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Xenonauts 2 Development Overview

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This thread is intended to act as master index for all the forum threads related to the design changes and new features that will be included in Xenonauts-2 ("X2"). 

Basics & Setting:
Xenonauts-2 is a large and complex strategy game loosely inspired by the classic X-Com games from the 90s, although it is not a direct remake in the same way as its predecessor Xenonauts ("X1") was. This gives us some additional freedom to add or alter game mechanics in order to make the experience deeper and more strategic.

Xenonauts-2 is not a direct sequel to the first Xenonauts but rather an updated and improved portrayal of the same events. The time period of the game is no longer the 1970s but instead 2015, however the action now takes place in an alternate history where the Soviet Union never collapsed and the Cold War never ended - you can thank extraterrestrial interference in human politics for all of this!

The game starts immediately after the Xenonauts lose their headquarters CENTRAL Base to an unexpected extraterrestrial ground attack. A small number of survivors flee in a helicopter to ATLAS Base, a derelict missile silo in remote Iceland that has a small backup command center and a stash of emergency supplies for exactly this scenario. It is clear that the alien invasion is increasing in intensity and (with the previous Commander having been killed) you are now responsible for rebuilding the organisation and keeping a lid on the political situation until the Xenonauts can figure out a way to defeat the aliens for good.

To better employ the paranoia of the Cold War setting, the Xenonauts and the aliens are fighting a "shadow war" rather than open warfare - few people believe that aliens exist, let alone are walking among us ... and the aliens are actively trying keep it that way by deliberately covering up any evidence of their own existence. The few people that have encountered them and survived are dismissed as crazy conspiracy theorists if they try to speak out about it, then tend mysteriously disappear. Little is known of the aliens beyond this:

  • They have been interfering with human politics for decades, always in an attempt to raise global tensions towards nuclear war
  • They deploy personnel and UFOs directly to Earth via translocator technology (i.e. they don't fly here across interstellar space), and disappear after a day or two
  • Very limited numbers of aliens appear - e.g. historically only a handful of infiltrators / a single small UFO would generally appear in any given month
  • They have psionic powers, but only subtle ones - the power to influence people / limited telepathy / etc, rather than direct mind control

A few familiar faces are returning in the alien and Xenonaut ranks, but remember that none of the stuff from the lore of the first Xenonauts is considered canon for the sequel!

 

Key Changes & Improvements:

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Two quick questions regarding the setting:

From the picture you posted i assume the regions are North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Russia / USSR and Pan-Pacifics. Where do you group in the Middle East?

You mentioned in the Geoscape post that a day basically equals a turn on the strategic scale. How many days do you expect a successful Xenonauts 2 run to roughly take (of course different playthroughs will likely have significantly diverging lenghts, i'm just wondering about the general scale, so whether to expect roughly 90 days/turns or rather 360)?

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1 hour ago, Drakon said:

Two quick questions regarding the setting:

From the picture you posted i assume the regions are North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Russia / USSR and Pan-Pacifics. Where do you group in the Middle East?

You mentioned in the Geoscape post that a day basically equals a turn on the strategic scale. How many days do you expect a successful Xenonauts 2 run to roughly take (of course different playthroughs will likely have significantly diverging lenghts, i'm just wondering about the general scale, so whether to expect roughly 90 days/turns or rather 360)?

The Middle East is currently grouped into a single region with Africa.

With regards to the timing of the campaign, the original thinking was 100 days but right now I don't have a particular timeframe I'm aiming for - I think it's now a bit longer than that. Essentially it'll just be however long feels "right" without too many empty turns where nothing happens .... which we won't be able to tell until we're properly playtesting the game from start to end.

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@Dehumanization I'm sure you're already aware, but there is a project to reboot Apocalypse. Unfortunately, it moves a lot slower than Goldhawk because it is a hobby project rather than a business. Although I might've mentioned a few times on the forum that I'm a fan of Apoc. It would be great to play xenonauts with a living cityscape for the strategy layer.

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On 5/5/2018 at 6:22 AM, Dehumanization said:

Question.  After the release of X-2, what are your thoughts of making a game similar to X-Com Apocalypse for X-3?

I'm not going to rule anything out, but I can think of other games I'd rather tackle (such as Jagged Alliance 2). However I've never really given Apocalypse much of a chance as I came to it late and I couldn't get past the UI, so it's possible I'll give it a try and get inspired ... the persistent city / faction mechanics in particular do certainly sound like the sort of thing I'd enjoy. 

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Posted (edited)

What I loved to do in X-com-A was after a corporation fell to the aliens you could raid their factories, blow stuff up and cause damage and then when you left, send your vehicles to destroy the building.  Do this enough times and you could cause them to go bankrupt.  Did that to the head of the government after they sided to the aliens, by that time i didn't need their help because I was selling alien tech and making enough money.  Also, the aliens looked wierd/creepy.  Also inter-dimensional Kaiju!  I never played JA2, but since someone recommended it on the Phoenix Point forums I've been watching a youtube play through of it.  JA2 looks overly complicated, though I'd support a JA3 kickstarter for your team.

Edited by Dehumanization

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Don't wait for the aliens to subvert a corporation.

Raid gang slums in the early game for soldier training, and sell the drugs you seize for easy money.

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In X:Apoc I used to raid Cult of Sirius non-stop, levelling up my guys and selling all the psychoactive drugs and gear for fund-raising.  I had so much money I bribed all the gangs and they would occasionally help me fight aliens if they spawned near the arcology they lived in.  I always wanted X-COM to be the good guys, so I never raided the police or other organisations, even if they were subverted by the aliens (I would just try and bribe them to be my friends again, hoping for a mission to take out the aliens there).  It would be interesting to play it again and raid the police or MarSec or something, since they have so much better gear to sell.

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Posted (edited)
20 hours ago, RustyNayle said:

In X:Apoc I used to raid Cult of Sirius non-stop, levelling up my guys and selling all the psychoactive drugs and gear for fund-raising.  I had so much money I bribed all the gangs and they would occasionally help me fight aliens if they spawned near the arcology they lived in.  I always wanted X-COM to be the good guys, so I never raided the police or other organisations, even if they were subverted by the aliens (I would just try and bribe them to be my friends again, hoping for a mission to take out the aliens there).  It would be interesting to play it again and raid the police or MarSec or something, since they have so much better gear to sell.

I wish there was an option to side with the Cult of Sirius and the Aliens and try to take over all of Megacity (maybe start out as the head of Sirius and have to verse x-com).  Make it that if you join, all other orgs and government goes hostile and everyone tries to take you out.  Get to walk around with those brainsucker cannons and try to assimilate everyone.  Would be fun to switch roles after a few playthroughs. 

But seriously, what kind of game had those kind of options since X-ComA?  Game was too ahead of its time.  

 

Chris probably wants to keep this thread for its attended purpose.  So I started an off topic forum post for X-ComA.   

Edited by Dehumanization
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On 5/7/2018 at 2:06 PM, Chris said:

I'm not going to rule anything out, but I can think of other games I'd rather tackle (such as Jagged Alliance 2). ...

Hey Chris, when I read this I knew I had to sign up to this forum! I've been playing Xenonauts for a little while now.. always enjoying to being able to play the "original" xcom without being put off by the old UI and 320x120 pixel resolution (I was late to the game for those titles unfortunately)..

I'm the biggest fan of Jagged Alliance 2. Been playing it for almost 2 decades now! I've just recently went back to a Vanilla playthrough for a simpler game (compared to some 1.13 mods out there). I would really like to see JA2 with the type of graphics and awesome simple UI you use for Xeno 1 & 2. Seriously, I still remember when Full Control was comparing different types of art styles for Jagged Alliance Flashback; oh man... there was an inner voice just yelling and screaming at them to stop the bullshit and simply have a straightforward graphical style. On the other hand, the portrait style you use, the details like the country, past experiences, etc.. already lend themselves better than any of the JA remakes that seem to have tried to do something "modern". You've already got a better strategic layer.

I think most Jagged Alliance fans don't want a re-imagining.. simply the same old with a newer UI and graphical overhaul.

If you ever decide to work on JA2 (JA1 would be awesome with a "modern" isometric view) you've already got a fan that will sign on!

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So if I understand correctly, it's all Shadow War and there is no transition to overt warfare phase. Understandable for keeping the scope of the project in check, but I think the players need some extra lore explanation to buy all of it staying a secret when fighters and independent agents blow up UFOs all over the world. Probably it's just that almost everyone involved want to keep it a secret. Aliens don't want to risk Humans uniting against and external threat. They keep doing what has worked for them so far. Xenonauts don't want the Aliens finding their base again and are a bit paranoid of the goverments too. All of the goverments don't even believe in the Aliens and even when they do, they don't want to risk panic especially considering they are pretty helpless and unwilling to admit it. Make sure that is explained to the players and it should work.

I think the Shadow War is the more interesting choice, though.

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Interesting stuff--I'm eager to see where this goes.  I thought the first Xenonauts was pretty good but also overly limited by its desire to closely mimic prior art.  The guerrilla warfare angle is particularly intriguing, and anything that makes geoscape strategy more dynamic and interesting is a most welcome addition.

One request/question I have is that those of us who are lazy and play a really long, open ended campaign still be able to do that.  This sounds possible by passively managing the local/global threat levels, just want to ensure that the issue gets a little bit of visibility.  Something that would be neat to see in conjunction with this is if the AI reacts to a passive playstyle by slowing down its own technological progression, and thus the player's access to new hotness, rather than simply following a set progression timer like pretty much every XCOM subgenre game ever.  It would better balance the difficulty and also introduce its own set of tradeoffs, e.g. a lazybones might want to occasionally rush for a while to get an edge and then have to deal with the extra heat.

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@Bogus I can see the rationale for that reactivity; I can think of a couple of ways such a system could go. One, it could create the situations where the AI starts to slow its advance, thinking that you are playing a passive style, when really you just made some mistakes so the game might otherwise be punishing you and not holding your hand. Two, if you play really effectively or get very lucky early on, the AI would accelerate its attack, making rush tactics painful or otherwise making the play unpleasant when your luck runs out. Honestly, I think those consequences might actually be good yet it seems that they might make it difficult to lose the game. Whilst I would tend to load and old save rather than play a losing one, so never being in too much danger, I think that the impending sense of failure is quite important.

Having said all that, I imagine that the Threat mechanic could very much be in line with what you are seeking: offering the player a route to victory that is a bit more chill than an aggressive campaign. People have asked for multiple victory conditions but thinking about it, I'd say a much deeper game might be be one which has the potential for multiple paths towards a single victory.

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There's another side to that though: with a static system, the serious enthusiasts will mitigate much of the perceived difficulty when they figure out the optimal strategy, e.g. airplane spam in X1.  It's a common problem in strategy games, and XCOM games in particular.  

I do see your point though, so perhaps it could be an optional difficulty selection for those interested.  I forgot to mention it the first time around, but something else I'd really like to see is the generic difficulty mode turned into a set of parameters defining various behaviors and bonuses/penalties, like what you'd see in a 4X game.  For instance, someone who got bored with said airplane spam could nerf the geoscape but juice up the ground units.  I did some of this manually in X1 by editing the XML files* but making it more generally accessible would be great.

 

*Hats off to Chris and co. because that XML was some of the best formatted and commented that I've seen in a video game.  Lots of interesting ideas that appear to have been disabled near the end of development, too.

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Overall, my issue with difficulty settings is that they can force you choose from a narrower and narrower set of strategies because eventually only the optimal method is enough to satisfy the challenge. I've been playing games for enough time now that I usually start on the harder settings (woo me) but because of this I know that there is content in games which I miss because the harder skill settings are just too unforgiving. 

Giving the player a system of parameters could work to promote the discovery of all the feasible strategies but there is a problem there. If you give the player control, people might tend towards less interesting games because they mess up the balance. As a slightly tangent example. one of the mods I tried for X1 introduced the ability to manufacture and sell items for a profit - fun but it allowed you to tap into exponential growth and break the money-resource system. Sure, it is great that the game has the potential for such mod but it definitely shouldn't be available in the vanilla setup. If it is an option anyone can access from the start, it has to be treated carefully.

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I think what I would want to see is not only your organization, but others influencing the Geoscape. Such as the theme of the Cold war, well most nations probably won't know about the aliens or if they do will want the knowledge you have and could go about exposing operations or crippling it. This would also allow for joint operations or more ways of playing the game, such as if the other organization is attack operatives could be sent to help, or something like that. Also if your Commander was an actual person that could earn experience and abilities, but possibly based on negotiations, discounts or experience bonus's that would be cool. Oh well just my thoughts.

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Quite dislike that the whole "Shadow War" setting was kept rather than having it more along the lines of a typical alien invasion theme. I made a post about it a few months back but i really think it takes away from the overall theme of the game:

 

 

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On 5/7/2018 at 6:29 PM, Dehumanization said:

I never played JA2, but since someone recommended it on the Phoenix Point forums I've been watching a youtube play through of it.  JA2 looks overly complicated, though I'd support a JA3 kickstarter for your team.

basically it has simpler economy, less of a strategy layer, no research or combat vehicles, and a simplified damage model. relative to XCom of course. with all of that being said it had just as many variables that mattered as XCom. this means that the detail in what it encompassed was incredible, and that is what makes people say that it is complicated, and why jagged alliance 2 is considered as good as it is. it also has copious amounts of humor and a decent storyline (at least for the time). some people are fine with the complication that comes with the level of detail, and some are fine with the amount of complication as long as it isn't due to the level of detail. if you are the latter then it isn't the game for you. there have been a few attempts to remake JA2 and to simplify it to gather a wider audience, and they have all met with failure. there is a rather popular mod called 1.13 (sort of like a patch) which boosts the complexity a fair bit as well.

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On 6/20/2018 at 6:46 PM, TheVoidDragon said:

Quite dislike that the whole "Shadow War" setting was kept rather than having it more along the lines of a typical alien invasion theme. I made a post about it a few months back but i really think it takes away from the overall theme of the game:

 

 

I agree.  This is one of the things in this game that I simply cannot get behind no matter how much I try and wrap my head around it.  It's a significant function in the game, and I think it really ruins the overall enjoyment.  It could be a PART of the overall game, a second layer to the main invasion, but making it front and center just really kills the idea behind the X-COM series.  It's trying to be like XCOM2, and while it works for that game, it's not something I think of when I want to play Xenonauts.

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6 hours ago, endersblade said:

It's trying to be like XCOM2, and while it works for that game, it's not something I think of when I want to play Xenonauts.

Actually, other than cloning the original X-COM, one of the things that Xe1 did stylistically was have cold war era themed intro screen, general time setting, and a few things to read here and there.  @Chris explained that the X-COM game itself is nostalgic for him, but so is Cold War Europe since he remembers it as a kid, so now that he's successfully cloned X-COM, it's time to take Xe2 more in the other direction.  A lot of us support him 100% with this idea, as it turns Xe2 into something other than just an X-COM clone.  He and his team have proven they can make a well-balanced game that supports the community's interest, but now they're flexing their creative muscles.  I say let them!  They are of course going to support modders, so perhaps there will be a mod that skips the initial secret war part of the game, and fast-tracks to the "hot war" part of it, for the sake of puritans such as yourself.

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The whole gameplay of xcom games is much more compatible with a smaller/hidden invasion. In the original xcom, a small team fights off the entirety of an alien force because the aliens only drip feed in their assault. That doesn't really make sense. XCOM2 nailed it thematically with a rag tag bunch of guerrilla soldiers (fighting an enemy who has already won the first war) because that is all you control as the player. It is about justifying a small-squad tactical gameplay.

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I think the Shadow War concept is brilliant and a great way to address some of the inconsistencies between the gameplay and the story. The original 90s game, the 2012 reboot, Xenonauts 1, they all suffer from a thematic inconsistency. Those are ostensibly games about an alien invasion, in the style of classic sci-fi. Advanced aliens are threatening the whole planet and humanity is fighting for survival. And you're controlling an organization that is humanity's last hope, but you're constantly short on cash, and your forces amount to a handful of airplanes and a dozen soldiers. Forces that have great success against the aliens even as individual countries are not able to defend themselves.

A global alien invasion story is fine in a global game. If you were made supreme commander of Earth, controlling national budgets and millions of soldiers, that would be a consistent but very different game. An X-Com style game has a different scale, so a story that frames your alien fighters as a guerilla-like organization makes more sense.

Xenonauts 1 was an excellent, faithful remake of the 90s game, equalling or improving on the original in almost every aspect. Now with the sequel, I think it's great to see Chris have a bit more creative freedom.

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I am so sad to see Xenonauts 2 become for the most part just a rip-off of XCOM: Enemy Unknown... All the things I loved about original X-COM: UFO Defense are gone, and the things I hated in 2012 XCOM: Enemy Unknown are coming into Xenonauts 2 now... I guess mass demand wins. And the freedom of the original is going to sink into the Lethe without ever being expanded or deepened...

After this the phrase:

On 5/7/2018 at 9:06 PM, Chris said:

I can think of other games I'd rather tackle (such as Jagged Alliance 2).

does not bring hope of the revival of that legendary masterpiece. It's more like a question rises, "Are you qualified enough to improve on that genius game without destroying it's enormous depth, huge world, and endless replayability?".. IDK that you can, after seeing the direction Xenonauts 2 has taken.

There is a reason JA2 has not become a mass product. It's because it is too deep and long for a casual player, and there's not a lot of money in creating something amazing for a small number of people. This is just a guess though, based on observation. And the latest direction of Xenonauts 2 tends to prove this point.

In fact Xenonauts 2 could have benefited so much from many of JA2's elements. Instead it seems you're bringing more simplification of the new generation of shallow games into Xenonauts 2 (one of which the 2012 XCOM: Enemy Unknown I very much consider).

Maybe the times of new deep and captivating gameworlds just have passed. Giving room to mass approval, instead of risky new creations turning into games for all times. For the most part. MOST part. There ARE exceptions. But creating what sells instead of a unique vision of the creator definitely rules game creation today. (Sorry, got almost off-topic here.)

From the amount of support I know the Xenonauts 2 can be considered financial success. From the creativity point of view, well... Not so much, for me. And yeah, I am saying this even now, long before the completion of the game.

So... Here it is. An obviously unpopular view. Consider this just that. Disagree, berate, indignate all you want. I am very much okay with that. Maybe this is out of place here completely (wrong topic). I guess I found this the best place to express this view of mine. I thank you for that possibility.

I am getting off the Xenonauts train here.

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I agree with you to a point.  While I am more willing to support GHI and Chris now than ever, I heartily agree that trying to basically strip pieces from the 2012 XCOM is NOT the route they should be going.  I have fought against it in almost every thread in the X2 Features forum.

The reason that game sold so well was the pure nostalgia trip people got from seeing the XCOM name.  While I think, overall, the game was good, and its sequel after HEAVY modification was as well, they are just spin-offs like the UFO: AfterX series was to me.  They might carry the XCOM name, but that's just because Firaxis has the rights to it.  It wasn't XCOM to me, it was a spin-off.

I don't care if Xenonauts 2, 3, 4, however high they go with it are just carbon copies of the previous games maybe with slightly different graphics or aliens or a different engine.  As long as they're still faithful X-COM clones, I will back every single one of their kickstarters.  Hell, TFTD was MY personal favorite because it was underwater, but nobody has bothered to do a clone of that one.  X3 could be the first.  But if they're going to continue this trend of copying the newer XCOM games, like you, I will abandon this series.  And I hate saying that, because X1 was such a masterpiece, even if it was done on the Diner Dash engine.

So far about the last bastion of hope for me is that they're sticking to the old, original style of time units.  If they make it function like 2012 XCOM, I'm done.  They have the opportunity to both stick to the original style AND improve upon it, because let's face it, X-COM was not perfect.  But instead to just copy the remakes?  No thanks.  Now I'm not saying this game is completely copying 2012 XCOM, but enough of it is that it raises an eyebrow.

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