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ScottyWired

Injecting some extra charisma into the game

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Xenonauts 1 was fantastic from a gameplay perspective, but everyone I've talked to has agreed it's biggest weakness was a lack of style and flair. The in-depth research texts, the world radar screen, and the music are awesome dark mood setters, but there's also areas that lack that personality. And not all of it needs to be grim, having some aspects that are cool or cheesy or lighthearted has been proven in boatloads of books and movies and games to be a great way to amplify the dark stuff by giving it some contrast.

So here's just a random sampling of little touches that I think would elevate the game's mood-

  • More voicing. It's basically a staple of strategy games to have low-budget cheesy-but-straightfaced voice acting. If you write up a script and go "nah that line is embarrassingly lame", that line is probably perfect.
    • The "oof" and "ugh" of soldiers dying is kind of let-down. It doesn't have to be professionals, just get everyone in the office to do their most genuine "AAAGGGGGHHHHHHH" or "IT BURNS" or "GAAAAHHHH THE PAIN" 
    • Just a quick little "orders?" or "yes?" when you select a soldier.
    • Pilot radio chatter while executing orders. "Ready to sortie" "Moving to intercept" "Boat deleted" 
    • "Moving!" "Taking point!" "Firing!" "Eat this!" "Reloading!" "Smoke out!". EVERY action should be accompanied by a variety of lines. Special rare lines for very specific circumstances to surprise the player. Hitting a UFO door with a high explosive: "Knock knock!" Throwing grenades through the window: "Delivery!"  Stun baton an alien within their own ship: "Two hour parking limit!". Just some semi-witty silly stuff like that to give soldiers some humanity as compared to the cold aliens.
    • Same with aliens. More hissing, and louder. Lotsa green spray, and green blood decals on more surfaces than is necessary
    • Have civilians scream and freak out. Maybe sometimes assist the Xenonauts by pointing in the general direction of where they saw aliens?
  • And for more stuff on the sound front- have the dropship's engines revved up and have a visual effect kicking up dust around the ship. Makes it more dramatic when it feels like the ship has just touched down moments ago and is ready to leave at any second. And just more ambiance in general.
  • Have shotgun users do a big loud reload pump after every shot. The coolest part about shotguns is the whole "CHK-CHUCK" after firing. 
  • More physics force on ragdolls when killed by explosives.
  • More blood. Blood on walls, blood on clothes, blood on hands after performing first aid, green alien blood on soldiers shooting at point blank.
  • More mess. Bullet casings, rubble from bullet impacts, plasma burns, shattered glass, spilled coffee and scattered papers in office buildings, little junk like that. 
  • Throw weapons on a random nearby tile after dying. Give a very small chance of misfiring after being dropped, for that extra bit of chaos.
  • Have smoke last longer, but lean over and be pushed away from its initial spot by wind.

I'd like to hear what other cute little touches the community thinks would elevate this game

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Engine sounds would be cool.

Voice acting would be detrimental, I feel. Costs, yeah, but I always figured these were people too terrified to say anything, being sent into an unwinnable situation. Plus it always makes a disconnect when they go from panicking to being ultra confident. 

More nutso physics would be fun, and are partially already there, some things tend to go flying hilariously right now. 

Please no on the bullet casings, there are already enough moving parts that can break, random physics objects would just be asking for trouble. I remember when someone added this to New Vegas, and the game would just randomly crash when casings got into positions they shouldnt've.

Moving smoke would be sweet, but then wouldn't there need to be another system in place? Smoke duration is in the INI, I think. 

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2 hours ago, ScottyWired said:

Xenonauts 1 was fantastic from a gameplay perspective, but everyone I've talked to has agreed it's biggest weakness was a lack of style and flair. The in-depth research texts, the world radar screen, and the music are awesome dark mood setters, but there's also areas that lack that personality. And not all of it needs to be grim, having some aspects that are cool or cheesy or lighthearted has been proven in boatloads of books and movies and games to be a great way to amplify the dark stuff by giving it some contrast.

So here's just a random sampling of little touches that I think would elevate the game's mood-

  • More voicing. It's basically a staple of strategy games to have low-budget cheesy-but-straightfaced voice acting. If you write up a script and go "nah that line is embarrassingly lame", that line is probably perfect.
    • The "oof" and "ugh" of soldiers dying is kind of let-down. It doesn't have to be professionals, just get everyone in the office to do their most genuine "AAAGGGGGHHHHHHH" or "IT BURNS" or "GAAAAHHHH THE PAIN" 
    • Just a quick little "orders?" or "yes?" when you select a soldier.
    • Pilot radio chatter while executing orders. "Ready to sortie" "Moving to intercept" "Boat deleted" 
    • "Moving!" "Taking point!" "Firing!" "Eat this!" "Reloading!" "Smoke out!". EVERY action should be accompanied by a variety of lines. Special rare lines for very specific circumstances to surprise the player. Hitting a UFO door with a high explosive: "Knock knock!" Throwing grenades through the window: "Delivery!"  Stun baton an alien within their own ship: "Two hour parking limit!". Just some semi-witty silly stuff like that to give soldiers some humanity as compared to the cold aliens.
    • Same with aliens. More hissing, and louder. Lotsa green spray, and green blood decals on more surfaces than is necessary
    • Have civilians scream and freak out. Maybe sometimes assist the Xenonauts by pointing in the general direction of where they saw aliens?
  • And for more stuff on the sound front- have the dropship's engines revved up and have a visual effect kicking up dust around the ship. Makes it more dramatic when it feels like the ship has just touched down moments ago and is ready to leave at any second. And just more ambiance in general.
  • Have shotgun users do a big loud reload pump after every shot. The coolest part about shotguns is the whole "CHK-CHUCK" after firing. 
  • More physics force on ragdolls when killed by explosives.
  • More blood. Blood on walls, blood on clothes, blood on hands after performing first aid, green alien blood on soldiers shooting at point blank.
  • More mess. Bullet casings, rubble from bullet impacts, plasma burns, shattered glass, spilled coffee and scattered papers in office buildings, little junk like that. 
  • Throw weapons on a random nearby tile after dying. Give a very small chance of misfiring after being dropped, for that extra bit of chaos.
  • Have smoke last longer, but lean over and be pushed away from its initial spot by wind.

I'd like to hear what other cute little touches the community thinks would elevate this game

Lovely ideas,those little extras add a ton of fun!!! Especially the voicing, i was playing Warhammer 40K:Dawn of War again and again just to hear the wonderfully voiced quotes of my units ;)

  • Also there could be some variation on voicing depending on soldier's rank, for example selecting the most highly ranked soldier -> "Squad awaiting orders Commander"
  • When using a scoped weapon, cursor/crosshair magnifies the area below it a little(like in Commandos series of games).

 

 

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Posted (edited)

Ha ha! There was some humour from the lead scientist in X1 ("Clumsy Engineering Oafs" etc...). I always thought it would be nice to have the look of a rookie on new recruits (sweating and wide-eyed etc) and as they become more experienced they look more like Arnold S etc. If General Burt Reynolds isnt back in X2 then I will be very dissapointed :)

 

There are a lot of good suggestions above, however. Whether there would be time to implement them is another matter.

Edited by ooey
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Posted (edited)
39 minutes ago, ooey said:

Ha ha! There was some humour from the lead scientist in X1 ("Clumsy Engineering Oafs" etc...). I always thought it would be nice to have the look of a rookie on new recruits (sweating and wide-eyed etc) and as they become more experienced they look more like Arnold S etc. If General Burt Reynolds isnt back in X2 then I will be very dissapointed :)

 

There are a lot of good suggestions above, however. Whether there would be time to implement them is another matter.

I hope they bring back Slim Shady and Dr Krieger too. Less known, but always tried to keep Xaebos alive too. 

I doubt they can do most of the above, bit some extra sound effects would do wonders. Maybe text blurbs, but voices would be a hell of a thing to just chuck in there, localization and all that. 

Different stances might be easier for them to do? Maybe just a "thoughts" section? Dwarf Fortress humanized friggin @ signs with that.

Edited by Coffee Potato

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For the time it would take to figure out the appropriate time to play special barks, I'd rather have a more developed enemy AI.

While the world is 3d rendered, it doesn't currently need robust collision. Physics objects and ragdolls bouncing around would reveal just how little there is.

And if you're going to give soldiers voices, don't give them all the same voice. Every gender and nationality needs a couple different voices, each with enough lines that it doesn't become repetitive- but at least you can cut down on localization costs by making all the short voice lines in the native language of the soldier in question. That would bring the cost down from $ridiculous to $infeasible.

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Some other suggestions.

1)  A very brief alarm or flash of colors on the Global Overhead when shifting from 'skies clear' to 'alien ships entering airspace', not just the staccato 'ship appearing' sound.

2)  A separate alarm noise for when one of your bases is under attack.

3) Brief action track of inspiring music when drop ship is sent out / hones in on downed enemy aircraft or base.

4)  Screaming civilians.  Also, kudos on the idea suggested above of civilians making pointing signs to the Xenonauts on where they last saw aliens.  Semi-believable attempts at crowd control or retaliatory fire by law enforcement or military personnel on city raids.

5)   Obscure alien chatter when inside alien ships / bases ... is it their own version of an intercom?  Are you hearing them through the walls or vent shafts above or below?  Maybe they're right behind you ....

6)  The occasional totally collapsing multi-story structure ... a burning barn that started that way on turn 1 comes crashing down by turn 10, etc. 

7)  More apparent destruction in the area surrounding a crashed ufo, with the larger ufos showing some truly violent destruction of the surrounding environment.

8)  Alien A.I. gets a better sense for  when you are massing by a door for a blitz attack the following turn and plans accordingly.  

9)  Soldiers who have survived 10 missions and / or killed 10 aliens randomly do something that adds a bit of personality (i.e., they name their weapon, scrawl graffiti on their helmet / armor, start smoking, get a tattoo, start wearing an alien finger necklace ... ).

 

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I'm totally agree with the general idea in this thread... that was the biggest problem in X1

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I wonder if it would be feasable to at least have some of these ideas implemented in a "community edition" format? It would definatly give the game more character.

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13 hours ago, Wyldefyre_CP said:

Some other suggestions.

1)  A very brief alarm or flash of colors on the Global Overhead when shifting from 'skies clear' to 'alien ships entering airspace', not just the staccato 'ship appearing' sound.

2)  A separate alarm noise for when one of your bases is under attack.

3) Brief action track of inspiring music when drop ship is sent out / hones in on downed enemy aircraft or base.

4)  Screaming civilians.  Also, kudos on the idea suggested above of civilians making pointing signs to the Xenonauts on where they last saw aliens.  Semi-believable attempts at crowd control or retaliatory fire by law enforcement or military personnel on city raids.

5)   Obscure alien chatter when inside alien ships / bases ... is it their own version of an intercom?  Are you hearing them through the walls or vent shafts above or below?  Maybe they're right behind you ....

6)  The occasional totally collapsing multi-story structure ... a burning barn that started that way on turn 1 comes crashing down by turn 10, etc. 

7)  More apparent destruction in the area surrounding a crashed ufo, with the larger ufos showing some truly violent destruction of the surrounding environment.

8)  Alien A.I. gets a better sense for  when you are massing by a door for a blitz attack the following turn and plans accordingly.  

9)  Soldiers who have survived 10 missions and / or killed 10 aliens randomly do something that adds a bit of personality (i.e., they name their weapon, scrawl graffiti on their helmet / armor, start smoking, get a tattoo, start wearing an alien finger necklace ... ).

 

Now THAT sounds both likely to happen and appealing as hell, especially 10. 8 Seems to happen in Insane mode in Vanilla and CE, it tends to be pretty friggin brutal to counter, which is likely why they left it locked away behind ultra balls-kicker mode. 3 they already seem to be doing. 

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With regards to voice acting, I'd much rather have no voice acting than poorly done voice acting (I'm traumatized by Oblivion), but I expect that technical support for voice acting could be added by X2:CE, thus potentially allowing voice mods.

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Posted (edited)
6 hours ago, Solver said:

With regards to voice acting, I'd much rather have no voice acting than poorly done voice acting (I'm traumatized by Oblivion), but I expect that technical support for voice acting could be added by X2:CE, thus potentially allowing voice mods.

Agreed. And Oblivion was my favorite of the Elder Scrolls games. As Skyrim proved, however, better voice acting does not equal a better story or atmosphere (especially if all that variety in VA talent only leads to two lines per character).

Cheezy VA I feel would take away massively from the game. VA in general, perhaps not. This feels, however, like something that would have be planned much in advance of where the game is now. A voice here and there may be more feasible, or perhaps just for the lead scientist's briefs? Also consider the fact that the voice acting does limit modders later on, if they decide to add elements that normally would have been voice acted. I'm not necessarily arguing against voice acting in general, but it's probably a bit late to implement it on a significant scale. Everyone has their preferences, and while I would certainly laugh at a zany line every now and then, too much of that would turn me off personally. That's one reason I personally do not play the Warhammer games. I like the darker theme of Xenonauts, and the humor was done well in a way that did not detract from that. That last part is purely my opinion, of course.

I really like what Wyldfyre said as well regarding individualization/customization of the soldiers and vehicles and what not. The medals added were pretty cool, and it would nice if they gave some sort of bonus, but cosmetic differences (not to the fantastic scale of X-Com, of course; we do not want to lose Xenonauts' unique style) for veteran soldiers or vehicles would highly enhance the experience. Also I feel that would be a lot easier to implement than additional voice acting, and easier for modders to add to later on if that becomes plausible.  The original post was spot on in highlighting how one of the areas Xenonauts 1 could have vastly improved was the ambiance (I agree with Coffee Potato about 3D modeled shell casings, but if it's not a hugeproject, maybe sprites or images could be used), especially with regards to the dropship sounds and dust and such things. Of course, these are minor things to be added if Chris is happy with the state of the gameplay.

Edited by Arabian Knight
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I've mentioned this again, but I wish they could do something like Tactics Ogre when it comes to the medals. In KoL, while every class could use any equipment, they got medals that helped them specialize, like Archers getting a bonus to accurscy and dodge after 5 shots in a row, or one that boosted monster damage, but prevented those same units from trusting them for buffs. 

Examples:

Consecutive snipe damage(acc)

Surviving a hit at low health (tus)

Melee kill (str)

Capture an alien (brv and hp)

Kill an enemy that failed to kill them (brv)

Survive an explosion (hp)

Kill while suppressed (TUs and acc)

Multiple units with one grenade (acc and tu)

40 tile snipe (acc++, lowers tu)

Sebillian/Psyon etc Slayer, 5 of whichever (bonus damage)

Etc etc. 

What are the odds of that?

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2 hours ago, Arabian Knight said:

Agreed. And Oblivion was my favorite of the Elder Scrolls games. As Skyrim proved, however, better voice acting does not equal a better story or atmosphere (especially if all that variety in VA talent only leads to two lines per character).

Cheezy VA I feel would take away massively from the game. VA in general, perhaps not. This feels, however, like something that would have be planned much in advance of where the game is now. A voice here and there may be more feasible, or perhaps just for the lead scientist's briefs? Also consider the fact that the voice acting does limit modders later on, if they decide to add elements that normally would have been voice acted. I'm not necessarily arguing against voice acting in general, but it's probably a bit late to implement it on a significant scale. Everyone has their preferences, and while I would certainly laugh at a zany line every now and then, too much of that would turn me off personally. That's one reason I personally do not play the Warhammer games. I like the darker theme of Xenonauts, and the humor was done well in a way that did not detract from that. That last part is purely my opinion, of course.

I really like what Wyldfyre said as well regarding individualization/customization of the soldiers and vehicles and what not. The medals added were pretty cool, and it would nice if they gave some sort of bonus, but cosmetic differences (not to the fantastic scale of X-Com, of course; we do not want to lose Xenonauts' unique style) for veteran soldiers or vehicles would highly enhance the experience. Also I feel that would be a lot easier to implement than additional voice acting, and easier for modders to add to later on if that becomes plausible.  The original post was spot on in highlighting how one of the areas Xenonauts 1 could have vastly improved was the ambiance (I agree with Coffee Potato about 3D modeled shell casings, but if it's not a hugeproject, maybe sprites or images could be used), especially with regards to the dropship sounds and dust and such things. Of course, these are minor things to be added if Chris is happy with the state of the gameplay.

Yup. Maybe getting a bit off topic here, but I think Oblivion's horrible VA wasn't so much because the actors were bad (though some were IMO), but rather because there were so few voices. When every Orc in the game has the same voice, it's immersion-breaking.

And that leads to the conclusion that quality VA is costly. If I imagine VA in Xenonauts, the idea is fine, but if the game only had 1 male and 1 female soldier voice, it would just detract from the atmosphere. Goldhawk is obviously a small studio, and while I'm sure they could record a few lines, they just couldn't afford VA that's even halfway immersive. 

Overall I really think X1 had a great amount of character for such a low-budget game. The art had a distinct style, the Chief Scientist was a great snarky character - a major writing achievement since the game's text was almost entirely research reports - and the soundtrack was pretty great. The visual design of aliens is the only major flaw of X1 atmosphere-wise.

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Posted (edited)

I do see how extra voicing would be a massive extra development burden. But still, even just text bubbles would work wonders for adding personality. Would be modder and localisation friendly too.

Little decals on helmets and other small trinkets for veterans would also be great.

Still gonna stand firm by my criticism of the death sounds though. If that's going to be the maximum extent of the voicing, it's gotta be less anti-climactic than "ooagh"

Edited by ScottyWired

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My biggest pain with voice acting is when you get that one soundbyte that keeps cropping up, driving you mad, so you have to sacrifice that soldier for the greater good.

On the other hand, I do like the idea of crowd sourcing the voice acting, then selecting the best of what the community has to offer. I'm fairly sure that most of the community is from the Anglosphere but I bet there is a fair amount available from elsewhere.

Also, more blood. Always more blood

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There have been mods in the past that have done extra sounds, Skitso's sounds of pain comes to mind. The thing is, if it was done by Goldhawk, then it'd be expected at a developer level of standard which usually means "we paid good money for this".

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Yeah, one of the biggest issues I had with the original was how sterile everything looked, sounded and felt.

I'd love to see crashed ufos surrounded with fire, smoke, broken houses, fallen and cut trees, debris, alien corpses and random bits and pieces scattered around. Also, landed ufos (at least at the moment) look like stationary buildings that are part of the scenery rather than some otherworldly space craft landed there... It might help to rise the landed ufo half a tile up and add some landing gear beneath them maybe? Landed ufos could also have some alien machinery set up around them or something to differentiate them from crash sites as if the aliens are performing some tests and calculations or what not.

While I don't miss full voice over for the marines, I agree that their death screams need to be brutal and varied. I find the old FPS game called Blood has pretty much the right idea on it's cultist voice over how it should be done: :D 

 

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In Xcom 1994. the damage from a crash was simulated by giving the power sources a chance to explode (75%). If they did, the power source would explode with the force and radius of a blaster bomb, simulating damage without having to hand-generate it. It's just an idea, but if certain tiles were pre-set with "bombs" that detonated during map generation causing random damage then crash-landing damage could be simulated without having to hand-craft it. That may, however, be impossible to do or be impractical in terms of processing. 

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6 hours ago, Max_Caine said:

In Xcom 1994. the damage from a crash was simulated by giving the power sources a chance to explode (75%). If they did, the power source would explode with the force and radius of a blaster bomb, simulating damage without having to hand-generate it. It's just an idea, but if certain tiles were pre-set with "bombs" that detonated during map generation causing random damage then crash-landing damage could be simulated without having to hand-craft it. That may, however, be impossible to do or be impractical in terms of processing. 

Seems pretty feasible to me. The game already has destructible environments and random enemy placement, and while the map is loading just run the random placement algorithm with explosions instead of alien spawns. Throw in some extra rules to cultivate the RNG like varying explosion sizes, random fires, generating burn mark decals etc and you're all set. 

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10 hours ago, Max_Caine said:

In Xcom 1994. the damage from a crash was simulated by giving the power sources a chance to explode (75%). If they did, the power source would explode with the force and radius of a blaster bomb, simulating damage without having to hand-generate it. It's just an idea, but if certain tiles were pre-set with "bombs" that detonated during map generation causing random damage then crash-landing damage could be simulated without having to hand-craft it. That may, however, be impossible to do or be impractical in terms of processing. 

X-COM was a little bit too lenient, in that the power sources would wait until the crew of the craft had already exited and taken up defensive positions, so only the crew that stayed in the craft could be hurt by the explosions.

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8 hours ago, Decius said:

X-COM was a little bit too lenient, in that the power sources would wait until the crew of the craft had already exited and taken up defensive positions, so only the crew that stayed in the craft could be hurt by the explosions.

Seeing sebilians who smashed through roofs on their way down would be hilarious.You just see some guy panicking as this space lizard just annihilated his toilet at Mach 3 ;)

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17 hours ago, Coffee Potato said:

I take it CE was the reason for all the crashes and burning maps with busted houses?

It was possible in the original game, but X:CE solved some technical issues that could crop up with too much fire and destruction.

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