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Xenonauts-2 June 2021 Update!

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June is coming to a close so it's time for me to post up the monthly development summary for Xenonauts 2. This month saw the release of Closed Beta V20 on our Experimental branches, which saw further improvements to the skeleton of the game campaign and some general gameplay improvements.

This month I added the tactical combat tiles for the Battleship and Harvester UFOs (the two largest types) and also added the tiles for the two advanced human dropship types, and played a campaign all the way through to Harvesters. I made quite a few balance changes along the way, and I think we now have a rough skeleton in place for the campaign. There's still a lot of fine tuning left to go but there is some basic challenge to the game and it's reasonably enjoyable to play - assuming you can look past the similarities to X1 and the obvious rough edges!

The focus for the next month is the content. I've shuffled the research tree around a lot in the past two or three months, so even some of the initial research projects are "dummy" projects without text or research artwork. As I'm now reasonably happy with the shape of the research tree I'm going to start filling those in, and updating any existing research text to reflect any mechanical changes we might have made since they were written. I'll also be doing a proper pass on the tooltips and making an effort to ensure all objects, buttons and concepts are written up and accessible in the game. This will hopefully put us in a decent place to do the first stage of the open beta.

Recently we've also been working on various other things that should improve the playability and usability of X2. The first thing is improvements to the AI, which is still basic but is getting steadily better. The AI in the first Xenonauts was purely dynamic so aliens would read the battlefield and choose where they wanted to position themselves based on preferences (i.e. being in cover vs out in the open, etc) whereas in X2 we've moved to a system where aliens have waypoints set around the map that designate good places for them to move to / lurk in (when a hostile unit is sighted they go into dynamic "combat" mode and ignore the waypoints). All maps are now set up with these waypoints.

The effect of this is that in X2 you the alien movement should be more varied and dynamic, and you'll encounter enemies in a variety of positions (more like in classic X-Com). They might be stood in the open, or crouched behind cover, or looking out of a window with a good field of fire. In X1 they tended to run into corners and just stay there because those were the "best" locations based on their preferences. We've also been working on trying to fix the really stupid behaviours the AI makes - which usually revolve around times when there's a really obvious way for it to kill one of your soldiers but doesn't. In future builds we'll be doing further work on this, but also trying to add more advanced behaviours like allowing us to partner up aliens that have abilities that work together so they form a little squad on the battlefield.

As always, we're also working on some odds and ends. The soldier medals system was largely implements a couple of years ago now but never quite finished, so we've finished that and set up the 8 medals your soldiers can earn in battle (each one gives +1 to all soldier stats). Mind Control has been rebalanced so its effectiveness drops off with range, which should make it less annoying. We've also implemented proper drag-and-drop functionality for the engineering queue and the soldier lists on the Soldier Equip / dropship screens. There's various other small usability changes too, plus further work on the tactical combat camera to ensure it tracks the action better during the alien turn and some more work on the Reapers to make the zombifying / Reaper hatching effects work better under all circumstances.

In summary, I think once I've done the early-game research writing we'll be able to say that Xenonauts 2 is a playable (if unfinished) game. The standard disclaimers apply - the game needs another pass on the art (which we're working on in the background), we still need to do more to differentiate it from X1, and there's still more polish and content to be added. But the game is already quite fun to play as long as you're not expecting a finished game and it'll only improve as we continue our work on it!

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Thanks for the update :) I've only ever poked around a little with the game so far as I tend to like to play games once they're finished but I do enjoy reading about how things are going.

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