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Xenonauts-2 August Update

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It's now the final day of August and about six weeks since the Kickstarter ended. Those of you who frequent the forums will be aware that I've been away for the past month getting married and going on my honeymoon, but I'm now fully recharged and back at work! The team have of course been hard at work in my absence - here's a quick update on where we are on some of the headline features we've been working on recently.

Realtime Geoscape
For a long time we were experimenting with a turn-based Geoscape model, but we eventually decided to move back to a realtime Geoscape before the Kickstarter because we just couldn't make the turn-based Geoscape feel as interactive and engaging as the realtime Geoscape did (even when we were giving the player exactly the same strategic choices in both systems). This has *definitely* been the right decision; the game feels far more alive now you can see UFOs flying around the world generating events and so on.

Two or three months ago I breezily said this was only a few weeks of work, but unfortunately it turns out the rabbit hole went deeper than we expected - we've ended up rewriting essentially all the logic for the alien invasion and the Geoscape map setup. The basic work on the realtime Geoscape was finished a week or two into my absence, but a second pass is going to be needed before the Realtime Geoscape is considered finished.

To give an example of what I mean: UFOs currently spawn on the Geoscape and fly around spawning events, and are detected when they enter the radar range of your bases. You can launch interceptors at the UFOs and shoot them down in the new air combat to create crash sites ... but there's no way to issue new orders to interceptors that are already airborne. Thus the functionality is present and the system is largely "complete", but we still need to do a pass on the gameplay aspects of the Geoscape because the player can't yet access everything they need. This is what I'll be focusing on in the short term.

Air Combat
I mentioned the "new air combat" in the previous post - this first iteration of this is now implemented and linked up to the strategy layer. We're working on a second iteration that improves the experience (UI improvements, combat music, weapon sfx / vfx, etc) that'll be arriving shortly, but even in its most primitive state it's pretty fun. I'll be experimenting a bit with it next week to see how it works within the context of the strategy layer, but maybe I'll post up a video or something so you can see it in action.

There's been a LOT of discussion on the new air combat design in this thread. I've got some cool ideas for how we could further expand and develop things, but it's exciting just to play with the basic set of mechanics we currently have. In conjunction with the new realtime Geoscape, the strategy layer is feeling a lot more interactive than it ever has done before.

AI Update
Our technical director GJ has been working on a number of things over the past month, but his most recent task was to start work on the "non-racial" combat AI. This is the general AI that all combatants will use as their basic way of interacting with the battlefield - it controls how they choose what enemies to shoot at, where they move, how they choose cover, and how they choose to split their TU between different actions available to them. This is by far the most important part of the AI, because it controls whether the AI does obviously stupid things like choosing not to shoot at a Xenonaut caught in the open a few tiles away, etc.

Later in development we'll be focusing on the more advanced types of "racial" AI that makes aliens behave differently depending on their racial abilities and equipment - e.g. Sebillians are likely to be more aggressive because they are tough, while Reapers would spend more time trying to stay hidden and lay ambushes, etc. But we need a solid "non-racial" tactical AI underneath before all that stuff becomes useful.

GJ is now off on his own holidays for a week, but he's got about a week of work more before we have the first iteration of the new non-racial AI in the game. I do expect the first iteration of it to be fairly rough when it comes in, but it should still be an improvement over what we had in the Kickstarter combat demo and I also expect it to improve quickly throughout development and during the closed beta.

Soldier Backpack & Ground Combat Inventory
We're about halfway through implementing the soldier backpack on the strategy layer at the moment. Our old design was slot-based so didn't have to worry about the grid size of items, so we're now setting up the grid for the backpack and giving equipment the various properties they need to interact with it. Once that's done we'll be adding in the ground combat functionality for units swapping items to and from the backpack, and dropping / picking things up off the ground.


That's everything for this update - there's quite a few smaller things we worked on over the last month too, but I can't be bothered to type any more - and I suspect I'll write another update expanding a little more on this for Kickstarter in a couple of weeks once the air combat has progressed a little more!

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love these updates,

air combat part is definitely an important aspect, it is a tactical minigame you will be playing an awful lot in the onset of missions, so its important to make it play well..as to not make it a drag when you do it for the tenth time or more, without it taking away too much from the core gameplay. in effect you are making a game in a game that you cannot really avoid like lockpicking mini-games in the elder scrolls franchise, or gwent in the witcher 3

AI also greatly affects how the game plays, for example X1 had a very prominent "alien hiding in the corner of the command room" problem, or aliens with a strange fascination for the UFO door that they kept walking back-and-forth through. or the AI making obvious kamikazi moves like running into the open to toss a grenade, or teleporting in the middle of a squad

About the inventory please do not forget to have a distinct difference between belt and backpack slots, in X1 the difference was in my experience practically unnoticeable.

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