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Modular Armour System

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One of the changes we are planning to include in Xenonauts-2 is a "modular armour" system, which is intended to give the player much more flexibility in terms of how they equip their units - and if all goes well, it should also be visually more "cool" than the armour system in the first game!

Problems with the Xenonauts 1 System:
The first Xenonauts game had six suits of armour in it which could be simplified down into three tiers of technology that contained a "heavy" armour and a lighter and usually more mobile "light" variant:

  • Basic Armour (starting) / Combat Armour
  • Wolf Armour / Buzzard Armour
  • Sentinel Battlesuit / Predator Battlesuit

The light armour typically offered less protection but had a jetpack, and the two battlesuits also offered 360-degree vision or maximum Strength respectively. This sytem worked fairly well in general but there were a couple of instances where it ran into difficulties.

  • The pace of the campaign and the sheer number of armour suits meant that you were constantly unlocking new armour, which meant you were often replacing your shiny new armour every two or three missions. Such a short lifespan rather detracts from the cool factor of getting new gear.
  • There was no way to customise armour - e.g. a Buzzard jumpsuit would always have a jetpack, but on missions like Alien Base attack missions a jetpack was completely useless. There was no option to drop the jetpack and, say, use the reduced weight to bring along a few more grenades instead.

The Xenonauts-2 system is designed to take everything good about the Xenonauts 1 armour system and fix the problems that it had.

tactical_armour_variants.png

How the Xenonauts 2 Modular Armour System will work:
In Xenonauts-2 those six armours would be collapsed down into three suits of armour that each have a number of "modules" that allow you to customise them. For the purposes of this thread I'll use similar names for the armour:

  • Tactical Armour (starting)
  • Wolf Armour
  • Battlesuit Armour

The modules currently planned for the Tactical and Wolf Armour are the following:

  • Heavy Armour (+armour, +weight)
  • Rebreather (gas immmunity, -acc)
  • Tactical Visor (+acc, -armour)
  • Jetpack (+weight, vertical movement)

It is a little deceptive that there's now only three armours, as you can easily recreate the six armours from X1 - the Buzzard is just Wolf Armour with a jetpack, whereas removing the jetpack and equipping Heavy Armour gives you the equivalent of the X1 Wolf. It's better than that, though: there's no reason why a particularly strong soldier can't equip everything at once (although ideally the penalties on the items mean it'd be suboptimal to do so from a min-maxing point of view).

The modules are controlled by a series of toggle buttons shown below the armour dropdown. You can see a simple (programmer art) concept for how it will look in the image below:

modular_armour_simple.png

Each of the buttons is toggled independently from the others, so each soldier can equip any combination of the modules for any given armour. They will also be compatible with the loadout system so you can say all your Assault troops have Heavy Armour and Rebreathers, while all your Snipers have Tactical Visors and Jetpacks (obviously you can also customise individual soldiers too).

The art will also update to reflect the equipped modules, which I think is going to be one of those "cool" moments when people when people first see it happening and start to mix and match different components on their armour.

tactical_armour_equipment.png

Research, Progression and Armour Modules:
Clearly, not all of the modules for the armour are available from the start of the game - the jetpack and tactical visor are unlocked via research and then can be shared across multiple types of armour. But the idea is that individual modules can also be upgraded. The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed the first image has three different armours in it, and this is because the first image represents the basic Tactical armour and the second image shows the Tactical armour with the Heavy Armour (Kevlar Vest) option enabled.

The third armour shows the Warden Vest, which is an upgraded version of the Heavy Armour that is unlocked by early game research. Similarly, we could also put a SENTINEL Visor in the game that is an upgraded version of the Tactical Visor that also grants 360 degree vision. We need to spend some time working through the UI / UX of how this could work, particularly if the module items are limited quantity, but it the potential is definitely there for a cool system.

Finally, I should say that it would definitely be possible to make a more complex system with loads of different modules for each armour if we wanted to, but I don't think it would be practical. The art requirements get really complex really fast (because each module needs to work with any other combination of modules), and the user interface would also start to fall apart. Having four or five modules per armour tier means we can have a UI button for each, which means changing modules is quick and easy for the player - anything more complex would need a seperate menu (which I think would be pretty laborious to use).

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If I understand correctly, each armour type has X number of modules available to it, but not all module types are available to each armour type. Is that right? So tactical armour might have room for a jetpack, but a battlesuit wouldn't? 

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3 hours ago, Max_Caine said:

If I understand correctly, each armour type has X number of modules available to it, but not all module types are available to each armour type. Is that right? So tactical armour might have room for a jetpack, but a battlesuit wouldn't? 

Yes, that's correct. Some items are shared and some are not, for instance the Battlesuit tier item doesn't allow you to equip a Rebreather because it already has a gas-immune enclosed helmet. But the Wolf and the Tactical armour would both share the Rebreather as soon as it is unlocked (and if it were a limited quantity item, they would pull from the same common Rebreather item). 

As you're delving into the details and probably trying to figure out where the system begins and ends, I'll outline the grey areas I see at the moment. There's two main complexities with the system that I forsee:

1) The same item might have different stats depending on what armour it is equipped on - e.g. the Tactical Visor gives -Armour, so it makes sense that sticking the Tactical Visor on a Battlesuit with high Armour would give a larger -Armour penalty than if you equipped it on the starting Tactical Armour that has a much lower base Armour rating. Problem is I suspect the implementation is going to get really complex if the Tactical Visor is a manufactured limited quantity item and you've effectively got different versions of it for each armour that pull from the same source item. Two solutions:

  • If we can set the item stats on the Armour rather than the item itself, this problem would go away. But that's something I need to discuss with the programmers. It would also mean you couldn't easily view the stats of the item on (say) the Base Stores via a tooltip or in the Xenopedia, because the -Armour value depends on context (unless it was %-based, I guess).
  • One alternative is to not set unique stats per armour, and just accept that putting a Tactical Visor on a Battlesuit gives you neglible disadvantages compared to early-game armour.
  • The other alternative is just to have the modules unlimited in quantity, probably unlocked by a one-off Engineering project. But it'd be cooler to have to actually build those cool new jetpacks you researched one by one.

2) Because there's only one toggle button for each slot, upgrading items becomes difficult if they are limited quantity. Say you build six Tactical Visors and then you research the Sentinel Visor which is an upgraded version; if you don't upgrade all the Tactical Visors into Sentinel Visors you'll lose access to your six Tactical Visors because the toggle button now controls whether you're equipping Sentinel Visors and there's no way to equip the outdated Tactical Visors. The two solutions are:

  • You get a one-off Engineering project that updates all your existing and future Tactical Visors into Sentinel Visors.
  • You add a new button onto the UI that shares a the visor "slot", so you can only have one of the Tactical or Sentinel Visor active at once. This is probably more technically challenging to implement, and there's not much space on the UI so I think this would be a bad idea.

I need to get an accurate picture of the implementation complexities from the coders but the simplest implementation is to make all the modules unlimited in quantity, and unlocked by one-off Engineering projects. Whether we go for the more complex implementation depends on how much harder it would be to implement, because this is one of the places where the complexity of the task may increase exponentially with each new gameplay feature we try to add in so what is ideal from a gameplay point of view might end up being so complicated to code and set up that it's just not worth it.

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Talking from a players perspective,  I think I'd prefer having to build each item individually, but upgrade items en-masse. Even with relatively small amounts of items - say 20 for an A and B team, it would be fiddly to have to upgrade all of each item in turn and I'd never be sure that I got everything. I'd likely instead sell off all the current item and build a batch of the new stuff.

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I wasn't proposing that you had to individually upgrade each of the Visors - the two courses of action that I see are:

  • You have an engineering project that builds Tactical Visors, and later you unlock another single-use engineering project that upgrades all existing Tactical Visors into Sentinel Visors and replaces the Tactical Visor production engineering project with a Sentinel Visor engineering project.
  • You build the Tactical Visor as normal, and when you unlock the Sentinel Visor you can then build that too and an extra UI button appears so you can equip that. The existing Tactical Visors don't get upgraded; you have to build a new set of Sentinel Visors to replace them and then you can keep the Tactical Visors as spares for the B-team or just sell them off.

I imagine your preference for the first solution still stands (it's currently my preference too), but I just wanted to make it clear I wasn't suggesting we had a special engineering project that turned one Tactical Visor into a Sentinel Visor.

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I like the system overall. While armour in X1 didn't seem to be a big problem to me, the modular system as proposed is a clear improvement.

One minor point from a UI and modding perspective. Already in V9, the old armour dropdown is back. I think it's significantly worse UX, and also the icons for modules would potentially be difficult if (when) modders add many modules. How to display the icons then?

Proposal: make armour its own equipment tab (again), where each of the three armour types is an item, and the modules are displayed next to each in a grid, similar to how ammo is displayed next to weapons.

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Why an extra UI? Why not simply have the button be a DROP DOWN MENU?

Click on it and hold and 2 items appear - tactical and setinel visor. Pick one to equip. That takes no more space on the UI and allows dozens of items under one button. Heck, have one bottun for BACK slot (jetpack, ammo backpack for the big guns, etc..), one for CHEST (armor plating, refelctive coating, grenade harness, etc..), FACE (rebreather mask), EYES (visors...or you put both under HEAD)

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24 minutes ago, TrashMan said:

Why an extra UI? Why not simply have the button be a DROP DOWN MENU?

Click on it and hold and 2 items appear - tactical and setinel visor. Pick one to equip. That takes no more space on the UI and allows dozens of items under one button. Heck, have one bottun for BACK slot (jetpack, ammo backpack for the big guns, etc..), one for CHEST (armor plating, refelctive coating, grenade harness, etc..), FACE (rebreather mask), EYES (visors...or you put both under HEAD)

For usability reasons. The idea of this system is to take the X1 armour system and make it better, and once you start adding a big complicated drop-down into the UI then a whole bunch of people are going to think "why have you made this harder to use?" because equipping each soldier is going to take substantially longer. And then the coolness factor of this system is reduced because there is a downside to go with all the advantages it brings.

However, it seems like it's actually easier for us to write this system with full support for slots etc, so a dropdown like you want would be possible - but I think that's probably something best left for X:CE or some future DLC where people can make a choice whether they want to use it or not. Hardcore people obviously will want to have a big and complicated modular system, but we can't assume all of our players have that mentality.

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Sounds really good, I like the approach. I could envision both upgrades for all the gear of type X you currently have, if there is a flat-out improvement, e.g. +5 acc for the tactical visor from dissection of Ceasan sniper eyes, but also an alternative piece of gear with other stats (e.g. a heavier visor that has night vision or can see through smoke better, but does not have the acc bonus), which you would have to produce separately.

Now how cool would it be if there were not actually new types of armour, but you'd elect a set of new components to be made into a new standard piece of armour? Like say the heavy armour, tactical visor and exoskeleton legs would become a new type of armour you can produce as an alternative to the single components, granting larger bonuses while unaltered (because they are designed as a whole instead of piecemeal) and also cost slightly less material compared to the single components. That would make the set of equipment a quasi-standard for your troops, i.e. what the X1 armours really are.

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So, another question regarding modules, this time within an armours' "ecosystem". Are all module combinations permissible within an armours' ecosystem or will there be either forbidden or detrimental combinations? The most obvious example of a potential forbidden/detrimental combination that leaps to mind would be combining jetpack and heavy armour. Either the suit is so heavy the jetpack can't give enough lift, or the suit is sufficiently heavy that the jetpack requires extra TUs to operate. Another possible forbidden/deterimental combination may be rebreather and visor. The nature of a rebreather mask may make a tactical visor either impossible to wear or impaired to fit around the mask. 

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11 hours ago, Max_Caine said:

So, another question regarding modules, this time within an armours' "ecosystem". Are all module combinations permissible within an armours' ecosystem or will there be either forbidden or detrimental combinations? The most obvious example of a potential forbidden/detrimental combination that leaps to mind would be combining jetpack and heavy armour. Either the suit is so heavy the jetpack can't give enough lift, or the suit is sufficiently heavy that the jetpack requires extra TUs to operate. Another possible forbidden/deterimental combination may be rebreather and visor. The nature of a rebreather mask may make a tactical visor either impossible to wear or impaired to fit around the mask. 

Mutually exclusive combinations like the rebreather / tactical visor will be supported out the box, because you can just assign them the same slot (e.g. head) and a slot can only contain one item at a time - although that's not how those two items will be set up in the vanilla game, but of course modders can take advantage of that functionality. Detrimental combinations aren't supported though; I think that would make the implementation significantly more complicated.

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22 hours ago, Chris said:

For usability reasons. The idea of this system is to take the X1 armour system and make it better, and once you start adding a big complicated drop-down into the UI then a whole bunch of people are going to think "why have you made this harder to use?" because equipping each soldier is going to take substantially longer. And then the coolness factor of this system is reduced because there is a downside to go with all the advantages it brings.

However, it seems like it's actually easier for us to write this system with full support for slots etc, so a dropdown like you want would be possible - but I think that's probably something best left for X:CE or some future DLC where people can make a choice whether they want to use it or not. Hardcore people obviously will want to have a big and complicated modular system, but we can't assume all of our players have that mentality.

A drop-down is complicated? It's quite literally the standard windows menu even old grannies know how to use. I'm beginning to question who does the UI testing there.... It doesn't even take more clicks, you simply hold and release.

From a usability standpoint, the amount of things you can show on screen at one time is limited if you don't want to overwhelm the player and make this too cluttered. Obviously, you can have an icon/button for each item, but if modders add more items, what then? The limited UI space works against that.

An alternate solution would be a separate window that list all possible attacchments/modification for all equipment, but I'm not too fond of that. Opening and closing a separate window is something to avoid.

A THIRD solution is to tie it to actual equipment. Click on the armor on the solider and you get a dropdown menu with all possible armor attachments (including none, to remove). Click on the helmet would get you all helmet attachments. Since the attachment would be visible on the model, there is no need for an attachment icon in the lower corner of paperdol (though you could have that too).

Removing armor? Hovering over it would make a big red X appear on the upper right corner for taking it off.

 

 

Hm..perhaps I could wip up a mockup

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3 hours ago, TrashMan said:

A drop-down is complicated? It's quite literally the standard windows menu even old grannies know how to use. I'm beginning to question who does the UI testing there.... It doesn't even take more clicks, you simply hold and release.

I may have been answering your question, but my reply wasn't actually aimed at you - I'm well aware that you're not going to agree with what I'm saying, as your stance has always essentially been that we should add as much realism and complexity as possible irrespective of the consequences. The reply was for other people who might have been wondering the same thing and might be less opinionated on the topic.

It doesn't surprise me that you disagree that putting key information in a sub-menu rather than having it accessible on the main screen is in any way more complex or more cumbersome than having it accessible directly, but it's a well-established principle of UI and is the exact reason why things like desktop shortcuts were created 20 years ago. I obviously don't think any players would fail to understand how a dropdown worked but it would definitely make the screen harder to use.

What you're therefore advocating is that we make gameplay worse for the 80% of players that don't play mods so that modders have the flexibility to add a more detailed system post-release. Any serious mod is probably going to be built on the foundations of X2:CE, which is an opt-in product, so I'll let them (or us in a DLC) worry about switching the display to a dropdown. Then hardcore players get to have the toys that they want without making life harder for everyone else who doesn't want that level of complexity, which I think is a happy middle ground for everyone.

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Addition - one thing that should be part of the armor is the BACK SLOT. Why? Because if you have a jetpack, then you can't have a backpack. Ergo, a unit equipped with a jetpack would have the backpack grayed out and unusable, limited to a belt/chest harness.

Soldiers with power armor should also have to specialize - such armor would have big power and cooling requirements, which ideally is placed on the back and doesn't leave much room for a regular backpack. So something line an mmmo pack (think Predator and Jesse Ventura with the minigun and the ammo on the back), stablilizer, extra power module?

 

EDIT: Looking at the current UI, you do seem to have more than enough free space that a separate drop-down menus might not even be necessary. Since equipment and attachments are already visually represented, perhaps clutter could be reduced by having auto-hide (the selection of armor upgrades dissapear unless you hover over them)? But even that might not be necessary, though I can't say for sure due to different resolutions affecting the UI. I'm not in the position to test it anyway, and you do know your stuff, so I trust your judgment on this.

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1 hour ago, TrashMan said:

Soldiers with power armor should also have to specialize - such armor would have big power and cooling requirements, which ideally is placed on the back and doesn't leave much room for a regular backpack. So something line an mmmo pack (think Predator and Jesse Ventura with the minigun and the ammo on the back), stablilizer, extra power module?

Yeah, this is something that we're hoping to develop the system into. It's a bit difficult to know how it would work but it'd be nice if the LMG-stabilizer functionality of the Predator was something that could be incorporated into these modules. Or equipping the heavy armour variant reduces your carrying space, and so on - or possibly the standard variant gives you a TU boost that is lost if you equip the heavy variant (which might replace it with a strength boost instead), etc. There's quite a few different options there.

That's relatively fine detail in my book though so we'll do the simple implementation first and then see if we can make the end-game Exosuit a bit more exciting in terms of specialisation afterwards. But it is certainly something I'm interested in given the final armour should probably feel a bit special somehow.

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A few questions regarding classification and obsolescence of armour. As you noted, X1 armour was split up into light or heavy and each generation of armour made the previous generation obsolete. How would you classify armour types now in X2? Does tactical = light, wolf = medium and battlesuit = heavy, or are you hoping that each type of armour is a unique classification based upon the modules it can bring to the party? And regarding obsolescence.Is the plan for each of the three classes of armour remain relevant throughout the whole of the game or will some armours (e,g, tactical) be eventually obsolete?

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From what I understand, Tactical and Wolf have the same modules planned, which then makes Wolf armour a plain upgrade over the starting tactical armour.

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21 hours ago, TrashMan said:

Addition - one thing that should be part of the armor is the BACK SLOT. Why? Because if you have a jetpack, then you can't have a backpack. Ergo, a unit equipped with a jetpack would have the backpack grayed out and unusable, limited to a belt/chest harness.

Soldiers with power armor should also have to specialize - such armor would have big power and cooling requirements, which ideally is placed on the back and doesn't leave much room for a regular backpack. So something line an mmmo pack (think Predator and Jesse Ventura with the minigun and the ammo on the back), stablilizer, extra power module?

Talking about a back slot: If you can opt to not take a backpack, that should also be viable. What always bugged me that it made no sense to not stuff your soldiers to the brim of their carrying capability, i.e. in X1 there is a malus for carrying too much but no bonus for carrying less. Stalker had this as a very neat system of increasing encumbrance, which means you could opt to go in very quiet, fast and light or as a heavy, slow walking ammo and gun locker.

Using a similar system it could be really viable to do light pistol scouts with increased TU (so they can move farther and use more items and stuff) and reflexes (so they don't get shot at as much. Extra cool would be if you could drop your backpack to get these bonuses temporarily. On the other end you might have heavy soldiers who cannot even do certain things, akin to how (at least in X-Division) the Predator wearers cannot use medkits.

As another suggestion on equipment, how about a backpack that provides a smoke screen when (while) being shot at?

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22 hours ago, Chris said:

I may have been answering your question, but my reply wasn't actually aimed at you - I'm well aware that you're not going to agree with what I'm saying, as your stance has always essentially been that we should add as much realism and complexity as possible irrespective of the consequences. The reply was for other people who might have been wondering the same thing and might be less opinionated on the topic. 

 

When I make suggestions I do try to think of implementation difficulties (simple implementations) and resource costs too, so I would say I do think of the consequences.

I am sorry if I come across negatively, it's just my enthusiasm for this game gets the better of me sometimes. And I've seen a lot of good project ruined by going after the mythical wider audience, so there's always that alarm in the back of my head. I have great faith in you and your team, please do not doubt that.

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16 minutes ago, Dagar said:

Talking about a back slot: If you can opt to not take a backpack, that should also be viable. What always bugged me that it made no sense to not stuff your soldiers to the brim of their carrying capability, i.e. in X1 there is a malus for carrying too much but no bonus for carrying less. Stalker had this as a very neat system of increasing encumbrance, which means you could opt to go in very quiet, fast and light or as a heavy, slow walking ammo and gun locker.

Using a similar system it could be really viable to do light pistol scouts with increased TU (so they can move farther and use more items and stuff) and reflexes (so they don't get shot at as much. Extra cool would be if you could drop your backpack to get these bonuses temporarily. On the other end you might have heavy soldiers who cannot even do certain things, akin to how (at least in X-Division) the Predator wearers cannot use medkits. 

As another suggestion on equipment, how about a backpack that provides a smoke screen when (while) being shot at?

You've given me another idea - integrated stimulant/med dispenser. A weak, limited auto-heal module? Or combat stims that boosts starts temporarily when wounded?

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Looks cool. I have a question though....how does a visor make your armour worse? Or is the helmet art not in yet? I am a little confused.

 

Also Dagar that's a good idea to have bonuses for having below max encumbrance. I know in X1 I would always carry as much as possible with every soldier. It would be cool to make a decision on whether that's something I want to do or not.

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Well, an other button or pull-down menu are not the only options available. The same button can toggle equip/remove module with, say, left click and cycle through modules with, say, ctrl + left click. This does not require any additional UI elements, and less programming I guess. You can set the default module type to the most advanced available thus cycling through modules will occur not too often.

 

Edited by ols

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For -armour and +weight, perhaps they can be made a percentage.  Or both.
For example, a module can have -armor and -ArmorPerc.  This opens more ways to balance items.

e.g. Light = 20 Armour, Medium = 40 Armour, Heavy = 60 Armour.
If Module = +2 Armor & -20% Armor, Light+Mod = 18 (-2), Med+Mod = 34 (-6), Hvy+Mod = 50 (-10)

As for the user interface, may I propose an alternative?  This drag and drop interface should work for primary and secondary too.
For smaller modules like rebreather, would be nice if we can put them in backpack for on-field application.
(Sorry I can't find know how to resize the video here. Not intended to be this big.)

 

Edited by Sheepy
typo

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If I'm reading this correctly there's the 5 slots/types of modular additions, then you'll be able to upgrade them. If there's only going to be two of each type (not for example 5 types of chest armor) you could simply have a 2x5 grid for choosing items instead of a 1x5. It wouldn't be that difficult to do and there's not really enough items to justify a drop down.

I like having the old items around to be sold / b-team feel, the one issue would be how it juggles "falling back" to a lower tier item when higher tier ones run out (3 soldiers in a sniper preset, but only two upgraded visors), but it could default to using any lower tier ones on the lowest ranking/stat soldier in the group as a sort of best attempt at B team loadouts. You run into UI issues showing soldiers that have an incomplete loadout potentially, but there could be a yellow marker or something if someone has a lower tier item and red if they're blank/out or something.

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