XCOMRL

2013 and Beyond

by Kyzrati on 20131223 , under

And another year comes to a close...

2013 started out extremely strong with six months of heavy development, probably the number one highlight of the year being SOUND. We expanded beyond UI sound effects to gunfire, impacts, explosions, destruction, screams, ambiance and much more (850 sounds in all). It's definitely the most extensive use of sound in any ASCII roguelike to date, and it's only the beginning.

If you haven't checked any out yet, I highly recommend testing one of the full sound-enabled mods. My own mod, Ground Zero, has a lot of special content if you're looking for a unique X-COM experience. Farm and Terror are what you'll want for the traditional game plus X@COM sound effects. And for something completely new (mech warfare!), try out Union.

The past six months have been less active, though I have been working behind the scenes in several capacities including providing support and development builds for mods, as well updating the engine with features that can be shared by Cogmind and X@COM. So while we haven't had any major releases, the internal change log is still chugging along. Even so, the blog still attracts a lot of visitors and many downloads daily.

Once again it's time for the Roguelike of the Year poll, so if you enjoy the game and all the new features added please consider throwing in a vote for X@COM. You can vote for more than one game, so be sure to pick all the roguelikes you support (or check out some that you've probably never heard of!).

Showing your support for X@COM will help maintain the game's popularity and build more latent potential for when development picks up steam again, hopefully in 2015. I'm sure looking forward to getting back to X@COM, but 2014 will be the Year of Cogmind, and a wonderfully destructive robot-filled year it will be!

I was hoping to release a new mod by Aves Dominari by this month, but it's a rather big one being worked on in spurts so I guess it'll be done some time next year (no pressure, dude!).


1/13/2014: As usual X@COM fared well in the poll, again beating the previous year's record by accumulating 172 votes this time, coming in 14th out of several hundred. This year didn't feature any categorical breakdowns (of which X@COM is likely to top several), but you can check out the overall list here.
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ARRP 2013

by Kyzrati on 20130922 , under

This weekend is the Annual Roguelike Release Party, but unless there are a lot of late comers and devs who didn't pre-announce releases, it's certainly a lot less lively than in recent years.

I usually like to release something myself, but ARRP is sort of a non-event for X@COM itself this year, so here's a little progress update instead.

As mentioned in the previous post I've been working on Cogmind, but at the same time it's been leading to improvements in both the engine and X@COM's source. Most are internal improvements you'll never see, but there is one significant change in the latest development build that optimizes the X@COM GUI to give another 7% boost in FPS. \Awesome/

We also have a nice X-COM mod in the works featuring greatly expanded psionics and selection of tech level, squad, equipment, and alien opponent. Would've been nice to release that for ARRP, but it's a rather big project (though well on its way to completion). If interested in playtesting and offering advice on content etc., feel free to grab a development copy and join the discussion on the forum.

R9.5 will be released with the mod when it's completed.

Cogmind

While I don't have anything to release this weekend, seeing as how ARRP is all about not developing in silence, in that spirit I hereby officially "announce" Cogmind. You can get information through the dev blog, and/or Facebook and Twitter.
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No Guts, No Glory

by Kyzrati on 20130825 , under

A competing title for this post would be "No Time, No Game," but that's decidedly more negative so I'll go with with guts and glory.

Problem:
Aside from my other real-life responsibilities right now, I have about 6-8 hours per day for both work *and* play. (Helpful tip: When you have a kid be prepared to sacrifice most of your free time, at least in the short term.) As such, I don't have enough time to give X@COM the development love it needs to progress to the next stage.

Non-solution:
Trying to fund this project is not feasible until it's further along, mostly because it's a large project with still 12 or more months of full-time work required to reach a respectable 1.0. I need at least $1k/month to get by, which comes out to a rather large investment for something that even once re-branded and sell-able (discussed earlier) may not be able to raise much money.

Solution:
My entire life I've enjoyed making games, and losing all my project time to boring work obligations is a situation I'd prefer to avoid if possible. So I'm going to go out on a limb and try something new by creating a smaller game for sale. Smaller, but fun, polished, and completable within a shorter time frame. Even if the game doesn't exactly recoup all the expenses incurred (although I hope it will), the required investment of time and money will be worth it simply for the experience.

Where does this leave X@COM?
It's actually not as bad as it sounds, especially considering that the alternative is me doing nearly no coding at all. Because the new game is using the X@COM engine and code base, I can use working on it as an excuse/method to continue improving X@COM. While they will mostly be internal improvements (which have honestly been long overdue), beyond that the secondary goal of creating this new game is as a "pilot project" to see how feasible it is to market a slick console-based game. If it looks doable I'll fund an X@COM spinoff tactical project myself. So this could be very good news for X@COM.

In fact, I recently started work on this other game behind the scenes and it's already led to upgrades in X@COM, one of the largest being a re-write of the data loading system that will enable selective add-on content instead of just full mods.

In general I'd say the situation is less than ideal because X@COM already has a fairly strong (if not broad) following, and I don't want to leave you guys hanging, but this is the best option I can see for X@COM right now. Know that I've by no means lost interest in this project--I really want to continue, but reality can be annoying like that!

In the meantime, mod support will continue and new mods will be posted here as usual. Occasional minor updates to the game may also occur, but the next phase (R10+) is a major step in development so that won't be happening until I can dedicate the chunks of time necessary.

What can you do? Show support for development of the "other game" and if it's somewhat successful then I can more easily justify making a larger investment to create the full game X@COM is intended to become.

Tell me more about this "game":
It's actually no stranger to anyone who's been following my projects for a long time:


Yes, Cogmind is making a return. This time with a real story, greatly expanded gameplay, and a much-improved interface. It's going to rock.

After some initial coding I've been busy putting together a new website and devblog where you can follow my progress, but it's not live yet so there aren't any links to hand out.

More X@COM news, please:
Actually there is a bit of an update to tack on to this post. 10101 has updated his Terror missions mod to the latest R9.4 (means you get access to the new label system) *and* added some nice new content: Now you may find a large police station (complete with police officers who need your help!), or an even larger apartment complex (one-quarter of the map!). Some laser rifles come with attached grenade launchers ('u'se them), and instead of the missile tank you may spawn with a new prototype tank.

Happy hunting!


EDIT: A couple days after posting Strange guy also released a little update for his latest mod Union: "I merged the light sniper and carbine, fixed a few rubble in walls problems, made the shockers and mk8cs weapons a bit stronger and longer range, made what mode executors and mk8cs are in part of their name and reduced the score loss for plasma trooper death a bit with them being short range and fragile." The download page has been updated with the new version.
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Mod: "Union"

by Kyzrati on 20130807 , under ,

Strange guy has finally released his mech warfare mod, Union.

The target, a garrison town controlled by the United Planetary Federation, has already been bombarded prior to your arrival, but the enemy presence is still strong. Lead a mixed squad of Union troops including infantry, special forces, and mechs to clear out the opposition.

I've played this one several times already, and it's full of good old mech-blasting, tree-stomping action. Torch infantry squads with mech-mounted flame throwers, use laser targeting to call in artillery and air strikes, launch disposable rockets carried by special forces, switch some mech shields to different modes depending on the situation, and (lots, lots) more.

Of course, you need to be careful lest an effective assault is turned into horrible losses in the blink of an eye when a unit of patrolling mechs finds you exposed at the wrong place. One of my more recent runs was going swimmingly, having already taken out five enemy mechs and a few infantry before a flamethrowing mech emerged from the darkness and melted one of my own to scrap. In that same turn I'd thought I could sneak up behind a soldier manning his mounted heavy machine gun, but ran out of TUs right before getting to him--he swiveled it around and opened up, blowing through both that guy, the door behind him, and my other special forces guy providing cover outside. (I got sweet revenge with my snub-nose cannon, which caused a *much* bigger explosion than I expected, much to my satisfaction ;p)

Here most of the fires have already died out after the advance across town.






Starting squad in one mission, labeled.

Best run so far.

In a way, this mod is a little before its time, as Strange guy has included a lot of interesting mechanics, details, and lore which aren't accessible within the game itself. Seeing how the game still lacks support for in-game reference information, you'll want to at least skim over the accompanying README-Union.txt file to get the most out of this mission. (Several times I've considered supporting that feature immediately, specifically for Strange guy's mods which generally have a lot of detail, but due to the level of integration necessary and the fact that the HUD isn't ready yet, from a development timeline perspective it's better to put it off rather than have to rewrite it later.)


R9.3

I've also taken this opportunity to upload the latest build: R9.3.

The most notable features (as seen in the previous post) are the new map labels, animated explosion AOE previews, a new explosive priming interface, and glowing indicators for primed explosives. See the change log for a complete list.

Union uses R9.3 so you'll get to see all these features in this mod as well.
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Paramilitary Intelligence

by Kyzrati on 20130629 , under ,

As part of the beginning of the UI update, the latest additions have been about getting more info on the battlescape map.

Holding different number keys will identify visible objects by name. Here you can see labels popping up for enemies, then soldiers (much more fun with sound):

Your soldier names can also be color-coded by their remaining health.
Enemies are also identified this way when first spotted, as are all of those in line of sight at the beginning of each turn.

Also use labels to quickly check what items your soldiers are currently holding, and those that are lying on the ground (for stacks of items, it will cycle through them as you hold down the key):

Your soldiers' armament is also color-coded by percentage ammo remaining, where applicable.

Any number of types of labels can be displayed simultaneously, depending on how many keys you want to hold down.

Explosives will be (somewhat) safer to use, now that you can see their area of effect without resorting to square counting. It works for both firing explosive projectiles and throwing primed explosives, and uses brighter colors for higher damage--the blaster launcher calculation looks like... a super nova :) Here's a small rocket:

The animation will properly predict explosion dampening by various obstructions based on their material.

There's also a new (proper) grenade priming interface that replaces the old (okay, ancient) placeholder input method.


Since there's rarely reason to prime a timer to anything but 0, that will be the default behavior (skipping the window entirely) unless you press an extra key to manually open the priming interface.

Props and items can now be animated, though I don't plan to go crazy with the feature myself, as it could get distracting. UFO power sources do have a gradual glowing effect now, and explosive devices primed by your soldiers and thrown or left lying in the open will glow, too.
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Two Years of X@COM

by Kyzrati on 20130608 , under

Two years of development squeezed into "one" image. Imagine that. Okay, no imagination necessary--it's right there.

It might change at some point soon (if/when I move), so here's a shot of the X@COM dev station as it's remained since the game's inception:
For the curious.
The screen setup is me working on the 3D particle system yesterday, adding support for more dynamic map objects as a first step towards an improved battlescape UI.

The IDE scrollbars are especially useful, since they show the code formatting/indentation and other important information for reference. Here are some examples, because they just look neat by themselves:

X@COM source! Sort of.

Beginning tomorrow I'll be out of town for a couple weeks so there won't be much to show in the near term.


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Do it for the Earth!

by Kyzrati on 20130601 , under

The project will be going on two years soon. Wow.

Interestingly enough this is the result of a... slight deviation from the original plan. I started with the intention of making a simple, quick X-COM project--after all, the game mechanics are widely documented, and I could've made a complete clone in a year if I stuck to that plan.

But after only the first few months of development it became apparent that this could be much more epic, and therefore much more meaningful (on its own, an exact remake in ASCII has gimmicky appeal at best). So it's taken a while to get to this stage as I created a flexible engine and tested it with a long series of increasingly feature-rich demo missions. While there's still a long way to go, we now have a strong foundation to build on and the potential is evident.

And there's been a lot of fun along the way--the semi-regular blog posts have been well-received, and at least some of you have already gotten many hours of enjoyment out of the alpha demos. I know many more are waiting on the sidelines for the geoscape and sacred 1.0 release. We'll get there.

In the meantime, I'm finally opening the project to donations. Check out the new "Donate" page for more details. Tell your neighbors! Tell your parents! Tell your rich uncle! On second thought, tell people who might give a damn ;p  (Later that day...: Okay, I changed my mind for now. No donations. They were available for about a nine-hour window but fortunately (?) no one took advantage of that, so this change affects approximately 0 people. After thinking it over some more, I don't think donations will be significant enough to enable me to continue putting lots of time into development (big assumption but I don't want to take the chance), and a lack of progress would rub people the wrong way. So from here on out things might slow down a bit while I work on something that will actually be at least a little profitable for a change. But hey, though short-lived at least donations were a good reason to finally put up the associated post containing my first geoscape mockups--now back to that post...)


And because I do try to have something visual for you with every post, here's a little peek at what I've been researching lately. (Plus it was a good tie in for a post title :) Keep in mind these are MOCKUPs (and rough ones at that) thrown together with a combination of REXPaint and Photoshop. The geoscape still doesn't even exist in the source code aside from that global pointer I wrote in when I first started the project. (FYI: It is currently NULL ;) The geoscape will most likely end up looking very different from these, but hey, they were fun to make!

There's the obligatory terminal green map. While simple, it's nice that all the important dynamic stuff is easy to spot.


This one just looks neat. And besides, land is where most of the important stuff is anyway (this not being TFTD), so having it clear is helpful, too. Unless of course you want terrain details...


A colored terrain-based map is useful, though this version doesn't yet look very ASCII-ish (or X-COM-y). (Each terrain should have its own ASCII, but I did those you see manually using PS patterns, and I wasn't going to spend forever choosing ASCII and placing them properly!) Ideally the foreground (character) would have the primary color, and the background would probably be black, but since it currently only contains two different characters that version is *very* hard to read, so I tried this one out.

The geoscape isn't a near-term development goal, mind you, but it's definitely something I've been researching a lot lately because getting it right will take some time--there are a lot of issues to consider, mostly surrounding how to best store and display Earth data (everything else is trivial by comparison).

I'll start an in-depth discussion of the geoscape once the forums are up and running.

In case you haven't seen it yet, there is an ongoing discussion regarding a new name for X@COM. See the previous post, and the Bay 12 thread starting here.


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