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Mik1984

Feature request to curb mid to late game tedium with too many encounters

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Hello,

I have a feature request that should curb the tedium that seemed to damage the pacing of the game in Xenonauts 1, where the number of encounters was ballooning out of proportion. Of course you could bomb the crash site, but you will not receive soldier XP nor artifacts. So you had the choice, either tedium or damage your game level. This is not cool and there should be a feature to resolve that.

The feature can be a simple "overmatch" calculator. Once you ground attack a land encounter site of any kind except main mission it calculates the strength of the alien team based on number and level of opponents and the strenght of the xenonauts team based on the numbers, rank, primary weapons and armor level as well as presence and level and equipment of the vehicle. If you are able to field a team that overmatches the challenge that the alien force is presenting a special option appears, where the combat is "autoresolved". "Autoresolve" does not emulate the full encounter, just gives an optimistic realistic outcome, granting your soldiers XP and artifacts, with the caveat that your soldiers and vehicles are immune from dying(but not from wounds). "Optimistic realistic" means that there is little benefit to resolving the conflict manually, even if you are a power player, so you can feel safe using this option and not missing out. It is supposed to be a buff unlocked only if you "overmatch" the aliens by fielding a sufficiently.

Similar mechanic may be implemented for the existing air combat"autoresolve" - if the interceptor wing "overmatches" it gains damage immunity, so you do not need to manually resolve easy air combat in order to ensure a perfect outcome. Unlike ground combat, "overmatched" air encounters are always perfect, all enemies shot down, no damage to friendly planes.

Edit:

An important part of this feature is "player skill assumption" so all overmatched encounters are always auto-resolved as if the game was played on normal difficulty, so that high difficulty player are not pushed into manually resolving encounters just to re-confirm that they are high skill players, effectively nullyfing the purpose of this feature on high difficulties. It is enough that they achieve the "overmatch". Difficult games are also not supposed to be tedious.

Edited by Mik1984

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This is a big design problem in the game, but I'm not quite sure I want any solution where you can level up your soldiers without them risking any chance of death. I agree the rewards from autoresolve should be better aligned with the actual mission rewards (perhaps minus any recovered items you have not recovered before).

Quite honestly though I think the problem is simply that there are too many crash sites spawning; it might make more sense to set up the game so creating a crash site requires fighting the air combat in a more difficult way that means most of the time people will just want to destroy the UFO instead of making it crash land.

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Perhaps that can be combined with the close air support problem; a crashed craft is unable to deploy anti-air weapons quickly enough to overcome the local air superiority, and destroys as much tech as possible rather than accept capture; but a craft that lands intentionally would set up sufficient AA to force an attacker to either destroy the entire site from standoff range with a saturation missile strike, or deploy ground forces to approach the hard way.

 

In gameplay, that would mean that a craft that was 'shot down' would be 'destroyed', and leave mostly scrap and crater. One could be forced to land to effect repairs, and once grounded it could be destroyed with little risk or a capture attempt could be made.

Any problems with having fewer missions to build soldier XP can be solved by changing how many missions worth of soldier XP are needed.

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Given that it has been months since that idea has been last brought up ... what about the concept of strategically adapting aliens that i posted in that old ideas for Xenonauts 2 thread? If the aliens simply get better and better at whatever they have to do, then the player intrinsically will not be able to do the same thing over and over for too long, because eventually the aliens will just out-stat him to the degree that it becomes impossible. This also adds an easily understandable and relatable soft game timer.

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4 hours ago, Drakon said:

eventually the aliens will just out-stat him

I get where you're coming from with this, but I dislike that kind of difficulty curve. It effectively reduces the scope of viable tactics so you're left with fewer and fewer options. Conversely, difficulties like adding a new alien type changes the mix of strategies you can use because there's a paradigm shift (I'm pretty sure that is what paradigm shift means, correct me if I'm wrong). Although if the point is to use it as a game timer then yes, that completely makes sense.

As for the OP, I think part of the problem is that the pace of xenonauts is supposed to be kinda slow, but if there is no edge to a mission, then there is no tension. In such cases, the slow pace is more of a drag - it is those times when you look at the next mission as a chore, rather than a challenge. Whilst I think @Mik1984's autoresolve suggestion isn't bad, I don't think that automating the main part of the gameplay is the best answer (unless the strategy layer were beefed up!). It would surely make more sense to spice up the ground combat missions in that mid-to-late phase of the campaign. Something like secondary objectives: to make as many live captures as possible, or resolve the mission in the fewest turns. If your squad is so overpowered that you'd risk autoresolving it, then they should be able to clean up with the stun batons.

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Hehe, interesting topic. I also have a feeling sometimes that there are too much tactical combat vs strategic, and get tired of sweeping across the 35th alien carrier as the basic challenge is the same, the loot is the same, there is just too much legwork.

While a one-button auto-resolve seems crude, but how about enabling AI for the Xenonauts team as well? Maybe for just one round, or with a "stop" button so you can take over if they do anything stupid...

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The specific problem I want to solve (which I think is the same as the OP wants to solve) is this:

  • We spawn lots of UFOs to encourage the player to build multiple bases and defend the world
  • Most UFOs shot down create a crash site
  • The optimal way to play is to manually fight ALL of those crash sites, because that's how you get the most money ... but this is really tedious for the player

Having mulled the problem over, what I'm considering is this solution:

  • You don't get Relations bonuses for shooting down UFOs
  • Instead of "Airstrike", you instead get "Delegate" - this turns the crash site over to the local region and grants you a Relations bonus, but no cash or items

Basically this means that you have the option to attack any UFO crash site you want, allowing you to target specific tech or alien materials or just to train up your troops. But if you attack all the crash sites, you'll lose the game and get lower monthly funding because it's the main way you gain Relations with a region. So hopefully this will encourage the player to only attack a UFO crash site if it has something they need in it.

Airstrike does the same as fighting a manual battle, but worse. Hopefully offering something different would change the psychology of the choice and "allow" powergamers to pass up the crash site.

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16 minutes ago, Chris said:

Having mulled the problem over, what I'm considering is this solution:

  • You don't get Relations bonuses for shooting down UFOs 
  • Instead of "Airstrike", you instead get "Delegate" - this turns the crash site over to the local region and grants you a Relations bonus, but no cash or items 

I really like that choice (as I do with meaningful choices in general). I'd love it even more if I could also choose to do the mission for experience only, giving the loot to the country instead for a higher relationship bonus (since you made their lives easier by annihilating the resistance), and I would like it even more if, from the loot that dropped, you could decide which to leave there and which to take. But I understanmd that would, again, undermine the system you are trying to establish here.

Of course, the proposed system is only really attractive if relations are meaningful beyond the Xeno 1 way of getting more funds. I hope for some good implementation of the Cold War as a scale the aliens try to tip and you have to keep in balance.

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On 3/31/2019 at 3:22 PM, Chris said:

This is a big design problem in the game, but I'm not quite sure I want any solution where you can level up your soldiers without them risking any chance of death.

The reason with no dying is to avoid bile and to make the option "safe" for choice for power players. If you have a team that "overmatches" the aliens, the chance of death in the hands of a good player is low. And to unlock this option you do need to have a team that overmatches the opponent first.

Regarding the solution with "Delegate", this once again threatens to consistently be the "better" solution, as building relations is next to the most important thing in the game, and building up your team is mostly a secondary objective towards that aforementioned goal.

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10 hours ago, Mik1984 said:

building relations is next to the most important thing in the game, and building up your team is mostly a secondary objective towards that aforementioned goal.

I'm not sure that is true. You need both, and keeping the balance is the point of the decisions you'd face. It all falls down to how well the resources are employed by the game's mechanics (in this case, counting reputation and xp as resources). Usually, reputation/panic level is a kind of health meter for the geoscape - the underlying problem is if you win all your battles then you don't need to play for reputation because all the supporting nations love you. That would mean that the logical choice would be to take on ground missions yourself, and bring on the tedium. The game mechanics need to be geared such that delegating is attractive only some of the time. 

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On 4/5/2019 at 6:38 AM, Chris said:
  • Instead of "Airstrike", you instead get "Delegate" - this turns the crash site over to the local region and grants you a Relations bonus, but no cash or items

Basically this means that you have the option to attack any UFO crash site you want, allowing you to target specific tech or alien materials or just to train up your troops. But if you attack all the crash sites, you'll lose the game and get lower monthly funding because it's the main way you gain Relations with a region. So hopefully this will encourage the player to only attack a UFO crash site if it has something they need in it.

 

If there's a hard cap to Relations that can be reached and maintained, the problem might persist. But if there's no cap or a soft cap to relations, the equilibrium is always somewhere between the extremes.

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On 4/6/2019 at 6:23 AM, Mik1984 said:

Regarding the solution with "Delegate", this once again threatens to consistently be the "better" solution, as building relations is next to the most important thing in the game, and building up your team is mostly a secondary objective towards that aforementioned goal.

Yup, but that's sort of what we both want, right? It seems like you're asking for the upgraded airstrike to be a better option than fighting the crash site directly, because you don't want to have to manually fight all the missions spawned in the mid-to-late game because it's boring (which I can totally understand). The delegate system does the same thing; you'll mostly want to delegate crash sites because of the strategic rewards it gives.

You can't just delegate everything, though, because then you won't get any research items from the advanced UFOs and you won't be able to unlock advanced tech ... and you also will have underdeveloped soldiers, so you'll have badly trained and badly equipped soldiers that will be outmatched in the later missions (and you can't delegate stuff like Terror Sites either). So the effect is that the player will need to play at least one of each UFO mission, but doesn't NEED to play any more of them unless they're after a specific resource or need to train their soldiers up or need some money immediately.

That's pretty much perfect from my point of view, because really I only want the player to attack each type of UFO once or maybe twice during each campaign.

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On 4/6/2019 at 4:44 PM, Ninothree said:

I'm not sure that is true. You need both, and keeping the balance is the point of the decisions you'd face. It all falls down to how well the resources are employed by the game's mechanics (in this case, counting reputation and xp as resources). Usually, reputation/panic level is a kind of health meter for the geoscape - the underlying problem is if you win all your battles then you don't need to play for reputation because all the supporting nations love you. That would mean that the logical choice would be to take on ground missions yourself, and bring on the tedium. The game mechanics need to be geared such that delegating is attractive only some of the time. 

 

13 hours ago, Decius said:

If there's a hard cap to Relations that can be reached and maintained, the problem might persist. But if there's no cap or a soft cap to relations, the equilibrium is always somewhere between the extremes.

You're right that the Relations is a proxy for Geoscape health, but it's very difficult to avoid a snowball effect in this sort of game. That said, if a player is shooting down lots of UFOs then they've probably got a lot of hangars and interceptors, so a lot of their cash will be going on upkeep - so they'll need higher Relations to keep themselves adequately funded.

Overall though I'm not expecting this system to revolutionize the Geoscape, I just want it to be a slightly superior form of the Airstrike mission that encourages the player not to fight all the crash sites. It does all the same things whilst giving the player slightly more strategic choice so I think it's worth exploring.

We can also make items lose value the more you sell of them, so people intent on grinding the crash sites will find it's only sustainable for a short period of time before the monetary rewards fall away too much.

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One idea that came to my mind to justify giving more crash sites to the factions instead of doing them yourselves from a lore standpoint: This is the Cold War era, where the significant powers were on a race for technological supremacy as much as military strength. That means they will want these alien artefacts, and that without your interference (who is to say that you don't keep crucial technology from them if you salvage all the crash sites first, and give it to their opponents?). They may even get angry at you, deterioriating relations and cutting funding, if you do not share artefacts and/or technological advances and/or resulting military equipment with them. What is more, with that kind of technological leap, any nation could have the potential to become a new, third super power next to the established ones...

Maybe you would actually race against the nation's military and intelligence agencies to the crash sites, especially if they are not fond of you. Which could be an incentive to do night missions, something which you pretty much never had to do in Xeno 1.

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So the delegate option could be split out, with the player either giving the crash site to the Soviets or the US? At least in the 3rd world / non-aligned nations that makes a lot of sense.

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