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Chris

Xenonauts-2 February 2018 Update!

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Just over a month has passed since my last update. In that time we've released a couple of free ground combat public builds with a number of updates - but we're probably only spending about 20-25% of our time on the public builds at the moment, and the rest is being spent on the "full" game.

I think the public builds are in a pretty good place now. Sure, there's a plenty of small issues we still need to fix up but the core shooting mechanics are pretty solid these days ... particularly after we spent a bit of time debugging and fixing up the burst fire weapons and explosive weapons for the most recent build, which had previously been misbehaving in certain circumstances. What the ground combat is now missing is primarily content - it needs more maps, it needs more aliens (with unique abilities), it needs more weapons, it needs more advanced AI scripts, etc.

We're working hard on adding this additional content as we work on the strategy layer. In the last few weeks we've been creating our first "alien base assault" map, which is looking really cool but still has a couple of issues - one with the way the doors are placed when rooms connect to corridors, the other being we need to implement the teleporter tiles. We've also been working on a new type of military base tileset that shares some assets with the town terror sites (basically suburban national guard armory) which we will be using for a VIP assassination map. Both of those maps are a significant visual improvement on the map in the current build and I'm looking forward to showing them off when they are done.

With regards to the strategy layer, we've recently been concentrating on the functionality required to properly play the game - and making it feel like a game. The first area we worked on is around the UFO interception mechanics and visualisation. The actual combat is still only autoresolve at this point, but we've been trying to make the interception process feel more like in X1. Some of this is mechanical - e.g. each squadron of interceptions can now only fly one interception per turn - but a lot is just improving the visualisation of what is happening. Previously you just assigned your fighters and clicked the "intercept" button to generate a crash site, but now you actually get to see your interceptor fly from the base to the target and back again and you have custom icons for each UFO type, etc. The game is definitely more immersive than last month, but we're still not quite there yet.

soldier_equip.jpg

The second area we've been working on is continuing to use and improve the strategy > ground combat link. The big new feature is the improved Armory screen, which looks something like the above image (semi-placeholder art). It allows you to arrange the troops in the dropship and gives you a high-level equipment overview. You can then just click on any of the soldier info tiles to access the Xenonauts-style detailed inventory screen which lets you customise the weapons and armour and belt slots etc.

Properly tracking equipment from strategy to the ground combat and then recovering it at the end of mission required us to fully flesh out the item recovery system, so now that's properly passing the equipment and Xenonauts into a mission and the putting the appropriate strategy aliens and recoverable items into a mission, and then recovering the correct stuff at the end of the mission and using it to trigger research and adding it to your base stores / Armory as required. That's all pretty much complete now except for a few special cases we need to finish off, like differentiating between stunned and dead aliens at the end of a mission, etc.

We've also implemented the DEFCON system on the strategy layer:

  • The DEFCON level starts at 1 (max level 5) and the game ends in global nuclear war and alien victory if it ever reaches DEFCON 0
  • Losing a region or failing a terror site lowers the DEFCON counter by 1
  • You can raise the DEFCON level by assassinating NATO / Soviet military commanders who are advocating for war, which is done via a VIP Elimination combat mission - however you take a significant relations hit with the appropriate region if you kill people (this is not implemented yet). Taking the VIP alive and brainwashing him reduces the relations penalty, and stunning rather than killing his guards will also reduce it.

This replaces the "game over after X countries lost to the aliens" loss condition from Xenonauts 1 with something more thematically appropriate and easier to understand. Hopefully we can further develop the mechanics in time, but I think the current setup is kinda cool.

From my point of view, the next big strategy feature is properly setting up the interceptors so you have different types of interceptor and they can be purchased, disbanded and moved from one airbase to another independently (currently you get a squadron of F-17s with each Geoscape hangar you build). At the same time I'm building some maps in our various tilesets so I can properly plan out what terrain assets we're going to need before we ship the game, and what mission types are going to map to which environments. We've got quite a few tilesets at the moment but they're all in various stages of semi-completeness; the game's not really going to be properly playable until it has more maps so we need to figure out what needs artist attention most urgently.

Anyway, that's enough for now - I'll write some more in a month or so, hopefully with some screenshots and videos of the new screens and environments in action!

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Sounds interesting and I hope the immersion and the VIP missions will throw in some new spice to the game.

In many of your posts you talk about your progress, what you have changed, what didn't work, why and what you do to change that. I appreciate that a lot.

Nevertheless, I sense a lot of the things that you wanted to do in the beginning of the development of X2 fall back to X1 solutions. I know this has been mentioned by others before.

The interception process for instance; it was once discussed as a mini-game, where a squadron of changing number of jets with equipment depending on your research and/or money. And now you say "The actual combat is still only autoresolve at this point, but we've been trying to make the interception process feel more like in X1."

Another thing you once said was that X2 will be X1 with improved graphics. No bad thing in general but a bit underwhelming I guess. So I was happy with all the possible changes you talked about. And over the time many of those seem to be pushed out of the development plan. Sorry, I can't remember more specific things like that. I could go through the older posts if necessary. It is just the feeling I get whenever reading "like in X1" in one of your posts.

What do you think how much "new stuff" will be in X2 that will not be a replacement of an X1 feature?

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23 hours ago, thixotrop said:

The interception process for instance; it was once discussed as a mini-game, where a squadron of changing number of jets with equipment depending on your research and/or money. And now you say "The actual combat is still only autoresolve at this point, but we've been trying to make the interception process feel more like in X1."

Another thing you once said was that X2 will be X1 with improved graphics. No bad thing in general but a bit underwhelming I guess. So I was happy with all the possible changes you talked about. And over the time many of those seem to be pushed out of the development plan. Sorry, I can't remember more specific things like that. I could go through the older posts if necessary. It is just the feeling I get whenever reading "like in X1" in one of your posts.

What do you think how much "new stuff" will be in X2 that will not be a replacement of an X1 feature?

It's important to draw a distinction between the interception process and the air combat here - what I mean by "the interception process" is the act of assigning your planes and having them fly over to the UFO, and the air combat is what happens when they reach it. The air combat is what most people are interested in and that'll definitely be different to the mini-game in X1, but that's something we're going to implement towards the end of development because it's a big job and the simple auto-resolve calculation works perfectly well for now. What the post above is talking about is just that we're trying to make ordering your jets around the Geoscape a bit more satisfying at the moment.

When you say "new stuff" that's not a replacement of an X1 feature, is that actually what you mean? Do you want to know about completely new features that don't have an equivalent system in X1, or would you rather hear what new ideas for X2 have survived and not become quite similar to the old equivalent system in X1? 

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On 14.2.2018 at 0:39 AM, Chris said:

When you say "new stuff" that's not a replacement of an X1 feature, is that actually what you mean? Do you want to know about completely new features that don't have an equivalent system in X1, or would you rather hear what new ideas for X2 have survived and not become quite similar to the old equivalent system in X1? 

Thank you Chris for clarifying interception process and the actual combat.

What I mean is that you talked about many ideas for X2 in the beginning - and also on the old forum. I admit that my memory might be tinted with the "other game that was discussed in pretty details before". But in the general discussion some have talked about mentioned features getting dropped although the majority thought them valuable.
This post is tackling that a bit.

To be more specific and from the top of my head:
- Air combat: Squadrons of different jets (own or rented of the factions) in real-time mini-game OR choosing pre-selected tactics for the squadron only for the RNG-air combat result.
- Perk system of soldiers: Originated from one forum member (can't remember the name) to have a sort of bonus/malus system for soldier experience.
- External support during ground combat: With certain conditions achieved, you could call an air strike for suppression or to crack-open the UFO hull.
- One base or more bases / radar sites: One base only - as far as I remember - but radar sites were discussed to enlarge the radar coverage.
- Influence politics / try to stay hidden from Aliens and Cold War Factions: This or a more open that means Xenonauts are known but not taken seriously in the beginning of the game.
- Staff hiring process: As bonus from mission outcome or as result of faction influence.

I am sure there were more...

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Yup, I can see how it might feel like we're making something very similar to Xenonauts 1. In some ways that is true, but in other ways Xenonauts 2 is quite different from the first game. I don't want to list everything out in massive detail, but a few specific differences between the original game and the new one:

  • Air combat - the interception minigame will be replaced with something else (yet to be determined)
  • Research tree - the research tree will be a bit more complex this time around, giving the player more choices and containing more exotic gear than in X1
  • Alenium - Alenium isn't consumed when you build stuff like it is in X1, it essentially serves as a power source - the amount of Alenium you've captured is a limit on the amount of exotic technology you can take on any mission (e.g. a Laser rifle may need 1 Alenium), which means we can add cool stuff to the game but limit how much of it the player gets
  • Mission Variety - it's not all going to be crash sites like in X1; the other types of combat mission are more common now and there's a couple of new ones too.
  • Recruitment - scientists and engineers now have different levels of competence, and you can hire more experienced ones at a higher price (this also applies to soldiers)
  • Soldier Traits / Training - soldiers increase in rank and gain some stats via combat experience, but I'm also planning to add a competency / trait system and a system that allows you to train your soldiers in those traits outside of combat.
  • Base Management - Interceptors and radars are now built directly on the Geoscape, so the player is limited to a single base but there should be more stuff to manage in that one

There might be some more that I've forgotten - I'm just writing this off the top of my head (there's definitely a bunch of other changes that are too small to list here).

Several of the biggest changes (research tree / air combat / soldier training) is only going to be implemented when the rest of the gameplay is already implemented because we're going to need a lot of playtesting to get it right... and, clearly, we can't do that until the game is properly playable. Until that point there will be a simplified system in place that approximates what happens in X1; like the autoresolve air combat that we are currently using.

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Wow, it is almost like all the stuff that has been talked about on the forum was fed into some kind of development plan. Magic ;) 

I'll be interested to see these new implementations and find how much of what changes is actually missed. The removal of air-combat in Firaxis xcom was no biggie, but then I think that that is because their first game had really dull interceptions (it was more a case of remembering to do the right R&D in time). So, Goldhawk, good luck with that one!

As I've said before, I'd vote for bold changes, certainly with the little things. Alenium sounds pretty big, like it will determine a lot about the game, so obviously that mechanic has to be considered and carefully implemented (then abused in mods!). But what I really liked about the first xenonauts were the little things: airstrikes on downed UFOs, the ventilation system in alien fortresses or the way the artwork changed in your base over time. Those features were hardly something you would use in an exhibition promoting the game but they're nice little things waiting for the player to discover.

So, yes, it is good to hear that Goldhawk are rethinking not just rebuilding but whilst that is important, also (please), be bold with the little bits.

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15 hours ago, Chris said:
  • Soldier Traits / Training - soldiers increase in rank and gain some stats via combat experience, but I'm also planning to add a competency / trait system and a system that allows you to train your soldiers in those traits outside of combat.

Massive Chalice had a neat Trait system, where squad members could influence impressionable youth, and where an elected "Standard" conferred his traits onto the military. It was a core mechanic of the game, so I don't think Xenonauts can make a deep system of it at this point. However, depending if soldiers are organized by squads, a squad leader could be appointed for this very purpose. Maybe the leader only affects the mission (appointing a scientist as leader means looting more tech, an engineer means looting more materials, etc), or maybe they affect the soldier on an individual level (appointing a brave soldier as leader means other soldiers become brave, for the mission or for the duration of the game). This starts to conflict with the Xcom trope of dispensable soldiers, however...

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The traits are planned to be smaller, simpler things that sit on top of the existing soldier stats - e.g. stuff like competency with particular weapon classes, which boosts accuracy and perhaps damage with that type of weapon, and maybe some other skills that grant small bonuses like +1 vision / +10 HP / +5 TU etc.

A soldier increases their stats as they rank up in combat, so an experienced soldier will have a higher base accuracy than a rookie ... but you gain competency with a specific type of weapon through strategy training or by using it in combat. So a well-trained rookie might be more accurate with a sniper rifle than an experienced veteran who has never used one before, but for maximum effect you need both combat experience AND training with your chosen weapons.

To me, this system has two chief advantages - one, it lets you train up spare soldiers to a medium level of competence without them ever seeing combat (although they're just filling up space in your base in the meantime), and second it means you can pair it with the new recruitment system to allow players to choose different "classes" of soldier with different starting skills when you hire them. For example, a standard rifleman might start with the Rifle Competency 1 and Medic skills, whereas a sniper might start with Sniper Competency 1 and a +1 vision range skill (or whatever).

However we'll see how all that works when we start to implement it. Right now the soldiers just gain stats as they level up.

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@ Chris
Yeah now you mentioned those I can remember those discussions in the forum.

It is interesting what has been discussed and what is condensing its way into the game.
My feeling of "what will be there and wasn't it discussed in another way originally" came from me not being active for some time. So I had some ideas and concepts in my mind that now seemed to be abandomed. But now I seen, maybe not everything discussed earlier will be there (or you haven't mentioned it yet) but they either have changed or are (may) be replaced by some new stuff.

I would be interested in the ideas that haven't survived and why, but I am not eager to go back and read all the old posts to check what it was and then go and ask you... Yes, lazy me.

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Posted (edited)

Hi,

I'm going to try it out soon, but I already have one big thing on my mind that I dream to be addressed in the X2.

It always sickened me both XCOM and X1 made it easy for a player to achieve total supremacy over invaders. If you play properly, the second part of the game is under your full control. Like drinking a cup of coffee you intercept all the incoming ufos and pick just the sweetest GC sites. That basically means the game loses a huge part and degrades to a simple set of routine actions while you anticipate a final battle.

My vision is the setting has to be the opposite. There should be a feeling that resistance is hopeless in the long run, the situation is clearly getting worse while the clock is ticking, and there is just a tiny hope you have enough time to make a death strike into aliens' weak spot. For example, at least it has to be impossible to intercept the majority of big UFOs in the lategame.

I've tried to implement something similar in my X1 mod (called "Out of the Sun"), of course I had limited options so the result was noticeable but far from the best.

Edited by podbelski

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1 hour ago, podbelski said:

My vision is the setting has to be the opposite. There should be a feeling that resistance is hopeless in the long run, the situation is clearly getting worse while the clock is ticking, and there is just a tiny hope you have enough time to make a death strike into aliens' weak spot. For example, at least it has to be impossible to intercept the majority of big UFOs in the lategame.

You mean like in X-Division ?

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I don't know, I haven't tried the X-Division, it was too incomplete when I was playing the X1

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25 minutes ago, podbelski said:

I don't know, I haven't tried the X-Division, it was too incomplete when I was playing the X1

Yeh, we did it. What you stated is something we realised in X-Division. Dont whine about the difficulty though, when your wish gets granted ;).

Btw quoting or @podbelskinotifies people that you talk to them.

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2 minutes ago, podbelski said:

@Charon

Ok, maybe I'll give it  a try))

Thank you. The quoting really helps in keeping track of discussions :).

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