Xenonauts 2 – June Update

This month saw the release of Closed Beta V20 on our Experimental branches, which incorporated further improvements to the current skeleton of the campaign as well as some more general gameplay updates.

The Campaign

This month,we added the tactical combat tiles for the Battleship and Harvester UFOs (the two largest types) and also added the tiles for the two advanced human dropship types.  We managed to play through a campaign up until the introduction of the Harvesters as well.

Quite a few balance changes were made along the way, and we now believe we have a rough structure in place for the entire campaign.. There’s still a lot of fine tuning left to go, but there is some basic challenge to the game and it’s reasonably enjoyable to play – assuming you can look past the rough edges!

The focus for the next month is the content. We’ve shuffled the research tree around a lot in the past two or three months, so even some of the initial research projects are “dummy” projects without text or research artwork. As we’re now reasonably happy with the shape of the research tree, we’re going to start filling those in, and updating any existing research text to reflect any mechanical changes we might have made since they were written. There will also be a proper pass on the tooltips and efforts made to ensure all objects, buttons and concepts are written up and accessible in the game. This will hopefully put us in a decent place to do the first stage of the open beta.

Alien Intelligence

Recently, we’ve also been working on various other things that should improve the playability and usability of X2. The first thing is improvements to the AI, which is still basic but is getting steadily better. The AI in the first Xenonauts was purely dynamic, so aliens would read the battlefield and choose where they wanted to position themselves based on preferences (i.e. being in cover vs out in the open, etc), whereas in X2 we’ve moved to a system where aliens have waypoints set around the map that designate good places for them to move to / lurk in (when a hostile unit is sighted they go into dynamic “combat” mode and ignore the waypoints). All maps are now set up with these waypoints.

The effect of this is that in X2 you the alien movement should be more varied and dynamic, and you’ll encounter enemies in a variety of positions (more like in classic X-Com). They might be standing in the open, or crouched behind cover, or looking out of a window with a good field of fire. In X1 they tended to run into corners and just stay there because those were the “best” locations based on their preferences. We’ve also been working on trying to fix some of the really stupid decisions the AI makes, which usually revolve around times when there’s a really obvious way for it to kill one of your soldiers but it chooses not to. In future builds we’ll be doing further work on this, but also trying to add more advanced behaviours like allowing us to partner up aliens that have abilities that work together so they form a little squad on the battlefield.

Tweaks and Improvements

As always, we’re also working on some odds and ends. The soldier medals system was largely implemented a couple of years ago now but never quite finished, so we’ve finished that and set up the 8 medals your soldiers can earn in battle (each one gives +1 to all soldier stats). Mind Control has been rebalanced so its effectiveness drops off with range, which should make it less annoying. We’ve also implemented proper drag-and-drop functionality for the engineering queue and the soldier lists on the Soldier Equip / dropship screens. There’s various other small usability changes too, plus further work on the tactical combat camera to ensure it tracks the action better during the alien turn and some more work on the Reapers to make the zombifying / Reaper hatching effects work better under all circumstances.

Solid Progress

In summary, we think once we’ve done the early-game research writing we’ll be able to say that Xenonauts 2 is a playable (if unfinished) game. The standard disclaimers apply – the game needs another pass on the art (which we’re working on in the background), we still need to do more to differentiate it from X1, and there’s still more polish and content to be added. But the game is already quite fun to play (as long as you’re not expecting a finished game just yet) and it’ll only improve as we continue our work on it!

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