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Questions about the direction the game has taken

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I have some questions about the directions the game has taken. Namely: Base count, units and uniqueness, engine

Base Count

The original Xenonauts was based on the original XCom's original idea of having the option to build multiple unique bases around a planet to simulate a global strike team. 

You guys have decided to nix that because, in the original, it was seen as horribly inefficient. Instead of trapping the player in a bad situation, you are restricting them to a single base with lesser satellite bases. 

This is an interesting direction, but aren't there tons of games that already focus on the A-Team aspect of a defense force. In fact, I think that's what most squad based games focus on. 

Wouldn't the other direction have been more interesting? 

For example, giving an actual reason to have multiple strike groups and dropships. This would incentivize managing multiple individual teams. It would promote evolving scenarios where lesser bases are sieged and lost with higher frequency, as well as other options like sending teams on small recon missions or whatever (sort of like what you are doing with the operatives, but with a bit more oomph). There could also be evacuation scenarios where high command is forced to move, or a satellite strike team has to come rescue a team that is being sieged or suppressed by an enemy force. More bases just feel like they would give more options, and less to me feels like these options are being cut down.

Units

It looks like you got rid of strength, crouching accuracy, and tanks. 

To promote unified templates, less micromanagement, and some guerilla stretch goal tank alternative. 

This is an interesting direction, but again: Tons of games have unified templates, simplified micro, and streamlined vehicle types. 

Wouldn't the other direction have been better? 

Namely, more distinguishing characteristics between new and old soldiers. Giving Greeny Doe a single grenade because he could barely carry his rifle and supplemental gear added a bit of flavor to a character. Are you adding things to replace that flavor if you are getting rid of strength? I heard something about weapon specialization? Will there be other cool perks as well (faster firing, more nimble, etc).

Units, I know you have sentries and some other thing, but what else? Will there be more unit types than in the original game?

For crouching and the like, wouldn't it have been more interesting to go in the opposite direction? Add bracing, deeper cover mechanics, stealth, etc. Things that build on what you already built in Xenonauts. What made you decide to streamline the accuracy options on the tactical map?

The Engine

I can't recognize the engine you used for the original game. It runs perfectly for Xenonauts, which leads me to believe that you guys built the thing from the ground up or maybe off a very basic framework (Unity 2d?)

... So you just went screw it and got rid of what you built?

Wouldn't the other direction have been better? 

Namely, building on the engine you already have and adding more features to it? What led you to scrapping the 2d engine and relying on a potentially unstable third party one instead?

In Summary

I loved the original XCom, I loved Xenonauts 1. I immediately backed Xenonauts 2 because you guys deserve it, but I'm worried that you are trying to go in the direction that many other games have gone, which is going to take away from the uniqueness of your product and alienate you from your original audience, and possibly even hurt the game in the long term. I'm mostly curious to see what your reasoning was for the choices you made and why you believe it's better than the alternatives. In this case: one base, less attributes, less units, weaker engine vs many bases, more attributes, more units, stronger engine. 

 

Thanks for taking the time to read this and I wish you luck with your second Xenonauts installment!

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Yeah, you raise some valid questions but I think in many cases you're overestimating the advantages of the solutions you'd prefer and underestimating the disadvantages.

The single / multiple base question is still one we're undecided on. We may go back to the X1-style base mechanics but I think the single-base concept has potential and the only way to find out is to give it a proper test, and we can have a clear-eyed assessment of the advantages and disadvantages properly then. However I'd be cautious of leaning too heavily towards incentivising multiple "proper" bases though; we tried it in the early stages of X1 by setting the dropship not to have global range (forcing the player to have multiple combat teams) and people hated it because it felt super-inconvenient.

Reducing the range of the dropship in X1 is something you can do in like 2 minutes with a text editor and it might give you a bit more perspective on whether that's a change you actually want or not, as it has a variety of knock-on effects on gameplay.

Moving to Unity from our old engine was definitely a good idea; without going into too much detail Xenonauts 1 was built on an ancient engine that had been abandoned by its creators and caused us no end of troubles throughout dev and afterwards. It'd have been amazing if we'd built our own specific engine for the game, but instead we built a game held together with sticky tape on top of foundations made of sand. So keeping the same engine / codebase was never a viable option for us, hence why we never did any DLC.

Re: the combat stuff - we'll have to experiment in more detail when we hit beta. Xenonauts with 10% of the complexity stripped out is still an extremely complex ground combat so I don't necessarily think we need to announce another feature to replace the loss of the defence bonus from crouching (which is effectively a tiny balance change, as effectively is changing the tanks from being 3x3 to 1x1). But in any case I very much doubt you'll feel the game is any less complex overall once you start playing the finished version of the game; I don't have time to list out where the changes net out with each other but the idea is that they should.

In short, I know it's always tempting to say "instead of the devs removing complexity, why don't they just add it!" in pretty much every situation but that leads to an unwieldy and overly complex game (as well as requiring far more dev time and resources) ... and in many cases it actually makes it the gameplay experience less fun, as the ill-fated short-ranged dropship in X1 illustrates.

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Multiple strike group + Making characters more distinguished = crazy micro-management that is not fun for most ("average") players

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I had to chime in, since I see these types of concerns over streamlining, simplification or even "dumbing down" of gameplay in a lot of talks over games that try to reimagine older titles, and while some of them are warranted, I feel like many of them are not. For me, a lot of the so called complexity of older games does not bring meaningful gameplay options but rather a lot of tediousness.

For example, the current X1 soldier attributes implementation and progression, for me, is a rather uninspired and annoying system, because instead of bringing interesting options to manage your soldiers, it forces the player into repeating certain actions in order to optimize the campaign. Having to consume 500 TU on each soldier moving them back and forth on every mission (even on early small maps), to ensure the 2 TU permanent bonus is just tedium most of the time. The same for cycling through them to get a reaction shot or just a normal shot, or prolonging a mission with a psionic enemy for bravery boosts. You can say that you don't have to do that, but when playing on higher difficulties, every bonus you can get is needed, and not doing it is practically gimping your team. I find no practical reason for not automatically giving these boosts to a soldier at the end of every mission (imo bravery should increase guaranteed every mission; it makes no sense for me that a veteran of 30+ missions can run screaming like a little girl from some wounds or seeing someone shot). An alternative that would keep the current attribute system and still not forgo immersion, would probably be to offer a training area where you can select for each soldier what attribute to train in, between missions (ex: cardio for TU, shooting range for accuracy, hand-to-hand combat for reflexes ;)) so the player can actually specialize them. Maybe even get some perks at certain attribute levels.

Unit crouching is another example that I feel doesn't bring any significant gameplay options in X1, as it's something that you always want to do, for the passive accuracy and defense bonus and thus, every turn I have to keep taking into consideration the 6 TU to reserve for standing and crouching and tap that C button on each soldier. There's very few situations where I want to keep a soldier standing and even those can be solved automatically by the engine (like when shooting over someone, that soldier can just simply duck by himself). So, if the tedious necessity to crouch every turn is removed, while still keeping the tactical aspect of it, I'm all for it.

On the topic of reduction in base count, I'm rather split. I generally don't like having to replicate the same base layout everywhere and repeat the same actions in each one. That's why I make all my bases with a specific role in mind: one for troops, one for research with all the laboratories, another for manufacturing, with all the workshops. I still hate it that I have to build hangars and radars in each one to be efficient, rather than separate air force bases and utilitary bases (since each would require command center upkeep and build time). I would have preferred it if I could just start digging an elevator shaft in some corner of a continent and start building my labs or workshops directly, while in another area drop a control tower and hangars, no need for a CC in each base, that should be only required for the main one.

As for the engine, the move to 3D instead of isometric 2D is absolutely needed. The one thing that frustrates me the most in X1 is the asymmetrical Line of Sight / Line of Fire. I hope there will be no such situations in X2 anymore where an enemy can shoot at me from some obscure spot while I can't even see him to shoot back.

Overall, what I'm personally looking for in games like these is strategical and tactical options. I do not care to micromanage every sandwich a troop puts in his backpack and on what side of their mouth they should chew it or for how long.

Note: please forgive me if I misunderstood some of the X2 gameplay elements, as I haven't followed it's development closely, but I wanted to make it clear that not all simplification is bad, on the contrary. When adding gameplay elements, they should be meaningful and provide real, tangible tactical options. Adding complexity just for the sake of it does not make a game more interesting, but rather more tedious and grindy.

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On 10/4/2018 at 8:04 PM, Koriel said:

For example, the current X1 soldier attributes implementation and progression, for me, is a rather uninspired and annoying system, because instead of bringing interesting options to manage your soldiers, it forces the player into repeating certain actions in order to optimize the campaign. Having to consume 500 TU on each soldier moving them back and forth on every mission (even on early small maps), to ensure the 2 TU permanent bonus is just tedium most of the time.

I had to chime in and say that X-Division fixes this. It removes the cap per mission and makes every action count forever. We also slightly adjusted how much points is needed to level for every stat. The result is that X-Division players stopped worrying about stats gain and simply played in their favourite style.

A common counter argument to this is that players can simply max their soldiers in one mission. Yes, but a game can be exploited in unlimited ways. And if you wanna spend 6 hours doing this its your choice. It definitly isnt necessary.

On 10/4/2018 at 8:04 PM, Koriel said:

Unit crouching is another example that I feel doesn't bring any significant gameplay options in X1, as it's something that you always want to do

Again something which X-Division fixes. We increased the defense and accuracy bonus and increased the cost. The result is that players only crouch soldiers which they think they will stay in a stationary position for longer.

 

This is not advertisement for X-Divison, but rather my oppinion that a system doesnt have to be thrown overboard but only tweaked a little bit to be use- and meaningful.

 

On 10/4/2018 at 8:04 PM, Koriel said:

As for the engine, the move to 3D instead of isometric 2D is absolutely needed. The one thing that frustrates me the most in X1 is the asymmetrical Line of Sight / Line of Fire. I hope there will be no such situations in X2 anymore where an enemy can shoot at me from some obscure spot while I can't even see him to shoot back.

Has nothing do with the engine, and can occur in 2 or 3d by developer decision.

On 10/4/2018 at 8:04 PM, Koriel said:

Note: please forgive me if I misunderstood some of the X2 gameplay elements, as I haven't followed it's development closely, but I wanted to make it clear that not all simplification is bad, on the contrary. When adding gameplay elements, they should be meaningful and provide real, tangible tactical options. Adding complexity just for the sake of it does not make a game more interesting, but rather more tedious and grindy.

What is complex for 1 person is easy for another one. What people on the internet forget is that our skill level to play a game is very different all across the world. Developers need to strike a balance to make the game interesting ( challenging ) while still making it as accessible as possible to reap in the maximum amount of revenue.

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Quote

As for the engine, the move to 3D instead of isometric 2D is absolutely needed. The one thing that frustrates me the most in X1 is the asymmetrical Line of Sight / Line of Fire. I hope there will be no such situations in X2 anymore where an enemy can shoot at me from some obscure spot while I can't even see him to shoot back.

This so much. It's my number one problem with the original game.

Edited by odizzido

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The issue with incenting the multiple base as launch positions for soldiers is that, in order to involve interesting options, you would have to assign soldiers to bases in advance of the missions being known (otherwise just teleport the soldiers that you want to the base they launch from, do the mission, and then teleport/assign them back, and it's just adding steps to the same squad being everywhere).

In order for the choice of which soldiers to station in which base to be a decision, rather than a random allocation, the player needs some amount of information relevant to the question of where they want their soldiers deployed. For that decision to be meaningful, the player needs to be able to know, at the time of the choice, what the benefits and downsides of each option are. And that requires a game design that can tell them that.

Long War 2 makes players do meaningful decisions about squad makeup for each mission, but LWS did that without having multiple barracks, just by having lots of missions, not all of which are known and not all of which should be initiated. Doing that in a manner appropriate for a primary game mode is going to take more design than Firaxis was willing to do. Just saying.

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On 10/4/2018 at 8:38 AM, Sheepy said:

Multiple strike group + Making characters more distinguished = crazy micro-management that is not fun for most ("average") players

This was one of my favorite features in X-COM ufo defense.  But unlike Xenonauts1 it was difficult to outfit soldiers' gear based on skills.  Also, the radar in Xenonaughts1 makes more sense and is more realistic than the radiation levels in Xenonaughts2.  Just an observation.

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