Xenonauts-2 January 2018 Update!

Happy new year everyone! Hope you all had a great Christmas / festive season! We’ve been back at work for roughly a week now, so it’s time for a quick update on what we’ve been working on recently and will be working on in the near future!

Progress Update:

The game is continuing to progress towards being feature complete. Our priority is to have a working skeleton of the game that you can play from start to finish,  albeit with obvious gaps where there is missing content (missing aliens / research art and descriptions / not enough maps / etc). I’ve played a lot of “Early Access” games recently and that definitely seems to be the expectation these days – people need something they can properly play, even if there’s missing content because there are only a few maps / a limited number of characters / etc.

If you’ve not been following the project in much detail, here’s where we currently are: the public builds show that the ground combat missions already have all of the fundamental mechanics in place. They’re still a bit rough and there are a number of non-critical features that still need to be finished… but in most cases you can have a nice little battle with the aliens without there being any game-breaking issues.

The strategy layer has a Geoscape that spawns UFOs / ground missions, interceptors that can be used to shoot down those UFOs (with autoresolved air combat) to make crash sites, a base where you can build structures and house your staff and soldiers, a screen where you can hire new staff, base stores that log all the items recovered from battle, an armory screen where you can equip your soldiers, and a working research tree that unlocks new tech and awards items / pops up a research report when the research project is complete, etc. So lots is already working but it’s definitely feels less “complete” than the ground combat.

The join between the strategy layer and the ground combat is somewhat complete. It correctly loads the big things like the appropriate mission objective / map / aliens / Xenonauts / equipment loadouts when you start a ground mission, and we’re also at the stage now where the models are correctly displaying the appropriate gender, ethnicity and hair colour to match the portrait. However, tracking of other important things (e.g. post-battle item recovery and soldier XP gain) is not yet functional. 

The TL;DR here is that we’re close to having a skeleton of the entire game working that can be played from start to finish. Sure, it’ll be missing a lot of content and non-essential features, but it would still mark a big milestone for the project and it’s really not too far away.

Design Update:

The development process for Xenonauts-2 started with a lot of big ideas about how we could change all sorts of things in almost every area of the game, but over time the design has pulled back closer to original game. Generally we implement some cool new totally features that we’re really excited about, but after a few months of experimentation we usually end up picking a few bits we like and then merging them back into the old Xenonauts 1 system instead.

I think this works out pretty well. A good example of this is the “unique character” system we were talking about a few months ago, where every person you hire was a unique character who could fill any role in your organisation (as they had a competency score in everything from combat to research). I won’t bore you with the reasons why that turned out to be less awesome than it sounded, but it did – so the result has been for us to move the design back towards having separate soldiers, scientists and engineers whilst retaining elements of the “unique character” system.

Basically, your staff all have a competency score for their role and you can hire them based on “templates” that control their starting stats – e.g. soldiers have Riflemen or Snipers or Assault templates (likely available at different veterancy levels) etc, all of which have different starting stats or traits that make them better suited to that role. Similarly if you want to hire a scientist, you can choose a talented scientist who costs more but produces more science per turn vs. a cheaper one who is less competent. Essentially it’s the Xenonauts 1 system of recruitment but expanded to allow you more strategic choices and more control over who you hire. Several other areas have expanded in a similar way, although for the sake of brevity I won’t list them all here.

Whilst certain things have been dropped and other things have been shifted around, in many ways the picture taking shape isn’t dramatically different to the first Xenonauts. I suspect if some of the people who ragequit the forum during the idea discussion phase had stayed the course they would have been quite pleased to see the way the game is turning out; I think we’re going to end up with the classic Xenonauts feel but with improved graphics, a more cohesive setting, more varied ground missions and a number of new / more complex Geoscape systems that will allow you a bit more freedom about how you approach the strategy side of things.

I’m looking forward to showing some stuff off in the next few months when we finally launch our Kickstarter and then launch on Early Access. There’s still quite a lot of development work left to do, but it’s not long until the community can start pre-ordering and getting properly involved in the process. Lots to look forward to in 2018 then!

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