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Chris

Xenonauts 2 - Update

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About six weeks ago we posted up a thread discussing the possibility of Xenonauts 2, so I thought I should post another thread letting you know what we are thinking.

In short - we're still evaluating the possibility, but I'd say the chances of us making Xenonauts 2 as our next game are better than even. The response to and feedback given on a potential sequel by the community has been remarkable and has gone a long way to convincing us that it would be a good idea.

If you're interested in hearing about any possible Xenonauts 2 announcements, remember you can sign up for our mailing list here: http://eepurl.com/4FKe9

So, what have we been working on?

Game-Independent Coding: Well, the majority of our work has actually been to continue developing a codebase we could use for any squad-based tactics game we want to make. If we choose not to make Xenonauts 2, this code will be equally useful to any other game we decide to make.

At the moment we're working on the integration of the combat mechanics with 3D animations (so units point their guns in the right direction when they fire at enemies etc), working on the level editor (which is pretty impressive now) and working on the game editor / translation editor / game launcher systems.

I could talk all day about what features we've been implementing recently but without the context of a game design to put them in it probably won't mean anything to you. But we've got all the basics in place, and guys are running around the map shooting each other. There's just not much in the way of art assets yet, because...

test_3d.jpg

3D Art Style: The image posted above is NOT our final art style. Our biggest concern regarding Xenonauts 2 is whether we can create a workable 3D art style - this not only has to look good in 3D but ideally will also reference the 2D sprite style of Xenonauts 1.

The image shows the sort of quality we think we can reasonably generate in a mission using a standard realistic art style (admittedly we're cheating a bit with the placement of some of the wooden pallets). We've deliberately recreated some assets from Xenonauts 1 to allow us to test and compare it more effectively.

Now we have some decent-quality assets in the engine, we're going to run some tests over the next few weeks on how we can try to make the art style look a bit more 2D and hand-painted. A very important element of this could be creating an outline shader for the game that adds a thin black outline to all of the objects; this was actually something we used extensively in Xenonauts 1 and it played a large part in making props and units "pop" from the background. Unfortunately it's much harder to do in 3D than it is in 2D, but we'll spend some time on it and see if we can make it work.

caesan_earlyconcept.jpg

Aliens: We're working on redesigning the aliens from Xenonauts 1 to make them more interesting, both visually and in terms of the core mechanic for each race. We've got some new ideas for all of the races and we've got some concepts done for the updated Sebillian and Caesan designs that look quite a bit more "alien" than before.

We're playing with the idea of making the Caesans a hive consciousness, with weak drones (above) and more threatening officers. The officers get significant bonuses in combat for each nearby drone, and there is a single collective psionic power attack performed each turn. This might lose power as more Caesans are killed, or perhaps it just gets stronger each turn to encourage the player not to turtle when fighting Caesans (or possibly both).

The Sebillians might have their regeneration turned up to eleven to make them more interesting to play against. At the end of each alien turn, all Sebillians will return to full health ... but in exchange, every time they take damage their maximum health falls by, say, 25% of the damage sustained. However, getting a Sebillian down to 0 current health will only temporarily incapacitate them and they will stand up and start fighting again after two or three turns.

To actually kill a Sebillian you need to reduce its maximum health to 0, but units will get significant bonuses when aiming at an incapacitated Sebillian. Getting up close and empting a few rounds into it would finish it off pretty quickly ... but trying to do it at long range is much harder, so it gives these guys a passive semi-resistance against sniper tactics.

Air Combat: I'm actually pretty happy with the design I have for the air combat now, which is a minor evolution of what I posted in this thread. I think that design could work with some modification even in the strategy layer for Xenonauts 1, so maybe we'll mock that up and start testing it properly in the near future.

Strategy Layer: We've done quite a lot of development on this, but it's still not nailed down yet. I'm relatively relaxed about this because I know the ground combat is the meat of the game and if our attempts to come up with a new strategy layer fail, we could just use the Xenonauts 1 strategy layer with a few modifications and the updated ground / air combat.

Of course, I would much prefer to have a wholly new strategy layer - and I'm actively working on it, I just don't know when it'll be done or even what form it will take yet. I'll let you know when I do!

So that's basically where we're at. Xenonauts 2 is looking more likely than not and we're actively designing and prototyping it at the moment, but it'll probably take a month or two until we're ready to make a final decision.

I'll keep on posting stuff up in the Xenonauts 2 forums, but again if you're keen to stay in the loop about development but don't want to commit to regularly checking our forums you can just sign up for our mailing list here: http://eepurl.com/4FKe9

test_3d.jpg

caesan_earlyconcept.jpg

test_3d.thumb.jpg.a2e7534ce5480bfc52af33

caesan_earlyconcept.thumb.jpg.47c11d41b5

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I think it's great that the ground combat side is intended as a module for any game that you work on. I hope the same modular design applies to the mechanics in Ground Combat so you can swap things in and out with relative ease!

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Sometimes you like your game so much and when 2. comes up with different approach, you just wish to have your old game with the new visuals rather then that different approach. Some of new aspects like that new aircraft system which you take from countries (fighting system idea is cool, i just want my planes be in my bases and produced by me) and cold war design) are not looking good for me. Maybe i am so stick to X-Com play style. But Goldenhawk is the one company i can trust about it. This game will be the last pre-ordered game by me (after sword of stars 2 disaster which is my first pre-order.)

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I would say that a sequel is usually an improvement and adding new things on the original game, while still maintaining on things that what made the original great in the first place.

Although I find the sebillian shoot-it-to-death concept rather dodgy. It seems like it would take a different combat mechanic to kill off a seb, and that means making sure that the ground combat structure as a whole does not misstep and creates new problems. But I like the idea, I just feel that killing a corpse to death will alter the combat differently into something ironically comical to scorch-earth policies in ground combat.

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That screenshot goes a long way towards convincing me that a 3D project might still be able to preserve a 2D-esque art style. Which is my second biggest concern in purchasing a second version.

Ok, the 3D might work. I still want a new story though, even if its mostly background. ; )

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Important question: Will it be in the game by default, or possible through modding, to remove Time Units and do Firaxis-style action-based turns? I've always found that, along with the weird cover system, to be the 2 biggest draws to Xenonauts.

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I greatly enjoyed playing through xenonauts, and I think one of the things that set it apart from similiar titles and made it more interesting were the tactics and unique properties each of the enemy types possess. For example, the androids heavy armor requiring penetrating weapons, and the way they would use their innate protection to ignore cover and rush you.

On that note, I really like your idea with the sebillians. Perhaps consider a terror unit that really embodies regeneration fully, requiring massive firepower to really kill it off. It might not be the best idea to make a basic unit like sebillians too hardy, but I like the concept of taking one down from long range and watching it slowly return to fighting status as it picks itself up and it's wounds close, unless you finish it off. Combine that with heavy armor on the officer and above units, and you really feel like your fighting a near hopeless war.

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The screenshot does a pretty good job of representing a 3D-ified Xenonauts. I like the direction of alien design too. Exciting news overall.

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Wait a minute what ever happened to project Pathfinder? While the potential announcement of xenonauts 2 makes me unbearably excited whatever happened to that game? Are ya still working on it? Plz forgive my ignorance as it's been a few months since I've looked at these forums so I'll understand if some drastic choices and decisions were made. :)

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I think I can safely say that Xenonauts 2 is quickly looking like an overall big improvement from Xenonauts 1. This isn't to say I necessarily like everything stated, but it is certainly looking like a game still worth playing.

One thing to talk about since you haven't talked about it in the suggestion board though - If Sebillians are made to get back up from below 0 hit points, then all I can suggest is that other actors should also be looked at in how they act below 0 hit points. IE, maybe Xenonaut Soldiers below 0 hit points can be stablized/revived during ground combat. Maybe there could be an alien unit that could revive other alien units that are killed/incapcitated. Perhaps Reapers could 'infect' Xenonaut Soldiers that aren't entirely dead. In summary, make how incapacitated units work have a lot of depth to it.

In reference to incapacitation, maybe a thread could be started on it? It is certainly something that could be fleshed out a lot more. There could be a lot ideas that could be discussed about it.

I'll also mention that I still don't think much about the collective psionic power attack that Caesans can do, and that any psionic powers the Caesans exhibit should be local proximity.

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Do a Xenonauts 3D Remaster, which is the Xenonauts 1 "story" in 3D with all those changes, redesigns and improvements that you talk of. Then use all of those new strides in Xenonauts 2, which is a continuation of the original story.

It could be set some time into the future, where the Aliens return to take revenge, or when we have used the techonology that we aquired to build our own star ships and begun to colonize other worlds.

You could maybe lead one of the first colonization missions, settling on a planet with hostile environments and dangerous indigenous lifeforms and just as you get a foothold you are attacked by another, smaller Alien fleet that detected emissions from your FTL-drives and followed you. Perhaps in order to contain these clearly dangerous humans and keep them from spreading their influence and bolstering their power, in wait for the alien harmageddon fleet that is on its way from across the galaxy to end humanity once and for all.

Just some thoughts :)

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Totally missed this thread - I'm very pleased by the news. I'm also glad that you're looking to recreate a similar art style to Xenonauts 1 - if the final game looks similar to the shot you've posted then I think it's going to look fantastic.

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Wow... I'm another who only pops in occasionally now and then.. It's been months now, but ... WOW... a nice surprise..I'd vote yes for X2... ready to pre-order, kickstart, whatever! (now I need to see what else is going on here...ie. Pathfinders..) consider this my belated YES vote. :)

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All. Of. The. Yes.

ALL OF THE YES!

Oh, by the way, Chris, would you and your people consider implementing a skill system similar to the one in UFO: Afterblank series? I used to love the way that game handled soldier skills; Need a medic? Put a soldier through some medical training first. Etc.

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the concept art looks good.

i just hope this isn't a dumbed down version of Xenonauts, just like what happens with other games.

Good Luck!.

sorry for my bad engrish

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If I can add something, you totally should see Silent Storm (and it's sequels Silent Storm: Sentinels, Hammer&Sickle) and how they handled destructible environments.

If you can make something like that AND expand on that idea (i.e. not just having bullet penetration and wall/floor/ceiling destruction) you will be my heroes forever.

Expanding how exactly?

Well, for example instead of simply disappearing broken pieces of walls and floor, bricks, concrete, etc could be made into physical objects that can interact with other characters. Like instead of shooting very damage resistant enemy you could simply crush him underneath fallen wall by shooting rocket at it/throwing grenade/planting remote explosives beforehand. Or breaking floor under him and cause him to fall to his death.

This dream haunted me very long, because IMHO if you mix X-Com's Geoscape with really deep tactical gameplay of Silent Storm it might be the best Tactical Combat Operations simulator ever.

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Well, let me tell you this. If you decide to make Xenonauts 2 -- and continue to have Linux support you'll get another happy customer from me. Hell, this time I'll fork out for a custom named character :) I've always kicked myself for passing on that lol.

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It's great to hear that Goldhawk is investing in the long term by programming its own engine!

Would your engine be able to support simultaneous turn-based or even real-time tactical games? And will it have multiplayer capabilities?

Will your engine be able to be compiled to javascript so that we can play Goldhawk games in browser? I think that this would instantly make your game more accessible to prospective customers.

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We're not actually building our own engine - we're using Unity as the game engine. We're just coding a bunch of systems and tools that sit on top of Unity that are specific to squad-based strategy games (e.g. the code that creates a workable tile grid), which means we won't have to repeat that work all over again if we decided to make another game like Xenonauts or XCOM or Jagged Alliance etc ... as a totally non-scientific guess, it'll probably knock a year or so off any further development cycles.

The fact we're doing it all in a much more organised manner than the first time round also means the game should be significantly more stable during development than Xenonauts was, etc.

And yes, we'll probably have a better facility for adding custom named characters into the game - if we can make it negligible work for us and not offer custom portraits, it'll hopefully cost less than $50. Maybe $50 including the game itself? I'd like it to be something people can easily buy as an optional extra to support the studio if they want.

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The original game must had been a great learning experience for all that is involved.

Glad it's also successful enough that you're all able to move onto greater things.

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