Xenonauts 2 – September Update

Welcome to this month’s update!  A few things have been a tad slow over the past few weeks owing to various team holidays and illness, but we’re getting back on track now and ready to share some more progress with you.

As well as doing a number of bugfixes on V21 of the Closed Beta after its release, we have mostly been working on the strategy balancing / air combat and some of the new art assets for the tactical combat.

Improved Tactical Art

We’ve done a texture pass on the entire Western Town biome now, which is one of the biomes used in Terror Missions. This had some very inconsistent visuals before but it’s now looking much neater and more detailed – we’re now working on the final damaged / destroyed states for all of these tiles. Next up is the Boreal biome, which has already seen a lot of work done to the sawmill building. Hopefully both biomes will be ready for the release of V22.

We’re also in the process of hooking up those final Xenonaut 3D models. They’re now all rigged and have the various hair models set up, but we need to do some final code work to ensure that soldiers display the correct ethnicity / hairstyle / hair colour in the tactical missions to match their portraits. Again, hopefully this will be done in time for V22.

Strategy / Air Combat

Next up is balancing the strategy layer.  Our main method for doing this is going through multiple passes of the game where every air combat battle is played manually but every tactical encounter is an automatic win.  This enables a campaign playthrough to be completed within a couple of hours, rather than an entire day.

During this time we experimented with several ways of making the air combat more interesting – this has led to a few changes.

interceptors are now built in squadrons of three, which all share a single 2×2 Hangar (dropships are built individually and also fill a 2×2 Hangar).   Once constructed, these interceptors are controlled as normal, so it’s possible to send a squadron out with fewer than three aircraft, or even send out a squadron with a mix of different interceptor types.   If an interceptor is shot down, you can either wait for it to be replaced automatically as normal or you can pay a certain amount of cash (plus alloys / alenium in the case of advanced interceptors) to replace it within a few days.

We’ve decided on this because 1v1 air encounters are much less interesting than 3v3 battles, and also it’s easier to balance the air combat if you know the player can always send 3 interceptors to fight a UFO squadron if they want.  Additionally, this speeds up the base setup process for the player: in X1, building a base in the early game usually forces the player to construct at least three planes (and possibly more) if you want a mix of capabilities (e.g. you might want 3 Condors and 2 Foxhounds, which is 5 interceptors to build).  Under the new system you just build a single squadron initially, or perhaps two if you need an even greater range of air assets.

The second major change is to give the aircraft a wider selection of equipment, but also limit their weight capacity.  In X1, if you wanted a plane with heavy torpedoes, you had to build an entire aircraft capable of carrying them. In X2, the starting interceptors are actually capable of carrying heavy torpedoes, but they need to unequip their cannons and light missiles to do so.  The advantage of this is that it gives the player more options to react to a changing situation – if alien capital ships start appearing, you can rearm your existing aircraft rather than having to build an entirely new set of interceptors.  This all contributes to much greater flexibility on the strategy layer – as aircraft have full potential to be repurposed for multiple roles, you can focus your optimisation efforts on the assets you already have, rather than being forced to go through the slightly tedious process of constructing planes one by one just to get access to new capabilities.

The actual air combat mechanics have seen some additions too – these include rotating weapons with limited travel, which means we can have side-firing weapons or turrets that track your aircraft. The Afterburner ability from X1 has also been added to all the interceptors.

Other Systems

We’ve also added a couple more systems to the strategy layer. 

The first is a solution to the problem of your engineers or scientists sometimes not having anything to do: now any idle engineers or scientists will automatically generate income for the player at a rate high enough to pay their wages, plus a small profit – it’s assumed they’re helping out with maintenance work you would normally have to pay for, etc.  This is a lot like the ability to manufacture and sell items for profit in classic X-Com, except it requires less micromanagement and is a bit more intuitive for new players. The effect of this is just to smooth out the difficulty curve on the strategy layer a bit, as having idle staff could previously be financially crippling.

There’s also been some progress on the tactical combat morale system. We need to do a bit more work to get the actual panic / berserk / etc effects working correctly, but there’s now a full system in place, as there was in Xenonauts 1 and the original X-Com. This also ties into the Stress system – when we reactivate this, soldiers will suffer Stress based on what has happened to them in combat and their Bravery score rather than just suffering a flat Stress penalty for going on a mission like they did previously.
Many thanks for reading and for staying up-to-date with our work – as ever please do join us on Discord, the forums or the Steam community if you have any questions.

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