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Xenonauts-2 May Update (including Discord server link)

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Hello everyone - it's been a busy month here at Goldhawk, and there's a lot to talk about in this update!

Marketing & Communication:
One of the main things we've been working on is how we can keep you guys better informed about our progress. I'm therefore pleased to announce a new face is joining the team to help us out on this front - Paul, who you will see posting under the name "nervous_testpilot".

I've known Paul for a long time now, as he was originally one half of Mode 7 Games (who made tactical games such as the Frozen Synapse series and Frozen Endzone) who I leaned on for a lot of useful advice back when I was developing the original Xenonauts. Since then Paul has moved into the publishing world and has published various smaller games under the Mode 7 brand, such as Tokyo-42 or The Colonists. He's therefore the perfect person to help out by handling our marketing, sales and communications work so I can focus on getting the game finished.

What does this mean for you? I've written some updated posts that outline what mechanics are currently in the game and what is planned before release (similar to the threads we had up during the Kickstarter) which will be unhidden early next week. We're also aiming to have project updates every two weeks focusing either on the development progress that has been made or diving down to analyse a specific new mechanic in more detail. The Steam page and our website is going to be updated with fresh media, and we'll start monitoring the Steam forums and posting our updates there. You should start to see a bit more coverage about Xenonauts 2 in the news media once we announce our Early Access date, and in general we'll be taking a more active approach towards telling people about the game. 

If anyone is particularly keen on Discord, we're setting up a Discord for the game where the updates will also be posted (although the forums will remain the primary community hub). If anyone wants to join that, the link is here:

 

xenonauts2_UFO_Probe.png

Gameplay Improvements:
What have we been working on over the past month in game development terms? Lots and lots of things. Let's start by talking about artwork, because we're making progress on several fronts there.

One of the things I feel is important is to replace some of the placeholder art that people encounter early in the game. We've got new background painted art on the Research and Engineering screen (as well as updated character art), and we've also had some additional art painted up for a couple of the early research projects. One specific painting that represents the Orbital Bombardment mechanic (i.e. a space station vaporising a city from orbit) turned out pretty well, I think!

We're also working on the designs for the new UFO. We've reverted to the X1 style of UFOs, but we're not planning to just re-use the old designs. The Probe UFO shown above is just a revised version of the old Light Scout from the original game, but most of the designs diverge more heavily than that. Again, I think new artwork goes a long way to making the game feel fresh and interesting even if the fundamentals remain familiar.

Finally, I've spent the last couple of weeks talking to some external artists about improving the visual appearance of the ground missions in X2. Although these experiments are still at an early stage, it does seem like we can make some substantial improvements to the visuals by changing our texturing style (the ground textures in particular could be improved a lot). We'll have to see how things progress, but some of the test scenes are looking really nice - with a nice X1-inspired handpainted feel, but with a more "high-res" 3D feel. Let's hope we can translate that into the game in the next few months!

On the coding side of things, we've spent quite a bit of time getting the new UFO hull-hiding system set up in the ground combat. This is the system from X1 that makes the walls of the UFO disappear when you see the interior of the UFO, giving the "cutaway" feel. This is a complex system at the best of times, but we're also trying to incorporate destructibility into these UFOs in a similar way to the X1 Fire in the Hole! mod (essentially there are specific breach points on the hull of each UFO that can be blasted open). This work still isn't finished, but things are going well so far and we're hoping we'll be able to start work on the final UFO models in the next week or two.

We've also been working on a number of smaller systems. We've set up the systems for night detection on the Geoscape, so the game will load a night mission if the Geoscape night shadow is over the mission site (all the night missions mechanics are still subject to testing). We've done a bunch of work on the soldier equip and dropship equip screens to improve the usability there. The anomalies / events spawned by UFOs as they fly around the map now contain the full variation of text that we have in X1, but now also have biome-dependent tags so we can disable events like forest fires or shopping malls being strafed from happening in the middle of a polar region, etc.

I personally have spent most of my non-management time working on the threads about our plans for the game and the research text for the plot research, which so far is 12 research reports / plot-related pop-ups. There's probably another 5 or 6 optional research projects that I need to write that will unlock an alternate ending (for people who like reading research text). These form the foundations of who the aliens are and their capabilities and intentions, which then feeds into all the other research text. I'm aiming to get the early game research text done in the near future so the first 10-15 researches are all properly written up - again, I think it's important that the initial content is in place even if the entire research tree isn't written.

Builds:
The build I promised in the last update hasn't yet materialised, largely because the ground combat maps are in serious flux at the moment. There are several big changes happening to the levels are the moment which means I'm not that keen to spend time on our existing maps, as there's a good chance I'll have to throw my work away shortly:

  • The biggest one is updating the designs and sizes of all the UFOs once the "hull hiding" system is in place. It's likely that the UFOs end up being significantly bigger, which will affect all the maps and require a redesign.
  • I need to run through all the maps and re-export them to set them up properly to support night missions (as each map now has settings that define whether it can support a day mission or a night mission). Until I do this, no night missions will work.
  • The visuals are potentially subject to some serious upgrades, which will probably also mean the level design will change.
  • Finally, we need to set the maps up to support multiple possible UFOs and dropships that are spawned in at the start of the mission depending on what happened on the Geoscape. At the moment the dropships and UFOs are baked into the maps (a legacy from the days when we only planned one dropship) so if we want to support another dropship we need to make a copy of every single map where we swap the Chinook out for the new dropship, which is way too much work to be worthwhile (this is why the advanced dropships are currently disabled in the tech tree).

Hmm, having written all that out, I realise now it probably makes more sense to release the next build as soon as possible using the old maps while they still work - because it's going to take us a while to work through all that code and make all the new maps! Maybe we will try to put out a new build in the next week or so then. I'll have a look into how feasible that is this afternoon, although it'll still feature the old UFOs in ground missions and the night missions won't function, etc.

Anyway, that's more than long enough - there's lots going on here even if I'm not paying much attention to the forums right now!

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I suppose this post is for Paul primarily (welcome!) - great to see a Discord server go up, but it should be mentioned that a community Xenonauts server has been around for a couple of years. It's not a big server but does have some recognizable people from the X1 community, so it would perhaps make sense to merge the two, or reach out on the old server and let them know that an official one now exists?

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Wow! I'm impressed, especially with the artwork and the alternate win conditions. I'm also glad that you guys are reaching out to the community more (although that's never really been a problem), so hi Paul! Would someone mind filling me in/linking a thread about the multiple dropships and UFOs? If it's as cool as it sounds, I'm totally on board. It would make a lot of ground missions feel much more like dedicated, Iceland Incident-style combat rather than the small skirmishes that were the mainstay of X1. Of course, this begs the next question: Do you guys have any plans for dropship-based weaponry (door gunners, rocket launchers out the front of the ship) or features (your pilots can give a general overview of the terrain as they come in, or at least tell you "Hey, there's a couple of hungry-looking Reapers out our viewscreen"? Whatever direction you guys decide to take the game, I'm sure it will be amazing!

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1 hour ago, Doctor Snidely is the Bae said:

Would someone mind filling me in/linking a thread about the multiple dropships and UFOs? If it's as cool as it sounds, I'm totally on board.

I'm afraid you're misunderstanding, it's not about several dropships on a single mission, it's about the game having multiple types of dropships in the first place, X1 style.

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Just to expand on the final section of my update, I have decided to release a new build in the near future before we start breaking all the existing maps. I'll let you know when to expect the build once I've got a few more research reports done.

3 hours ago, domein said:

Surely this is a May update? April ended 4 weeks ago

Oh, yeah - whooops! Fixed that now :)

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Posted (edited)

@ Squaddie: That dosen´t matter. An Update is an Update!!!! Now we know whats comming and we Betas can adjust to it in Beta 14.

And we have a nice Side Effect: Everything I have announced in an other Part for Xenonauts 2 here is comming exactly as predictet. That´s why I sayd to Chris to go the Way the Team was going as Development begunn. Now a Release is about End 2021 possible and Early Access Beginning 2021. But the new Oportunits the Team have now to upgrade Maps, UFO´s and much more with the external Helpers is a great Advantage for Xenonauts 2.

But the Disadvantages are comming up there too. It´s much re-implementation from X1 which I read and that isn´t good. OK it´s 3D now in the most cases, but many of the Gamers / Players have the same bad feeling like me that would happen. And it happens indeed. Secondly the complete rebuild of Maps and so on extend the Development Time for 1 more Year to get an Final Game, if we get lucky (Mid 2021).

But I let me surprise, maybe we will get an super Product after that changes. The already implemented things we have for the Geoscape and the new things that get implemented in the last Month for Geoscape, Equipment, Soldiers etc. let´s hope to get an new Xenonauts-Feeling with refited X1-Implementations. The new Betatests with Beta 14 (announced refited UFO´s, Maps etc.) will show it.

In Beta 13 we will Test the new implemented Geoscape-Implementations and such on the existing Maps, UFO´s etc, which will be the last old Betatest. After that, we get an second Newstart for Beta-Testing, which is very interessting. The first Newstart for Beta-Test were after the complete Change from announced Atlas-Base to the new (old X1) Base-Building-System (Beta 7 or so).

I say 2021 as Release because UFO2ET shows how to do it correctly. The Beta-Testers here found over 2.000 Bugs and the Devs couldn´t fix them all before Release in May 2020. So the Devs make a choose to extend the Release for 3 Month more (to September 2020). If we Betas should do our Tests correctly, then an Release not before Autom 2021 has to be announced incl. Early Access.

 

 

 

Edited by Alienkiller

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I'm really glad to see that we would receive more active updates in the future and new features would be next week. It's a hard time for devs to work especially while Chris need to take care of his family, but happy to see that everything is on the track now and I'm glad the devs are engaging new UFO design with X1 authentics, really looking forward to how the new designs would be!

Gamewise i'm hoping that with the re-intro of night missions, the players would have improved default equipment suitable for night missions, I‘m not asking for some shiny new GPNVG-18s for default soldiers but i'll be hyped if we can have some ordinary NVGs in the inventory in the first place without researching for advanced exosuits, just making it more immersive into the new setting that the xenonauts are the 2020s-tier elite forces.

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Really nice update put out on steam yesterday and some nice responses from users. Great work! The new science artwork looks promising.

 

On 5/27/2020 at 9:12 AM, Chris said:

 

  • The visuals are potentially subject to some serious upgrades, which will probably also mean the level design will change.

So does this mean map design will have new features other than new textures/graphical upgrades?

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Paul here!  Thanks for the intro, Chris and I hope to see all of you around the various communities in future.

 

@Solverthanks for that - I'll take a look and invite them over to the new server.

 

 

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The Devs upgraded the Team with Programmers, Texters, Picturemakers and so on to implement missing and new things faster. And not to forgett rework many existing things.

An exactly Early Access can´t be said. Chris wanna implement one in 2020, but that belongs on the Beta-Tests which have to be done with all implemented Parts, which have to be reworked (UFO´s, all Ground Maps etc.). In that case expect complications and no Early Access in 2020. Realistic is Beginning 2021 if all goes well.

Why? Like mentioned many things will get a complete rework (like Ground-Fights, Maps, UFO´s etc.) which take a longer then expected from the Devs. That means more than 3 Month. In the meantime missing Things will implemented too (more Reserach Texts and such).

All that have to be Beta-Tested from 0 on again, which should come in Steps. If I get asked how long I would say about November / Dezember this year to get a full stable Beta which will get later the first Early Access if all goes well. But only the time will tell.............. 

Best Example is UFO2ET, where the Betas and later together with EA-Testers did a fine job. But we have a new Situation with Beta 14 on, so all tested things are obsolet then. So we all have to beginn form 0 on in fighting UFO´s, Ground-Battles and such Parts.

 

 

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