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Xenonauts-2 Base System Discussion Thread

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The plans for the main and secondary bases in Xenonauts-2 have been subject to a lot of discussions in the ATLAS Base thread. They have covered so many topics that writing a single post to consolidate and explain the issues is quite a daunting task, but here we go!

First of all, there's several different debates being had:

  • Side-on view vs. top-down view
  • Building "slots" vs. X1-style tetris grid
  • Single "full" base vs. multiple "full" bases 

Let's start by discussing the smaller of the two debates, and leave the single vs. multiple "full" base discussion until afterwards.

 

Side-on view vs. top-down view:

The artwork for the bases in X2 has changed perspective so the base is now viewed from the side, rather than being viewed from the top as it was in Xenonauts 1 and in old X-Com. There's only one advantage of doing this, albeit quite a big one - it looks much cooler. I really like the concept art of ATLAS Base because not only do you get to see the sky and ground around the base, it's fundamentally much more interesting to see the contents of a base structure from the side than it is to view it from above.

However, there are also some disadvantages:

  • It seems to trigger a lot of people into knee-jerk judgements about us turning the game into XCOM
  • It is worse at supporting tetris-grid base building than a topdown view, as a 2x2 structure implies building downwards through a solid floor (also there's a big missile bisecting the base)
  • Hangars suffer particularly badly, because planes need to get to the surface to get airborne and side-on view emphasises the fact that this would be difficult in the lower levels

I'm happy to live with the XCOM comparisons if the base mechanics work well, and it's possible to semi-handwave the Hangars by adding some kind of elevator into the back wall. However the difficulties with the tetris-style base building may cause issues if we decide that's what we want to pursue.

 

Building "Slots" vs. X1 "Tetris" grid:

In X1 you have a square 6x6 grid and you can build freely on it, with the only restriction being that you must place new buildings adjacent to buildings that already exist. In X2 we're using a system like in XCOM where your base has 18 pre-defined "slots" and you can click on them to place a building into that slot.

The difference between the two only becomes apparent in a few situations. If you're dealing with exclusively 1x1 rooms then slots are actually superior because they allow you to support a cleaner interface. However, you can't build larger rooms using the slot system - unless you do it in a modular fashion, so instead of making a Living Quarters 2x1 slots wide you allow the player to build small 1x1 Living Quarters and then grant an adajcency bonus for putting two next to each other.

This falls apart a bit for certain buildings, though - Hangars once again are the best example. You can't split a 2x2 Hangar into four smaller rooms that each hold 1/4 of a plane. So where does this leave us?

Taken in conjuction with the above point, if we want to house aircraft in a base then the current side-on view presents problems. The choice then becomes whether we want to not store aircraft at the main base (and have them in seperate Geoscape bases that could use the top-down view), whether we want to move to a top-down view for all the bases, or whether we want to see if we can change the scale on the side-on art so there's more space in general - and less vertical space between levels, making building 2x2 structures something feasible (not sure what we do with the nuclear missile then though).

 

Single "full" base vs. multiple full bases:

The player will be allowed to have multiple bases in X2 whatever happens - the debate is just about how much those bases can support. In X1 every base you built was theoretically equally important, as you could build everything in a secondary base that you could build in your first base (although in practice the first base was almost always the most important base).

The proposal in X2 is that you have a single side-on main base (ATLAS Base) that acts as the HQ for your organisation and is the only place that can hold your staff, but the only aircraft it can hold is your dropship. You can then build Airbases on Geoscape that act like X1 Bases except you can only build Hangars and Radars there.

However we choose to proceed with the bases, I am planning to make your first base your "main" base and have it contain a unique Command Room building. This is where the named characters of the Xenonauts hang out (including you) and it's an immediate game loss if it falls to the aliens. Even if we allow complex secondary bases, this allows us to retain the "Threat" mechanics that trigger attacks on your main base and gives us a way to cut short losing campaigns, and force the player to keep their tactical team strong instead of focusing fully on the strategy layer.

There would be costs for moving back to the Xenonauts 1 base system:

  • It obviously takes time to implement the added complexity of allowing multiple instances of each base screen (structures, stores, personnel etc) and then support transferring the contents of those between different bases
  • We have to clutter up the UI with extra elements to support switching between bases and moving things between them - which makes the user experience more clunky and frustrating
  • We'd lose the visually attractive side-on art and have to replace it with the top-down X1 style art
  • You lose the hard limit on the building space the player has available, which means it's much harder to balance buildings based on size rather than cost
  • The logic behind "Readiness" starts to fall down if you can have more than one dropship

That doesn't mean that moving back to the Xenonauts 1 system is impossible, it just means that we need a good reason to do so - not only is it a lot of work to implement, if players don't use the new functionality then the gameplay experience would have actually been made worse as a result.

So what would be the point of having secondary bases?

Secondary Bases - what's the point?

It's important to draw a distinction here between Xenonauts and old X-Com, because in Xenonauts we are actively trying to limit the number of ground missions the player can play in a single campaign. In order to keep the air war interesting, we throw far more UFOs at the player than X-Com does - which means a lot more crash sites. We can't possibly expect (or allow) the player to do all those missions, so we've introduced the Readiness mechanic to force the player to choose which missions they consider important.

Not allowing the player to do every crash site removes one of the biggest reasons for building up a secondary team on the Geoscape, which means the only real role for secondary bases in the current X2 design is to expand radar coverage and to house interceptors - everything else can be done more efficiently in your main base!

However, it's become clear over the past few weeks that a sizeable number of our players like building secondary bases even if it doesn't necessarily make sense in gameplay terms. It makes the game feel bigger and more sandboxy if you have the option to do all that stuff, and lets you roleplay a little. With that in mind, it's worth considering what mechanics might make secondary bases more interesting relative to X1.

Here's a few thoughts:

  • Expanding some of the building sizes would make it more challenging to build everything you want in a single base; Hangars being the obvious example. They're 2x1 in Xenonauts but 2x2 in X-Com.
  • Adjacency bonuses would encourage you to build specialised bases where you can connect particular buildings to others of the same type (if you cannot easily recruit unlimited numbers of scientist and engineers, adjacent buildings could make the staff working there more effective rather than just unlocking additional space within them)
  • Perhaps your Power system becomes less efficient the more Power you are generating? It is more efficient to spread your power-intensive buildings across more than one base, but they're easier to defend if you keep them in one place.
  • If there's more stuff at the base to protect than just planes and radars, the player is encouraged to put a garrison there - which in turn means Living Quarters, Training Rooms and a Storeroom

A few people have raised the possibility of having some base upgrades tied to ground combat missions; I was thinking it might be interesting if the only way you could generate additional Power in your base is to steal a nuclear reactor from one of your funding regions (likely via a ground combat mission). This would then allow you to build a reactor structure in one of your bases to generate additional power, so you get a nice link between doing a combat mission and getting to expand your base.

This would naturally constrain the growth of your bases and could allow different qualities of building - for instance, an advanced lab that makes the scientists working there more effective. This would be kinda cool with regards to the radars, as you could set it up so that you can't stack radars to increase the radar range of a base but instead have to build increasingly power hungry radar facilities. So rushing radar coverage becomes harder because you either have to give up other power-hungry buildings instead, or you have to run a load of nuclear reactor missions in the early game.

I'm kinda just throwing ideas out a bit now, so take all that stuff about reactors with a pinch of salt - but it would be nice to do something that made the base mangement more interesting. In X1 the layout of your main base hardly mattered, and once you'd built some more Radars and another Lab and Workshop in the first month there wasn't much else to do for the rest of the game...

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Some cool possibilities here.  I'd go back to something I touched on earlier about building or acquiring bases in other countries besides the one you start out on.  I'd suggested you might get mission options in the way of requests from those countries, perhaps to 'liberate' a base of theirs from alien control, while having to either employ some of their soldiers in the initial attack (or try to keep some of them alive as random NPCs for the duration of the battle).  I don't feel that just being the Xenonaut Entity should give you carte blanche in each and every country - you should have to prove your worth along the way.  Helping stronger countries with their problems would, in turn, be more difficult (or they'd have solved the problems themselves) but one of the rewards as such would be lending much more credibility to the Xenonaut mission and how other countries interacted with you afterwards.  Taking on many smaller countries problems could reach the same goal - less initial risk to your soldiers early on, but more time consuming to reach similar 'street cred,' so to speak.  

Allowing these countries to supply some of the guards / scientists / engineers to those new bases might also give you insight into what benefits you get from that country vs your regular international pool of characters.  Just for instance, let's say ... your main base is in Europe, and you've helped liberate a base in Peru and another in Iceland.  You've now got better relations with those 2 countries, and they have left you pretty much to your own devices on how to use those bases, with the exception being that they asked you to incorporate 4 soldiers, 2 scientists and 2 engineers of their nationalities in each of those bases.  As you begin filling the rest of the personnel needs of the base , you discover that the Peruvian scientists have some stat advantage over other scientists.  Likewise, the engineers in Iceland also have a stat advantage of some sort.  On the flip side, the soldiers for each country might be barely adequate meatsocks, but that's a term you accepted with the government when you took the mission ....

Other 'little things' once you had a base established in a country could be:

1) New research discovery at that base = small increase in funding by that country + slight increase in world credibility of Xenonauts

2) Building prototypes at that base = similar one-time adjustments for each new prototype that base creates.

3) Completing missions using that country's base soldiers = if there's training available for those soldiers at a cost, the government offers to foot the bill for those particular soldiers perhaps ...

4) Successfully defending vs base attack = larger increase in funding by that country.

5) Death of soldiers / scientists / engineers of that country at that base = small hit in relations / funding with that country.  Also = being issued new recruits from that country (you can't just scrag 'em and be rid of them, lol ...)

If the rest of this sounds way too complicated or annoying, I'll retract my suggestions to just the first paragraph's worth.

 

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Ah yes, your post reminds me of something I meant to mention in the original post - one of the big problems with having pre-existing base locations on the map (i.e. stuff you can "liberate" from the locals and re-purpose) is that the player then loses the fine control over where there bases are placed. This actually kinda matters when you're using the realtime Geoscape because planes have to fly towards their targets and having a base in a bad position just because the game wouldn't let you choose where to place it is likely to be frustrating.

You partially can get around this by offering more possible locations for bases - but then you've got a lot of useless stuff cluttering up the Geoscape. Even having 8 base locations on the map (which in reality is far less than you would need) adds a huge amount of extra clutter to the map. 

We did experiment with pre-existing bases for a bit and they ended up being kinda awkward for those reasons.

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It was possible to build a base more quickly in X1 than in new-XCOM because in new-XCOM, expansion has to start at the lift and you have to dig level-by-level, whereas in X1 all you had to do was find some free surface area to continue construction. 

If aliens invade the base, then I think it would be easier to move around a base that has one floor rather than one that has a lot of staircases because these act like choke points. 

Being able to rotate buildings in X1 wasn't really an interesting feature so much as a convenience that allowed you to fit what you wanted in the base.  

 

16 hours ago, Chris said:

However, you can't build larger rooms using the slot system

Well you could just carve out however many slots the facility needs and then build it in those slots.  The facility would just act like one big slot when the mouse is hovered over it, and the "grout" that partitions 1x1 slots would be filled in by graphics of the facility.

I don't think it matters to be honest so if sideways buildings look better then go for those.

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When I was writing my thesis, I had a large body of existing publications on-hand at the university library to learn and quote from. I really wish there was some form of publication written for the benefit of game developers so they could look at the mechanics that other games employed and could learn from. 

ALTAR Interactive used the "different kinds of building in a base" mechanic in UFO:Aftershock. The idea was that you had one main base, the Laputa, which orbited the earth. Your bases on the ground consisted of a few building sites where you could build different buildings. The Laptua had a fixed set of facilities so if you wanted to get anything done, you had to capture territory and build facilities on new sites. Each site had room for only 3-4 buildings, research and production often needed more than one building so you had to capture territory to grab new sites to carry out new research.

However, the AfterX series of games is about capturing territory. The player is on the offence and expansion comes through military conquest, so that sort of design aids the intent. In X1 and X2, the aliens are the imperialist, expansionist force. The player has all the territory already, but he is permanently on the defence. Expansion is about extending your defensive lines. Any secondary bases need to emphasize this defensive posture. Radar and airfields are the obvious considerations and have been discussed to death. I think more emphasis should be put on Field Agents. 

Field Agents are a natural fit for secondary bases. They would form the core of logistical support for agents in the field, as well as any specialised services that an agent would require. In game mechanic terms, I would imagine they operate a bit like the now infamous garrison from world of Warcraft. Certain buildings may mean passive bonuses for field agents. It may mean active bonuses, additional options for agents when on a quest and extra bonuses when turning in a quest. You could tie certain narrative elements into secondary bases. As an example, you might build a field lab which creates a quest chain completable by an agent which results in a ground combat mission. A secondary base might let an agent carry out quests to support a ground combat. If you recall waaaaaaay back when Pathfinders was still a thing, there was a lot of discussion about a pre-game insertion phase. Something like that could be added if you had a base in the territory with the appropriate building, which would more strongly tie secondary bases to ground combat. 

 

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I was going to write a bunch of other junk about how I was having trouble with the idea of the vertical main base but I think it works and is worth a look.

"The proposal in X2 is that you have a single side-on main base (ATLAS Base) that acts as the HQ for your organisation and is the only place that can hold your staff, but the only aircraft it can hold is your dropship. You can then build Airbases on Geoscape that act like X1 Bases except you can only build Hangars and Radars there. "

-You don't have to move junk between bases.  No fun!

-The crash response is:  you pick among several and only take one.  This seems reasonable.   The other games put a lot of emphasis on taking as many crash sites as you could and it had the tedium and repetitiveness problems you previously discussed.

-Secondary bases house interceptors.  I think I would cast my vote for making this UI as relatively simple as possible, not like the X1 version but maybe with an airbase picture like the Atlas base that you can fill in a few slots with equipment or craft.  Maybe as proposed you could somehow partner with regions in an interesting way.  In reality I don't see how you'd be able to keep an airbase hidden...

-Personally I'd like to see the whole air combat as simplified as possible to concentrate on ground mission combat.  X1 tried to make it work but it never quite fit well with the rest of it.

 

Can you show us a concept how the base invasion map would look sometime soonish?  Maybe it only takes place on the command room level since that is the aliens' goal after all?

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Hello again,

I like and dislike the side view system at the same time, but the most problematic is the just one base and outposts system. I think your basebuilding system of X1 was one of the strong points. You should stick to that. In which style is secondary. But to be honest I'd like the top view more. Make it bigger, add the mentioned bonus system where rooms add boni to each other. Transfer systems is not an obstacle it is another plus. You have to think if you build things in one base and send it to your others or if you build it on each base.

So please think about it, is it good to get to close to an existing game or is it not wiser to stay with a good original system. Advancing that system, and you have good impulses, is enough to please your hardcore Micorpose's X-Com players. You don't have to invent the wheel a new, not if you already have a functional wheel that you could enhance.

Also I'd like to see all bases on the geoscope.

Best Regards
ShadowAdmiral.

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21 hours ago, Chris said:

Not allowing the player to do every crash site removes one of the biggest reasons for building up a secondary team on the Geoscape

How many people, realistically, have a second team? There are always B-nauts, but that's more because someone got hurt and had to spend a month in the hospital. Fatigue helps to enforce that, but having a full on B-squad is something that I've only ever done because I could, not because I needed to. "Perfection comes when there is nothing left to take away," which I think holds true for these games. Take what players already do in this system and support the most fun version of that. Secondary bases are for added global coverage (which creates its own systematic and thematic problems), housing more ships, and if you're doing well, additional research facilities. You keep a contingent of soldiers there more because you need to have someone at home defending the base in case you fail to shoot down an assault team. There is no mission to take back a base from an already entrenched alien force, after all. Then you build stores to keep the soldiers stocked because there is no single use torpedos, and you kinda dislike having to build the stores because transferring anything but planes is just tedious and having a global reserve accessible at all times isn't the kind of gameplay-realism concession I want to see. If you plan on making aircraft weapons be manufactured, just saying it will take time to move it from your main base to your plane is a clean solution to the storage problem.

Idea-wise, I can see it making sense that you'd have a 2x1 tetris block which is only make to manufacture planes. Not launch or maintain them. In a typical X1 game, you build an entire hanger which acts as that room to begin with; it's just a space for your engineers to build something that's going to be flown out the moment the last screw is put in place. Suggesting that there's an elevator in the back wall of that room and having a runway on the main base art leaves that possibility very much open. Or you could do something cooler and have a 1x2 room that needs to be connected to the surface which launches planes on zippy like with XCOM:EU. Many plans leave, none enter, and runways are notoriously easy to spot from space.

What about secondary base assaults? Just losing them because a UFO touched them isn't fun and having a checklist for defence isn't all that great either. These games are all about granularity of success and failure; so.. Does anyone on the forums have an idea here? Something to make an attack on secondaries fun?

What is the point of having global coverage to begin with? Shooting down UFOs, yes, but do you always want to do that? If we're basing this on a threat-o-meter then picking and choosing your battles seems like the way to go rather than trying to kill everything.

18 minutes ago, Xitax said:

In reality I don't see how you'd be able to keep an airbase hidden...

We can't, usually. Runways are too just damn obvious and will probably be necessary until you get tier two or three craft. However, the world is full of 'em, you don't need them to be secret, you just need them to not obviously be one the aliens are looking for. Amusingly, you might be able to please everyone by having secondaries go through horizontal expansion and having them be on the surface. Hidden in plain sight with art that makes it look like a farmer's airfield. This.. Would probably be expensive artwise since you'd want snow, desert, and greenlands artwork for every building.

I love how the antfarm looks, especially with the nuke in the center so I'd try to keep it in the game until something prettier comes along. Tetris is the easiest way to make a player feel like they're making meaningful decisions in their base design; if all the shapes are interchangeable, why bother with a proper layout? Adjaceny, sure, but horizontal only adjecency  means there isn't much reason to care and adding vertical adjecency leads to having a One True Base expansion going on.

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7 hours ago, ApolloZani said:
  • How many people, realistically, have a second team?
    I do. I allready have a sec. team since first month. And I did up to 4 in original title and each base hat a little def-squad. Also had it in X-Com Apocalypse.
  • What about secondary base assaults? Just losing them because a UFO touched them isn't fun and having a checklist for defence isn't all that great either. These games are all about granularity of success and failure; so.. Does anyone on the forums have an idea here? Something to make an attack on secondaries fun?
    You won't lose them if you defend it properly. To abolish them because you don't want to defend your bases is to take depth out of the game.
  • What is the point of having global coverage to begin with? Shooting down UFOs, yes, but do you always want to do that? If we're basing this on a threat-o-meter then picking and choosing your battles seems like the way to go rather than trying to kill everything.
    That was the point I disliked most in the new 'official' X-Com series. Would Xenonauts introduce such, I won't buy it at all. It annoyed me and I was glad to see that xenonauts 1 didn't have such an obvious force.
  • Tetris is the easiest way to make a player feel like they're making meaningful decisions in their base design; if all the shapes are interchangeable, why bother with a proper layout? Adjaceny, sure, but horizontal only adjecency  means there isn't much reason to care and adding vertical adjecency leads to having a One True Base expansion going on.
    I absolutly disagree and I think most die hard fans would disagree. I disleked this change at the official X-Com-Games. I was glad Xenonauts 1 didn't go this way. If you think empty space is a problem, there won't be a problem in my eyes to first dig out a square before construction. Does that sound like a idea compromise?

I thought about the theme yesterday. How about looking at X-Com-Apocalypse? There were two things that enriced the gameplay much:

  • Sientiests and Engineers. You had to safe your staff, So you had to build strategly because if you don't than your staff die in a blink. Therfore Starting region shouldn't be only the main room also the baracks, while sientists start at labs and engineers start in the construction bay.
  • Beside Ufo-Def it would be a good Idea to add Base-Def. This stationary systems defend aktivly in the base map.
  • How about introducing a hall way part. Each main room must conect to one, while secondary rooms could be build to the main room. Secondary rooms give bonus to the Main-Room.

Don't make it flat "and easy". That I think wasn't the idea of original X-Com at all. It was to chalange the player, while giving them as much fredom as they liked.

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Just now, ShadowAdmiral said:

I absolutly disagree and I think most die hard fans would disagree. I disleked this change at the official X-Com-Games. I was glad Xenonauts 1 didn't go this way. If you think empty space is a problem, there won't be a problem in my eyes to first dig out a square before construction. Does that sound like a idea compromise?

I think you misunderstood me. I'm saying X-Com: UFO and Xenonauts 1 was cooler than XCOM:EU and XCOM2 because they had different sized buildings. I'm saying to minimize adjacency bonuses and maximize shape layout because players will naturally make different looking bases. I don't think empty space is a problem save that there needs to be a good in-world reason to have it and good in-world reasons for it to take time to dig it out.

 

Just now, ShadowAdmiral said:

You won't lose them if you defend it properly. To abolish them because you don't want to defend your bases is to take depth out of the game.

Well, no. I'm just questioning how fun it is. Having a few base assaults in a campaign is pretty awesome, having half a dozen or more is a bit tedious for me. Losing a base because you're filling out a checklist of defences isn't fun for me. It's easier if you're keeping a team of soldiers for each base since you're doing more than checking off a list but I've never found a need for that when the Skyranger has worldwide reach. It's nice to know that there are players like you, though, I just wonder what percentage of the fan base actually does have a B, C, and D teams or if I'm the minority. I know the game doesn't feel like I NEED to have that many teams to succeed so typically don't.

 

6 minutes ago, ShadowAdmiral said:

How about introducing a hall way part. Each main room must conect to one, while secondary rooms could be build to the main room. Secondary rooms give bonus to the Main-Room.

I have to wonder.. What games have had the most fun base-building mechanics? XCOM-likes are all about these deeply interconnected systems which are all individually fun but together massively fun. Just stealing the most fun base-building minigame from the game that did it best is something to consider.

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On 4/20/2018 at 10:51 PM, Chris said:

Secondly, there is a "base comfort" stat which controls how much Stress / Fatigue a soldier regenerates each day. This is currently not used, but it's possible we'll add structures like a Rec Room that will allow your troops to recover from a mission more quickly (and if not, the option is there for modders to use).

Mmm~ Delicious. I don't know why, but the idea of adding a room that's there for nothing but reminding people why the world is worth fighting for always makes me happy. A nice wide open space filled with plants to offset living underground, couches to relax on, tables to enjoy some snacks and games with friends.. Something beautiful that reminds us why being human is awesome and why living on a green Earth is magical. Plus I muchly prefer the implementation of Stress instead of the week long fatigue system that the Long War introduced. Needing to sleep after a long day on the Skyranger and a fierce workout fighting aliens makes sense, but not laying in bed for a week. Stress as something that builds over time and has in-battlescape effects is just so much better than going to hospital because they went to the gym four days after jogging is such a nicer mechanic to push having multiple soldiers on your roster rather than one A-team.

On 4/20/2018 at 10:51 PM, Chris said:

The idea is that there are a lot of useful structures for the player to build, but they cannot easily build all of them due to space and funding constraints.

Having to pick and choose is great. So long as you can eventually build at least one of each room. I never enjoyed the idea of needing to forever pick and choose something in these games. Being locked out of something isn't.. Conducive to the idea that you can steal every alien, reverse engineer every weapon, build every airplane. This about a unique journey to the top, not a unique end game to reach. Everyone should have everything by the end, or at least the ability to get everything if they want to.

On 4/20/2018 at 10:51 PM, Chris said:

I think there is also scope to make the recovery of alien materials a bit more interesting with this system - recovering a particularly bulky part of a UFO might be worthwhile if you were going to research it immediately, but if it's just going to sit in your base stores for weeks whilst you research something more important, it might be worth selling it immediately (or you might want to build another storeroom).

Truth be told, I think this is where there's space to build an entire room for housing a single intact (or mostly intact) UFO. Just as there's space for an alien containment room, except this would let you test out the various systems and how they all work together. Stealing a landed UFO and studying it as a means to build tier 2 or 3 airplanes and giving you bonus damage against each type you're able to procure and study nicely matches what X1 did with captured aliens.

On 4/20/2018 at 10:51 PM, Chris said:

Aside from limiting your access to the power-hungry "command" slots in the early game and making you think about where you place your generation structures, this system could be used to support some interesting buildings - e.g. a building with a huge power draw, but produced a certain amount of Alien Alloys per day when active. This would be very useful, but would also force the player to shut down a bunch of the less essential parts of their base while it was running. Basically, it would be nice if base management could be an active process rather than just you assigning your staff to a building and then forgetting about them for the rest of the game!

I'm worried it would be annoying to micromanage your base in this genre. The geoscape is where the downtime is, where you go to relax and plan between the high stress missions. I'm also a bit worried about needing to build a bunch of power structures just to keep the base online. Mechanically, it's a sound way of limiting expansion just as living quarters are to keeping labs, workshops, and soldiers on board but is having two mechanics which essentially do the same thing really necessary? I think it works in the case where minimally staffed buildings require power and the old mainstays of labs and workshops only require token amounts of power to keep running. Things like laser defences, hyperwave decoders, alien containment, UFO containment, psi-labs, mind shields, mec rooms, holo-training, zero-g rec rooms, upgraded labs, workshops, automated storerooms, and other 'bonus' rooms requiring much more power seems more along the lines of what I think is a good limiting factor. Personel limit you from having too many rooms too soon, power stops you from having better rooms too soon.

There's something that's just boring about needing to have more than one storage room and more than one generator that living spaces can get away with. I'm not certain why; perhaps it's because I imagine each person needing their own bunk is something I view as necessary in these situations but having a to build an additional generator feels like the person who designed this base is just duct-taping in solutions to problems that only arose because the base was designed poorly to begin with.

It might feel better if there was only ever one power generating structure that could be upgraded rather than the three kinds of obsoleting tech in the new XCOMs. I rather liked that your missile defence could just be directly upgraded in X1 and I'd enjoy seeing that mechanic carrying over to X2, even if you had to pay to get the upgraded structures.

On 4/20/2018 at 10:51 PM, Chris said:

However, you will not be getting the classic X-Com / Xenonauts feature of getting to fight in an exact replica of your whole base - instead you fight in a replica of the upper command level of ATLAS base (which has a pre-set layout).

Yay! I mean, it's cool to have to fight in your base that you and see that some living spaces had classrooms and all, but if it results in more tactically interesting base defences (possibly even with an outdoor section!) and requires less resources to implement which can be used elsewhere, all power to you!

On 4/28/2018 at 4:52 PM, RustyNayle said:

Perhaps one of the very first missions is finding the atlas site itself, which could have been a massive bomb shelter / command centre which the aliens wiped out (and had left a small group to guard) after relationship with some sort of shadow government turned sour. 

I like this idea for an optional tutorial mission. Starting every game by playing it seems like something I'd enjoy once or twice, then wish I could skip every time.

On 5/2/2018 at 7:27 AM, Chris said:

and some form of excavation system

So long as you aren't digging into empty rooms but building new empty spaces out of the dirt, I'm golden. Verisimilitude and all those fancy words and all. Mechanically, all that really does is add extra time to the time that's already spent building the rooms in the first place. If you had a system for rearranging your base and having it only take a day or two, then it might actually add something since if you add tetrominos (bigger than 1x1 rooms), you'll end up thinking of better layouts as you gain more room types and getting to actually play with those layouts rather than being stuck seems nicer to me. Similarly, each empty room might be considered a storeroom for the sake of having empty space be used like empty space; perhaps it's less efficient than real store rooms but having them always be sitting around empty isn't that great when you can just shove some boxes of alien alloys down there seems nicer. Might create a situation where a player gets an annoying, "You can't build there! Not enough space! Sell off materials? Yes/No."

18 hours ago, Chris said:

This actually kinda matters when you're using the realtime Geoscape because planes have to fly towards their targets and having a base in a bad position just because the game wouldn't let you choose where to place it is likely to be frustrating.

Don't players usually put bases within a hundred miles or so every playthrough across every game ever? I've seen a few let's plays of X1 and X-Com and unless they're challenging themselves (like say putting their only base in antarctica) they end up with extremely similar placements.

...

I'm way too obsessed with thinking about this game and all its design possibilities. I usually try to refrain from posting twice in a row but there were thoughts I wanted to share from the last thread and this is the discussion thread now! :P

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Oh great. Look at me. I'm posting a third time a row to the same thread...

So I made a paper version of the base building minigame and set my mate playing it (He's played most of the XCOM games out there) by laying out all the rules before hand. The first time was just with horizontal adjacency and 1x1 squares for every room I knew would be in the game. The rules were that each living quarters was worth +3 personel, labs were worth -1, workshops -1, and command centers -0.5. He always had to have at least 0.5 personel worth to represent soldiers. Each generator was worth +8 buildings initially, +12 midgame, and +16 at the end (meaning only two generators were needed to run the whole base.) New buildings were added to the pool depending on how much 'time' had past (meaning he got access to the medical center after putting down the initial rooms, the rec room one room after that which was always a lab, alien containment, then training and the foundry, then craft construction, then relay and psilabs.) Adjacency was just something to aim for but had nothing concrete to it.

Rooms:

  • Living Quarters
  • Labs
  • Workshop
  • Command Room
  • Storage
  • Generator
  • Medical Center
  • Rec Room
  • Alien Containment
  • Craft Construction (2x1 or 1x2)
  • Training Room (2x1)
  • Hyperwave Relay (1x2)
  • The Foundry
  • The Psilabs

Other than that, the rule was just to play with what was most fun given 2 3x3 areas.

It went probably as well as you'd expect, there was some issues encountered with him not fully understanding adjacency and building the labs into a wall of his own making. In the first game, he was allowed to place his own rooms from the normal pool before the game begin (meaning no med center.) When I gave him the rule of being allowed to rearrange buildings it ended up being slightly more fun. Building additional storage was unappreciated and viewed as slightly annoying. Horizontal long tetrominos were appreciated in terms of feeling more interesting to place down, the vertical tall craft construction room was just seen as unfun, and the hyperwave relay was slightly interesting as a 2tall but received a neutral reaction. Building additional storage was still seen as annoying and in the lategame, alien containment was removed to fit other rooms. This is what it looked like:

LZRxVff.jpg?1

Ideas that were spawned during this game:

  • Having aliens get a higher chance of detecting you based on your power usage and how far down you've built (representing the idea of having a larger 'radar' signature.)
  • Vertical adjacency for generators since those are often built off to the sides and only when absolutely necessary. You never have horizontal space open for them but usually have vertical space.
  • Adjacency means extra space for personnel instead of additional effectiveness. Lab + lab = 2.5 lab spaces. Living quarters + living quarters = 7 living spaces.

Since I was unwilling to put him through more games, I started playing it myself trying to get some of the ideas I had to work (namely the 2x2 UFO containment).

It was.. Not great. There's no way to fit it in 3x3 + 3x3 space and have it feel in anyway good.

I tried it again with 4x4 + 4x4 space and it again did not end well. In fact, it was slightly overwhelming having so much free space and so little initial structures. I placed things somewhat aimlessly and while it had mechanical purpose it didn't feel like it.

Finally, I gave myself the rule of starting out the game with two 3x3 spaces, then at some point gaining the technology to dig 1 one more down and 2 more spaces on the right. That one ended up being much kinder to larger buildings but results in a base that feels less personal and UFO containment fitting in so neatly as a 2x2 room in the newly opened 2x4 space is just rather gamey. Though it is kinda pretty: 

elU5rLX.jpg

Even with these rules, vertical craft construction just never works out, you just never have the time to fit in something connected to the surface. Which really sucks because I love the idea of launching something out the door with no intention of ever having it return. I made my mate play this version of the game and having the ability to expand the space from 3x3 results in lazy building immediately afterwards. Not knowing what new buildings are coming was received neutrally, even the big UFO containment (which may have been because it was only given after the extra space unlock.) It was less fun after the additional space unlock which is rather disappointing.

Some variations of the rules were tried:

  • Giving the player the ability to place their starting rooms. While I'd like to be able to test this on people who haven't played XCOM, for myself and my mate, it results in somewhat sterile placement that's pretty much always the same. One True Base issues abound.
  • Having a premade base with only rooms placed in the top row. Combined with adjacency bonuses, this just feels bad. Full stop.
  • Having a premade base with non optimal placement in the top two rows with space next to the lab, workshop, and living quarters to get adjacency bonuses. This is probably the most fun of what I tried. You still end up needing to work within confines and you're given the choice of having a floor devoted to labs or workshops if you so choose. At least if building further down is seen as something you'd want to avoid as long as possible.
  • Playing with all rooms being 1x1. While not really more or less fun, it is less engaging and less interesting to never have to worry about fitting in a room somewhere.
  • Playing without storage. It seems the game is slightly more fun, but I imagine this one requires conjunction with the geoscape and the possible unrefined UFO parts. To a certain extent, it feels better if you only need to build storage for bulky things and never need to worry about it for standard play. However, that leads to a situation where you'd feel like you were missing out on unrefined alloys once you had the tech but not the room. Getting the adjacency bonus for storage is never worth it for premade suboptimal bases unless you have the ability to rearrange rooms.
  • Playing without generators. The game actually does lose something without generators which kinda surprised me. You need to have one in a premade base to have it be fun, though, and vertical only adjacency for these guys is much more fun fun than horizontal only adjacency. (For art, I picture this as a long vertical turbine thing.)
  • Playing without living quarters. The game losses a little by not having this, not much, but I wouldn't take it away like the new XCOMs did.
  • Playing without alien containment. Surprisingly, at least in terms of the minigame, nothing is lost or gained by having to fit in this building. It makes generators feel better, especially if in a premade base with one where this room it is what puts you up against the wall of requiring more power but by itself, it's not necessary.
  • Playing without the foundry. I'm imagining this is the building where modular weapons and armor are developed. This is is neither here nor there; like alien containment, it doesn't make the game better or worse. If alien containment is in the game and requires power, then this one becomes a choice between studying aliens or building better equipment due to power requirements. However, by itself, it doesn't really add much and in 2 3x3 spaces with 2long buildings, this is a room that gets ignored.
  • Playing without generators. It makes the game slightly more fun but at the cost of not really caring what rooms you're using to expand your base.
  • Playing with only some buildings needing generators. It's tedious if a premade base starts without a generator then needs one later, very unfun. If you start with a generator and power is a thing, the game is only slightly less fun. However, needing power is a good way to force branching choices for a month so while it is less fun, I think power as a mechanic should stay in.
  • Playing without adjacency. Slightly less fun, moderately less interesting. Bases end up looking a lot more varied, however. With only minor adjacency rules, bases always end up looking very similar. The top two floors are almost always identical and the bottom floor doesn't end up mattering anyways.
  • Playing with more adjacency. Labs work with alien containment, hyperwave relay, medical centers, and the psilabs. Workshops work with craft construction, the foundry, and storage. Living quarters worth with rec rooms, medical centers, and training rooms. Generators work with hyperwave relays and psilabs. Command centers work with hyperwave relays. This results in a game that is slightly more fun and much more engaging, as well as creates more varied bases. However, it takes a lot longer to play. Vertical rooms feel better with this setup since you can have a generator block linked up to your lab block to your medcenter to your living quarters in a nice string. Having more space to build out to the sides is more fun in this version of the game. 2x2 UFO containment still doesn't work, however.
  • Playing with the missile off to the side (just one undivided 3x6 space.) When you have to 'dig' into the space on the side, it feels pretty neutral. Fits well with extra adjacency bonuses but you end up being relatively unconcerned about your base without them. Bases do end up more varied, however, and generators having horizontal only adjacency works a lot more nicely in this setup.

Summary: Long and tall rooms feel nice when there are few of them. Storage rooms aren't fun. Power is a good mechanic but difficult to make fun. Adjacency's fun is highly dependant on other rules. One True Base happens in most rule sets unless you have more complicated adjacency bonuses. 2x2 rooms are pretty much impossible to feel as awesome as they sound mechanically, maybe with cool art they could work. The ability to move rooms around once you've placed them for a small cost makes base building more fun.

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2 hours ago, ApolloZani said:

Oh great. Look at me. I'm posting a third time a row to the same thread...

<snip>

Haha, well I'll let you off because you're obviously very into it if you've gone as far as to prototype it out on paper :)

Yeah, it looks like you've bumped into several of the same issues that I did. The fact buildings split across two levels work badly and the missile splitting the base in two are real problems with the side-on view.

You also highlight the "starting with a premade base" issue which is something I've been thinking on quite a lot recently, because ideally you want the player to start with a base that allows a new player to start with what they need to start playing the game (e.g. you start with scientists and a lab because research is important) but at the same time you want the player to build their base from scratch. It's a difficult balance, but I'm thinking perhaps in X2 you won't start with a lab but the Chief Scientist produces a small amount of Research each turn that allows you to unlock the early research. With ground missions available early on, you could potentially start the game without any interceptors too - potentially the Hangar and the Condor could be very short early game research projects, which allow you to give them to the player along with a research report highlighting what they do.

I'm increasingly warming to the ideal of using Reactors as power rather than Generators, and requiring the player to somehow obtain Reactor parts on the Geoscape. It's fundamentally not that interesting to be like "oh, my base is out of power - guess I'll just build another Generator then" unless they are so expensive it has a real effect on your finances. But if they are something that money can't buy, then that makes the power limit a bit more of an interesting thing to have to deal with because as you say it enforces the player making either / or choices at each stage.

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Yes that's a heroic effort.

One thing I've been thinking about is maybe power does not need to be a hard cap.  Perhaps you can use more than the max, but everything runs at a lower efficiency.  For example you can divert an engineer or scientist away from the reactor to rush some jobs, which will work for that project because of the shear headcount boost, but all other job suffers.

Alternatively, with all the ideas going on, perhaps we can keep it simple. Not every aspect of the game need five dimensions and interlinked with ten other systems.  Make the base big enough to build anything the players would reasonably want, and let the player enjoy his/her growing home without worrying about power or space or bonus.

 

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1 hour ago, Chris said:

Haha, well I'll let you off because you're obviously very into it if you've gone as far as to prototype it out on paper :)

Yeah, it looks like you've bumped into several of the same issues that I did. The fact buildings split across two levels work badly and the missile splitting the base in two are real problems with the side-on view.

You also highlight the "starting with a premade base" issue which is something I've been thinking on quite a lot recently, because ideally you want the player to start with a base that allows a new player to start with what they need to start playing the game (e.g. you start with scientists and a lab because research is important) but at the same time you want the player to build their base from scratch. It's a difficult balance, but I'm thinking perhaps in X2 you won't start with a lab but the Chief Scientist produces a small amount of Research each turn that allows you to unlock the early research. With ground missions available early on, you could potentially start the game without any interceptors too - potentially the Hangar and the Condor could be very short early game research projects, which allow you to give them to the player along with a research report highlighting what they do.

I'm increasingly warming to the ideal of using Reactors as power rather than Generators, and requiring the player to somehow obtain Reactor parts on the Geoscape. It's fundamentally not that interesting to be like "oh, my base is out of power - guess I'll just build another Generator then" unless they are so expensive it has a real effect on your finances. But if they are something that money can't buy, then that makes the power limit a bit more of an interesting thing to have to deal with because as you say it enforces the player making either / or choices at each stage.

it makes it a lot more interesting, but it depends on how common these reactor parts are.

the player needs this power to progress its base, if the parts are rare..the player success would be completely dependent on RNG.

if the parts are locked behind specific missions that occur on a set interval, the entire campaigns success might hinge on the success or failure (to show up on/) of a single mission.

if the parts are extremely common, you get the same problem as just having a cheap generator.

 

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I'm constantly worrying that the geoscape portion of X-2 becomes over designed and over complicated micro management hell. I've always seen the geoscape more like a no-stress part of the game where I can just choose missions and make easy choises about what to research and build next. I hope Chris and the team can keep the focus of the game where it belongs...

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8 minutes ago, Skitso said:

I'm constantly worrying that the geoscape portion of X-2 becomes over designed and over complicated micro management hell. I've always seen the geoscape more like a no-stress part of the game where I can just choose missions and make easy choises about what to research and build next. I hope Chris and the team can keep the focus of the game where it belongs...

I don't think it ever was that in Xenonauts - that's what it was in the first Firaxis XCOM. I'm not sure anyone wants a strategy layer as no-stress as that.

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39 minutes ago, Chris said:

I don't think it ever was that in Xenonauts - that's what it was in the first Firaxis XCOM. I'm not sure anyone wants a strategy layer as no-stress as that.

Well I might have exaggerated it a bit... X1 had just about perfect balance between strategic and tactical gameplay for me. That said, I have a full confidence that you know what you are doing with this game though. Micro managing nonessential stuff is just not my cup of tea in any game.

Edited by Skitso

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The way that Firaxis got around the issue of basic facilities was to take them out of the equation. The hangar, the barracks, R&D, the command room - all of them exist outside of the buildable area. What you could build were optional modules which enhanced the prefab. Is that something that could be applied here?

EDIT: Concerning reactors. I echo the sentiment of not gating reactors away too tightly. If it was possible to purchase one for a ludicrous sum of money, as well as being able to acquire one both in ground combat and on a field op, that would give several options for getting a reactor without it being too easy to obtain one. 

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I HATE the ant farm from XCOM.  The single most important part of the base was the layout.  In X-COM style, you could set up choke points and funnel aliens into kill boxes, which was extremely handy if you get attacked before your soldiers can really handle it - either low tech or undermanned.

In the ant farm, you can't do this.  Granted, XCOM only ever did one mission that involved being raided, and it took place in like 1-2 rooms.  XCOM 2/WotC handles it even worse, by just doing a mission outside the ship entirely.

I never had a base raided in X1, I don't even know if it's possible.  But they were some of my favorite missions in X-COM/TFTD.  Or if it did happen, I don't remember it at all.  So it was insignificant or something?

The other problem with the ant farm, as others have mentioned, is that you don't have access to the full map right off the bat.  You have to waste time, man power and resources to dig through it, and THEN you have to wait for the room to be built.  It wasn't fun in XCOM, it wasn't fun in XCOM 2, and it won't be fun in X2 if that's the route you choose.  Does it look neat?  Sure.  But I much prefer the functionality of the tetris-style base over the glamor of the ant farm.

Seriously, this is like the third thread where I have complained about you making this game just a reskinned XCOM clone.  Why?  Why are you doing that?  X1 was just fine the way it was.  X-COM isn't considered a classic for no reason.  I will still be playing X-COM and TFTD long after I get bored of XCOM and XCOM 2.  They just don't have the draw that the old ones do.  I will most likely even continue playing X1 long after I inevitably get bored of X2 if it's just going to be an XCOM clone.

Edited by endersblade
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57 minutes ago, endersblade said:

this is like the third thread where I have complained

Saying it more than once isn't going to make your opinion any more valid than it already is. Chris has stated that the antfarm-phobia is a concern, you aren't being ignored. 

As for Skitso's point: I think that so long as the micromanagement system doesn't fall to the same trap as the air war in X1, things will be fine. The trap there being that if you engage too heavily, or too little, in that aspect of the game, it ruins the campaign. So, base building should be something that you can do in a fairly obvious way to cruise along though - but if you engage with the micromanagement a lot, then it allows you to squeeze a bit more out, although not to such an extent that it will revolutionise the game. e.g. it could let you reach Endgame 5 missions earlier or later depending on how well you arranged the rooms in your base / took advantage of adjacency bonuses.

After* allowed separate skill settings for the geoscape and ground combat. 

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I think Chris must decides most of the directions being discussed here.  Different players will draw the line differently - some of us like old schools, some want deep grey, some prefers light grey, and one game can't make everyone happy.  For me, I don't like micromanagement, like streamline and decision of interlinked systems, so that is why I support Chris's ideas more often than not.

I am against the idea to make base defence mission use a real map of the base, but only because it is not cost effective.  Many Xenonaut base building should be pretty unique which is difficult to reuse, and if the buildings are upgradable you may not even see many of them.  Big time and resources spend on a very tiny part of the game.  Moving the defence mission out is a decision made not only by XCOM 2 but also by UFO Afterlight.  (Aftermath and Apoc go the other way and give you many human building missions!)  I'd rather the time be spent on, say, a marine tileset that supports ships and sea platforms, so that missions are not confined to lands.  Or spend it on making the base 3D.  Still easier than turning it into a battlemap.

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14 hours ago, endersblade said:

I HATE the ant farm from XCOM.  The single most important part of the base was the layout.  In X-COM style, you could set up choke points and funnel aliens into kill boxes, which was extremely handy if you get attacked before your soldiers can really handle it - either low tech or undermanned.

In the ant farm, you can't do this.  Granted, XCOM only ever did one mission that involved being raided, and it took place in like 1-2 rooms.  XCOM 2/WotC handles it even worse, by just doing a mission outside the ship entirely.

I never had a base raided in X1, I don't even know if it's possible.  But they were some of my favorite missions in X-COM/TFTD.  Or if it did happen, I don't remember it at all.  So it was insignificant or something?

The other problem with the ant farm, as others have mentioned, is that you don't have access to the full map right off the bat.  You have to waste time, man power and resources to dig through it, and THEN you have to wait for the room to be built.  It wasn't fun in XCOM, it wasn't fun in XCOM 2, and it won't be fun in X2 if that's the route you choose.  Does it look neat?  Sure.  But I much prefer the functionality of the tetris-style base over the glamor of the ant farm.

Seriously, this is like the third thread where I have complained about you making this game just a reskinned XCOM clone.  Why?  Why are you doing that?  X1 was just fine the way it was.  X-COM isn't considered a classic for no reason.  I will still be playing X-COM and TFTD long after I get bored of XCOM and XCOM 2.  They just don't have the draw that the old ones do.  I will most likely even continue playing X1 long after I inevitably get bored of X2 if it's just going to be an XCOM clone.

I can only agree with that!

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21 hours ago, Chris said:

You also highlight the "starting with a premade base" issue which is something I've been thinking on quite a lot recently, because ideally you want the player to start with a base that allows a new player to start with what they need to start playing the game (e.g. you start with scientists and a lab because research is important) but at the same time you want the player to build their base from scratch. It's a difficult balance, but I'm thinking perhaps in X2 you won't start with a lab but the Chief Scientist produces a small amount of Research each turn that allows you to unlock the early research. With ground missions available early on, you could potentially start the game without any interceptors too - potentially the Hangar and the Condor could be very short early game research projects, which allow you to give them to the player along with a research report highlighting what they do.

The purpose of labs is research and the reason you have one in the first base is because that's just how the systems work out. In a multibase game, not having a lab is rather significant. In a single base game, starting out with a baseline lab and/or workshop that's just rather inefficient until there's a project ready is perfectly viable. It also means that you might have a more interesting base assault since there will be more rooms to defend and since I'm imaging your base is already producing a modicum of power and enough command room points to run a mission, having all the necessary rooms to start the game existing in the unmodifiable top layer leads to a nice level of player choice.

You would definitely need more complex adjacency bonuses if you wanted to avoid the One True Base issue. Unless that isn't considered a problem.

16 hours ago, Max_Caine said:

The way that Firaxis got around the issue of basic facilities was to take them out of the equation. The hangar, the barracks, R&D, the command room - all of them exist outside of the buildable area. What you could build were optional modules which enhanced the prefab. Is that something that could be applied here?

I never did try a version of my prototype without living quarters and command rooms.. Hmm...

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