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Xenonauts 2 March 2024 Update!

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Hello everyone - hope you all had a good Easter! It's time for our monthly update on the progress we've made on Xenonauts 2.

Milestone 3 Patches:
A lot of our time has been spent fixing bugs in Milestone 3 recently, with five patches being released in the last month. Many of these issues were minor problems caused by our Unity 2022 upgrade, but there's also been fixes for various older bugs and some improvements made to the foreign language translations of the game too. These updates should have collectively improved player experience quite a bit.

One highlight was finally finding a fix for a long-standing bug that turned the screen black whenever any unit fired a weapon. This bug only affected a small number of users and there was a workaround (disabling the "camera shake" setting), but it made the game basically unplayable for anyone who did not know that - so it's definitely a relief to have it fixed!

New Maps & Environments:
We've also been hard at work on the content for Milestone 4, and the new maps needed for the largest UFO crash sites are the biggest component of this. These are progressing well - we're aiming to have 3 large maps per biome when Milestone 4 comes out, and we're about 80% of the way there now. In addition to this, the update will also contain numerous new Alien Base maps that were made the previous month.

Furthermore, a new environment artist contractor has joined the team to help us improve our existing environments and eventually finish off the Soviet Town biome that we plan to add to the game before final release. We've already updated the command room in the ATLAS Base map so it more closely resembles what we have in our artwork (with a command table and proper wall screens), and now we're working on some underground earth textures for use in the Alien Base maps.

I'm planning on using these to address one of the gameplay issues with the Alien Base maps - that all the walls are indestructible (even the ones between rooms). Under this new setup all walls will be destructible, so it'll be possible to destroy both internal walls and the external ones around the edge of rooms. Doing this will reveal the earth tiles behind the walls, and these themselves will also be destructible.

This should allow more realistic gameplay where powerful weapons and explosives will be able to gouge holes in the walls, and theoretically it would also allow players to dynamically "mine" through the earth and breach other rooms if they sufficiently powerful weapons. Be aware this idea is still at the testing phase so I can't promise it will definitely work as planned... but all our testing so far looks good!

Alien Visual & Audio Improvements:
Our updated Androns have now been finished and will be marching into battle against humanity in Milestone 4. We've also retextured the basic Sectons, as these are the first aliens that new players encounter but previously had fairly basic textures. We're currently retexturing the Wraiths so their basic non-combatants have a simple military uniform rather than being completely naked, and this month we'll be creating an additional Wraith variant with heavier armour that will appear towards the end of the game.

We're also in the process of hiring a contract audio engineer to improve the game's sound design in general, which will include creating some new sounds for the aliens to try and give them a bit more character (like new injury / death sounds, or unique footsteps etc).

Smaller Improvements:
We've also completed several small features this month that were requested by the community. Firstly, the dropship screen (where you can position your soldiers within the dropship) now shows the soldier role icons on the green soldier tiles, making the process much more straightforward than it was previously.

Secondly, we've finally got "destruction linking" working properly, which allows us to have walkable tiles placed on top of large multi-tile objects like shipping containers and have them remove themselves if the underlying object is destroyed. This means there's now a lot more objects in the game that allow you to land on top of them and walk around (shipping containers, caravans, buses, certain fuel tanks, etc), and fewer cases of aliens mysteriously standing in mid-air on invisible tiles.

Work was also done on the end of turn camera, which now better shows regeneration healing and Bleeding Wounds damage on any visible units at end of turn. We also rewitten the item assignment logic that occurs after a completed mission, because players were getting some strange loadout problems when running a second mission with the same dropship (some weapons not starting with a clip loaded, etc), which was just down to the primitive way in which the game assigned items to your soldiers if there wasn't enough to equip the whole squad.

Finally, a surprisingly popular request was an upgrade for the basic Combat Knife weapon that is available for your soldiers, so we've designed an upgraded Energy Knife that will unlock off Alien Electronics and should allow the weapon to remain relevant for much longer.

That's everything for this month - lots of smaller tasks that together represent good progress on the project. Hopefully we'll have an early version of Milestone 4 out for testing on the Experimental branch later this month!

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