Mod: "Aggression"

by Kyzrati on 20121031 , under

And we have our first total conversion by Andrew Sundberg! (maker of Cataclysm+)

Take control of a party of orcish raiders as they put the smack down on a human town, or die trying. The party is led by the warlord himself, supported by grunts, archers, a varg, and the oh-so-deadly Elder. Face off against guards, adventurers, mounted knights, mages, monks and more. And don't forget to slay some peasants!

Here is my gang of orcs after having cut a bloody path through the town, now preparing to break into the graveyard crypt to find out what's in those sarcophagi: 

And here were the results of my last test run (I didn't even use my fuming vials!):
Not quite as good as my first run using an earlier version, but Aggression got a bit more difficult since then :)

So go get some Aggression on the files page, and if you'd like to discuss it feel free to join us on Bay 12 or the X@COM modding forum.

This mod wasn't too long in the making--most dev time was consumed by tweaking and balancing, then it sat around in the incubator forum while playtesters gave it a spin (and I've been waiting to upload it since the primary server is down). Expect even greater work from Andrew and other modders in the future!

Note: The primary server is still down, so the site looks a bit weird without its proper fonts and images, including the background image... Downloads are fine though, since I've set up a mirror.
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R8, Now with Extra 0.1

by Kyzrati on 20121023 , under

R8 just got a little update, mostly just bugfixes for new features the modders are using, along with a slew of internal tweaks to help them improve existing mods and bring you even better ones.

Of course there is one big change for players: Armor is now an item that can be removed, as described in the previous post. Ctrl-r is the key to both equip and remove armor, which requires two free hands. These actions can also be performed by mouse through the inventory screen. Most of the regular armors are not removable, but for now it'll at least be of some help in Cataclysm since you can pick up bulletproof vests and the like off dead policemen and unique units.

You'll need to grab the new version to play future mod releases, and I updated Cataclysm+ to v3--it's now compatible with 8.1.
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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.
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R8: "You Added What?!"

by Kyzrati on 20121013 , under

Recently on Bay 12 we've been talking about making X@COM more accessible to modding, and that's what R8 is all about. The game data has always been pretty moddable since it's stored in text files, but changing the data wouldn't be as much fun without the ability to create your own scenario to go along with it!

Since internally R7's Cataclysm was written using a very modular, data-based system (I love data-based design in general--probably fairly obvious by now), making the entire thing moddable only took a couple days of extracting that part of the code into text scripts, followed by extending the system so you can do plenty of things that weren't even seen in Cataclysm. So now you can use the text files to change/improve/expand Cataclysm, or go even further and do a total conversion.

There are 4 main files to edit when creating a scenario, one listing the areas and their properties, another drawing the blueprints for each area, a third for spawning objects, and the last for defining the scenario's rules and other settings. Here is an example of the settings file where you can change victory conditions, mission scoring, and general properties:
This file includes explanatory comments for data entries--the others are instead explained in much greater detail in the modding guide.

To make a mod you'll definitely want a copy of X@COM Modpack M1, which you can get by joining the new X@COM Forum (for modders and mod players only right now--it'll be expanded later). The Modpack comes with some helpful tools to make your modding experience a lot more pleasant. You'll get...
  • a 20-page guide (required reading!)
  • a palette key
  • my version of Notepad++ with syntax highlighting for X@COM script files (*.xt)
  • a fixed-width font you may want to use with NP++

If you're feeling bold and creative, you can do much more than simply modify Cataclysm. You can add new races, units, items, terrain and other objects to create a turn-based strategy game with entirely different content. On the more complex (but fun) side, you can even implement your own special abilities that enable the type of very dynamic environment seen in Cataclysm. Learn from the hundreds of examples included with the game. Here's the entire implementation of *all* the original abilities seen in X-COM, with syntax highlighting:
Click to see full script (server on which these were stored died)

And here are the lines which control the spread of the virus in Cataclysm:
Click to see full script (server on which these were stored died)

But you don't have to mess with all that stuff if you don't want to--you can create your own mission using only the scenario files and all the objects I've already created for previous scenarios.

Of course it's nice if others can play what you create, so beginning with R8, X@COM can now run mods which are simply dropped into the game directory.

Debesh Unnos (Crazy Cow) has already created the very first mod for X@COM which adds some new potential buildings/encounters to your Cataclysm town, among other changes. His mod is the beginning of what we'll call "Cataclysm+". If anyone wants to just add one new building or make a few simple additions to Cataclysm, something not necessarily worth a standalone mod, send them to me and I'll merge them with Debesh's mod to expand the scenario and give everyone a chance to see any of the extra content in their towns. Check the files page for currently available mods.

Other more ambitious mods (total conversions) are already in the works, so you'll still get some fun new stuff to play with while I work on improving the game in general.

Though modding support is the main feature of R8, it does still come with other goodies a proper release deserves.

There is of course the psi-amp, covered in my previous post. As described there, X@COM also supports intrinsic abilities, though you won't yet find any in the game.

You can now seed the map/mission generator, so you can share a particularly interesting map with other players, or play the same map multiple times without relying on a saved game. The seed for a given map is found in your mission results/score file, and can be set in "data/maps/_seed.xt".

I've added a swap hands command ('w') available as a free action (0 TU) to switch the contents of a unit's left and right hands.

R8 makes some significant changes to how doors and windows work by turning them from terrain into props (I hope I've made all the necessary adjustments--it required a rather sweeping refactoring effort). That windows are now props is an issue even for gameplay because it means you can now stand in a space previously occupied by a window, i.e. much closer to the edge, and get a better view. Sadly, this also means you'll have to hit someone twice to knock them out of a window (unless/until I enable melee knockbacks greater than one space), whereas they used to crash through the window and immediately slip off the edge.

Units are allowed to throw directly to ally positions. You could always throw at *enemies*, which is great for grenades, but the game was disallowing tosses to allies because it assumed you were trying to do something bad by throwing stuff at them =p. It's now much easier to pass around weapons and gear when you need to--in my own experience this need arises quite often in Cataclysm, so I finally fixed it.

Over the past couple weeks I noticed some things amiss in Cataclysm, or parts that could be quickly improved, so I tweaked the scripts a bit more. I don't have a list of all the changes, but among them:
  • You are guaranteed at least one homemade flamethrower in the survivalist's house. I thought I had done that originally but apparently not, and it pissed me off when I got there and searched the house only to find a bunch of ammo!
  • Suicide bombers no longer detonate on the dogs which roam the town--they're not THAT stupid...
  • Allied criminals freed from the police station will find themselves weapons if you don't give them any.
As an amusing side note, just before release I also had to fix a regression where the police started attacking me... It was rather amusing to be shot dead as I sought refuge in the police station, because the police suddenly thought they were terrorists (literally) of all things, heh.

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Psi-ched Up

by Kyzrati on 20121006 , under ,

It's national Adopt an Alien Pet Day!

The psi-amp is ready. I.e., you'll now be able to mind control aliens if you're good enough. The AI will not yet use the the psi-amp on you, as it would be incredibly unfair given your limited resources in the demo missions. I did, however, throw in a psi-amp... "somewhere" in Area 51 and Cataclysm. Of course, it wouldn't be much use without some skill, and there's no base for training yet, so all your units start with a random psi-skill of 2.5~5.0x their base value.

As planned, the psi-amp fit right into the special abilities system, which just needed a menu to enable selection from multiple abilities on the same object, as seen above, though the system is capable of handling much, much more than that. For example:

Yes, those are actual scripted abilities I was playing with to test the system, and they do exactly what they look like they do. (Adding each one only takes a single line of script that sets about ten variables.) So now the engine does intrinsic abilities, and X-COM agents could theoretically one day be learning all manner of psionic skills like firestarting, telekinesis, teleportation, unaided mind control, and MIND BULLETS! Well, whatever you can think of, really.

With the psi-amp done, where mechanics are concerned the X@COM battlescape is now capable of everything seen in the original! (Not to mention all the other features I've added.)

I decided against releasing another R7 update and instead pushed the previously mentioned modding features back to a modest R8, which is on the horizon and closing fast.
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