get around the texture issue with the new version of OSX and it now seems that the game will remain natively compatible with Mac. Anyway, we've already got some nice improvements in the dev version compared to the public version. Giovanni has merged his new launcher into the code and that seems to be working rather nicely, as well as being much more visually appealing and cross-platform capable. There's also some further improvements to the level editor, which now has a pop-up level viewer window in it. You can see the map you're building appear in real-time now, so building new levels is really easy. We should have plenty of maps in the beta, although at the moment they're a little constrained by the UFOs. The UFOs are coming along well. We've completed the first three, and are working on the fourth of the eight UFOs that appear in the combat map. "Completing" them involves testing the internal layout until we find something we are happy with, then doing the final textured UFO model and painting the ground tiles for the craft. It's a bit time consuming, but I think it's going to work really well with the final game. You can see a couple of examples of final UFO models here: Light Scout: http://www.xenonauts.com/devimages/UFO1.png Scout: http://www.xenonauts.com/devimages/UFO2.png This has been a lot of work, not only in art terms but in game terms. We've had to implement a system of swopping out ground tiles and changing the line of sight properties of tiles when troops go inside UFOs (which causes the walls to vanish). It's working pretty well now though, aside from ongoing rendering order issues that I'll discuss below. The only problem is that until the UFOs are finalised, we don't know how big they will be, which is why we can't make maps for the big UFOs until the UFOs in question are finalised. Next up, game balancing. For the first time ever yesterday, I sat down and played the game as a game without using any developer cheats. As a result, I've drawn up a long list of balance changes and usability fixes to make the game more playable. Up to this point I've not really cared much about the gameplay because the focus has been actually building the systems, but I think having the game roughly balanced for beta is going to be important. The changes are things like: Major boost to alien accuracy Alien non-combatants made significantly more dangerous TU reserve toggle for whether it will allow you to spend reserved TUs on shooting (by default it will) Better communication of KIA soldiers after battle (portraits greyed out if killed) Chinook only carries 8 soldiers now, with the Hunter filling 2 slots if taken (squad size with final dropship still caps at 16) Starting squad has better equipment selection At start of game player only has $1m and one Hunter, but building / base construction cost reduced There is longer between each UFO wave, so you should have time to get your MiGs built before the Scouts appear Alien Invasion research is already in progress when you start the game Adding a "Research Completed" pop-up with "Go to Research Screen" button and "New Projects Unlocked" list. There is a massive list of changes to be made but once they're done there should be a quantum leap in playability. Lots of little things that together should make a big difference. I've also continued my work on the research tree. There is a description in place for pretty much every research project that I'm confident will be in the final game (there's about 60 of them) and there's about 10-15 more liable to be shifted around. I've created images for about half of them, and we're starting work on the remaining stuff like the autopsy art for the aliens too. The new UI is also proceeding, but slowly. The new Research screen is nearly done now. Once this done, the Workshop screen should be very easy to do (it's basically the same). Once those two screens are done, we'll look at the speed of progress on this and see if it's too slow. Finally, there are a few problems we're looking into. One of the biggest is the multi-tile rendering, which is causing all of these rendering errors you can see in the game. We're looking into this and we'll fix it up as it's giving us major display issues with the new UFOs, as well as cropping up in random areas in the game. Hopefully it'll be resolved before beta. There's also work to be done on the night mission LOS system and things like the Hidden Movement and shooting between different height levels. We've got plenty to be fixing up and improving...but I can't really think of much that hasn't been implemented yet. Turning Xenonauts into a fun and challenging game is now the order of the day, so I guess on reflection we've had a pretty good month!
  9. Chris

    14th Jan Dev Update

    OK - we're still busy at work. I was going to try and release a new build today which fixed all the major crashes in the last one but some of the upgrades to the ground combat have introduced a new bug that is causing issues with the aliens spawning. So that's not going to happen until that is fixed. We are planning to release a new build on Friday too, or perhaps over this weekend. It's the continuation of our last build, hopefully having all of the aliens in it by then and having a few extra maps. It will also have quite a lot more of the research tree in it (with research descriptions, but probably not much game balance), and hopefully an AI update. If we don't have a major update for the AI this week, I'll ask GJ to write a post explaining what's going on on that front and explain why it's taking so long (I imagine the post would involve the word "engine" followed by a lot of rude words). Over the past few days I've been working on the Research tree, writing research descriptions. This takes a LONG time; each one is 3-5 paragraphs of semi-plausible technobabble and it takes me up to two hours to get it right. There's a lot of them too, sadly. I think I've done about a third of them so far. I'll be working on this for the next few days too and hopefully can make good progress on it. It's one of the last missing things in the game. Today I was working on the new UI Stores screen - this screen is now about 75% finished, and looks very much like the concept. It's rather cool seeing the first of the new UI screens nearing completion, as I think they'll add a lot to the game. This is in a separate branch of the code, though, so you won't see any new screens for a while yet. But work is moving ahead on that. Same with the new launcher too, which should be done in the next couple of weeks. Aaron's been busy working on the Middle East tileset, and we're doing a few more ground tiles for that. It turned out that it wasn't that interesting with the existing tiles but we've got a few new props for it too now, so it should have a proper map in the update this weekend. We're now turning our attention to the Alien Base tileset, and once we have a stable enough build to test the UFO layouts in, we'll finalise them and start work on the final art for those too. So, should be an interesting week. Sorry for the ongoing stability issues, hopefully there'll be a big payoff this Friday / weekend.
  10. Time for a quick development update! It's approaching Christmas but we've all got another week or so to work until we disappear off. What've we been up to recently? We've been working on a variety of things. I guess the biggest change has probably been the level design system. This has become far more point-and-click, making it much easier to generate levels. Previously, props and walls and buildings were set at the sub-map level and this meant that moving them around in the Level Editor meant editing the submaps (which had to align perfectly to look correct). It was very time consuming, and not exactly user-friendly. Now we have a layer system, with the Ground tiles and then the Wall, Prop and Building layers on top of that. The game can deal with transparency - so if a wall sub-map has no ground tiles painted on it, it will draw the information from the Ground layer below it (for instance a field). You can see how this is much better than having to paint all the walls and props on the field directly, as you had to in the previous setting. Naturally this has both caused a lot of bugs and meant we've had to redo a lot of our maps, which has taken up quite a lot of time. This hasn't been helped that our ground combat coder has had workmen in his house for the past week and hasn't got much done in terms of fixing up the bugs. We're getting on top of them now but it's been pretty slow on the ground combat front for the last few weeks. For the Geoscape, we've done a bit of work on the balancing of the invasion and the research tree but that will continue in more detail once the ground combat missions are all loading up properly. We've also started work on implementing the new UI, but unfortunately we didn't fork the code before we did that so the release of our latest build has been delayed. The new topbar is in the game, but the graphics need to be reworked as we were experimenting with image scaling. Having an unusable topbar is not something we want in a public build, obviously! Aaron's been busy on the Xenonaut base tiles, and has now completed all of the starting rooms. You can see a few previews of them dotted around on the main news blog or on other sites; basically they look pretty awesome. They're also animated (consoles etc), but the animated tiles aren't displaying properly for some reason. We're trying to get that fixed up. He's also been working on the big brothers to the little Light Drone that you can see in the terror missions, also animated. Rendering has also been going fairly well. All the Xenonaut vehicles are now in the game, an entire new alien race has been rendered out and the Light Drone big brothers are also ready to go into the game this weekend. I think there's only one major alien race left to render...a rather annoying glow effect I can't quite figure out how to get rid of is giving me trouble with them, but I'll fix that up soon no doubt. The new UI for the ground combat is finished and in the game thanks to Giovanni. Again, this took a long time - there's issues with image scaling in the engine, so we've been scaling the images perfectly in Photoshop now and it means they don't appear at all warped. The image clarity for the pictures of the weapons and the various icons should be much sharper than before, unless you happened to luck into the right resolution before (actually a couple more icons still need to be updated but 99% of it is done). So, yeah - it's not the biggest thing in the world, but the visual quality of the game has increased another notch. We're now working on the new launcher too, as the existing one doesn't work on Mac and looks horrible. The new / final one will be much nicer and hopefully will have an animated background (of the same image) too. That'll be arriving in the New Year though, I'd have thought. Finally, we've had GJ over in London for the last couple of days to talk about the AI. Progress on the AI has been a bit slow recently, partly because GJ has been busy with his masters studies and also just because the AI is hard. Anyway, we've chatted through at length the sort of feel we want for each type of mission, the different AI behaviours we need for the various alien / friendly units in each mission type and good ways to generate that. I know we've been promising a better AI for some time yet and it's not quite materialised, but I'm hopeful it's not too far away now. I think that's about it. Not sure when V17.5 is coming out, but hopefully soon. Beta is coming together too, but we have to get the new level system working better before we can really get to grips with testing and balancing the research tree (though we have done some of that already). Thanks for your patience. I'll do another update before Christmas too.
  11. Development update time! I hope everyone is excited. I've spent most of the week working on UI designs and am about ready to throw myself off the nearest bridge. Interface design is the WORST POSSIBLE job in the universe, I've decided. That's why I'm typing this while munching on a ready meal by myself in the office at 8.30pm on a Friday night, something that one would hope I'll not be repeating in the near future. Possibly because I've been working such long hours this week, it's been very productive. I've had the final UI design hanging over me for literally months, something I never wanted to start on because it would require at least a week of working 12-hour days to get all the screens done. It's not really something you can do in short bursts because you need to ensure consistency between all the screens and that's something that is lost if you don't do them one after the other (you can even see the different between the screens I did three days ago and those I did today). Also, these will be the final UI designs so they have to be pixel perfect or they might be implemented wrong - I can't just be lazy and use placeholder stuff any more! The good news is that I've completed eight of the ten concepts (subject to the odd tweak to improve consistency) and only have two left, the Geoscape and the Xenopedia. The Geoscape one requires some more art done before we can finish it but I think we've finally worked out how we can improve the usability and make it more immersive / consistent with the other screens at the same time. I'm pleased with how it is turning out, and I'm very pleased with how the completed UI screens have gone too. The combination of the new immersive style and the old-style topbar with updated art seems to have preserved the best of both ideas. I'll post them up for you guys to look at tomorrow, possibly. Next week holds the joys of slicing up all of the graphics for all of the UI screens and writing a document that details all the dimensions of the graphics in / the eventualities of how the player can interact with every UI screen in the strategic part of the game. Yessir, that's what I got into game development for! Though it won't be particularly interesting, it does let the Geoscape coder get to work on finishing that part of the game. I honestly think it'll probably be the most exciting change we'd made to a public release since we joined the Geoscape / Ground Combat parts of the game together. They'll simultaneously look much better and convey much more information, so everybody wins. It also means we'll finally start fixing up the UI issues, rather than just saying "we'll do that once the new UI is in place". With me refusing to answer emails for most of the week, the rest of the team have got less done than they would usually, but we've still made progress. Most notably, Aaron is continuing to power through generating all the Xenonaut Base props and we'll have all the starting buildings done early next week, which means we can do some iteration of the base defence missions. You'll like the base tiles - they look really nice. Speaking of iteration, we've got good feedback on the first map we posted up, so thanks for anyone who helped us with that. We'll release more next week, though the new UI takes priority there. Good news, though - we can now support custom Xenonaut squad armour and weapons for individual missions, so we can do the scenario testing we mentioned a few weeks ago now (read: testing the flooplans of all the UFOs and the alien bases). GJ is also committing some improved AI code shortly, but whether it turns the aliens into deadly combatants remains to be seen - but they should be better than before at least. He's also coded the online stat tracker for the game, which records information when you play the game and sends it to a modified version of Google Analytics so we can crunch (anonymous) numbers to analyse the game balance. Essentially it means we can get feedback from anyone playing the game, even if they can't be bothered to post on the forums - which stops us producing a version of the game tailored only to the super-enthusiastic / capable crowd that tend to be overrepresented in the forum community of a game. Apparently we need to do a bit of work with a code library (or something) to get that working, but it's 99% done. I'm looking forward to that. There's probably been other stuff, but I forget it. It's been a busy week and I'm going home. Enjoy your weekends, everyone - I know I will!
  12. Welcome to the new development update forum. I've decided to split this forum off from the Announcements forum, which is talking about actual build releases, so I can use this one to talk about development progress on the project that is not always strictly relevant to the next update. So, development. My main concern right now is getting to a basic beta. I think we're in range of a quick sprint there, but if we're going to do that it's more than likely we're going to be spending three or four weeks with the current public build with no updates before we reach beta. This is why I'm finding the Farm crash bug so annoying; we can't leave the game unplayable for three or four weeks at a time. We've also taken quite a bit of money in recent weeks thanks to the Firaxis X-Com raising interest in the genre and not quite nailing the job of following up the original X-Com, at least in the eyes of the hardcore fans. I find it a bit concerning that their first experience of the game is probably massive Desura issues and then a game full of crash bugs. People have suggested I talk more on the News page about what's going on, but I'm loathe to do it until we've got the crash bug fixed. I don't want to attract a load of people, only for them to have a crap first experience of the game. V17 is released today and hopefully should be stable. If so it means we can gear up for the sprint to beta (I'll post a separate thread for our beta plans shortly) and it means I can start to talk a bit more, maybe do some PR work too. But really, stability is my priority. Incidentally, the Desura issues are being caused by the massive number of files in the game (the dev version has close to 120,000 now). This also causes ludicrous install times and the like. Happily, it would appear we've found a solution to the issue despite not having access to the source code of the engine. We can pack the files into an archive and the game can read them from there. We're still assessing how this will affect our workflow and limit the ability of modders to change the game, but at the very least we're going to archive the /units/ and the ground tile folders. This should reduce the file quantity in the game by about 2/3 and should fix the Desura issues and generally make the game more manageable. If it is problematic for our workflow, it may be that this has to be a gradual process (the first batch should reduce the file quantity by 50% or so, then we'll archive assets after we've stopped actively developing that area). I really hope this improves the quality of the experience for our players, and gets people of Desura's back a bit too. They're not perfect, but they do try their best and they are helpful guys - the standalone download feature was implemented specifically for us, for instance. The next biggest game on their servers in terms of file quantity was 10,000 apparently, compared to our massive 60-70k files. I'm not entirely surprised their systems broke - but hopefully we can put all that behind us soon! In wider development terms, the biggest change in the last few weeks is that we've moved into this new office. This took the best part of a week to get set up and working but it's been an amazing boost to my productivity (and sanity). Development is really rattling along these days, to the point I can barely keep up. I foolishly decided to not work for one of the days this weekend and my inbox was stuffed full on Monday. It's been a while since development was going at this pace and it's a good place to be, though it does mean I've got even less time for PR than usual. The chief reason for this massive speed boost is we've taken on our first full-time employee, Aaron. He's been working with us for about a year as our 3d tile artist, so he produces the basic 3D models for all the buildings and props that you see in the game (they are then painted over by a 2D artist before they are "finished"). He's now joined us in a full-time role and will be helping out on the design work going forward too. He'll be posting up something himself shortly, but basically he's been working on finishing the remaining buildings for all the tilesets in the game and is now starting on the props for all the tilesets so our missions are less open. This has led to us being able to put our new tilesets in the game - we've put our Arctic, Middle East and Desert tilesets in the game over the past month and we're adding cover and unique civilians to them at the moment to make them more playable. We've also got working concepts for the Alien Base going, and we'll be getting the Xenonaut base set up properly in the near future too. We've also done a bunch of the ground tiles and all the building tiles for the Soviet Town tileset, but I've not been able to test them all out yet. Basically, the lack of map variation in the game will cease to be a problem soon. The sprite rendering is going OK too - we're working on getting all the civvies and friendly AI units in the game, then we'll be rendering all the aliens out. Again, I think having the local unit variations has really added a lot to the game and once all the enemies are in the game it'll feel that much more complete for it. Finally, I guess I should quickly chat about coding. We've got a few odds-and-ends going on, such as adding base breaches so aliens no longer attack Xenonaut bases through the hangars all the time, but the biggest things are the file archiving mentioned above and the AI. GJ is busy with exams this week but in general progress is good. I'll get him to post some updates here so you lot stay in the loop, but I'm sure you can see that we're moving in the right direction there. The final piece of the puzzle is the new UI - that'll appear in the early beta I think. Oh, and we should have a Steam page up shortly too. That'll be nice to raise project awareness (though it won't support pre-ordering yet). Right, time to write up the beta plans..
  13. With the news that the forums and sites are back up, and I've fixed Desura Connect etc, we are back to where we were 7-8 days ago. Yay! Thankfully, though, the entire project hasn't been caught in a massive time warp so it's probably worth mentioning what we've been working on recently. Our current plans are to release a build next weekend, though I'll give more details on what will be in it (and in future builds) in a seperate post. The first thing to mention is hiring. We've chosen our new level designer, a fellow called Adam, and yesterday I got him set up on the SVN and on our baug tracking software. His role on the team will be to be in charge of the tiles and maps. It'll be useful to have one person setting up all the tiles and tile properties, and dealing with mis-set tiles when reported in the bug forums. This will no longer be me (it was a big timesink) and it should lead to more consistency across the tilesets. Also, it means that shortly he will start generating new maps for everyone to play - so we won't be stuck on the same maps over and over again as we are now. It may take a good few weeks for him to settle into a routine of making maps that fit with the ones I've already made, but he's got some good ideas and I'm sure he'll learn quickly. Secondly, our hunt for a new AI coder is progressing well. We've had a lot of people apply, generally of a good standard, and we've narrowed the search down to a couple of people. We're currently just musing on who represents the best combination of value and expertise. It's just a shame some of these people didn't apply last time we were looking for an AI coder really. Hopefully we'll have a decision on who we're going with in the next few days. Onto development itself. We've implemented a bunch of new features in the game - the soldier medal system, the bleeding wounds system, collapsible buildings, customisable soldier advancement values, delays before equipment arrives etc. There'll be more details on this in the other post. We've not made as much progress as we were hoping on this front due to not having the SVN available last week, but we're doing OK. The rendering is progressing well. I'm currently rendering the last non-combat shield weapon for the normal Xenonaut armours. After this I need to render out the combat shield with the various associated weapons and then render out the weapons for the power armour (there's a lot less of those). Hopefully for the build after next, all the rendering for all the Xenonaut armour types and all the civilians and perhaps even all the vehicles will be done. This in itself will be a big step towards beta. The tile work is continuing to progress. We've nearly finished the 3D buildings for the Middle East tileset and have some of them done for the US Desert tileset too. In terms of 2D paintovers, we're working on the second dropship at the moment and once that is finished all the required dropship tiles for all three dropships will be in the game (this should only take another couple of days). Then we'll do the ground tiles for the Arctic and Soviet Town tilesets, which are the last two outdoor tilesets that need any ground tiles done on them. Naturally the buildings and props will appear much faster once our tile artist joins full time in a couple of months, but things are going at a reasonable rate at the moment anyway. Mac / Linux ports will hopefully be available the build after next. Mac ports may be available for the next build, but we're not sure. All in all, things are good. Provided everything works out with the AI coder we select, we're in a good place.
  14. So it's been a while since I posted up a major status update, beyond the changelog with each new build. Here's what's been going on a Goldhawk recently. The elephant in the room over the past few months was the Kickstarter - and to an extent, it still is. Has it been a success? We raised a lot of money. But it took us a good 6 weeks of planning, of which I think probably three weeks was time spent on other things than development, and then I probably lost a good two weeks during the Kickstarter itself to PR work, and it'll probably be another two weeks after the Kickstarter to deal with all the rewards. Was it worth the stress and diverted effort? I'd say it has been. It raised a lot of money, put us in touch with a new audience that would not otherwise have seen the game, and it's expanded the scope of the game a bit in several good ways (female soldiers, linux / mac ports that will allow us to do the Humble Bundle in future, adding a variety of in-game systems like suppression etc). There's also a lot to be said for milestones - they're hell at the time, but they're a great motivator. In a wider business context, it's also forced the issue of how the business is run. Previously I was operating as a sole trader but with the Kickstarter money arriving I've now formally transferred all the assets to Goldhawk Interactive Ltd. This means lots of admin, like opening a whole new set of bank accounts. Two bits of good news - this will let us back onto Paypal, and also we've now got a dollar denominated UK account too. This should save us a bit of money as lots of US people buy our game and we pay a lot of contractors in USD, but previously it always needed to go via GBP first. Foreign exchange fees can account for up to 5% of the value of the transaction every time you do a cross-currency trade, but that should be costing us far less in future. So that'll be nice. But needless to say, all the accounting admin associated with that has been a complete nightmare...but is now finished and is a load off my shoulders. I'm pleased to announce we're also hiring our first physical employee - our tile artist (he produces the 3D building / prop models that are painted over by the 2D artists). He'll be joining the team on a full-time basis once he's worked his three month notice period at his current job. His role on the team will obviously initially be to get the tilesets finished and populated with a good number of props, but in the long term he'll be taking some of the production and low-level design responsibilities off me. We're looking at the level designer vacancy at the moment, too. We have two people currently doing test maps for the role, and we'll make a decision as to which one to hire at the end of the week. Once they're hired they'll be in charge of generating new maps and getting the tile sprites etc set up properly and consistently. That's a big drain on my time, so generally I just don't do it. With someone else handling it, it should add a lot more variation to the game and get everything working much better. On the code front, the game is progressing well - you've probably seen we've added a lot of features to the game in the past two builds, which is always nice. We're currently in the middle of testing the medal system and the bleeding wounds system should be in the next build too. Looking beyond that, there's not a lot more work to do until we're feature complete. I'll post up a full list so people can point out where I've not included things I've promised I would, just so I don't miss anything! The rendering of the animated sprites is also going well. We've tweaked our render process and this ended up with a 300% render speed increase, so things are rattling along at quite a rate. There are 5 human armour suits that can use all the weapons, and we've done all the rendering for the first three tiers of normal weapons. We're in the middle of rendering out the final tier of guns, and then we'll be onto the more specialist weapons. The only issue here is the sheer size of the weapon sprites. Each weapon / armour combination is about 10 - 15mb, and the folder with the Xenonaut units in it is already over 1gb in size. I'm currently considering whether we'll want to cut out the Combat Shield and the Assault Shield, as each one of those needs to be rendered with 7 different weapons in the other hand for 5 different armour types, giving a total of 70 extra weapon / armour sets and nearly a 1gb increase to the size of the game to add effectively one item type. Particularly when we can add flashbangs instead. It'd save a bit of time on the coding front too. That'd mean we'd hopefully have all the Xenonaut units rendered and in the game by the end of the month. In the tile front we've started work on a couple of new tilesets. We started working on the Middle Eastern desert tilesets and then I figured it might be easier just to recolour some of the ground tiles into two desert sets. So we're going to have a Middle Eastern desert tileset (example) and a US / Africa style desert tileset (example). They will have some overlap but should look different enough for it to work. We've also been working on the UFO tiles, so now all the vital components of the UFOs that need to be captured have their tiles done. A lot of them are animated too. I'll be putting all them in the game for testing purposes shortly. There are two major things that may delay the game - the first are the tilesets, and the sheer scale of them. Our full-time tile artist will solve a lot of these problems when he joins up, but that's still three months away yet. My biggest concern, however, is the AI. Sadly we've just lost another AI coder, this one just disappearing off the face of the Earth entirely. This happened about five weeks ago now, but one of the difficulties with remote teams is it takes a while to work through. He reported in weekly anyway, so it took about two weeks for me to realise that there was a problem, then another week of enquiry emails asking what was going on before a final week of waiting to see if they respond to your ultimatum. Then there was an extra week of me being in denial, as AI's been such a thorn in our side recently. Anyway, I'm going to post the job up today along with our other vacancies and will also announce it on Kickstarter and Twitter in the hope of finding a new AI coder promptly. In our favour, I think we'll be able to build on the work done by the last guy rather then starting from scratch, and we can afford a good guy too. But still, it's something I could have done without... But overall, it's been a good few months. Posting up milestones should make things a bit clearer for everyone where we are too!
  15. Hi guys, I thought it was time to give everyone an update from behind the scenes, rather than just on the topics that are hot at the moment (ie. the things going into Build V8 etc). This is just a random collection of thoughts that I thought I'd put down rather than a comprehensive list, but I wanted everyone to be aware of what we were doing behind the scenes... Aircraft weapons - some good news, we've had an old team member returning from about a year of medical absence. Kris was the artist who did all the weapon tiles in the game, so he's very talented, and he's generally was a useful part of the team anyway. He was initially responsible for the upgrade to the forum pre-order badge graphics, but now he's started work on the aircraft weapons. These were originally going to be shared with the vehicles, but we decided to stop cutting corners and just do them all seperately. We've come up with some quite cool designs and we're expecting to have all the aircraft weapon art done by next weekend probably. As you may have seen in the recent build, we've also tweaked the setup a bit. There's now three distinct types of weapon - the cannons, the light missiles and the heavy missiles. The idea is that cannons are short range but excellent at chewing up enemy fighters but weak against armoured targets, light missiles are good general purpose weapons, and heavy missiles cannot hit the agile UFOs but are very effective against large targets. Previously weapons were going to straddle some of those categories, but in fact I think it's a better idea to have the weapons stick in their categories. If we want to mix things up, we'll change the mix of slots on the aircraft rather than changing the weapons themselves. We've got the art to do for the vehicle weapons after that. Again, shouldn't take too long - particularly as in this case everything is already modelled in 3D so we have references. We've also got the corpse tiles for the aliens coming in the next two weeks - once those are done, that's all the 2D art done for the game (until we redo the GUI at least). Animation - Animation, another big issue for us in the past, has been ticking over nicely for a few months now. Some of you would have met Dan on the forums - he's basically been doing all our animation work for quite a while now and is full-time on the project. We've modelled up the vast majority of the human weapons with the 'core' Xenonaut armour types, and although we might need to come up with some new animations for the other armour type we're not too far away from completing the Xenonaut unit animations. We've got some of the animations done for the aliens, but only about half of them are rigged and those that are have only been animated with the basic weapons. We'll start animating them with the more exotic weapons after the humans are done. Then there's the vehicles, which are at the bottom of our priority list at the moment. In short, though, animation is coming along well and isn't really a concern for me any more. Providing we keep the current pace of work up, we should have most of the animations in place for the beta. The big roadblock right now is the rendering times, but I'm rendering 2/3 weapon/armour combinations a day so these are also ticking over. It'll take some time for the animations to all get into the game in spritesheet form but the process is in place now. This is why it's important to report the missing sprites in our builds from V8 onwards, as the new animations from then on will become the animations in the final game too. Tiles - As before, the tilesets are probably the biggest hurdle between where we are now and where we want to be. There's two issues; the lack of tilesets full stop and then the lack of UFO tilesets specifically. Concentrating on the first one for now, we've only got the Industrial tileset in the game and I'm sure everyone is getting bloody sick of looking at it by now (I know I am). It also makes our screenshots look REALLY repetitive. Well the good news is we're working on other ones too. One of our artists is working on the Western Town tileset, which we've got one building done of four and are working on the props for it now. It's looking good, but progress is kinda slow because he doesn't have that much time to spare per week. I'm confident he'll have the one tileset done for some point in the beta, but there's not too much I can show off for that now. The other tilesets are in varying states of completion. We actually have a Desert (ie. Arab) tileset mostly complete at the moment, which was done by the artist who did the Industrial tileset several months back. The tiles are in the current build actually (/tiles/desert) and we've started work on painting them over with the 2D artist to get them to game standard (not in the build yet) but I'm a bit unconvinced by the tileset as a whole. There just seems something missing in it. I might sit down and make some proper maps with it and see how it looks, but I get the impression it'll need some more additions before we can call it finished. Quite what, I don't know exactly... The Farmyard tileset we had done waaay back hasn't been converted to the new system, but it shouldn't be that hard to do given that there's guide tiles right there. Maybe I'll recruit an artist to get that done. We've also got the wall tiles done for the human / Xenonaut base tileset, but we've not begun to populate the rooms yet because the supporting code isn't in place yet and also the look will probably be somewhat defined by the new UI style. The biggest issue is the UFO tiles, though. We all know it's a bit annoying attacking the Evil Alien Shed instead of an actual UFO, but it also means we can't really send the build to journalists in the current form. Thankfully, we've started actively taking steps to rectify this. Kris has been helping me with 3D modelling of the Alien Scout against a tile grid. We've finished the basic geometry for this now, and we're going to carve it up into tiles. The basic plan is that there'll be a 'damaged' and 'destroyed' variant of each UFO exterior, and all the tiles involved will be indestructible. The inside of each UFO will vary based on map randomisation but the exterior tiles will remain the same. The UFO tiles are out priority so hopefully we'll have a painted UFO hull available to recover in the next 2-3 weeks. Xenopedia art - Now I think about it, it's not true we'll have all the 2D art done when the vehicle weapons are done. Most of the Xenopedia art isn't done either, but I'm not willing to start on that until the beta as the research tree needs to be tested before we do. I don't want to do art for something and then have it cut out of the game. Unit Armour - We've done a bit of work on this too. We've now implemented jetpacks and the related pathfinding (although sprites aren't in yet), and armours now have visual cones and sight ranges that can be individually customised in armours_gc.xml so the lighter armours can be given bigger sight cones now. Money - Things have gone pretty well in the 10 days or so since we launched. We've recieved just under 450 pre-orders since we launched on Desura, which is great and has helped make up for the lost revenue from the six weeks prior. Of course our net income per sale has roughly halved since we moved from Paypal to Desura due to the price drop, the Desura fees and the sales tax they are obliged to collect (we were too small to have to do that before), but it's still helped us out financially. Interestingly, about 45% of our sales through Desura to date have been Premium orders so I'm really glad we added that option - and really grateful to all the people who chose to support us that way! Overall, things are going quite well. We're all pretty busy at this end, particularly on the coding side, but things are still progressing even if not quite as fast as I'd have hoped. V8.1 may slip back to next week as I'm away all weekend at a wedding in Northern Ireland, or alternatively it may be downgraded to a bugfix and we'll do the full ground combat save / load and Research tree thing next week. I'm yet to decide - it depends how tomorrow goes really. Happy to take questions if people have any specific enquiries.
  16. So, the Kickstarter has been going for just over a couple of weeks and is going rather well. Obviously managing the Kickstarter has taken up quite a lot of my time (especially at first), but we’ve still been working on development. So, what’s the plan and how are things progressing development wise? The plan is to release a build about a week after the Kickstarter closes, which will give us enough time to pass around all of the Desura codes etc that we need, and also to collect details from the people who have pledged to put their names in the game. In development terms, progress has been slow relative to normal but we’re still getting stuff done. First thing that’s happened is we’ve implemented female soldiers. These operate in the same way to male soldiers, except they drawn from an entirely separate pool of names, faces and armour graphics. We’ve finished the updated Basic Armour (all other armour is the same) and we’re working on the portraits now. They should be done for the next build. Preview is here: www.xenonauts.com/devimages/female_basic.png www.xenonauts.com/devimages/female_jackal.png Next up, the pre-generated soldiers. We’ve implemented the code for this, so it’ll just be a question of adding a line of code and a portrait / hands image for each pre-generated soldier in the game. We’ve also implemented the Force Soldier box, which is at the bottom of the options screen. You can put up to 12 codes in this box, and each one overwrites one of the starting soldiers in every new game you create. If your name is in the game, you’ll receive a number to go in this box. That way, you can ensure that you appear in every single game you play – and you can share it with other people when they do Let’s Plays etc. I’ll probably put mine (1) in my forum signature so everyone can march me to their doom in their games if they feel the need; hopefully other people will do something similar. If you respond to the Kickstarter stuff quickly once it closes, we’ll put you in the next build. On another note, we’ll probably allow people to pay $100 to put their names in the game after the Kickstarter ends - all the way up to release. The code is already in place so there’s not really any extra cost for us to do it, and it’s the sort of thing that people seem pretty keen on. In the ground combat we’ve spent quite a while working on the multi-tile rendering. This involves getting the game to render sprites properly when they fill more than one tile. This has been a massive pain that took nearly two weeks, but we’ve got it solved now (or we certainly hope so). We’re now working on adding the accuracy reduction of smoke, and we’ve fixed up the issue with the Xenonaut soldiers not being able to reaction fire. We’ve also added in the alien racial abilities, although we’re still testing them and the AI isn’t bright enough to use them yet. Passive abilities like Sebillian regeneration and Andron wall-breaching will hopefully make an appearance in the next build. As should Androns themselves, once I’ve worked out why they’re not spawning at the moment. We’ve fixed a truckload of bugs on the Geoscape, as well as the female soldier and pre-generated soldier stuff. We’ve also done the Geoscape part of systems like the soldier medals, the research-linked damage bonus against specific alien species and we’ve laid the groundwork on the base defence batteries too. The defence batteries are basically functional, but need some more work on how they display the information when a UFO attacks the base. They are more streamlined than in X-Com. Essentially now you just build a defence battery (initially a Missile Battery) and then when you research more advanced weapons, they are automatically and instantly upgraded to more powerful defence batteries. For instance, researching Heavy Lasers instantly upgrades all Batteries to Laser Batteries. Also, partial damage to an attacking UFO will kill some of the invaders before they land. Each alien on a damaged UFO has a % chance to be killed by defensive fire that is = UFO % damage taken / 4. So there’s an incentive to have turrets even if they don’t quite manage to shoot down the attacking UFOs. We’ve also done some tweaks to the invasion AI that allow us finer control over the pace at which it advances. That means we should be able to make the game a bit more fun – we can have more UFOs earlier on, and stop them appearing in such overwhelmingly large numbers later on. As far as the Geoscape goes, it’s really only finishing the defence battery code and then adding the Final Mission stuff until it is feature complete (plus any new features from the Kickstarter). Then we’ll set about implementing the new UI. Once that is in, that part of the game is ready for beta. There’s still more to do on the ground combat and we’re tidying up a few odds and ends for the next few days, but we’ll be starting on the height level stuff soon. That should let us put hills in the game, which means we can get cracking on the Desert and the icy Tundra tilesets. Finally, I’m also doing a bit more rendering. Hopefully we’ll have all the animations for the third-tier weapons for the first three armours in the dev build shortly, as well as a few new alien types. There’s a couple of persistent rigging issues that have prevented us from adding the jetpack-enabled armours so far, and once they’re fixed we can put those two in too. I thought I had someone working on it, but they seem to have vanished without a trace. Such is indie development, though. We’ll find a replacement. I’ve not been that active on the forums lately for obvious reasons. I’ll try to get back into the swing of things with the next build release. In the meantime, just talk amongst yourselves…
  17. It’s now mid-April and the days are ticking by at an alarming rate. We’ve been extremely busy at our end, working on a variety of things. For the past week or so I’ve actually been the bottleneck, as I’ve demanded everyone work harder and they have. I’ve ended up being buried under the results. Our plans for the future are (as many of you already know) to do a Kickstarter. There’s been some discussion about how we can get around the US citizen requirement that Kickstarter has, and after exhausting a lot of possibilities over the past month I think we’ve finally hit on one that works. My thanks go out to our forumite Kilrathi, who is a corporate attorney over in the US and has helped us set up a US company and is in the process of setting up a corporate bank account for us. This, while costing us a few hundred dollars, is a safe option for us – I can have full control over the bank account and Kilrathi is therefore not on the hook taxwise at all. It has, naturally, involved a LOT of form filling for the both of us, but I’m about to run off to get the final forms signed before FedExing them across the world. I imagine it’ll still take a couple of weeks for everything to come together, but Kilrathi has been a fantastic help and it goes to show that where there is a will, there is a way! The plan is to release a public build of the game to accompany the Kickstarter, so anyone who is interested in pledging money is able to see what we have done so far before they make their call. I think the game is sufficiently complete for people to get a feel of what we are aiming to achieve with the final version, and I think this will dramatically increase the funding we receive. We will be sending this build out about a week early to the press so they can write previews on it. Most journalists don’t want to cover Kickstarters anymore, so letting them combining the Kickstarter with a preview should ensure we still get good coverage. There’s been quite a lot of interest from various sites in getting their hands on a playable version of the game too, which is good. The net effect of this is that we’re going to have to have the “final” version done relatively soon so we can have a couple of days of bugtesting on the forums before we get it out to the journalists. We’ll then have a week of extra bugtesting before public release of the build. This public build will be V10. It is likely to include the following features over V9.31: Enhanced launcher which will allow you to play the normal game or load a “Quick Game” (which launches straight into a terror site) for those who just want to try a quick battle. It will looks prettier, and also include direct links to our manual, bug reporting forums, and our preorder / Kickstarter page. The standalone builds will have an installer. The town tileset will be set up properly, though the art still won’t be entirely complete as not all the tiles have been painted over yet. We’ll hopefully have added an alien support drone to the game, which will appear in the Terror Site. UFO signals should display their proper size, rather than Medium. We should have a few more Xenopedia images, and we’ll finish formatting and scaling the text in it too. That’s what we’ll be working on for the next few days. You can see much of what we’ve been working on in the past couple of weeks in Build V9.31, but the one major thing that we’ve been working on and have not released is the base defence missions. I’m pleased to say that, from a code perspective, these are pretty much complete. We’ve now worked out a system where the walls and doors display correctly on each side of each room depending on whether or not there is another structure there (accounting correctly for the 2x1 buildings too). These are currently loading up blank grey placeholder rooms, but we’ll be moving onto those tiles as soon as the Town is done. The major innovation in the base defence missions is that there is a central command centre that must be protected at all costs, and that you can arrange your troops within it (it is a 2x2 building) freely before the start of the battle. We’re just tweaking the unit arrangement system a bit so it’s immediately obvious which tiles you can deploy units to for free, and then we’re largely complete. There is also a system where most rooms have “key props” in them, which can be destroyed in battle. At the end of the battle the number of surviving key props is totalled up to give a health % for each structure, and any damaged building is set back to that % construction completed. This means that most buildings can be knocked out of commission for a few days as a result of a base attack. This system has been implemented in the ground combat but not linked to the Geoscape yet. Unfortunately our AI coder is moving house this week so our progress on that front hasn’t been as fast as we’d like, but I’m going to make that a priority again after we get the Kickstarter build out. Overall, things are going well – but the next couple of weeks will be very important for us and we’re going to need to make them work.
  18. Thought I'd post something up as I've been a bit more distant than normal in the past week or two. Basically, we've been working really hard on the new build. Overall, it's been a mixed bag in terms of results. The majority of my efforts are being sunk into adding the two new mission types - the Xenonaut Base Defence missions and the Terror Sites. These are both cool setpieces compared to normal UFO crashsite missions. If you've not played the original, fighting a base defence mission takes place in an exact replica of your Geoscape base and a Terror Site is an alien attack on an urban population centre. The base defence mission has taken up the lion's share of our efforts, for obvious reasons. This mission needs quite a lot of co-ordination between both our Geoscape and Ground Combat coders to pass the layout of the base and the consequences of a mission (if structures have been damaged etc) to one another. More time consuming, though, is the coding that detects whether a structure has adjacent structures within the base or not, and adds walls / doors accordingly. If we didn't add that, there would be lots of doors opening onto bare rock etc in the game. As of about an hour ago, this code is basically operational but requires some extra work to deal with the 2x1 tile buildings which can be rotated on the base building map and built in two possible orientations. There's also a few miscellaneous features for the mission type - the map starts revealed etc - that we need to add. I think in about three working days (mid next week) we'll have the coding side for the base defence done. What's been holding us up, though, has been the actual tiles. We've got about 80% of the basic tiles done for the starting game rooms, but these are guide tiles to be painted over afterwards. We can set them up in the game and play with them, but they don't look very nice. Painting over them is going to take a while, unfortunately, and I'm not sure I'm willing to show off the tiles in the current state. I might get the walls and floors painted up for the starting rooms and then use the guide tiles for the props until they can be painted over. Problem with that is that the artists are busy working on the terror site at the moment. The terror site missions are meant to be a bit more like proper warfare than the crash site missions. There's a Town tileset that is only used for terror sites, and there are no alien non-combatants on the map (nor do any start dead). So basically it's you against a large force of aggressive and well-armed enemies. The maps are designed for this - there's a lot of buildings, and we're going to have quite a lot of cover in the maps too. The terror site is coming along. I've been working on the map (just one map for now) for three or four days on and off and I think I've found a relatively convincing layout. We started painting the ground tiles today and we've nearly finished the roads and pavements, so again hopefully the ground tiles will all be done next week. We've got two buildings in the tileset at the moment and are working on 2-3 more, but again these are just base tiles. They're quite good ones admittedly but I doubt we'll have the whole tileset painted over before the end of the month. There's going to be a lot of tiles in it. Hopefully we'll be able to show the tileset off as soon as the ground tiles are done though. The other big thing that's been going on is Kickstarter. It is looking possible for us to get on Kickstarter, although it's going to involve incorporating a US subsidiary of Goldhawk and setting up a US bank account for that. Everything I've seen so far suggests that this will work and cost about $300, so is probably worth it. It'll be a lot of time for the person helping us set up the account though - I'm speaking to someone about it but I'll ask for volunteers if he decides he doesn't want to be involved for whatever reason. My new camera should also arrive next week, so I can think about starting working on the video then. In hindsight, trying to generate two full tilesets in as many weeks was always going to be a bit hopeful and predictably we've not succeeded at that. We've made overall good progress, but it's been split across both mission types and that means I can't show either off right now. Really I should have just concentrated on the Terror Site from the beginning, but it's a bit late for that now. So, yeah, we've made progress but unfortunately no Build V9.3 this weekend.
  19. OK, I figured I'd better post one of these up because it's coming to the end of February and there's been some radio silence over the past week or so. First thing to say, I hope we'll have a new build out in the next couple of weeks. This will have AI in it again, the new Ground Combat UI and some significant UI upgrades to the Air Combat, amongst other things. We've also added a new UFO to the game and are working on the ground tiles for that at the moment. They should be in there too, along with the new tiles for the crashed alien Scout which include crash damage to the craft and the ground around it. Rendering has also continued, but I don't think we're ready to add any new alien races quite yet. We've also been adding quite a few functions to the game in terms of customisation - the points at which certain missions become available to alien UFOs and the points at which more powerful UFOs (and what type of UFO) are all completely moddable now. We've also made the base building maintenance and construction times moddable, so essentially we should have all the tools to properly start balancing the game shortly. Major developments this month have been: 1) We've parted company with our previous AI coder due to a lack of results achieved since when we picked him up at the end of December. We've got someone else taking over at least temporarily so we have some basic AI in place for the upcoming build - aliens will look around, shoot and move at the very least. Then we'll do the advanced AI in a less rushed manner once the game is at least playable. My apologies for the delays on this; it's been a bit of a problem area for us. 2) We're still looking at the Kickstarter fundraising thing with a mind to do it sooner rather than later, but it's just a question of finding the time really. Just keeping on top of all the work coming in can be difficult by itself! 3) Finally, our website was hacked repeatedly last week. There was a vulnerability in one of our Wordpress plugins that allowed hackers to place redirection code on our front page. I think it's fixed now, but basically it took up quite a lot of my time getting that done. Could have done without that. I'm hoping that the next release will work as a press release once the bugs in it are sorted out. The UI updates we have planned are pretty cool and also include tooltips, so should make the game a bit easier to understand. The crash site tiles will make the maps a lot more impressive, and having the aliens actually respond to your presence will make the game a bit more enjoyable too - there will actually be a challenge! Also, I think we've actually done a lot more this month than I've listed up there, but it's just temporarily slipped my mind...
  20. The text of the latest update on the Xenonauts website. Nothing too interesting, just need to keep the news blog there updated at least once a month! ---------------------------------------------------------- This site launched just over a month ago, and we've had a very busy month! Our launch on Desura was successful and so we are taking pre-orders for the game again, and progress has been good. You can read more about the wider business elements of our work on the Goldhawk news blog, as this entry will focus predominantly on Xenonauts itself. Firstly, the annual IndieDB Indie of the Year competition has opened - so if you're a fan of Xenonauts, please vote for us on the Indie DB site. This only takes a few seconds and helps raise the profile of the game, so your support in this would be appreciated. Onto the game itself - last weekend we released Build V8.2 to the pre-order community. This represents another milestone for us, as it contains a functional Research tree including the first tier of researchable weapons (lasers) and body armour, as well as the first iteration of an in-game UFO model. Up until this point players had been attacking what has been jokingly referred to as an Evil Alien Shed, which was basically a recoloured factory that acted as a spawn point for the aliens. Needless to say, the addition of the UFO makes the missions much more atmospheric, even if it's not yet complete. The tiles currently in the game are the 3D rendered tiles, and they are now being painted over by our 2D artist to create a finished appearence for the UFO. We're also working on the interior prop tiles, which are also looking very cool. Expect the finished Scout UFO to be in the game in V8.3 or V8.4 - basically within a couple of weeks. Then we'll start rolling out the remaining UFOs. Another major feature of build V8.x is the Main Menu screen, which is indicative of the immersive direction we want to take our GUI screens. Essentially the screen is a painted background that we will animate, and the text and options are contained on a clipboard at the bottom of the screen. Click on the clipboard heading and the camera 'looks' down at the clipboard, which contains all of the required information. It looks great, and I think it works really well. It's certainly worth trying out yourself if you've pre-ordered the game! We've also added Saving / Loading functionality to the game, although currently this only works on the strategic map rather than in the ground combat. If you don't know much about software development, you may well not know how major an issue Save / Load can be codewise, but it's a pretty major undertaking. As a result it's taking some time to complete and is not fully stable yet, but we're ironing out the bugs reasonably quickly. V8.3 is due out this weekend and that should have most of the bugs in the save functionality fixed up. There are also LOTS of small changes and fixes that can be found in the update notes for builds V8.0, V8.1 and V8.2 on our community forums. This will give anyone who is interested full details of what's changed since V7.5 (our Expo build). In closing, I'll just mention that V8.x will become our press preview build when it is finished - we're expecting this is around two weeks. We're not adding that many major new features over the next two weeks, but instead we're working on fixing bugs and polishing the existing experience. There will be further posts when V8.x is finished, so expect to see more then - but it should be the most complete and most polished version of Xenonauts we've yet developed. If you want to experience the game so far, that'll be the time to do it!
  21. Chris

    The Year Ahead

    Merry Christmas, everybody, and a happy New Year! 2011 has come to a close, and 2012 is just beginning. We’re currently winding down for the festive break, but we’ll be back in less than a week! It’s been a long year, and I thought the best way to open this article would be to show everyone just how far we’ve come! You can download a build of the game from the 6th of January this year here – it’s only about 25 mb. This is the earliest build of the game that’s ever been released, as even Build V1 (the very first pre-order build released) came out a month later on February 6th. Have a play for a few minutes, and hopefully it’ll illustrate the progress we’ve made. Yes, that’s right – there’s no air combat or ground combat in the game. Hell, the Aircraft Equip screen hadn’t even been coded then! So even if progress can seem glacial at times, Xenonauts has actually been rattling along at a rapid rate of knots and we will continue to do so. It is worth remembering the rest of the team here at Goldhawk at this point – while I’m the most visible part of the company, there are numerous team members who have been working just as tirelessly on this game, often for minimal pay. The game wouldn’t have come this far if it wasn’t for them, so I want to thank them for their efforts. Thanks, guys. We are hoping to release the game in 2012. The release date of the game has been continually slipping since the project was announced, but given the progress made in 2011 then I think a 2012 release is perfectly realistic. There’s a few things we are working on right now that should kick in in January that will substantially improve the game, which are: 1) Animation / Rendering: Thanks to Dan, our resident animator, we have animated up all of the Xenonaut soldiers with all of the in-game weapons, and about half the alien races too. We’ll probably have all the animations done in the next two months. However, the problem with all this is the sheer number of frames of animation that need to be rendered (over a million). We were looking at render farms who could do this for us, but they’re quite pricey – I actually think the easiest and most cost effective solution would be to buy 2-3 refurbished ex-corporate servers and rig them together to form a render farm that will blow through the renders in a couple of months. We can do this for less than $500 and I plan to start as soon as the New Year comes. Animation shouldn’t be an issue for us in 2012, unlike in 2011. 2) Alien AI: The last untamed frontier in programming terms is the alien AI – everything else is on someone’s “to-code” list. Xenonauts calls for an AI model where the aliens make intelligent use of the battlefield, fulfil mission objectives and use different tactics depending on what alien race is taking part in the battle. We started looking for an AI coder about a week ago and we have some promising leads which we’re following up. Coupled with the render farm mentioned above, we’re hoping to see a dramatic increase in the number of alien races in the current build of the game in the next couple of months. It should also allow us to put the long-awaited friendly NPC soldiers in the game too (also already animated). 3) Terrain Tiles: The biggest barrier to finishing Xenonauts remains the terrain tiles, which are the unfortunate combination of being technically demanding, visually challenging and hideously expensive. Nevertheless, we are pushing forwards. One of the major issues we’ve experienced so far is that the ground tiles in the game don’t look very nice – they’re single repeating tiles, so they can’t have much detail on them. We’ve just hired an artist to try doing the tiles in larger numbers, like 10×10 blocks, which should vastly increase the quality of the in-game terrain and let us finish it faster. We’ll keep you posted on how it goes, but we’re working actively to get more tilesets into the game. We’ve been staring at the Industrial one too long! These are the three main roadblocks to progress on the game, we’re doing our best to bulldoze through them. Over the past month or so, we’ve been spending a lot of time on bugfixes and the like, culminating in the release of Build V8.5, which has proved pretty stable. It’s still got bugs in it, of course, but we’ll be fixing the critical ones and it’s more playable than anything before it. However, our focus is now moving onto adding new features again. We’re currently working on the (eternally-terrifying) night combat, and we’ll be looking at adding some newer weapons into the game for the next build. The gas grenades (smokes, nerve gas) and C4 explosive charges are pencilled in on the list, and we’ll also be looking at the combat shield and possibly a jet-pack equipped suit of armour. So, yes – you should have some new toys to play with in V9. So as we head into 2012, I’m pretty confident that things are on track for us to both hit beta and release the game this year. Let’s hope I’m right, eh?
  22. It’s been about six weeks since our launch on Desura and I last posted here. In general, things have been positive at this end. We’ve sold about 750 units since we went live on Desura, so we’re sitting at 2,650 pre-orders or so at the moment. However, the amount we receive per copy sold has fallen drastically since we moved to Desura for several reasons – firstly, we’ve dropped the price $10 with a corresponding fall in revenue. We also only receive 70% or 85% of the revenue of our sales (depending on whether we drive the sales from our site or whether Desura makes the sale themselves) and we’re now obliged to pay VAT. All this has created a situation where we make roughly half as much per copy as we used to, but I think we’ve made the right choice. Though initially more lucrative, Paypal was never going to be the final solution for us. The big news with Xenonauts is the release of build V8, which is currently on iteration V8.2 (the third iteration). The idea here is that Build V8 will become our long-awaited press preview build when complete, so we’ve been working hard to polish the game up in a similar manner to how we did with Build V7 for the Eurogamer Expo. These little bursts of work are useful because they force us to stop the background system development work and concentrate on improving the actual playability and polish of the game, which is important for the people who have actually paid to pre-order the game and want to play it (which in turn helps us because it encourages community feedback). We’re currently working on fixing the bugs and improving the stability of the build, which has suffered a little since we implemented Save / Load. V8.3 is due out this weekend and will include fixes for most of the bugs and usability problems reported so far. The major improvements are the addition of the early stages of the research tree, including laser weapons, and the first appearance of a UFO on the battlefield. There are also a LOT of other improvements over V7.5 (the Expo build), but if you want full details it’s best to check the release threads on the forum which are available here for V8.0, V8.1 and V8.2. Build V8.3 is due out this weekend and contains fixes for a lot of the bugs reported, as well as a few smaller updates. As the name implies, the press preview build will be sent to everyone on our press list as a sort of ‘first preview’ of the game, a proof of concept build to show everybody that we’re a serious project that has all the foundations in place to make something really good. We’ve been doing it with a select few sympathetic magazines already – PC Gamer, Rock Paper Shotgun etc – but this will be the first time we’ll let journalists have a free play of the game. It’s a bit scary, but as long as we’re clear that this is just a proof of concept I think a lot of people will be impressed! Hopefully it’ll translate into a lot more traffic and interest in the game. We should also mention here the IndieDB have started their annual Indie of The Year competition, and you can vote for Xenonauts here. While there’s no concrete reward for winning the competition given we’re already on Desura, it’s always good to put in a strong showing as it helps raise the profile of the project and doing well in a category increases the likelihood that people who aren’t normally that interested in this particular genre might take a second look at us. It doesn’t take long to vote (just a couple of clicks), so if you guys could help us out with your votes then that would be appreciated. In terms of the background progress on the game and how the team is faring, there’s a long forum post from a few weeks back that is available here which should fill you in on most of the happenings behind the scenes. In short, things are going rather well. We’ve got a complete list of all work that needs to be done coding wise until the game is feature complete, and I’m working that into milestone builds at the moment to give us a bit more structure. The terrain tiles still remain our biggest timesink but we’re starting to get somewhere with them now. Finally, the other thing I want to highlight is the Xenonauts Wiki. We implemented this when we launched, but the takeup in it has been pretty poor. This is mostly my fault because I’ve written all of about two articles in it, but I’m going to update it a lot more regularly over the next couple of weeks to make sure that it has most of the core mechanics on it so people can understand how things in the game should be behaving. Because the wiki had been colonised by spambots, I had to spend a few hours exterminating them and now only accounts over 24 hours old can edit or create pages in the wiki. This is a pain, but it’s stopped the spam dead so I’m afraid you’ll just have to live with it. Still, I hope this will turn into a really useful resource for the game so if people think they have time to contribute to the wiki in any way, please do so. That’s it for now. I imagine you’ll hear more once we get Build V8.x finished and start sending it out to all of the journalists on our press list!