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Chris

Xenonauts-2 August 2021 Update!

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Hello everyone - with August now finished it's time for me to write the monthly update. I know it's been a long time since our last release but we've been hard at work on Closed Beta V21 and we're planning to release it this week (hopefully in the next few days).

The biggest new feature in V21 is that we've implemented the final visual style for the Main Menu / Game Settings screen, and all the related sub-panels (Settings, Load Game, Save Game, etc). We've been working on this new UI style for quite some time now, and it's nice to finally be able to put it in the game - but there's also been a lot of time an effort spent on improving the usability and general polish of the screen too. This includes everything from adding support for mass-deletion of save games to adding new UI sounds. Overall, it's a much more slick and stylish experience and it should make a much better first impression when you first boot up the game. We'll continue to roll this new UI style out to other parts of the game as development continues.

ui_mainmenu.png

We've also worked on a number of things that haven't really made it into V21, but will be arriving in V22. We've updated the early game so the war against the aliens starts a couple of months into the game, and you begin the game fighting the infiltrator faction called the Cleaners who are intent on suppressing knowledge of the alien invasion. Because the Cleaners are spread across the planet and have numerical superiority over the Xenonauts, this allows us to have mission objectives that don't make sense when you are fighting the aliens. For example, wave survival maps, VIP escort / assassination missions, extraction missions, objective capture, etc. Some of these should arrive in V22 and make the early game a bit more varied and exciting!

More work has also been done on the visual side of things. The updated Xenonaut models aren't quite ready to go in the game yet but should be fine for V22, and we're now working on modelling up a series of hairstyles for them so your units are more varied and easily recognisable. Work also continues on the tactical combat environments. The final visual pass on the Western Town tiles is now mostly complete (one of the biggest environments due to the number of different buildings in it) and we'll put them in V22, after which we'll move onto some of the other environments that need some visual upgrades.

There's also been some work on wall destructibility, as once a tile is visually finished we can do the final destructibility setup on it and then put it in the game as a finished asset. The wall "frill" system is designed to ensure destroyed walls have a natural-looking irregular edge (rather than the perfectly straight-edged hole you get if you just remove the wall). However, we also don't want these "frills" floating in the air if there's no adjacent wall for them to attach to, so we needed to do some work detecting whether there was a suitable wall on either side and only placing the frills if so. Anyway, the important thing is that our destruction system should now be finished, which allows us to start doing the final destruction states on all of our finished assets.

ui_settings.png

We also implemented a couple of smaller tasks this month too - difficulty settings are now complete, and there's a number of options we have to customise difficulty. However I've not done this yet because I've not balanced the full campaign yet and I think tweaking difficulty levels needs to be done once I'm happy with the "standard" difficulty. The other new system is directional sound, which is intended mostly to allow us to play sounds when certain things are on screen (fire noises, the noise of engines running on vehicles, etc). Again, this is just useful for making the game feel a bit more alive.

Finally, we've made a start on the soldier dialogue / barks system. This is a simple system that generates (non-interactive) text dialogue from your soldiers based on things that happen on the battlefield. As a basic example, a soldier might say "I'm hit!" if they are shot by an alien. We're hoping to implement that in its basic form next month with some test dialogue to see if it's a good addition to the game (there's potential for it to be annoying if we get it wrong), and we'll spend some time making it as varied and natural as possible. I'm hopeful that this system is going to make the combat feel a lot more reactive to your actions, but we won't know for certain until we've had a chance to test it!

That's probably enough for this update now, as I need to get back to work on V21. Thanks for reading!

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The additions that are going to be added to v22 really excite me. I'm excited for all of those varied missions that the "cleaners" create in the first couple months into the game. People have wanted these kinds of missions in Xenonauts for a long time and I'm glad that they are getting implemented. Will similar missions like this appear throughout the campaign even when the cleaners have already been destroyed? I think that many people would be happy about the mission variety if this is the case. It is pretty fair to say that Xenonauts 2 won't have the repetitive mission problem that Xen 1 had. 

Its nice to see that difficulty modes are being added into the game; however, I have a couple of questions about it. Will higher difficulties make the game harder by increasing alien stats on the battlefield or will it make the game harder by making the alien ai more advanced? I'm also curious about the difficulty customization; what kinds of things should we expect from that customization? 

Overall, great work this month Pog. 

Edited by Kamehamehayes

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Nice monthly Dev Diray. Sounds great. Sadly most of that will come first in Betaversion 22.

Kamehamehayes is right with his Question about the Beta 21-Contents. What we can expect from it? 

Are the Contents light (only Graphicsupdate, Menueupdate and similar) or is it a medium one (with Gapfillers). That´s the decision memo to make an small or big test until Beta 22 comes up.

Edited by Alienkiller

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Thanks for the update, as always, Chris!

Can you tell us more about the mission types? How will they play and what exactly are the win/loss states?

Also, when can you tell us more about the nations, the Cold War factions and the whole Geoscape workings?

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1 hour ago, Kamehamehayes said:

The additions that are going to be added to v22 really excite me. I'm excited for all of those varied missions that the "cleaners" create in the first couple months into the game. People have wanted these kinds of missions in Xenonauts for a long time and I'm glad that they are getting implemented. Will similar missions like this appear throughout the campaign even when the cleaners have already been destroyed? I think that many people would be happy about the mission variety if this is the case. It is pretty fair to say that Xenonauts 2 won't have the repetitive mission problem that Xen 1 had. 

Its nice to see that difficulty modes are being added into the game; however, I have a couple of questions about it. Will higher difficulties make the game harder by increasing alien stats on the battlefield or will it make the game harder by making the alien ai more advanced? I'm also curious about the difficulty customization; what kinds of things should we expect from that customization? 

Overall, great work this month Pog. 

Honestly, it's hard to say exactly how we'll balance difficulty. I think it's most likely that we'll just have higher alien stats in combat and more aliens on the higher difficulty settings, with slightly lower sale prices to counteract the fact that there's more stuff to sell. On the strategy layer we'll likely just make the UFOs have more HP on the higher difficulty settings, at least at first. Changing too many things can have unintended effects on the game balance.

I doubt the AI will be nerfed on the easier settings. We still want it to be smart even on easy settings, it should just do less damage when it does pull off a good move.

Regarding the advanced mission types being available later in the game - again, I'm not quite sure. Some of them we might be able to find a logical way to crowbar them in, but others just don't work (anything that requires excessive amounts of reinforcements doesn't really make logical sense). But yeah, hopefully we can find a way to use them so that the whole mid to late game isn't just various kinds of deathmatch missions.

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On 8/31/2021 at 8:34 PM, Chris said:

"Finally, we've made a start on the soldier dialogue / barks system. This is a simple system that generates (non-interactive) text dialogue from your soldiers based on things that happen on the battlefield. As a basic example, a soldier might say "I'm hit!" if they are shot by an alien. We're hoping to implement that in its basic form next month with some test dialogue to see if it's a good addition to the game (there's potential for it to be annoying if we get it wrong), and we'll spend some time making it as varied and natural as possible."

First, I've been away from the game for a while and it's great to see the continued progress. 

One point:  The "varied" part in your words above is important (to me, anyway) and something I've wondered about for years concerning many games:
Why is there so little variation in exclamations by characters in repetitive situations? 

There's nothing that kills suspension of disbelief more quickly for me than some soldier saying: "I'm gonna boogey to somewhere more exciting!" for the 100th time instead of just: "Changing position," or "Moving to new location," or "Moving," or "Looking for better position," (even changing one word makes it easier to listen to) etc.  Why not have all those phrases and 20 more besides, while avoiding the "Git some, haw-haw!" phrases? 

I can't believe it's lack of memory, but is it?  Voice artist time costs too much?  When crunch time comes, do the devs decide that 5 variations on phrases that players are going to hear hundreds of times are enough?  Can writers literally not think of more than a few alternatives for a repeated phrase?  Play testers don't play long enough to get sick of hearing the same 5 phrases repeatedly?  Maybe repeated phrases aren't thought to be any part of buying decisions (this one I could see, but I can also imagine hearing "Scratch one alien!" 50 times to be at least among the reasons for getting sick of a game early)?

I'd appreciate any insight on this, and having some would make playing games with repeated situation dialogue less irritating.  I think. 

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On 9/14/2021 at 6:46 PM, maxm222 said:

First, I've been away from the game for a while and it's great to see the continued progress. 

One point:  The "varied" part in your words above is important (to me, anyway) and something I've wondered about for years concerning many games:
Why is there so little variation in exclamations by characters in repetitive situations? 

There's nothing that kills suspension of disbelief more quickly for me than some soldier saying: "I'm gonna boogey to somewhere more exciting!" for the 100th time instead of just: "Changing position," or "Moving to new location," or "Moving," or "Looking for better position," (even changing one word makes it easier to listen to) etc.  Why not have all those phrases and 20 more besides, while avoiding the "Git some, haw-haw!" phrases? 

I can't believe it's lack of memory, but is it?  Voice artist time costs too much?  When crunch time comes, do the devs decide that 5 variations on phrases that players are going to hear hundreds of times are enough?  Can writers literally not think of more than a few alternatives for a repeated phrase?  Play testers don't play long enough to get sick of hearing the same 5 phrases repeatedly?  Maybe repeated phrases aren't thought to be any part of buying decisions (this one I could see, but I can also imagine hearing "Scratch one alien!" 50 times to be at least among the reasons for getting sick of a game early)?

I'd appreciate any insight on this, and having some would make playing games with repeated situation dialogue less irritating.  I think. 

It's hard to say exactly. My suspicion is that it's just that even 5-6 phrases is likely to repeat very quickly and start to get annoying if it's for a common action like movement or killing an enemy, but there's probably quite a few "pools" of those phrases. Maybe in some games every character has 5-6 unique kill phrases and so there's a total of 50+ in the game, but lots of your kills come from a particular character? You'd end up with a lot of repetition at that point. Also, yeah, you probably bump up against the fact there's only a limited number of ways you can say "Yes Commander, I will move to the desired location" or whatever.

That said, if you think about games with good or memorable sound design, for me it doesn't necessarily feel like those games always had loads of variation. The dialogue units had in something like Starcraft for example - it's not like each unit had loads of different lines so much as they just had lots of character. I'm sure a game like Company of Heroes (or any other Relic game) also repeated plenty of dialogue but it was good stuff and I never got sick of hearing it.

As you say, the audio is really meant to be a background thing - I think it's better to stay on the side of being generic rather than adding dialogue that is distracting and immersion breaking.

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