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Xenonauts-2 May 2021 Update!

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Hello everyone! May is now drawing to a close and so it's time for another progress update. I've once again been working full time this month and I've largely been focused on getting the early game balanced and playable.

This has mostly involved repeatedly playing the campaign over and over again, making a series of gameplay changes and bugfixes each time. This isn't really something that can be done until relatively late in development, when all the key gameplay systems are in place (it's basically what I was doing for the final two months of Xenonauts 1 development). I'm doing this earlier for the sequel because we've got new mechanics to implement / test, and we need a playable version of the campaign to do that testing. Anyway, it's good news that we've reached this stage of the project because once you loop through this process enough times you're left with an enjoyable and challenging game.

Thankfully, I think the promise is already starting to shine through. The game is already reasonably enjoyable to play despite some very clear problems - the AI is dumb, the maps are repetitive, the research text is mostly absent, and the UI (and quite a few of the tactical combat assets) still need visual improvement - and it will get better and better as we iron out more and more of the problems.

My personal plans for June are to get all the UFOs and Xenonaut dropship tiles added to the tactical missions, and to be able to play a campaign all the way through to the final type of UFO without suffering any game-breaking bugs or ridiculous difficulty spikes. That to me will be a major milestone, and marks the point where Xenonauts 2 becomes a properly playable game in its own right. The rest of the team will probably spend most of their time fixing the various gameplay / usability issues I encounter along the way (that's mostly what they were doing this month), but we're also going to be making some time to upgrade the AI.

Last month I created a large number of test scenes for the AI so we could test whether it properly understood the different aspects of how to play the game. These were scenarios where there is a clearly optimal course of action you would expect the AI to make (e.g. use the best weapon / fire mode for the situation, use clearly the best cover, etc), and this makes it much easier to identify exactly what our AI is doing wrong and why. We should have a number of AI fixes and updates in our next major build as a result.

The visual upgrades are continuing but are taking some time to work through the pipeline. We've got new Xenonaut early-game models that are ready to be rigged and animated, a new Light Drone model and an updated model for the X1 Praetor equivalents that also need rigging and animation. The 2D art for the aircraft weapons / equipment is nearly done now, and the final 3D model for the sentry guns is also nearing completion. The biggest ongoing project is the concept work on our updated strategy layer UI, which is progressing nicely but still isn't ready for implementation because there's so much UI that needs to be concepted up.

Closed Beta Build V19 came out last week, and we will be releasing a hotfix early this week. Unfortunately, the sheer volume of changes we've made recently means that you may well not understand what's happening in the latest versions of the game - the gameplay changes are some way ahead of the tooltips and the research text, making the experience confusing / frustrating unless you've been following the patch notes closely. I'll begin work on updating the tooltips / research text once it's possible to play the campaign all the way to the final UFO type, and once that work is done we should be able to commence the open beta.

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