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Telparion

V19: Less 'One More Turn' feeling? Some feedback..

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Greetings to all the staff and community!

Congratulations on a job well done, as always!

"Well done", but there are things I would like to express.

According to me, the latest V19 has also made a number of small regressions on a few gameplay aspects. Overall, the "coloring" of this regression adequates to three words : "less mystery around"!

I will put four small items here on this subject.

Maybe only these items exist on this matter.

1)

In tactical combat :

The "hidden combat movement" that filled the screen before, is now taking only part of it.

Albeit a very small change, it translates into a setback to me.

Two reasons : XCOM (94), and ambiance.

It is a matter of ambiance; fear, and being 'uncomfortable' to the player at this step, may seem quite non regular but is fully part of the tactical combat gameplay here. Having sounds with a picture hiding the whole screen (an interesting picture, as well) fits a purpose, the same way the sounds, and music fits an artistic purpose. It gives the 'fear' to the player.

Having a small picture, instead of a fullscreen one, makes it become more technical and less ambient.

Like "yes, this movement is hidden". Of course the camera doesn't move to the target, but for some reason we still have the impression that we still see something.

I discovered that the "One More Turn" effect was much stronger with the fear and ambiance being stronger.

Of course, this may seem maniacal to some people, but I believe I expressed how it felt and why it felt so to the best of my (french) ability.

Solution :

Please make the "hidden movement" picture fullscreen again! ;)

2)

In research screen:

The summary of a technology (the short line describing it when it isn't researched) now seems to always provide a direct description of "what we will be able to do with it".

Meaning: what other research it does unlock.

While being practical to the player, the strong accuracy of it makes the choice of a topic to research being even more a "strategic" choice more, than an "ambient" choice or "choice by heart".

A good example of the resulting gameplay comparison would be the following :

In MOO2, when you researched a tech, you did not know which new tech of this item will be available next. It was random. I believed it contributed to the fun of MOO2, with many other things. In other games, you have to explore the whole tech tree, and see/calculate what it unlocks next. While it still makes the game fun, it's a different fun (and guess which ones ended up as cult titles ;) ).

To go back on topic with our wonderful game, providing more, and more accurate information before making a decision, is nice but you must never forget how the "mystery/discovery" of a research contributes to the gameplay, more than the strategic aspect of a given decision.

I believe this accurate description has a hit on the gameplay and ambiance.

Again, what I mean by this isn't the fact that we have a short description (it's wonderful and I want as many descriptions, and as long and unique ones as possible!) but the fact that it announces the next techs it will allow.

I no longer do this or this because I want to know what will be revealed (as description, flavor, upgrade...) since what will be revealed is already "announced" or rather, "summarized". So, researching item #1 only becomes a way to reach the item #2 that was announced. In my player mind, I'll have item #2 then as a focus.

Overall, I believe it makes research more strategic, but also contributes less to the "I want to play this game until I discover this item #1", since I kept the next topic #2 on head, and also contributes less to the "wow now that I had discovered item #1, I see I can now do this and this! nice surprise !".

Overall, this means I leave the game earlier and shorten my game session. Yes, truly.

Maybe I sound as an odd player, but that's my two coppers ;)

Waiting to receive the brief about a research discovery is really a nice gameplay feature, so announcing the next strategic component before making that choice, is forcing the player to make another kind of decision.

You know, if in Civilization you did not have these "black unknown tiles to explore", the game just works differently, but the gameplay isn't the same. Making a step just to target the further one is just never the same thing, gameplay-wise.

Gameplay-wise, the "one more turn effect" often relies on "a thing we want to wait to discover", more than a planned series of events.

I believe these short lines need more to focus on flavour (or vague references) than on "accurate techs" to unlock next.

3)

The new geoscape is really nice and "gamey" but has a bit less of this fear and ambiance aspect to it.

But I don't believe this should be changed. Rather, we players should evolve along with it ; the new geoscape is a nice component.

But if changes are to be made on the geoscape again, just keep ambiance as a priority !

4)

By fixing a number of oddities, the tactical combat is more accurate, but also sound to me more easy.

I had no problem to avoid any disastrous event.

Soldiers fire according to plan, there is less friendly fire even when I risk it, and the situation is "clean".

But again, as such, I also end up having less funny things to tell to my friends about my Xenonauts mission.

I don't think anything is to be changed here (I mean, it can't ?) but people must be careful with such changes ; having players "suffer" from a few situations, is also part of the stress when playing, and the pleasure of it.

So removing some random situations will remove some things, and bring less flavour. With more and more things like this, the risk (overall) might be to lead people to think that "doing a mission" could translate into a chore, more than willing to see what will happen out there.

I played on Ironman / Veteran, but on this second test run, I still haven't explored much of the features I explored a few months ago.

Edited by Telparion

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2)

In research screen:

The summary of a technology (the short line describing it when it isn't researched) now seems to always provide a direct description of "what we will be able to do with it".[/b]

Meaning: what other research it does unlock.

While being practical to the player, the strong accuracy of it makes the choice of a topic to research being even more a "strategic" choice more, than an "ambient" choice or "choice by heart".

A good example of the resulting gameplay comparison would be the following :

In MOO2, when you researched a tech, you did not know which new tech of this item will be available next. It was random. I believed it contributed to the fun of MOO2, with many other things. In other games, you have to explore the whole tech tree, and see/calculate what it unlocks next. While it still makes the game fun, it's a different fun (and guess which ones ended up as cult titles ;) ).

...

You know, if in Civilization you did not have these "black unknown tiles to explore", the game just works differently, but the gameplay isn't the same. Making a step just to target the further one is just never the same thing, gameplay-wise.

Well, I tend to disagree with you on most points.

1. In MOO2 the technology advance is linear. Therefore you can choose your research pattern strategically. (Maybe you are thinking of MOO1. In that respect I believe MOO2 is better).

2. In the Civilization games you can also see the research tree. ;)

Frankly speaking the description of each technology is not that important to me. Either way I would check the internet in order to choose the optimal research path. :D

Anyways - kudos for a well supported opinion.

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Thanks for your thoughts. I can kinda see where you're coming from, but I think the changes in 1) and 3) are for the better overall. A lot of people were complaining about the full-screen hidden movement screen while it still existed - I think old-school X-Com players liked it, but anyone who had not played the original a lot just found it a bit weird and found the transitions between full-screen image and no image to be jarring. I think our new screen is a good mix of the two.

You may have a valid point with point 2), though. I can see how the mystery of the research tree may be being eroded by being told in advance what a research project will do - and the mystery of the research tree is a powerful force in an X-Com game. What does everyone else think about it? Do other people feel that too much mystery and tension is being sacrificed there?

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The fear, uncertainty and confusion being described only happens on the first play-through, anyway, if you memorize what stuff does. Other people have reported annoyance at the lack of a clear Tech Tree being available anywhere. That's probably why the descriptions are what they currently are.

However, it's currently in an awkward middle-ground between strategic overview and ambience - the game tells you, in-character, hypotheses that turn out to be correct as OOC knowledge, but it doesn't tell you the same OOC by having a "Tech Tree" image file readily available in the assets.

It'd be tricky to satisfy both the roleplayers and the power gamers with the same description, so I think vaguer in-game descriptions would have to be compensated by a flowchart or something, accessible OOC.

As an alternative to manually opening the assets file to see it, you could have a setting in the Options - disabled by default - that lets you see the Tech Tree in the Xenopedia, with a shortcut from the Research screen. Naively, it doesn't sound like that much work, so it might be moddable. Perhaps an idea to set Community Involvement on it, then bundle it for release?

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You may have a valid point with point 2), though. I can see how the mystery of the research tree may be being eroded by being told in advance what a research project will do - and the mystery of the research tree is a powerful force in an X-Com game. What does everyone else think about it? Do other people feel that too much mystery and tension is being sacrificed there?
Hmm...well it really is only a mystery once or twice through then you pretty much know what's coming next. I can see arguments on both sides of this. in Civilization all advancements are known as is the entire tech tree and no one seems to complain about that.

If you really want to keep the mystery you could actually randomize the advancements for every game like Sword of the Stars does. So, maybe in one game Alienum leads to lasers, but in another maybe you have to get Alien Electronics first. That type of thing. You would need to organize your research into tiers then stack them randomly for each advancement. I can see how this could be done in code by loading the tech tree into memory then randomizing it and of course saving it to disk during the game save process. It would require some new programming, but it certainly would retain the mystery.

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I find myself researching the "wrong thing" most of the time. Especially when I want to reach laser rifles asap... I'd rather have more logical research paths than having them explained to me.

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I find a "mystery research tree" is just another way to say "punishment for new players who don't look things up".

Unless you're going to do something to randomize what tech you get from what, just to keep it fresh, (and that would be a cool feature, if you did it,) then you're basically just going to have no such ambiance for the players who have played through that part of the game before, or else have done what almost everyone does in games with no good tutorials, and looked up the "right way to play the game".

Trying to rely upon some sort of "mystery" over what is the most effective path to accomplish something just makes the game boring for the players who have taken the time to calculate out the min/maxed "best" path (so they'll hate it,) while punishing to the players who just try playing it blind (so they'll hate it, too).

This results in the same problem as was had with the players who do every mission because that's how you get max money and stats, versus the players who only did a few missions a month: It's boring and easy for one, and oppressively difficult for the other. (And the other in this case is the group most likely to ragequit and never play the game again if they feel the game is unfairly hard.)

Edited by Wraith_Magus

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Actually, upon a little thought, let me go back and argue against completely random tech trees, as well...

The only way you can induce some sort of "tension" over what choices the player makes is to try to ask them to weigh incomparables. That is, currently, I am asked to decide between researching something that helps my jets, or researching armor to help my soldiers. That's a reasonably tough decision to make. It's a real choice.

If you make the whole thing one big crapshoot, however, then there's no real choice, since there's no information for the player to really weigh. You just either blindly guess because one guess is as good as any other, you save-scum to find out which research path is "best", or use some other sort of exploit. Whichever way you go, however, you're not really given any sort of serious choice that makes the player sit and second-guess themselves, which is where the tension comes from.

It's basically the "tension" of a slot machine: Does the game feel like randomly giving me some big payout, regardless of my own player skill?

I don't know about you, but I certainly find slot machines boring.

There's nothing more disgusting than losing because of just dumb luck you couldn't help, and that's exactly the sort of thing that any X-Com clone should really stand against: It should be a tough, but fair game. One where if you lose, you could figure out what it was you did wrong, and do better next time. It shouldn't just be a trashy crapshoot like FTL was, where there's no point in playing because all the major factors in whether you win or lose are random.

Honestly, if you wanted randomized tech, it could make sense, but only if it was randomized for when you got the tech, not randomly rewarding one research path over another. (That is, make it random whether or not a light scout has datacores or alenium or something. Hence, keeping some tech out of player hands until some specific month or another.)

Other than that, I think that giving the player at least a clue of what was around the next research branch is crucial for actually creating tension in research, because tension only occurs when you actually know what choices you are choosing, and more importantly, what you're choosing not to do.

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I find a "mystery research tree" is just another way to say "punishment for new players who don't look things up".

Unless you're going to do something to randomize what tech you get from what, just to keep it fresh, (and that would be a cool feature, if you did it,) then you're basically just going to have no such ambiance for the players who have played through that part of the game before, or else have done what almost everyone does in games with no good tutorials, and looked up the "right way to play the game".

Trying to rely upon some sort of "mystery" over what is the most effective path to accomplish something just makes the game boring for the players who have taken the time to calculate out the min/maxed "best" path (so they'll hate it,) while punishing to the players who just try playing it blind (so they'll hate it, too).

This results in the same problem as was had with the players who do every mission because that's how you get max money and stats, versus the players who only did a few missions a month: It's boring and easy for one, and oppressively difficult for the other. (And the other in this case is the group most likely to ragequit and never play the game again if they feel the game is unfairly hard.)

I hate to say this, but: please don't assume everyone else thinks the way you do. I personally liked the "mystery" of the X-Com tech tree, and how you didn't know what was around the next corner when you assigned stuff to research. Also, as you yourself say, you can just look things up online nowadays, so if you really can't stand uncertainty, the answer is a google search away.
Hmm...well it really is only a mystery once or twice through then you pretty much know what's coming next.
Well, duh. That goes for all unknowns, in all media. Not a reason against having them in.
Other than that, I think that giving the player at least a clue of what was around the next research branch is crucial for actually creating tension in research, because tension to me only occurs when you actually know what choices you are choosing, and more importantly, what you're choosing not to do.
FTFY. Edited by Safe-Keeper

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I never understood why the tech tree was supposed to be a mystery. X-Com was a game of improvement, where you do a little better each time, graduating to new difficulties as you master old ones. Similarly with Xenonauts, I've only just been able to produce powered armor and upper tier equipment for the first time (but that was because of unfortunate crashes ruining save files, luckily most of those are gone). But for me personally, playing X-Com/Xenonauts was about getting to a certain point and losing, then starting new, getting further hopefully before losing, then starting again and getting further before losing. I think there is still a sense of achievement when I research Stun Weapons for the first time in a game, or get Laser Weapons, or unlock the superior med kits, but not so much mystery. For a game meant to be replayed over and over (at least that's how I feel true X-Com veterans will feel, playing until they've mastered Impossible difficulty then gimping themselves with things like only human tech, or only one transport, or extremely remote bases), there should be emphasis on the tech tree's mystery but I would not base the whole game on it.

As for point 4, yeah, the crap like a soldier shooting the ground when a target is 2 squares away, or shooting more than 45 degrees to the right or left to kill an ally who was not in range is crap, but Im glad that's mostly gone. There are plenty more hilarious things to make fun stories of in Xenonauts. Like the other night my scout ran across a blacked out field and was suddenly killed by a plasma shot, then four more aliens shot her corpse for the hell of it. It was hilarious.

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To point 1, I played the OG a bit and thus far the only thing I've modded in the game is removing the pop-up screen. I personally find it more immersive/tense to be looking at the battlefield, hearing enemies moving around that I can't see but that one is purely a matter of personal taste.

I kind of like the research descriptions as they are. Sure, you know what you're about to unlock with that research, but you still have to look outside of game to find what other techs it unlocks.

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I hate to say this, but: please don't assume everyone else thinks the way you do. I personally liked the "mystery" of the X-Com tech tree, and how you didn't know what was around the next corner when you assigned stuff to research. Also, as you yourself say, you can just look things up online nowadays, so if you really can't stand uncertainty, the answer is a google search away.

Actually, I find a problem is that when people like things, they often don't take the time to think through why, exactly, they liked them. Without that critical analysis, they just throw up words like "tension" or "mystery" without really thinking about what they mean, or how they would translate when they considered other options. Nor, for that matter, do they consider what truly matters in such a calculation, which is the cost-benefit.

In one of the other game forums I recently visited, which is a space flight simulation, most people play using keyboard and mouse, but there's a rabidly devoted following that uses their (quite top-of-the-line) joysticks for the game. Sometimes, people talk about removing certain types of controls, just because they don't use them, and "it's not popular". It doesn't hurt the keyboard players to have the option of a joystick, it certainly benefits those players who do, and the costs of leaving joystick controls in the game from a dev perspective are trivial. Why not have controls with a good amount of benefit for almost no cost at all?

So to go back to this argument, you do nothing to consider the main thrust of what I was arguing: That anyone with any experience in the game will know what the solutions are, but that the newer players will not.

Which is the group that is most hurt by this choice? The newer players who don't know what they're doing.

Which is the group most likely to ragequit because of this choice? The newer players who don't know what they're doing.

Which group is most likely to pass on negative reviews, hurt overall game sales, and overall negatively impact the success of the game? The newer players (including the reviewers who don't spend much time playing the game) that don't know what they're doing.

All of this for a "benefit" that is lost for the people who have already played the game once, anyway.

Cost-benefit-wise, this is a no-brainer. There's essentially no benefit for obscuring decisions from players, and plenty of cost. Saying to "just go Google it" does nothing to help those who do so enjoy the game anymore, and will severely hurt the enjoyment of some players who hate having to do so (including a lot of reviewers, I find). It's honestly the response of someone who just doesn't care what the practical results of what they say are, and are just throwing out, as you say, your own personal opinion.

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Again, you seem to be taking your own impression and applying it to "everyone else". You lump "newer players" into one homogenous group and expect them to dislike this feature.

For some perspective, in the original X-Com game you never knew what was around the corner either. There was no way for a new player to know that researching alien alloys would unlock research for better armour, or that interrogating an alien engineer (if I recall correctly) would give you info on a certain type of UFO. If there was something specific I wanted to know, such as how to get mind reading technology or a certain aircraft, I looked it up in the strategy guide (this was in the "old says" before you could just Google stuff). X-Com sold well and got good reviews, and, as Chris said, this research model is an integral part of the X-Com experience.

Personally, I love that the tech tree is obscured in Xenonauts (as it was in the original X-Com). I love playing through the game not knowing what to expect, to the point where I hate to have techs and whatnot spoiled for me. To me, Xeno has the right balance of surprises and planning. You can't exactly make "wrong" research choices to any degree either, it's not as if you are penaltized if you research X instead of Y. Thinking of it, this is pretty much exactly how research works in reality, too (think of how the space programme gave us non-stick frying pans :P ).

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