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Xenonauts-2 October Update

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I thank Mr. Trueman for having my idea in his post, voices in xenonauts 1 were lacking, and I would like to have a bit more immersion into the game by adding voices for the civilians, local forces and soldiers, although that would actually require some scripting for it making sense, hear me out.

Imagine your 50 year old soldier talking with a young voice, that would be nuts, and also it wouldn't make sense, the voices should need need to be classified just like in the newer Xcom games (Xcom Enemy Within and Xcom 2).

This would apply on soldiers and every other human NPC in the game, for it to make sense.

I suggest if you add this idea, make it so that NPCs have different voices from the ones of your soldiers.

(One part of me thinks that this post isn't going to make sense, but whatever, I'll take the risk)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

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8 hours ago, Chris said:

In case it's not already obvious, the 40 starting available troops do all have a range of different skill levels and costs. You can hire level 5 soldiers who are also competent engineers or scientists on Day 1 if you want, they're just very expensive. Or you can hire a larger team of less skilled or less versatile staff instead.

(Thats pretty much the entire point of having a static pool of unique characters to choose from.)

Still, 40 characters is not nearly enough, and the skill system also needs A LOT more variety. I agree with all the points @endersblade made about this.

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I would also consider adding models that match every aspect of the character portrait.

Your PVT. Bob has a R.J. Macready beard in his portrait? Then during the battle his model should have a beard.

Your CPL. Smith has blonde hair in his portrait? Then his model will have blonde hair.

I pay a lot of attention to minor details, and adding this feature will make the game better... so you can distinguish who's who.

Unless you have already added that.

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Oh and one last thing before I leave this page for good, please, make a soundtrack that has the original music in it and new music. I loved as hell Xenonauts 1 music, and it will be amazing to see the old music coming back.

Ok, peace all.

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14 minutes ago, Fabevil said:

I would also consider adding models that match every aspect of the character portrait.

Your PVT. Bob has a R.J. Macready beard in his portrait? Then during the battle his model should have a beard.

Your CPL. Smith has blonde hair in his portrait? Then his model will have blonde hair.

I pay a lot of attention to minor details, and adding this feature will make the game better... so you can distinguish who's who.

Unless you have already added that.

This is a good point. Attention to detail is what makes a game great.

I noticed soldier models not corresponding the gender, for example in X1. Not just that, but every soldier having the same model made it so much less immersive.

Somewhere earlier in this thread there was a point about soldier's uniforms. I am glad to see that in X2 soldiers are already somewhat distinguishable. In X1 models differed only by armor that soldier is wearing. But more detailing could only benefit the atmosphere of the game.

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I said I would've left the post once and for all but I lied!

Anyway, I gotta say, please, do not add character customization, or, add it, but restrict it to a certain point.

You can't have your soldier suddently be black or Asian, that would be nuts!

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It's always tempting to ask for more content just because more content sounds fun, but ultimately all games have a finite budget and decisions have to be made about where it's best to spend developer time and money to end up with the best final product.

Unit models will be differentiated by hair and skin colour this time around, but detail like beards etc are barely visible to the player. Is the artist time better spent making sure the three pixels of visible beard are exactly right for each unit, or creating more props to make the maps more varied? I'd imagine the latter would be more fruitful.

In particular, voice acting with lots of different actors is shockingly expensive, hard to localise and impossible to revise once recorded. Also, bad voice acting is much worse than no voice acting ... so I imagine that's expansion pack territory, if at all (although text dialogue is much easier to handle).

Blanket statements about 40 starting characters not being enough aren't really worth much at this point either, as you've not yet had a chance to test that assumption. Note that JA2 has 40 starting mercs for hire and that's seen as the gold standard for this genre, so I figure it's a good enough number for now.

Sure, you may be proved right in time - but I think it'd be best to wait and see before we jump to conclusions about where additional content is needed.

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Also most likely I'll open a thread in a few days with details on the character progression system that people can comment in and make suggestions, as that's probably the place where the community suggestions and feedback is going to be most useful right now.

There's some nice ideas scattered across some of the various replies to this thread, and pulling them into a single place might help us develop some potential paths down which we could go when we start to add more complexity to the character skills and development.

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Well, this is just an idea, but you could open a kickstarter, just like with Xenonauts 1, so you could have a higher budget.

It's just a suggestion tough, but I'm pretty sure people will donate.

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5 hours ago, Chris said:

Blanket statements about 40 starting characters not being enough aren't really worth much at this point either, as you've not yet had a chance to test that assumption. Note that JA2 has 40 starting mercs for hire and that's seen as the gold standard for this genre, so I figure it's a good enough number for now.

Sure, you may be proved right in time - but I think it'd be best to wait and see before we jump to conclusions about where additional content is needed.

Well, technically 41 if you count the IMP character. :p Anyway, no worries, I just got really excited some months ago when reading about the face editor and seeing the (single) result in the demo. Now it felt like: react now or this is it and it didn't sound like it would be easily moddable with kickstarter characters and the 40 being based on the UI... Hence the reaction.

 

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I am worried about the direction the update states it is going.

-10-15 soldiers by endgame would mean that you will be fighting with much smaller teams (I really doubt 12 man squads will be available), especially when double dipping in key functions and having the cover ops system stapled on top

-the focus on anti-infiltrator operations would indicate a significantly reduced focus on battlefield weapons (as in rocket-launchers, mortars and vehicles) fielding and using heavy weapons in a battlefield setting was part of the fun for me, that sets it apart from the Xcom franchise reboot...it was limited in X1 (as it didn't even have a mortar)..but a important part. 

-the limit of flying only by night makes no real sense to me (aliens and humans alike are unlikely to rely on visual identification of an aircraft anyway, especially in a post or on cold war era setting) what is the idea behind this?

-comfort and relaxation base related statistics as well as having a job-unless-fighting kind of system reminds me of games like rimworld, where I have to worry about mental breakdowns because the room ain't pretty enough, or baby them so they get their naptimes...while that works great for that particular game, I'm not really looking forward to this in a more combat focused turn based strategy.

-while I have no real problems with a trooper having to be trained to use their particular weapon system, having weapons tied to skills from other disciplines seems self defeating. 

-boss level enemies results in me seeing the concept of a hard hitting bullet soak.

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This sounds like an interesting take, as well as a potentially more logical role for a clandestine organisation in an an alien invasion. (or at least in an alien invasion that can possibly be defeated).

If in X2 the xenonauts are a small group of humans occupying a military facility, filled with alien tech and striking stealthily at targets all over the globe, including non alien controlled government facilities, then how do we know that we aren't in fact a mind controlled alien infiltration cell? Or the player is in fact an alien, convincing a bunch of poor humans they're actually opposing the invasion... "No no team, don't dump the alien corpse in public to bring the infiltration into the light, that would cause... errr... panic! Yes panic is much worse than all levels of government being stealthily infiltrated to eradicate humanity."

On another note, if the team is going to be attacking government bases, then there are three ways to present themselves:

1. As Xenonauts: They may have a hard time believing you are stealing guns and killing troops for the good of humanity. you look like terrorists to the government, so they will try and wipe you out.

2. As a foreign power: This looks like a normal attack, so they won't be looking for terrorists but they will be massively upset by this action by a foreign power. This is absolutely terrible, as if the aliens are trying to spark a nuclear war, then you're doing their job for them (and probably even better).

3. Impersonate aliens: You get to grab the loot and make the world more suspicious of alien activity. Maybe leave an alien corpe so the soldiers think they killed it to really sell the ruse. This way you don't get the heat and the aliens do, which is great, but if you could pull it off why not instead just publicise the proof of alien invasion and get all 4.5 billion 1977 humans mobilised to stop them?

 

There is an interesting dynamic, where you have three sets of factions: governments, alien infiltration cells and xenonauts (are you the only vigilante group out there?).

Aliens want to increase government - government tensions to spark nuclear war.

Xenonauts want to increase government - alien tension to get a mobilisation to stop the infiltration.

Then the xenonauts can't necessarily tell the difference between an alien cell and another group of xenonaut terrorists... I mean "freedom fighters". So they want to stop alien infiltration cells from raiding bases etc while not wiping out potentially friendly vigilante groups using alien tech to fight aliens (and also themselves attacking government bases because they need more stuff to stop the aliens doing just that?!?).

I think there is the basis there for quite an interesting infiltration strategic dynamic, but that could be a ways away from the intended gameplay.

 

One of the big strategic things that needs to be rationalized is why they don't just go public with the aliens. it could be that this is a mechanic, and you have a choice with loot and corpses or captures: research them yourselves to increase capabilities, or pop them off to be dropped in a public place to convince people that aliens are here (and somehow it takes several sectoids in times square before the sheeple wake up!).

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@SteelGiant I really like the idea that the Xenonauts may very well be a mind controlled alien strike team. It could, at the very least, be made into a sub plot. It's always fun being told to question yourself and your motives. Regarding going public or not, I could be convinced that the aliens already have a foothold in media and politics, and that displaying alien bodies for the world to see is harder to do in the Cold War era, and may give away important information about the Xenonauts themselves; such as the aliens knowing which attacks you have been responsible for, and using that data to figure out the base location, or the odds of you attacking other places. Turns into the Imitation Game.

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2 hours ago, Shoes said:

@SteelGiant I really like the idea that the Xenonauts may very well be a mind controlled alien strike team. It could, at the very least, be made into a sub plot. It's always fun being told to question yourself and your motives. Regarding going public or not, I could be convinced that the aliens already have a foothold in media and politics, and that displaying alien bodies for the world to see is harder to do in the Cold War era, and may give away important information about the Xenonauts themselves; such as the aliens knowing which attacks you have been responsible for, and using that data to figure out the base location, or the odds of you attacking other places. Turns into the Imitation Game.

Indeed, there could be a balance between the risk of exposing yourselves and the need to get the truth out there. I could see the need to pay media people off to publish stories necessitating your xenonauts taking some dubious actions to finance their fight.

But I do rather like the idea of fighting for the wrong side, although I don't think many people would like to see the twist in the end...

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@SteelGiant Maybe the twist ending of having actually been working for the aliens instead of against the aliens could be one of the multiple endings. Would probably be a stretch to make it fit though.. 

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18 hours ago, Shoes said:

@SteelGiant Maybe the twist ending of having actually been working for the aliens instead of against the aliens could be one of the multiple endings. Would probably be a stretch to make it fit though.. 

Most cruel option: have it randomly (but secretly) decided at the start if the commander is alien mind controlled or not, and revealed only at the end.

A less horrible mechanic could be to have critical base personnel be secretly controlled, e.g. if the intelligence officer was controlled they could push you to take more missions attacking human forces.

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20 hours ago, SteelGiant said:

A less horrible mechanic could be to have critical base personnel be secretly controlled, e.g. if the intelligence officer was controlled they could push you to take more missions attacking human forces.

The danger of being mind controlled, or at least influenced, could be used as a reason there aren't many aliens on the field. Any direct contact with an alien could be dangerous, due to revealing secrets about the base of operations, or because the soldier could be otherwise influenced. Then after a mission, this same reason can be used as to why soldiers need to rest; not only physically, but mentally. They also need to be rescreened to ensure that the aliens did not alter their beliefs or whatnot. 

I'm thinking it's a really potent device that could up the fear factor of aliens, and made to lamp-shade a lot of minor details.

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Hey! I missed this update completely, so I'm replying just now because I just saw it.

First, let me tell you that I'm really excited about the idea. Before, I liked the game because I enjoyed X1 but was a bit neutral because, well, it was the same old thing. Now, we are seeing something different. Of course, some of the mechanics have been used before (there's hardly something really new after so many years) but this seems to be a completely new game, so that's exciting. I guess that's what happened to the development team, also. Doing something again, upgraded or improved, but the same old song, it's not really exciting. But developing something really new, that is something worth doing!

And now, onto some suggestions (which I'll put in another post to organize things a bit).

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First, onto inspiration for some of the mechanics:

Unfortunately, I didn't get to know JA games, but I liked the new one Back in Action (I think it's my most played game in Steam with over 120 hours). The camouflage in the game is not very good but the idea is really good, I guess that's something you meant with a cross between the systems in XC2 and JA2. I'd also recommend that you look at one game which is currently in development, it's in Early Access in Steam: "Vigilantes". It's more of a RPG with tactical combat but the idea of surveillance and gathering intel in interrogation is very good. I think you should get a look at that system and come up with some ideas for your X2 intel system. I also liked the Long War 2 intel gathering and infiltration system. I like doing solo missions with lots of infiltration to steal an asset or hack a computer.

So, I suggest you consider scalating the missions as you get more intel, and having very few missions available, with very few level. Maybe at first you have no idea what level of infiltration governments have, and you need to find out. You set up surveillance (strategic mission) on a country, then get the intel to throw an infiltration mission and steal some documents or something like that, then you find the location of alien agents, you can assault them, and finally you go for the big bad alien. Something like that, it's only an idea suggestion so you can elaborate and develop something along that lines, or maybe consider it and start brainstorming another ideas and ditch this one. :)

Now, on stats, we don't really know how they translate to the tactical combat but, having 5 ranks, that probably means that Accuracy 1 gets you 20% and Accuracy 2 40%. Those are too big gaps between them. 0-100 are much more flexible, much easier to translate to a % system and much more rewarding because we can see how one soldier increased her Accuracy stat from 57 to 58. I know you won't probably go for the 5 ranks ultimately, just adding my nail to that coffin. ;)

Seeing as you said 10-15 people in endgame, and 4 stats (Science, Engineering, Accuracy, Bravery?) I think you're thinking of 2 scientists, 2 engineers, around 6 core soldiers and around 5 dual class. Well, let me add another class: Covert Ops, Infiltrator, Operative, Agent, something like that. In the strategy layer, you need people doing something. Even in X1 days or even weeks could pass without a combat mission. So, you have to occupy people's time:

     - Scientists investigate. OK.

     - Engineers build new equipment or repair damaged one. OK.

     - Operatives go on intel gathering missions. This requires its own skill: Scouting or Infiltration, which is also the skill you need in combat missions to scout unseen ahead of the heavy duty soldiers.

     - Soldiers train. You can have them train stats but there is something much more interesting. You said you were considering the need for Science or Engineering ranks to weild some weapons. Well, as you've seen, this idea is not well received. But someone mentioned that maybe soldiers need training to use them. So do it, have them assist to courses to learn to use the new weapons and armor. Not only that, require special equipment and weapons, such as motion sensors, demolition charges, machine guns, to be unlocked as a training course. This is both realistic and allows for customization of your squad. You'll have the heavy weapons expert, the scout, the sniper, the explosives expert, and many more. Also, you'll need to decide who gets the course for laser rifles first. Eventually, everybody will be able to fire one, but this adds deepness to the strategy composition of your squad.

In combat missions, Scientists, Engineers and Operatives can fill their own role. You can have special equipment which can only be operated by soldiers with some ranks in Science or Engineering, but these items give several advantages, like improved detection (something really useful), better defense, and so on. You can also bar the deployment of drones or vehicles if there isn't someone with a certain rank in Engineering, or allow them to do field repairs, for example. Operatives are the easiest. You add the Scouting skill to the chance of remaining undetected.

Finally, regarding the stats being fixed by armor, let me tell you that there are some stats that you definetely NEED in a tactical game, specially if you're aiming to reduce the staff that much, making each person unique: Speed, HP, Accuracy and Bravery. I'd also add strength if you think of including melee weapons, or for heavy weapons as you did in X1, but those 4 are core in any tactical squad game. Of course, they may very well be affected by armor, but that only adds a level to the decision making complexity. Do I have my fastest character wear light armor so that he has more TU or do I give him heavy armor because he can carry it while still having enough TU to be effective?

 

I'm writing this at 5.45 AM, this excited I was that I couldn't sleep after getting home tonight, I had to take those ideas out of my mind.

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I want to say something about human or human like enemies.

I played XCom 2 this last months and i really liked it.. mostly:

- Experimental Manufactures

- Weapon mods

- Soldier skills and classes

What i hate and very sad about it:

- Humanoid enemies..

really.. even sectoid is human like.. there is nearly no real space aliens.. This is realy sad and a game breaker if the game got other fun parts.. so don't go for it.. 

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Hm I quite liked being raided by Human factions like the Sirius Cult and others in Xcom Apocalypse (and returning the favour).

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Having the option to go raid a human faction is always welcome, be that heroically invading a cult which is aligned to the aliens or just plain stealing from a terrestrial government who has lots of munitions. In xcom apoc that added in a bit of variation to the visuals as much as the gameplay, since you could choose to stun the defenders to avoid the political penalty. For similar against-human missions, I can imagine a rationale forcing you to only equip pistols or non-ballistic weapons. Most of the decision making in the inventory is about weight vs damage but if secrecy is to be a thing in Xenonauts 2 then it could come into the tactical game. A mission in the public eye would give motivation not to pack everyone with rocket launchers or plasma rounds as they would give the game away.

Saying all that, it shouldn't be a small section of the game that is devoted to blasting exotic looking aliens with ridiculous beams of something or other. I can understand that the story line might preclude massive numbers of aliens being present throughout the campaign, but, there needs to be a good few missions (maybe splashed craft in the desert or hidden bases underground) where you and the aliens can both can go loud and tear things up a bit. 

Adding to @SteelGiant and @Shoes discussion: maybe having human enemies in a lot of missions but with the possibility that they are just misled grunts following orders or alien controlled androids in human skin. So whilst you're fighting them, you can't tell if you are attacking your own kind until that half corpse with red glowing eyes crawls its way towards you...

Edited by Ninothree

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Some interesting thoughts here. Specifically @Alatar there's some scope to expand the "intelligence" aspect of the design, because currently all the staff have a score for Leadership / Communications which is meant to be the sorta "spy / agent" talent but it's a bit of an orphaned skill at the moment because I'm struggling to find much wider use for it beyond its primary use of boosting your (regional) funding income. Having a more detailed system of actually tracking down aliens or infiltrating governments etc might be a good way to give them a meaningful use.

 

As to the wider discussion about the human opponents, there's definitely going to be some human opponents in the game ... but quite how many there is is still up for discussion. Is the correct number of aliens going to be a single very powerful alien plus a bunch of human sidekicks, or is it several aliens and a few less humans? Or even should the aliens have no human sidekicks at all (leaving fighting humans to a few specific human-only missions)? 

Ultimately I don't know and I'm not really going to make any decisions based on the forum feedback right now. I think you guys have made clear that it's something we should think very carefully about (perhaps more so than I previously thought), but it's very easy to tweak the composition of the alien / human mission forces once we start playtesting the strategy layer and we can play around with the different combinations then. I've got my own ideas and I'm not going to throw them until we've tested them, but I'm also happy to change them if testing suggests they're not fun to play.

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