TrashMan

The "secret war" idea

41 posts in this topic

The  "secret war" doesn't seem to work in the context of a classical X-com game.

 

If the aliens do use UFO's then they can't keep their operations secret, as UFOs can and will be tracked. Even with the translocator idea, any attack by the aliens will make them known - there will be survivors and physical and video evidence left behind. So if the aliens want secrecy, you can kiss terror attacks (and most classical missions) goodbye.

And who is financing the Xenonauts? If it's the world powers, then they would know about the aliens from day 1, and would thus avoid tension, making the entire point moot. I don't see an organization like Xenonauts/XCOM being created at all unless the secret war phase is already over.

So how do you make this work without removing air battles and UFO's, and terror attacks - staples of the genre?

I mean, you CAN make it work (X-Com FPS anyone?), but the game will be so much different from the classical X-Com that all the appeal is lost to me.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I take it in X-1 that governments wanted to keep it secret.  The UFO cover up propaganda have always believed this is what is happening in real life even today.  Terror attack happens in later game (alongside escalation of ufo attacks) and signal that the war can no longer be kept secret.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, TrashMan said:

The  "secret war" doesn't seem to work in the context of a classical X-com game.

If the aliens do use UFO's then they can't keep their operations secret, as UFOs can and will be tracked. Even with the translocator idea, any attack by the aliens will make them known - there will be survivors and physical and video evidence left behind. So if the aliens want secrecy, you can kiss terror attacks (and most classical missions) goodbye.

And who is financing the Xenonauts? If it's the world powers, then they would know about the aliens from day 1, and would thus avoid tension, making the entire point moot. I don't see an organization like Xenonauts/XCOM being created at all unless the secret war phase is already over.

Once you stop seeing the entire world as a single unitary block with a collective consciousness I think it becomes a much easier sell. Plus you only have to look at the debates around the scientific claims that smoking was harmful / climate change is being caused by human activity to see that it's easy to muddy the waters of public opinion, irrespective of what "facts" are put forward by each side of the argument. In most cases people find the facts to support what they want to believe, rather than vice versa.

Now imagine that the aliens have infiltrated elements of the media and world governments, and are actively trying to discredit the notion that aliens exist. Instead, they're pushing conspiracy theories like the narrative that one of the two superpowers has developed a secret weapon and is regularly using it on their opponents, whilst staging hoax / false flag attacks against their own people so as not to arouse suspicion. The photos of aliens are doctored; the witnesses are just government stooges.

Indeed, the aliens might not even need to discredit the theories themselves. If I was living in the UK at the height of the Cold War and one of our aircraft carriers disappeared in mysterious circumstances, and the government explanation was: "Aliens did it, but all we have is few grainy photos to prove it", I'm not sure I'd believe that. If elements of the local media were accusing the government of being soft on Communism and covering up a Soviet attack because they were frightened / secretly supporting a Communist takeover then I might give that some serious thought. It's not likely, but is it more likely than a secret alien invasion? Might well be.

Similarly, the Xenonauts can have powerful political support but that only needs be from a few key figures, ideally in a cell structure ... if aliens are infiltrating governments, you don't want a lot of people knowing about the Xenonauts. The aliens might not have enough power to take over the world militarily, but they certainly have enough power to wipe out the Xenonauts if they find them.

The whole "men in black" and government conspiracy lore is a rich vein, particularly in the Cold War. I think this type of setting is actually a much better fit than the outright warfare in Xenonauts 1; mechanically it doesn't have to change the game at all.

2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Don't worry, if you want a game that has all the same elements as the classic XCOM games, go play the classic XCOM games using openxcom; it's a very well done remake.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Is quite hard to explain away attacks on major cities with so many witnesses. Even if it is put down to Soviet/American forces, that incursion would turn the cold war into a hot one. Maybe if those attacks took place in non-aligned countries (3rd world) then it would be easier for the mass media and general public of the East/West to ignore.

As for sightings of UFOs in the sky, there are tinfoil-hat-wearing crackpots out there right now who claim to have seen them. Though I think if the aliens had the capability to brainwash humans to do their misinformation/infiltration then the story would hold together a lot tighter.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Terror missions might be mid to late game events that can really destabilize a campaign, given that even if people were convinced it was the other super power, it's a pretty big deal.

Regarding crackpots sighting UFOs, they will still be regarded as crackpots. Just like today.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah, I guess Terror Missions *exactly* as they are in X1 would be hard to recreate in the "shadow war" stage. There's two possible solutions to that which I can see:

  • Slightly reframe the mission so it's similar from a gameplay point of view, but more fitting with the new theme - e.g. the aliens are attacking a civilian power station, and unless the Xenonauts intervene they do a very good job of disintegrating all the witnesses. But if the Xenonauts can intervene and win the mission, they get an increase to the country relations score because there are now X additional survivors who will be telling everyone that the alien invasion is real. That actually gives a good reason why the player should save as many civilians as possible in a terror site (whereas in X1 you had to kill the aliens so the local forces didn't nuke the city; saving individual civilians was unimportant).
     
  • Bring in the two-stage mechanic I mentioned in another thread, where the Xenonauts have a "threat" counter that increases as they perform hostile actions against the aliens. If it goes above a certain level the aliens launch an attack against the Xenonaut base, so the player has keep a low profile and stay secret in the early game until they are strong enough to repel an alien attack. When they get militarily strong enough they can trigger the base attack and, if victorious, remove the threat counter for good. At that point the aliens could move into outright warfare with terror attacks against civilian targets like in X1.

I quite like the first one actually. Let the aliens carry out an attack against the infrastructure in the region on their own terms and there's no witnesses - so it raises the threat in that region, bringing it closer to war with its rivals. Intervene and save the day and the survivors reduce threat in that region by increasing support for the "Aliens are causing these problems!" narrative, pulling them towards peace with their rivals.

It better fits the scope of an actual mission in Xenonauts too, where there's only around a dozen civilians at a terror site - which makes for a pretty sparsely-populated city...

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah, first idea sounds good.  Reminds me of TFTD cruiser terror and island missions.  The aliens is quite capable of jamming communication and liquidating all witness there.

Of course, if there are too many surviving witness, the Xenonauts will need some better way to silence them like MIB flashlight.  But lore wise it seems to be a good improvement.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
19 hours ago, TrashMan said:

The  "secret war" doesn't seem to work in the context of a classical X-com game.

 

This isn't a classical X-com game.
 

11 hours ago, Chris said:

Yeah, I guess Terror Missions *exactly* as they are in X1 would be hard to recreate in the "shadow war" stage. There's two possible solutions to that which I can see:

  • Slightly reframe the mission so it's similar from a gameplay point of view, but more fitting with the new theme - e.g. the aliens are attacking a civilian power station, and unless the Xenonauts intervene they do a very good job of disintegrating all the witnesses. But if the Xenonauts can intervene and win the mission, they get an increase to the country relations score because there are now X additional survivors who will be telling everyone that the alien invasion is real. That actually gives a good reason why the player should save as many civilians as possible in a terror site (whereas in X1 you had to kill the aliens so the local forces didn't nuke the city; saving individual civilians was unimportant).
     
  • Bring in the two-stage mechanic I mentioned in another thread, where the Xenonauts have a "threat" counter that increases as they perform hostile actions against the aliens. If it goes above a certain level the aliens launch an attack against the Xenonaut base, so the player has keep a low profile and stay secret in the early game until they are strong enough to repel an alien attack. When they get militarily strong enough they can trigger the base attack and, if victorious, remove the threat counter for good. At that point the aliens could move into outright warfare with terror attacks against civilian targets like in X1.

I quite like the first one actually. Let the aliens carry out an attack against the infrastructure in the region on their own terms and there's no witnesses - so it raises the threat in that region, bringing it closer to war with its rivals. Intervene and save the day and the survivors reduce threat in that region by increasing support for the "Aliens are causing these problems!" narrative, pulling them towards peace with their rivals.

It better fits the scope of an actual mission in Xenonauts too, where there's only around a dozen civilians at a terror site - which makes for a pretty sparsely-populated city...

During the "shadow war" stage, "terror" missions (or chaos missions) would be mostly infiltration and sabotage - attack on intelligence and security institutions, false-flags with mind controlled humans, deployment of technology such as dedicated gateways, construction crawlers or psionic transmitters which will make future alien efforts on Earth easier.

Once the all-out invasion begins, terror missions become far more visible and direct like X1 terror missions.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I like the twist on terror missions, though I'd suggest that they should be imprinted with the xcom difficulty curve: in the early game, the civilians get creamed. Terror missions are supposed to be tough and it is not a common outcome that you save everyone. So, at the beginning of the game when you are highly outgunned, a 'successful' terror mission would be one where you extract a few civilians then do a tactical retreat, leaving the aliens to their sabotage. Later on, that definition of success would be advanced as it becomes feasible to save the infrastructure too. Though as @tachikaze points out, the aliens' objective wouldn't merely be blowing stuff up, they could do that from orbit, so if they were to commit a well-armed strike team it'd be something more subtle.

Effectively, this would be something to push the relations/threat counter in the early game so there is no chance of you getting a perfect play. Until the home team gets its act together the enemy will be winning battles and gaining a foothold. That difficulty would also make you use the retreat mechanic which is not something most players normally do (if you can't complete the mission, why try it?).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm still not sure we're going to have the threat counter in the game at this point, though. In a sense what Trashman is saying is correct - translocator aside, we don't really want this setting to be dependent on specific new Geoscape mechanics that may or may not work in the game.

Ideally we want the option to maintain pretty much exactly the gameplay from the first game, because that gives us enough freedom to change gameplay as much or as little as we like based on player feedback.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Given that Xenonauts do have alien corpses and equipment to study, then any government that finances them would have it also.

You would have a LOT more than "grainy pictures", so the only way I can see it possible would be if the governments themselves are actively trying to keep it under wraps - but even then they can only keep it up for so long. Not to mention, why would they want to? If aliens are trying to invade and undermine you in secret, exposing them would be the best and fastest way to ruin their plans.

The third point is alien infiltration - paranoia at the time of the Cold War was high, meaning the aliens would have a damn hard job at infiltrating anything. If the government was saying "the alien did this" and some media heads were constantly trying to downplay it, something tells me the government would be on their asses in microseconds.

 

21 hours ago, Ninothree said:

As for sightings of UFOs in the sky, there are tinfoil-hat-wearing crackpots out there right now who claim to have seen them. Though I think if the aliens had the capability to brainwash humans to do their misinformation/infiltration then the story would hold together a lot tighter.

I think it might be a bit different when many of your military personal see an record them, your radar stations track them and your fighters exchange fire with them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, tachikaze said:

This isn't a classical X-com game.
 

During the "shadow war" stage, "terror" missions (or chaos missions) would be mostly infiltration and sabotage - attack on intelligence and security institutions, false-flags with mind controlled humans, deployment of technology such as dedicated gateways, construction crawlers or psionic transmitters which will make future alien efforts on Earth easier.

Once the all-out invasion begins, terror missions become far more visible and direct like X1 terror missions.

Yeah, this might work well

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, TrashMan said:

Given that Xenonauts do have alien corpses and equipment to study, then any government that finances them would have it also.

You would have a LOT more than "grainy pictures", so the only way I can see it possible would be if the governments themselves are actively trying to keep it under wraps - but even then they can only keep it up for so long. Not to mention, why would they want to? If aliens are trying to invade and undermine you in secret, exposing them would be the best and fastest way to ruin their plans.

The third point is alien infiltration - paranoia at the time of the Cold War was high, meaning the aliens would have a damn hard job at infiltrating anything. If the government was saying "the alien did this" and some media heads were constantly trying to downplay it, something tells me the government would be on their asses in microseconds.

I think it might be a bit different when many of your military personal see an record them, your radar stations track them and your fighters exchange fire with them.

It's a bold claim to say that the aliens would have a hard time infiltrating anything, especially given the first game has aliens that can literally mind control your soldiers. Outdated radar equipment has a difficult time tracking modern stealth aircraft, so why is it beyond the realms of possibility that local forces might not be able to detect highly advanced UFOs?

I think you're trying extremely hard to see ways in which it wouldn't work, but I don't think any of them are particularly problematic.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I like the idea of having first the shadow and then overt war in stages. The Xenonauts will want to stay hidden so that the aliens won't attack their bases or undermine them in other ways, but eventually the cat will be out of the bag when they increase their operations. The Aliens probably want to find an economical way to conquer. If they can get the superpowers to fight each other or maybe infiltrate them so much that they can outright ally with them, they will need to expend less of their forces. Sowing distrust will keep the Earthlings from showing an united front at any rate. The upper echelons of the goverments may know about the UFOs, but they may be so suspicious that they always suspect that the other side will use them as cover up for their operations and they may actually do so occasionally.

When the war moves to the overt stage, the Aliens will still try to bully countries into surrendering or opting out of the war with the terror attacks.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah I can see that all sides are interested in keeping it secret. Especially if the desired end game is control over a stable population. There has to be a reason that the aliens don't just bombard from orbit. And along the same lines, there has to be a reason that Earth's military forces aren't all mobilised. If either of those things happened, then people would go nuts and soon enough there wouldn't be much of a human race to save.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The shadow war/open war fits well with the DEFCON idea. Sort of; there are a few too many variables at play.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 17/03/2017 at 3:28 PM, Chris said:

It's a bold claim to say that the aliens would have a hard time infiltrating anything, especially given the first game has aliens that can literally mind control your soldiers. Outdated radar equipment has a difficult time tracking modern stealth aircraft, so why is it beyond the realms of possibility that local forces might not be able to detect highly advanced UFOs?

1) They're not human, so they stand out. And there's a big limit on mind control - both range, LOS and how long you can keep it up. I can see local traitors/fanatics/cultists working for the aliens, but they would be limited in number and can't infiltrate everything.

2) Don't Xenonauts are using local terrestrial radar stations to track UFO's? And if UFO's are not detectable by our equipment, then the aliens can bomb our infrastructure, cities and places of power with impunity.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@TrashMan I think you may find it easier to construct ideas if you forget the preconceptions given by X1 and other xcom game. This forum is about discussing what rules could be in effect, rather than using rules already in effect to determine what can and can't happen. If you stick to the latter, we'll just end up with the same game instead of a sequel.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm using what is known about X2 so far and logic/common sense.

IF you think I made a mistake, point it out.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Your logic is valid, but your premise is unsound. Your mistake is using what is known about X2, because the game is in the design stage and none of these things are concrete.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 3/23/2017 at 10:32 AM, TrashMan said:

1) They're not human, so they stand out. And there's a big limit on mind control - both range, LOS and how long you can keep it up. I can see local traitors/fanatics/cultists working for the aliens, but they would be limited in number and can't infiltrate everything.

2) Don't Xenonauts are using local terrestrial radar stations to track UFO's? And if UFO's are not detectable by our equipment, then the aliens can bomb our infrastructure, cities and places of power with impunity.

 

3 hours ago, Shoes said:

Your logic is valid, but your premise is unsound. Your mistake is using what is known about X2, because the game is in the design stage and none of these things are concrete.

If I set up arbitrary rules for the setting and then break them, the setting has consistency errors and that's a problem for everyone ... but if someone else sets up arbitrary rules and the setting breaks them, that's only a problem for them.

Whether an alien race advanced enough to travel to Earth has the technology to be able to disguise its infiltrators as humans is up for me to decide, and the precise parameters of how mind control or whatever "space brain magic" that the aliens are using to infiltrate governments for plot and gameplay purposes is also up to me to define. Sure, if I come up with rules for how those things work and they break the pre-existing X2 lore, by all means raise that as an issue. 

This isn't that, though. Whether intentionally or not, your posts just read like you're arguing about tiny details for the sake of it - I'm genuinely curious as to how you know for certain that these advanced aliens have no way to disguise their operatives as humans? And that there's no way I could ever plausbily write one into the setting? And that the logic chain therefore means that the entire setting has to be abandoned?

That without passing as humans, the aliens therefore have no way of infiltrating governments, which therefore means that world governments can't be unreliable actors, and therefore that the entire of humanity would immediately and complete unite against the aliens as soon as a single alien body or craft was recovered by anyone, and therefore that the "secret war" idea can never work? Even if it were to provide a much better overall gameplay experience than the previous setting where a dozen soldiers and three or four jet planes stop the entire might of an interstellar alien civilisation?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You can write whatever you want Chris, but I (and the rest of the player/fans) can only draw conclusions based on information that is available to us.

The premise, as it currently stands is:

1) Aliens can't take on the combined human armies - this puts a limit to their technologies. If they can hide themselves from our radars, can easily infiltrate our ranks and posses travel, defense and offense capabilites far above us, then the first premise fails.

 

2) How good they are at disguises, I can't really tell. You can say "it's magic" and it would be an explanation. But there has to be a limit. At the first hint of infiltration, any sane government would initiate strict tests to important personnel (blood samples, DNA tests), which is why the changeling/plastic surgery concept of iniltration never sat well with me. They are alien and their body language and biological processes will be different, there WILL be tells. It makes far more sense to simply have human traitors that willingly work for the aliens (for personal gain or ideological reasons). It might add a bit more suspense, as you could even have traitors in some missions - for example, local military force turns against you suddenly.

 

As for the "a dozen soldiers and three or four jet planes stop the entire might of an interstellar alien civilisation" - it's only like that if you make it like that. If xenonauts are not the entire spear, but the tip of the spear, then it's not just a dozen soldiers? If it's made clear that the rest of the world is not sitting idly, then there is no problem. Everyone is fighting - you're basically Special Forces, leading the way.

If it's not the entire alien interstellar civilization, but a rag-tag remnant? A tiny scout fleet? Tiny changes can have big effects.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, TrashMan said:

You can write whatever you want Chris, but I (and the rest of the player/fans) can only draw conclusions based on information that is available to us.

I agree that you've identified potential plot holes in the setting, but the point that I and others were making is that the concrete information on the setting isn't out there yet - and it'll only be out there when we put the strategy layer out  (a couple of months away at most). Until that point it's kinda pointless to debate the finer details of the setting, because you're asking me to spoil the entire setting and plot in advance to defend the set-up against your queries by explaining everything from scratch - which is time consuming on my part, and potentially going to spoil things for other people who would prefer to learn about it by playing the game.

As I say, I'm more than happy to have people poke holes in my logic once it's all out in the open but it'd be much more efficient if you'd wait until you had read the whole thing and then we can confine our discussion to the finer points of the setting where you think there are specific problems. Until then you'll have to trust me when I say that I don't believe the issues you raise are a problem for the setting; feel free to go to town on it if my claims don't match up to reality.

 

Without going into too much detail, the reason the aliens can't beat humanity is because they have VERY limited numbers rather than because their technology is bad (and thus there's a difference between being able to pass unnoticed through our ranks and our airspace and being able to survive the fight that would happen if they were revealed). The way infiltration works is through mind control, but it's less direct possession and more just altering peoples' personal beliefs or accessing their memories.

For example, making an important American officer or politican feel far more hostile towards the Soviets and far more skeptical about the existence of aliens would benefit the aliens significantly, but it's not really detectable in the conventional sense and also not powerful enough that the aliens could achieve their objectives by immediately mind controlling the US President and pressing the nuclear button. It's about them building up enough hostility and paranoia in the world to overcome the natural resistance that both superpowers have to starting a nuclear war; the same effect can be used to muddy the water about their own existence even if there is solid evidence that they do.

This also means the Xenonauts consider the world governments unreliable actors and aren't working completely openly with them - if they tell an official in the US government where their main base is and then the aliens read his mind, the aliens can find the Xenonauts and wipe them out. Instead they have to operate in relative secret, making it hard enough for the aliens to track their activities that they cannot afford to divert sufficient resources from their main objectives to find and destroy the Xenonauts.

This method of suggestive control and infiltration is naturally (and conveniently) woolly and indeed the game is probably not going to spell out the specific parameters under which alien mind control works. The player will know that it is powerful but certainly not all-powerful, and that's really all you need in order to use the secret war setup. That's all I'm going to say on the setting for now - I'm afraid you'll have to wait for the strategy layer for anything extra.

2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

There's something I'd like to point out, although Chris most likely already thought of this.

Given that the aliens have the tech to reach Earth, it is therefor possible for them to disguise themselves as us. However, that is not what I am going for, rather that they wouldn't NEED to disguise themselves as humans because other humans could do their dirty work for them behind the scenes of the political arena. Now, what I speaking of? I'm referring to human nature. We as humans are easily manipulated by others, if the aliens came and found a group of humans that were sympathetic toward them - and yes you WILL find them amongst society - then the invaders would make promises, deals, one's that they might ultimately break but enough to get the interest of these individuals to work for them and thus use them for their own means. 

This kind of method is NOT inconceivable, as we've seen it throughout history over and over again; granted, not from an alien race or anything but from our own however still it is not something that can be tossed aside and stated to be 'impossible. There are other methods as well that could work to make humans side with the aliens, some of which would dive into the realm of mind control while others more threats and unhanded methods. 

At the end of the day though, there are multiple ways that humans could be made to work with the aliens and nothing is impossible to consider. Especially once you take into account just how naive us humans can really be. Frankly, I look forward to seeing what Christ comes up with :)

And yes I know this thread is two months old, but it got my attention :p

Edited by Kalshion

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now