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Such heavy air focus


kraex
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So I should preface this post by saying I am a die-hard X-Com fan. I don't know when I first played it, 1995 or so, but I've been dusting it off every few years ever since. It's still loaded in my steam library, and since buying the newest update, I've got about 60 hours into it.

That said, Xenonauts (v20.8) just feels ... wrong. I've seen it mentioned and alluded to in other posts, but this game as it stands is all about air superiority, and almost nothing else. Why are there SO MANY UFOs? Why do I need to have 6+ Hangars in each base just to keep up? And why were interceptors made into rock/paper/scissors? The Foxtrot is an "upgrade", but has the hardest time killing the easiest UFO? Why? What's the point? And now all of the favor has been moved to shooting down UFOs, so you hardly need to do ground combat at all. I'm actually finding it really annoying. The tedium of X-Com and doing ground missions you didn't really need has been replaced by the tedium of shooting down wave after wave of UFOs. There' just.. too.. many.. X-Com was a game about tactical turn-based ground combat. This is not. The ground combat is there, but that's no longer what this game is about.

There are other things that could be fixed. I'm not sure why "manufacturing for money" was taken out. It was a viable strategy that added depth to the game. The early to mid tech-tree is so thin that there's no point in stacking scientists, which was a valid strategy that added depth to the game. But none of that matters if the game is not about ground combat and fighting aliens, and instead about massing interceptors and playing the waypoint, roll, launch missile game.

I think it's great you guys took what was basically an afterthought in X-Com (air combat) and made it more interesting. But there is way, way too much focus on it right now, to the detriment of the core of what made X-Com (at least for me) a great game with so much to offer in the way of replays. If balance is so tight that you have to stack air just to have a viable economy, you take away many other ways to play. Those other ways to try to win are what keep people (or at least me) playing the game again and again. Is the single base tech rush strategy going to be viable in Xenonauts?

There is a page on the ufopaedia about ways to handicap X-Com to make it interesting once you've mastered it.

http://www.ufopaedia.org/index.php?title=Making_the_Game_Harder

How many of those scenarios will be impossible in Xenonauts simply because the economy is based 100% around shooting down wave after wave of UFOs?

I want to love this game, because I've played the Ufo games, and I've played XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and this game could be way better than any of them for an X-Com lover. But right now the emphasis of game-play is far too weighted toward air combat and interception. And (at least to me) that's not what X-Com was about. Turning a corner and seeing 3 little red squares pop up in the top right corner, or listening to metallic footsteps in an alien base, or hearing the high pitched whine of mind control is what made X-Com special. And the fact that you could play it several different ways is what gave it such great replay value.

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To me, X-Com was much more than the battlescape. Xenonauts is the only game like X-Com that I think is good because it's about much more than the battlescape. The air superiority needs some tuning. Air combat is good, but the need to have 15 interception craft across 3 bases minimum is silly.

Xenonauts geoscape will be better than X-Com geoscape when this huge focus on air superiority gets fixed. The battlescape I believe needs a lot more looking at, but I think the geoscape is almost perfect.

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As an aside, the single base tech rush strategy has come in and out of fashion as builds have progressed (and people have complained both for and against it), but it's still fairly viable even in 20.8, provided you stick your inital base over the largest accretion of territories (i.e. on the northern tip of the african continent).

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I think your views are coloured, to an extent, by rose-tinted glasses. Once you've played the original game a few times you'll find it has extremely poor balance. You can rush Plasma Cannons for your interceptors and Heavy Plasmas for your soldiers almost immediately, making 90% of the research tree irrelevant...and the national funding is largely irrelevant because you can just manufacture and sell gear from special bases set up to do that.

Fundamentally I wouldn't say either were good things. They're exploits or bad design choices more than alternative playstyles, although they allow them, because they are by far and away the best way to play the game.

Your point about air combat has been noted, but I'm not sure I see a viable way of changing the game without reverting to X-Com's original system where the invasion involved about 20 UFOs and perhaps three interceptors throughout the entire game. I don't think that's inherently better either. But I'll think about the issue, anyway. It's something that does get raised a lot and the opinions of new posters are always particularly valuable.

EDIT - actually, we'll just reduce the number of UFOs in the next build. You still need the same amount of radar coverage, but you don't need as many planes and hangars that way.

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Are the ufo's distributed around the globe with some kind of logic? I feel that every time I make the first base in North America, I struggle to get enough ufo's to shoot down. If you lower the general ufo numbers even further, there might go months without contacts... Is this intentional that only viable starting point is NE corner of Africa to get enough ufo contacts?

Edited by Skitso
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The original definitely has poor balance in retrospect. Manfuactured Laser Cannons take care of your economy, you go either directly to Heavy Plasma or first through Laser Rifles, in the air interceptors with Plasma Cannons are guaranteed to shoot down anything except a Battleship with 0 damage, and a lot of techs and items are completely irrelevant. That's true. So the original definitely has the pitfall that there's a best way to play the game, and it becomes easy if you follow that. Still, balance flaws should not overshadow the aspects that are done amazingly well.

Xenonauts departs from the original in a few significant ways, most of which are, in my opinion, extremely good. The decision to take away for-profit manufacturing is great. There's nothing good about how the original made the funding nations irrelevant. The whole concept of nation funding and national relations simply didn't matter. So this is a good choice in Xeno. Another difference is the massive amount of UFOs in Xeno, which is also a good thing. It feels more like an invasion, and it requires you to choose targets because you can't shoot down every UFO. It's an alien invasion, not a turkey shoot. I would like some slight adjustments to the wave system, but it's a good one. Once you change your mindset a bit anyway.

The current focus on air is the only recent intentional departure that I dislike, and even then I believe it's easily fixed just by toning it down a bit. Base management is better in Xeno than in the original. Ground combat is mostly better, aside from a few points. Air combat is much better - it was barely there in the original. It just feels like the game has forgotten that its ground combat is the main part.

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At present UFOs are assigned to funding regions totally at random. So a base in just North America isn't currently optimal - it's only one funding block out of 8-9 of them...albeit not one you want to lose.

But you are doing something about it, right? All the Hollywood documents about aliens attacking earth prove that they are always attacking NA only, mostly or at least first. ;)

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So I should preface this post by saying I am a die-hard X-Com fan. I don't know when I first played it, 1995 or so, but I've been dusting it off every few years ever since. It's still loaded in my steam library, and since buying the newest update, I've got about 60 hours into it.

It's about the same with me (one of the many best things about original game is that can be played over and over again, right :) ? ). And when starting with Xenonauts I felt the same way about it. But meanwhile I've already moved a bit, and I think you just need to realize that although this is a lot like the original game, it's not exactly the same, and it probably shouldn't be. I actually still dislike some things about this game, but if you give it more time, you should find that some of the things you see as good or bad

are so only because you're used to them that way.

And why were interceptors made into rock/paper/scissors? The Foxtrot is an "upgrade", but has the hardest time killing the easiest UFO? Why? What's the point?

That's actually one of the things that I now think Xeno does a lot better. Foxtrot is not not really a plain upgrade, and if you use the proper weaponry for it (Sidewinders instead of Avalanches), it can kill the easiest UFO quite easily. And it's not really rock/paper/scissors, a pair of Condors can still down even a Cruiser if they have Alenium explosives and manage to catch up with it twice, and a pair of Foxtrots can stop aerial bombing even if the bomber has fighter escorts. I'm not sure if the cruiser thing is wanted, but the bomber case leads to interesting choices - will you rush them past the fighters and risk getting them shot down, hoping they'll at least manage to launch the torpedoes in time? That said, currently air combat feels like a costly part of the resource management.

There are other things that could be fixed. I'm not sure why "manufacturing for money" was taken out. It was a viable strategy that added depth to the game.

No, sorry, it was a strategy that was completely lame and made both funding and artifact recovery next to irrelevant. The only thing it did to depth was removing from it.

There is a page on the ufopaedia about ways to handicap X-Com to make it interesting once you've mastered it.

http://www.ufopaedia.org/index.php?title=Making_the_Game_Harder

How many of those scenarios will be impossible in Xenonauts simply because the economy is based 100% around shooting down wave after wave of UFOs?

Many of those should be impossible one way or another - the reason that page exists is because the original game, once you get the hang of it, is ridiculously easy even on fixed Superhuman, so somebody wanting a challenge needs to explicitly make their game harder. It just doesn't make sense to be able to fight off late phase of the war with just interceptors and other plain human technology. On the other hand, I think Xenonauts takes this too far and the curve is way too steep.

I want to love this game, because I've played the Ufo games, and I've played XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and this game could be way better than any of them for an X-Com lover. But right now the emphasis of game-play is far too weighted toward air combat and interception. And (at least to me) that's not what X-Com was about. Turning a corner and seeing 3 little red squares pop up in the top right corner, or listening to metallic footsteps in an alien base, or hearing the high pitched whine of mind control is what made X-Com special. And the fact that you could play it several different ways is what gave it such great replay value.

Ah yes, I'd agree here, especially given that this all originally was Laser Squad 2 and everything around it was flavour. But I hope the devs can balance this right.

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Thanks for the responses, I'll follow up when I have more time. I do think in addition to the toning down on the number of UFOs, changing them so they trickle in more, as opposed to waves of them, might help as well. Though I know there have been discussions on this and I'm not sure all of the reasons behind the wave format.

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Thanks for the responses, I'll follow up when I have more time. I do think in addition to the toning down on the number of UFOs, changing them so they trickle in more, as opposed to waves of them, might help as well. Though I know there have been discussions on this and I'm not sure all of the reasons behind the wave format.

I think the waves are interesting and change the pace in a mostly good way. I however wouldn't mind a couple UFOs in between waves so that there's actually something to do. When you realize how the wave system works you go from wave to wave with nothing inbetween and that removes the pacing.

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The original did have poor balance, but it was still fun. I still only use laser rifles in the original because I see them as better than the heavy plasmas in so many ways. 1: infinite ammo. 2: accurate, low weight, low TU cost. 3: if you get mind controlled or panicked and go berserk you are unlikely to hurt your teammates much. 4: they are sufficient to kill most aliens.

Anyways, tech tree wise there were some important things to get in the original and a lot of useless things.

Everything is useful to some extent in Xenonauts, but it seems there are some really critical things and I get really lost in the tech tree not knowing where I am going at first, but that is fine I suppose it is just a learning experience, I just have had like 15 available projects to research at any given time. I have fusion missiles and just 2 condors & 2 foxtrots and I can shoot down anything as long as I happen to catch it, which still isn't too hard most of the time.

I'll tell you I hated the air combat in Xenonauts at first but it has grown on me some (and been balanced better) and I kind of like it now.

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I like the air part of the game just the way it is. It add a whole dimension to the "big picture" strategy that really wasn't present in the old game. I actually enjoy figuring out where, when and how many AC to build and bases/radars to place and tactical aspects of trying to handle interceptions in the optimum manner.

You have to bear in mind that Xenonauts isn't supposed to be just an update of X-Com or TFTD. It's a new game. That said, there is PLENTY of ground combat in Xenonauts, more than most people want to deal with, hence the "airstrike". It's all good in my mind. In fact, to Chris's credit, I think this is a better game design than the OG just not as completely original obviously.

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I think the waves are interesting and change the pace in a mostly good way. I however wouldn't mind a couple UFOs in between waves so that there's actually something to do. When you realize how the wave system works you go from wave to wave with nothing inbetween and that removes the pacing.

I also posted about this the other day. The occasional lone UFO would be an improvement just to add a bit of unpredictability to the whole thing, as opposed to knowing that UFOs always come in waves, and that nothing happens between waves.

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I also posted about this the other day. The occasional lone UFO would be an improvement just to add a bit of unpredictability to the whole thing, as opposed to knowing that UFOs always come in waves, and that nothing happens between waves.
That's probably a good idea. You'd think they'd at least be sending scouts out all the time.
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Foxtrot is not not really a plain upgrade, and if you use the proper weaponry for it (Sidewinders instead of Avalanches), it can kill the easiest UFO quite easily.

Isn't that really just changing your rock into scissors to kill paper? Unless you always run your foxtrot with sidewinders, which sort of just means avalanche are inferior.

the bomber case leads to interesting choices - will you rush them past the fighters and risk getting them shot down, hoping they'll at least manage to launch the torpedoes in time? That said, currently air combat feels like a costly part of the resource management.

Right now, to me, air combat feels like ~70% of the game, and I'd like it to be more like 20%. That's probably just me, but I think it's too high, and I won't beat the horse anymore, because the devs are already looking into it.

(manufacturing for profit) No, sorry, it was a strategy that was completely lame and made both funding and artifact recovery next to irrelevant. The only thing it did to depth was removing from it.

I disagree greatly that it was lame. Unbalanced? Yes, once the internet came around and the high profit items were well documented. That's a simple balance issue, it can be fixed on a spreadsheet. Having to manage your stores, your resources, your manufacturing, along with your budget, added a depth to the game that XCOM: EU simply dropped and Xenonauts has reduced to just a couple of commidities. When I first logged on to Xenonauts and saw that I had infinite basic resources (guns, grenades, ammo), I was really disappointed. Management of resources as a whole right now is almost non-existent. Of course, that's just as easy to fix as profit manufacturing, it's a spreadsheet issue. But with only having 2 real commodities to manage, it simplifies the game. That's a matter of taste, so I'll leave it at that, but I felt more involved in the running of the my little empire while making sure my troops had guns and ammo. Keeping up on HWP ammo early in the game was at times a balance of cost vs. supply.

Many of those should be impossible one way or another - the reason that page exists is because the original game, once you get the hang of it, is ridiculously easy even on fixed Superhuman, so somebody wanting a challenge needs to explicitly make their game harder. It just doesn't make sense to be able to fight off late phase of the war with just interceptors and other plain human technology. On the other hand, I think Xenonauts takes this too far and the curve is way too steep.

I agree. The game is not broken, but the balance is off. I see air-strike as a measure to allow the player to opt out of ground combat if it's starting to feel tedious to them. But it's been replaced by an overabundance of tedious air combat that can't be opted out of without sacrificing favor and economy (which are now the same thing). The fact that economy is now 98% based around your percentage of shotdown UFOs is (in my opinion) a huge mistake. Airstrike allows you to not care about ground combat, but the new focus on shootdowns forces you to care about air combat. There were already plenty of reasons to care about air combat. Not allowing base invasions, not allowing alien bases to be established, etc.

I'll also re-state what I read in another post. When I catch an alien ship landed and I get the jump on them, that should be a big deal. Knowing that if I controlled my weapons I had undamaged alien navigation, power sources, etc. was great. I just don't see how there can be so little reward for ground combat and how that's going to make the game 1) more fun 2) easier to balance.

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I see air-strike as a measure to allow the player to opt out of ground combat if it's starting to feel tedious to them. But it's been replaced by an overabundance of tedious air combat that can't be opted out of without sacrificing favor and economy.

[snip]

Airstrike allows you to not care about ground combat, but the new focus on shootdowns forces you to care about air combat.

I also realize I've neglected to mention "auto-resolve" for air combat, because it's simply not comparable to air-strike. Since you're far more likely to sustain damage or lose planes using auto-resolve, I don't think it's viable long-term, and only increases your need to have more interceptors. Whereas air-strike is 100% no-risk solution, you simply sacrifice some cash and commodities, auto-resolve puts your aircraft at risk, and you need them operational to keep up with the pacing of UFOs.

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Perhaps air-strike could be changed to require a fighter present (SOMETHING has to bomb the place to hell...) over the crash site as well as lose some form of influence with the nation it is located in (due to the fact that you're pretty much sterilizing a portion of their territory when they could do the same).

That way, you don't have to deal with potential losses but still get penalized since you opted the "It's the only way to be sure" option.

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Perhaps air-strike could be changed to require a fighter present (SOMETHING has to bomb the place to hell...) over the crash site as well as lose some form of influence with the nation it is located in (due to the fact that you're pretty much sterilizing a portion of their territory when they could do the same).

That way, you don't have to deal with potential losses but still get penalized since you opted the "It's the only way to be sure" option.

Thematically, I like the idea, but in the context of this particular thread... This is just one more thing you need would interceptors for, and putting more focus on the air superiority game.

Otoh if "Air Strike" was removed in favor of "Auto-resolve" ground combat, with the chance of soldier/vehicle losses, then it'd be more equivalent. (And no one would use it) The reasons auto-resolve air combat is tolerable are:

1. Aircraft don't generally die, they can be rebuilt

2. Aircraft don't gain xp or levels, so the investment in one is minimal

Which might play into why I don't care about them so much.

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Right now, to me, air combat feels like ~70% of the game, and I'd like it to be more like 20%. That's probably just me, but I think it's too high, and I won't beat the horse anymore, because the devs are already looking into it.
If you were to actually time the game I'd think you'd find that you probably spend a lot more real time in ground combat. As far as, "managing" the war, you probably do make more important decisions running the air campaign. Losing a soldier or two is bad, but losing an air terror or allowing too many UFO to slip through your defenses is worse.
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Isn't that really just changing your rock into scissors to kill paper? Unless you always run your foxtrot with sidewinders, which sort of just means avalanche are inferior.

What I meant to say was that there is no rock/paper/scissors, because you can use any of your fighters for any role if you want and are skilled enough. It's just that each of them is more suited for a certain role and less for another. If you like management of resources as much as you say, then consider choosing the proper fighter setup to be another form of resource management.

I disagree greatly that it was lame. Unbalanced? Yes, once the internet came around and the high profit items were well documented. That's a simple balance issue, it can be fixed on a spreadsheet. Having to manage your stores, your resources, your manufacturing, along with your budget, added a depth to the game that XCOM: EU simply dropped and Xenonauts has reduced to just a couple of commidities. When I first logged on to Xenonauts and saw that I had infinite basic resources (guns, grenades, ammo), I was really disappointed. Management of resources as a whole right now is almost non-existent. Of course, that's just as easy to fix as profit manufacturing, it's a spreadsheet issue. But with only having 2 real commodities to manage, it simplifies the game. That's a matter of taste, so I'll leave it at that, but I felt more involved in the running of the my little empire while making sure my troops had guns and ammo. Keeping up on HWP ammo early in the game was at times a balance of cost vs. supply.

I was disappointed just as well the first time I saw the basic equipment was infinite, but only until I realized that repeatedly checking in the OG that stores have always enough flares and smoke grenades is most of all just an annoyance. Who really wants to count flares that are 80$ each? I certainly don't, if the stores could take it I'd just have bought a big damn load of those and be done with it. I actually now consider this to be one of the great improvements here. There are better games for bean-counting out there.

I just don't see how there can be so little reward for ground combat and how that's going to make the game 1) more fun 2) easier to balance.

Funnily enough, as much as I originally disliked the airstrike option, I now think that's just thinking in the wrong terms. The point of the game is to defeat the aliens and that won't be achieved by fighting every single scout they send. I mean, if you think about it, who cares? The UFO recovery missions are done for new technology and for resources, there's actually no strategic advantage from doing them, as long as it doesn't hurt public relations too much. In game terms, one or five crashed light scouts normally just don't matter, what you want is to get the means to get rid of the aliens altogether. And people who want to do lost of ground missions (like me) can and will do them, so this looks like win-win.

And it's not like the OG was actually different. If I'm not mistaken, UFO:EU can be won by one ground mission on Earth and the double-mission on Mars, if one would be skilled enough to pull off the perfect first mission. I've certainly seen a play-through video where somebody (with lots of saving/loading) finished the game in what would account to about 8(?) minutes of real time playing with 2 missions on Earth and the double one on Mars.

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