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Chris

UFOs & Being Horrible

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Our current UFO designs are horrible for a tile-based game. It's annoying, because we'd have been called unexciting if we'd not come up with something more original than the flying grey boxes of the original X-Com - but anything other than flying boxes won't work very well in a tile-based game.

We've come up with relatively plausible representations of some of the UFOs in the game, but we're working on our Landing Ship tiles at the moment and it's not going well. It turns out adding another level to the UFO (Landing Ships are multi-level) causes no end of issues. I think we're going to bin the current UFO system and move to a new one entirely.

The previous system was:

- Some UFOs are too small or awkward to appear in tile form, so they always explode when shot down in air combat

- All remaining UFOs up to Cruiser size appear on the map are fully enterable by troops

- Above Cruiser size, the crash site mission does not show the outside of the UFO at all - you start off breaching the UFO interior, so it's a bit like a base attack mission

The new system will be:

- UFOs appear on the map as a non-enterable piece of scenery.

- Crash site missions are split into two parts; clearing the landing zone (UFO exterior) and then once that is clear, breaching the UFO itself with the remaining troops.

- At the half-way point, morale and bleeding wounds would be healed and the player would be given the option to withdraw with all the equipment captured so far.

There's a few advantages to this, relative to the earlier method:

1) The UFOs will always appear. That way we can have crash sites for fighters etc now, as we don't need to go inside them (you can just recover some Alien Alloys etc from the crash site).

2) It means we can show the exterior of the really big UFOs. They'd fill say 6 tiles all along one side of the map, which means you'll still get the "wow" factor of seeing something really massive. It wouldn't be practical to build a UFO that big under the current system, and it'd also be cheaper for us because that row of tiles would be non-interactive and non-destructable, so it only has to be painted once.

3) If a UFO has been shot down and is damaged, there can be multiple entrances - the front door, and some (semi-random) hull breaches. If the UFO has landed intact, there's only the front door.

4) We can have semi-randomised UFO interiors this way, and we're not constrained by the UFO dimensions as long as we're not too silly about it. The current UFO interiors are very limited by the shape of the UFO exterior, which is obviously set by the UFO air combat art.

5) Without all the thick walls, there'll be much better visibility for the UFO interiors.

6) Under the previous system, all late-game UFO assaults would be indoor missions. All alien base attack missions and Xenonaut base mssions are also going to be indoors, so you'll only ever go outside for terror sites. I think this would get really boring, really fast. This isn't really a point in favour of the new system so much as a massive disadvantage of the old system, but it's still a factor in my decision.

Of course, the major disadvantage with this new system is that it's just a bit lame. You could go inside the UFO in the original UFO so I think people will find it a bit jarring that it is handled this way in our game. I don't really think there's any way around this though. I think the key is to make the two-mission format as user friendly as possible, as they were certainly not popular in TFTD.

The second disadvantage is is removes the secondary win condition for the crash site missions, as you can't take and hold the UFO. You'd have to clear the landing zone then go inside. This means the AI is going to have to be very aggressive to minimise the chance of "last sectoid syndrome" occurring, because that's not fun.

EDIT: My reply from page 4 is below:

As has been mentioned above, the larger UFOs are massive. We've even got a cruiser model done up, ready to be painted over, that we're not going to use now and the thing is about 50x50 tiles. In order to fit the dropship in the map, along with some terrain that isn't just the cruiser you're looking at something like a 70x70 or 80x80 map. If you think that's a good thing, I suggest you create an 80x80 map in the level editor and see how long it takes to walk across it. Plus, the cruiser is the smallest of the alien capital ships.
To clarify the idea, this is how it'll work:
- Smaller UFOs like the Light Scout, Fighter (including fighter derivatives like the Heavy Figther and Interceptor) and Bomber would appear on the map in a crashed / landed form but not be enterable because they're simply too small. This is a straightforward 1-part mission where you clear all the aliens off the map and win.
- Medium size UFOs like the Corvette and Scout would appear on the map in a crashed / landed form and not be enterable. However, on clearing the map you'd get a second interior breach mission.
- Large UFOs (landing ship and upwards) would be partially visible beyond the edge of the map. As mentioned above, there's no way to get them on the map. Once the mission is cleared, you get the UFO interior mission too.
The "airlock capture" option may be viable for the Large UFOs, but I don't know. It depends what angle they've landed at and whether we can fit a entry point onto them - and also if we can get the tiles displaying correctly, which isn't a given. Interative terrain is much harder to do than a static, non-interactive piece of terrain.
There wouldn't be switching in-and-out of the UFO. I don't really see the gain in that and it'd be making things far too complex from a design and technical standpoint.
I think in the case of the Scout and the Corvette, which could plausibly be enterable in the mission, it'd be best not to do that. This is for consistency reasons. We need to pick a method and stick to it, and I'm pretty sure that this is how it's going to work now. Admittedly it's not perfect, but it seems the only plausible way to deal with the awkward shape and scale of many of our UFOs.
Nice to hear some of the UFO games did it, I didn't know that!

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This is definately food for thought. If you intend to include downed fighter-craft, how will escorts be handled on the ground combat map? Because as I see it, you can:

  • Shoot each down individually, each generating a crash site
  • Shoot two down, then fly away then come back and shoot another down (either stripping the escorts from the main craft, or shooting an escort and the main craft)
  • Shoot all three down.

The more ufos on a map, the bigger it would have to be to provide a decent "playing field" as well as room for all the crashed craft.

If it's any consolation, looking at the XCOM:EU downed UFOs, they look like buns or boxes as drawn by HR Geiger. In my opinion, they don't look half as nice as the Xenonauts UFOs

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Hmm, like you said, there's some pros and some cons.

Having whole new ufo interior maps sounds exciting but I will miss that seamless transition between the exterior and interior parts (the tension of opening the ufo door wondering whether you'll find plasma rifles trained at the doorway).

Since I can't provide a solution for the technical problems all I can do is be understanding and appreciative of the good aspects of this. The only alternative I can think of would be to keep the old system for the single level UFOs and only apply the new way to the multi-level ones.

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The second disadvantage is is removes the secondary win condition for the crash site missions, as you can't take and hold the UFO.

Hold Engineering + Bridge for 5 turns, you win.

Forces the player to split his troops so there's at least some planning involved instead of bee-lining for "the" winning spot.

Evil twist:

If you conquer engineering or the bridge while aliens still hold the other, they start a self-destruct sequence.

You wont know what the static/gibberish in the public announcement system means so the first time would be fun. =)

Later you might get smarter and take the other location before the timer runs out so you can disable the self-destruct.

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That could be really great actually. Planning a coordinated strike to capture both rooms at the same time (more or less).

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Just thinking about what the other side would do.

If I was sitting in engineering with all these highly volatile power sources, maybe even with an engineer who knows exactly what not to do in order to ensure safe operation... I really don't think I'd just twiddle tentacles until those humans got around to shooting me.

And it's very probable that these things can be done remotely from the bridge.

Doesn't have to be a certain event, though. In fact, that would be lame. Too predictable.

Some kind of engineer or officer has to be present in those locations to engage the self destruct sequence from there.

So... you might be safe ignoring the other location. Maybe.

As for making 2-part missions less painful, I suggest having a re-arming screen, basically the same thing you'd have at your base.

You have the entire inventory of your base at your disposal, rationalising that you "took the necessary items with you on the Chinook".

It may be completely irrelevant if the "outside" missions are rather small. Guess I'm still having flashbacks to those gawdawfully huge TFTD 2-part missions...

Edited by Gazz

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Hmm, yeah, you could probably include secondary win condition somehow, just make it different from previous one.

Anyhoo, while seemingless transition between map and ufo is cool, I actually like two parter missions :P Then again I hadn't got to that point in TFTD YET.... But yeah, I like them in other not as ungodly hard games xD

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I actually like the change you have in mind a lot! It avoids technical issues and allows the UFO interiors to be better suited for combat and movement. I think the loss of seemless movement between the inside and outside is worth it.

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On the 2-part transition... is it even necessary?

Let's assume there is a crash site (outside) map and you see the facade of an UFO on the edge of the map. It can look pretty, and wow.

When any of your troopers steps inside, the facade (all of it) vanishes and you have an interior-only map while still able to see and interact with the outside map.

The only "special" item would be the theater stage facade. The curtain that is drawn up when you step inside.

That way you get to build pretty UFO exteriors without having to pay much attention to the exterior being doable with LEGOs.

You're a bit limited in where you can place hull breaches and you may need a impervious "outer skin" so that the player can't create extra holes but who would expect portable weapons to breach an UFO's armoured hull?

This "blanket" would also be an invisible wall. Since you can't breach the UFO hull from the outside, there's no point in wanting to climb on it. So let's not. =)

You can't fly over the outside because of the max-height invisible wall.

The only "legal" entrances are the regular hatches or pre-existing hull breaches.

You enter them, you see the inside of the UFO...

Edited by Gazz

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The question will be the amount of time it takes to play on each part. You'd bascially have to divvy it up so securing the crash site and investigating the UFO didn't take too long either way.

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I was going to put pretty much the same thing as Gazz.

Instead of a wall along the map edge why not a wall down the middle of the map?

Chinook and town/farm etc on one side, UFO interior on the other.

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It's just much neater if it's split in two. Plus that way you can use the multiple entrance points more easily as the game will allow you to split your troops between them in the set-up round before the second battle begins. If you do it as one map that's not possible.

EDIT - also, in terms of crash site generation, the escort craft are always disregarded. The only thing that matters is the main UFO.

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It's just much neater if it's split in two.

Only if some degree of common sense is used.. err which I am certain you will..

Meaning. No Two part missions for fighter craft. (And please no 12 aliens inside a single fighter .. Aftermath..). Maybe even leave everything as it is for the smaller UFOs. Only chance the system for the sizes you got problems right now. The UFOs in the preorder version are just fine.

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What wrong big single deck UFOs?? Personally I think multi-deck ships add nothing to the game, while split missions takes away a lot. Just my opinion.

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Honestly, I dunno. Not having seemless entry into the UFO will be very jarring, unless you can make it so you can exit back outside at will as well, rather than treating it like two seperate ground combat missions.

Essentially, I think to do that from a code view you'd be running two instances of the GroundCombat semi-concurrently, and having soldier (or player) switch between which instance is the primary active one being rendered and played with.

Basically a tardis like setup, where the soldier you've currently got selected and that soldier's position controls what map is loaded and is seen by the player.

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I have to say I agree with StellarRat, I would prefer to have single level UFOs only rather than have two-part missions. Certainly it would be very strange to have a two-part where the second part is a fighter or similar small craft.

For me, the entrance to the craft was one of the big parts of the mission and it would be a shame to lose that. Heck, if there was a two-part split I'd rather it was something like when you enter the elevator to the other floors rather than when you reach the door to the ship. At least you'd then have the infiltration of the lower area as part of the main map. Probably not very technically feasible though :/

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Certainly it would be very strange to have a two-part where the second part is a fighter or similar small craft.

If you read what Chris wrote, you would have noticed that he said that two part missions would only include big ships :P Its not like you need to go to small ships to raid them, aliens have left the ship anyway.

Anyhoo, I dunno why everyone else dislikes two parters, but I still like them.

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Breaching the alien ship is quite a big tension builder for me.

Removing that will remove part of the tension.

So with that in mind you should still have to breach the UFO.

Have the exit points that the game will relate to entry points on the next stage be inside the UFO wall.

For example you have to make it inside the airlock, or into the room on the other side of the hull breach, rather than just getting near it.

Alternate victory conditions are to hold the the airlock for five turns or hold two hull breaches, something along those lines.

Hopefully the AI will know to return once those objectives are lost so there will not be a last man hiding scenario.

The bigger UFOs can have more complicated entries if you want to spice it up a bit.

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Breaching the alien ship is quite a big tension builder for me.

Removing that will remove part of the tension.

So with that in mind you should still have to breach the UFO.

Have the exit points that the game will relate to entry points on the next stage be inside the UFO wall.

For example you have to make it inside the airlock, or into the room on the other side of the hull breach, rather than just getting near it.

Alternate victory conditions are to hold the the airlock for five turns or hold two hull breaches, something along those lines.

Hopefully the AI will know to return once those objectives are lost so there will not be a last man hiding scenario.

The bigger UFOs can have more complicated entries if you want to spice it up a bit.

I think this is kind of what I was getting at too. It would be good to have the breach as part of the first mission, and then have the transition at some point in the UFO. I arbitrarily picked the elevator, but an airlock or other such thing would work too.

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I can agree on split missions, as long as the ships are lying there, epic and awe inspiring on the map. Not a boring little wall on the egde of the screen. The ships must be present.

Then whats the first thing you do before assaulting the ship itself. You secure the outside. I think the ships should still have fixed crew sizes. Maybe randomizing how many aliens left the ship or remained inside, so that you would sometimes have heavier fighting outside, sometimes inside. When the outside is clear, which of course is important, cant have enemys attacking our guys from the back when we moved into the ship. Then too the beloved breach part. I personally also loved this in X-com. Setting up my guys, watching the doors, while preparing to move in. Not knowing at all whats on the other side.

So let part two of the map initiate, but let the starting area be a representation of the breaching point. Weather it be the main doors of the ship, or a hole in the hull. let the outlines be black and all you see is the wall of the ship with the entrance, and the grass or whatever a few tiles around your men. Then we can still breach all we want!

And i also think that if this should be a two parter, then you could well build more ambience around the interior of the ship. Different sounds weather its a landed ship or crashed, alarms, alien communication. Expand on that part.

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Maybe make it so that to keep the 2nd victory condition, make it so that you have to transverse the map to find the entries into the ufo. Make it be a section of tiles that you put soilders in and press some kind of end mission button which will then put those soldiers and equipment (maybe the bigger ufos will have a vehicle enterance) and then you could complete the ufo part mission where ther is a condition to hold each section of the ufo (basicly kill all aliens) and once you do that, the ufo is captured and the remaing aliens escape.

I personally like this idea. As it stands, it's kindof hard to see inside the ufos at the moment and I do like some of yalls non-geometric ufo designs. Although, I don't know how I feel about raiding a fighter crashsite since they are so small.

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Would you be able to use C4 to make you own entrances? It would be amusing to blow your way into the alien's laundry room...

I agree with the earlier posters that for single level, the current system is fine (I've never gotten past Large Scouts, my game crashes on anything more complex it seems). But your unique take on it is interesting, and if it ends up being easier, who am I to complain. As much as I liked having the UFO/Crash site being one level, it's not like you could set up a guy on a roof to snipe into the UFO to cover your soldiers (as cool as it would be to have some Xenonauts pinned down by an alien down the hallway, then have the hallway explode in mortar fire).

As for fighters, there should be some reward for shooting them down, but since they're probably only single pilot crafts, couldn't it be assumed the pilot just died in the crash? Just give the player a number of alien alloys or even Alium depending on how skillfully it was taken down. Just make it take a few hours and you're golden. It would be nice to have crashed escorts on the map, but again, they would only be decorations.

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