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Gameplay Feedback - Stress & Soldier Panic System

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This thread is intended more of a discussion about ways we could improve the existing Stress system rather than feedback on the existing (extremely basic) implementation of the Stress system. I'll therefore explain how I currently see the Stress system developing and you guys are free to give suggestions about how you think it could be improved. Here's my current thinking.

Soldier Stress:
Stress exists only on the strategy layer, and represents a combination of how fatigued a soldier is and how much mental stress they have suffered in combat. Sending a soldier with low or moderate stress into battle should have little effect, but highly stressed soldiers should be more likely to panic on the battlefield and more vulnerable to enemy psionic abilities. Soldiers with higher Bravery should suffer less stress in battle than less brave soldiers (although they always suffer some), which means veteran troops are more resistant to stress than new recruits. Additionally, there is a special Undersuit that can be equipped on soldiers to boost their Bravery if needed.

Soldier Panic:
Panic is similar to morale in the first Xenonauts. It is a stat that all units in the tactical combat possess (ideally including civilians and aliens). It is a number between 0 and 100 that increases and decreases depending on what is happening on the battlefield, and if it ever reaches 100 then than unit must make a Bravery check at the start of the next turn and will Panic (losing an entire turn) if they fail.

The relationship between Stress and Panic is that units with Stress above a certain level on the strategy layer will have their minimum Panic increased. If a unit has more than 50 Stress, their Panic might start at 25 and not be allowed to drop below that (making it more likely that unit will panic in combat). Panic will likely also be used as part of the Psionic attack calculation, with soldiers with low Panic being more resistant to psionic attacks - and perhaps powerful abilities like Mind Control would only work on a soldier above a certain Panic threshhold, and would just paralyse a soldier if they were below that threshold.

Although soldier Panic is something that generally a player does not have direct control over, all Xenonauts will be given an ability that costs 50% TU and reduces Panic by 25. Therefore if a soldier is under psionic attack or is looking like they might panic, the player can voluntarily spend TU to try and reduce that risk. I hope this takes away some of the unfairness from psionics in X1, as part of the problem was that there was no real defence against something like Mind Control except hoping your soldier rolled well.

Tracking Combat Events:
I think the easiest way to control both Stress and Panic is to track various events that occur in battle and award a certain amount of Stress / Panic for each one. I think this gives a more "realistic" effect for Stress / Panic, where the soldier's mental state is improved by killing aliens and winning missions, but being shot at / injured / seeing teammates die / etc causes them to suffer more Stress or Panic.

This Stress / Panic gain is made up of a flat value that the affected unit would always recieve, plus a "variable" section that is only awarded if that unit fails a Bravery check (i.e. can they roll less than their Bravery stat on a random 100 dice roll).

These are the actions I think might affect morale either positively or negatively for the entire team:

  • Alien Killed
  • Xenonaut Killed
  • Xenonaut Killed by Xenonauts
  • Civilian / Local Forces killed
  • Civilian / Local Forces killed by Xenonauts
  • Start of new turn
  • Winning a mission
  • Losing a mission
  • Friendly team only has 1 unit left (most likely to be used for aliens)
  • Friendly unit Panics

Some additional actions that we could add that have more specific effects for individual soldiers:

  • Unit sights an alien
  • Unit sights a "fearsome" alien (e.g. a Reaper)
    • Alternatively (or additionally), an additional penalty for seeing someone zombified by a Reaper
  • Unit targetted by a hostile attack (only affects the targetted unit)
  • Unit Wounded (only affects the wounded unit)
  • Friendly killed within X tiles (only affects units within X tiles of the killed unit)
  • Hostile killed by actor (only affects the unit that inflicted the lethal damage)

Can you guys think of anything else we should add to that list?

Aliens / Civilians:
Aliens units and friendly human units would track the same events but would have different values for how their morale would be affected. The behaviour I'm looking for with aliens is that they panic relatively rarely, but aliens that see lots of bad things happen to them might panic and try and run away instead of fighting you (obviously some species will be more prone to this than others). That sort of thing gave the aliens a bit of character in the original X-Com, and it was something missing from Xenonauts 1.

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I think the morale and stress system should have a longer term of consequences than just limiting the frequency of combat for each soldier. Maybe a feat/battle scaring system could be added to specialize and further balance the game. This could be similar to the system in Darkest Dungeon where each soldier can gain good or bad traits based on their stress level. High stress can gain traits faster but it is a complete dice roll if the trait will be good or completely ruin that soldier. For instance, after running 5 consecutive missions without rest, a shotgun guy panicked when a reaper zombified a civilian, gaining a Jittery trait. This trait lowers the maximum morale point in exchange for halving the AP points when shooting up close (< 2 tiles). Or after killing 3 aliens in one turn, a soldier gained a Battle Hardened trait, which give him a +5 regeneration of morale. Or having 5 melee crits in a row to gain Bloodlust trait, increasing the chance of random friendly fire in exchange for health regeneration through kills.

Morale effects can have a few:

- A Wraith suddenly teleports in

- Reapers zombifying people 

- An Andron breaching a wall like Kool Aid man

- An alien hurting multiple soldiers with one grenade

- Soldier goofing up like throwing grenades at their own feet or dropping their weapon

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Chris I can tell you this from my own experiences that I believe these things most effect a soldiers state of mind  back in base camp and answering the call for the next mission.

1. Fellow soldier KIA

2. Fellow soldier KIA by friendly fire.

3. Fellow soldier seriously wounded.

4. Length of mission

5. Successful mission  (whatever the objective)

6. Consecutive missions

 

Notes. If you talk with most combat soldiers they will tell you. Close combat is a very personal event. Its kill or be killed. Body counts were more a propaganda thing used at higher levels to boost moral back home.  If Xenonaut  soldiers are earths elite they are not going to break on the battlefield (except alien mind control). When its going hot and heavy, training takes over. Your running on auto pilot. Its back at base camp it all sets in. That's when it all starts to pile up.

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5 hours ago, Xeroxth said:

I think the morale and stress system should have a longer term of consequences than just limiting the frequency of combat for each soldier. Maybe a feat/battle scaring system could be added to specialize and further balance the game. This could be similar to the system in Darkest Dungeon where each soldier can gain good or bad traits based on their stress level. High stress can gain traits faster but it is a complete dice roll if the trait will be good or completely ruin that soldier. For instance, after running 5 consecutive missions without rest, a shotgun guy panicked when a reaper zombified a civilian, gaining a Jittery trait. This trait lowers the maximum morale point in exchange for halving the AP points when shooting up close (< 2 tiles). Or after killing 3 aliens in one turn, a soldier gained a Battle Hardened trait, which give him a +5 regeneration of morale. Or having 5 melee crits in a row to gain Bloodlust trait, increasing the chance of random friendly fire in exchange for health regeneration through kills.

I think a trait system is beyond the scope of this discussion, unfortunately. And honestly I think most of the traits either end up being something very small (e.g. a small boost / penalty to Bravery or Accuracy or whatever) and largely irrelevent or perhaps better be handled via medals, or end up being something much more impactful like the example given about reducing AP costs to shoot, in which case they would end up having a disproportionate effect on combat given how important the system is.

Having to manually check all the traits on every soldier because some of them require you to change the way you use that soldier would likely be a chore, I think - it got a bit much in Battle Brothers after a while when you're managing 12+ soldiers at a time, and that was a game specifically about managing a small group of soldiers. I think quite a few people would find it irritating in a Xenonauts game where there's more going on on top of that.

1 hour ago, meddog50 said:

Chris I can tell you this from my own experiences that I believe these things most effect a soldiers state of mind  back in base camp and answering the call for the next mission.

1. Fellow soldier KIA

2. Fellow soldier KIA by friendly fire.

3. Fellow soldier seriously wounded.

4. Length of mission

5. Successful mission  (whatever the objective)

6. Consecutive missions

 

Notes. If you talk with most combat soldiers they will tell you. Close combat is a very personal event. Its kill or be killed. Body counts were more a propaganda thing used at higher levels to boost moral back home.  If Xenonaut  soldiers are earths elite they are not going to break on the battlefield (except alien mind control). When its going hot and heavy, training takes over. Your running on auto pilot. Its back at base camp it all sets in. That's when it all starts to pile up.

Thanks. I think everything on that list is covered on our list so it's just a case of tweaking the numbers if we implement the system as outlined.

In terms of panicking on the battlefield, yeah, you're right that it's not particularly realistic. It is a bit more fun from a gameplay point of view though - and although in the lore the Xenonauts are elite soldiers, in gameplay terms they've always been fairly incompetent at shooting / not running away at lower ranks. It just allows a sense of progression throughout the game.

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It would be interesting to add panic/stress multipliers to certain events instead of flat values. A multiplier could simulate events which in of themselves are stressful but cause other events to be more stressful because of the loci of the event. As an example, a "fearsome" alien could be stressful in of itself, but the things that alien does are likely to be more stressful because of the alien doing it. Seeing a Reaper could be stressful, seeing that Reaper zombify a civvie could carry the stress penalty for seeing a zombie, multiplied by seeing a Reaper doing the zombifying rather than applying a flat value for the zombify action. 

 

From a gameplay perspective, if certain events carry a multiplier rather than a flat value there exists the possibility to evade the event rather than suffer it, which then allows players to feel that skill can form an aspect of stress management. for example, it may be less stressful for the commander to order his troops to shoot a civvie which is going to be zombified rather than take the stress hit of a zombie multiplied by the Reaper.  

 

 

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After reading that Idea-Threat-Discussion there is nothing much to change in the Stress-Level. The Stress level on the Strategic Layer like it is now are with the Ideas from Chris very good. Summerised it will be following:

- Alien Killed (reduce Stress for all Soldiers on Mission and Base / Bases) = Stress reduces light

- Winning a Mission (reduce Stress for all Soldiers on Mission and Base / Bases) = Stress reduces high

- Xenonaut Killed / Xeononatu killed by Xenonaut (raise Stress for all Soldiers on Mission and Base / Bases a little) = Stress raise Medium

- Civilian / Local Forces killed and Civilian / Local Forces killed by Xenonauts (raise Stress for all Soldiers on Mission) = Stress raise light

- Loosing a Mission (raise Stress for all Soldiers on Mission and Base / Bases) = Stress raise medium

- Friendly Unit Panics (raise Stress for all Soldiers on Mission) = Stress raise light

 

The Panic Level is an other Pair of Shoes. There the Ideas of Chris and Maddog50 are very good too. After playing the good old UFO Extraterestials and old X-COM for a while again to get some Ideas for that, there are some nice upgrades to your Ideas: 

- Alien Killed (reduce Panic / raise Moral for the Soldiers on Mission) = Panic reduces medium / high [belongs on the Alien]

- Winning a Mission (reduce Panic / raise Moral for the Soldiers on Mission) = Panic reduces very high

- Hostile killed by Actor (reduce Panic / raise Moral for the Soldiers on Mission) = Panic reduces medium for the affected Soldier

- Xenonaut Killed / Xenonaut killed by Xenonaut (raise Panic / reduce Moral for the Soldiers on Mission) = Panic raise medium

- Unit sights an unknown Alien (raise Panic / reduce Moral for Soldiers on Mission) = Panic raise very high [after the Alien is known, the raise get to low]

- Unit sights an unknown fearsome Alien (raise Panic / reduce Moral for Soldiers on Mission) = Panic raise very high [after the Alien is known, the raise get to low]

- Unit Wounded (raise Panic / reduce Moral for Soldiers on Mission) = Panic raises low for the affected Soldier

- Unit targeteted by Hostile Attack (raise Panic / reduce Moral for Soldiers on Mission) = Panic raises medium for the affected Soldier

- PSI-Attacks from Aliens (raise Panic / reduce Moral for Soldiers on Mission) = Panic raises ???? after an Blocking failed or only an litte PSI comes through

The Aliens / Civilian Idea is great, make it so. The same effect from good old X-Com is in an similar way affected in UFO ET too for the Mission, not for the Stress.

Let the Friendly Killed in XXX Tiles away, the normal Xenonaut Killed Panic- / Moral System is on Medium instead. That´s enough.

The Ideas from Xeroth are to much and to heavy, if that would happen you don´t have a chance to finish a Misison, dosen´t belong what Mission it is.

 

Edited by Alienkiller

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44 minutes ago, Alienkiller said:

Xenonaut Killed / Xenonaut killed by Xenonaut (reduce Panic / raise Moral for the Soldiers on Mission)

you're kidding? :confused:

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Chris, In regards to my last post. Sorry sometimes I let my past get in the way. I get what you are to doing,  and I am all in. The best squad tactical games build a narrative as the game goes on. We become attached to are soldiers. At mission complete the AI fleshes out our survivors (promote and plus up). And we adjust as we go on. I think that the stress and panic system adds so much to fleshing out the Xenonauts. Can't wait for the finished product.

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The proposed stress system is generally not bad. But there are exceptions:

1) Actions within the mission should not apply to soldiers who are on base (perhaps, except for mission results: Success / Failure)

2) Panic scale - does not make sense. Because its purpose is the same as for stress. Why do we have two similar parameters?

Panic is the state of a soldier when the stress scale rises very high.

3) Stress should not affect bravery. I think that the parameter of bravery should not decrease in battle. Soldiers either brave or not, it is impossible to be brave yesterday, to be a coward today, and to be brave again tomorrow. Bravery is a scale that a soldier gradually acquires in battle. The soldier's condition can be adjusted by a parameter of stress (including mental attacks of aliens). When stress reaches a high value, the soldier will panic and so on. The parameter of bravery should affect the % of stress that a soldier receives in a given situation. That is, brave soldiers will be less vulnerable to stress. That's enough.

 

Edited by MrAlex

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Meddog50 your Ideas are great. You were a long time Soldier and you give the Game so much Feedback, what Short Time Solders (I was a short Time Soldier from Military Draft) or the 90 % Normal People (Testers / Readers) here, on Steam etc. can´t give.

Means that your Ideas are needed to improve integrated Game-Systems like such or such what will get in.

MrAlex thanks for the Post. The Dev-Studios have differnt descriptions for that (Morale, Bravary or whatever). In X-Com it´s called the one, in UFO ET it called so, etc. etc. etc. The Description dosen´t matter now, important is the Understanding.

That´s why I seperated Stress and Morale / Bravery in Strategic and Tactical.

The other thing is, that the Stress / Panic should get reduced on Globe (Strategy). Winning / Loosing a Mission (Crashsite, light / medium / heavy Terror, Base-Defense, Outpost Defense and such) are very Important for that too. That´s why I mentioned it and is asked from many many Testers and People which wanna have such more Adjustmenst.

Edited by Alienkiller

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Alienkiller thank you for that . But I have to remember that my comments are going towards the playability of a game. A game that when it goes hot we have all had a little part of.

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There are some Ideas we can´t implement eventually, that´s true. But if I look to Phoenix Point where you can say shoot to the Head, hit the Legs or Arms (which nobody thought prevouisly that is possible, esp. Firaxis and new XCOM) then your Ideas are realy needed to upgrade Xenonauts 2 in such Parts.

 

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55 minutes ago, Alienkiller said:

Phoenix Point, XCOM

Both are not similar to the original UFO at all. No air battles, No TU management in ground battles. Just running from cover to cover and shooting after running. Just typical shooters for teens. In short, bad remakes.

 

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4 hours ago, meddog50 said:

Chris, In regards to my last post. Sorry sometimes I let my past get in the way. I get what you are to doing,  and I am all in. The best squad tactical games build a narrative as the game goes on. We become attached to are soldiers. At mission complete the AI fleshes out our survivors (promote and plus up). And we adjust as we go on. I think that the stress and panic system adds so much to fleshing out the Xenonauts. Can't wait for the finished product.

No apologies needed, this post is asking people to make suggestions and you made one - I was just letting you know why in this specific situation I probably wasn't going to go with the realism angle. It's still helpful to know what the realistic thing would be even if we're not going to go with it.

6 hours ago, Max_Caine said:

It would be interesting to add panic/stress multipliers to certain events instead of flat values. A multiplier could simulate events which in of themselves are stressful but cause other events to be more stressful because of the loci of the event. As an example, a "fearsome" alien could be stressful in of itself, but the things that alien does are likely to be more stressful because of the alien doing it. Seeing a Reaper could be stressful, seeing that Reaper zombify a civvie could carry the stress penalty for seeing a zombie, multiplied by seeing a Reaper doing the zombifying rather than applying a flat value for the zombify action. 

From a gameplay perspective, if certain events carry a multiplier rather than a flat value there exists the possibility to evade the event rather than suffer it, which then allows players to feel that skill can form an aspect of stress management. for example, it may be less stressful for the commander to order his troops to shoot a civvie which is going to be zombified rather than take the stress hit of a zombie multiplied by the Reaper.  

Yup, we should get that effect with what we're planning. I think we'll probably have a specific value for a Xenonaut being zombified and a Civilian being zombified rather than handling it via multipliers due to the simplicity of implementation, but in gameplay terms it'll give the player the same choice that you're after.

4 hours ago, MrAlex said:

The proposed stress system is generally not bad. But there are exceptions:

1) Actions within the mission should not apply to soldiers who are on base (perhaps, except for mission results: Success / Failure)

2) Panic scale - does not make sense. Because its purpose is the same as for stress. Why do we have two similar parameters?

Panic is the state of a soldier when the stress scale rises very high.

3) Stress should not affect bravery. I think that the parameter of bravery should not decrease in battle. Soldiers either brave or not, it is impossible to be brave yesterday, to be a coward today, and to be brave again tomorrow. Bravery is a scale that a soldier gradually acquires in battle. The soldier's condition can be adjusted by a parameter of stress (including mental attacks of aliens). When stress reaches a high value, the soldier will panic and so on. The parameter of bravery should affect the % of stress that a soldier receives in a given situation. That is, brave soldiers will be less vulnerable to stress. That's enough.

I think you misunderstand the system. Stress is only on the strategy layer, and it stops you using a solder on too many missions in a short period of time. Panic is only on the tactical missions, and it controls whether a soldier will panic or be more vulnerable to psionics on any given turn. Having high Stress means you're more likely to get high Panic in combat, but the two aren't directly connected and it doesn't matter if a soldier ends a battle on 0 Panic or 100 Panic.

Both would be generated from the same events, though. Seeing another Xenonaut die might give a soldier 2 Stress once the mission is over, but 25 Panic immediately. The first means he might need a slightly longer rest after the mission, the second means he might panic and try to run away during the next turn. Units that are not in the combat don't gain either Stress or Panic.

1 hour ago, MrAlex said:

Both are not similar to the original UFO at all. No air battles, No TU management in ground battles. Just running from cover to cover and shooting after running. Just typical shooters for teens. In short, bad remakes.

Let's try to keep this on topic, please - this sort of comment is fine elsewhere on the forum but it's likely to fill this thread with a bunch of irrelevent discussion about how good XCOM is.

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14 hours ago, Chris said:

Stress is only on the strategy layer

Panic is only on the tactical missions

Understood. What about the stats of bravery we already have? How is it used now, and how do you plan to change it in the future?

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On 1/26/2021 at 9:53 PM, Max_Caine said:

It would be interesting to add panic/stress multipliers to certain events instead of flat values. A multiplier could simulate events which in of themselves are stressful but cause other events to be more stressful because of the loci of the event. As an example, a "fearsome" alien could be stressful in of itself, but the things that alien does are likely to be more stressful because of the alien doing it. Seeing a Reaper could be stressful, seeing that Reaper zombify a civvie could carry the stress penalty for seeing a zombie, multiplied by seeing a Reaper doing the zombifying rather than applying a flat value for the zombify action. 

 

From a gameplay perspective, if certain events carry a multiplier rather than a flat value there exists the possibility to evade the event rather than suffer it, which then allows players to feel that skill can form an aspect of stress management. for example, it may be less stressful for the commander to order his troops to shoot a civvie which is going to be zombified rather than take the stress hit of a zombie multiplied by the Reaper.  

 

 

I will also suggest something opposite, that the panic multipliers can be reduced gradually after the commander throughly researched such "fearsome" alien (aka Autopsy & Interrogation), this would first make sence as the soldier would get more confident for certain alien (especially reapers) if they know its weakpoint and understandings, and secondly, this might make the Alien research options more useful comparing to just increasing damage against certain type of an Enemy.

 

I would also suggest additional panic/stress factors including

 

Being suppressed, especially under heavy fire (like not only being sprayed by a drone, but being shot by Both a drone and an Andrean)

Being shot at from the war fog (making long ranged enemies and night missions more challenging)

Crossing through hazardous environments e.g. fire and toxic smoke, without protection gear of course.

Being flanked, this was a factor from the XCOM series if I remember right.

Additional stress if the top-level officers are killed first

 

Soldiers may also reduce panic if an alien was killed by explosives or rockets, blowing your enemy into pieces is always a "YEEE GET SOME" moment for military inviduals-- at least that was my impression.

Edited by EurekaSeven

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I wish I had more to add to this, but I feel I need to actually play the game to get any ideas. I did want to say that having alien autopsy/interrogation reduce stress in ground missions seems like a nice idea. Even if all you do is put us at a disadvantage by adding a + modifier to stress generated until you finish the research I would like it. It gives a good practical reason to do that research and depending on the situation you might even prioritise it which would be cool. I like having to consider options when playing.

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Instead of stress, it is better to introduce combat duty.

The first platoon is automatically on duty (on a warship) in the morning. Second platoon in the second half of the day. The third-at night. The fourth platoon is a backup and automatically replaces the platoon that returned from the mission. A warship should be filled with an entire platoon at once, not individual soldiers.

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@ Kommandos: In real Life this is doable, but not in Games. That has several reasons.

One of that Reason is an to much programming with unseeable Bugs. The Automation-Rotation-System has to be combined with all Soldiers (not only the active ones), the Geoscape, the Transports, the Timeline and much more.

An other Reason why that is not doable is the individualy Choise from the Player anymore. That´s not good and gives many Games very bad Feedbacks. The Player must have the Ability to Choose what Soldier get in Duty and which Soldier get in Rest.

There are more Reasons why it´s not doable and not eligible. Therfore you have very nice and perfect working alternate Systems is in every Game of that Gerne. Here are some Examples:

1. In the older Games of that Gerne that Problem was done with an extrem long Off-Duty-Healing-System (the old X-Com-Row)

2. In UFO Extraterestials (Standard-System) from 2007 I can´t remember. I play that only with the UNI-Mod or the Gold-Version with B-Man-Mod. In the Mods [B-Man-Mod / Grayfiend UNI-Mod] it´s regulated with the Rank (Salary) and Experience-System (longer Training for next Rank etc.) of the Soldier, which means you have an Rotation-System with an Mixed Troop [like here in X2] to fight the Aliens.  

3. In new XCOM and Phoenix Point it´s the Maturity-System and in Xenonauts 2 the Stress-System, which work the same Way. They are only named different.

4. What a System UFO2Extraterstial will use, we all don´t know, but it´s an similar alternate System like announced.

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32 minutes ago, Alienkiller said:

In real Life this is doable, but not in Games. That has several reasons.

This was implemented in X-COM:3 "Apocalypse_". The player can drag an entire folder from one transport to another with a single mouse movement, just as you drag a file folder (in File Explorer) from one directory to another. It remains to add a "virtual ship" in which the entire team would sit. And add a scenario - at what time of day, which team is resting, and which one leaves for the task.

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The proposed idea is not suitable but it contributed to another idea:
It would be convenient to add the ability to create a group of soldiers (a platoon, as in the army). So that with a few clicks we could replace the whole team.
For example, if a team returns from a task and they have more than 50% stress, the player needs to replace it all. If it consists of 16 soldiers the player must make 32 clicks to send this team to rest and another 32 clicks to load a new team (64 clicks).
In the suggested idea, the player will be able to send a whole platoon to the barracks with one click, and load another platoon into the transport with another click. (2-4 clicks) This option can be added for transport.

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@ Kommandos: I have played X-Com: Apocalypse fully through 2 or 3 Times. There were good Ideas from the Gollop Brothers and some get as the new Standard. I know that the Soldiers were to change Manually like here and in all other Games of that Gerne.

The Idea from MrAlex could be implemented as an Option too.

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7 hours ago, MrAlex said:

The proposed idea is not suitable but it contributed to another idea:

In The game "Warhammer 40 000. Gates of Chaos " at the base, there was a regular breakdown of soldiers into detachments (5 people each). The personnel of the combat squads could be changed and re-equipped by the player himself. Before being sent on a combat mission, the player forms a platoon (tactical group), choosing (marking) 3-4-5 different units. They were independently (automatically) placed on a warship. What prevents Xenonauts from creating a full-fledged structure of military units?

Edited by Komandos

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Everything! It limits the Decissions from the Player to much.

As an Option for Players which wanna use it it´s ok. Like I said in an other Post, the possibility for the Gameplay it is now (and many Players wanna have to make mix like it is now) is a must have.

Edited by Alienkiller

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