A new XCom should be...


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#41 The Veteran

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Posted 25 November 2009 - 11:39 AM

View PostStVier, on 25th November 2009, 4:37am, said:

... which works perfectly well in the UFO series, and more or less improved along the series. The game pauses when enemy is sighted, when there's no more ammo, when soldier is down etc... important instances which require the player to make a decision.

Exactly the kind of behaviour I'd expect from a real-time mode after years of refinement, they've pretty much got it mostly right with modern games I think.

View PostStVier, on 25th November 2009, 4:37am, said:

The situations in JA2 or Silent Storm is that 'real-time until enemy contact' has it's out of battle functions, though limited, like searching drawers and such for the additional med-kit or toolboxes.

As you said it depends on out-of battle features and off the top of my head none really spring to mind that will affect gameplay in a massive way so the way JA2 works can probably be mostly ignored (though I would like to get hold of a copy to see it for myself)

View PostStVier, on 25th November 2009, 4:37am, said:

With modern days capabilities, if developers want, they can very well just have 1 20-storey skyscraper with every floor accessible, but can one imagine going turn-based on this kind of maps? I have more or less been pampered with playing real-time with pause functions but I am still able to keep at it with the original X-com games, but if I were to cross maps between games, I can see that what might work for TB will work with RTwP but not always the case vice versa.

I think regardless of being real-time or turn-based the size and layout of a mission or random map elements is still going to need to be very carefully balanced to avoid the frustration from the original games. Most notably the last soldier in an alien colony... It's true that a real time mode would most likely speed this search along however even if its just by leaving your soldiers in good vantage points and whacking up the speed until a hostile contact pauses the game!

I imagine in time a whole new thread will emerge to discuss battlescape levels in a size and scope way but while it's been raised here we may as well at leat touch on he question of using a 60x60 grid (for the original games) to provide the whole playable battlefield. I remember Apocalypse had set points around the map edge which functioned as retreat zones for individual soldiers as essentially you were moving your trooper too far from the action to be of any further use. I could see this working in Colonisation for certain mission types if used in a different way though I'm thinking about the aliens rather than the human side here.

Imagine an alien assault on some form of laboratory or corporation building (much like an apocalypse ufo assault) but remember the aliens will have infiltrated the target without a vessel due to their need for secrecy (it's not worth risking giving away base locations just to mess with a few VIPs after all!) I don't think it's unreasonable to imagine that the ethereals have the ability to blend in with the general populace quite well by maintaining a kind of psionic aura to convince people what they are looking at is human. That means that once a mission starts going wrong they can just disappear and return to their base. After all though these aliens are using clones like the original games they don't have infinite numbers and they don't really form any kind of psionic collective yet either so they still possess some level of self-preservation.

I think the main benefit of having aliens occasionally flee the battlefield would be to prevent that tedious search for the last alien. Imagine we take a map of ordinary 60x60 xcom size for example then add another border around the whole map which is 10 tiles per side making the map an 80x80 area. Then think of the border as an evacuation zone where aliens and humans alike can decide to leave the fight if they so wish as long as they remain in said zone undetected for x amount of turns. If they're spotted then they would be followed after they left so could only leave if they could sneak away.

I'm thinking the possible benefit of this could be to avoid long boring and frustrationg searches for the last man in a mission as once the alien force is on its last trooper that unit could automatically be forced to make a retreat to the borders. This means even if he's shut himself in a janitors cupboard on floor 17 of this skyscraper he will immediately emerge and attempt to leave the building whilst continuing to engage any targets.

This is a new idea I've just come across based on the last few posts so please let me know what you think of it as a way to avoid tedious manhunts!

View PostStVier, on 25th November 2009, 4:37am, said:

X-Com: Apocalypse is still a prime example of an X-Com game attempting to cross the 2 gameplay options but it does have its flaws. I could never get into the Real-time mode back then because things can somehow get furiously fast and screen messy with civilians, agents and aliens running around and hiding and getting shot during a cross-fire, which I never wanted to happen but nevertheless ended before I could react... even at slow speed!

Apocalypse was probably my first experience of a real-time play mode and I never really liked the game just because it was so different to the original but I think really this was down to the new graphics and different aliens more than the real-time feature. Is it just me or was their not an option to switch from RT to TB at any point in the mission? I think Apoc was very hectic in RT but then the message bar did pause the game at the right time so all of the right components were there. Personally I'd debate how much has actually been changed since and that it's more to do with weight of troops and firepower that made RT slightly unbalanced but then that was the fast-paced nature of apocalypse. One autoshot from an HE cannon could destroy several different walls causing large parts of the building you were stood in to collapse around you killing friend and foe alike and causing untold devestation. This is the way the game played throughout though in my opinion so maybe it was more to do with balance that things were so fast and furious!

View PostStVier, on 25th November 2009, 4:37am, said:

In any case, the point I want to get across is both TB and RTwP has their own merits but to implement TB for nostalgia's sake or to win over the original X-Com fans, it's gonna be potential choke-point in terms of gameplay and really have to be well-thought out and balanced with RT gameplay... I'm merely echoing what other people have said.

I agree the inclusion of turn-based gameplay simply for the sake of including it will be essentially pointless. I just think that the number of people out there who would still rather play in a TB mode (and yes these are mostly old XCom fans) warrants it's inclusion as an option. At the end of the day it will come down to the devs to make it happen for real or tell me they can't do both but personally I think it is more sensible to include both modes than to omit either one. So long as both are approached correctly and play well in the end product of course...

View PostSpace Voyager, on 25th November 2009, 6:47am, said:

Agree VERY MUCH.
And IMO there is much more harm done by demanding an hour of real time to be spent on a single mission than by a possibility of player being inattentive while nothing of importance happens.

Hopefully the point I raised earlier or some similar feature will provide us with a way to avoid boring end-mission scenarios but I do agree that sending soldiers systematically into every toilet and cupboard on a cruise liner to find one stinking aquanaut leaves a lot to be desired!

View PostCatwalk, on 25th November 2009, 9:30am, said:

Map size is indeed a very good example of a compatibility conflict between the game modes. One possible solution is to simply not employ maps which won't function well with TB. Alternatively, have the map size differ depending on game mode or even have separate maps. I think the main pitfall is trying to make the two game modes too similar, as they don't have similar needs. It's pretty much two games in one, and should be treated as such.

I also agree that time usage is the main downfall of TB, even though it's the mode I prefer. I'll try analyzing the contributing factors and see if I can come up with ways to speed up TB gameplay.

Again I think my earlier comments on map size and alien hunting may take some of the pressure off maps that don't work well in both RT and turnbased gameplay but there is almoscertainly room for a whole new thread to discuss that!

Thanks for all your feedback guys and don't stop now!!!
Welcome back to the wonderful world of Fan-fiction! (it's short for fantastic!)
Go check em out, UFO TFTD and Apocalypse all under one roof!!!

Also why not check out XCom : Colonisation over in the special projects forum. Won't kill you if you do, might kill you if you don't!

#42 Catwalk

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Posted 25 November 2009 - 12:19 PM

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I do agree that sending soldiers systematically into every toilet and cupboard on a cruise liner to find one stinking aquanaut leaves a lot to be desired!
Sounds like that's more of an issue of insufficient potty training for your aquanauts ;)
Please check out my TFTD Ironman video campaign here, I'm grateful for any comments!

#43 StVier

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Posted 25 November 2009 - 12:53 PM

View PostThe Veteran, on 25th November 2009, 11:39am, said:

As you said it depends on out-of battle features and off the top of my head none really spring to mind that will affect gameplay in a massive way so the way JA2 works can probably be mostly ignored (though I would like to get hold of a copy to see it for myself)

I supposed the type of missions could give rise to out-of-battle situations? I'm can't be sure but it's quite normal for developers to throw in variety of mission scenarios other than 'kill all hostiles' so Colonisation could jolly well such variety? However, mission types can spawn a whole new thread of discussion but generally, out-of-battle situations might find their place in there, probably just as a bonus rather than a focus.

View PostThe Veteran, on 25th November 2009, 11:39am, said:

I'm thinking the possible benefit of this could be to avoid long boring and frustrationg searches for the last man in a mission as once the alien force is on its last trooper that unit could automatically be forced to make a retreat to the borders. This means even if he's shut himself in a janitors cupboard on floor 17 of this skyscraper he will immediately emerge and attempt to leave the building whilst continuing to engage any targets.

Escape AI is a good idea to do away with the hunt for that elusive bugger but caution should go into designing the escape AI... a mad dash for the exit is simply gonna give players the habit of hanging around the exit, assuming the exit area is fixed, unless it's a random teleport portal which is only known to aliens...

#44 The Veteran

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Posted 25 November 2009 - 04:07 PM

View PostStVier, on 25th November 2009, 12:53pm, said:

I supposed the type of missions could give rise to out-of-battle situations? I'm can't be sure but it's quite normal for developers to throw in variety of mission scenarios other than 'kill all hostiles' so Colonisation could jolly well such variety? However, mission types can spawn a whole new thread of discussion but generally, out-of-battle situations might find their place in there, probably just as a bonus rather than a focus.

That's a good point and though there aren't many to mention we do have a few non-combat specific missions laid out so far. Currently hey're mostly related to the way funding works and how to make sure you keep it nice and high! Definitely a good point though, we need some variety to keep away from the monotony of just another salvage mission and just another terror mission etc. I think this can go on my to do list!

View PostStVier, on 25th November 2009, 12:53pm, said:

Escape AI is a good idea to do away with the hunt for that elusive bugger but caution should go into designing the escape AI... a mad dash for the exit is simply gonna give players the habit of hanging around the exit, assuming the exit area is fixed, unless it's a random teleport portal which is only known to aliens...

Well my thought was that the extra area that would be placed around the battlefield would feature as the 'evacuation zone' if you like and rather than in Apocalypse where you simply stepped on specific door tiles to leave the battle, it would be a feature that could only be used by the aliens to help avoid the last man standing scenario and the area would have it's own special rule.

The way I see it working is that the second the penultimate alien dies, a new set of objectives is given to the last remaining foe which will initiate a retreat strategy. Now to avoid players camping around the borders of the map in the first place they'll never be told when there is only one alien left so there will still be situations when the player may spend a decent amount of time looking for the last defender but essentially if they don't find it after x amount of turns it will reach safety and escape thus ending the mission automatically as a victory for the player. There would be no negative score for the escape of an alien as the squad is unaware that one did escape and therefore nor is anyone else!

Essentially though the final alien will beat a retreat as soon as it realises the rest of the squad is dead. It will take the most direct route to the nearest border and attempt to escape by reaching a border zone and spending x amount of time there without being spotted at which point it will successfully escape and end the mission.

Of course if the alien comes across any of the player's troops it will attempt to engage them in combat and this will result in one of two outcomes. The death of the trooper or the alien. If the alien succeeds to defeat the trooper then it will continue its flight but obviously if the trooper is victorious the final alien will be dead and the mission successful.

If the final alien survives long enough to reach the border (say the outermost 5 tiles all around the battlescape) then it will need to remain unnoticed for a certain amount of time there until it is safe to leave the zone without fear of being followed. If spotted by a trooper before this time has expired the alien will engage in a firefight and will not be able to attempt to flee again until the soldier is eliminated and the countdown is successfully ended.
Welcome back to the wonderful world of Fan-fiction! (it's short for fantastic!)
Go check em out, UFO TFTD and Apocalypse all under one roof!!!

Also why not check out XCom : Colonisation over in the special projects forum. Won't kill you if you do, might kill you if you don't!

#45 Thorondor

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Posted 25 November 2009 - 07:57 PM

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"(...) I think it is more sensible to include both modes than to omit either one. So long as both are
approached correctly and play well in the end product of course..."
You are offering two options instead of just one, which, as a general statement, is undisputedly an
agreeable arrangement. And, of course, the minimum requirement is always that - whatever you offer - it
remains functional in the end product.

However, don't let that mislead you into thinking you wouldn't be better off with a single system devised by your team and informed by your understanding of past offerings and hands-on experience with your own product as you develop, test, and hone it.

Providing more options seems like a win-win situation for everyone: players will have the ability to choose freely and hopefully you'll demonstrate you can implement either method satisfactorily.

On the other hand, and no matter how simple the arrangements may be to have both, you'll still have to separately do double playtesting and guarantee the integrity and logic of your game under those two systems, which _will_ take a toll on you at crunch time. On the upside, I guess you'll be able to say you're capable of handling the workload regardless...

But, perhaps more importantly, you have to ponder what other message you may be sending as prospective
autonomous developers. Namely, some people reviewing your work might question why you didn't believe in
your own system enough that you had to "cop-out" by implementing an alternative one.

At another level: presently it's your own time and money. If someone comes to you to develop a game you'll be expected not to increase production time and costs - they'll want the one _best_ solution. Can you be trusted to select and provide it?

I know these are tough and controversial issues, Veteran. I'm just raising your awareness, and besides, how else are you going to make Hardened Veteran otherwise? :)

Incidentally, and on the subject of TB/RT: I can honestly enjoy either when they're properly done and suit the game.

::

"What do we really want?"

"We want to kill us some alien scum already. Real simple-like: we come in, bag 'em, tag'em and put 'em away - just like we've always done... We're still on top of this here food-chain... This be just a l'il reminder."

"Cork it, Zilla. Now get to checking your gear and be nice to people..."

"Sho' thing boss. Just you leave some fa me down there! Don't you go wantin' 'em all ta yaself as last time - haha!"


:)

Kidding aside that's what is at the very core of the fun we have in this kind of game: going tactical and dispatching aliens with the right moves and toys with as little casualties as possible. With a swagger coming on, to stave off the real nature of the gruesome task...

To avoid a common trap you need to realise you're not going to earn any points with anyone by simply seeking to achieve what was already achieved. You have to add something with your game that can't be experienced elsewhere. It's not going to be easy, if you want to get noticed.

Many of us have X-Com, Silent Storm and next-of-kin currently installed in our machines. As you know they're very good games in their own right with rich feature sets and some technical shine up the wazoo.

It's a lot to live up to, but they're not perfect games. What you need is an angle.

I don't have a magic wand, naturally :), so I'll merely put forth some concepts for your appraisal that will hopefully be of some use at least...

For starters, the fact that these games have aliens as foes is an asset that has not been taken proper advantage of. And why ? Mainly because of the way in which the interaction between humans and aliens plays out.

To get at the root of what I mean, lets start with a look at other media. In pop culture, the movies, or the TV (ranging from the likes of X-Files, Aliens, or even The Twilight Zone) what essential traits are shared by alien creatures ? Enumerating: they look repulsive, monstrous or disfigured, they induce fear or even horror, they prefer to lurk in between strikes whenever possible so as to reveal themselves only in short stretches, they are aggressive, they attack at close range to great effect (both with the victims and audience), they like confined spaces or places with ample cover and favour the night or low-visibility environments.

Behavioural stances, it should be noted, are in turn triggered, and lead to the triggering, of a set of key reactions. To give an example: going down a street or alley, if you were suddenly faced with a stray dog you're unfamiliar with, your response would derive from factors such as
- its stance (fearful, defensive, unaffected/dismissive, agressive, persecutory; sound contributes)
- its proximity to you
- its size, build and speed (how big/small, muscular/lean, fast/slow)
- how much room is available to circumvent it and defuse potentially hazardous conflict
- visibility (how well/much you see, how effectively you keep track of threat)

Under the right circumstances, even a basketball-sized alien could scare the living daylights out of you - provided he sets off the right reactions. In the end, it all depends on an individual's perception and threat assessment.

Complementarily, humans are social creatures heavily influenced by the reactions of others around them.

That's how panic spreads like wildfire, or why people eventually laugh just because someone else is laughing heartily. In the same way, a wordless, shrill scream, efficiently conveys a lot (i.e. distress, despair, acute pain or terror) in no time, and has immediate impact on the listener. Here, what I'm getting at is that it's important to obviate the reaction or reactions that matter most.


What we have...
In the several squad-based games we have available, human/alien interactions and feedback to the player
significantly deviate from, or come short of, the aforementioned guidelines in several segments:

1) Creature AI/Tactical
.... Aliens do not act furtively
They amble back and forth, often in plain sight, without any regard for cover or stealth
Once creatures detect a target, they immediately engage and most often advance headlong until dead.
.... When they cannot be suppressed, it has important ramifications that are harmful to the breadth of
tactical gameplay (like pinning down the opposition thus creating the possibility to actually use cover,
manage ammo, and, work to, sooner or later, exhaust an enemy's ammo supplies)
.... Sometimes nights seem not to be remarkably different from days in tangible ways (though we know that
X-Com takes this into account with disadvantage to human eyesight, for instance)

2) Emotional feedback triggering from interactions
.... Though there are monstrous/disfigured creatures, they do not succeed in inducing a)repulsion b)fear
.... Some aliens' awkward form of locomotion limits/hinders their potential as imposing foes (aggressive, threatening, dynamic,...)
.... We see soldiers reporting unsuitably loudly, and repeatedly (sometimes comically), so carefreely one might actually believe them on a recreational field trip. How is one to believe that they could be killed at any time if heard offhand?
.... Uses for spotting/stealth, though grounded on a promisingly sophisticated system, are routinely nullified by both blunt alien conduct and ineffective (graphical) portrayal of the Line-of-sight calculations/implications. The potential of low visibility and/or night-time environments in terms of tension from reduced ability is, thus, fundamentally wasted
.... Sanitized injury and death
Injury, mild or severe, has little sway with any of the factions beyond rendering some units temporarily
unconscious or outright dead. Clean, detached deaths, no injury or 'in pain' animations, no convincing outcries of terror and/or pain impact the player to translate the battlefield reality of confronting deadly alien creatures. This creates a distance from the goings on.
.... Scarcity of alien vocalizations
.... Open spaces (outdoors) tend to have scant cover, which tends to defuse tension and remove tactical options


Where to go with it next...
Truly repulsive-looking, and imposing, Alien creatures with adequately intimidating vocalisations
(general impression to give: frightening, powerful in action and build, deadly, voracious). If necessary to achieve these objectives, create a new roster of creatures from scratch
Alien creatures that strike fast, hard, preferably at close range/melee, and remove themselves from sight as soon as possible (basic concepts: hit and run; ambush; taking the initiative, assessing target vulnerability)
Creatures are responsive to injury and will try to actively extricate themselves from a situation when receiving punishment (flee/seek cover). Accompanying vocalised reactions to pain and graphical feedback of the severity of injury.
Suitable animations for human soldiers' reactions to injuries. Examples: squirming in pain on the
floor; gripping a wound; incapacitated/unable to move but conscious/able to see. (showing consequences to injury in this way triggers reactions)
Severe injuries will at times render human soldiers unresponsive or, less responsive, to movement
commands issued by the player (until 'stim-packed'). This change in responsiveness makes the player fear
for the affected soldiers, as they are that much more at risk of being overtaken by nearby aliens.
Human soldiers' vocalisations in reply to player commands should average on the subdued/hushed until
hostilities start in earnest at least
Both human and creature vocalisations are to sound differently in indoors and outdoors environments
Some alien creatures are able to open or destroy/overcome doors by themselves.
More 'up-close-and-personal' experiences when attacked by aliens: victims can be caught and taken/dragged away screaming out of sight (has a psychological effect on the player - the startlement, the emotions that emanate from hearing blood-curdling screams, the later finding of a body)
Certain areas and routes should be made exclusive to some creatures (mostly paths for smaller creatures' use in surprise attacks and as escape routes. For instance, resort to a network of ground-level vents)
Fog of War
Can make a world of difference depending on how it is implemented and in all matters regarding spotting, stealth and use of cover.

Totally obscuring blackness until scouted. Then, revealed areas will be lightly shrouded to dynamically blanket the area outside of the soldiers' present field of view (thus continuously explicitating line of sight and its range under all visibility circumstances [day/night, how obscuring are obstacles to LOS, benefits of scoped weapons]).

To better picture, in further detail, how this would work in practice, imagine a soldier is carrying a hooded lantern. In front of him there's an isolated rock twice as high and thrice as large as an average human. The circle of light (his field of view) extends around him and beyond either side of the rock - while blackness remains behind the rock (the unseen area directly opposing the soldier). Think now, of how the rock's "shadow" (the way it blocks LOS) changes when the soldier comes closer, or moves more to the left or right.

Furthermore, this kind of fog of war also has the significant advantage of making the player feel constant unease at the realisation of just how vulnerable he is (because of all he/his soldiers can not see).

::

Well, I just hope I haven't scared anyone away with the boogie-post... ;)

#46 Catwalk

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Posted 25 November 2009 - 08:57 PM

Very well spoken on the issue of game TB vs RT models, I agree with your concerns. Good points about the developer aspects. But I think his mind is set in this matter ;)

Quote

It's a lot to live up to, but they're not perfect games. What you need is an angle.
I think the psycology concept discussed elsewhere would be a good bid for that angle, if done well. You have some excellent points about alien behaviour, and that actually ties in well with the psycology concept in some aspects.

Quote

.... Though there are monstrous/disfigured creatures, they do not succeed in inducing a)repulsion b)fear
WRONG!! Tentaculats have scared the crap out of me on plenty occasions :) But yeah, you're right for the most part.

Your comments are mainly about graphics and atmosphere (which I don't consider unimportant in the least), I guess my interests are mainly about strictly gameplay related issues. I do agree that a spooky atmosphere would be a great asset, and the gameplay can also assist in creating that. The player should be feeling paranoid when playing. And I disagree with you slightly that the old X-Com games don't manage to achieve that, due to the difficulty level and the bond you feel with your strong soldiers you'll frequently feel very paranoid when on a tough mission during an Ironman campaign. Check out my thread on psi and morale, I think you might like some of the ideas there.
Please check out my TFTD Ironman video campaign here, I'm grateful for any comments!

#47 The Veteran

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Posted 25 November 2009 - 10:22 PM

Thanks again guys, amazing post by you Thor! As Catwalk says I thik the decision has been made that we'll use both RT and TB modes of play for now but of course there are still a lot of things that could affect this decision based on the complexity of coding, extra time and resources to accomplish the task satisfactorily and of course testing the models themselves which could turn up a whole host of problems and most likely will do before we're done!

As far as the development standpoint goes I know what you're saying and you make some good points but they really aren't of major concern to us right now. You mentioned two major points being a) the use of a system other than our own and b) the extra resources to complete the same task in two different ways. Firstly, and correct me if I misunderstood this point, the choices are Real-time, Turn-based or some strange hybrid and there aren't many other ways to take it.

RT and TB modes are tried and tested and I think a quick look back through these forums over the last few days will go to show that both have dedicated fans with their own personal preferences. That said even though there has been mention of the 'realime until combat' model there has been no particular highlight of why it made a better game than a normal RT or TB system and so pales in comparison. To come up with another mode of gameplay would require a vast amount of time and resources and ultimately would be a huge risk to take on any new release. As a strategy game there are only a finite number of systems to implement and the ones that fit best are RT and TB, I can't think of anything else that would work so by using both we eliminate the problem.

Regarding extra resources from a professional developer or publishers standpoint it's my opinion that this is pretty much irrelevant due to the fact we aren't even in the same league as established companies in the industry. Therefore anyone who is an established player would be mad to assess our work based on their own resources and experience. We have no funding, no office and a small team just starting off with their first big project. A large multimillion dollar company with headquarters in several continents, hundreds of employees and a number of successful titles already in circulation cannot project their own time-scales and funding analyses onto a team or a project such as us and ours so the extra time it will take us to implement 2 systems may set back our completion date but it won't mean a thing to the big boys!

The other point you raised regarding the industry rather than the game was that people would be looking to us to provide the one best system for this title rather than using two but isn't the best possible system the one which will bring more players to the game? And didn't you already point out that having both systems will almost certainly allow for a larger target audience? I know what you're saying with regards to this point but personally I think it would be rather foolhardy to simply omit one system to save some time and money if it's going to reduce the end-products selling potential by even the smallest percentage. Again though this would have different ramifications in a large professionally developed title when the inclusion of a secondary system meant additional cost but that is why there are financial projections made by such companies during development decisions such as this to determine the extra time required to add this feature and what it's cost would be to the company. Add to that projected sales information based on products both with and without the additional feature and suddenly the maths will answer that question for you. But that only works for the bigwigs, and they had to start somewhere too!

All of the input in your post about sound and visuals and how they could be improved upon from the original games is really great and a lot of it is stuff that seems fairly obvious but to be honest it's not stuff I've ever really thought about. The sound of an aquanaut being shot in the chest and taken to critical health but not moving or changing posture is a fairly poor representation of what's actually happening and I agree there is a great deal to be improved upon!

While I don't necessarily agree with all of your suggestions I certainly do with most. I don't think an alien has to be ugly or disfigured to be feared for example, especially not if that alien can withstand fifteen direct hits, continue walking towards your troops without so much as a wince and proceed to decapitate every one of them without any show of effort. Not a very balanced creature but you see my point, this could be the most beautiful creature in the world but once I've seen it do that I'd be pretty damn scared! On the other hand I do think Fog of War is a must and based on the fact that we're going to be trying to ground the battlescape a little more within reality by introducing troop psychology things like radio communication between the troops and yourself as their commander is a very important feature to consider. I also agree entirely that damage to troops and alien creatures should be better represented by their immediate reaction and subsequent behaviour but I think you've gone into this in enough detail already!

I must agree with Catwalk regarding the comment that for the most part Thor's suggestions are regarding atmosphere, and while this is most certainly a necessary part of any game I think there's a long way to go before we need to start thinking about what is essentially polishing! Of course that is not to detract from the use of such information but if there's anything more physical you'd like to see in a new title Thor let us know that too!
Welcome back to the wonderful world of Fan-fiction! (it's short for fantastic!)
Go check em out, UFO TFTD and Apocalypse all under one roof!!!

Also why not check out XCom : Colonisation over in the special projects forum. Won't kill you if you do, might kill you if you don't!

#48 Thorondor

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Posted 26 November 2009 - 09:58 PM

In view of the good coverage this subject has been object of already I won't pester you with it any further.

I think, however, it's worth denoting what we circumstantially refer to as RT and TB, so that there are no doubts:
- Real-Time (like in the original Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines)
- Pausable Real-Time (like UFO:Aftermath & Co, Baldur's Gate, etc)
- Turn-Based (like X-Com, Silent Storm, etc)

In closing I'll also refer that one system can be made to comprise another only in specific ways. Say, for instance, by implementing a Pausable Real-Time one that only goes turn-based in very critical situations, and does so mandatorily to the benefit of the player's experience when handling them (impending deaths from multiple threats). Even slowing to a crawl here arguably wouldn't give you the kind of respite and control TB would offer.

It's a bit like saying "Okay, you can handle this, take a deep breath..." ;)

It's a hybrid, but this sort of change in control mode doesn't happen frequently enough for you not to go ahead and brand it Pausable Real-Time all the same.

Quote

I must agree with Catwalk regarding the comment that for the most part Thor's suggestions are regarding atmosphere, and while this is most certainly a necessary part of any game I think there's a long way to go before we need to start thinking about what is essentially polishing!
I can see how it may easily appear to be so, but it's actually not a matter of polish. You could be tempted to think so because of some reliance on sound cues, general visual cues and animations in my suggestions.

The non-trivial nature of these elements can perhaps be better understood by obviating what sort of interventions we're talking about here:
- Alien units' AI
We're talking about change in alien creature behaviours. Aproach to human targets, dedicated escape routes, charging headlong to get to melee attack range, understanding being suppressed, taking cover or just getting out of sight, evading/absorbing damage, etc...

- The appearance of aliens
This is not just about the aesthetic values of their portrayal, though we know frigtening and horrendous when we see it.

Their physical traits, as per your design, will largely dictate their movement speed and locomotion gait. If they are intended to move aggressively fast that has an effect; if they are to move at a lumbering pace due to weight, that too has a bearing.

On the other side of things, seeing a creature move clumsily or awkwardly has an effect too. It can almost make us laugh to confront the poor Flapper in Aftermath, or recoil with revulsion at the sight of Zombies.

I think you'll find here too skill is required to fittingly design, animate and give voice to these beings. This will impact your game beyond eye-candy, and also beyond stats.

- Control and loss of control
Loss of control is a very important aspect in this kind of game.

In TB games like X-Com the strongest implement of loss of control is the alien's turn [the famous "Hidden Movement"] that leaves players with their heart in their hands as the aliens proceed to do as they will virtually unhindered, and you have examples of partial loss of control when there is out-of-turn alien reaction fire, soldiers panicking or going berserk, etc.

The sort of diminished soldier ability I talked about results in an accordingly reduced level of control afforded the player. A severely wounded soldier will try to drag himself out of harm's way if you give him a movement order, but he'll be doing it at possibly insuficient speed due to his condition and there's nothing more you can do about it except hoping he'll make it. It's not just a new animation that you throw in - it's the introduction of still-useful intervening states in between the standard offer of 1)healthy 2)unconscious/dead.

- Dynamic fog-of-war
This significantly changes a player's outlook in terms of situational awareness during gameplay.

Because of this interface tool (which is what it is) player decision-making will be markedly assisted and some behind-the-scenes LOS/LOF/Field of View factors very intuitively and unobtrusively communicated.

There are many valid examples of this, but I'll give you a simple one: a soldier has been wounded and is on the floor unable to move. He's not unconscious however.
a) since he's now at ground-level his line of sight (the area already scouted and visible that's not not shrouded) is shortened. Whereas, standing, he would see farther, the unshrouded area consequently larger.
b) once he loses enough blood and becomes effectively unconscious, the area becomes completely shrouded to the player with only a "snapshot", as it were, of the scene as last you saw it on display.

Games lacking this feature leave it to the player to mostly guess how far each of his men can presently see around them. It's a distinctive feature and not a minor one - it's like having candles or being left in the dark...

If you're interested in featuring this in your game, however, you should note that it is not without implications graphical engine-wise. As I recall, ALTAR, the developers of UFO: AM/AS/AL, had to drop what they initially had in mind in this respect because their in-house engine was too taxed by it when they went about testing it.

::

Hopefully I shall have given you enough insight above to prove my points. The rest is up to you, Veteran...

#49 DeathOfRats

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Posted 11 January 2010 - 01:31 PM

First of all I would sign Thorondors statement: Creating the right atmosphere in an X-Com game is far from trivial and it's crucial. If I'm not scared and fascinated by the Aliens it's likely I get bored even if the gameplay is good.

I think a new XCom should be some kind of mixture of an improved management system of X-Com Enemy Unkown and the Soldier management of X-Com Aftershock (classes, exp, etc.)

I think enough people are thinking about how to improve tactical combat. I want to shine a little light on the management side:
It shouldn't be the major part of the game but it shouldnt be neglected as well.
It always bothered me that such a resourceful and complex thing as a whole country in X-Com only was represented by one number: the amount of money they gave you. Countries have their own detection devices, they have installations they can offer to me (or to the aliens for that matter).

Then tactical descions should have impact on the geoscape.
For example: I attack an alien base. Now I as commander have several options.
* Wipe the base clean (and perhaps with enough research and technologies keep it). The base remains either in my hands or deserted for whoever can grab it.
* Blow key positions of the base up. The Aliens abandon it or maybe repair it. If they abandon it there are some live aliens running around in the area terrorizing the people of the area.

This would influence the possibilities of tactical combat as well. Why wipe the base? Why not create a diversion at the entrance and sneak 1-2 soldiers with explosives past the aliens to blow the generator up or whatever.
Freedom of choice.

Scavenging
Taking the alien stuff with me is to easy. A transporter that can hardly fit my team with its equipment in it can easily take the alien stuff of a whole base or a big UFO. maybe the countries could help or some transport mission or I dont know.


Make the world look alive
Aliens abduct people. Maybe sometimes you can find an abductee in a Base or a Craft.

Make Civilians act reasonable. Not only Aliens lumbering towards their death ar irritating.

Even on the geoscape scale.

For example:
There are other human crafts out there other then the X-Com patrols.
Maybe transport or other civilian or military planes of friendly countries spot UFOs (and inform me about it).



Perhaps you can find something useful in there.
I'm an X-Com fan since "Enemy unkown" came out and I'm sure I can think of more things to improve or implement.
hmm and I'm sorry the post is a little unstructured and my English isn't as good as I want it to be.

#50 AlanatXcomHQ

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Posted 20 January 2010 - 11:12 PM

There is an interesting thought in that last post "the base remains either in my hands or deserted for whoever can grab it"

Perhaps after an alien base is raided and cleaned out of hostile aliens, what if X-com had the option (during the debriefing after the mission) to "move in". It would certainly allow X-com essentially a free base without having to BUILD a new one. The only advantage / disadvantage I think that should come with that decision is that:

Whilst you gain TONS of alien materials, corpses and tech to use at your disposal, they remain in the alien base in a "general stores" facility already made after the mission is completed and the player chooses to take the base (live aliens get taken back to your own base for study)

However, the disadvantage I think should be that the aliens will not hesitate in trying to get their base back quickly after your forces have taken it from them. Meaning if you want to keep it, leave a few soldiers there to make sure no alien raids suddenly take over your recently acquired base.

Another thing to consider with this is, should an alien base take up a slot in one of the 8 main bases X-com can have? Or should alien bases have their own set, in effect, lets say for example, the player can manage 8 X-com bases and 16 Alien Bases that they've taken over?

Another thing to consider is, if the player loses an X-com owned base made by the player (Like the one the player starts the game with, the HQ) do they have the option to take that base back and regain the facilities there? Or like in X-com 1 and 2 that as soon as you lose the base, you have to build a new one?
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#51 Zombie

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Posted 21 January 2010 - 12:36 AM

I think the 8-base limit should be lifted completely. Let X-COM build as many bases as they want. It would be cool to "take over" alien bases but it should probably cost you something to "retrofit" it so that it meets minimum standards (Hangars, LQ's, R&D, etc). And alien retaliation should be much more frequent if you take over their bases. :D

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#52 AlanatXcomHQ

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Posted 21 January 2010 - 02:45 AM

While lifting the 8-base limit seems like a good idea, one question did come to mind:
"At what point does it become financially become a burden on the player?"

What I mean is, if the 8-base limit is removed and the player decides to generate 20 bases, whilst they may have radar superiority over the world map, enabling them to find aliens instantly, it would be financially redundant to the player since the cost of maintaining 20 X-com bases and lets say another 20 Alien bases (so 40 in total) would be a huge financial burn in the X-com wallet.

Perhaps as a suggestion, what if the cap was raised to 10 X-com bases, with 20 alien bases? With each alien base costing roughly half of an X-com base (essentially 2 alien bases for the price of 1 X-com base) Meaning on a financial scale, the X-com wallet would in total have to maintain the equivalent on 20 X-com bases in total.

And as for the retrofit, what if facilities cost half in money to "retrofit" and half the time to "build"?
So for example, say a normal X-com facility took 20 days to build, in an alien base, the same facility would cost half as much and take 10 days to build. Although the function within them would still take the same amount of time (Like research could take 10 days to finish in both X-com and alien bases)
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#53 Zombie

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Posted 21 January 2010 - 05:11 AM

I suppose that's fair, but the point I'm trying to make is that the player should have complete control over the management aspect. If you want to build 20, 30 or even 40 bases around the world and go bankrupt because of the maintenance fees, so be it. If you can still make a go of it, more power to ya. :D

If more bases are allowed, I'd suggest lowering the detection radius of the radars and hyperwave decoder. Otherwise it would be too easy to gain the upper hand in detecting. :)

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JellyfishGreen said:

Zombie: Empirical data's your only man, when formulating a research plan.
A soldier's death is never in vain if it makes the formula more plain.
A few dozen make a better case for refining that third decimal place.
They call me Zombie because I don't sleep, as I slowly struggle to climb this heap,
of corpses, data points, and trials, but from the top - I'll see for miles!

#54 Space Voyager

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Posted 21 January 2010 - 08:07 AM

I like "soft caps" much more than hard ones. Becoming a financial burden seems far more "real" than just not being able to build more. It is a lot harder to balance, though.

#55 Bomb Bloke

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Posted 21 January 2010 - 12:06 PM

The logical way to limit bases is to limit the amount of cash they can produce.

In the original games, the more engineers you can house, the more money you can make. You never have more stuff then you can sell, and junk can be converted to cash on a whim.

Demand has to be capped in order to break this rule - once you're making more stuff then can be sold, it's no longer economically feasible to continue base expansion.

In short, a base should never be able to produce more money then it needs to maintain itself. So long as this is enforced, then the base limit - from the player's perspective - will depend on how much they can make from fighting the aliens and keeping the government's happy.

Mind you, the original games didn't give much incentive for making more bases beyond money-making. They were a good place to bulk-screen for psi, but there was no real reason to have more then one, perhaps two, alien tracking facilities. Especially true if an alien base turned up nearby (doubly so if it was filled with Floaters!).
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#56 AlanatXcomHQ

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Posted 21 January 2010 - 03:56 PM

Zombie: "If more bases are allowed, I'd suggest lowering the detection radius of the radars and hyperwave decoder. Otherwise it would be too easy to gain the upper hand in detecting."

Currently, in X-com 1 and 2, the image below shows the rough estimate on the detection radius.
Also consider that short and long range radars only have a 10-20% CHANCE of detecting alien ships, and apparently only check the radius once every half hour,  everything else (Like craft and hyperwave) has a 100% detection chance.
Posted Image

Yellow = craft, Green = Short range, Blue = Long range and Red = Hyperwave decoder.

I found this image from www.ufopaedia.org and thought it would certainly be a helpful guide.

Perhaps as a suggestion, what if the player was given an in-game representation of their radar radius, X-com 1 and 2 didn't show this, but the first hint of a radar radius I believe came from X-com Interceptor. Perhaps an image of a rotating sonar like radar above the base to show the player just how far they can scan. Plus the rotation can be done based on the speed the player decides to go through day.

So short range can rotate like 4 time an hour, whilst long range could do 2 times an hour.

As for reducing the radius of the scans, how much do you want to reduce it by? Because too many bases may very well make the player to have 1 main base with high-stat soldiers whilst the rest become nothing more then listening posts with interceptor hangers and psi/brave screens for raw recruits.
Plus could alien owned bases have radars? Or should there be a limit on what facilities can be made in an alien base?
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#57 Jman4117

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Posted 21 January 2010 - 05:16 PM

I'd say make bases takable, but it'd have to be known to the other side where that base is after that to offset the advantage of not having to dig your own hole for you base, and whatever other building advantages you got from taking a base from the other side. As for being able to build anything, I'd say yes. Anything that doesn't convert over to the other side's tech should be scrapped for materials that can be recycled or sold. You'd have that area as an empty tunnel/building frame or whathaveyou. You would then be able to build your facility in that space with only the need to place bulkheads and move in any equipment needed. Perhaps 1/3 time and 2/3 cost maybe, or go further and have a time/cost for the different stages of the construction, such as $50k and 6 days to dig and frame your 1x1 square, with $150k and 4 days to buy your equipment/walls and place it all in the unit.

As for radars showing up on screen, I'd say make it optional as to whether they want the sweep, a simple circle or nothing at all. Perhaps even with passive and active modes. Active would give the advantage of seeing it all, at the expense of alerting the enemy. Or alternatly, you could have the ability to place pickets near your base but not inside of it, to help conceal your base.

As for bases, there should be a soft cap based on economics. Start going into debt? You have too many bases. All bases should cost the same unless terrain factors into it. The only advantage with taking the enemy bases should be in the money saved on useful buildings captured and in the time saved digging tunnels for new buildings to go into.

As for aliens attacking to take it back, I think it should be moved to the top of the retaliation list. They want revenge for their base, and would like it back.
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#58 AlanatXcomHQ

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Posted 22 January 2010 - 02:23 AM

The only problem I can see about the other side (The AI) knowing where the base is, is a particular scenario of the AI being able to locate and at least attempt a raid on each base X-com owns and thus "remembering" where each base is  and sending their heaviest and strongest alien ships to attack it. Unless the AI is programmed to forget after a set time, this may lead to the AI being ruthless and effectively "haunting" the player's bases throughout the world. :D
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#59 SectoidEmperor

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Posted 26 January 2010 - 02:15 AM

A simple solution for the base-taking mechanic might be this.

After clearing out an alien base, you have two buttons labelled "Destroy" and "Occupy." If you decide to Destroy the base, it disappears off the map, just like in the classic games. If you decide to Occupy it, the base-menu comes up with your newly conquered base on it, and you can immediately start spending funds to convert alien facilities into your own. As others have said, this would be cheaper than building from scratch, but REALLY pisses off the aliens.

On a related note, what about the possibility of aliens having Base Defenses? It always struck me as odd that you could shoot down incoming craft, but the aliens couldn't. I think the Defense system in general was way too simplistic; it would be nice if there could be a flightsim-type minigame for landing at an enemy base or defending one of your own, like the Interception system.

I really like the suggested alien behaviors, particularly the "last fleeing alien." However, there'd need to be an incentive for the player to try to pursue the fugitive; a couple points more or less for bagging another corpse isn't much of a motivator for prolonging the mission. Additionally, I think some types of alien should flee, but others should not; some creatures would rather die than retreat. Actually, that's something that should be a major point throughout the game; vastly different behaviors for each race. Fighting Sectoids (or whatever) should feel really different from fighting Mutons (or whatever).

Also, hi everyone!

#60 Zombie

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Posted 26 January 2010 - 06:54 AM

View PostAlanatXcomHQ, on 21st January 2010, 9:56am, said:

Zombie: "If more bases are allowed, I'd suggest lowering the detection radius of the radars and hyperwave decoder. Otherwise it would be too easy to gain the upper hand in detecting."

Currently, in X-com 1 and 2, the image below shows the rough estimate on the detection radius.
Also consider that short and long range radars only have a 10-20% CHANCE of detecting alien ships, and apparently only check the radius once every half hour,  everything else (Like craft and hyperwave) has a 100% detection chance.
Posted Image

Yellow = craft, Green = Short range, Blue = Long range and Red = Hyperwave decoder.

I found this image from www.ufopaedia.org and thought it would certainly be a helpful guide.

Perhaps as a suggestion, what if the player was given an in-game representation of their radar radius, X-com 1 and 2 didn't show this, but the first hint of a radar radius I believe came from X-com Interceptor. Perhaps an image of a rotating sonar like radar above the base to show the player just how far they can scan. Plus the rotation can be done based on the speed the player decides to go through day.

So short range can rotate like 4 time an hour, whilst long range could do 2 times an hour.

As for reducing the radius of the scans, how much do you want to reduce it by? Because too many bases may very well make the player to have 1 main base with high-stat soldiers whilst the rest become nothing more then listening posts with interceptor hangers and psi/brave screens for raw recruits.
Plus could alien owned bases have radars? Or should there be a limit on what facilities can be made in an alien base?
Yup, I know about that image. The reason why I brought up lowering the detection radius was because of it in fact. :) I mean, doesn't it seem unrealistic that a land based radar system in X-COM can detect objects many hundreds of miles away? Radar works on the principal that you need line of sight to the target to detect it. The best Doppler radar systems can only see 150 miles out these days. Satellite based radar systems obvious circumvent the line of sight issue by placing the detector miles above the earth which increases the horizon. But the ufopaedia claims that's only for ground targets. There is also the issue of resolution, but I'm not about to go into that as I don't know much about it. :D

View PostAlanatXcomHQ, on 21st January 2010, 8:23pm, said:

The only problem I can see about the other side (The AI) knowing where the base is, is a particular scenario of the AI being able to locate and at least attempt a raid on each base X-com owns and thus "remembering" where each base is  and sending their heaviest and strongest alien ships to attack it. Unless the AI is programmed to forget after a set time, this may lead to the AI being ruthless and effectively "haunting" the player's bases throughout the world. :D
Maybe the aliens just assume that their base is destroyed since X-COM agents are superior at camouflaging? :) That would give you a little time to set the base up for X-COM use, but maybe the aliens conduct scouting runs and eventually discover activity.

View PostSectoidEmperor, on 25th January 2010, 8:15pm, said:

A simple solution for the base-taking mechanic might be this.

After clearing out an alien base, you have two buttons labelled "Destroy" and "Occupy." If you decide to Destroy the base, it disappears off the map, just like in the classic games. If you decide to Occupy it, the base-menu comes up with your newly conquered base on it, and you can immediately start spending funds to convert alien facilities into your own. As others have said, this would be cheaper than building from scratch, but REALLY pisses off the aliens.

On a related note, what about the possibility of aliens having Base Defenses? It always struck me as odd that you could shoot down incoming craft, but the aliens couldn't. I think the Defense system in general was way too simplistic; it would be nice if there could be a flightsim-type minigame for landing at an enemy base or defending one of your own, like the Interception system.

I really like the suggested alien behaviors, particularly the "last fleeing alien." However, there'd need to be an incentive for the player to try to pursue the fugitive; a couple points more or less for bagging another corpse isn't much of a motivator for prolonging the mission. Additionally, I think some types of alien should flee, but others should not; some creatures would rather die than retreat. Actually, that's something that should be a major point throughout the game; vastly different behaviors for each race. Fighting Sectoids (or whatever) should feel really different from fighting Mutons (or whatever).

Also, hi everyone!
Welcome! :)

I always found it strange that the crew being inserted into a base wasn't affected by the craft being shot at. You would expect that the number of aliens present would be fewer, but it isn't.

I'd envision that the last fleeing alien would be something like Apocalypse where there are points along the map where the aliens can escape. That way is stupid though because it is unrealistic that an open map only has a few spots open to evacuation. That said, if an alien did escape, there should be a bigger penalty because it would probably terrorize the public.  :D

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JellyfishGreen said:

Zombie: Empirical data's your only man, when formulating a research plan.
A soldier's death is never in vain if it makes the formula more plain.
A few dozen make a better case for refining that third decimal place.
They call me Zombie because I don't sleep, as I slowly struggle to climb this heap,
of corpses, data points, and trials, but from the top - I'll see for miles!




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