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kabill

[v1.5/X:CE] Dynamic UFO Spawns (v1.0)

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I copied in the entries kabill suggested (from STARTING REGION FUNDING SCORES to CONSTRUCTION MISSION PARAMETERS) and nothing went tits up. I even have the 3 concentric radar circles when building new bases. Only in September so far and haven't seen anything but light scouts and alien fighters. Don't think I've seen any mod-related UFO spawns yet, though maybe the fighters are the first thing 'cause I don't remember seeing them this early in my previous game.

I put my first base down in Southern Sudan. Alien fighter spawned over halfway through the first month over Greenland and went on an airliner killing spree. Managed to shoot him down with two foxtrots on 1% fuel.

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Hey kabill,

I'm at the end of October while using your mod and the ship progression is more or less the same as vanilla. I've had all Light Scouts in September (except that fighter I wrote about before), and all Scouts in October.

I read through all the AI variables in gameconfig.xml and don't really see where the AI decides what ship to send. The only variable that's not self-explanatory is "parabolicPower", is that what's responsible for bigger ships appearing? Is it some kind of ticker multiplier?

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Kabill's changes are in the AM_*.xml files, mostly. Those are more important than the gameconfig.xml.

Either you got unlucky, or have the mod installed incorrectly. In my experience, the progression is the same as vanilla for about the first week, after that things start getting mixed up.

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It's actually perfectly plausible to get a game where any give period gives you more or less the same UFOs as you'd normally get. That's especially true early game where there's not much freedom of movement for UFO or mission types. Indeed, throughout September and October the only major difference is that you can get Corvettes sooner than normal, and Light Scouts might turn up after whatever point they're normally removed from play (around the beginning of October I think).

In other words, it's not until you get to mid-game that the mod will start making a significant impact on the game.

(But as Solver said, you might want to check the AM_* files to make sure they've copied: you'll be able to tell because there'll be a big long list of UFO types in the files.)

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Must be just my luck I guess.

I looked at the AM_ files and I saw many m:airplane.alien.UFONAME entries. These are the modded entries I suppose. I'm going to keep playing to see if anything else out of the ordinary shows up though I really did want to see a Corvette in the first two months.

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Yeah, sounds like the install is fine. It'll just be the luck of the draw, then.

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I've finally got Corvettes, and not just one but THREE, all in one wave at the end of October. I shot down two over Europe and Africa, while the third is causing havoc over Central and South America.

I ran into a problem though, maybe a bug with your mod or maybe a bug with the game. After shooting down the two Corvettes and one Light Scout, the game won't let me send a dropship to do a ground mission at any of the three crash sites.

The only mod I'm running is yours along with CE v.24.

I've attached a save if you want to have a look: [ATTACH]4834[/ATTACH].

Pre Operation.sav

Pre Operation.sav

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Have you definitely got troops assigned to the drop-ship. I've seen this issue come up before and that was the explanation so I thought it might be worth asking.

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LOL, I'm an idiot.

Affirmative on no troops in the drop-ship.

Thanks for the help. Now I'm really looking forward to sorting out the aliens on those Corvettes.

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How effective is the dynamic crew load-out in terms of increasing the GC difficulty?

The mod is focused primarily on making GC more varied rather than more difficult. That said, it does create potential for some missions that are harder than normal for a given point in the game. That'll probably mostly come into play around mid-game though since early game there's still quite a limit on what can show up.

In other words, if you're looking for a +difficulty mod, this probably is not the mod you're looking for. If you're looking for a +variety mod, though, it might be better suited.

@Kiel: Hopefully at the weekend.

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Hold off updating the mod until X:CE 0.25. Though that should be tomorrow evening hopefully.

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Was already planning on waiting after I saw a new version was imminent. (*Waits excitedly*)

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So, in preparation for X:CE v0.25 update (with it's shiny new way of making the mod work without stupid workarounds), balance discussion!

Some questions/points:

1) To anyone has played with the mod: What's the balance like compared with vanilla? Does the UFOs scale OK? Is funding OK? Are the crew loadouts OK? What about Terror/Base Attack/Alien Base spawns? Etc. Any comments you have about this would be welcome.

2) What do people feel about pushing Corvettes a bit sooner up the alien progress tree? Corvettes are tough to shoot down in air combat near the start of the game, but it's doable and they can be easily caught by Condors. Ground missions would also be tough, but it's your choice whether to do them or not.

My main reason for wanting to do this is to make the early game a bit varied. The mod presently has minimal impact up until Novemberish and I don't think I like that. Note that this would add them into existing mission types rather than moving the Ground Attack mission forwards so it won't disrupt funding balance except for there being occasionally tougher UFOs relative to current game position.

3) Terror Missions, Base Attack Missions, and Alien Base Construction: General consensus seems to be that these types of missions don't happen often enough in vanilla. Accordingly. I'd like to increase their frequency in this mod. I *could* do this as an optional extra, but I'd rather avoid additional files if possible. So, does anyone think it would be an especially bad idea to increase the frequency of special mission types?

4) Relatedly, how to deal with special missions? There's two ways to do this. Firstly, have a 'cooldown' period but a high chance of spawning. That way, you more or less guarantee the missions will come up every now and again (however frequently you make the cool-down) but they're predictable. This, to be clear, is how the vanilla game deals with it. Secondly, have no cooldown but a smaller chance of actually spawning this missions. That way, there's less certainty that such missions will occur and when, which is a good thing (more dynamic) but also a bad thing (less control over balance).

Personally, I'd rather go with the latter option as it fits the theme of the mod. This has already been the case with Terror Missions (although now I know how the mission chance variable is I can balance that better!), but this would apply to base construction and base attack too. I'd could be tempted to give them small cooldowns in any case (~5 days) to offset a too quick succession of such missions (basically, it would give a 50/50 chance of being able to spawn these missions the wave after the last time they spawned). But yeah, generally I'd like to leave them open to RNG rather than having them set rigidly. So does anyone think that's a terrible plan?

5) Again, relatedly, alien base: A function is going to be added (I assume with v0.25) to allow dynamic base growth. Basically, this means that the size of the base is contingent on how long the base has been in play rather than simply based on the current alien ticker. Now, this is cool, because it makes alien bases more diverse. However, it also creates some balance problems, the most pressing of which is: how do you ever actually get a base to grow beyond small before the player stomps on it?

Ways this could possibly be solved:

- Make bases harder. That means you'll need to delay attacking them or risk heavy casualties/defeat. However, this only helps up the point that the player is in fact strong enough to take small bases, at which point they can keep them in check easily.

- Make bases more numerous. That means there's more base and therefore more chances for a base to grow. However, a skilled player could probably still sit on them, since if they're not taking many wounds/causalities there's nothing to stop them from spamming base assault missions.

- Make bases harder to detect. Vanilla automatically detects bases after 5 days. I actually hate this, and I'm changing it regardless unless someone can given me a very good reason not to.

- Move base construction forward in the alien invasion. The idea here is that bases will get built before the player can effectively deal with them, meaning they either have to risk very difficult missions or ignore them. Small bases will still get built later on for the player to assault, but the earliest ones will grow and, ideally, stay ahead of the player tech curve until the time that large bases would usually appear in vanilla.

My preferred solution is a combination of the latter three. As I say, reducing base detection rate is pretty much a given for me, allowing bases some time to grow before they're detected (unless the player is vigilant!). Increasing the number of alien bases is something I like the idea of anyway to increase mission variety. And the latter solution for me is in fact the actual best way of dealing with the initial problem. So here's the proposal:

- Alien base construction missions can start from the beginning of October rather than the beginning of November.

- Alien bases take 1 month to grow from small to medium and 1 month to grow from medium to large.

- Alien bases only have a 5% chance of being detected every 5 days.

- Increase in base construction chance (need to look at existing numbers for this).

- The alien ticker will over time increase the base starting level of bases as in vanilla. I'd probably set this such that at the point large bases would appear in vanilla, newly constructed bases start at medium. Note that this will mean as the game goes on that it take less time for small bases to upgrade to medium bases, too.

Because there will be more bases and they will spawn sooner, I am inclined to reduce the funding damage done by bases downwards slightly (I think this can be modded in X:CE now, IIRC). I don't want to do it too much, because although more and earlier bases are a liability they will also be an opportunity (you can potentially get alien base tech sooner and bases are worth look anyway). Also, since neither base construction missions nor supply missions cause funding damage, funding damage will be reduced slightly by reducing the likelihood of other funding damage missions. Indeed, actually, having written all that it might be better to leave alien base funding damage at vanilla levels to start with and change it later if it seems like a problem.

So, does anyone have any comments about this, think it's a bad idea or alternative suggestions?

--

I think that's everything for now. If anyone has any other thoughts, feel free to suggest them. I want to prioritise this in my updating schedule tomorrow (if nothing else as a little thank-you to Solver) so the sooner you comment, the more likely I am to take things on board!

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Is it surprising if I comment? :D

On general balance, I do think it was quite good. It only broke down in the very late game with those large 10+ UFO waves I had complained about. Other than that, it felt good to me. Some challenging missions, sometimes a UFO that's hard to shoot down, all with more variety as it should be.

Special missions were still a bit less common than they should be, something you should now be able to addresss since you know how the mission choice works. Also, even in vanilla Chris recently pushed the chance variable of base attack from 4 to 100. I would mostly leave the special missions as they are, just move Terror a bit earlier (shouldn't be in the first wave, but I think with bad luck even a late September terror mission should be possible) and leave them (and base attacks) on a minimal cooldown. Don't make the cooldown zero perhaps, but a few days, and keep things mixed up. To me that is the whole point of this mod, more randomness in what happens with UFOs. Basically, I am in agreement with what you yourself propose.

I think you underestimate the effect of the mod on the early game. It's there. Such as the chance of getting a Scout and Alenium immediately. Maybe boost early Corvette probability, but not by much.

Oh, for Terror missions, I'd like to see them having a higher maximum reward. Put some decent numbers on the civilians-saved bonuses! So that a perfect terror mission can be a significant funding boost.

Next, don't mod down the funding damage done by bases. It's actually not that significant, and you can still increase your funding from a region where the alien base is. This balance is in part overlapping perhaps with what should be another mod (that I will finally start making soon), but I do not think you should be doing much with alien bases. Remove the auto-detect, yeah, (I will eventually do something better with X:CE), but do not make them more numerous. The problem here is something we know, that assaulting a base after the first one gives no reward. Forcing the player into these no-reward missions is bad. So I really recommend you do not. What players need isn't more bases to assault, at least not now, but they need more incentives to assault the bases, and that's perhaps for another mod.

For the base growth, yeah, you can just move it up like what you described. I still need to code it though ;)

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Some information on updates: Owing to some issues with X:CE v0.25 I'm going to hold off updating this mod until those issues are resolved. I could build an update, but I'd only have to redo it again when the next X:CE build comes out and as I've got a lot of other things to get done as well I'm going to focus on getting them sorted instead. Apologies for anyone waiting for the update; I promise that as soon as the necessary changes are in place that I'll prioritise getting a new version out.

--

@Solver: Regarding "making players do bases" - I'm not sure I agree that there's no reward. The reward (aside from the resources, which admittedly are a bit on the low side) is not having the base continually drain funding any more (and less UFOs, too, although that's arguably a negative point).

In that sense, I'm not sure doing alien bases is any more different to having to do a terror mission or base defense: there's only a modest reward for completing a terror mission (in vanilla, anyway) while the 'reward' for winning a base defense is simply not losing the base. And indeed, in some ways base assaults are a bit less of a hassle since you can go for the power cores rather than trying to wipe the whole base.

This said, I was never suggesting making them especially more numerous. I guess for me 4-5 bases across a playthrough would be ideal for me.

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I think you are mixing up actual rewards and getting rid of penalties here. Capturing an alien base does get rid of a penalty, but it does not provide a reward. In the sense that the risk-reward ratio is totally screwed. Base assaults are fairly difficult, and you're getting a small amount of resources in exchange for that. Getting rid of the funding drain is not a bonus, it's a removal of a penalty, and a questionable one at that. Bases do not drain relations by that much, and in fact the extra UFOs they provide may offset that drain and turn the base into a net profit if you're doing well in the air!

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I'm not mixing them up so much as arguing that they're not that different. Removing a penalty *is* a reward in itself, in the say way that "not losing a base" is a reward (base defense) or "not losing loads of funding" is a reward (terror mission).

Indeed, risk/consequence wise there's not a lot of difference between a base assault and a terror mission. They're comparable in terms of difficulty, and their primary purpose is to remove a penalty. The only real difference between them is that with a terror mission, you have to act immediately while as with a base assault you cab choose if/when you decide to do it. For sure, the penalties/rewards associated with one another aren't entirely equivalent in terms of their value. But that's a matter of quantity rather than quality.

Nevertheless, I'm persuaded by the fact that making bases too prevalent will be a sufficient departure from vanilla game balance that it should be avoided and I think it would be better to see if the earlier base construction works first as a solution to the base situation by itself. What I'll no doubt end up doing is adding in more stuff to do with bases as an optional extra (possibly to do with the Dynamic Invasion stuff I've wanted to do too).

(Just a thought on "better rewards" from bases: I think one of my major concerns is that if they give large rewards, then you're basically turning them into loot sacks. Ironically, it becomes more advantageous to let the aliens build bases so you can grab their loot than it does to stop them. There was a similar thing in the OG, where because supply ships were so lucrative it was advantageous to leave bases so that you can farm them for cash. The same too with abduction missions in XCOM 2012: because they gave you rewards - especially scientists and engineers that you couldn't get from almost anywhere else - it was advantageous to leave a gap in your satellite coverage so you can farm abduction missions. And I think if the theme of the game is to hold back and defeat an overwhelming alien foe, then by encouraging farming - which makes a mockery of an 'overwhelming foe' - you are, for me anyway, taking away from the mood of the game.

To be clear, I don't actually have a problem with making bases more impactful and giving them more reward. But for me if the player's motivation for doing a base is more "shiny loot!" than "gotta hang on" then the base missions are sending - for me - the wrong message.)

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I've been playing with your mod for over two weeks and I dare say it is almost "essential". The very linear UFO progression in the vanilla game made me quit a little way into my first playthrough because all I was seeing were the same UFO recovery missions over and over again (this was also exacerbated by having no mod packs installed).

Since installing your mod and Skitso's map pack I've put in around forty hours into the game and the added variety still has me itching to run out of work early to go home and play the game.

My thoughts:

I'd suggest making corvettes start showing up right off the bat. As I've mentioned before, my first two months felt the same as vanilla with only light scouts in September and scouts in October, though I did get my first corvette at the end of October. I think downing corvettes at the very beginning should still pose no problem and the added ground combat variety with the increased risk/reward would be really good.

I'd push the frequency of special missions even more than current. I had my first terror mission in November and loved it. I wish I had a few more. Haven't had an alien base or an attack on my base yet but that could be because I was fairly good at shooting down alien craft. One thing I wouldn't do is increase the likelihood of aerial terror missions in the first few months because without coverage over the globe there's nothing the player can do. Even with three bases it's still possible for them to spawn and not be reachable. One aerial terror mission spawned over Anchorage for me and even with a base in Central America it was out of range for my Foxtrots.

If possible, I'd suggest changing crew loadouts to include more "sidekick" aliens. I'm in January at the moment and haven't seen any reapers yet. I've only seen the scout drones twice. I think the bigger UFOs should maybe all have some medium or heavy drones. In the Firaxis XCOM I liked how the battleships had two sectopods and there was always an ever present sense of dread mixed with anticipation regarding where you'd run into them.

Eliminating the automatic alien base detection is a no-brainer and I like the idea of alien bases growing. I'm not sure how you can balance that with funding reductions for presence of alien bases. If they need two months to grow to the biggest size, then a player who lets one grow that much would be punished via funding and possibly end up with a base they can't assault. To guarantee alien base creation you could have them be constructed by ships way ahead of the difficulty curve (ie landing ships at the beginning, with cruisers, carriers and battleships during mid game).

Finally I want to bring up the idea mentioned in another thread though I don't know if it's within the scope of this mod. Having UFO's escorted by something other than fighters/interceptors would fit well with this mod and bring even more variety to air combat. Depending on how escort UFOs are handled in the code, this could also increase the success rate of alien special missions (ie three landing ships on an alien base mission, each one capable of making an alien base).

Edited by BuzuBuzu

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Thanks for the feedback and glad you like it :)

1) Having suggested it above, I'm undecided on Corvettes. My main issue is the tech they drop, which would allow access to tier 2 aircraft very quickly. This said, I guess you'd have to down the Corvette (which isn't necessarily easy without Foxtrots) and then complete the ground mission (which should be fairly hard as well). Also, aircraft are expensive in terms of resources so might not be easily built in any case (or, create a difficult choice between better aircraft and better other things). So, maybe it would be ok.

Maybe look at having a chance of spawning from mid-September, then.

2a) I think there's some issues in the currently build with base attack missions (i.e. it's still the old stupidly low chance, so not a lot of chance of them happening). I'm surprised that you didn't have any alien bases as I thought I made them more likely, but I didn't know the spawn chance calculations at the time so maybe not.

2b) Yeah, I wasn't thinking of moving aerial terror missions forward (I'd completely forgotten about them, actually). Part of me, actually, would be inclined to move them *back* instead: at the moment you can get bombing missions from November when it's very hard to have sufficient coverage, while if they started in December instead I think it's reasonable to assume the player could have enough coverage that they can intercept the terror missions if they happen. I'd probably make them more severe/likely as a result, but it would reduce the RNG effect on aerial terror and would help avoid punishing strategies which do nothing but expand air coverage for the first half of the game.

3) I actually did do this in some ways, but I think I loaded a lot of the 'special' enemy types onto the less common missions which is probably the issue.

I'm actually thinking about reconceptualising the missions for the next version. For example, I was also envisaging the Ground Attack missions as having strong crews but, actually, since the Ground Attack missions mostly involve shooting rather than ground-based raids this doesn't make a lot of sense. In contrast, Research missions do involve more landing-based activities and for that reason it makes sense for them to have stronger/more diverse crews than I've been giving them.

4) The funding damage done by bases is actually already reduced slightly compared with vanilla as a result of the increased starting relations the mod gives you (so each point of relations damage is worth less compared with vanilla). But you have described one of the key problems with the growth-over-time system: that it's hard to create a situation where blitzing the base as soon as possible isn't always the best option.

I wonder, actually, (and I have Solver's points in mind here as well) whether the trick with alien bases might not be to make them do no funding damage at all, but increase the effect they have on the number of UFOs spawning (from 1 to 2 or per base). That way, there's no direct punishment for not assaulting alien bases immediately since there's other ways to counter their effects (i.e. by having enough air power). But as the game goes on, especially without assaulting bases, the extra UFOs will become overwhelming. This also implicitly also makes the number of UFOs which spawn per wave more variable across the game as well.

In any case, I do like the idea of giving base construction missions higher-tier UFOs to make them more difficult to stop. It also offers an implicit signal to the player that a base might be being constructed (and an indication of where it might be).

5) I've been avoiding having multiple 'proper' UFOs in the same group as I'm concerned the game will break if it has to produce multiple crash-sites from the same air combat. However, to add in another set of ground crew lists I repurposed the bomber and strike cruiser as fast-attack ships that spawn with air superiority missions instead. Since these don't spawn crash-sites, they could occasionally escort other UFOs too.

--

I think I might one evening this week put together a plan for how I want to build the next version of the mod so people can comment on it before putting it into practice. Might save some revision later.

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I'm using 1.06 version and for some reason I mostly see Androns on crash sites. I'd say it's 60% Androns, 25% Sibillians and 15% Caseans.

Having a battleship escorted by two carriers would be... fun. That's what I call a 'construction fleet'. Or battleship + two strike cruisers as a 'bombing fleet'. Three landing ships a 'supply fleet'. Stuff like that.

Edited by Kiel

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The mod doesn't affect what race is selected for the crews, only the contents of the different racial crews. If you're getting a lot of Androns then it's just RNG.

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So, I've been doing some research looking at the existing mission properties. Something interesting has come out of this.

Here's a breakdown of the chance of spawning at least one mission of a given type, assuming 6 UFOs currently spawning per wave (which is 2 aggressive and 4 passive; I've also ignored once/wave flags for convenience):

Aggressive:

Air Superiority:

- Chance: 150/450 = ~55%

- Once/Wave

---

Base Attack:

- Chance: 100/450 = ~40%

- Once/wave

---

Scout:

- Chance: 200/450 = ~68%

- Once/wave

---

Passive:

Bombing Run:

- Chance: 20/320 = ~25%

- Once/wave

---

Construction:

- Chance: 60/320 = ~55%

- Once/wave

---

Ground Attack:

- Ticker: 150

- Chance: 80/320 = ~68%

---

Research:

- Chance: 80/320 = ~68%

- Landing Chance: 10

---

Supply:

- Chance: 60/320 = ~55%

---

Terror:

- Chance: 20/320 = ~25%

- Once/wave

--

Personally, I think those probabilities seem pretty fair. I'd be inclined, maybe, to reduce ground attack (to say 60) and increase something else slightly to compromise (not sure what) but overall I think they look fair.

What's interesting, for me, is the low probability of spawning a terror mission and bombing mission. 25% chance per wave seems like a fair amount *even ignoring the cooldown*. Bearing in mind that there's on average 6 waves per month, that's 1.5 of those mission types per month, on average.

But here's something even more interesting: those numbers seem good to me *even if you ignore the once/wave limit on them as well*. I might have screwed up the calculation, but I think there's roughly a 2% chance of getting two simultaneous terror/bombing missions using these numbers (i.e. during the same wave). Which is to say, it would happen roughly once every playthrough on average.

With this in mind, I really like the idea of removing the cooldown on terror missions and removing the once/wave limit on both of them. 1/4 chance per wave seems reasonable to me, while the very small chance of simultaneous occurrences seems like it could be interesting. This is especially true of terror missions, since the threat of two simultaneous terror missions would be a reason to have a second strike team handy yet should be manageable with only one if you really have to (Terror missions last for 24 hours, so usually you'd have time to get from one to another).

Similarly, I'm thinking about taking the limits off all of the aggressive mission types too, but reducing the relative chance of base attack (to ~20%). On average, that would give you roughly the same chance of a base attack per month as in vanilla (with it's 20-day cooldown) but make it much more random.

I'm intending to keep the limits on base construction, however, as I think this is something that needs to be controlled more than the other missions. I might change the cool-down a little bit, but otherwise the probability indicated above seems fair.

Thoughts?

Edited by kabill

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