Flying Suit or Crystal Plate?

by Kyzrati on 20121018 , under

Lately I've been reviewing my plan to make mid-mission armor swaps a reality for X@COM, and thought I'd throw my ideas out there to see if any of you have any opinions/suggestions.
I originally didn't bother with this feature since I was trying to keep everything fairly simple and focused on the tactics, so armor currently isn't even represented as an instantiated object in the game. Now I'd like to turn armor into an actual item, mostly intended for mods and special uses, since in a standard X-COM mission your soldiers would obviously be suited up beforehand and are unlikely to have time or reason to swap out while on the ground.

First of all, switching armor shouldn't be as trivial as firing a weapon or sprinting some distance, so it should have a fairly high cost, perhaps 100% TU to remove and another 100% TU to equip, striking a balance between so quick it's unrealistic/too easy and so slow it's annoying/wasteful (the costs are of course adjustable, or even vary by armor type, though probably only in special cases).

For this I'm proposing the addition of "multi-turn actions." Based on this concept, the cost of removal/equipping can be split across more than one turn, thus you can start taking your armor off this turn with your remaining 43% TU, then next turn start with 57% less TU, deducted as the remainder of the previous turn's removal action. This would lessen the impact of the action on a single turn, and not require that you do absolutely nothing else for a given turn in order to complete the action (which could waste a lot of extra TU the turn before). Some special actions added later could also take advantage of the multi-turn system, like hacking an alien computer terminal, which could be set to take 200%, 300%, or whatever makes sense.

The biggest issue with swappable armor is unit representation. Right now armor changes a unit's color, which has worked fine since X-COM soldiers are traditionally the only units with non-racial armor, and a few color shades are enough to effectively convey the difference while still knowing who's in your squad. As alternate armors become more widespread, colors are no longer sufficient to show armors without making the map somewhat more difficult to decipher at a glance, not to mention we'll soon run out of colors. (Even without armor swapping this would become an issue eventually, because I'm not going to stick with the meager three armor types of the original, and many more types of enemies could have armor since there are going to be quite a few possible human factions out there.)

Here in the first two rows are the original unit glyphs, followed by a semi-hollowed test for an armored unit. The third is the less-than-satisfactory result of thinking that an "armored" unit should perhaps have "more" color than an unarmored one, so I thought of switching unarmored units to have a slightly faded outline, and the current full-color glyph represents an armored unit.
It may be difficult to tell whether some of these will work in the game, even more so because they're not colored here, but the glyphs are easy to swap, so we can look at some screenshots later. Should also look into other alternatives. Suggestions?

Another issue is inventory items. Remember (or maybe you didn't know) that armor also provides your non-racial inventory slots; e.g., humans have L/R hand slots, but the rest of their slots come from armor. Equipping new armor would mean you'd have to drop all your items (this could be done automatically for sanity's sake), then pick them all up again and put them in whatever slots your new armor provides. I don't think this is too much of an issue since someone loaded down like that is unlikely to swap armor, plus armor swapping is mostly for mod use, anyway--I envision a character starting with no armor and finding some only later.

This could lead to some interesting gameplay, especially since armor can now provide you with special abilities, so you could equip an exoskeleton that enables you to bash through walls, for example, or a medic suit that comes with a built-in medi-kit, or even armor that automatically heals the wearer. Hell, why not a battlesuit that allows you to chain fire rockets! Okay, getting a bit carried away there... lots of possibilities, anything you can do through the special ability system, really.

EDIT: Nearing the end of my to-do list for the armor-item conversion, and just dropped in some new unit glyphs to test them out in the sandbox (perhaps more appropriately called the grassbox in X@COM):
I like A, the relatively unobtrusive design submitted Shirson. I think I like it better than the more uniform triangle of B. C, the hollow/outline design shown earlier looks pretty cool, but isn't quite appropriate to represent armor. The angular triangles of D/E look too much like L's when diagonal, so they don't work well at all. F, one of the original ideas mentioned, just looks weird. For now I'm probably going to stick with A.
15 comments more...


  • rezaf

    Basically, while I agree multi-turn actions could be a useful thing, I think mid-mission armor swapping is fairly unneccessary. If you can implement it without major headaches, fine, but I hope you don't get caught up in this issue.
    And since you say you are mainly implementing this for modding purposes (which is a great move on your part), maybe you could make a armor-property which can be used to allow or disallow mid-mission swapping?
    I can see someone taking off a leather suit and equipping a military suit, but a flying armor would probably require some sort of assistance - at least I imagine that to be the case.

    In any event, it's great to see how much progress you've been making lately. I can't wait until one can actually play a X-Com style "campaign" in X@Com. Firaxis' effort was fairly disappointing to me, so all hope rests on your shoulders now*. Don't disappoint, son! ;)

    *I guess there's Xenocide, too...

  • Kyzrati

    No comments on the triangles I've got there already? Or suggestions for other visual styles? That's really the biggest issue here, one that'll make the game look a bit different, and by changing the most frequently seen symbol, at that.

    @rezaf: I totally agree that armor swapping isn't necessary for X-COM, which is why I didn't put it in to begin with. It would be a feature that exists for mods only, just something I'd like to build into the system early for optional use. I don't see flying suits as something you'd switch real quick, either (unless maybe you develop some tech that allows you to quickly shed your armor by blowing it off in several pieces, leaving you with some kind of "under-armor" that enables quicker/stealthier movement?).

    It's not something that I'd get "caught up in", so don't worry about that! I could do it fairly quickly, just wanted to see what everyone else thought. The reason I want to add it now is *I* want to use it for something special ;p

    As you mention, it'd be a good idea to have armors able to be set to *not* be swappable--it shall be done.

    I, too, was fairly disappointed by the Firaxis remake. I'm having trouble forcing myself to go back and play it any more than the few hours I've put into it... It's an okay strategy game in its own right, but it's still not really X-COM--too dumbed down in too many aspects, horrible 3D where you can shoot *through* almost anything, bullets that hit your target and then say *missed*--WTF. And I never even once shot an ally in the back by accident! Even worse, the maps are tiny and the encounters are so not dynamic--groups of enemies trigger only when you reach a certain location, so there's no way you could be flanked by aliens that you didn't know were there. Actually, on most maps it's pretty much impossible to be flanked at all because they're so tiny... I want truly random maps where the enemies are pretty much *all* there to begin with and can do whatever they want, like get behind you without being spotted, or are *already* freaking behind you when you arrive. None of this is really feasible due to the small squad size, of course, another drawback in my opinion but it's all sound design on their end. Oh well, not my cup of tea.

    I can't wait to play a campaign in X@COM, either, but I'm not going to rush development. Got to do it "right" ;p

  • Kyzrati

    Now there's a nice suggestion--thanks Shirson! I was toying with the idea of using designs cut into the glyphs themselves, but may also want to reserve that for small rank identifiers (or at least a single differentiating appearance for very high ranking units to distinguish them a bit more).

    In any case, we'll see how these various options look in the game once I've finished adding armor items and we can take a look at this stuff in the field. Made some progress yesterday, but real work has been slowing me down of late.

  • Jani Kaksonen

    Maybe some advanced armors (power armors) could work like they have eject option; slow to equip but fast to exit. This would make interesting unit - something that can break trough the heavy defence and then turn to fast scout/skirmish unit behind the enemy lines.

    Abadoned power armor could also be seized by humanoid aliens ... or set to self destruction to make expensive IED. Maybe even so that armor moves by itself to target...

  • Kyzrati

    Ooh, I really like the idea of animated armor. In fact, I think I'll find a way to stick that into my next release for fun ;)

    Alien traps are cool, too, and be set on unconscious allies to be even nastier.

    I alluded to the possibility of quick-shedding heavy armor in an earlier comment, so I definitely agree there. That's something others can include in mods in the short term, or I can do when I make the complete dataset later.

  • Kyzrati

    Yeah, in and of itself D looks okay, but it's a question of how easy it is to tell what's going on, and when facing diagonals the units look like 'L'/corner shapes--not good for distinguishing them from a bunch of nearby props. At least D suffers less from this issue than E, since D includes a slight shade inside the missing part (though it's almost unnoticeable). Either way, later on you'll be able to mod in whatever you want, so you can always switch your mod to use them if you like ;)

  • Chris Bean

    I like both A and D, but you may think about changing the smaller color based on armor type. The outline would determine the race in this case. Or vice versa. Also a quick put on light armor, like the briefcase in Iron Man 2. Great job btw, keep up the good work.


  • Kyzrati

    Thanks! A second color would certainly change what's possible, but I'd rather not colorkey the fonts for now--the engine keeps it simple, limiting us to one color (and shades of that same color) per character.

  • Canageek

    Sorry to comment so late; Why does the armour have to have a facing? Why not just use a new symbol for it once it hits the ground? That would make it easier to tell from a trooper, which is a problem I see with the above arrows.

  • Kyzrati

    I think you've misinterpreted the purpose. These are different glyphs for units currently wearing armor, not armor items themselves. Armor items right now use braces, a unique ASCII symbol like any other item might use.

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