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Xenonauts-2 April & Kickstarter Update

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This update will cover what we've been working on in the last two months, and our plans for our Kickstarter - which is provisionally expected to happen on 4th May. Our plans for the Kickstarter are summarized in brief at the bottom of this article but there'll be a proper announcement and full details of what we're planning in the near future.

The most visible thing we've produced in the past two months has been the new map in the public builds, which I consider a significant step up in visual quality from what we had before. Our plan is to use that map in our Kickstarter public build demo and we've been iterating and refining it with the subsequent releases - it's now on its third incarnation and we've got another couple of builds before the Kickstarter date for us to make more progress. If you're reading this and haven't yet played the new map, it'd be great if you could give it a try and then give us some feedback on the experience because we're hoping a lot of people will play the build during the Kickstarter and we want to make as good an impression as possible!

Less visible but no less important has been our work on the strategy layer. I think we've now pretty much reached the point where Xenonauts-2 is playable as a game (at least in the early stages of the invasion). Obviously the functionality and visuals are still very rough in certain areas and we've got a lot more work to do before we can call it a finished product, but about a month ago I finally had the lightbulb moment where I realized that I was actually playing the game and making decisions and having fun. It's not a good game yet, but it's definitely a game, and I consider that a pretty big milestone.

We've also made enough progress with the level editor and game tiles that we've nailed down the all the different combat map biomes we're going to support and which mission types each will be used for. We've also started blocking out one or two example maps in each biome to give us a better idea of what art assets we'll need by the end of the project, so I've been doing a lot of map design recently. Some of these maps look quite polished whilst other ones still look pretty primitive, but having a "proper" map to play for each mission makes properly testing the game much more efficient even if the maps repeat quickly and some of them don't look great.

The mission types we settled on are:

  • UFO Crash Site: these take place in wilderness areas with only a few buildings, and are good for getting research artifacts and Alloys
  • Abduction Missions: these take place in isolated inhabited areas with densely packed buildings such as farms  / polar outposts / dockyards etc, and allow you to capture Alenium
  • DEFCON / VIP Elimination: a new mission type against human opponents where you have to capture / kill a VIP in order to lower global tensions, but you suffer relations penalties in the region based on how many people you kill (stunning them is fine). These take place in either a NATO or Soviet military base.
  • Terror Attack: very similar to X1, still takes place in either a NATO or Soviet town
  • Alien Base Attack: as in X1
  • Xenonaut Base Defence: broadly the same as in X1 (although there's a few differences that aren't worth explaining until everyone understands how the new Geoscape works!)

As you can see all the familiar faces from X1 have returned, with the "standard" missions split out into the fairly open Crash Sites and much denser Abduction missions that have slightly different strategic goals (Alloys are good for mass-producing weaker advanced tech, whereas Alenium is used to "power-up" individual items) and the addition of the DEFCON mission to spice things up a bit.

The biomes we settled on are:

  • Polar / Research Outpost
  • Boreal / Logging Camp
  • Temperate / Farm
  • Tropical / Dockyard
  • Arid / Village
  • Desert / Junkyard
  • NATO Town / Military Base
  • Soviet Town / Military Base
  • Alien Base
  • Xenonaut Base

There's not a 1-to-1 mapping versus what we had in the first game (e.g. the Farm was its own tileset and the military base was part of the Desert tileset in X1), I think we'll have quite a lot more map than X1 variety once the game is finished. We've produced quite a lot of assets since the start of the project and we're still in the process of sorting and retouching the older stuff as we set up each new biome, but I think things are coming together nicely.

Finally, the Kickstarter - as mentioned at the top of the post we're planning to launch this on Friday 4th May (although as always this may slip a little). This will be your first chance to buy the game and the full game including the strategy layer will be available to play at the end of the Kickstarter, assuming you've backed at the appropriate tier.

I'm working on the Kickstarter page and the reward structure at the moment and I'll hopefully post that up for general comment in the next couple of weeks as it's always useful to have community feedback on that sort of thing. A few key things to mention:

  • We're not planning any physical rewards because unfortunately we don't actually make any profit from them and organising the production / shipping is very time consuming, and I'd rather spend that time polishing the game instead
  • $25 gets you a copy of Xenonauts-2 on Steam / GOG when we launch into Early Access (planned for three months after the end of the Kickstarter)
  • $35 also gives you access to the closed beta which will start immediately after the end of the Kickstarter (this is limited to 2000 backers)
  • The higher reward tiers get you closed beta access plus an additional key of X2, a custom soldier with a portrait from our portrait editor, and eventually a unique portrait painted from a photo of you by our portrait artist

I'll hopefully be posting up a version of the custom portrait editor for people to play with and give us feedback on in our Kickstarter discussion thread, which I'll probably put up next week.

The $35 reward tier exists because the game is going to be rather rough in the closed beta period, so we want to limit it to the people who are most interested in the project and prepared to give us useful feedback. What I want to avoid is too many people seeing the game in its worst form and having lots of people bounce off it; I expect us to make a LOT of progress in three months in terms of gameplay balance and visual polish and usability. Personally I don't think asking the average backer to wait three months after the end of the Kickstarter is unreasonable, but I also know that many people have a strong reaction to being asked to pay extra to get the earliest access to a game (although I feel it's become the norm these days).

I'm curious as to how people feel about that sort of thing - does anyone have any thoughts on that that they would like to share?

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9 minutes ago, Chris said:

Personally I don't think asking the average backer to wait three months after the end of the Kickstarter is unreasonable, but I also know that many people have a strong reaction to being asked to pay extra to get the earliest access to a game (although I feel it's become the norm these days).

I hope this will be a non-issue, especially when you make the distinction between Closed Beta and Early Access. Long ago, you had hoped to have more reward tiers that weren't very art-dependent; are you still looking for more tiers, or are you happy with what you have?

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Hello!

Can you please inform the community if this will be a turn-based game, a full turn-based game, not partially one, like your previous game. I am asking this question, because I think the community has right to know what product you offer, when you already want (beg) money for this product.

If you like, view the question like this - the product is a game, and the genre of this game is a basic thing that need to be clarified. Especially when you clarified  the price list with exact prices.

Thank you! 

 

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Posted (edited)
11 hours ago, Chris said:

I'm curious as to how people feel about that sort of thing - does anyone have any thoughts on that that they would like to share?

You should take the words of the best people in the industry:

"A delayed game is eventually good but a rushed game is forever bad" - Shigeru Miyamoto

As a game developer you want to have as much testers as your team can process the feedback with. There is no reason to get more feedback than your team can realistically deal with. Your other goal is to keep the amount of testers to a minimum possible, as in - reduce the exposure of your game as much as possible, while having a reasonable testing cycle ongoing without burning out too much of your most commited buyers of your game.

The other truth of this quote is that the time people spend on your game should be quality time. If you tell people that you dont have anything to play with for 3 months thats ok - im pretty sure they will find something else to do in the meantime. But if players have to spend 20 hours to find out that they are playing bullcrap than that will net you a lot of negative feedback, and rightly so.
Just take No Mans Sky as an example. Advertised as an finished game it lacked basically anything it advertised with, apart from having no real gameplay spiked with bugs. The next patches made it sort of into the game which was promised it would be at launch. Nevertheless it only became a playable game, nothing spectacular, but now it was burdened with all the negative feedback from before. Getting the game into a playable state didnt return all the lost hours people have spent in their free time on bullcrap. As a player you give the developers a blank cheque of trust, the trust that the game you are playing is worth spending time on. So if you dont think you got quality material you should wait until you have it.

 

This may be somewhat unrelated related, but here is a quote from Sun Tzu:

"Anger may in time change to gladness; vexation may be succeeded by content. But a kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being ( a destroyed game ); nor can the dead ever be brought back to life ( the hours spend on that game ).Hence the enlightened ruler is heedful, and the good general full of caution. This is the way to keep a country at peace and an army intact." - Sun Tzu.

Edited by Charon

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11 hours ago, Rosen84 said:

Hello!

Can you please inform the community if this will be a turn-based game, a full turn-based game, not partially one, like your previous game. I am asking this question, because I think the community has right to know what product you offer, when you already want (beg) money for this product.

If you like, view the question like this - the product is a game, and the genre of this game is a basic thing that need to be clarified. Especially when you clarified  the price list with exact prices.

Thank you! 

 

Unfortunately it's not possible to say at this point for certain whether the game will have a turn-based Geoscape or a real-time one, but at the start of the closed beta it will be a turn-based Geoscape and I would say there is at least an 80% chance or higher that the final game will have turn-based Geoscape.

If it's a major issue for you (and I know it is) then it's probably best to wait until the Early Access stage of the game before you buy it. If the Geoscape is still turn-based when the game is released into Early Access then it'll stay turn-based until the game is released, as it'll be too late to be making major changes to the design at that point. Early Access is currently planned for the start of September.

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2 hours ago, Charon said:

As a game developer you want to have as much testers as your team can process the feedback with. There is no reason to get more feedback than your team can realistically deal with. Your other goal is to keep the amount of testers to a minimum possible, as in - reduce the exposure of your game as much as possible, while having a reasonable testing cycle ongoing without burning out too much of your most commited buyers of your game.

The other truth of this quote is that the time people spend on your game should be quality time. If you tell people that you dont have anything to play with for 3 months thats ok - im pretty sure they will find something else to do in the meantime. But if players have to spend 20 hours to find out that they are playing bullcrap than that will net you a lot of negative feedback, and rightly so.
Just take No Mans Sky as an example. Advertised as an finished game it lacked basically anything it advertised with, apart from having no real gameplay spiked with bugs. The next patches made it sort of into the game which was promised it would be at launch. Nevertheless it only became a playable game, nothing spectacular, but now it was burdened with all the negative feedback from before. Getting the game into a playable state didnt return all the lost hours people have spent in their free time on bullcrap. As a player you give the developers a blank cheque of trust, the trust that the game you are playing is worth spending time on. So if you dont think you got quality material you should wait until you have it.

This is true, but I guess the question I was asking is more this - if you're a big fan of Xenonauts and you want to get involved and play the game as soon as possible to help the dev team, would you be annoyed that we are $10 more for the closed beta? People are already donating their time and energy and some don't like also having to hand over extra money to be in the first beta.

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1 hour ago, Chris said:

This is true, but I guess the question I was asking is more this - if you're a big fan of Xenonauts and you want to get involved and play the game as soon as possible to help the dev team, would you be annoyed that we are $10 more for the closed beta? People are already donating their time and energy and some don't like also having to hand over extra money to be in the first beta.

Ah, that question.

There was a psychological study of proving that paying for a product means people hold it in higher value than the same product for free. The same goes for paying entrance for a seminar, people were more motivated to take away something from the seminar when they paid for it, in comparasion for a free entry even if it only was a few bucks.

So it sounds contradictionary, but putting a higher price than on a closed beta means people will value it higher than if you would put it on a first comes first served basis ( 25$ ) irrelevant of the actual experience. It will also serve as a gatekeeper for only people who really wanna be part of that experience, accumulating only the people which really care about X2 the most. As for the price, it merely holds a symbolical value which you can freely assign in accordance to how much you want to tighten the screw.

In the long run the best thing for the game is if you aquire the best testers for the game. That would be the best for the game, for the people who will play it later and for you. The 10$ bucks merely become a symbolic value at that point.

I personally have too much development experience for a Beta, as i know how little influence you have on the game. For the Halo testing people voluntered to fly all across the country just to test the game where they had to pay for food, hotel, travel expenses and time all by themself. This was "free" testing, but all in all costed everybody 3 digit expenses. So it really just depends.

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Posted (edited)
On 4/11/2018 at 0:07 PM, Charon said:

There was a psychological study of proving that paying for a product means people hold it in higher value than the same product for free. The same goes for paying entrance for a seminar, people were more motivated to take away something from the seminar when they paid for it, in comparasion for a free entry even if it only was a few bucks.

Yes, that's exactly the way it is. I have already thought about it when I saw there is a free battlescape demo. It wouldn't be a good idea after the KS campaign and I'd recommend against it.

It's going to be fine with higher tier for beta. But also I think it would be good to make any physical goods at all, even if only very expansive. Like a printed version of geoscape Earth view with a logo and signed by devs (one version copied and the other one signed personally). If you get few dozens backers it won't be too much time consuming, so you could even hire someone to do it. Probably no more than two days of work. Maybe A3 rolled prints? Priced as needed.

It could be beneficial as the marketing goes, too. The presence of anything signed by authors can make a good impression on customers. Like possibility of getting signed book or a CD.

Edited by Ravn7
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How about giving them access to beta testing AND letting them create pick a soldier name/nationality for the random soldiers in game? Something like that might be fun.

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Just a couple of questions to fill in some information i am missing / clarify whether plans have changed in the last months:

 

How long do you expect the Early Access period to be?

The plan for the setting is still to be a small, non-government sponsored resistance movement, fairly similar to what Firaxiscom 2 did?

The missions will generally only feature a very small number of high powered aliens backed by a larger number of normal human soldiers supporting them?

From what i understand the aliens are actively attempting to bring about a large scale nuclear war that will obliterate Earth's existing biosphere. If so, why exactly, and why do the aliens not just redirect a few asteroids to hit Earth for similar results if the Xenonauts start thwarting their plans or drop the engine of one of their ships from orbit (if it's capable of interstellar travel, then it's energy output is probably in the scary levels)?

You never answered my reply to the post of yours where you wrote that you had probably been missing my point. Since whether the game has a good or a poorly implemented AI admittedly does make a significant difference to me (and probably some other potential players) could you please clarify how high or low that is on your priorities?

 

I personally do not see a problem with the $35 early access option. Basically agreeing with what previous posters wrote.

 

Thanks in advance for the clarifications.

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2 hours ago, Drakon said:

You never answered my reply to the post of yours where you wrote that you had probably been missing my point. Since whether the game has a good or a poorly implemented AI admittedly does make a significant difference to me (and probably some other potential players) could you please clarify how high or low that is on your priorities?

There's a bunch more info on the game dropping later this week onto the forums, probably best to hold off any specific questions until after that lands. The length of EA depends largely on how successful the Kickstarter and sales are in EA, so it's also difficult to give any real details on that right now. Minimum is three months, extra funding will extend that up to the 6-9 month region.

Having a functional but not overly smart AI is one of the core features of the game, whereas having an intelligent AI is an important goal to us but it won't take precedence over core features like implementing the alien racial abilities (e.g. Sebillian regeneration etc). Assuming our Kickstarter and Early Access launch doesn't *totally* bomb, I'd expect we'll that have the time and funds to give the AI quite a bit of polish once we're done with the key gameplay mechanics and for the aliens to be noticeably smarter than in the first Xenonauts.

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I'd pay the extra $10 to do some beta playing/testing.   One of the previous posters said he didn't think beta testers had much of a voice.   I don't believe that is true with Goldhawk.  I know that a couple of my ideas made into X1.   I know that you take thoughtful suggestions seriously i.e.  something that is not just ranting.  :-)

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Well... you've gotta keep the turn-based theme Chris! That's really what x-com is all about. 

2 hours ago, StellarRat said:

I'd pay the extra $10 to do some beta playing/testing.   One of the previous posters said he didn't think beta testers had much of a voice.   I don't believe that is true with Goldhawk.  I know that a couple of my ideas made into X1.   I know that you take thoughtful suggestions seriously i.e.  something that is not just ranting.  :-)

You're right - it isn't true of Goldhawk (something that's very positive). Give them what they want and they will buy it.

 

Sadly though, I take the view that I don't want anything to do with the actual game until it's released. That way it's a nice surprise just like Xenonauts was. I'm still playing it and it's one of my all-time favourite games. Sure, it could have more and more varied maps etc. as standard, but the core game is very challenging if played on veteran & Iron man mode.

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Hi Chris,

do you see an alternative backing method to Kickstarter? It would be nice to use paypal and not be restricted by Kickstarters payment system.

Thanks

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On 4/11/2018 at 12:07 PM, Charon said:

There was a psychological study of proving that paying for a product means people hold it in higher value than the same product for free. The same goes for paying entrance for a seminar, people were more motivated to take away something from the seminar when they paid for it, in comparison for a free entry even if it only was a few bucks.

These kind of studies don't apply here. Beta testers are volunteer and give their time in exchange for some esteem or self-esteem, and that's all. They are just more involved than basic Kickstarters. All that we want is a name on a wall, a title on an official forum, more game features, more polished game features, a privileged relation with designers, or the feeling of acting for the greater good. It's only my opinion, but why do you think I spend hours on translating games on my paste time? Only to have fun, to feel like useful, and to prevent the youngsters from being exposed to a poorly translated environment.

Should I pay more bucks, it would be only for that: giving more bucks to Goldhawk and waiting for something better (or play earlier). Just as the last one of the Kickstarters!

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Glad people are generally supportive of the extra $10 charge for the beta; I think it'll give a chance to properly soft-test the game before we unleash it on the general gaming folks. It is of course also cool if people like ooey want to wait until the game comes out to play or buy it - beta testing unfinished games isn't of interest to everyone and we understand that.

@MyThos I'll look into it. Out of interest, what systems have you seen other Kickstarters offering for alternative methods? I generally back using normal channels so it's not something I've spent a lot of time looking into before.

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Additional info on the game that will be used as part of the Kickstarter pitch is now available on the Xenonauts-2 Features board, and I'll do a proper update post on the forums and the website in the nearish future. In the meantime, this is the master post for all the new information: 

 

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This was an interesting read. I'm looking forward to the kickstarter. I'd happily pay $35 to get the early access. I do miss there won't be physical products this time, but digital products should all be good. I do love my artbook for X1. Hoping for some cool goodies like that this time.

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Posted (edited)
On 4/27/2018 at 12:22 PM, Chris said:

It is of course also cool if people like ooey want to wait until the game comes out to play or buy it - beta testing unfinished games isn't of interest to everyone and we understand that.

I guess I'm just an old stick-in-the-mud, but I used to love waiting for Crash or Zapp64 to see what finished games were like and buy them based on that. Based on Xenonauts though, there's no doubt you'll make a good job of Xen2, and I will certainly be buying it for sure (as long as it remains turn-based - there are already variations of Xcom out there that are more 'arcadey', and I'm old now (40s) and not really able to react fast enough to play games like Command & Conquer - RTS).

 

Leaders don't have seconds to react to changing events anyway - at least strategic leaders don't ;-).

Edited by ooey

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