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Xenonauts-2: Design Update (Realtime Geoscape)

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With the Kickstarter just around the corner, I think it's important that these design threads accurately reflect our plans for the game. As such I've amended a few of the posts - the Geoscape, Air Combat and ATLAS Base. If you've already read those threads, I've summarised the changes here so you don't need to read them again. If you've not read those threads then skip this one and read them directly as the new information will make more sense in context.

The major change to the design since I released all these threads has been to move the Geoscape from being turn-based back to the real-time setup that was used in the first Xenonauts, which also has ramifications for a couple of other systems.

Why Realtime?
I'll start by running you through the setup we had with the turn-based Geoscape. Basically, each turn was initially 24 hours long and UFOs / missions would last multiple turns on the Geoscape. You could launch each interceptor once per turn, and when you attempted an interception you were given a % chance of successfully catching that UFO based on the speed of your aircraft vs. that of the UFO. If you successfully caught the UFO and shot it down, a crash site was immediately spawned on the map.

Most of what happens on the Geoscape in an X-Com game involves organising the air defence of your territory, so not being able to directly control your interceptors and control the speed of time just led to the strategy layer feeling a bit dull and uninteractive. We made three important changes to try and address this - the first was shortening the turns to 8 hours, the second was making UFOs move position and spawn Geoscape events between turns, and the third was to increase the interception chance based on how close the UFO was to the base the interceptors were stationed at.

This resulted in a pretty close approximation of the X1 Geoscape mechanics in a turn-based setup ... and whilst it did have some advantages, it just didn't feel as interesting or complex as the X1 systems did. As I don't think it's wise to change the mechanics in an existing franchise without a compelling reason to do so, I decided we should switch back to the familiar realtime Geoscape and try some new mechanics to fix the weaknesses in the X1 Geoscape.

Implementation Time:
Changing from a turn-based to a realtime Geoscape isn't that difficult from a game logic perspective, but we are going to have to spend a bit of time getting the new interception mechanics working. Our previous abstracted interception mechanics meant that units didn't need a position on the Geoscape in the same way that they do in the simulated approach used in the realtime Geoscape, so we don't currently have a proper co-ordinate system that controls exactly where units are and which direction they are heading etc.

This will take some time to implement but it isn't a *massive* task. It should be fully functional before the Kickstarter ends, assuming nothing unexpected crops up.

X1 Geoscape Weaknesses & Potential Improvements:
The first issue is information display - a turn-based Geoscape clearly presents you all the UFOs / missions / choices at the start of the turn. I think the X1 Geoscape could get annoying when batches of events may as well all have been presented at once, but instead kept popping up and interrupting you one at a time and making you reshuffle your units each time. So for example we'll probably make an effort to spawn a wave of three UFOs all together, rather than spawning the first at 12:07, the next at 12:09, etc.

The second issue is the interception chance. In X1 the chance of an interceptor successfully catching a UFO had a large random element, because the UFOs would frequently change course and fly in a random direction. If they decided to fly directly towards your interceptor then even a slow interceptor could catch a fast UFO. If the UFO turned around and flew out of radar range, even a fast interceptor wasn't going to catch it in time.

I think here the solution is just to make UFOs fly straighter for longer towards their targets, and limit the course changes to more shallow turns. This means the interceptions will have less random chance involved in them and the speed of the interceptor will be a bigger factor. Importantly, though, it also means UFOs will necessarily spawn further from their targets and have to cover more ground / sea to get there. This means the Geoscape Events spawned by UFOs will actually be useful in areas without radar coverage, as they'll show a rough trajectory of the UFO so you can make an educated guess about where it is heading and when it might reach your territory.

The third issue is reactivity. In X1 the only UFOs that react to your aircraft are the air superiority fighters, which home in on your aircraft and attack them. I was thinking that it would be nice to add some additional behaviors to the UFOs that the players can manipulate; for example fast UFOs might not travel very fast most of the time but might speed up dramatically if an interceptor closes to within a certain range and then fly directly away from it. Because you can control the angle of attack of the interceptor, you could then use one interceptor to steer a fast UFO directly towards a second interceptor. I'm not sure how well something like that would work in practice, but I'm keen to try it out and see!

And, hey, if none of those changes work, the worst that will happen is you're left with the interception mechanics from the first Xenonauts! :)

Ramifications For Other Mechanics:
Right now the plans for ATLAS Base being an off-map HQ and the airbases being where you station your interceptors on the Geoscape is unchanged, but that particular mechanic comes under more pressure under a realtime setup. The dropship is now something you'll see flying around on the map ... but if ATLAS is off-map, where does it come from? Narratively ATLAS is placed in Iceland, but in a realtime setup the flight time of the dropship actually matters in some situations (even if the dropship has global range). So having a main base that you cannot place where you want may be limiting for the player.

Changing back to the X1 interception mechanics means that we could set the Field Agents up in a more interesting way. Rather than assigning staff to an abstracted region slot, we could allow the player to send ground teams out on the geoscape in the same way that you can send out interceptors (except they are much slower and don't run out of fuel). They would actually be travelling the world map to do their various activities - improving relations, recovering crashed UFO sections, removing alien infiltrators, recruiting staff, etc - having to physically travel between each of the different points of interest.

If we went with that, this too would further suggest we should switch back to the X1 base style - your secondary bases might be more than just interceptor bases if you want to use them as a staging post for ground team operations in that area. Anyway, I'll keep you updated with how that all goes.

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Heyyyy .... ground interceptor squads ?!?!  Man, that could be great - maybe some higher-speed hovercraft type vehicles - faster than any car, traverse rugged terrain easily, maybe @ 200 mph / 320 kmph ?  Or perhaps not at first, you'd work / research your way up to that kinda craft later on.  You could also park some 'at distance' from the nearest base by areas you suspect might get some alien activity and are out of the radar / fuel range of your current air force.  I'll be curious to hear if you do decide to implement the a ground intercept game of some sort !

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2 hours ago, Wyldefyre_CP said:

Heyyyy .... ground interceptor squads ?!?!  Man, that could be great - maybe some higher-speed hovercraft type vehicles - faster than any car, traverse rugged terrain easily, maybe @ 200 mph / 320 kmph ?  Or perhaps not at first, you'd work / research your way up to that kinda craft later on.  You could also park some 'at distance' from the nearest base by areas you suspect might get some alien activity and are out of the radar / fuel range of your current air force.  I'll be curious to hear if you do decide to implement the a ground intercept game of some sort !

I think you're misunderstanding the intention of the ground teams here. They're not ground-based anti-air vehicles, they're just exist on the Geoscape and are controlled in the same way as interceptors are. They don't interact with air units / events in the same way that aircraft don't interact with ground events.

What they actually represent is a few of your soldiers travelling across the ground / sea by whatever method is most appropriate; either a jeep or a boat most likely (which is why they're much slower than aircraft). These guys will be able to deal with ground events that spawn randomly on the Geoscape (recruiting people, collecting UFO wreckage, improving local relations, etc) once they reach them, but the travel time can take a long time and you need to weigh up whether it's worth sending a team out to attempt to collect the reward or not (or maybe there's a limit on the number of ground teams you can have on the Geoscape at any one time).

The other mechanic I feel could make this interesting is if alien facilities etc could spawn infiltration markers that cause problems in the local region. You can remove these markers by sending a few soldiers to them, or you could just destroy the alien facility - but if you're not strong enough to destroy the facility or you want to spend your time elsewhere, you've then got the ability to contain the infiltration just by stationing a ground team to the region. Once they're near the base they can quickly mop up any infiltration markers that spawn, which removes the infiltration threat from the alien base provided you're willing to tie up some of your troops for an extended length of time. Fundamentally I think that's more interesting than the X1 system where the alien bases bleed away relations directly and there's nothing you can do to stop it unless you destroy the base.

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6 hours ago, Chris said:

Secondly, changing back to the X1 interception mechanics means that I once again need to consider the problem of the "air war" being far more important than the "ground war".

I have a very poor grasp of your current exact plan for the strategic implementation ... i do not quite understand why this would need to be true. From what you published of the background story, the aliens are well in contact with several powerful factions amongst the largest military organisations on the planet. They might want to use their own "UFO"s to travel for some missions they do not want those military organisations to know of, but wouldn't it by and large be more efficient to be transported by conventional human built craft? If that is the case, then basically not participating in the "air war" would mean no UFO crash sites, but if you invest into conventional military intelligence instead, there should still be lots of other missions cropping up where you can for instance crash a diplomatic meeting between alien leaders and political/military leaders of a certain country, raid a transport or storage site containing goods that were negotiated to be part of a trade or bust into a collaborate xeno/human science lab to wreck their research and steal their data. Assassination and VIP exfiltration missions should also stay mostly untouched. Or did the background story change and i missed it?

 

6 hours ago, Chris said:

Narratively ATLAS is placed in Iceland, but in a realtime setup the flight time of the dropship actually matters in some situations (even if the dropship has global range). So having a main base that you cannot place where you want may be limiting for the player.

If it is a limitation that is the result of a game design choice and accounted for in balancing, then i would not consider that a problem.

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Interesting read.

 

Overall, I am really sad to see the turn-based geoscape go. It really sounded interesting and I was looking forward to it the most out of all of the changes. It just sounded so interesting and like a perfect way to present information. I kind of wished it was left in until backers could test it. I get you said testing said it was boring, but it sounded more interesting to me than the standard way. I mean, the standard way is just a lot of waiting. Also, with it being wave based I don't see much of a reason for a real time geoscape. But, I';; be okay with the old way. I just will now have to get used to it being more complicated again.

 

Some thoughts on the new system.

 

I don't think I ever had too much of a problem with how spawning worked in X1. My only little issue, and this is something that sounds like it could still be present in the new way, is having a ship spawn, send out a lot of ships to deal with it, only to have another spawn in the same region and force me to redirect my squadron / send them back to split them up to handle both. Now, this could be fixed if you had no more than one ufo spawn in a region at once or if you add in a menu that tells you all of what you have in each region and allow you to select which one to deal with without just going through all of the pop-ups. I know I'm pretty unique when it comes to my relationship with X1 compared to the community at large, but that was the only real thing that ever irked me with how spawning worked in X1.

 

I'm still good with the predefined mini bases and one main base, but I can see how that could cause issues. There is certainly more of a reliance on having the dropship actually be able to do stuff instead of just having it happen inbetween turns. Could it be possible to leave soldiers stationed in the mini bases? Like, you deploy them at that base and they can now do the missions in that region. Maybe you could also have them being stationed lower their morale / fatigue so as to incorporate that into that mechanic. You could have them back at Atlus be where they recover. That would add another layer into rotating troops. For instance, the aliens are doing a big push in Africa, something like building a base, so there are more missions there with perhaps some better equipped ufos. You might want to put your better equipped guys at the mini base in that region while putting some of your lesser soldiers at the other regions. Maybe you also station a few extra there in case some get inquired since you will be doing tougher missions. I think that could be interesting, but it could add too many layers to the game with management.

 

I would be interested in hearing how dropships would work now. I assume in my scenario mentioned, you'd need a dropship at each mini base. That would make sense because each of these bases is mainly an air base for all the interceptors you'll be fielding. You could also have your dropship stationed there. Maybe you could even station more than one. I don't know if that'd ever be too needed though since I don't think you'd normally ever have enough happen to need more than one in a region at a time. If you make the dropships stationed at the mini bases, you could have the player get a bit more control over them. Maybe they can now once again build / buy them so they can get as many as they feel like they need. If you do some stuff with allowing for the construction of better dropships, that would also allow you to choice where to put it. If the same is happening in Africa, maybe you move the better dropship on over to there.

 

Another idea about the dropship is to kind of turn that into how you move soldiers around in the stationing idea I mentioned above. Maybe you can do some research to build a special dropship that you have to use to fly around to transport troops to the different mini bases, although the more I write about this idea, the more I hate it. I'd probably keep the dropships at the mini bases and just give your transport to them be regular military transport aircraft. Just have it be something in the background. Maybe some research can upgrade it later.

 

Also, that idea about the troopers taking more or less regular transportation sounds cool, I just think arriving at the missions in a dropship would be cooler. Maybe, as I mentioned above, do something like this be for the transport to the mini bases. Perhaps they can be intercepted and then they'd appear next to the vehicle. But, that's just more work. I think what really kind of puts me off of this is the X-Com Files mudpack. That did something like it and it was terrible. Took way too long to get somewhere. Although, I assume you'll do better than them. I think I'd just really need to see how you'd replace the dropship )in design / style) before I can get on board. Maybe the other vehicles are just for the smaller missions and not the big ones? Or perhaps you have unlimited less great transports so once you run out of dropships you can still use the jeeps for the smaller stuff. That could add in an extra choice. You could send a jeep and have less people go or you send the dropship so you have a good squad, but now you can't do the next crashsite.

 

One final thing is now that the mini bases have more of an importance, can they be attacked? Like, maybe make this a smaller (in scale and / or scope) than the main base attack. You could make this one use a random mpa and just have some kind of generaic airbase layout or you could make it have a predefined layout, but have it look different than the other main base. Having these get attacked could give you a good reason to keep people stationed there all the time. Perhaps if you lose, you lose all aircraft stationed there as well as any items, but you get the base back after X number of days. Lore-wise just say it is easier to rebuild an airbase than the main base. If you make it be a bit easier than the main base assault you could have this happen earlier in the game. You could just make it be that the aliens track you back to the base you are launching ships from and that could explain why the main base attacks only happen a bit later when they get more intel on you. Also, if you have these base attacks happen while the main base can still get attacked that is another good reason to leave some people back at main base and could give more of a reason to add in the MARS and turrets.

 

Anyways, those are my thoughts for now. I hope that is helpful.

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5 hours ago, Drakon said:

I have a very poor grasp of your current exact plan for the strategic implementation ... i do not quite understand why this would need to be true.

Yes, you're actually right about this. This "ground team" stuff is kinda an aside; the main change is just making the air combat more interesting and involved by going back to realtime. As you correctly point out, moving to realtime doesn't fundamentally alter the balance of the game. I'll edit the OP so it's clearer realtime mechanics give us the opportunity to make the Field Agent system a bit more interesting and involved, rather than forcing a balance change upon us.

I'll explain the ground team idea in more detail in a new thread once I've had more of a chance to work the kinks out in it, and we probably shouldn't derail this thread by talking too much about it right now.

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You got my attention peaked. Looking forward to the Kichstarter going live. I actually have some money this time.

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Could there be some combination of both real time and turn based geoscape? So you 'end turn' to skip to the next set of events, then manage the interception-game in real time (well, continuous ticker time). And for things like 'build complete' messages: say the engineers would complete at 12:09 but the turn cuts off at 16:00, then have it such that intervening four hours go towards a stockpile of build points to be spent in the next turn so you don't lose out on any time/resources. A combination of the two time scales would mean extra buttons on the user interface but I imagine that the game would feel more fluid for it.

I reckon that the main effect of the real time geoscape is that the player perceives the map to be in a state of flux. This is great for moving units around in an interactive, real-time-strategy game kinda way, i.e. coordinating craft in interception. I really like the ideas being floated about making the UFO flight paths more predictable, so they're something that can be gamed, rather than what felt like chasing a carrot on a stick in X1. In that same vein, I'd be interested in see the transport-to-mission element be developed into something. In pretty much every xcom out there, you just watch your dropship go from A to B along the shortest route. There is no need to have that in real time or even displayed on a map. Essentially, all you're doing is selecting the mission, saying "go there", then waiting for one icon to meet the other. There is definitely scope to use something like the locations of field agents, or dynamic threats on the map, to develop the dropship into a more interesting tool. 

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I think you're trying to keep things too similar to Xe1, and not fully exploring the potential of this Cold / Secret War idea to its fullest and flexing your game building ability rather than simply creating another XCOM game with a twist.  Yes by the end of the game the war should get hot and there will be interceptions of UFOs all over the place, but I think at the start Drakon has a very good point.  If the aliens want to remain secret, they wouldn't be flying their UFOs all around, that should be something they do only towards the end of the game as they become more desperate.  Enemy agents using conventional vehicles would be great fun.  Is that plane being used for alien purposes, and/or if we shoot it down will it anger the funding nation?  How sure are we that a facility is being used by the aliens?  The need for a dropship at multiple bases around the world could be easily rectified by soldiers using similar conventional vehicles as you mentioned the agents use.  This will slow down the geoscape travel times, but if you're not actively intercepting UFOs early in the game then some missions might be less time sensitive (e.g. guerilla style ambushes in XCOM 2).

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13 hours ago, Ruggerman said:

What happen to the concept of real time geoscape, and turn base for combat!!

The air combat and ground combat are probably both going to be turn-based, so that concept should still exist.

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Posted (edited)

One of the main weaknesses of the X1's geoscape was that with strong air force, the player could pretty much shoot everything out of the sky before UFO's could fulfill their missions. This quickly led in to a situation, where the only mission types available were crash sites. The aliens simply weren't able to create terror sites, bases or anything else which led to pretty boring game play experience.

If you are going back to real time geoscape, for X-2 you really need to find solutions to make UFO's carry out their missions with much higher determination.

The other issue is the drop ship. If you try to keep it's range and speed within any believable limits, it's not gonna work that well. Have you scrapped the teleportation idea you had earlier? I thought that was a great idea both lore and gameplay wise.

Edited by Skitso
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@Skitso Chris has said that the generation of missions isn't going to depend so much on the UFO, so a good air game wont leave you with only crash sites. I've also heard the idea, with some good reception, that you simply can't shoot down every craft in the sky because some of them are just going to be bigger than you - although that idea was several horizons ago along the development road. This is something I'm guessing will be examined in the beta. The ground combat is often described as the meat of the game but I reckon that is giving up on the potential for the geoscape to be something much more intense and indeed, strategic.

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Chris, how do you envision Field Agents working? By that I mean, how are players such as I going to interact with Field Agents on the Geoscape? Looking at the Kickstarter video, it would appear that you select a mission, select one or more soldiers to be Field Agents, click go then come back later on after the progress bar has reached 100%. If my impression is correct, that implementation is going to be boring. XCOM 2 War of the Chosen did a Field Ops “select mission and click go” implementation and once you put soldiers on a Field Op  you forgot about them until they turned in their quest. That was all very well in WotC because Field Ops were a minor sideshow. In Xenonauts 2, Field Agents are apparently going to play a larger role, so looking at progress bars in between UFO waves isn’t going to be any more interesting than in X1 where there weren’t any progress bars to look at. I am also reminded of the garrison from World of Warcraft Legion which got immensely boring after a while because there was very little interactively between starting and turning in a quest. 


Could I suggest that however Field Agents are implemented, there be more interaction with the agent beyond “select mission and click go”? In games like Europa Universalis, there’s often knobs to twiddle and options to fine-tune. Perhaps something like that could be introduced for Field Agents? Even a simple slider to govern how fast an agent completes a mission verses the danger an agent puts his/herself into would make things more interesting. Another thing that has been done previously is interactive crisis events. There is (or rather, there was) a game called Net Gain. That was a game which was nothing but progress bars. To spice up staring at progress bars, they introduced little interactive moments where you’re presented with a text box, several options and a timer. You had to make decisions on the fly and bear the consequence of those decisions. Would something like that be difficult or costly to implement? 
 

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I've been really busy recently so I've still not been able to fully flesh it out. Field Agents *currently* go in an abstracted slot for a region - so you put them in the Latin America slot and then they spend two days invisibly travelling to that slot, and they can then do any mission in Latin America. In most cases you click on the Field Agent and select what task you want them to do from a menu (e.g. Improve Relations) rather than those missions appearing on the map itself.

This system needs further work; it's kinda dull at the moment. It serves a useful gameplay purpose but it's not very interactive or interesting. The system I want to move to removes the Field Agent slot from each region and instead your Agents appear on the Geoscape like interceptors do - so you can set them move destinations and they will slowly move across the map (not limited by fuel like planes are). They won't be able to interact with UFOs and will probably not be able to start ground combat missions, but instead they travel to certain points of interest where they can conduct field missions to improve your strategic position.

I suspect most of this will be interacting with VIPs. My current idea is that VIPs will spawn on the Geoscape and if you get a Field Agent to them, he will start recruiting them to your cause. Once you have successfully done this, you get to choose a reward for doing so (i.e. you're asking the VIP for their assistance with a particular matter of your choice). I suspect the basic rewards you can choose will be stuff like:

  • Recruit Scientists / Engineers (this would be the main way you recruit them)
  • Improve Local Relations
  • Reduce Threat
  • Increase Region Funding (in this case, funding would not be tied to Relations)

Perhaps there are different types of VIP and they give you a bonus to certain rewards, but the idea is you can ask any VIP to give you any reward. This means that we don't have to have multiple events cluttering up each region (e.g. "Improve Relations" and "Increase Funding"), you just get one VIP and once you recruit them you can choose whether you want to improve relations or increase funding or something else entirely.

I would also like to add other points of interest, too - e.g. shooting down a UFO that doesn't create a crash site (e.g. a Fighter UFO) would place wreckage on the map. You don't get the Alien Alloys and the Fighter Datacore until you send a Field Agent to the marker and they spend a few hours physically collecting it. Similarly alien activity might place infiltration markers on the map that reduce your Relations in that region. These can be removed by sending Field Agents to that location and having them spend a certain amount of time dealing with the infiltrators.

In this setup the transit time for your Field Agents to reach these missions becomes something you have to consider. If you've got a base in Central America, sending a Field Agent down to the lowest tip of South America is going to take quite a long time. Is it really worth going all that way to pick up a single VIP if you're only allowed three teams of Field Agents at any one time? Or do you want to wait a bit longer until there's more down there for that Agent to do? Alternatively if you know there is an alien base in South America and it's going to be placing infiltration markers nearby on a regular basis - well, you might want to station a team there permanently so they can clear them out as soon as they spawn.

I think we'll allow Field Agents to travel very quickly between Xenonaut bases, so building an airbase in a region does not just allow you to house interceptors there but also means your Agents can get into the area very quickly. We'll limit the number of Field Agents (or teams of them, if we allow grouping multiple soldiers into a single Geoscape Field Agent team), and ideally we'll add some kind of skill check or equipment check so you can specialise your teams to be faster at completing certain tasks. We might also be able to do some fun things with changing the Agent move speed over certain terrain, or slowing travel in regions (or sections of regions) with bad relations or unstable political situations; that might add a bit more of a sense of geography to the map.

I'm actually quite excited about the potential of this system, to be honest. It means there'll be something slow-burn happening on the Geoscape in between waves of UFOs, and there's always the change we can expand the system a bit so there's more involvement in the actual missions too - like you suggest, Max, you could be given choices about the approach you want to take to a situation when your Field Agents arrive at a mission site.

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Posted (edited)

When X2 was first being discussed, there was a plan to split the team into R&D, Operation, and Military.

The envisioned field agent system seems to go way beyond the strategic depth of most X-COM clones, and I wonder whether going back to that plan and reinstate the operation branch would make more sense then sending soldiers to recruit, to improve local relationship, or to source fundings.  Between skill training and stress relief the soldiers should be reasonably busy. Edit: "It's often a dedicated position in militaries" (below) - exactly my point, it's a dedicated position.

And I really like Max's mid-task events.  May be not timer, but it engages the players in an otherwise click and wait experience.  If the system is reasonable we can even do event chains that involves the same Agent and region. (Another reason to separate perishable soldiers from operators.)

Edited by Sheepy
Link to summary post with the three department heads, update in respond to Apollo

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On 6/21/2018 at 11:58 PM, Skitso said:

One of the main weaknesses of the X1's geoscape was that with strong air force, the player could pretty much shoot everything out of the sky before UFO's could fulfill their missions. This quickly led in to a situation, where the only mission types available were crash sites. The aliens simply weren't able to create terror sites, bases or anything else which led to pretty boring game play experience.

We fixed that by by introducing dedicated Terror UFO, which were impossible to take down for the average first-time player. For the more experienced players it represented a tough challenge to bring down one. Even if you were very skilled you will most likely loose most of your aircraft you send against a Terror UFO, eg. even a very skilled player will have to make a strategic decision if bringing down that UFO is worth the downed aircraft.

The alien bases on the other hand proofed to be more difficult. The difference was that an construction UFO was actually spending time landed, where it could get intercepted. Now that part is fine and dandy, but it hardly matters what kind of UFO you have when you can just send a GC team right away.

One of the solution would be to spawn more critical missions at the same time, just like the 2012 XCOM did, by giving you a 1 choice out of 3 possible events. That has its drawbacks though, as the players inability to act is not received very well. Sometimes you might be in a position where you have to take more missions, but the game won´t allow you to.

My current prefered solution to this would be though that the escorts would still stay airborne when the main UFO lands, protecting it from enemy aircraft and dropship teams at the same time. You can still send your normal aircraft to take out the airborne escorts once the main UFO lands, and thuse clear a path for your dropship.

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On 6/26/2018 at 6:29 PM, Chris said:

Recruit Scientists / Engineers (this would be the main way you recruit them)

This is actually one thing I rather disliked about the new XCOMs. Engineers are a dime a dozen (when your dimes are measured in the millions) and Nobel laureates are so plentiful that the award is running through a perpetual backlog that's more likely to shrink from people dying than actually being given that shiney gold prize. While there's plenty of gameplay-realism concessions throughout this genre, this is the only one I have trouble accepting. Now if it's just a simple of leaving a field agent to their mission and it slowly fills up a bar as they try to find the best of the best and convince them to your side through sneaky tactics, that's probably fine; so long as the option is perpetually available.

Something that might just appease me while keeping the planned system is making it so you effectively have unlimited baseline engineers and scientists and then have brilliant extras to recruit. The engineer who's really good at putting together laser weapons. The scientist who has a preternatural affinity for xenobiology. The ambassador who knows sixty-two languages and is a triple native speaker of english, mandarin, and german. Something to make them unique in the entire world, or at least something that can't be bought just by giving someone a hefty salary.

On 6/26/2018 at 6:29 PM, Chris said:

This system needs further work; it's kinda dull at the moment. It serves a useful gameplay purpose but it's not very interactive or interesting.

So I'd probably use the agent system like Stargate uses its main cast. Have scientists, soldiers, field agents, and engineers be interchangeable. They'd each have combat and field skills, where combat is what it already is and field skills are discrete abilities that can't be gained. That way you'd at least be forced into the choice of, "do I want them available for missions, or do I want them safe out on the planet doing something?"

  • Soldiers do recruiting trips all the time, it's often a dedicated position in militaries. And rank matters. If someone has enormous amounts of experience fighting aliens, they probably know who best to look for when it comes to new meat and higher ranking officers (in real life) have learned enough of the political game to convince senators and generals that their plan is the best plan.
  • Sending the scientist who studied theoretical physics into the battlefield because she's the only one who knows how to stabilize the engines on tier-2 UFOs after you shoot them down? That's a bit complicated to explain, you'd probably have to make a whole new set of animations, and you'd effectively be locking the game behind a series of gates that require getting your own (selfmade!) VIP to the goal. In the field, they'd be best for recruiting other top secret scientists who don't mind holding a gun and in the lab they'd a get slight bonus research to whatever you're on about.
  • Got a hacker? It is 2015, hope you do. While the aliens don't use standard Earth OSes, some ship's internal systems aren't encrypted. In battle, they can get you an internal map of your current UFO floor. In the field, they edit documents suggesting XCOM not only doesn't exist, but is a coverup for their own operations.
  • Engineers? They can tell you a UFOs likely structural weakness (once the alloys themselves are understood) and so get it marked in battle when in vision. Not all breachpoints are available with each UFO; some land in just the wrong way, others took research-instrument concessions. From the outside, at a glance, they all look standardized but a flight engineer knows when shortcuts were taken.

While this suggestion doesn't actually make it that much more interesting, in fact it has the potential to make things much more tedious, I just want a Samantha Carter frantically trying to modify the teleporters before the aliens internal electronics self-destruct goes off so you can get those final confounding variables preventing you from building anti-gravity technology. All while underfire and defending someone who should abandon the whole project and just help with the shooting.

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I thought that there was going to be a teleporter in the Atlas base.  I really liked that idea because sci-fi magic solved problems related to the narrative like helicopters that could fly around the world on a single tank of fuel and terror squads that would politely keep terrorizing the populace until your brave soldiers showed up to stop them.  Plus, you could even do cool things like teleport into office buildings or maybe even into larger alien ships while they were still in flight. The geographic location of the main base would not be a concern because there would be no more logistics involving your ground troops.  

I guess stationing troops at strike bases would be okay, too, as long as I don't need to keep manually resupplying them with ammo, grenades and other basic supplies.

 

On 6/18/2018 at 5:33 AM, Chris said:

The first issue is information display

Yeah this was annoying in X1.  There could be some kind of scrolling information feed presented as a column on the right hand side of the screen, overlayed atop the geoscape map so that attentive players can just slam the pause button as soon as something pops up.  That sort of thing would be less annoying than a black UI box popping up all the time.  And spawning several UFOs at once like you suggested would help out, too.

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On 6/29/2018 at 9:06 AM, ApolloZani said:

This is actually one thing I rather disliked about the new XCOMs. Engineers are a dime a dozen (when your dimes are measured in the millions) and Nobel laureates are so plentiful that the award is running through a perpetual backlog that's more likely to shrink from people dying than actually being given that shiney gold prize. While there's plenty of gameplay-realism concessions throughout this genre, this is the only one I have trouble accepting. Now if it's just a simple of leaving a field agent to their mission and it slowly fills up a bar as they try to find the best of the best and convince them to your side through sneaky tactics, that's probably fine; so long as the option is perpetually available.

Something that might just appease me while keeping the planned system is making it so you effectively have unlimited baseline engineers and scientists and then have brilliant extras to recruit. The engineer who's really good at putting together laser weapons. The scientist who has a preternatural affinity for xenobiology. The ambassador who knows sixty-two languages and is a triple native speaker of english, mandarin, and german. Something to make them unique in the entire world, or at least something that can't be bought just by giving someone a hefty salary.

So I'd probably use the agent system like Stargate uses its main cast. Have scientists, soldiers, field agents, and engineers be interchangeable. They'd each have combat and field skills, where combat is what it already is and field skills are discrete abilities that can't be gained. That way you'd at least be forced into the choice of, "do I want them available for missions, or do I want them safe out on the planet doing something?"

  • Soldiers do recruiting trips all the time, it's often a dedicated position in militaries. And rank matters. If someone has enormous amounts of experience fighting aliens, they probably know who best to look for when it comes to new meat and higher ranking officers (in real life) have learned enough of the political game to convince senators and generals that their plan is the best plan.
  • Sending the scientist who studied theoretical physics into the battlefield because she's the only one who knows how to stabilize the engines on tier-2 UFOs after you shoot them down? That's a bit complicated to explain, you'd probably have to make a whole new set of animations, and you'd effectively be locking the game behind a series of gates that require getting your own (selfmade!) VIP to the goal. In the field, they'd be best for recruiting other top secret scientists who don't mind holding a gun and in the lab they'd a get slight bonus research to whatever you're on about.
  • Got a hacker? It is 2015, hope you do. While the aliens don't use standard Earth OSes, some ship's internal systems aren't encrypted. In battle, they can get you an internal map of your current UFO floor. In the field, they edit documents suggesting XCOM not only doesn't exist, but is a coverup for their own operations.
  • Engineers? They can tell you a UFOs likely structural weakness (once the alloys themselves are understood) and so get it marked in battle when in vision. Not all breachpoints are available with each UFO; some land in just the wrong way, others took research-instrument concessions. From the outside, at a glance, they all look standardized but a flight engineer knows when shortcuts were taken.

While this suggestion doesn't actually make it that much more interesting, in fact it has the potential to make things much more tedious, I just want a Samantha Carter frantically trying to modify the teleporters before the aliens internal electronics self-destruct goes off so you can get those final confounding variables preventing you from building anti-gravity technology. All while underfire and defending someone who should abandon the whole project and just help with the shooting.

In a sense new XCOM has a much more realistic approach to hiring than old X-Com. In the original game you just go to the store a buy a whole bunch of world-class scientists and carry them home in your shopping trolley, whereas at least new XCOM has a system where you're building up your science / engineering teams over time (not that the actual missions have any real link to the rewards they give you, but whatever). I think having to sacrifice a bit of strategic dominance to obtain scientists and engineers in X2 is maybe a slightly better system (as you could be using those VIPs to boost your relations rather than to recruit staff).

The idea you go into in your post is one we've been playing with in several incarnations throughout development, but it does have some fundamental issues. For it to work those super-scientists and special characters of various kinds can't do the same job as normal scientists can, because a lot of the UI interaction is based on the idea of scientists and engineers being interchangeable. For example, assigning 10 scientists to a lab is super-easy if all the scientists are the same ... but if you've got a mix of different scientists with different skills, you have to manually select who goes in each slot every time. Slows things down massively.

The way your idea would probably work in practice is actually that your "soldiers" are actually agents that come in several flavours, of which "soldier" is one. You can also get scientists and engineers and diplomats and whatever else takes your fancy. These guys are all treated like soldiers in the conventional sense - they've all got a common set of stats like Accuracy and Time Units etc - but their starting profession affects their starting stats and potentially gives them some unique skills. So a soldier has better starting combat stats than a scientist does, but maybe scientists get bonuses in certain events when acting as Field Agents. Ideally there would also be certain things that different professions could do in certain ground combat missions too ... although it's quite hard to think those up.

But yeah, having different starting "professions" for your combat soldiers is something I've been mulling over recently.

 

17 hours ago, lemm said:

I thought that there was going to be a teleporter in the Atlas base.  I really liked that idea because sci-fi magic solved problems related to the narrative like helicopters that could fly around the world on a single tank of fuel and terror squads that would politely keep terrorizing the populace until your brave soldiers showed up to stop them. 

Yeah, we dropped that idea after we found out that having a dropship to jump out of at the start of every ground combat mission actually makes quite a big difference to how fun the game is!

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Just now, Chris said:

VIPs

What are these anyways? In XCOM, it was never given verisimilitude in the world. It was just, "you gotta rescue this guy, we'll give you a gazillion dollars. Don't ask questions, don't question why we need your help specifically, do not pass go, do not collect 200 simbucks." In many ways, I don't mind, but I'm curious if you have something more in mind than generic Very Important Guy.

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13 hours ago, Chris said:

But yeah, having different starting "professions" for your combat soldiers is something I've been mulling over recently.

Wasn't this discussed previously? Anyway, ALTAR Interactive did that with UFO:Afterlight. A character could have 2 of 3 professions - soldier, engineer or scientist. It was more time efficient to have a character specialise in a specific profession, rather than shuffle characters around. You'd only ever pull engineers-soldiers or scientist-soldiers into tactical combat if there was no other choice, because engineers and scientists had enough to do in their own roles. I imagine that the same is likely to happen in X2, that soldiers who start as field agents are likely to continue to be used as field agents, unless there is a compelling reason not to do otherwise, because soldiers who engage in battles are going to get better at fighting, whereas Field Agents are going to get left behind. 

 

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I remember the talks about having each characters being able to do some engineering or science on the base in their downtime (or train for combat). I like the idea as it's a bit JA2 in that your mercs are the ones repairing items, healing people, or training militias, but it could end up being unweildy in practice. I'd agree that realistically you'd want to min/max on characters that were focused in one direction, essentially creating those same buckets.  

I think the extra focus on science and engineering makes having dedicated people gameplay wise more sensible - it's already pretty unreasonable that a small group of people can reverse engineer alien tech and uncover new theoretical principles in days / weeks (but that's just part of making the x-com formula work).

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On 6/30/2018 at 12:39 PM, ApolloZani said:

What are these anyways? In XCOM, it was never given verisimilitude in the world. It was just, "you gotta rescue this guy, we'll give you a gazillion dollars. Don't ask questions, don't question why we need your help specifically, do not pass go, do not collect 200 simbucks." In many ways, I don't mind, but I'm curious if you have something more in mind than generic Very Important Guy.

I'm not sure how much detail we'll be going into ourselves here. Basically they're just some kind of influential civilian or military figure in the local region that your organisation has identified as being potentially sympathetic to your cause, and if you recruit them then they can pull some strings on your behalf. You could split them out into something slightly more specific - e.g. this guy is a general in the local region, so he can pull some strings for us as normal or provide us with some experienced soldiers.

 

12 hours ago, Max_Caine said:

Wasn't this discussed previously? Anyway, ALTAR Interactive did that with UFO:Afterlight. A character could have 2 of 3 professions - soldier, engineer or scientist. It was more time efficient to have a character specialise in a specific profession, rather than shuffle characters around. You'd only ever pull engineers-soldiers or scientist-soldiers into tactical combat if there was no other choice, because engineers and scientists had enough to do in their own roles. I imagine that the same is likely to happen in X2, that soldiers who start as field agents are likely to continue to be used as field agents, unless there is a compelling reason not to do otherwise, because soldiers who engage in battles are going to get better at fighting, whereas Field Agents are going to get left behind. 

 

11 hours ago, erutan said:

I remember the talks about having each characters being able to do some engineering or science on the base in their downtime (or train for combat). I like the idea as it's a bit JA2 in that your mercs are the ones repairing items, healing people, or training militias, but it could end up being unweildy in practice. I'd agree that realistically you'd want to min/max on characters that were focused in one direction, essentially creating those same buckets.  

Yeah, we went through the whole Jagged Alliance style multi-skilled soldier thing. The game actually still works like that under the hood, it's just that scientists / engineers / soldiers now only have skills in one area. You both hit on a fairly key point for the Field Agent stuff though:

It's cool to entice the player into pulling people out of their main squad of soldiers to send them on missions. This happens in XCOM2:WotC, where a missions pops up with a reward you really want ... but it requires someone at Major level or above to complete, and your only Majors are in your main squad. Gating missions based on soldier rank seems a bit crude, but as you rank up through combat rather than by completing missions, it does ensure that the player can't build a specialised team of Field Agent soldiers who are great at being field agents but not very good at being soldiers, or vice versa.

I do wonder if a solution where harder Field Operations require soldiers with greater combat experience would be too simple, though? It'd certainly be the easiest thing to try out, in any case.

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