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.
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.
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.
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!
Your Xenonauts 2 update for May is finally here! Apologies for slight lateness on this one.
Chris is back on the case full-time now and has been focussed on getting the early game balanced and playable.
Rinse and Repeat
This has mostly involved repeatedly playing the campaign over and over again, making a series of gameplay changes and bugfixes each time. This isn't really something that can be done until relatively late in development, when all the key gameplay systems are in place. Chris is working on this earlier for the sequel because we've got new mechanics to implement / test, and we need a playable version of the campaign to do that testing. The upside of this is that the game is rapidly becoming much more fun and playable in totality.
There are still areas of the game which need significant attention - the AI and the repetitiveness of the maps, for example. Also, the research text is mostly absent, plus the UI and quite a few of the tactical combat assets still need visual improvement. This will all improve incrementally over time.
Chris' plans for June are to get all the UFOs and Xenonaut dropship tiles added to the tactical missions, and to be able to play a campaign all the way through to the final type of UFO without suffering any game-breaking bugs or ridiculous difficulty spikes.
This will be a major milestone, and will mark the point where Xenonauts 2 becomes a properly playable game in its own right. The rest of the team will probably spend most of their time fixing the various gameplay / usability issues encountered along the way but we're also going to be making some time to upgrade the AI.
Last month Chris created a large number of test scenes for the AI so we could test whether it properly understood the different aspects of how to play the game. These were scenarios where there is a clearly optimal course of action (e.g. use the best weapon / fire mode for the situation, use clearly the best cover, etc), and this makes it much easier to identify exactly what the AI is doing wrong and why. We should have a number of AI fixes and updates in our next major build as a result.
The visual upgrades are continuing but we are taking some time to work through the pipeline. We've got new Xenonaut early-game models that are ready to be rigged and animated, a new Light Drone model and an updated model for the X1 Praetor equivalents that also need rigging and animation. The 2D art for the aircraft weapons / equipment is nearly done now, and the final 3D model for the sentry guns is also nearing completion. The biggest ongoing project is the concept work on our updated strategy layer UI, which is progressing nicely but still isn't ready for implementation because there's so much UI that needs to be concepted up.
Onwards to Beta
Closed Beta Build V19 came out last week, and we will be releasing a hotfix early this week. Unfortunately, the sheer volume of changes we've made recently means that you may well not understand what's happening in the latest versions of the game - the gameplay changes are some way ahead of the tooltips and the research text, making the experience confusing / frustrating unless you've been following the patch notes closely. Chris will begin work on updating the tooltips / research text once it's possible to play the campaign all the way to the final UFO type, and once that work is done we should be able to commence the open beta.
As we mentioned last time, Project Lead Chris took some personal leave recently - he's now back to full-time work. A quick shout-out to everyone in the community who posted supportive comments when we mentioned this - there can be a lot of negativity in game communities and it's great to hear from the majority of you who are continuing to support the project and make positive contributions! Thank you for this and for being patient as we work towards more public releases.
While progress has understandably been a little slower due to this, the team have used the opportunity to focus on some important back-end tasks....
The first of these is the final part of the change from a single-base Geoscape to a multi-base Geoscape, which is the final separation of the base stores so that each base is pulling from its own inventory just like in the first game (previously items, soldier equipment, etc were shared globally across all bases). This is now done and bases have been fully separated from one another - it's quite a significant change and it's almost certainly caused quite a few bugs which we'll need to catch, but it's good to get this in at this point.
The second thing was adding "nested tooltips" that contain hyperlinks to other tooltips, similar to those seen in Crusader Kings 3. It's a little tricky to explain but you can see a quick example of it in action in CK3 here. This system allows us to prioritise helpful information given to the player while also providing links that lead to more detailed explanations.
Each tooltip ends up being shorter and more focused, but more overall information is available than before.
The third major thing is setting the game up to support translation. This is actually a very big task, but we figured we'd tackle it now given we're going to have to write a lot of text into the tooltips. Essentially we have to find every piece of text in the game that is displayed to the player and reference it into a single giant file that can then be translated into other languages. This system is made more complex because this system also needs to combine with our planned modding system, so that new text added in mods could also be translated if needed.
In terms of art, we've started work on the final set of Xenonaut 3D models and we've been working on an updated design for the alien Gun Drone. We've also been working on the final designs for the two advanced dropships (up to this point we've just been using the old X1 designs as placeholders). There's also been some work done on the 2D art for the aircraft weapons and equipment, and further work on the new strategy UI concepts we've been working on for a while now.
The current plan is to start putting public builds out again in May - we hope to get the entire schedule back on track soon. I will obviously keep you updated as soon as the team is able to target a more specific release date for the Open Beta.
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.
Greetings everyone - we'll start this update by addressing the delay to the Open Beta.
One factor here is that Project Lead Chris is currently working reduced hours due to a personal matter - here's a note from him:
"It's unlikely there will be any public releases (including the open beta) for the next four weeks or so. I'm now not sure exactly when the open beta will happen, but I'll let you know once my plans do start to return to normality. However, the time I do have has been spent on project management and I'm therefore hoping overall progress on the project won't suffer too much as a result of my absence. We've also made some decent overall progress this month."
So, apologies for that delay - we're aware that people are very keen to jump in and we appreciate that it's difficult to keep waiting. However, given the above and the fact that the game continues to receive regular updates to (and useful feedback from) the Closed Beta, we're going to have to ask you to continue to be patient on that front. Thanks!
With all that in mind, let's take a look at our recent progress…
We've placed a significant amount of emphasis this month on air combat.
Beta V18 arrived at the start of the month and that contained our new air combat damage model where UFOs / aircraft now have both Armour HP and Hull HP, with weapons doing different amounts of damage to each (damage is always assigned to Armour HP first). This allows us to differentiate between different types of tough UFOs, as different weapons are stronger against UFOs with lots of Armour HP compared to those that just have vast amounts of standard Hull HP.
This change added some welcome variety to the air combat, but it didn't change the fact that the air combat can be very repetitive. We've therefore spent the last couple of weeks trying out some new ideas to make it more reactive - the key change being that we've added a vision radius to all air combat units, added clouds that block vision (and weapons cannot fire though), and set UFOs to only go into attack / escape behaviour when they spot your aircraft.
The basic idea is to generate more interesting combat scenarios. The early tests suggest that these new systems do make everything more interesting but we'll probably need to build further upon them to make the most out of them.
Item Accuracy Effects
We've added a generic system that allows us to set basic logic on items that modifies their accuracy - e.g. if a soldier has less than 60 Strength, give -1 Accuracy for each Strength below 60. This is interesting because it allows us to add unique values to certain weapons, for example we could say Laser weapons are easy to use so a soldier gets +0.5 Accuracy for each point of Accuracy below 65. This potentially means Lasers would remain viable weapons for rookie soldiers even towards the end of the game, without making them overpowered in the early game.
We've also been looking at how to support Recoil. We can now easily add in the system from the original Xenonauts (the 60 Strength example given in the paragraph above) but we've been experimenting with a system where the accuracy of each subsequent shot in a burst is reduced by a set percentage. For example, a weapon with 20% recoil and 50% hit chance would have the following hit chances in a 5-round burst: 50%, 40%, 32%, 25%, 20%.
This setup means we should be able to permit the option for longer bursts. Short bursts are relatively accurate but cost a lot of TU per shot, whereas longer bursts are more TU efficient but waste ammo. This becomes interesting because you can do two things - firstly, we can add in a recoil penalty for certain weapons depending on whether they have moved (representing a bipod). So a machinegun might be able to shoot relatively accurate long bursts provided the shooter had not moved, whereas only short bursts would be worthwhile if the user had moved. Secondly, we can use the generic system mentioned above to modify Recoil based on the Strength of the soldier so that stronger soldiers suffer less from the effects of recoil.
Taken together these systems just allow us to differentiate the weapons a bit more and give the player a few more tactical decisions, without rendering weapons like the LMG completely useless if they aren't fired from a stationary position. I imagine modders will also find them useful tools.
We've added quite a lot of new art for various vehicle weapons, we've added support for keybindings, we've made a number of usability improvements to the tactical combat based on feedback on our Steam demo, and we've added proper jetpack movement to the game too. There's also been lots of smaller fixes / additions not worth individually mentioning.
Many thanks for reading and for staying up-to-date with our work - as ever please do post here in the Steam community, join the Discord or ask in the Forums if you have any questions.
While we don't respond to everything, we do our best to read every thread that is posted.
As we gear up to release version 18 of the closed beta next week, we thought we'd let you know what we've been working on for that. This month we've been focussing on your feedback from the Steam Demo, so let's dive into that a bit...
The reaction to the demo was generally good, but we also saw a lot of people who bounced off the game because they just didn't understand what was going on and how the controls worked. Reading the feedback from players and seeing what streamers struggled with when they played the game gave us a good opportunity to try and improve the controls and accessibility, as a lot of the pre-release feedback we get tends to be from experienced X-Com / Xenonauts players who already know how things work.
We have therefore implemented a number of systems that make things easier for players. Many of these things are small things - the fire path better shows when weapons are being fired beyond range; the camera briefly focuses on newly-sighted aliens; bleeding wounds are more clearly displayed, etc - but we've added a number of larger new systems too.
The first of these is the "soldier finished" system that exists in classic X-Com and was added to Xenonauts by the Community Edition. There is now a "done" button you can click to select a soldier as finished for the turn, and it will automatically select the next soldier that is not finished. If you click it and all your soldiers are now marked as finished, the turn ends. Additionally, clicking the End Turn button will now check whether there are any "forgotten" soldiers (i.e. not marked as done, and have not spent any TU) and automatically select them if there are. This just ensures the player doesn't accidentally forget about their soldiers, and we think in practice there won't be many situations where it's annoying (although you can just Ctrl+click the End Turn button to instantly end the turn if you want).
We've also updated the "ability buttons" that appear above the UI during tactical combat and allow you to select the different weapon fire modes and reload / throw grenades, etc. The most important change is that these are now a "stance" - clicking a button to set a fire mode as active just means that fire mode will be used when you hover over an alien, or when you activate free fire mode by holding Ctrl. Clicking the button no longer activates "sticky" free fire mode (which can only be cancelled by pressing Esc) unless it's a specialist item like a grenade or a medikit.
This change to free fire mode is probably the biggest usability change we've made. Free fire mode allows you to target anything, so it's very fiddly and it's easy to accidentally click a nearby object such as the ground tile that the target is standing on rather than the target themselves - we saw a lot of people doing this in the demo. The standard targeting method where the game only shows a fire crosshair over things you actually want to shoot at is the best method of targeting in most instances, and if you do want to use free fire mode then it's much easier to simply hold Ctrl as you can then cancel it by letting go of Ctrl (having to press Esc is much more clunky).
We've also been experimenting with some changes to the control system. I'm unsure if we'll persist with these control system changes, but we've implemented key rebinding functionality so people can switch them back if they don't like our changes (plus it's something we'd have needed to implement before anyway). This system was a surprising amount of work but we're in the process of ironing out the final few kinks with it right now.
Air Combat Rebalance
Chris has mostly been busy with the air combat for the past couple of weeks. The first balance pass is now complete, so interceptors and their equipment are now balanced to inflict and receive the appropriate amount of damage when fighting different tiers of UFOs. The various items are set up in the research tree, and as part of the next closed beta update (v18) we'll now be able to start balancing the air war in the context of the campaign (are aircraft too expensive, do they unlock at the right point in the tech tree, etc).
Several new systems / changes will be made to the X1 air combat model. Only the first of these (a change to the way Armour works) has been implemented so far, but you'll likely be seeing more polish added to the air combat in the next month or two.
Animations & Particles
A curveball recently thrown our way was that our animator / particle artist needed to finish up his contract with us sooner than we anticipated, so we had to devote some extra resources to making sure all his work was done before he departed. Various kinds of new explosions have been added to the game and we've got some gib animations done too, but the two big things we've been looking at are the jetpack movement animations and the Reaper zombie transform animations. The jetpack animation work is fairly straightforward (it works the same as in the first Xenonauts), but we're planning the Reaper zombies to work a little differently. Instead of replacing the unfortunate target with a generic zombie unit, what will now happen is that the target falls dead to the ground and will then rise back to life with a special set of zombie animations and an additional "covered in blood" texture. Not only does this look cooler, we might be able to make it more interesting from a gameplay perspective too - e.g. the zombie could retain any remaining Armour HP that the unfortunate victim had when they were killed.
The jetpack work is now mostly done and the animation work on the new zombies is now done too, but we still need to implement all the code for the zombies. I'm not sure if they'll arrive in V18 yet or whether you'll have to wait until V19, but they'll definitely be a big improvement over the current zombification visuals when they do arrive!
Performance Improvements & Stability Issues
We've done a load of other work, but we'll close out by mentioning that we've dramatically improved the speed of our prerequisite system. This system is a piece of code that governs many different parts of the game - everything from when research projects are unlocked, when UFOs spawn, which units can equip which items, anything to do with the power capacity / living capacity / stores capacity systems, etc.
We've rewritten this to speed it up and give us access to more functionality, and in some cases it's made the Geoscape up to 100 times faster than before. There are still plenty of other slowdowns on the Geoscape that are caused by other things, but it should hopefully fix the persistent slowdown that starts to occur as the game enters the mid / late game (particularly if there's an alien base on the map). Sadly, because the prerequisites are used so widely we have ended up having to deal with a lot of bugs in a lot of different systems. I think we've now found and fixed most of them but we imagine V18 is going to have some stability issues when it is first released! These will of course be worked on as soon as we can.
As we mentioned at the top of the post, we're hoping to put V18 out either at the end of this week or the start of next week. We've been working hard on it for a while now but we keep finding little gremlins that slow us down ..,but we're nearly there now.
As you have no doubt inferred, this means that we don't have a firm date for the Open Beta yet but we will, as ever, keep you posted.
Based on community feedback as well as our own schedule, we've decided to push the Early Access release of Xenonauts-2 back a few months. We know this will be a disappointment to those of you who have been waiting a long time for this, and we apologise again for the delays.
However, we have managed to secure additional development funding and this gives us a lot more flexibility in terms of when we launch. Ultimately, this is the best decision for the game and one which will enable us to come into Early Access with something much more polished and complete.
But what if you want to play the game right now? Well, here's some good news...
Steam Festival Demo
If you don't already own the game on Steam, you can play the demo which is part of the Steam Festival right now. Just go here, hit the "DOWNLOAD DEMO" button on the right-hand side and get going with a single level of tactical combat.
As many of you are backers, you will own the game on Steam and thus not be able to access the demo, but please feel free to show it to friends.
In lieu of the Early Access release, we have decided to start a public beta for the game in March using the new Steam Playtest function. This beta will be entirely free and will be open to everybody eventually, but will be deactivated once the game launches into Early Access. It'll contain a significant amount of the content that we were originally planning to launch with, so you won't be missing out on anything if you give it a try.
We might let a small cohort into the beta initially to get testing started, but the aim is to make this open to everyone until the Early Access version is ready.
This will enable us to get a much wider spread of feedback, helping us to tune the game ready for its fuller release. You, our community, have been a massive help in this regard already, so we have high hopes for this process going forward
UI / UX Feedback
If you, or your friends, are playing the demo or current backer builds then we would love some feedback on the game's UI and UX. If you'd like to help, then here are the ways that you can do that:
Thanks once again for bearing with us. This has been a long and difficult project but we feel strongly that momentum is building - now we have the time to continue polishing, rooting out issues and making the game as good as it can be.
Hello! Apologies for the slight delay in getting this update out - things have been very busy around here as Xenonauts 2 is gathering momentum and we're responding to a lot of your enthusiastic community feedback as we go. Here's what we were working on during January…
New Content and Polish
We released Closed Beta V17 on the Experimental branches last week and patched a number of bugs. We'll leave it a few more days and see how many more bugs are reported by the community after the latest patch, and if no further hotfixes are required we'll likely push V17 out to the default stable Steam / GOG branches.
The main new feature is an adjacency system for the base structures on the strategy layer. This system makes buildings more effective if they are built next to other buildings of the same type; for example Living Quarters grant additional living space if constructed next to other Living Quarters. Although the system is quite simple in principle, it makes planning your bases far more interesting than before and I think it'll be one of the first new features in X2 that returning players will notice, because it adds a wholly new dimension to a familiar system.
We've also been doing further work on the visuals. The MARS vehicles now update their art on the strategy layer and model in the tactical combat when you change their weapons. We've started working with a new particle artist, which has allowed us to replace the truly awful fire animation we were previously using, and we'll be updating the smoke / explosions / etc over the coming months so they look a bit more polished. There's been a few new pieces of research art added, we're designing the first new dropship for the game, and we're also working on the inventory art for the various vehicle weapons. We're hopefully going to start work with a new UI artist shortly too, so there's plenty going on.
However, we've prioritised improving the stability and usability of the game above everything else. We've fixed upwards of a hundred bugs or small stability issues every month since about August and we're starting to see the results. You still shouldn't expect Xenonauts 2 to feel like a finished game when you play it initially (it's still a much worse experience than Xenonauts 1) but it certainly seems possible to play it for a time and enjoy it - which is good news, because we've still got lots of polish and improvements planned!
It's hard to plan too far ahead when so much of our work is responding to issues experienced by the community, but there's a few things we have our eye on.
The first thing is to get the final two UFOs that create crash sites into the game. We've finalised the 2D art for these UFOs and we've got the basic model in place, but doing the final texture work and setting up the tiles in the tactical combat is rather time-consuming for UFOs this big (plus we'll have to create maps for them for all the different biomes). However, having all the UFOs done will be a nice mini-milestone for the project and will allow us to test the tech tree all the way through to the very end of the game.
We're also going to be looking into some optimisations. This month we removed quite a chunk of unused old assets from the game directories, which reduced install size by 20% and sped up load times a little. We've also been working on improving the performance of the Geoscape by optimising the prerequisite system, as this controls everything from what time UFOs spawn and when research projects unlock to whether base structures are being constructed in a valid location or whether a specific unit can equip a specific item. Hopefully this will speed things up noticeably on low-end systems.
Other things we're hoping to be able to spend some time on are AI improvements, putting in a penalty for going over your Stores Capacity, and making further improvements to the Stress system so that the stress accumulated by soldiers is tied more closely to what actually happens to them on the battlefield.
Our current plan is to launch into Early Access towards the end of next month, but we'll be evaluating the game in a week or two and making a final decision on whether to postpone the launch or not. If you've been eagerly awaiting the Early Access launch so you can finally get your hands on the game, fear not - we've been working on alternate arrangements to allow new people into the Closed Beta even if the Early Access launch does get delayed! More details on all that once we've made the decision to postpone or not.
Before we get into things, we hope everyone had an excellent Christmas and that you're all set for a thoroughly Reaper-free New Year.
Here's your update for December…
A new version was released for backers this week with a host of gameplay improvements but a few juicy new features as well.
We've added a Soldier Memorial screen (based on the popular Xenonauts: Community Edition feature) which allows you to view your fallen soldiers and the date on which they died.
The second feature is the new soldier Stress / Fatigue system. The purpose of this is to discourage the player from running too many missions: the player isn't meant to fight a crash site battle every time they shoot down a UFO).
Soldiers gain stress from taking part in missions, but stress diminishes gradually over time. If a soldier ever goes over 100 Stress they suffer a breakdown and are set to Wounded for a certain number of days until they recover. At the moment the system is a little basic but I'm hoping we'll find time to integrate it into the ground combat mechanics in a more interesting way (i.e. high Stress soldiers are more likely to suffer morale events / psionic attacks in battle than well-rested soldiers).
There's a long list of gameplay and UX updates - most of which are small in isolation, but have a large collective effect: we've added tooltips to various parts of the game, as previously it was impossible to view the stats of certain items anywhere; we've done some work to ensure fewer things are being incorrectly hidden below the Hidden Movement screen; and we've brought back the cover icons from X1 that people have been asking for a while, etc. Switching between the primary and secondary weapons is now "sticky", making using secondary items a much more pleasant experience than it was before. Many of the bugs reported in the later versions of V15 have also been fixed in V16 too, as well as countless more small fixes.
We've also added quite a bit of new art to this build. There's a new 3D model for the Colossus armour (the most advanced suit of Xenonaut armour) and we've done some texture work on a number of the basic aliens that has made the Sebillians in particular look nicer than they did before. There's inventory art for our new Electroshock weapons and updated designs for items like the Medikit, Stun Baton and the Alien Magnetic Weapons. We've added the final background art to the Soldier UI screen, and we've rendered the new MARS models out for use in the Soldier Equip screen (these will be painted over by a 2D artist soon too).
For those who are not involved in the beta, the game is now starting to take shape reasonably well.
At this point this is mostly a matter of content. Although there's still a fair amount of coding to be done on the project, most of the things that are likely to jump out at people as being wrong with the game is missing content like missing parts of the tech tree, research reports not having images or text, or seeing terrain objects or aliens that look bad because they're still using semi-placeholder assets, etc. We're making steady progress on this front and the presentation of the game will continue to improve and the missing content will continue to arrive in the coming months.
It's been nice to see the bugs and issues reported on the forums gradually shift from being technical issues to gameplay issues, and to see people starting to properly play the game. We've been working hard to try and remove as many of the annoying / broken / jarringly ugly things that get in the way of players enjoying the game and with the Early Access launch still planned for late February we'll be continuing to prioritise this - having a more polished and enjoyable game is probably better than having one or two extra features!
November has been a productive month for us on Xenonauts 2. We're making good progress and the support we've received in terms of testing and feedback from the community has been outstanding - it's hugely appreciated.
Closed Beta V15
This was released on the Experimental branch a week ago and has already received two hotfixes, with another one planned for this week. We're currently working on bugs and hope to have a stable version out on the standard Steam and GOG branches next week.
There are quite a few new features in this version but it's also significantly more polished. We've added some new UI screen background art and some new weapon art on the strategy layer, and in the tactical missions we've introduced improved ground textures to our maps and fixed lots of small things like the distracting pink error textures that were appearing frequently during combat.
Various parts of the UI have had tabs added to them to make navigation easier. There's more ambient sound than there was previously, etc. Lots of little things that collectively make the game look better and play better than before. You can take a look at the full changelog here if you are so inclined.
The Training system is new in Xenonauts 2. It allows your soldiers to gain experience passively outside of combat (assuming they are stationed at a base with suitable training facilities), but the initial rate of gain is fairly slow. However, completing autopsies on dead aliens and interrogating captured aliens will increase your institutional knowledge about the aliens and their tactics, and therefore increase the training speed of your soldiers. Soldiers will train up relatively quickly towards the end of a campaign, allowing you to replace lost veterans with semi-experienced troops.
We like the training system for two reasons: firstly, it gives a good reason for the player to complete autopsy research (autopsies might not autocomplete in X2) and also for them to try to capture at least one specimen of each alien type. Secondly, it fits the theme of the game quite well - it's about the humans gradually learning the alien weaknesses and reverse engineering their technology, then eventually steamrollering them.
The Undersuit system is simple but adds more depth. Each soldier now has an additional armour slot in which they can put an Undersuit, which is a garment that can provide a variety of benefits from additional armour to stat boosts or even regenerative effects (it's quite similar to the Vest system in XCOM in many ways). This is just a way of expanding the tech tree and adding more ways of customising your soldiers - it seemed like an easy way to give the player some fun new toys to play with.
Once we get V15 Stable out, we'll be turning our attention to V16 - but with our Early Access launch planned for late February the emphasis will be on polishing and improving what we already have rather than adding major new features (although we might add one or two). As we play the Campaign now, it feels as if things are starting to click together nicely - we're looking forward to seeing how much better we can make it over the next three months!
Many thanks for reading and for staying up-to-date with our work - as ever please do join us on Discord, the forums or here on the Steam community if you have any questions.
Yes, we know it's not October any more but, as we all know, time is a mere construct of our limited human perception...Ok, we're sorry but we've been busy!
New Backer Builds
The biggest news for October is that we released our first backer build in about four months (V14), and we're continuing to push out hotfixes for the various issues people are encountering with the game.
This build is mostly a test build to help us find and squash most of the bugs that have accumulated over the last four weeks, but the game is rapidly becoming more playable. We're hoping to release the next major update (V15) in two weeks with some significant visual updates and new mechanics, and this should hopefully mark the point where someone can sit down and properly play a multi-hour campaign of the game.
That's a huge deal and we want to thank the community once again for bearing with us up until this point. The overwhelming majority of you have been tremendously patient and supportive - it makes a big difference.
Most of the new features that appeared in V14 were features from the original Xenonauts that we knew we had to include in Xenonauts 2 to make it a proper sequel (e.g. night missions, proper base defence missions, etc) but we're now in a position where we can start to implement entirely new features. Systems like the soldier training system and the soldier stress system were implemented earlier in development and should just require a few days of coder time to get working again, and even entirely new systems such as base structure adjacency bonuses shouldn't be too much work to implement. Some of these new elements will start to arrive in V15.
The visuals of the game aren't going quite as well as the code side of things, but we're still making progress there. Work continues on the new strategy UI screen backgrounds and if all goes well they will be complete in a couple of months. We're recruiting a new artist to design the weapons that are still using placeholder art (e.g. the early-game Accelerated ballistic weapons) and to do some of the research artwork for the weapons. We've finished some more UFO designs. We're starting to take a look at some of the 3D character models and consider which ones need replacing or retexturing, and we'll be ironing out a few of the more obvious animation issues in the near future too.
The environments in our tactical missions should look noticeably better in V15 too. We're currently focusing on the ground textures in the various biomes and have been drawing inspiration from the ground textures in the first Xenonauts, which to me hit a sweet spot where they weren't detailed enough to be distracting but were still interesting enough that you didn't have to fill an area with props to avoid it looking boring. Although there's still plenty of work to be done, the maps already feel a lot more cohesive than they did six months ago, and once the ground textures are done it'll be much easier to update all the other terrain in each biome to match their style.
Finally, when our fixes on V14 are done the game should now be playable up to the fifth crashable UFO (of 7 non-unique ones). This represents over half the length of the campaign and is more than enough playable time for us to start proper balancing work, so from V15 onwards we'll start acting on player feedback about balance issues and specific problems in the game that are acting as barriers to enjoyment. In short, V15 will be the point we start treating Xenonauts 2 like a playable game.
Given this, we've reached the point where we can start to plan our Early Access launch in earnest.
We're not yet able to give you a firm date but February is looking likely (which means we'd ideally need a final launch build ready for late January).
We'll give more details on Early Access when V15 arrives - we're currently targeting Tuesday 17th November for the V15 release. Hopefully some of you will be willing to spend a little time testing the game and giving us your thoughts on that day, as it'd help us a lot with our planning!
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.