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ApolloZani

Air Game Musings

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Once again, Air Game thoughts!

"What's the worst part about Xenonauts?"
"The air game."
"What XCOM-style game has the best air game?"
"Xenonauts."

I've been doing my sorta annual playthings of XCOM'em ups, modded and official, and I realize that I'm actually looking forward to playing the airgame, but what I'm remembering so fondly isn't the start with Condors and Foxtrots, but the end with Marauder's against everything. So why is that? I've put in air game mods a few times now and while some of them do cool stuff, they don't really satisfy the potential I feel when looking back. 

What are the problems? I think it comes down to three things.

1. Xenonaut's 1 air game begins too simply.

The first airfights are trivial to take down with Condors. In one sense, this is good for new players because they get to succeed and start on ground missions. It's a lead in to the meatier systems of the game and you're going to have to do this anyways. But it kinda sucks from every other point of view. Narratively, it's weird that you can just take out the first UFOs without a scratch or even really lifting your finger when you're apparently losing the war. Skillwise, this doesn't teach a player anything other than how to press the play button. Replayability goes down when you know autoresolve will do just as good without wasting your time on something you don't find fun.

Your first upgrade is even less fun. Foxtrots are cool in the sense that they're faster and have more firepower, but once they launch their torpedos, they're useless and just have to turn around. Getting a missile lock is skilless and turning around isn't much better.

2. It's too easy to lose for how punishing it is.

There aren't many air battles where you can make a mistake and have a plane survive. The places where you can make the most mistakes is in the late game, where players have the most skill and options. On one hand, this is good. It represents progress to the player, but we as players make mistakes while learning. In Xenonauts, we'll make the most mistakes where they're the most punishing, in the early game where our fighters can get two shotted. This is made worse by the fact that losing a plane can often mean the whole continent might as well be undefended for the wave. 

It's a neat microcosm of the ground fight in one sense, where losing a soldier means its going to be harder to finish the mission, but losing a jet is often much more crippling. Where one soldier is at worst 1 of 8, one jet is at most 1 of 3. Where one soldier can kill one alien, one jet can't take down one Carrier. You can expend all your ammo and still have to go home to rearm.

Mistakes are easy to make and if you make one mistake, you lose.

3. It's not optimal to engage with the air game.

The optimal strategy converges on three Condors (maybe other fighters if you care) and two Foxtrots per base. Three Condors can take out any air superiority mission the game will ever throw at you. 100% success in the autoresolve. Two Foxtrots, assuming you keep up with technologies, can take down anything bigger than a scout and smaller than a battleship, and even a battleship only needs one extra Foxtrot. Escorts pose no issue because you can just target the main ship and run away once the torpedoes have fired.

Send Condors at tiny triangles, hit autoresolve.
Send Foxtrots at big triangles, aim at the big ship and run away once the missiles have launched.
A zero skill, no risk, high reward method to winning the air game at any difficulty level.

How do we fix it? Obviously, the answer is super difficult otherwise I'd be able to point to any number of mods out there and say, "right here, just copy X-Division/Skies/Circus/whatever and be done with it." But I think there's one big idea holding us back.

We should get rid of the pause button.

By adding it, we've let the moment to moment difficulty of the air game increase a hundredfold. If you can pause, then it makes sense to punish single mistakes without mercy because you, as the player, could have easily just paused more and come up with better plans. An airgame with pause has to be extremely difficult to remain difficult at all. An airgame without pause expects you to make all sorts of mistakes. This leaves us with two replacements, real-time and turn-based.

Turn-based air combat harmonizes with ground combat, by making it closer in line with your soldiers. Lots of games have tried this approach, however, and I've never really seen an implementation I've truly liked in computer land. Giving your planes orders and watching them play out the next three seconds on their own feels like it should have a lot of room for strategy and tactics, but I've never felt like I've had enough control to go, "Ah-ha! My evil plan is working!" Or "Oh no, I didn't notice the obvious crippling flaw in my strategy!" Whether I win or lose in these games, it doesn't feel like its my fault.

In the fully turn-based realm of board games, those tend to be interesting because they add a ton of options outside of the major, "move and shoot," actions. Stuff like drawing the one-use only mega-laser you snuck into your deck, putting in the kind of pilot who can dodge lock-3 attacks at the head of your squadron, and going slower for a turn so you can put out an engine fire. This is very outside scope! But maybe this could work better with having pilots shoulder all the tactical weight. Pilots could learn how to perform trisky maneuvers like rolling dives letting them instantly turn around or "barrel rolls" to full dodge all attacks that turn. They'd have skills like your soldiers to do things like withstand more gs so they can perform multiple high-g maneuvers in a row, and passive dodge stats that represent flicking a wing out of the way just in time.

This is one of those situations where I think seeing exactly how the enemy will react to your considered plans is a good thing. When you know that your planned moves will give your pilots the time to deal 17% damage to a ship and take 4% damage from enemy weapons, it might feel more meaningful to choose those moves. When a ship's intentions are marked to you as, "???," you know a surprise is coming and once a special move has been seen, you'll know next time to active your two second overshield to tank the attack.

Now real-time does rub against the philosophies of turn-based ground combat a bit, but the air game that's already been developed is just real-time with pause. Any solution here should remain firmly in the scope of what's already been developed. We do have the benefit of standing on the shoulder's of giants here, there are enormous amounts of real-time games out there and we can easily point to examples of good combat.

Xenonauts x DotA. Outfit your one jet with items from the already in place item system, use hotkets/hud-buttons to throw missiles that do damage+an effect. Make the enemy ship shoot slower or not at all for a few seconds. Disable their anti-missile missiles so your Foxtrots can shoot from out of left-field. (I mean, if you want to keep them as dedicated torpedo tugs that can't do anything else, why are you allowed to control them in the first place? They should fire the moment they'd be able to get a hit in.) Phase something out of existence for six seconds so you can focus down your other opponents. Keep your distance from some UFOs but try to close in on others. Try to find the sweet spot for your jet/opponent combination.

Xenonauts x Starcraft. You have many little jets and box select. You're expected to lose some jets every engagement, but so long as you keep most of them in the skies, you're golden. Strategically take on the hardest UFOs in a wave first when you're strongest and the weaker ones later after losing a few units to attrition. The UFOs can either be many in number themselves in which case its all about positioning, or it can be single boss battles with telegraphed moves (ie, they're charging their laser and the field is starting to glow red where it will hit). No stutter stepping, obviously, but that's just a consequence of a-move. Always-on auto-attacks against whatever a unit is facing (like current) with big radial turns (like current) but much more dynamic speed ranges (sorta current, speed isn't automatically decided but has a huge range). A jet will always try to reach its destination at max speed, but slows down to nearly nothing once its reached it. High acceleration and deceleration.

Xenonauts x Supreme Commander. You have three jets with crazy high speeds and almost no ability to slow down. They do runs against the enemy and its up to you to choose their line of approach. If you go in direct, you'll take a lot of damage, but do a lot of damage. High risk, high reward, or you can buzz them from behind and get a few pops in before they turn around and you have some new vectors to work with. If you ever choose a run that has your jets in front of the UFO, that's a clear mistake. You do a little damage and take a lot. Jets can only do a few runs before they have to go home and refuel.

Xenonauts x Homeworld. You have two sets of jets. You can choose formations for your jets which vary in effectiveness depending on the situation. Microing one jet can be useful, but it's better to figure out the optimal formation for the situation and send them in. One set of jets are there as distractions/air superiority/counter-defenses, the other set is there to bring the hammer.

Xenonauts x Age of Empires II. You have three kinds of jets. Cannons, flak, and missiles. Cannons beat missiles, missiles beat flak, and flak beats cannons. The aliens have the same three kinds of craft. You are playing rock paper scissors.

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That is a really interesting argument for removing the pause button. My gut reaction is that I enjoy the perfect-or-die split-second timing of air combat - but then I'm the type of gamer who will reload until I nail it. There are a couple of points I think worth pulling apart.

Fit. Opposition to real time is usually pretty vocal. The slow-intellectual strategy style of play doesn't chime too well with a mini-game that calls for quick reactions and button bashing. Any air combat system has to fit in well with the game as a whole. The pause button doesn't fit. But then a real time strategy, even without a pause button, doesn't fit either. Using Subset Games as exemplar, the goal should be Enter the Breach rather than FTL. A turn-based mini-game, even with a very simple rock paper scissors basis would make a good fit, even if it lacked excitement.

Punishment. I think you're dead on here. Personally, I prefer the game to pit me against difficult challenges rather than severe punishments. A hard battle is great, even sustaining losses. But any losses that take an hour (in the real world) to recuperate are just not worth the effort. I don't want to invest that much into the game. So, on reflection, I think the air war should basically be unwinnable through the majority of the game. Instead of dominating the skies, the player merely manages to fight for a small corner of them. Losing a bunch of planes is fine, so long as you down a couple of UFOs in the process, or fend off the worst of the bombing runs.

 

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8 hours ago, Ninothree said:

Fit. Opposition to real time is usually pretty vocal. The slow-intellectual strategy style of play doesn't chime too well with a mini-game that calls for quick reactions and button bashing. Any air combat system has to fit in well with the game as a whole. The pause button doesn't fit. But then a real time strategy, even without a pause button, doesn't fit either. Using Subset Games as exemplar, the goal should be Enter the Breach rather than FTL. A turn-based mini-game, even with a very simple rock paper scissors basis would make a good fit, even if it lacked excitement.

I think we’re seeing the dynamic between a vocal minority and a silent majority here. Rather than making the efforts to complain on the forums, they would just not buy the game. I still remember how heated about air combat discussions was on the feature threads, where a lot of people only make accounts just to make backlash against the turn based system to stem the tide of a few people making constant comments supporting it. This only died down when Chris decided to brought back both the original base system and real time air combat. Even the biggest thread on the general discussion on how X2 stayed too much similar to the first game was also defended by the silent majority.

Your argument on how real time doesn’t fit really, it’s just your bias showing. You have given no concrete reasoning to why having a small real time section to break up the monotony of turn based combat is not a good thing (something a lot of people addressed and complained about during the first implementation). Not to mention it’s extremely hard to create a fair system of autoresolve of a turn based combat system, forcing the people who already hate it to play it in order to even follow, a huge problem with games like Total War: Warhammer and it’s terrible siege combat. How it fits or not is entirely based on your opinion of the first game. The whole point of the mini game to be fast, short and easy to autoresolve is that the main focus of Xenonauts is the ground combat, not the air game. Making the air game taking 50% of the game is not really the point at all.

Your comparison of Xenonauts and the Subset games is also extremely jarring and  thematically unfit as well. The entire point of Into the Breach was to have the gameplay portray the lumbering methodical movement of giant mechas and kaijus and because of that it is turn based. While FTL wanted to have the gameplay represents the frantic combat and movement flow of space ships. Just seeing this we can see that the fast movement of the air game should be closer than FTL than anything else. The planes and UFOs are not gigantic lumering robots but dynamic fast moving machines that are extremely unpredictable. The X-Division mod has already demonstrated that this could work, X2 will only need to deepen this. Like adding more equipment for movement like boosters, teleport pack, anti-missile point defense, energy shields and different weapon setups. Also locational damage for UFOs.

9 hours ago, Ninothree said:

Punishment. I think you're dead on here. Personally, I prefer the game to pit me against difficult challenges rather than severe punishments. A hard battle is great, even sustaining losses. But any losses that take an hour (in the real world) to recuperate are just not worth the effort. I don't want to invest that much into the game. So, on reflection, I think the air war should basically be unwinnable through the majority of the game. Instead of dominating the skies, the player merely manages to fight for a small corner of them. Losing a bunch of planes is fine, so long as you down a couple of UFOs in the process, or fend off the worst of the bombing runs.

The insertion of Starcraft like mechanics of replacement for aircraft is also annoying. The planes and more importantly the pilots should be irreplaceable assets like in real combat to represent the already established atmosphere of the game. Loosing one pilot after a failed rescue mission should be punishment enough. The role of Xenonauts should be the only elite force that is capable of downing UFOs, let the dying and loosing to the NATO and Soviets.

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9 hours ago, Xeroxth said:

Your argument on how real time doesn’t fit really, it’s just your bias showing. You have given no concrete reasoning

For what it is worth, I enjoy the real time of the mini game. I'd even be happy with real time in ground combat - that is how I used to play Apocalypse. And you're right about the vocal subsets of the community who hate on seemingly any option for air combat. You can't please everyone. My reasoning is that you please the most people when the style of air combat fits in with the rest of the game. In my [inevitably biased] opinion, the best fit is something that tests similar skills to the rest of the game. So, for instance, putting in a first person perspective flight simulator would be jarring (not that I'd mind). However, I can see your point: converse to my reasoning, there is a rationale for making the mini game something that tests an entirely different skill set so as to break up the pace of the regular game. But I feel fairly confident that my logic stands, you don't want to break up the monotony with something too incongruous. On balance, I guess I just sympathise with the vocal minority who don't like to test their reactions by spamming the pause button.

9 hours ago, Xeroxth said:

The entire point of Into the Breach was to have the gameplay portray the lumbering methodical movement of giant mechas and kaijus and because of that it is turn based

I hadn't thought of the thematic relationship in this way. Sure, mapping the flurry of aerial combat onto a more chill turn-based system does have a thematic mismatch. But I think the priority of good gameplay trumps all. Look Firaxis XCOM, that had a good thematic fit for the air game, remember that? Felt exactly like you were a commander in the base watching the interception on a scanner. Great thematic immersion, but it was dreadful gameplay.

Overall, I think I just don't buy into your argument that the mini game has to be 'fast, short and easy to autoresolve'. Sure, even @Chris has said that the air combat shouldn't detract from ground combat. Still, I'm not sold on that (well, logically I'm not sold; financially, I have already bought the game). Air combat only needs to have an autoresolve if the mini game is not interesting enough justify making the player go through each and every battle. My reaction there is to make it less tedious or occur less frequently. X1 had the issue that you were swamped by air combat. Lots of instances of the mini game. That undermines it being a short and fast distraction from 'monotony'. 

As OP says, air combat in this genre of games has been a mess. XCOM2 was smart/timid enough to sidestep it entirely. Looking beyond issues of mechanics and design, I can think of three points that that part of the game addresses (apart from adding diversity):

  • To spawn ground combat missions
  • To test your R&D
  • To force you to expand
  • (maybe: to demonstrate the invasion and its increasing intensity??)

The first and second points don't require air combat. There are other ways to spawn missions and the gear you can give your troopers is test enough of your R&D. XCOM2 had its own mechanic for territory expansion which is why it could make its sidestep. Indeed, for Xenonauts, it really is that third point that matters most. The bulk of the challenge of the air war is getting your interceptors there in the first place (and to a lesser extent, making sure they're well armed). As such, most of the air war is determined before the air battles even begin.

So where does that leave the air combat mini game? Well, I think the design should be tailored so that air combat is better at addressing the first two points. So, the decisions you can choose in air combat are a reflection of your R&D pathway, and the goal you're working towards is the type of ground combat mission you want to spawn. With that in mind, your suggestions about diverse equipment for interceptors and locational damage for UFOs are solid. Real time or turn based; I couldn't care less. Thematic matching; meh, would be nice but is not essential. But I reckon the core of air combat should be on an ability basis, and that for me the real immersion breaker is that your fleet of a dozen condors can rule the skies.

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Every Game and much more Gamepart have to start simple. If you make an Gamepart in the beginning to heavy you will have in 1 max. 2 Days a Shopkeeper and a loss from Houndredthousends to Million Dollars Development Costs.

We tested an similar Modus in the Airfight for Xenonauts 2 (old X-Com / new XCOM-Stile) but it dosen´t get the feeling from an good Airfight. In that Case we decided to go back to the older Xenonauts 1 Airfight-System but with differences. The first UFOs are easy to handle (Drone, Scout, Destroyer) but the Advanced UFO´s (Advanced Scout etc.) are not easy to bring down. I don´t use the Automatic-Fight normaly, but for some advanced UFO´s you don´t have a change until the difficulty level from the Game is adjustied.

So I begunn to like the similar Airfight-System from X1 with it´s advancement. Maybe we will get an better one in an DLC or so.

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On 7/10/2020 at 4:42 PM, Ninothree said:

My reasoning is that you please the most people when the style of air combat fits in with the rest of the game. In my [inevitably biased] opinion, the best fit is something that tests similar skills to the rest of the game. So, for instance, putting in a first person perspective flight simulator would be jarring (not that I'd mind).

I used to think that too when I first saw the kickstarter campaign. Then during the first few versions of the new air game, the implementation was not only slow, boring but to me somehow is even simpler than the real time air game of X1. Rather than the actual finessed controls with actual maneuvers like the ground combat, the thing is lane-based which only see planes chasing UFOs by the tail with extremely simplistic graphics that even the X1 air game can go well beyond with the X-Division mod. My point is that an actual working turn-based air game is entirely possible, but to just make it half way is not. It would have to be as complex as the tabletop X-Wing or Aeronautica Imperialis to be compelling, something that would not only take center stage over the main game of tactical ground combat but something Goldhawk doesn't have the enough resource and time to do.

 

On 7/10/2020 at 4:42 PM, Ninothree said:

Sure, mapping the flurry of aerial combat onto a more chill turn-based system does have a thematic mismatch. But I think the priority of good gameplay trumps all. Look Firaxis XCOM, that had a good thematic fit for the air game, remember that? Felt exactly like you were a commander in the base watching the interception on a scanner. Great thematic immersion, but it was dreadful gameplay.

The reality of implementation has already disproven this point. The first implementation of lane turn-based air game is worse than X1 minigame in every single conceivable way, what makes anyone think that it will be better when the start was such a trainwreck is beyond me. On the comparison the Firaxis, I have to dissagree. The air game is actually slower and less exciting than the turn based system of X2, it's a glorified version of Mechanicus room choices or FTL dialogue decision making. The alien UFO doesn't fight back more than just continue flying in the same direction while you can't even control the movement of your interceptors. You just spam the same pattern of buttons again and again.

 

On 7/10/2020 at 4:42 PM, Ninothree said:

So where does that leave the air combat mini game? Well, I think the design should be tailored so that air combat is better at addressing the first two points. So, the decisions you can choose in air combat are a reflection of your R&D pathway, and the goal you're working towards is the type of ground combat mission you want to spawn. With that in mind, your suggestions about diverse equipment for interceptors and locational damage for UFOs are solid. Real time or turn based; I couldn't care less. Thematic matching; meh, would be nice but is not essential. But I reckon the core of air combat should be on an ability basis, and that for me the real immersion breaker is that your fleet of a dozen condors can rule the skies.

This point I agree with wholeheartedly. Diversifying the equipment of the aircraft is key. This have to include much more movement, defensive and evasion options than just more weapons with more damage than the first game. As I suggested in the last few threads on this subject should follow the same variety of equipment as games like FTL that can be put on any aircraft to reconfigure them as needed. Different or more advance aircraft frames should have different number of euquiment slots so that you could see a progression of R&D of the Xenonauts as the war go on. The first aircrafts could be in two variety silimar to the condor and the MiG: Both having 5 equipment slots for the engine, weapons, armor, cockpit (condor having more weapon slots while the MiG having two engine slots). Later planes should have a total of 10 slots with more advanced weapons and exoteric equipment like teleporter, laser point defense, energy shields, cryoshell cockpit, EMP bursts, cloaking, boosters,... 

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10 hours ago, Xeroxth said:

an actual working turn-based air game is entirely possible, but to just make it half way is not.

This is what I've been saying for a while. The air combat either needs to be scaled up or scaled down. A halfway job is not interesting enough to be worth playing over and over - which is annoying when the autoresolve function has a lower win rate.

10 hours ago, Xeroxth said:

The first implementation of lane turn-based air game is worse than X1 minigame in every single conceivable way, what makes anyone think that it will be better when the start was such a trainwreck is beyond me.

The lane-based system has now been replaced with the old style 2D air-scape. It is indeed pretty dull in terms of gameplay, only slightly better than XCOM:EU. But the main point your making above, about variety of equipment on human and alien craft, that can be applied to the turn-based lane-based air combat.

Just to be clear: I do enjoy X1 system, finding a way to navigate avoiding enemy firing cones and timing missiles/barrel rolls. But as @ApolloZani stated at the outset, the pause-play-pause nature of that combat has its flaws. If X2 moves to a system with 5-10 slots per craft, then aerial combat would be incredibly confusing if you were navigating three of your own fighters, possibly against three UFOs, and everyone was teleporting, launching EMPs, activating thrusters, lighting up barbecues etc... just looking at that would be murder on your eyes, let alone the design of the UI and balancing all those modules too. I've not played XDivision so I don't know how they managed it.

In any case, I'd say prioritise keeping the modules (slots for weapons, defences, armour, sensors, propulsion) because that is the interesting bit and it links up nicely with R&D / recovery of assets from ground combat. But slim down the rest of the air combat mechanics so that the player can focus on a strategy that uses those modules. 

Turn based is simpler than real time (especially real time with a pause button, FTL was excessive at times). A lane-based system is a simplification of the 2D field used in X1. Maybe it is an oversimplification ... you do lose out on the attack cones and angles of approach. Perhaps if the lane system also included elevation? So you could move your interceptors forward, back, side to side, and up and down. That'd give you plenty of attack angles (e.g. attacking from above would give access to the UFO's cockpit). Ah, I digress.

The original point I was making a few posts back, and what I'm reaffirming here, is that the air combat shouldn't be too fiddly. Bluntly - it is a fucking strategy game. The only versions of xcom that have ever valued dexterity are The Bureau, Enforcer and Interceptor, all of which were pants. So whilst the lane system on its base appearance is not that inspiring, maybe it is a better platform for a more interesting air game?

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Posted (edited)

The Airgame is good as it´s now for Xenonauts 2. You haven´t played it but we Betas did. And we can say that the new Airfight-System have many Surprisses. :)

If you read the Bug Part, you will know the first of it. The first thing is that your Fighters are refitable (Armor, Guns, Rockets). In the first Betas before it was limited you could choose extra Fuel and 2 more things I have forgotten.

The Condor and Foxtrott for the Player is out of Order. Instead you get an Top-Secret-Special-Plane on the beginning from the Storyline, which is atm "Top Secret". Only the big Financers have Standard-Planes (Condor, Migs or so). 

The first UFO´s are like in Xenonauts 1 doable with the beginning Weapons and Starting-Planes. But then you need upgrades for your planes very quickly. Better Rockets and the Gattling-Laser like in Xenonauts 1 are the Minimum. And not to forget the Advanced-Armor!

The Airfight themself isn´t so easy anymore, because the Aliens get better UFO´s before you and your Financers get an better Fighter. The UFO´s are still "Top Secret" for the normal Players, but one I can say: "Have Fun when you fight against the Advanced Variants." I personally get crying if they show up, because you know you won´t have a chance or only a little chance against them.

The biggest difference to the Fighting System to X1 is that you dosen´t have the Afterburner. And there are much more surprisses which we all don´t know yet.

I liked the Airfightscreen from X1, because it was a seperate Minigame in the Maingame. No one before did that in Strategy-Games. The Airfight-Map is mostly the same as in X1 with more Surprises.

The Reason we are going back to this is, that we tested many other Options (like a similar and much more easyer Variant from the X-Com Enemy Unknown / Terror from the Deep-Airfight). All of them dosen´t give the Player a Feeling to be closely connected with his Pilots (Woman / Men). With the upgraded existing System from X1 you are.

The first X-Com Games (Enemy Unknwown / Terror from the Deep) were good and you had a feeling with your Pilots in an seperate Screen. You hoped that they can shoot down the Enemys before your Pilots get pulverized.

The third X-Com Game (Apocalypse) set on an real time Airfight- / Spacefight on the Main-Screen. That system you get in UFO Extraterestials and in the upcomming UFO 2 Extraterestials-Game too. There you had the same feeling with your Pilots and hoping that they shoot down the Enemys before your Pilots get pulverized. And one more thing is comming there (esp. in X-Com Apoc.): Don´t destroy the Buildungs / the Towns in that fight.

The fourth X-Com Game (Interceptor) set an real time Airfight- / Spacefight system in an seperate Flying Similuator-Fight. There you set an Fighter for yourself and get the best feeling with your Pilots. It´s like an War-Flight-Sim where you and your Comrades fight togehter to beat the enemy. You can die or shoot down. That was like Goldhawk do too an new implementation in an Strategy-Game. It was an Prototype, which were sadly never made it in such Games again (since over 20 Years).

The badest Airfight-System I have seen in the XCOM-Refit (Enemy Unknwon / DLC Enemy Within). It brings many new things in the Game, but the Refit System of the Fighters are to limited. And the Airfight isn´t so good controllable like in the first X-Com-Series, UFO-Extraterestial-Series or Xenonauts.

If I watch other Strategy Games and the Space- / Airfight-System you have a similar Airfight- / Spacefight-System like in Xenonauts (like in Master of Orion [Refit], Galactic Civilization III, Battlestar Galactica and similar Games). In some of them you can controll the Ships and Weapons, in the others not.

That what Goldhawk give us as a real-time Airfight-System is the best System we have atm. Goldhawk set a new Standard for the Airfight- / Spacefight-System in a Strategy Game with an limited development Costs for a full Game.

Not to forget, that I played them all besides UFO 2 Extraterstials which will come in September this year.

 

 

 

Edited by Alienkiller
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21 hours ago, Ninothree said:

The lane-based system has now been replaced with the old style 2D air-scape. It is indeed pretty dull in terms of gameplay, only slightly better than XCOM:EU. But the main point your making above, about variety of equipment on human and alien craft, that can be applied to the turn-based lane-based air combat.

Most of my points specifically cannot be used in any kind of lane based gameplay. Because as much as many supporters of turn-based air game tried to spice it up, many suggestions is stuck as the lanes had the same weakness as XCOM's awful air game. That is it doesn't allow strafing, multi-directional attacks, distraction or any kind of maneuvers that don't involve tailing a UFO endlessly. For instance, the teleportation module: If on a lane the best it can do is skip a lane or dodge a beam attack which is boring. But on a 2D plane, it can allow your aircrafts to skip a certain distance instantly or change directions to evade (each extra module provide 25% less cooldown time and 10% teleporting distance) something that will help immensely with larger ships like carriers. Shields can also be directional rather than just a bubble making its exiting for attacking the enemy UFO from different angles rather than another bar of health for the lane air game. The same thing for equipments like anti-missile flares. None of those can be in anyway implemented that doesn't make the lane game look like a slower pace ripoff of Touhou. It's either you go all in for a computer version of X-Wing, or just scrap the turn-based game altogether.

 

22 hours ago, Ninothree said:

If X2 moves to a system with 5-10 slots per craft, then aerial combat would be incredibly confusing if you were navigating three of your own fighters, possibly against three UFOs, and everyone was teleporting, launching EMPs, activating thrusters, lighting up barbecues etc... just looking at that would be murder on your eyes, let alone the design of the UI and balancing all those modules too. I've not played XDivision so I don't know how they managed it.

X-Division is pretty great on every front especially the expanded air game (the insertion of the Xenomorph and blob enemies aside) . But I do agree that an overhaul of the UI is very needed. Especially something to show each sections of a UFO could be great. This also mean the air game should have a closer zoom than the X1 system originally had.

22 hours ago, Ninothree said:

he original point I was making a few posts back, and what I'm reaffirming here, is that the air combat shouldn't be too fiddly. Bluntly - it is a fucking strategy game. The only versions of xcom that have ever valued dexterity are The Bureau, Enforcer and Interceptor, all of which were pants. So whilst the lane system on its base appearance is not that inspiring, maybe it is a better platform for a more interesting air game?

I really think you are overstating how much actual "dexterity" is needed for playing the original air game. How can it need dexterity when the pause button a present? Similar to how FTL outside of the RNG is not really dexterity based. The bigger problem is that it lacked the depth that can make it as good as FTL where there are many weapons and exilary stuff to manage when you have a pause button. Leaving you repeating the same "use one plane as bait, the rest to destroy the UFO" over and over to even the final boss mothership. A good compromise could be a slow motion button like how the Total War series does it. "Fiddly" is a really subjective way to put it, as it was mostly caused by the UI being too simple and a lack of fine control of the aircraft turning.

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Like I said above, all possible Systems get tried in different Games. Xenonauts 1 and 2 is implenting the best Airfight-System the Game-Industry have. In over 30 Years since the Original X-Com-Series comes out, nothing better get involved.

And Xenonauts 2 get an closer Zoom System which 90 % of the other Games don´t have.

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