Xenonauts-2 October Progress Update
We've had a very busy month here at Goldhawk HQ, so this is going to be quite a long post! I'll be giving a general update on our progress but mostly I'll be talking about our plans for the beta.
In general I want to apologize for being relatively quiet here on Kickstarter and on our forums over the past four or five weeks - the harder we're working, the harder it is for me to find time to answer questions or write updates. And with the closed beta approaching we've been very busy indeed!
Closed Beta Release Date
Although I never announced it formally, my target date for the beta was always 7th November - but unfortunately we're not going to hit that date. Thankfully the delay won't be quite as bad as I initially feared, though, and we're now aiming for Wednesday 28th November (the alternative was the 9th January but we managed to avoid that).
We primarily want to test the game and fix problems during the closed beta, and we'll move into Early Access once the game is fairly stable and fun to play. This means you shouldn't expect the early beta builds to be a particularly enjoyable gameplay experience - that's the end goal of the beta, not the starting point!
The focus of the very first beta build is just going to be whether all the core systems are present and functioning correctly for everyone. It will contain the full strategy layer - the Geoscape, base building, interceptable UFOs flying around, air combat, fighting crash site missions, Research and Engineering projects, saving / loading, etc. However, we're going to limit the campaign to being about two weeks long (e.g. just the two smallest UFOs will spawn) - as I said, the purpose of this first build is testing!
The playable period will then be extended with each new beta build we release. The next build will likely bring in the Corvettes and Fighter UFOs, and the build after that might bring in the Terror Sites and Alien Base missions, etc. By the time the third or fourth build rolls out you should be able to properly play a good section of the campaign and we'll start polishing up the game balance.
This approach should make it easier for us to hit our Nov 28th target and also better align the community feedback we receive with our priorities - e.g. we need to check the foundations of the game are working properly before we start collecting feedback on anything else.
General Progress Update
So what have we been working on in the last month? We've added quite a few small features and new weapons (e.g. X-Com style Proximity Grenades have been added) but the two biggest things are the new inventory / item system and creating the first major batch of maps.
I'll start with the maps. We've always had a few test maps for each type of mission in the game, but I recently say down and did our first large-scale test of the map editor by creating 30 crash site maps for the Probe / Scout UFOs across all six of the biomes that exist on the Geoscape.
The nicest thing about these maps is that they're built out of semi-randomised "blocks", so they support a much higher level of randomisation than the maps in Xenonauts 1 did. I'll write a longer post on how the map editor works at some point in the future, but for wilderness maps I think we could feasibly export at least 3 variants of each one and a player would have no idea that they shared a common layout.
In the example above, a "block" is a 16x16 map section that contains something like a set of cliffs or a building or an open area. If I were to export the map again, the editor would randomly pick one of several different possible map sections for each "block" - so the building "block" between the helicopter and the UFO would always contain some kind of building, but it could just as easily be a trailer park or a gas station instead of the house that was used in this export of the map.
Like everything else in the game, the maps and the map editor will need further work - but the basic systems are actually working pretty well and you guys should have a decent amount of map variety even in the first beta build.
Next up, the new inventory / item system. This is what allows soldiers to have a grid-based backpack and belt, and it also allows units to move the contents of their inventory around in battle and pick up items from the ground. Because items are extensively passed back and forth from strategy to ground combat and touch on every part of the game from the base stores and the UFO contents to unit inventories and the 3D models displayed in the combat, updating everything to the new system has been a LOT of work.
This system is now largely functional - and it's pretty cool to be able to loot equipment from dead bodies or swap your equipment out on the inventory screen! There's a lot of usability issues, special-case items and UI work we still need to fix up before this system can be considered totally finished, but hopefully we'll be able to deal with some of the more obvious ones before the beta begins.
Finally, we've spent a lot of time ensuring that the core gameplay loop works as intended - i.e. you can shoot down UFOs or generate ground missions through other means, you fight those ground missions, then the results of that mission are carried back to the strategy layer.
Anything that blocks this gameplay loop is considered a critical bug and we had to spend more time fixing such issues than we were expecting (quite a few appeared as a result of the changes to the inventory / items system). There's also a whole class of bugs that work perfectly fine in the Unity Editor where we develop the game, but break as soon as you compile a build for general distribution - as you can imagine, those can be rather difficult to track down and fix!
I'm expecting to have the key features for the first beta build and the critical bugs fixed by the end of the week, which would give us a month to work on polishing the game before beta. Things are still going to be pretty rough by the time beta arrives, but hopefully we can get rid of the most obvious problems before it does.
That's it from me for this month - apologies for the delay but hopefully you can understand our logic. Expect another Kickstarter Update as Nov 28th approaches with specific details about how and when beta backers will be getting their keys!