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Author Topic: Final Feedback (2.5)  (Read 5726 times)

Offline disgruntled goldfish

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Final Feedback (2.5)
« on: October 18, 2012, 01:14:17 am »
Hi.  I know I've never posted on these forums before, but I've been playing this game since somewhere in the 2.3 stage of development.  I've pondered posting on several occasions before now, but never felt that it was necessary because for the longest time I felt that game development has been moving in a positive direction.  Even when that changed, I remained quiet because I held the belief that things would eventually sort themselves out based on feedback that other members were giving here on the forums.  Lately, I've had a change of heart in that regard.  The game's development is consistently taking it in directions that I feel it shouldn't go, and this is the part where I find some other project to invest myself in.

I understand that the developers like feedback, so I'm leaving them some before I go.  It's probably a lot wordier than it needs to be, but I prefer to be thorough with these things.  My apologies.

One last cautionary before I begin, though: I don't want anyone to think that I'm some kind of master strategist or tactical genius going into this, because I am neither.  I may be a fan of the X-Com franchise, but I'm very much the everyman gamer when you boil it down.  Perhaps the game was developed with that niche of folks who felt that Terror from the Deep wasn't brutal enough in mind, but I'd like to think that the opinions of the rest of us matter, too.  That said, on to business:

1: The problems all began with the laser nerf.  Lasers were a tactical mainstay in my arsenal because their lower damage was properly offset by the fact that even rookies could reliably hit things with them.  It made building the accuracy stats much easier, and a group of soldiers trained on lasers would become an utter killing machine when upgraded to plasma.  After the nerf, lasers became both so weak and so inaccurate that I don't bother researching them until I'm ready to start looking into electrolasers.  Range is the only advantage that lasers still have over SP weapons, but that range doesn't matter because it's impossible to hit anything at that distance with the accuracy penalties.  I had better luck keeping my soldiers equipped with assault rifles until I'd researched enough technology to start giving them plasma weapons.

Considering that you have to invest research into CWL theory, deuterium fluoride cartridges, and each individual weapons chassis - and then you have to produce these things once you've figured them out - I feel that laser weapons should be a straight upgrade from the SP weapons you start with.

2: The next problem I've encountered with UFO: AI is one that's been around from the beginning: base design.  In the original X-Com, bases could function more or less independently because each individual base was capable of housing all the various support structures necessary to keep it comfy.  Losing a base was a setback due to loss of invested time and capital, but it was by no means a game-ender.

Base design in UFO: AI, on the other hand, is a colossal headache.  Several of the structures you need to build a fully-functional base are essentially dead-space that never even comes into play unless your base is invaded; they fulfill no function beyond checking off a pre-requisite that allows something else to work.  Additionally, many facilities which only required a single space in X-Com now require two spaces in UFO: AI.  So you're stuck with choosing to build a base that does one function very well to the exclusion of all others, or building a multi-purpose base which does nothing well at all.  It's even worse when you factor in the blocks of indestructium which appear in every base beyond the first.

The end result is that I spend way too much time and money trying to establish base coverage.  Worse, everything tends to come down like a house of playing cards if anything bad happens during the months of investment it takes to get those bases operational.  I'm not going to say you need to go the way of the new XCOM, but it might be worth considering the idea that simplicity isn't always a bad thing.

3: Soldiers in X-Com are essentially 1 hit-point wonders, and the single biggest reason I stuck with this game was the simple fact that soldiers in UFO: AI had several orders of magnitude more survivability.  Even in the beginning of the game, a soldier wearing basic combat armor could theoretically survive a few shots from a plasma pistol before going down.  It was a basic form of forgiveness for those of us who aren't experts at the game, and it was very much appreciated.

Additionally, the fact that most of the human armor remains unimplemented means that soldier promotions are vital to the success or failure of PHALANX.  I found that the key to survival was to make the first shot, and make it count.  Troopers can't earn promotions lying around in a hospital bed, so the idea of using a medkit to shave literally weeks of recovery time off of a soldier's time in recovery was really central to me.  That philosophy died when the new wound system came into play, because it ensures that my troops are going to spend ungodly amounts of time in the hospital and not earning promotions.

When you combine this with my next point, you can perhaps understand where I'm coming from when I say that the little bit of forgiveness I mentioned two paragraphs ago doesn't exist any more.

4: I could say nothing beyond "the new personnel system is specifically designed to screw you," not explain the problem any further, and everybody would still probably know exactly what I mean.  I'm going to elaborate on the problems I have, though:

• Because my soldiers are spending more time in the hospital, I need more soldiers.  The problem is that my soldier recruiting pool is very small and the quality of my recruits is very poor.  I have run into situations where I simply can't keep the happiness of the funding nations up because I don't have enough warm bodies to get the job done.  I've also lost the game a few times because aliens decided to visit my base after I'd packed all my wounded soldiers into a transport just to try and salvage my world standing.

• It doesn't matter whether or not I have the money to build laboratories any more, because I never have enough scientists available to keep research moving at an acceptable pace.

• The same is true of workshops.  I can't keep my teams outfitted with the gear they need because I don't have enough people to keep production moving at an acceptable pace.

When the happiness of the funding nations goes down, they send you less people.  When they send you less people, it becomes fundamentally impossible to recover because you don't have the warm bodies to get the job done.  The original X-Com gave me an endless supply of goons as long as I could pay for them; why can't UFO: AI operate along these lines?  Again, simplicity isn't always a bad thing.

5: Research and development in this game is a complete and utter fuster-cluck, and it's one area in which a lot of the problems from the original X-Com were carried over.  I used the laser example above to demonstrate a three-tier research project which yields dubious results, but let me use another example I've been saving for a while now: chargers for the basic plasma weapons which are available from the start of the game.

In order to build plasma chargers, you need alien materials.  Unlike X-Com, you can't build these yourself; they MUST be salvaged from a UFO.  This means that in order to make plasma chargers, you must first build a UFO Yard, retrieve a UFO, research UFO theory, research that specific UFO, disassemble that UFO for materials, then have your same workers finally get around to building the plasma charger.  Good thing plasma chargers are given to you by the sackload, huh?

Another problem with R&D is the amount of stuff that hasn't been implemented, even though the game devs are gleefully adding more and meaner aliens to the game.  Is there a development schedule?  Does it need to be on medication for schizophrenia?  The last time I played, nanocomposite armor was still the best protection that humans muster, and that armor starts losing relevance about the time that the aliens break out the plasma rifles.  What about UGVs?  Is humanity even trying to win this war?

Then there are the research topics that just flat-out yield nothing of value.  What more can I say about this?  These need to disappear entirely.  They weren't a positive feature in the original X-Com, and they're not a positive feature here.

6: When I think about the game's economy, I find myself wondering if I ever did anything to the game devs in the past that warranted a system which is apparently designed to screw me over at every possible turn.  I really, really wish that the game developers would set their vision of how this game should be aside for a few minutes, if only to stop and think about this game from the standpoint of playability.  Others have complained about this in the past, and I'm going to add my voice to the pile: getting rid of production-based profit has eliminated a safety net that this game needs even moreso than the original.

It's bad enough that you spend the entire game dependent upon the funding nations for personnel, but in UFO: AI they're also your primary source of income throughout the game.  This isn't necessarily a bad decision in and of itself, but the problems begin when you realize that it's almost impossible to keep the funding nations pleased.  They expect you to magically sprout bases all over the world, and then they punish you financially when that doesn't happen.  With less money to go around, it becomes even harder to maintain coverage worldwide, which results in even bigger funding cuts being made.  It becomes a cycle from which there is no escape.
« Last Edit: October 18, 2012, 02:46:30 am by disgruntled goldfish »

Offline GPS51

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Re: Final Feedback (2.5)
« Reply #1 on: October 18, 2012, 02:03:06 am »
I really enjoyed the above post because I too have felt stymied at all of those points. In fact I just crashed out of a game where I was starting to death spiral due to not enough funds and starting to be way outclassed by alien weaponry. Is teching up by ONLY researching alien dropped weapons the only way to keep up? I like to research lots of things :) To me the current 2.5 feels "incomplete" it's like the rough nuts/bolts are there but the polish that allows the game to flow smoothly along in an enjoyable manner is lacking. (oh and why does only alien return fire work? I set my guys to return fire but they just stand there and get shot.)

Offline Triaxx2

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Re: Final Feedback (2.5)
« Reply #2 on: October 18, 2012, 03:23:00 am »
Hmm... I'm thinking I might stick with 2.4 for a while yet. I've been wary of these laser accuracy nerfs, and this is kind of a nail in the coffin.

I might wait to 2.6. I'd help, but I'm currently wrestling with the mapping system. I can see why so far only ShipIt does any maps.

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Re: Final Feedback (2.5)
« Reply #3 on: October 18, 2012, 07:52:41 am »
@disgruntled goldfish
What difficulty level did you play?

I'm not genius either. Just played a lot of X-COM* and UFO* games.

About points my opinion:
1. In 2.4 i was not satisfied with personal lasers, so in 2.5 i researched them only when nothing left. And no regret! Electrolaser good only to silence those stupid civilians and nothing more. Maybe after rebalancing they will be better with armour piercing feature...
2. I can't say it was easy, but no any problem with bases except of insufficient funding ;) Really two bases was enough to keep nations on acceptable happiness level. More is better of course. Tree bases can supply you with anything except of world radar coverage. 6 bases == world domination.
3. You didn't notice power armour? It saves soldier from few hits with particle beam weapons! About wounds.. I just keep double number of soldiers on base - one half goes on mission other is healing and defending base, so 16-18 soldiers per mission base. I would like to see UGV too. And UAV. Didn't hear about UGVs but UAVs are already used now widely by USA.
4. Agree. In early beginning of game it's real problem. May be it's worth to add additional unlimited source of low-quality soldiers? worker, etc?
5. See 3. Research without visible value... Well, it doesn't bug me. Sooner or later - I'll win. It's rare for research to be important for survival right now.
6. Err... Selling items from 10 UFOs in average worth month of funding from happy nations. So, they are happy and giving personnel for hire - that's enough.

Offline H-Hour

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Re: Final Feedback (2.5)
« Reply #4 on: October 18, 2012, 01:04:08 pm »
Goldfish, thanks for posting. You may or may not know this, but 2.5-dev has undergone and is still undergoing the most comprehensive and balance-altering changes since I've been involved in the project (2009). That means over the last 6 months you've been playing a highly unstable version of the game (unstable from the point of view of game balance). You would be surprised how many of the things you have commented about have been significantly changed just in the very last month. Others are going to be changed before 2.5 goes out the door.

Some of the "fallback mechanisms", like the medikit exploit used to keep soldiers out of the hospital, were necessary precisely because of a long-standing problem with game balance. It's the underlying problem we need to solve so that the game mechanics do not survive from one exploit to another. I hope that 2.5 will make significant progress in this, but I'm sure numbers will need to continue to be tweaked.

*spoiler* If you don't want spoilers, don't read the text below or look at this rough timeline for the new campaign staging that is planned. *spoiler*

1. Jon_dArc raised the issue that laser weapons had been too heavily nerfed after the first round of weapon balancing hit early in 2.5's development cycle. On October 7, I introduced some significant (and controversial) changes to address this. In short, handheld laser weapons are no longer available at the start, but come as an early-middle game replacement for plasma weapons, which now perform poorly against armoured aliens. Their damage values have been adjusted accordingly, although they are still not as accurate as they used to be. During that stage of the game, they should be very useful.

2. I agree that there are some cumbersome elements to the base building that could be revised, and I'm not convinced that the plan for larger bases will help matters. But I don't have any better vision for it.

3. I think we probably disagree about this. The difficulty of keeping soldiers alive on x-com's battlescape was one of its most engaging elements, I think, and for the most part ours is ridiculously easy. This is the result of a combination of things (maps and AI) that will take a long time to work out. But in general combat in 2.5 will be a lot bloodier. You will lose more soldiers in 2.5, but the overall campaign should be easier because...

4. ... two days ago I implemented some pretty heavy changes to the rate of employees you will receive each month. I've also increased the number of soldiers you start with in all but the hardest campaign (soldiers are nearly doubled in standard campaign). Each campaign now also has a scriptable parameter to effect how many soldiers are received each month, so it will be easy for you or anyone to increase the number if you find it's too low.

I agree completely that the tiny number of employees on offer created a ceiling to what could be done -- it encouraged excessively conservative battlescape tactics and forced us to keep the number of aliens you'll face pretty low. And for most employees the nation happiness factor was exponential, which means that as the nations got really unhappy -- when you really needed employees -- you could end up getting almost no employees. My sense is that most people will end up with too many employees by mid-game now, but we'll see how the new numbers work out.

Because the number of missions has gone down and the time spent in hospitals has gone up, we'll need to look at the stats increase mechanisms to ensure soldiers can realistically level up through a campaign. But that may or may not make it into 2.5.

5. A few points in here. First, one of the things still on my list of items to balance is the research and disassembly times for items. When I do this, I expect it will address a lot of the excessive dependencies you mention. I won't be getting rid of techs at this point -- even though I think you're right that splitting things into tons of different techs is kind of annoying -- but I will be making up for that by reducing research times where appropriate. You may need to plough through UFO Theory -> Specific UFO -> Disassembly to get to alien materials. But this whole process will probably not take as long. The disassembly vs. items balance is one thing long flagged as out of whack.

Second, the human armors are also on my list to check their balance with the new weapons and timeline. We've got power armor, but it is scheduled to be a pretty late-game development, so nano will have to have a longer shelf-life.

Third, research topics that yield no value. A lot of players really enjoy the lengthy lore behind the game. Personally, I find it tedious. But I suspect it will stay. It fits our niche, which tends to be more detailed, micro-managing, nerdy strategy. What I hope to do -- although it won't happen for 2.5 -- is to better integrate the storyline research with practical items. In an ideal world, a string of "useless" storyline research techs would end in an important item or ability or whatever. They would be the long-term research investment to counter the shorter-term research into weapons, etc. I suspect this won't really be possible until psionics is implemented, though. Looking at the storyline texts we have now, it's very difficult to think of ways to tie them into useable technology.

6. There has been some discussion about creating some very modest production for profit, but I doubt it will be enough to significantly change the game's balance. What is more likely is that in the course of adjusting disassembly times, recovery amounts of alien materials/antimatter, and the price of materials, I may make it viable to earn a small profit from selling disassembled UFO materials. Neither of these will significantly alter the economic model of the game. If it's not working -- if players aren't getting enough money -- then the numbers need to be tweaked. Relying on a backup method that is essentially an exploit is not, I think, the best way to deal with this issue.

Offline Telok

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Re: Final Feedback (2.5)
« Reply #5 on: October 18, 2012, 02:39:16 pm »
Thank you H.

Just... Thank you.

Offline Triaxx2

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Re: Final Feedback (2.5)
« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2012, 03:47:17 pm »
1) I really liked the very accurate, lower damage of them. It meant I could actually hit the bloody aliens. As it is, it sounds like they're more like plasma weapons, which seems silly, unless Plasma is more accurate now.

2) The only other option that comes to my mind is cutting the prices of the facilities. A hundred thousand credits for a Lab makes it a huge investment, which is going to be necessary for other things, like weapons or armor, or more ammo. If it were cheaper to construct the individual facilities, but not the initial start up for the base, that would make it easier to get those additional bases up and running.

3) What game have you been playing? Between Ortnoks popping up out of nowhere and blasting my soldiers in the face and Tamans suddenly becoming obsessed with tossing grenades. Soldiers dying is sort of a running gag after a while. Worse, at the moment you'll take damage, and if you don't stop and heal some, it will accumulatively kill them.

4) Fantastic! Of course, I haven't had soldier problems. Usually it's been Scientists or Workers. (Or Pilots until I switched to CWL before magnetics.)

5) I think that UFO Theory shouldn't be researched first, rather that you should have to look at a UFO, then come up with theories about it. It's a small change in the order that means you've already got them studied and now you're expanding on it. Basically, instead of saying: We expect to find these doo-dads in an alien ship, then looking for them, you look through the alien ship, then wonder what the doo-dads are. I mean, it's really awkward when you realize the only reason to research the UFO's themselves, is to be able to disassemble them. There's no need to research them for anything other than disassembly for purposes. It's very backwards because once you research that, there are other topics which are opened that need nothing from the UFO's. It makes far more sense to study a UFO before you try and explain it.

Nano could definitely use a stepping stone armor. Perhaps alloyed nano-armor.

I know, it generates lots of work, but perhaps the individual storyline researches can open new branches of research. Integration of alien tech into craft equipment. So from Raven ECM to Alien Hybrid ECM.

6) I've been doing some calculations. I noticed that the weapon selling in the original X-Com was generally mitigated by the fact that they were using alien materials in the construction. So most of the cheaper weapons were using Alien tech so they sold for better money. (Yes, I know, nothing beat the Laser Cannons for efficiency though.

Offline Sandro

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Re: Final Feedback (2.5)
« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2012, 04:45:18 pm »
6. There has been some discussion about creating some very modest production for profit, but I doubt it will be enough to significantly change the game's balance. What is more likely is that in the course of adjusting disassembly times, recovery amounts of alien materials/antimatter, and the price of materials, I may make it viable to earn a small profit from selling disassembled UFO materials. Neither of these will significantly alter the economic model of the game. If it's not working -- if players aren't getting enough money -- then the numbers need to be tweaked. Relying on a backup method that is essentially an exploit is not, I think, the best way to deal with this issue.

Personally, I wouldn't call it an exploit. There is a logic behind this: obviously, many entities would be interested in having some high-tech pieces designed by analyzing all the world's knowledge, which was not available to them in its entireity. So, more correct world would be "abuse", and that is the in-game case of Phalanx abusing its authority to get some extra cash.
Questionable? Possibly. Logical, and fits into game lore? Yes.

Just my 2 cents.

Offline GPS51

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Re: Final Feedback (2.5)
« Reply #8 on: October 18, 2012, 06:16:06 pm »
I look forward to seeing what the next 1 and 3 month update cycles bring to 2.5. I have always enjoyed UFO:AI and plan to continue enjoying it. Thanks for such a quick and complete reply.

Offline kbs666

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Re: Final Feedback (2.5)
« Reply #9 on: October 21, 2012, 02:19:05 am »
Some not quite random thoughts on the subjects raised
1. Jon_dArc raised the issue that laser weapons had been too heavily nerfed after the first round of weapon balancing hit early in 2.5's development cycle. On October 7, I introduced some significant (and controversial) changes to address this. In short, handheld laser weapons are no longer available at the start, but come as an early-middle game replacement for plasma weapons, which now perform poorly against armoured aliens. Their damage values have been adjusted accordingly, although they are still not as accurate as they used to be. During that stage of the game, they should be very useful.
It may be just I'm so used to the 'xcom way' but I do prefer having an inferior to alien weaponry but superior to starting tech weapon tech in the research tree. It allows you to develop better weapons relatively quickly without being quite on the sme level as the aliens. My preference would be for highly accurate laser rifles that do less dmage per 'round' than the assault rifle. It should be possible to balance it for a slightly higher avaerage damage output than the assault rifle. Adding a laser sniper rifle would also be a nice feature.

Quote
2. I agree that there are some cumbersome elements to the base building that could be revised, and I'm not convinced that the plan for larger bases will help matters. But I don't have any better vision for it.
Just what hardware limit is keeping the base constrained to a 5x5 grid? Is it the size of the base on assaults? Doing away with the surface level would free up quite a bit of memory. The aliens would start in the areas of the base that access the surface (entrance, hangars, radars).

Quote
4. ... two days ago I implemented some pretty heavy changes to the rate of employees you will receive each month. I've also increased the number of soldiers you start with in all but the hardest campaign (soldiers are nearly doubled in standard campaign). Each campaign now also has a scriptable parameter to effect how many soldiers are received each month, so it will be easy for you or anyone to increase the number if you find it's too low.

I agree completely that the tiny number of employees on offer created a ceiling to what could be done -- it encouraged excessively conservative battlescape tactics and forced us to keep the number of aliens you'll face pretty low. And for most employees the nation happiness factor was exponential, which means that as the nations got really unhappy -- when you really needed employees -- you could end up getting almost no employees. My sense is that most people will end up with too many employees by mid-game now, but we'll see how the new numbers work out.

Because the number of missions has gone down and the time spent in hospitals has gone up, we'll need to look at the stats increase mechanisms to ensure soldiers can realistically level up through a campaign. But that may or may not make it into 2.5.
Completely agree that the number of employees needs to increase. To make keeping the nations happy a bigger incentive I suggest that happy nations would provide a small number of higher skilled pilots and soldiers each month. getting 2 to 5 soldiers with skills in the high 20's low 30's each month would be precious while having 20 or so raw recruits with skills in the teens would allow for recovery from dissters.

Quote
Third, research topics that yield no value. A lot of players really enjoy the lengthy lore behind the game. Personally, I find it tedious. But I suspect it will stay. It fits our niche, which tends to be more detailed, micro-managing, nerdy strategy. What I hope to do -- although it won't happen for 2.5 -- is to better integrate the storyline research with practical items. In an ideal world, a string of "useless" storyline research techs would end in an important item or ability or whatever. They would be the long-term research investment to counter the shorter-term research into weapons, etc. I suspect this won't really be possible until psionics is implemented, though. Looking at the storyline texts we have now, it's very difficult to think of ways to tie them into useable technology.
The storyline techs, for lack of a better term, could result in some game play advantages. Studying the aliens could produce a nerve gas or other weapon effective against the aliens or maybe a 'telepathy scrambler' which would 'stun' aliens in a small area.


Offline Anarch Cassius

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Re: Final Feedback (2.5)
« Reply #10 on: October 25, 2012, 10:16:53 pm »
Quote
• The same is true of workshops.  I can't keep my teams outfitted with the gear they need because I don't have enough people to keep production moving at an acceptable pace.

Huh, is the Workshop actually of any value? I mean I have to pay my Workers to make stuff at the same price it goes for on the market. I'm assuming this becomes more useful once I've unlocked more alien stuff but so far by the time I've unlocked an item for use I've scavenged plenty to equip my squads.

Also the fact that you can buy and sell at the same rate on the market makes equipment transfer meaningless. Why send something halfway across the world when I can just sell it here and buy it there? There defenettely needs to be price differences for buying, selling and making items.

In 2.5 I'm scavenging fewer UFOs because they are coming more slowly and the armed ones seem more dangerous. This hurts my money a bit but I'm missing fewer alien incidents and thus keeping nations happy is almost trivial so far (3 monthes in). It went from feeling like a lot of battle grinding to like I have nothing to do but I've only played a few games so that could be partially random.

I'm loosing more troops, I tried to avoid abusing health kits in 2.4 and the overall combat doesn't seem much more deadly in 2.5 so I'm chalking this up to AI improvements. At first I was like, holy crap that's too many potential recruits but after loosing a dropship off the coast of antartica and having 5 die during the next mission I'm reassesing that. Also with Pilot stats the variety is nice and you can never have too many scientists. I just don't know what to do with all these Workers.

I really like the lots of tech and gritty research though I would by no means objects to more practical applications. I just would rather see more stuff than fewer techs.

One thing I do find confusing is alien capture. I understand the need for research some tech before capturing them but what and why is really only made clear in retrospect or via guesswork. There's also at least one reference to capture via gas grenades that came up before containment was feasible and I've seen no such gas grenades in campaign mode. Given what you learn about the alien tech I can see why they may not work but this is one confusing area.

Offline kbs666

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Re: Final Feedback (2.5)
« Reply #11 on: October 26, 2012, 12:54:01 am »
Huh, is the Workshop actually of any value? I mean I have to pay my Workers to make stuff at the same price it goes for on the market. I'm assuming this becomes more useful once I've unlocked more alien stuff but so far by the time I've unlocked an item for use I've scavenged plenty to equip my squads.
There is stuff that you you don't loot from aliens and that doesn't appear on the market, at least not until you've sold one you built.

Offline Anarch Cassius

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Re: Final Feedback (2.5)
« Reply #12 on: October 26, 2012, 04:44:46 am »
Right the bleeding edge human tech Phalanx is developing needs to be prototyped. That makes sense and I've just gotten something along those lines. Still, they could more useful I feel.