R9: "Sound Like a Hero"

by Kyzrati on 20130401 , under

Hear that?

It's the
hum of nearby power cores,
the twittering of alien terminals,
the footsteps of soldiers making their way across a lawn, pushing their way through foliage, and trampling crushed glass as they investigate a decidedly large opening in the side of a now-abandoned house, or the sound of aliens sneaking down a wooden hallway towards that very opening. Or not sneaking. You'll definitely know a sectopod when you hear one--let those mechanical steps strike fear into the heart of many a brave field commander!
It's the
charging of powerful laser cannons,
brick walls crumbling from an explosive impact,
spent shells rattling across the concrete,
bullets ricocheting off UFO hulls,
grenades bouncing down the hall (if you're close enough to hear this one, um, was nice knowing you),
glass storefronts being blown out (try the pressurized gas explosion of a small launcher for the coolest effect--since it just gets the windows ;p)
falling furniture smashing into a lower floor,
a growling reaper that must be right around the corner,
and the roar of a massive... well, you'll hear it when you do (hopefully before you see it so you still have time to run).

And that's just the beginning.

Weighing in at 850 sounds, R9 is the true beginning of creating the sense of immersion I envision as being core to the X@COM experience.

It's been a while since we had a nice whole number release following the modding bonanza that was R8 (which resulted in some very beneficial iterative development).

The highlights of this release are a super fast (relatively speaking) engine refactor (old post) and, of course, the new sound system, which I've posted a bit about recently, but here's a quick overview:
  • Ambient sounds are sourced from objects in the surrounding environment (area-based ambient sound will come at a later time when the map generation supports it)
  • Volume is distance-based, and allows for different falloff models depending on what makes the most sense
  • Weapons and explosions currently use a temporary set of sounds, a quick job meant just to cover the basic X-COM content
  • The system is, as usual, easily moddable: there are hooks in the data/code for weapons, destruction, various types of impact, death and injury, ambience, item interaction, etc.
  • Sound is also integrated with the event/ability scripting system, meaning just about anything can be audible if necessary

Among the smaller additions, melee attacks that fail to destroy terrain objects now show messages indicating how effective the hit was. This was a great community suggestion, since you generally don't have any idea whether what you're using to bash down that heavy door is going to knock it down anytime today. Later this will be slightly less of an issue once you can examine damage and integrity values in-game, but for now it could save you some time, especially useful in Rookie's Tale where melee items are the norm.

The log now implements message folding, so consecutive identical messages will just increase the count on the first one by using a suffix: "<x#>"

Proxy grenades now require priming as in the original. Don't drop them at your feet after priming them! Dropping them and picking them up again will deactivate them (of course you can only do that if you haven't moved from their location, or you use some kind of psionics to move them, entirely possibly one day as we've seen in Rookie's Tale--unlike the original, flying units cannot drop down to pick them up.) The game still supports grenades that auto-activate when thrown, for modding potential (that and X@COM smoke grenades still automatically explode).

On the scary side, aliens can use grenades! Oh my... This feature has not been retroactively added to old missions, though--it's only available in mods, and only where the modder intends it (by putting 'nades in alien hands ;p). At least there's only a *chance* they'll throw it at you.

So you want to finally hear all these new sounds? There are currently three ways:
  • The simplest (though not quite as fun) is to download the demo and run the sandbox, where you can play around with the weapons, shoot the house, etc.
  • You can also replay the old demo missions, but because game sounds are *deactivated* by default, you'll have to turn them on manually by editing the mission's .bat file: add the "-fullSound" command line switch. I recommend against this option since the experience will be fairly inconsistent given that they contain additional non-standard content for which there are no sounds.
  • Or... play this new mod created specifically to show off sound effects!
Welcome to Ground Zero.

So after years of playing X-COM you're a pro at taking on one landed UFO, sure, but how about multiple UFOs at once?

The weakest opposition you could face will be two medium scouts, plus whatever has taken up defensive positions in the surrounding structures, plus whatever else decides to show up depending on your performance. On average there will be around 3-4 UFOs, though, among them sometimes a large scout or even a terror ship.

As usual, expect some surprises along the way, though this is still a more traditional tactical mission, so don't bother using anything in the environment--I didn't go crazy with that system like I did when testing it in Rookie's Tale.

Beware of sectoid and ethereal leaders, since some of them may be capable of mind control (requires LOS though), and also try not to bunch up too much lest a well-placed alien grenade wipe your whole team out.

If you feel outgunned, Malachai can be a useful ally if you can find him early. He'll join you and follow around, hopefully covering your back with his minigun and super deadly skill with throwing knives (close combat only). Once he's joined, shift-f to highlight his position since he's an allied unit not under your control. (Malachai is one of our fans from YouTube whose enthusiasm for R9 has earned him a place in this mod =p)

Like exodus, completing this mission "successfully" shouldn't be too difficult (you could always hide, wait most of it out, and at least survive...), but scoring well will be quite difficult due to the various penalties for failure to achieve objectives.

Your primary goal is to take out power sources, and for that purpose you have a good number of remote charges. As a reminder of how to use them, (p)rime them with an empty hand to create a detonator, then place the charge and (u)se the detonator when ready to set it off. Make sure to place/throw them close enough to the power source to be able to destroy it!

This mod also includes a special new kind of remote explosive, the Hull Breacher, designed specifically for breaching UFOs and giving you a different point of entry for alternate tactics. Make sure you place them immediately adjacent to a UFO hull or wall, flip the switch, and surprise some aliens from behind!

Jackpot! Look at all those power sources...

So now's your chance to command a newly audible heroic squad to prevent the equivalent of a local Armageddon. Good luck if you're forced to land at night...

My advice: Move quickly, because the longer you take the harder it will get.

X@COM is finally getting some truly video-worthy content (sound makes a huge difference), and I was working on a Ground Zero compilation to show off this release, but lacking the time to edit and polish it I've put that aside for now. In any case, you can always download and play a round if you'd like to experience it now, or wait until I do get a video out there--now that sound is mostly in place the visuals/UI are going to start improving in leaps and bounds.

I'll be leaving for a couple weeks soon so there won't be any new posts for a while, but when I return in late April there will be a brand new sound-enabled mod ready from one of our modders.
15 comments more...


  • Anonymous

    Dear God. It's better than I dared hope. I'm stunned.

    If you ask me, you succeeded at the whole "immersion" thing. Spectacularly. Kudos, sir. Well done.

  • Kyzrati

    Thanks for the heads up. Though I don't have a system to test that out myself, the only thing that changed which might have affected compatibility with the system environment would be the switch from .wav to .ogg sounds, though I included the necessary DLLs...

    Can anyone else comment on successfully running R9 in Wine?

    (Also, is this a system error you're getting, or is it an error message in the game itself? If the latter, the reason will be written at the end of run.log found in the game directory--if it's gibberish you can send me a copy to decipher it)

  • Carnets Virtuels

    I've reDL and reinstalled the .dll, and now i can play R9 ! But not the .bat mods, only the R9.exe So no sound so far, yet.

    The message is "bad .exe format". From the console :

    wine: Mauvais format EXE pour Z:\home\tchey\Jeux\XCOMRL-R9\XCOMRL-Sandbox.bat.

    tchey@tchey-901:~/Jeux/XCOMRL-R9$ err:menubuilder:convert_to_native_icon error 0x80004005 getting frame 0
    err:menubuilder:convert_to_native_icon error 0x88982F04 committing encoder

  • Kyzrati

    (We got it sorted over e-mail. Turns out reinstalling the required Windows dlls was necessary, plus running the game directly through wineconsole. This could have been an issue unique to his particular Linux installation, though.)

  • Malachai13

    Wow, I cant believe I'm actually in the game :O (look up some of his vids on youtube, you"ll see our little role play conversation ;) )

  • Kyzrati

    Heh, yep, I did say I'd see about getting you in there. At the time though I wasn't sure if I'd be able to since I wasn't planning on making another mod at all, but then it looked like a slightly more traditional mission would be easy to put together and I could focus on including elements that show off the sound system.

    You'd have a bigger role if I was doing a more expansive mod, but I only spent a few days on this one. (I actually wrote your name into the design doc for Rookie's Tale Part II, but I doubt I'll ever actually make that mod.) You can find yourself in the back of a regular house (which may not appear on all maps, but if it's there it'll always be alongside the road) using your portable terminals to oversee operations of Malachai's 13 nearby.

  • Malachai13

    Ah, the 12 other members of my unit! :D We do the dirtywork no one esle can, heck, i bet we cleared what little LZ the XCOM boys got >:3

  • Tchey

    I've some questions, and as there is no proper forum, here they are :

    1 - What is "reaction fire" ? If my unit has some TU left, it will auto-react if possible (like, shot at an alien if it passes on sight) ? That's all, or there is some option i don't know ?

    2 - How do i use the medkit ? When i want to, i only get a message "there is no unit to heal" or something like that. My medic is just next to a wounded unit.

    3 - The medic cannot heal himself ?

    4 - Is it possible to walk backward or to straff ? I'd like to go backward while firing at an alien in a small street or corridor.

    5 - If my unit is on level 2 and wants to fire an alien on level 1, do i need to change it manually ? i mean, my unit is going to fire to nothing (the "air" on level 2), or what ?

    6 - Is there a good manual somewhere ? With alien descriptions, weapons, tactics... Which one should i pick ? xcom unknown defense ? I've seen the ufopedia, but it's quite large.

  • Kyzrati

    There is no official manual or tutorial since most of the mechanics are straight from the original game. It's true UFOpaedia.org is not the best way to learn simply because it's so much information, but that is the best source and definitely has everything. An alternative would be to find a copy of the original UFO Defense manual online, which at least shows the rules.

    1. Reaction fire is exactly what you say.

    2. To use the medkit you have to be adjacent to, and facing, the target unit (friendly or not).

    3. Nope. A medic has to give the medkit to someone else to do the healing if he himself is hurt.

    4. No backwards or strafe movement. I was considering adding at least backwards movement, though tactically this could be a cheap move that somewhat imbalances the gameplay.

    5. Yes, you have to change levels. The game will always fire where you aim, even if it's just the air, because it has no idea what you want to target, and you could very well want to fire through the air into the darkness, or to hit a wall somewhere, or whatever.

    6. Most guides will give you too much information, considering that X@COM is only a battlescape right now. I did find one strategy guide for you that covers the basics of combat, and includes even descriptions of aliens and weapons, by M-Chan.

  • Andrew Sundberg

    Well, that wasn't that bad.


    Four survivors: a support, my demolitionist, my Assisting Commander and my Commander. Those Armored Colossi were pretty hard to kill until I realized their own lasers were strong enough to kill themselves; all it took were a few 'volunteers' to goad them into shooting their own feet. After they were out of the way mopping up was easy.

    Of course, you don't want to hear about the scenario, lovely as it is. The new sound system, to be blunt, is absolutely amazing. There are a few hiccups; the most obvious one is that, when you end your turn, all ambient noise halts immediately (instead of fading out or continuing on with your last selected soldier.) That's just a minor part; it's absolutely amazing.

  • Anonymous

    /*originally commented on wrong post, sorry */
    How can this scenario be completed with good results?

    I finished it 3 times, twice colossi were summoned, but I destroyed them, third time I destroyed all power sources on time, but it took a while to kill every remaining alien. I also got my experimental units and found Malachai in all three games.
    I searched everything for live aliens.
    And I had to move my remaining units to an evacuation zone everytime, and got a debriefing in the end, that things were not going as planned.

  • Kyzrati

    @Andrew: Glad to hear you're liking the advances in R9. Also, that's *not* how you're supposed to kill the Armored Colossi (!), though I've heard of others using that tactic as well. It is completely possible to kill them using the experimental HWPs--I've done it, though it's not easy (less so because some of the weapons aren't as effective against their armor, but it's hard to tell which from within the game since we don't have UFOpaedia access yet). Really you're supposed to just take out all the power cores first (also possible) so they don't even appear.

    @Anonymous: Maybe you're focusing on the text a bit much, which may not seem all that positive because it assumes you can't finish the mission perfectly, especially since you can't avoid losing your Skyranger. Nonetheless, as long as it says the mission is a "success", then technically it was still successful. Either way, success is probably better measured by your score--positive is good, negative is bad :) It's impossible to avoid using the evac zone, as the mission won't end even if you kill all the aliens. The best you can do (safely) is take out all the power cores on the map before any teleportation occurs, then keep as many soldiers alive as possible until they can evac. The much more dangerous but potentially more rewarding path is to allow the teleportation and take out everything they throw at you, plus the cores and all the aliens you can, before evacuating. That will net you a lot more points, but it'll be hard to not lose a bunch of guys in the process (and the HWPs, which are worth even more).

    Sounds like you have been doing fairly well, actually, there's just no way the game can show more than two different debrief texts since I'm still working with a limited set of options in terms of overall level design, so I opted to go with a somewhat vague one for the "success."

  • Kyzrati

    @Andrew: I forgot to mention that the sudden cutoff of ambient sound is intentional, and I never meant for it to continue with your last selected soldier since that could end up being disorienting--at that point the focus should be on whatever sounds are caused/created by events in the environment. Ambience is only for use while you're controlling a specific soldier, and you aren't unless it's your turn. I could at least consider fading them out if it seems necessary during the polish stage.

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