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Xenonauts-2 September Update!

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Hello everyone - September is now over and it's time for another update. We released V21 earlier this month with a number of cool updates and are planning to release V22 in the next week or two.

Progress this month has been slower than normal, as two important members of the team were on holiday for a couple of weeks and other members of the team ended up getting ill (sadly I was in the latter group rather than the former!), but nevertheless we have made some improvements. As well as doing a number of bugfixes on V21 after its release, we have mostly been working on the strategy balancing / air combat and some of the new art assets for the tactical combat.

Improved Tactical Art:
Firstly, the new art. We've done a texture pass on the entire Western Town biome now, which is one of of the biomes used in Terror Missions. This had some very inconsistent visuals before but it's now looking much neater and more detailed in general, and we're now working on the final damaged / destroyed states for all of these tiles. Next up is the Boreal biome, which has already seen a lot work done to the sawmill building. Hopefully both biomes will be ready for the release of V22.

We're also in the process of hooking up those final Xenonaut 3d models. They're now all rigged and have the various hair models set up, but we need to do a final bit of code work to ensure that soldiers display the correct ethnicity / hairstyle / hair colour in the tactical missions to match the portrait of that soldier. Again, hopefully this will be done in time for V22.

Strategy / Air Combat:
Next, the strategy balancing. I spent several days doing this, which involves multiple campaign playthroughs of the game where I manually fight all the air combat battles but automatically win all of the tactical battles (because that way a campaign only takes an hour or two, rather than an entire day). During this time I was experimenting with various ways of making the air combat more interesting, and I've settled on a number of changes.

The first is that interceptors are now built in squadrons of three, which all share a single 2x2 Hangar (dropships are build individually and also fill a 2x2 Hangar). Once constructed, these interceptors are controlled as normal so it's possible to send a squadron out with fewer than three aircraft, or even send out a squadron with a mix of different interceptor types. If an interceptor is shot down, you can either wait for it to be replaced automatically as normal or you can pay a certain amount of cash (plus alloys / alenium in the case of advanced interceptors) to replace it within a few days.

I've made this change because 1v1 air combats are much less interesting than 3v3 battles, and it's easier to balance the air combat if you know the player can always send 3 interceptors to fight a UFO squadron if they want. It also makes it faster when building a new base - in X1, building a base in the early game usually forces the player to build at least three planes and possibly more if you want a mix of capabilities (e.g. you might want 3 Condors and 2 Foxhounds, which is 5 interceptors to build). Under the new system you just build a single squadron, or perhaps two if you want a mix of capabilities.

The second major change is to give the aircraft a wider selection of equipment, but also give them a maximum weight capacity. In X1 if you wanted an aircraft with heavy torpedoes, you had to build an entirely aircraft capable of carrying them. In X2, the starting interceptors are actually capable of carrying heavy torpedoes, but they need to unequip their cannons and light missiles to do so. The advantage of this is that it gives the player more options to react to a changing situation - if alien capital ships start appearing, you can rearm your existing aircraft rather than having to build an entirely new set of interceptors. It just makes the strategy layer a bit more flexible than before.

The actual air combat has seen a few additions, too. The combat now supports rotating weapons with limited travel, which means we can have side-firing weapons or turrets that track your aircraft. The Afterburner ability from X1 has also been added to all the interceptors.

Other Systems:
We also added a couple more systems to the strategy layer. The first is a solution to the problem of your engineers or scientists sometimes not having anything to do: now any idle engineers or scientists will automatically generate income for the player at a rate high enough to pay their wages and still generate a small profit (it's assumed they're helping out with maintenance work you would normally have to pay for, etc). This is a lot like the ability to manufacture and sell items for profit in classic X-Com, except it requires less micromanagement and is a bit more intuitive for new players. The effect of this is just to smooth out the difficulty curve on the strategy layer a bit, as having idle staff could previously be financially crippling.

There's also been more work done on the tactical combat morale system. We need to do a bit more work to get the actual panic / berserk / etc effects working correctly, but there's now a proper morale system like there was in Xenonauts 1 and the original X-Com. This also ties into the Stress system - when we reactivate this system, soldiers will suffer Stress based on what has happened to them in combat and their Bravery score rather than just suffering a flat Stress penalty for going on a mission like they did previously.

This is getting to be quite a long post now so I'll leave it there. The team is back to full strength next week and we'll start planning for the V22 release as soon as that happens!

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It's always nice to see your guys' progress month to month; its some interesting stuff to read through. 

The improving art throughout development is always nice to see and gets better every version; I think that the people on steam would appreciate it if the screenshots there would be updated to their improved forms after you guys finish your work on those biomes. 

I'm interested in seeing how the new air combat changes that are coming to v22 and beyond are going to affect the gameplay experience; it reminds me of that thread a few months ago that was talking about the air combat in v18. Perhaps this might open up discussion about the air combat again. Though there is one thing I would like clarified, what is the new equipment that you have in mind to give to the interceptors to widen their selection of equipment? 

It's a nice addition that scientist and engineers that aren't doing anything would generate small profit; I play through X1 and often times my engineers are sitting on the bench when they don't have any projects to do at the moment, so its great that this has a solution that makes sense in the game's lore. 

I'm excited for the stress system and how it presents challenges to the player in managing their soldiers in and out of battle; it adds a lot of strategic decision making to the game. 

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Another awesome devblog update as usual! I'm really excited to see that engineers and scientists can now make a tidy profit. Maybe this might even lead to Advanced Workshop rushes to build items and make money as a new viable strategy. Since the faster you build things the quicker you can advance and the more time your engineers will be on idle. With engineers now generating money for being idle, it also makes sense to run fully staffed advanced workshops.

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Wow, what an elegant idea to just let idle specialists generate a bit of money! Whoever came up with that deserves a raise (at least a raise of beer mugs!).

Hope you all are getting through the flu season well and quick.

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That all sounds pretty good :) I am glad the stress system is getting the changes you mentioned. It will make more sense and give players more choice(it may make more sense to retreat to save stress damage)

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Posted (edited)

Yeah I agree with you Guys.

The Integrations, Refits, Reworks and Bugfixes from the full Goldhawk-Team (and the Freelancers) beginning with the existing Beta-Version V.16 or such [it´s to long where the big Refit / Rework begunn] is realy great. Hope that already testet Features come Back in the one or other Form again (like Outposts, Special Missions and such).

That for example the originaly Fighter-Swarm-Feature (if you look back to the beginning State in Kickstarter) comes with with an big Refit in the Game is great. Then the old X-Com Feeling comes back again incl. an super cool seperate Airfighting-Screen.

If such an Feature can be done for the Air-Base-Defense too (either like in the Refited UFO-ET-Series or like the Airfighting-Screen) it will upgrade the Game much more.

Other Features which were originaly planed and already tested (like transfer Scientists / Engeneers to Buildings in and outside the Base) to give them more Advantages (like Hangars, Rocket-Defense, Training-System and similar) have to get to full Use too.

We get new Features and similar too in the Game already, but they are not fully devoloped atm. But we could test them too in Prevoius Versions [f. e. Special Missions, Outposts, UFO Hangars for R & D]. Hope to see more of that in the upcoming Betas and later Versions [like Early Access] after the Main- and Minor-Steps in the Beta-Phases are fully done. 

Edited by Alienkiller

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