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Picking up from threads here, here from the old forums, here - where Chris mentions Anti-Psi gear, and here

Why I liked them

Unlocking the secrets of alien psionics was one of the most rewarding aspects of the original X-COM game. Not only did it open up a method of combat removed from standard weaponry, it involved nearly all aspects of the game. There were new facilities, a training regime, equipment manufacturing and research topics.

They also gave the player a clear indication that they were now starting to fight the best of the aliens, if not on their own terms, at least in the same playing area.

With months of training completed and equipment made, the first X-Com personnel tried to use their new powers on the enemy, failing as often as they succeeded. That first success was always a highlight of the game.

There were also darker implications of the players use of psionics. The player was essentially beginning the approach that had resulted in the creation of the Sectoids and the shrivelled shells of the Ethereals. This connection was further linked through the chilling alien artefacts and the end of game message from the alien leader.

So, a new dimension in gameplay supported by nearly every other element in the game. Sounds good.

Except, that along with Blaster Launchers, it is considered to be the most overpowering and game breaking part of X-Com. Simply because X-Com, as they did with everything else, became every bit as good as the aliens in using their new abilities. So any reintroduction should be very concerned about maintaining game balance.

Considerations

Here is a list of balancing features & caveats that would peg back psionics to make players work very hard to get them and to keep them. Not every one of these should be implemented. But a balance reached to ensure that players cannot create whole squads of highly trained psionic Xenonauts and dispose of the rest. As of build 18.2 the economy is so closed that finding extra revenue for anything is already very difficult.

- Aliens have lived with or are bred with psionic abilities. Humans will have much weaker abilities.

- Humans should have a reduced chance to successfully use psionics, compared to the aliens.

- Human psi is unpredictable. Success should not be guaranteed.

- Psionic research should be time consuming

- Psionic facilities should be expensive

- Psionic equipment should be expensive and complex to manufacture.

- Psi training should be undertaken over a considerable period to ensure that the soldier is capable of even minor success.

- Xenonauts undergoing psionic training cannot be active in missions, as per other training.

- Line of sight psionic abilities only for humans – with exception of location ability. No squad sight use or even proximity.

- The TU %cost of using a psi-amp should be high. This eliminates the agents ability to perform reaction fire, or to target more than one foe. It also prevents the chances of improving other abilities through actions. It also poses a risk due to line of sight attacks only. The agent may not be able to use the psi amp and return neatly to cover.

- Abilities require the use of a psi-amp or other psychotronic technology.

- No mind control should be available for humans.

- At least one alien race should be psi immune and all constructs will be too.

- A Xenonaut can’t carry both offensive and defensive psionic equipment.

- Psychotronic charges in lieu of there being a Psi-Skill/ Strength stat.

- Xenonauts with psionic ability are actually more susceptible to psionic control

-Loss of stats having to go through surgery for Psionic Implant

- Powered by the morale (even health) of your own team.

- No psionic screening. So, no mass removal of soldiers with poor psi stats. There are no psi stats.

- After being the target of X alien psionic attacks, the soldier is stunned. This prevents the aliens constantly spamming the same soldier and the Xenonauts perhaps using this to create Psinks to always be on the receiving end of any alien attack, while the other soldiers can get on with the mission.

How they could work in game

Equipped like a weapon/ item. Use pistol animations for Psychotron and medi-kit ones for Mind Probe & Mind Shield.

Options within each device can be accessed as per the current quick slot grenade system.

Effects can be drawn either from existing weapons or form similar alien psionic effects.

Requirements

Weapon: Psychotron. Device for amplifying a Xenonaut’s psionic ability for attack.

Facility: Psi-training (could be combined with laboratory/ in assets training facility)

Little effects pics for quick slots

Equipment: Mind Probe

Equipment: Mind Shield

Training Regime: Psionics

Research & Manufacturing alterations as below.

Research & Manufacturing Links

Sectoid Vivisection ®> Psionic Weaponry ®> Psi Lab (F) &Mind Probe (M)

Sectoid Leader Vivisection ® > Mind Shield (M)

Ethereal Vivisection ® > Psychotrons ® > Psychotrons (M)

Key ® - Research Topic, (M) Manufacturing, (F) Facility

Notes:

EU1994 aliens used above to prevent spoilers

Psi Lab training will be for at least 20 days as it also involves a psionic implant.

Possible Abilities

At this stage in development, it’s easier to use assets that are already in place. That will lead to comments of “well, this only replicates what’s already there.” However, to create anything new will probably mean that there’s much less chance of seeing anything at all.

The list of possible abilities is just that. Possible abilities. Some may be a little too powerful, some not powerful enough to be useful. But hopefully, they show a range of things from which a selection could be made. They have been grouped to the relevant device, but this is very flexible.

Psi Amp (Generally Ranged Offensive)

TK - Explode target square as per grenade effects

Pyrokinesis – Use Psi Amp to create flame on target square.

Cryokinesis OP?– a one turn stun on opponents.

Doubt – increases suppression of already suppressed targets

Luminakinesis – create a zone of light around target square.

Levitate – as per Buzzard effects

Levitate Other – as per Buzzard but to target Xenonaut (not alien)

Psi-Shield (Defensive)

Mind Shield – Use mind shield and decrease effectiveness of alien psionics.

Dull Senses – Use Psi amp to reduce chances of triggering reaction fire. No reduction in alien TUs.~

Invisibility – turns Xenonaut into just a shadow, reducing chances for aliens to see her.

Intangibility – shots go through the Xenonaut

Resistance – increase resistance to damage of target unit for a turn.

Velocity – increase TUs of psionic for 1 turn

Focus – Increase accuracy of psionic for 1 turn

Cloud Minds – Create FOW pocket around psionic.

Psi-Probe (Ranged Passive)

Rally – Increase morale of target Xenonaut in mission. Useful in the event of panicking soldiers.

Psychic Healing – Self repair or heal others

Stasis – effectively stun severely wounded Xenonaut before they bleed out.

Locate Life – Detect all units in an area

Locate Enemy – detect all enemy units within an area

Pathfind – track path of target for X turns

Identify – Identifies rank/ possibly health of target.

Nudge – Move civilian a square in any direction.

Drain – drains % power (ammo) from laser/ plasma and SPOILER weaponry

Remote Viewing – increase line of sight of psionic for 1 turn. This possibly could be a tile that is X away from where the Xenonaut is standing, meaning that they couldn’t simply see past the edge of the FOW , but a more distant tile.

Blink – teleport X squares away.

Notes:

The abilities have been selected so that they do not have any direct control over enemy units, who are far more powerful psionics.

Psionics in the cold war

Just to finish off, here are a few points about why mind control and other psychic abilities were considered during the cold war. These aren’t to be taken in isolation. They should be considered against a backdrop of almost Orwellian paranoia mixed in with equal measures of corruption, showmanship, disinformation, power without oversight and greed.

Psychic research fits nicely alongside the likes of laser weapon research and advanced, reverse engineered aircraft at the time of the original release of Enemy Unknown. They fit just as nicely in with the world around the cold war Xenonauts.

Based on dubious intelligence reports, the US became involved with, and needless to say kept funding, research in this area. Project Sun Streak, later Star Gate reportedly received some $20 million.

Star Gate, followed research conducted at the Stanford Research Institute and focused on clairvoyance, remote viewing and precognition. Supposed successes were predicting submarine launches, hostage releases and attacks on a ship.

The project ran through the 1970s, well past the time frame of Xenonauts, and didn’t close until the mid 1990s.

On the other side of the iron curtain the release of Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain in 1970, detailing apparent research into this area by the Soviet Union led towards an arms race of sorts.

Likewise the first international psychotronics meeting in Prague in 1973, also sparked concerns that the Soviet union were developing methods of using technology to induce a variety of psychic effects. Of particular interest to the DEA were the generators of Robert Pavlita.

X-Com Psi-Amps are derived from these devices.

This psychic arms race isn’t an isolated one during the cold war. It’s a continuation of the MKUltra “behavioural modification of humans” experiments that ran from 1953 through wars in Korea and Vietnam, to their “official halting” in 1973, costing unknown millions.

Experiments on often unwitting subjects were broad, and a variety of methods or whatever methods deemed necessary were used. Induced panic, irrational rage (going beserk) and the other key element of X-Com psionics, mind control, has its roots here.

Perhaps more tangentially, MK Ultra used a lot of information retrieved from the subjects of Project Paperclip: Scientists recruited from German forces of WWII to assist in research in the US. Perhaps the “master race” of mind controlling aliens has darker roots, yet ones that are even closer to home.

Edited by thothkins
fixed link of wonkiness
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That is alot of powers. Other than that, very well written. I'm still not convinced that psi is even needed but I wouldn't mind it being added. You'd only get the offensive part very late game too, which would help balance it somewhat.

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But hopefully, they show a range of things from which a selection could be made.

Just ideas form which you'd look to choose from rather than try and cram all, or even most, of them in there.

Likewise, not all of the balancing list would need to be used. Just whatever it takes to keep Psionics under control.

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I'm wondering if having a suppression power is a good idea. It'd be something like making the target hallucinate that they're under fire.

Hmm, now that I think about it there wouldn't really be a way of adding psionics without it being something like magic. Which I guess it is really.

Hmm, effective but more inefficient than actually shooting the alien? Or supplementing shooting by adding powers that support it?

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Hard to argue with such good written thoughts =)

- Xenonauts with psionic ability are actually more susceptible to psionic control

-Loss of stats having to go through surgery for Psionic Implant

- Powered by the morale (even health) of your own team.

- No psionic screening. So, no mass removal of soldiers with poor psi stats. There are no psi stats.

That part i find especially interesting. Why? Because this way psionic powers would have serious tradeoffs.

Powered by morale - very lovecraftian thing, inhuman power = insanity. Together with cold war parallels and atmosphere this would work well.

Personally, i'd still prefer to manage without special powers, beating aliens with cold hard bullets, determination and fire.

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I'm wondering if having a suppression power is a good idea. It'd be something like making the target hallucinate that they're under fire.

For the Doubt one, the target would already have to be suppressed. You are just increasing that, to minimise all those times that they still manage to run off into the shadows to shoot you next round.

I had started putting OP for overpowered beside some. In fact, I see I've left it for Cryokinesis which is effectively a stun. In the end, though, I thought I'd just list a fw up there to get feedback rather than proscribe something.

Hmm, now that I think about it there wouldn't really be a way of adding psionics without it being something like magic. Which I guess it is really.

Well, it's a game with alien armadas and alien lifeforms (that seem to have had a parallel evolution) so I think there's the universal magic force of Handwavium all round :) . You could say that the Psychic power is the magic power and the psi amp acts as a wand. But then you only have to go back so far before the same analogy applies to plasma rifles. Besides, the aliens have even more powerful magic, don't need a wand substitute and don't even wear pointy hats. How does that work?

If anything, the use of psionics challenges concepts of warfare more than the alien weapons that the Xenonauts can conveniently pick up and use on the battlescape. That was certainly the fear used by it's proponents during the cold war. How can you hold secret talks with Remote Viewing around? How can you trust your aides when they can be mind controlled? How can you prevent a security breakdown when people's emotions can be manipulated?

Hmm, effective but more inefficient than actually shooting the alien? Or supplementing shooting by adding powers that support it?

The abilities above are deliberately underpowered to fit in with the balance more. They are also based mainly on certain things already in the game. So TK doesn't explode alien heads, Pyrokinesis doesn't incinerate aliens on the spot and Cryokinesis doesn't reduce the air to near absolute zero so you can get Sebillian Ice Cubes.

Perhaps they are too underpowered. That would be part of the balancing. So yeah, there's a support element to it. There's also a broadening of tactical options that should add something to missions form both sides.

Powered by morale - very lovecraftian thing, inhuman power = insanity. Together with cold war parallels and atmosphere this would work well.

Very observant I thought :) I do run similar things in Cthulhu games. Yes, there are abilities, but they are at the expense of development elsewhere, are powered by your will and leave you far more susceptible to gibbering cosmic horrors.

That's shown above with training and high TU cost meaning you can't increase other attributes anywhere near as much as colleagues; possibly driven by the stat that the aliens will look to exploit when targeting their own psychic abilities.

The personal cost to the soldier coupled with the cost of facilities and manufacturing of equipment should provide a decent balance. Not to mention that the more offensive abilities are only available late on when there's an Ethereal equivalent vivisection.

Personally, I'd still prefer to manage without special powers, beating aliens with cold hard bullets, determination and fire.
possibly, but when the aliens are using the full array of their abilities, you may want a little psychic pay back in there, if only a little :)
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Another possibility for balance, perhaps the equipment required to allow a human to use psy powers requires more oomph than can be generated by something you can carry. Thus you need any soldier to "plug in" to their landing craft. Maybe a chinook can support only one Psy person with it's generator, future craft maybe 2 or 3? You could also limit the radius such people could move from the craft in addition to the number.

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If you were to go with the Line of Sight balance option, it wouldn't go with plugging it into the Chinook. You could ask the pilot to taxi around, but there isn't one. The large TU use would also severely hinder movement without having to plug them in.

Still, having the chinook as your psychotronic generator makes them either baggage on the mission, or targets. Baggage may not go down too well. You want them to participate in some fashion I guess. Funnily, in my head the Xenonauts always have to plug in on the outside of the Chinook, rather than the comparative safety of inside :)

But one of the options I had up there was that a single Xenonaut may only have 1 of the devices (due to hand waving interference or some such) that would definitely apply to your idea of having only a limited amount in a certain area (ie squad). Yours seems the better option there. The trick would be on how that could be applied. One way for the one device only was to make them big in the backpack, so you could only get one in there. With added implications for those trying to use the weight exploit to gain strength. The Psychotrons could be big, yet not cumbersome.

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Thothkins, how to ban psy-device switch during a battle? Not a problem!

Device is implanted!

When you make psionic from a soldier, you decide what device to implant.

Want to change psy-weapon? OK, not a problem, welcome to a surgical.

Two weeks off-duty and another stats drop, but brand-new shiny psy scanner and face-lifting as a free bonus!

Just sign consent to treatment - here and here. :)

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thanks for that. I was hinting at both implant and the device of your choice. So what's better:-

1) having access to a psi-force if you will, and being able to channel that to various effects through a number of devices.

2) being implanted and trained in only a limited number of psychic powers. Device still needed to use them effectively on missions.

Also important, what would the game engine find easier to cope with?

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Im actually going to update the Inspire power in my thread thothkins, in that it has a major risk, that being that if the user is killed while channeling it, everyone in the AOE suffers imminent Mental feedback, proportionate to how close they were to the psion(and thus how strong an affect they were receiving)

edit: Also, neat post :D I had a few others, and my ideas were that the aliens powers were insidious, targeting your moral, and minds, while humans have always been more,... direct :P

Edited by Malachai13
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  • 3 years later...

I know this is an old thread, but it's well-researched.  I was quite disappointed when halfway into my game I learned my poor Xenonauts will never master the psionic realm.  I loved that branch of the research tree and it seemed to be fundamental to all the X-COM games in the series.  Had really been looking forward to it!

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