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(Mod Concept/Outline) - Xenonauts: Our Last Hope

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So, there's been some discussion about how to balance out the ground missions to make the late game more interesting. I think there's some scope for this in a mostly vanilla game, but I've been interested in doing a big mod for a while now and since the ideas I have relate to that discussion, I thought I'd write them down here.

None of this exists yet; I want to use this thread as a sounding board and to see if there's any folks actually interested in it. Quite happy to take suggestions etc. as usual.

The Concept

In the final days of August, 1979, Earth is overrun. Crushed by overwhelming force, the leaders of humanity surrender to the might of unknown extraterrestrial aggressors. Immediately, the aliens begin harvesting both people and resources while constructing fortifications and strongholds from which to rule their new domain. The Xenonauts project, which had been established two decades before, receives orders to disband. But, refusing the order, they instead mobilize for war as humanity's last hope.

The idea behind this mod, then, is to shift the tone of the game from "defense" to "survival". The war with the aliens is already lost and it is the player's task to attempt to pull victory from the jaws of defeat. Everything is scarce and there is a constant downward pressure, such that you are forced to keep upping the ante in order to stay afloat.

More importantly, though, the mod aims to be as sand-boxy as possible. In other words, the aim is to remove all of the railroads and rigid structure of the vanilla game and simply present the player with a giant mess of a problem which they're then left to figure out the solution to. Balancing that is going to be very hard, and I expect the finished mod will not be 'balanced' in a way that ensures that playthroughs have an even difficulty. In many ways, I envisage this as a "roguelike" mod that you play only with the hope, rather than the expectation, of winning.

Proposed Features:

- Economy Overhaul: With Earth already defeated, the player receives practically no external support in terms of resources. Regions provide some resources, which represent covert support given by local resistance groups, but for the most part the player is reliant upon ground missions and manufacturing for the resources they use in the game.

Accordingly, the 'relations' tracker is more or less entirely divorced from the economy and rebranded as 'resistance'. This - I think - should create an interesting set of choices between stopping alien activity from depleting resistance (bringing you closer to losing the game) vs. doing things that will accrue more resources and put you in a better position in the future.

A third point, which I'm still mulling over, is that there will be no infinite items (especially ammunition), creating a downward pressure on resources. The idea is that, in order to tread water in the mid-late game, you need to be taking on more difficult missions. I want to make aircraft fully destructible too, though there's going to need to be some thought about balancing this.

- Dynamic Invasion: Building on my Dynamic UFO Spawns mod, I want to make the invasion as dynamic and open as possible. All alien missions and UFO types will be capable of spawning right from the beginning of the game, allowing the player to take chances in accordance with their skill and goals rather than playing at the game's pace. (Terror Missions and Base Attacks will be a bit more controlled to avoid blitzing the player straight away, though!).

In addition, the effects of UFO missions will be broadened. Some UFOs will affect the alien ticker, others will affect the resistance of regions, others will carry Fat Loot, and some a bit of both, meaning that there's some strategic choice concerning the UFOs you attempt to intercept depending on what is most important to you.

- Revamped tech tree: The tech tree will be redesigned to make it less linear. In addition, I want to add resource costs to research and development so that there are choices to be made between building better equipment and doing R&D work. I also want to make alien captures much more important to tech progression, to add an extra challenge.

In addition to those, I anticipate other balance changes, especially to air combat, ground missions, weapons, vehicles and the like. But those details are more up-in-the-air at the moment and tangential to the core concept.

If anyone's interested in this, or has any comments or suggestions then feel free to post them here. It's still mostly in my head, and I don't know when exactly I'll get around to putting it together properly, but the discussion might be useful in giving other people ideas if nothing else.

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Sounds nice and very similar to XNT philosophy, why if you consider bring this fresh ideas to XNT Dev team?

You are always welcome to join us :)

Boo, down with the mod monopoly! :P

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I like it. Especially the part where UFOs have different roles, with fat loot, resistance build up etc.

Note that it will be major effort in manhours.

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Sounds nice and very similar to XNT philosophy, why if you consider bring this fresh ideas to XNT Dev team?

You are always welcome to join us :)

polls_pp0594_4612_699255_answer_1_xlarge.jpg

polls_pp0594_4612_699255_answer_1_xlarge.jpg

polls_pp0594_4612_699255_answer_1_xlarge

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I like it. Especially the part where UFOs have different roles, with fat loot, resistance build up etc.

Note that it will be major effort in manhours.

No it won't its simplier than you think.Problem will be finding good balance and that's where men hours will be required.(i.e economy ....).

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This sounds a lot like UFO: Aftermath (a great game that I heartily recommend). If you can pull it off I shall be extremely impresssed, and play the hell out of it. Aftermath managed to capture the feeling of dread even better than XCOM did. You were, afterall, practically the only survivors on Earth after an alien victory. The only supplies you had were the ones you salvaged and manufactured yourself, and your replacement recruits were limited.

Is it possible to script getting recruits in-mission?

Hell, this makes me want to start a Xenonauts: Aftermath mod myself.

Edited by Calantyr

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Never actually played any of the UFO games, but it sounds similar in concept, yes. Although am I right in thinking that Aftermath was *very* small-scale (i.e. it was more like an RPG in terms of the number of soldiers available in the game)?

Also, it's not possible to script getting recruits in mission using current code. In theory it could be added, though.

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Never actually played any of the UFO games, but it sounds similar in concept, yes. Although am I right in thinking that Aftermath was *very* small-scale (i.e. it was more like an RPG in terms of the number of soldiers available in the game)?

Also, it's not possible to script getting recruits in mission using current code. In theory it could be added, though.

You generally had less recruits and those recruits had more skills, so in that respect it was like an RPG. But in most other respects it was almost a direct homage to XCOM. The Biomass creep later in the game was also a brilliant idea, it made each game a frantic race against a terrible threat that you could see spread on the global map.

Now if modders find a way to add THAT I will be gobsmacked.

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This sounds a lot like UFO: Aftermath (a great game that I heartily recommend). If you can pull it off I shall be extremely impresssed, and play the hell out of it. Aftermath managed to capture the feeling of dread even better than XCOM did. You were, afterall, practically the only survivors on Earth after an alien victory. The only supplies you had were the ones you salvaged and manufactured yourself, and your replacement recruits were limited.

Is it possible to script getting recruits in-mission?

Hell, this makes me want to start a Xenonauts: Aftermath mod myself.

Agree with you on Aftermath with dread, "Endzeit"-Feeling, living in debris and so on....but for me the game was over when the aliens unwrapped their Xmas presents, which turned out to be their kind of rocket launcher. They could shoot from far out of the visible area, the blast area was tremendous, they nearly always hit, and it was near instant soldier death. And it didn't change anything to group huggle or spread wide with your soldiers, because they had loads of ammo too.

(Xmas...Xcom...do we have to be afraid in December?)

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What's that with the Biomass? Could you share a bit more info or screenshots?

Scroll down a bit on this thread.

Basically after a certain amount of time the aliens will begin to grow the Biomass in a random area of the world (usually as far away from your bases as possible, the other side of the world). This will slowly spread as time progresses until it reaches your area of operations. You can not build on the Biomass and it will destroy any bases it comes into contact with (it assimilates everything it touches into more biomass). This makes the game a race against the clock to either win, or develop technology that allows you to push the biomass back.

You can do ground missions inside areas overtaken with biomass, but you come up agains ttougher and more numerous enemies. A bad idea considering ammunition and other supplies were limited.

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oh, come on- you could create most advanced ammos and most grenades were in endless supply. Besides most of the game was won via heavy sniping (aliens or more precisely reticulans as they were called were vulnerable to its damage type. All other "aliens" were the results of bio-mutagen affecting local fauna and flora, including humans) from afar and grenade spam from corners. Oh, and there were collapsible turrets (which didn't work until a fan-made patch AFAIK), but were death to anything from any distance.

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I think most people will agree the game wasn't amazingly balanced or bug tested. However it's a shame it wasn't modder friendly, it had a lot of potential. And the setting was awesome (in the first game, the plot got stupid in the sequels).

The end of the world has come... and the bad guys won. In 5 minutes. Without trying. Now try to survive and maybe you can pursuade them Earth is too much hassel to cling onto.

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oh, come on- you could create most advanced ammos and most grenades were in endless supply. Besides most of the game was won via heavy sniping (aliens or more precisely reticulans as they were called were vulnerable to its damage type. All other "aliens" were the results of bio-mutagen affecting local fauna and flora, including humans) from afar and grenade spam from corners. Oh, and there were collapsible turrets (which didn't work until a fan-made patch AFAIK), but were death to anything from any distance.

I guess you are answering me?

Ok, maybe I missed something, but during my research I never found any really good weapons/ammo to have a real chance against the aliens. It were mostly wipes in the beginning of the combats. I tried different tactics but was blasted away with rockets from over the horizon that made it for me.

Though I don't know of patches either, too long ago for me.

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I did like Aftermath as well.

It fun weapon like machineguns and grenade launchers.

And the whole "terraform earth" with biomss was a GREAT idea.

It had TOP NOTCH immersion.

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I guess you are answering me?

Ok, maybe I missed something, but during my research I never found any really good weapons/ammo to have a real chance against the aliens. It were mostly wipes in the beginning of the combats. I tried different tactics but was blasted away with rockets from over the horizon that made it for me.

Though I don't know of patches either, too long ago for me.

Sniper rifles was one variant. Than there also was p90, i think and thanks to "hard" damage type they ripped aliens too. The game was full of OP on all sides, but i liked it most for its immersion and strategic layer - it had its own and very well made charm. Besides it was the first XCOM-themed game to make Foundry-like upgrades - i.e. one-time engineering researches that improved something for the player.

I haven't played further games in the series - UFO:afterlight and UFO:aftershock, but i heard they had some great concepts but lackluster execution.

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I haven't played further games in the series - UFO:afterlight and UFO:aftershock, but i heard they had some great concepts but lackluster execution.

They had poor user interfaces, mediocre plots, no huge leap on graphical quality, but some awesome ideas. Terraforming Mars in the third game was fantastic, and I'm not sure if another game has come close to it.

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Like the idea. As rogue-like enthusiast I recon couple of things is required for the mod to work as intended:

1. Subject: Crystal clear in-game definition what certain things do/reward/penalize player with, preferably without necessity to google search, guides etc. by xenopedia, in-game description etc.

Why: player should know the risk reward beforehand.

2. Subject: Everything of value is a reward/commodity (for example soldiers/scientist/engineers could be won/acquired by successfully participating in certain missions or bought with corresponding amount of money; same with guns, munitions, technology etc.).

Why: it’s a core of many rogue-likes.

3. Subject: Different means to acquire resources/commodities.

Why: same as 2nd point.

4. Subject: Ground combat as main way to quire rewards should be interesting enough to replay over and over again or there should be comparably interesting/replay-able alternative (air combat?) or both.

Why: self-explanatory.

5. Subject: Random factor, which changes play-through meaningfully.

Why: Because sandbox and rogue-like.

5.1. Subject: Random factors with somewhat clearly defined structure (hard to explain actually).

Why: Similar to first point, player should be able to predict in certain boundaries the outcome of his/her actions and chose future directions.

On the top of my head example: The binding of Isaac as a whole: levels are random but predictable – player knows what he needs to find and how to find it (boss room, secret/item rooms, etc.).

6. Subject: Boss battles.

Why: It’s fun and represents a challenge/culmination of prior actions to acquire rewards/progress.

7. (Optional): There should be a way to lose without arbitrary timer reaching arbitrary point. Why: Not a fun of time pressure.

Hope everything will pan out and mod will see the light of day with or without points above. Luck.

Edited by cgerrr

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Remember, it's Xenonauts. This aint no Diablo 3.

Disagree on several Points raised.

Please don’t insult my arguments with that comparison. And specifics please: would like me some healthy dispute.

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Just a few quick responses:

1. Yes, certainly. I definitely want to use the xenopedia entries as signposts for further research. I'm thinking of adding a summary to the entries as well so that it's easy to find this information (especially useful for people who don't particularly care to read the entries.)

2. I think that will be more or less the case. I'm still torn on the subject of ammunition: part of me likes the idea of having to manage ammunition consumption, but there's costs in terms of fiddling about with making it and - more importantly - actually making it relevant to the game economy. Getting anything other than items fro ground missions would require source-code changes, though, and I'm not planning on going there.

3. There's actually not many sources of resources in the first place. Basically, it's ground missions or purchases/manufacturing. I do like the idea of being able to manufacture alien alloys and possibly other alien tech later in the game as a means of (inefficient) resource conversion, not least because this will help avoid having to grind for particular resources. But I'm not sure there's much else that can be done here.

4. This is tricky, because it's hard to make missions diverse when most of them are of a similar type. But ways I'm thinking of addressing this:

- *Very* different crew compositions in different kinds of UFOs/mission types. Larger UFOs will scale more in terms of alien numbers than alien ranks/types, creating a lot more room for differences.

- Making terror missions, base attacks and alien bases all much more common and in play sooner. Since there's a limited number of mission types, these may as well be exploited as much as possible.

- Much more in the way of landed UFOs. At the moment, I'm contemplating nerfing the air game considerably in terms of its relevance. In other words, certainly at the beginning of the game, I want the main means of initiating ground missions to come from landed UFO assaults rather than shooting them down. This has two benefits: 1) the distinction between landed and crashed missions can be pushed a lot more; and 2) it creates different mission dynamics by making night missions more common (since you have less control over when you go on the missions).

- Dynamic UFO spawns: Since a full range of UFOs will be deployed pretty much from the start, you won't necessarily get stuck with a large number of similar missions in a row. Hopefully this will make the ground missions less repetitive.

5. I'm not sure there's a lot to be done about this. The only real way to inject randomness into the game is with the UFO/mission spawns, and I think that's sufficient to be honest. (and, I guess, the dynamic invasion mechanic which might make the invasion happen at a different pace game-to-game).

6. I'm not massively a fan of boss battles, and I don't think they'd work very well in Xenonauts anyway since it's hard to make individual enemies a threat while also not making them OP (either it's immune to suppression and very tough, in which case there's not a lot of tactics you can use to control it, or it's not immune to suppression/not very tough, in which case you can blitz them one way or another fairly easily.

It's perhaps better to think about it in terms of 'boss missions': terror missions, base assaults and alien bases especially. I like the idea of making alien bases very tough (with appropriate rewards for defeating them, of course) so that you don't just stomp on them as soon as you find them without thought.

7. Again, there's not a lot that can be done about this, since it's the main mechanic for losing the game (without source-code changes). On the other hand, I don't want the game to be a 'rush' in the early game like it is in vanilla: I'd rather leave plenty of breathing room at the beginning and pile on pressure in the mid-late game instead.

Disagree on several Points raised.

If you could elaborate, that would be really useful. (I mean that in a positive, "I'd like to know so I can take it into consideration" way).

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- Roguelike

I dont want this to be a roguelike. I dont see myself doing 10 missions and spending several hours to then get a 11th mission that, roguelike as it is, spawns with an unbeatable amount of aliens due to some extreme RNG. no.

- Boss battles

Strongly. I have no idea how anyone who plays Tactical RPGs (i consider this one, kinda) wants boss battles. Was there a boss battle in UFO or Jagged Alliance ? Apart from the final fight and the gimmick fight in JA (insects), no.

RANGE ruins games. I dont want to be a rabbit that is feed with a carrot, running the wheel all day hoping for another bite of vegetables (which is what RNG-games based do) i want to be strategic mastermind who plans and executes a plan.

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I like the idea behind the mod suggestion.

For me destructible aircraft would be the sticking point and for the same reasons Chris decided to reduce their impact on the vanilla game.

If you are a small resistance cell then how are you getting hold of potentially large numbers of superior aircraft?

Even large numbers of inferior aircraft could be difficult to acquire in the setting described.

I would suggest that you aren't going to be able to do that.

Even if you could build your own the costs could be massive in comparison to anything needed for ground combat and add an inherent imbalance to the financial aspect of the game.

Instead I would have the player steal alien craft and then refit them to be used by human pilots, or even flown as drones to make them even more expendable.

Carriers and base assaults could be a good source of interceptors.

Maybe even capturing larger ships if you successfully assault them when landed.

Use a captured Corvette as your dropship for camouflage, maybe even send out a couple of alien interceptors for cover in case it does get spotted.

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