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Chris

Xenonauts 2 - September Update

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Apologies for being quiet for the last few weeks; this post is going to explain what we've been up to recently. I'll also explain when we'll be making the first version of Xenonauts 2 available to play and when you can first buy the game.

Strategy Layer:
I've spent quite some time talking about our new strategy design in my previous posts (the one with the defensive lines etc), but having implemented it and given it a decent playtest I've decided to drop it. Most people won't care about the reasons why, but if you do then there's an explanation in the spoiler tag below.

 

The idea involved a "defensive line" of AI-controlled local forces and a "timeline" of alien units marching to attack it. The player could use their aircraft to shoot down UFOs spawned on the timeline (creating a crash site) or use their Xenonauts to attack any of the alien units on the timeline, triggering a ground combat mission. The problem was that the player could only knock out a single alien unit per mission, which was not enough to turn the tide if the player was behind strategically and facing numerous powerful alien units. The reverse situation was also problematic, as if the strategic situation was good the player would not need to do any ground combat missions. These turned out to be fundamental issues that (for various reasons) I couldn't solve without a major rework of the design.

The replacement is a reversion to something much more like the strategy layer in the first Xenonauts. Although we've made quite a few changes to the way it plays, the Geoscape is still recognisably the Geoscape. I'll explain in detail the effects of the changes at a later date, but the overall theme is giving the player more strategic options and making each playthrough of the game less repetitive. 

There's a few fundamental changes which we're unlikely to revert (Geoscape is now turn-based, you now build directly in regions rather than via bases) but we now have the freedom to change as much or as little about the Xenonauts 1 strategic design as we want. The risk with fundamentally changing the strategy layer was that we couldn't just revert to familiar stuff from X1 if it turned out our new ideas weren't as much fun to play as the first game, whereas now we know the worst that can happen is that we'll end up with a strategy layer equal to that of the original Xenonauts.

We finished implementing the basic blocks today (geoscape, research, regions and relations, regional outposts, UFO attacks, etc) but there's still quite a bit to go. The priority is to make something playable and hook it up to the ground combat as soon as possible; our initial plan is just to mirror much of the early Xenonauts 1 gameplay / alien activity / research tree and then see how our new mechanics mix things up and go from there.

Ground Combat:
We've been producing an outdoor mission for playtesting over the past couple of weeks. The idea is to test the concepts behind our new level / sub-map editor combination, and then experiment with palette swapping (more on that below), but it has also led to us sharpening up the combat.

At this point, almost all of the game logic is in place for the ground combat - it's only really the morale and suppression system (now calculated in 3D space) that need to be implemented. This doesn't mean the combat is finished, though, as there's still large amounts of assets and animations and visual effects to be added. All the code to support those also has to be added - which is probably more code than the actual game logic was! Still, we're not far from being able to play out a recreated Xenonauts 1 mission like it would play in the original game, just with shonkier graphics. 

Utilities:
The game tools are the Level Editor, Game Editor and Translation Editor. The Translation Editor should only be a couple of weeks of work but we've not started it yet, as it's a lower priority compared to the other two. The Game Editor is a visual editor that lets you create and edit the stats of the game assets (weapons, aliens, etc) and is coming along well, but is currently limited to the ground combat stuff. In the next couple of weeks we expect to have all of the weapon and combatant properties editable and feeding through into the ground combat missions. It's pretty cool stuff for modders, as it automatically integrates the V1.5 / X:CE mod management system into the mod and also allows a bunch of extra properties (e.g. you can set a weapon to have multiple ammo types with different properties).

The Level Editor is a pretty serious piece of kit these days but still has a way to go. We still need to add in the functionality to paint raised areas in the game (both the 1m tall raised areas that offer half-cover around the edges, and full 3m tall cliffs) but once that is in I think we'll have all the gameplay basics done. However there's still a lot of work to be done on the procedural generation side of things - at the moment we're creating levels as a single big map, but we want to split them down into little sub-maps that can be assembled together to create larger maps. We can (eventually) make much better use of this system in 3D than we could in 2D Xenonauts 1, so expect a higher amount of map randomisation this time round. We're also planning biome-based palette swapping - e.g. a few clicks can turn a jungle map into an arctic map / desert map / whatever.

Release & Sale:
We were initially planning to have our Kickstarter as the first opportunity to buy Xenonauts 2, but the plan is now to start releasing free builds of the game in about a month on GOG Galaxy. Anyone who wants to buy the game will be able to pre-order it immediately, but initially won't get anything extra for doing so. We will spend an unspecified amount of time putting out free builds, then we'll do a Kickstarter and ideally launch on Steam Early Access after that. Once we're on Steam, the free builds will disappear and anyone who has not pre-ordered the game will not see any further updates.

I've pushed back the Kickstarter date because we want to push digital rewards over physical rewards this time, and by far the most popular in the X1 Kickstarter was being added to the game as Xenonaut soldier. We want to build a soldier face creation tool (i.e. the sort of thing you see during RPG character creation) which will allow people to create their own soldier face, so adding soldiers does not impose any extra workload on us. We can then price it relatively cheaply ($25-$50) and hopefully enough of the community will be happy to pay that we can get our Kickstarter moving that way. Problem is, we've gotta build this tool first - and I'm not going to delay commercializing the game just for that.

The initial release is likely to be a single ground combat mission from the start of the game. You'll get your starting eight soldiers from X1 and you'll be up against half a dozen Psyons (formerly known as Caesans). There won't be any UFO; it'll just be a straightforward deathmatch against basic but serviceable AI. Later iterations will add in the UFO and improve the UI and AI, and then likely introduce the strategy layer, soldier progression and extra maps. 

One More Thing:
Our coding intern has been working on various things over the past year, including prototyping up some of our other game ideas - one of which turned out to be so much fun that we decided to turn it into a full game. It's a small and lightweight game best described as a cross between FTL and Space Hulk. We'll release more details about the game once we've got the Xenonauts 2 public build out there, but I think a lot of you will be excited when you see it in action!

Anyway, that's all for now - and please bear in mind that "one month" is an internal goal for the X2 public build, not a cast-iron promise. We've never been great with deadlines, as I'm sure many of you are aware :)  

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If it's working, don't break it. Just don't try to change something good for only being different. Anyway..

Can i ask you something about modding? What aspects will be totally 3D and 2D?.. i mean when i want to add a new weapon, do i need to have a 3D model, or can i make a 2D image at equipment menu as X1 and use default in GC models?.. Or would i able to just add a 3D weapon model and the characters will be able to handle them without any other work.. For short only adding a weapon model object to game would be enough to be use at ground combat?

Would i able to add new creatures with mod tools? Will we able to create custom missions for UFO's, or totally custom missions even without ufo spawns? Will the X2 have that kind of missions like terror ones? How will you handle armours? Will the armours have mods? parts? Will weapon have mods, like after**** series?

Weapons and armours should be modable and we need to able to create our weapons as we want, like Fallout 4 weapon creation. Same for armors. X1 was very weak at this aspect. Modable vehicles would be cool too. Modable planes like Xcom 3 Apocalypse would be super cool too.. i dont mean game mods as modable, just able to create those things as we want in game at all..

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So not everything needs to be new when you create a new weapon - you can add a new 2D UI image to your new weapon and then just use an existing 3D model for an existing weapon if you want. Potentially you can add a 3D model for it too, but it'll need to use an animation set for an existing weapon unless you want to start adding your own animations (which most people don't) ... so it'll need similar dimensions to an existing 3D gun.

Yes, you can add new aliens and weapons and whatever in the game editor ... although you could also do that in Xenonauts 1. Weapons and armours are not planned to have parts or components at the moment, no. Unless that's a feature we add to the game it won't be in the game editor either.

Creating your own mission types is a bit less likely, as adding custom victory conditions (as opposed to choosing from the existing ones in the game) is going to require code changes. The basic stuff will be there (capture a designated map area, eliminate all aliens, etc) but if it's not in the base game then you might have to rely on Xenonauts 2: Community Edition :)

Basically I'll be using these tools to make the content for the game, so they'll be pretty powerful ... but in most cases they won't let you do stuff that I don't need to do.

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Do you know if buying in during the kick starter will also give a steam code? I am planning on buying in during the kick starter phase (missed it for X1) but I like to keep all my games in steam if possible and would kind of prefer to not need to purchase twice. Thanks!

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18 minutes ago, Chris said:

So not everything needs to be new when you create a new weapon - you can add a new 2D UI image to your new weapon and then just use an existing 3D model for an existing weapon if you want. Potentially you can add a 3D model for it too, but it'll need to use an animation set for an existing weapon unless you want to start adding your own animations (which most people don't) ... so it'll need similar dimensions to an existing 3D gun.

Yes, you can add new aliens and weapons and whatever in the game editor ... although you could also do that in Xenonauts 1. Weapons and armours are not planned to have parts or components at the moment, no. Unless that's a feature we add to the game it won't be in the game editor either.

Creating your own mission types is a bit less likely, as adding custom victory conditions (as opposed to choosing from the existing ones in the game) is going to require code changes. The basic stuff will be there (capture a designated map area, eliminate all aliens, etc) but if it's not in the base game then you might have to rely on Xenonauts 2: Community Edition :)

Basically I'll be using these tools to make the content for the game, so they'll be pretty powerful ... but in most cases they won't let you do stuff that I don't need to do.

I see.. still i would like to have weapon updates like scope or other things and some armour gadgets for night vision or different abilities. For example jet pack or stealth could be added to armour. Some stealth mechanic for aliens would be cool too. 

Will we able to change the texture of the weapons and armours easily?

How do you plan to do vehicles? Can we have 1x1 ones? Will they be 3x3 or 2x2 this time? Please make them at least dual weapon.

Did you plan the big aliens? Will there be big melee creatures, not only for zombify? Do you plan to make custom animations for different attacks or damaged like fraxis Xcom (like an alien grabs a soldier and do bad things)? Please make zombify modable like we can choose what to spawn from zombies or the alien itself when the zombified.

 

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if you make 1x1 tanks...this could be easily moddeable into one of the things i missed more from X1...the ability to field DOGS (just like in openxcom)...im sorry im a simple man, i see a doggo and i press like :p .

In a serious note, it looks pretty awesome chris, and i wish the best...im dying to see the finished product (soon™ i hope xD).  

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I cannot lie, I'm really sad to hear the defense line geoscape mechanic didn't play out in testing, but I fully understand how idea's can be far more amazing in concept design compared to real work practice :(

Either way I'll be keeping an eye out for the KS and the free alpha, I love Xenonauts 1 and the community and mods are really great so hope to see more of the same :)

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