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RaduComan

Fresh Ideas

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I enjoyed Xenonauts, XCom, UFO series and other games alike. They are tons of fun and I like going back to them from time to time. But I keep wondering why all the games in the genre always come back to the "fighting an alien invasion" theme. I particularly love a lot the combination of base management, researching alien tech, squad management and tactical combat and I would love to see them in other games too. Since you already have the platform for it, maybe you could change the scenery a little bit and come up with a new game. Some ideas off the top of my head are:

  • Theme: space explorers, magic guild, lost colony.
  • Goals: 
    • Find out what happened with a disappeared civilization
    • Find the secrets of ascension
    • Return home / to the rest of society
  • Peaceful missions that can turn to combat or puzzles: engineering and science missions off base.
  • Trade missions

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Mostly it's because making this sort of game is super-expensive because of all the content involved in it. It wouldn't make sense for us to spend all that money unless we know there's a decent audience out there that will buy the end product, so we (and others) have stayed relatively true to the original formula thus far.

But hey, after X-2 we'll have a re-usable engine that we've already paid for. That should mean it won't be prohibitively expensive to develop more X-Com like games with different settings etc.

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I've been wondering that for ages - fun as squad tactics is, it does feel a bit empty at times.

"Why are we at war with the aliens"

"Because we've always been at war with the aliens"

It'd be interesting at some point to see some tweak of the game into something with more depth. Kinda like the difference between the first Alien film and its sequels. The original has character, development and tension, the rest have action. 

So in terms of altering the base game, the main effect would be that missions are not just "search and destroy". The fighting would be more about defence and rescue with other primary objectives laid on top. I don't know how easy it would be to implement puzzles in the traditional engine for xcom games - I guess you'd need to have some interaction with the map or map objects to make the puzzles interesting.

The strategic layer of the game could emphasised with mechanics of base expansion (forming a settlement) and geoscape exploration (rather than just progressive coverage with radars). The scenario of defending Earth feels really quite tired. I like the idea of trying to gain a foothold in some place distant and unknown - so you are uncovering the mysteries of the land whilst fighting off the attack from above (this could also neatly explain many of the plot holes in the traditional gameplay e.g. why the aliens are bothering, why they don't just nuke Earth from orbit or why the rest of humanity isn't doing much).

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The idea of exploring the Geoscape is kind of cool. Assuming no other changes to the game, I'm wonder what could be found. Cold War era bunkers stocked with experimental tech, or isolated science teams who have gone rogue and are also aware of the alien invasion, or army compounds that will lend aircraft and ground support when you airstrike a UFO, for some odd reason allowing you to salvage more materials. Maybe radar coverage of areas could give hints, and you have to send in the skyranger to investigate; sometimes it could be alien activity, or human activity. 

It would also be an interesting way to encourage the player to move radar installations around. I assume there will always be the "best places" for radar, but if putting them in suboptimal places for exploration reasons rewards the player, maybe it will shake things up every game.

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Ideally you want a scenario where you don't start in control of the whole world, with an obligation to defend it. It's pretty limiting, particularly when you also have to include things like interceptors and UFOs because otherwise you'd be straying too far from the core tenets of the series. 

I think an X-Com game (talking about mechanics here rather than setting - it could easily be a fantasy game, for example) where you're exploring, expanding your territory and upgrading your base without having to worry about an air layer would potentially be cool. There's all sorts you could do. Adding in survival elements would be a lot of fun, but again doesn't really make sense in Xenonauts given you're a large military organisation and shouldn't need to worry about whether there's enough food to go round etc. 

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UFO: Afterlight has the player starting on Mars with a few territories, with the objective of exploring and capturing other regions while defending from enemy attacks; although unfortunately it doesn't have any "puzzles" so to speak. There's even expeditions to unearth and diplomacy which you can use to make peace with most factions, although both systems aren't very mechanically deep. The whole UFO series is a fresh (even though they are quite old now) spin on the usual XCOM idea and I'd like to see its mechanics recreated and expanded more often. If you haven't played them Chris, they might give you ideas for further games down the road.

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I second the idea that the UFO series is worth looking at for any developer who wants to inject some new life into the XCOM formula. Though I would argue that if you can only look at one, I would personally recommend UFO: Aftershock. Territory expansion, regional interdependency, base building, somewhat deeper global logistics than Afterlight, faction management, multiple enemy groups with different motives and different means of attacking the player's faction, and a plot that is just weird enough to keep you guessing.

To be fair though, I love how personnel management is handled in Afterlight. The idea of being forced to bring people who are normally scientists or engineers out into the field is neat, and having unit progression for characters that are usually just a number assigned to a research or manufacturing job brings more life to the game.

I love Xenonauts, but man, if you guys took some of the more innovative strategic-layer ideas from the UFO series and mixed them with the already tried and true goods ones you've got . . . oooh, that thought gives me goosebumps. :D 

Edited by JDCollie

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I really love the idea of discovering ancient alien settlements on earth.  This Cold War which the invading aliens are engineering could be set up as a distraction so that world powers destroy each other, leaving the aliens to search through our historical records, do deep scans of the geoscape, even do large scale archaeological digs, and so on in order to find the "precursor tech" hidden on our planet.  This would help explain why there is no full-scale invasion, as the aliens are not in fact a large scale military force, they are only a limited team of scouts / scientists trying to (re-)gain tech that will save their species (a la Ethereals desiring human genes), give them the upper hand against an even greater foe than themselves, or enable them to rediscover a way home.  That they don't even consider diplomacy with humans is explained simply: they are aliens.  They have a completely different way of thinking to us.  Their long isolation in deep space / in an alternate dimension and sheer desperateness may have made them completely cruel, and the experiments and conflicts they have been involved in with each other could have caused them to no longer care about others, but the end always justifies the means.  On another thread I mentioned the idea of psychic aliens having a hunger to feed on the negative emotions of others; fear, anger, paranoia, etc  This would explain why they keep thralls from differing conquered races alongside them (they actually thrive off the negative interactions between them, and are intrigued at the different ways they interact with their masters), and why they are willing to go to great lengths to engineer a political environment on Earth from which they can benefit, rather than just nuking Earth from space and take what they want.  They need the people of Earth alive for some reason, and if their culture and historical records somehow contain info that will help find something hidden on the planet (or elsewhere), and if they feed off such a people's psychic energies (like cattle!) then this is a great explanation for this.

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If the Xenonauts somehow discover the aliens' agenda, then there could be a late game race to find this hidden tech on Earth.  Various regions on the geoscape (underground, hidden in plain sight, underwater, even nearby in space when the tech allows, possibly in an alternate dimension) as well as examining each nation's cultural and historical records (eliminating regions on Earth one by one) in the race to find more and more sites containing this key to winning the conflict and bringing peace to Earth - and maybe the aliens too, before they entirely enslave us and we can't help them resolve their own plight.  I'm personally tired of having multiple base sites and building structures in each, I think one large base with many air bases is not going far enough, and I'd prefer to go all the way to having story missions where new base sites are claimed (some hidden Earth tech bunkers, some from a clandestine NWO organisation, some from invading aliens, some from the ancients), with each new site having new tech to research, new base structures to add to research / manufacture / scanning / training, etc  This really ties in nicely with the Cold War theme, where the "not knowing" about the other side's purpose, intrigue, discovering spies in your own midst, double agents, and questioning everything you know to be true, why you and your leaders even believe in.  The only way to stop a Cold War is for each side to find peace, and conflicting ideologies must be torn down and middle ground found.  This would be a much more satisfying end to me, rather than destroying all of the aliens outright.  There could of course be a faction within the aliens and/or the clandestine NWO government that needs to be destroyed by a united Earth / alien force, but outright genocide seems pointless - that's exactly what creates the tension of a Cold War (aggression against the other side, but not wanting to actually fire because the other side firing back will only end up obliterating both sides).

Edited by RustyNayle

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