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Alien Psionic Powers Discussion

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Psionics are getting a lot of discussion at the moment due to their destructiveness. Though the game is close to being finished, the psionic powers have not gone through many iterations - the AI only started using them properly recently and people only seem to have played far enough to encounter them regularly in the more recent builds....so they may well need a bit more work.

PLEASE BE AWARE OF WHAT VERSION OF THE GAME YOU ARE PLAYING:

V21 Stable:

  • Psionic powers all use squad sight, so if your units enter an area visible to any alien that turn, the entire alien team can use psionic abilities on those soldiers. Combined with a bug allowing aliens to see through some UFO hulls this is a little overpowered.

V21 Experimental 1:

  • Dread has been nerfed somewhat, so it has a 0.7x strength modifier which should ensure it only affects a minority of your team each turn rather than affecting pretty much everyone in the squad.

V21 Experimental 2 (upcoming):

  • Fear and Paralyse become global powers that require no line of sight at all
  • Mind Control remains squad sight, but is reduced to a 30 tile radius
  • Berserk becomes line-of-sight only, but now takes effect in the following player turn - so the affected unit will spend all their TU shooting, potentially injuring their own team.

Please inform yourself about the changes made in your version relative to how they were in earlier versions - you want to make sure you are both looking at the same version if you are debating facts with another forum user.

The current psionic attack formula is: Alien Psionic Strength vs. Soldier Bravery + (Random number up to Alien Psionic Strength)

The psionic attack formula isn't the best formula I've ever created, so I'm happy to amend it prior to release. The key things in any formula are:

  • Soldiers should not be immune from psionic attack at high bravery
  • Bravery should provide significant defence against psionic attacks
  • The psionic strength of the alien, modified by the difficulty of the power, is an important success factor

I'm open to suggestions on how psionics should work, and any alternative formula suggestions if people want to make them. I don't want to radically remake the way psionics work, just find a better solution that gives the players more of a chance to defend against the psionic attacks than is currently the case.

Let's assume we're also not adding new items to the game at this point (for now at least)!

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On formulas

Being a fan of White Wolf games, I'm familiar with the idea of the resisted roll. The idea is that in an action that can be contested, the sides involved in the contest roll a random element (in the case of WW's games, dice, and the number of dice are usually based on a stat), stack modifiers (in WW's case more dice) and whoever rolls the higher value wins the action. I think this would be a pretty appropriate mechanic for psionic powers - you're literally pitting the will of the trooper verses the alien mind. Basic modifiers can be bravery and psionic power. Bravery is a clear aid to the trooper, and high bravery helps but isn't a sure thing. Extra modifiers can be added to either side ad infinitum without screwing up the formula. What do you think?

EDIT: I think I should add that WW's system is a little more complex than what I have made it out to be. Each dice you roll doesn't add a numeric value rather if you roll a certian number or higher, you add a success to a pool of successes. However, the basic elements of the formula stay true. Random element + modifiers verses random element + modifiers.

Edited by Max_Caine

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Can I check something? The present formular seems to imply that a soldier must have a bravery score higher than an alien's base psionic strength to have a chance of resisting an attack (otherwise Psionic Strength + Random Score will always be greater than Soldier Bravery). Is that correct?

I'm asking because, unless it changed at some point, I'm fairly certain that all aliens have psionic strength above 100, and therefore at the moment cannot be resisted.

That aside, one thing you could do is have defence against psi linked to morale rather than bravery. This would have the following features:

- Bonuses from soldier proximity and officers would improve resistance against psionic attacks. This provides one mechanism by which the player has some control over psionic defence. (It's not much, but it's something, and will make those bonuses much more useful than they are at the moment).

- The Fear power would have an effect even if it doesn't manage to panic a soldier, since the soldier's morale would still be depleated and therefore they would be temporarily more vulnerable to other psionic attacks.

- Psionic powers would become more powerful the worse the player is doing. Or, the other way around, they would become worse the better the player is doing. That's not necessarily a good thing, as it produces snowballing difficulty. On the other hand, it implicitly provides a mechanism by which players can mitigate psionic powers (if psionics are balanced so that when the player is doing well, they don't work much, the player can avoid being screwed too much by psionics simply by playing well).

EDIT: Another thought: borrow from the OG and have psionic power decay over distance. If you want to maintain non-LOS powers, this would offer one way of balancing them so you don't get blitzed by mind control right out of the dropship.

Edited by kabill

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Sorry, copied the formula out wrong, you're right. The random number is on the defence roll, and is actually up to the attacker's psionic strength rather than the other way round. Updated the OP.

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Cool, that makes more sense!

Quick random thought on Berserk/mind control: could you tie the amount of TUs a soldier has to shoot/act to the amount they miss their resistance check by? So the more the soldier fails by, the more TUs they have to shoot/act? (you could do this with dread, too, wit TU damage determined by how much you miss the check). That way, high Bravery soldiers are not only more likely to resist, but less likely to do horrible things to you as well. It's a bit less all-or-nothing that way.

(This might be a lot of work, though).

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(Alien PSI strength)-(Soldier Bravery)=R

-----------------

Soldier morale=M

where

100 morale=0%

90=+5%

80=+10%

70=+15%

60=+20%

50=+25%

and so on to max bonus 50% at 0 morale

S (Raw %chance of success)=R+M

S= around 40% chance at mission start for the average 60 bravery soldier. After a few PSI poundings, % tops at 90%, but should NEVER be 100%. (assuming alien psi strength is 100)

I suck at math btw, sorry for the poor explanation

Edited by Xenomorph

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I like Xenomorph's idea, and I love the idea of a partial save whenever possible. In this game, I think all psionic powers could use partial saves with impacts on TUs, so a berserk/paniced/mind controlled character with a 70% save (meaning failed by 30%), they should only loose 30% of their TUs, and a mind-controlled character should then become a player character again after those TU are spent (so it looks like berserk where the character acts on it's own and is then yours again, but the character is more tactical in it's actions).

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Looks good and reliable, Cris.

and what about that little things...

1. Mind effected soldier becomes wounded in bravery stat to the end of the mission? (if effect is activated) (with time to heal after).

2. Does MC-ed soldier throw grenades?

3. Does berserked and MC-ed soldier drop weapons and amunition like paniked (may be amunition too)?

4. Does berserked and MC-ed soldier has his\her morale down for some turns? Plus if he\she is commander, may be that morale down could affect all squad?

5. I prey for: MC-ed soldier is under control for only 1 100% TUS turn (as was mentioned) and than became availiable to player again but with 0 TUS (so it lose one's more turn for refresh and bravery+morale wounds).

6. Ore even may be like that: all effective psi-attacks make wounds to bravery stat (to the end of the mission) and down morale for X-turns. So, for example, triple berserked veteran with 100% bravery in the begining, now has wound -30\-50 and is likely to MC (so the main idea: all the psi effects COUNT against human players and doesn't go without a scratch\mind "wound").

7. Does there are psi attacks on civilians (may be even civilians in player base when defending, if they would be implemented)?

8. MC-ed (and else too in less effect) soldier with mind-wound has other stats decreese to the end of the mission too (accuracy, health-wound too like from stun effect, may be TUS)

9. anti-psi suits (whe communications tech researched) , that has less defense, TUS decreece (like bio hasard costumes), but act as a real psi protection (total or real-big with no post-effects like bravery, morale, other stats decrease).

Yes the 9th paragraph is one step to psy weaponry, as psy defence, but it is so lucrative... hunt for psi-officers with that costumes... as special mission (in other case in late missions in big ships than it must be mix of races that make more abundant psi-using aliens).

Edited by Kirill Selivanov

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I would prefer a mind controlled soldier to come back under control of the player on the turn following the mind control.

To give a longer duration effect though they could be suppressed automatically when mind control ends.

Thinking about suppression, could one of the psi powers cause suppression damage?

Maybe Hallucinate could actually cause some suppression as the soldiers believes he is being shot at?

Not enough to instantly suppress maybe but enough so soldiers who had been hit by Hallucinate would be more likely to be suppressed next turn.

If they had been taking some fire but not enough to be suppressed then Hallucinate could be enough to tip them over the edge.

The psi attack formula looks a little odd to me.

I would prefer something like:

Alien Psionic Strength + (Random number up to Alien Bravery) vs. Soldier Bravery + (Random number up to Soldier Morale)

The plan is to pit psi strength against bravery but to have current morale levels affect the outcome.

Resisting a psi attack could give a morale bonus to the soldier.

If alien morale is checked then Alien Bravery could be replaced with Alien Morale.

The other alternative I considered was to have current TU levels affect the outcome, kind of like a mental reaction check but I haven't thought about a formula for that yet.

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Can you make different sounds for different psi attacks ? Also it would be nice to show which soldier is begin psi attacked like in OG. Currently there is only small notification on success, and very poor.

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I think psionic powers should decrease with range. They ought to work like the One Ring. Their power gets stronger as you get closer to the source, specially the powers that don't require line of sight.

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In my opinion, the big problem is not so much the actual mechanism, but the sheer unpredictiability of psi attacks. There is no strategy for dealing with them, and they seem to occur quite frequently on some of my braver soldiers, so I can't even build a resistant sqaud. I may be in a minority here, but for me the psi attacks are quite simply NO FUN. I can't recall all the details of how they worked on the OG, but they weren't as far as I can recall so game destroying as thyey are now

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Agreed with dmholt. I have no idea how to deal with psi attacks, so it is really a random death generator at this point. One mission with a psi enemy and half my experienced squad is dead, if not all of them (probably all of them when I have mag weapons). That is game over for me.

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I have extremely bitter memories of both mind control and the more general molecular control from the OGs. What I especially remember from the OG is that every single Ethereal was capable of it, Etherals came in fun-sized packs and if you didn't kill/control all Ethereals a solider saw in the turn they saw you, your solider would be attacked repeatedly for the rest of the mission. Through tests of my own, I personally don't think the formula is working as it should do, as aliens with extremely low Psionic Power stats were as effective as aliens with moderate to high stats. However, my evidence only extends as far as v21. I'll wait for the next build before commenting as how some powers sighting will change then.

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Right now Xenonanuts suffer the same "no fun" psi mechanics as other games like X-COM, UFO:AM and even UFO:ET - but the last one had some devices but still you had to train you're soldiers in bravery a lot, while in Xenonanuts only medals increase bravery but not so much. Only X-COM:Apocalypse had some decency that all PSI attacks were LOS and in TB mode if you used all TU's MC'ed soldier was not a problem. Actually I think that MC'ed soldier should get 50% of their max TU's.

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MC in XCOM:EU was fairly insignificant imho, you had such large squads that one mind controlled guy was no issue and an incidental casualty was just acceptable losses.

In Xenonauts with only 6 pairs of boots on the ground in early missions one guy out to mind control and another dead is 33% of you effectiveness out of action.

With that said V22E2 seems to be fairly reasonable on psi powers so far but I am only up to landing ships so have only had week psi attacks.

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I think you should replay EU/TFTD - though you could send 14 soldiers in skyranger a sectoid terror mission could get you killed in few turns. The MC was out of control - you could get 3-5 soldiers MC'ed / Paniced / Berserk in one turn - then they could just kill another 3-5 other soldiers.

I believe that every EU player was mortified of sectoid terror mission on January. Or a surprise base defense in January :D

Edited by silencer

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Yes, I think having the power of psionics fall off with range would make sense. However, I don't like the idea of "partial" powers at all, and I think it'd be a nightmare in the code too. A unit is either affected by a power for a full turn or not, much cleaner that way.

There are complaints about there not being a defence against psionic attacks, but I'm not sure what people want instead? You want there to be a way to completely prevent your soldiers being affected by psionic attacks? You can't fully protect your soldiers from an alien walking round a distant corner and one-shotting your soldier with a lucky plasma cannon shot either, but doesn't mean there's something fundamentally wrong with the shooting system.

The possibility of a "morale save" is an interesting one. We could have a system with:

(Random number up to alien psionic power) vs. (random number up to soldier bravery) for power success, then:

(Morale / 2)% check to protect against successful powers.

Alternatively, Gauddlike's suggestion of incorporating the bravery into the normal calculation could work, particularly if the alien morale is also factored in.

@Hairyscreech - MC only appears on alien Leaders and above, so if you're still using the basic dropship at that point then psionics will be the least of your worries.

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You can't fully protect your soldiers from an alien walking round a distant corner and one-shotting your soldier with a lucky plasma cannon shot either, but doesn't mean there's something fundamentally wrong with the shooting system.

In such a situation, there is the possibility of getting off a reaction shot to hit the alien as well. At present, people may feel that it is random and they have no control.

Maybe a end of turn 'gritting your teeth' option that costs some TU but increases resistance, or maybe someone who has experienced enough attacks on them could even attempt a deception when telepathically linked, sort of like when Daniel seized control of Replic-carter in Stargate SG-1. So long as the linked person doesn't expend any TU's, the alien cannot attempt other psionic attacks for the next few turns.

Edit: These are just ideas though.

Edited by Skybirduk

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The berserk function needs a small change: Your berserk troop should charge towards the nearest alien or the alien ship if visible, firing snapshots, NOT attack your own men. If there is no visible enemy the troop should just charge off in a random direction to trying to find the enemy. In every other game I've ever played berserk troops basically attempt to close with and kill the enemy without regard for their own safety and immune to morale checks and effects (morale failure, dread, and paralyze.) I know this is not every other game, but still that is far more sensible than just shooting the guy next to you. The typical scenario would be your troop runs out of cover and charges toward the aliens firing, most likely to be cut down in the middle of the street.

Edited by StellarRat

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Supposing there was also a chance of a "Tranquil Fury" reaction from continued psi attacks, where the soldier is mad and angry but retains his temper, causing reduced Tu's and higher accuracy for a few turns.

One alien to another "I think all it did was make him angry."

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In OG, berserking units shot randomly (or didn't fire at all) either at aliens or you're own soldiers. Currently what I saw in v22b2 Berserk wasn't LOS only so it still can be double edged sword for aliens if it TRULY was LOS only.

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I think you should replay EU/TFTD - though you could send 14 soldiers in skyranger a sectoid terror mission could get you killed in few turns. The MC was out of control - you could get 3-5 soldiers MC'ed / Paniced / Berserk in one turn - then they could just kill another 3-5 other soldiers.

I believe that every EU player was mortified of sectoid terror mission on January. Or a surprise base defense in January :D

Last time I played it was about 6 months ago. (god bless the steam bundle)

Really didn't find it that bad, maybe I have just been unnaturally lucky?

Edit - Actually I think the answer may have been my swift efficient "retirement" plan for rookies that are susceptible to mind control. I was working on a rule of twice in a battle and your a blue on blue statistic.

Edited by Hairyscreech

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When I played the origianl game recently, I had a massive recruitment drive at one base with plenty of psi-labs just for the purpose of finding good psi-soldiers. Once trained, they went out and gained lots of experience in psi-use and target practice games. The attack on Cydonia was a walkthrough.

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The berserk function needs a small change: Your berserk troop should charge towards the nearest alien or the alien ship if visible, firing snapshots, NOT attack your own men. If there is no visible enemy the troop should just charge off in a random direction to trying to find the enemy. In every other game I've ever played berserk troops basically attempt to close with and kill the enemy without regard for their own safety and immune to morale checks and effects (morale failure, dread, and paralyze.) I know this is not every other game, but still that is far more sensible than just shooting the guy next to you. The typical scenario would be your troop runs out of cover and charges toward the aliens firing, most likely to be cut down in the middle of the street.

In the absence of any other change, it would probably make sense to relabel the berserk power as 'hallucinate' or something similar (since the power with that name has been dropped). It's probably a better description of what it does (makes a soldier temporarily mistake friends as enemies).

(It's possible someone else already suggested this somewhere. I have some kind of recollection of that, perhaps.)

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