Total Dork... ;p
I'm a detail oriented, methodical, obsessive geek that absolutely LOVES X-Com.
I originally came to the game because I purchased a magazine with a floppy disk of the TFTD demo. (I still have the disk.) I played the demo with no prior knowledge of X-Com or tactical games at all and was instantly hooked! Of course, having zero exposure to such games initially I found it to be just about the hardest damn game I ever played! lol
I did not have the internet or friends that played the game so I learned the hard way... I played that single mission over and over, obsessively, until I mastered it. (Pretty much until I could do it in my sleep, heh.) I even developed my main tactical strategy that I still use to this day on that demo mission. It's something I think of as The Clock.
Later I found X-Com on the shelf and wanting to start from the beginning I had to have it! I was totally surprised at the strategic metagame and all it's implications. That's when X-Com went from great demo to one of my all time favorite games, and it remains so even now. To date I still prefer X-Com over every other tactical game I've played, though I actually hesitate at playing them because I've yet to beat X-Com. ;p (Did I mention I'm obsessive?)
You haven't beat it! What kind of a fan are you?
Yeah yeah... Just because I haven't beat X-Com doesn't mean I haven't played the hell out of it. In a sense I refuse to beat it because I'm not done playing it. heh heh I probably could take an avenger up to Cydonia and manage to beat the game. I'd be weak vs Psi so it might take some doing. But I've faced Ethereals and beat them. (Actually once I've beat the game I may come back to an old save and see if my non-psi using squad can do it, just for fun.)
Okay, here's the longer explanation... First off, I'm sentimental and nostolgic... What does that mean? It means I'm still using most of the same soldiers I've had from the beginning of the game. The very first squad I had. Some of these have been with me from the start, like my ultimate soldier Barbara King who got cheeted out of being commander by an unfortunate savegame mishap. (She was my first commander, but I lost the save and next time around it was Dmitri Maleeve. I had to do some finagling to get her back in the job. heh) So, anyway... I haven't been too keen to start a fresh game.
I also initially made an error that cost me quite a bit. You see I hate the mind probe. It's big, and bulky, and you have to equip it which basically takes one guy off the front lines while he's using it, so it's a huge TU sinc. So when I was capturing aliens for research I was basically just stunning whoever I could get and letting the chips fall where they may. I was also unaware that certain aliens hung out in certain places. Hey, at the time everything was going great anyway and I didn't really need more research projects, but I bet you can guess where this is leading.
Eventually I started to wonder what I'd done wrong, because I still couldn't build a Psi Lab and it didn't seem to matter how many more aliens I researched, either. What I needed, of course, was either a Sectoid Leader, or Commander. So I started looking for the bastard. Let's just say I had quite poor luck finding one, particularly because Sectoid UFO's were becoming quite rare as the Mutons took up the war effort. It was extremely frustrating. I was stuck in that phase of the game a long time, fighting all my battles the old fashioned way.
The upside of that is I learned a lot. I learned that Power Armor, while good is NO replacement for Flying Armor, even if you don't fly. I learned to whip my soldiers into shape so they could all carry Heavy Plasmas. And I learned how to fight cautiously even if it took longer.
Somewhere along the way I also decided to end my age old practice of loading a previous turn if I lost a soldier. I HATE losing soldiers. I don't care what the mission briefing says if I lose even one then the mission was not a victory, it was at best a draw. (Though my opinion on this has been somewhat modified and I now consider rookies as semi-expendable. In other words I still feel bad for their families, but but the squad has about 2 minutes of silence when they get home before cracking open the beers and celebrating their victory, and that's about it.) I eventually decided it was holding me back to always revert like that, on top of being semi-cheating IMO. It's certainly not breaking the game, but it does make a difference.
Let me go into that a sec... If you've never played X-Com without allowing your soldiers to die in combat then you probably will not fully appreciate the difference. I did not. I never allowed it to totally corrupt the way I played. I didn't send soldiers on suicide scouting runs, for example. The problem, however, is on what happens after the soldier that would have died, doesn't. You may not have intended it to be a suicide scouting, but it was, and now you know exactly what not to do. Even if this is infrequent it still colors the game. The other major thing I noticed was that it made me play far more cautiously ON EVERY SINGLE TURN, because the price of a wrong move is just too high. It changed my reaction from "Ooops! Guess I should have used a grenade." to "OH S#$%! F&$# NO! Nooooooooo!" followed by more cursing. ;p That may not sound like a good thing, but it is. It makes you care more about the results. It makes those soldiers lives more precious and the aliens more scum sucking evil pricks! lol I actually hate the aliens now, I can't help it. They have wounded me and I hate them, but I love hating them. Giving the aliens the ability to hurt me instead of just being targets has transformed them into a much better and scarier enemy. It made all the difference.
Anyway... back on topic...
I also tend to be pretty scatterbrained... I got the ADD and I move from project to project, without finishing them between. So it is sometimes years between sessions of me playing X-Com, complicated all the more by the need to reinstall it and make it work on a yet faster computer. heh heh
I also really want to ramp up. I want my coverage to be dominating and my soldiers powerful and fully equipped and trained before I goto Cydonia to finish off those bastards. I'm not done playing X-Com, not at all. Eventually, but not yet. When I'm finally ready to move on I'll take out Cydonia and let Barbara King fire the final shots that end the war. Until then I'm going to build out my bases, hire and equip an army of soldiers and kill all the aliens I see.
When I'm done with that, who knows... Probably start over on Superhuman and/or begin TFTD. Those games will probably progress more easily given my much expanded experience.
"Birdwalking" is a term I learned from my 4th grade teacher and it so aptly describes what I do that it's stuck. Ever watch a bird pecking around? They go here and there and see something interesting over there and stop here and try that, never moving in a strait line from anywhere to anywhere else. Well (obviously) that's how I tend to talk and write... probably due to my ADD. *shrugs* Anyway if I get off topic just bear with me.
Strategy & Tactics
The clock is just how I think of my clearing tactic. It's a very specific process I actually developed playing the TFTD demo before I had Xcom and then had to refine while playing Xcom.
1. View Perimeter by having soldiers turn to look out windows (if necessary).
2. Find nearest edges of the map. (If your soldiers can't see it then just find where it stops highlighting the tile under your mouse pointer.)
3. Begin exiting craft to establish a reaction fire perimeter. (High TU and Reaction troops do this job and use the craft it-self, it's gears, ramps, and even flying up on top of it for cover.)
4. Widen perimeter until entire craft is encircled and every angle is covered by at least two soldiers ready to reaction fire.
5. If any nearby structures pose a threat use explosives.
6. Begin to widen perimeter to any nearby logical cover that offers a tactical advantage.
7. Widen perimeter to the edge of the map. (When this step is complete you should have a more or less U shaped perimeter with your transport in the arch of the U and the edge of the map along the arms.)
8. Begin widening perimeter with two goals. A. Secure areas to eliminate possible threat vectors. (The fewer threat vectors you have the more you can concentrate reaction fire.) B. Find the UFO.
9. Upon finding the UFO carefully extend perimeter to the near side of it. This may require clearing multiple areas and buildings first.
10. If possible secure UFO exits with reaction fire and/or prox mines. It can also be handy to post some troops with motion detectors near or on top of the UFO. (Now finally we get to the reason why I think of this as the clock. Your soldiers are now loosely arranged like the hands of a clock with the UFO at the center. And you're going to use them exactly like the hands of a clock as well.)
11. Begin to sweep one or both arms of your formation around the UFO to clear the exterior territory carefully clearing buildings and other dangerous areas as need be. (I usually have my arms swing around the UFO and try to converge on the side with the exit/s.)
12. When the arms of your formation meet after thoroughly sweeping both sides of the UFO you have now cleared the entire exterior. (Note: The formation at this point is not necessarily centered on the UFO, but rather on its exits and possible entrances.)
13. Setup strong reaction traps for all exits and begin staging for UFO breach, although crashed craft often have holes in the roof you can snipe or toss grenades through. (The soldiers you want to use for the breach it-self need to be able to get too and through the door with the fewest TU's expended to give them more TU's to retreat or fire as well as to increase the number of soldiers you can get into the room and firing on aliens in the same turn. Keep in mind you're going to want to kill all the aliens you can see on that turn and yet still have soldiers that can kneel with TU's left for reaction fire.)
14. Breach the UFO. If there's a hole in the roof you should at least look for opportunities to kill aliens from the roof with cover if not use it for breaching. If you have to breach through a door be prepared to have the soldier that opens the door retreat if the opposition beyond is too great. Snipers positioned further away, but able to shoot through the open door can often eliminate a few aliens as long as you can get the other soldier out of the way. You do not have to enter the craft right away. Simply open the door and shoot if you can't kill all visible aliens or get your men inside and into cover or at least good reaction fire positions.
That's a bit verbose, but oh well. I perform similar sweeps in bases a lot of the time, though they really are quite different. It's important to keep overlapping fields of reaction fire at all times if possible, and have soldiers leapfrog so that some have nearly all their TU's available for reaction firing.
Also something else you can do. if you have a hovertank then at the beginning of the mission once you've secured the immediate vicinity of your craft point it in the direction of greatest threat and send it up up up to the very top of the battlescape. From here it will have the longest view. Spin it around to get a really good view of your surroundings. You can use soldiers like this as well, but they are vulnerable while flying because their under armor is weaker and they have no cover. You CAN, however, kneel while in midair. Usually I don't have my soldiers fly up into the open, but I do send them atop my transport craft and use it for cover. Snipers go up here as they will stay up here for a long time while you expand the perimeter. Whenever you see an alien you try to kill it with one of these elevated snipers first, to leave the unit on the front line as many TU's as possible for reaction fire.
I'm picky on equipment... I like to standardize things and I have a tendency to want to turn everybody into a swiss army knife. Before hitting the 80 item limit I used to stock up my soldiers pretty heavily. Every single one got a Heavy Plasma, an extra clip, a med kit, a laser pistol, and some combination of grenades, prox grenades and motion scanners. I've trimmed down since I hit the limit, but I still keep laser pistols on most of my soldiers and usually a med kit for every two soldiers. I also still have 2 to 4 soldiers carry motion scanners, they're just too useful for boarding the UFO's, though often they don't come into play until I've cleared the exterior.
Heavy Plasmas and Laser pistols are my babies. You just can't beat the HP for it's awesome combination of accuracy and stopping power. Laser pistols are my fav backup, though. They're quick and can fire tons of shots. They also don't use ammo, which makes them great for shooting out bushes or holes in barns, ect. Explosives are usually what people think of for clearing obstacles, but I often prefer being able to be more selective, plus not needing ammo means there is no cost and no threat of running out. If I really want to I can sit tight in one spot for several turns and send dozens of laser shots down range. I kinda enjoy doing that, too. ;p
I'm not big on the mind probe. It's big and clunky and a total TU sinc. But I probably should have used it more. I kinda figure it becomes more useful once you get into Psi, which I've not quite done, yet.
A GREAT utility that singlehandedly brought be back to X-Com at one time. I wouldn't even consider playing without it now. However, I also wouldn't consider using the default setup anymore either. Luckily XcomUtil is extremely customizable.
For some reason Scott decided to have XcomUtil modify the standard craft by default. I suppose that might be fine for a lot of people and you could just ignore the newfound abilities of the Interceptor and Firestorm. Personally, I prefer to just keep the craft from the original game. Fortunately it's pretty easy to fix by editing XcomUtil.cfg and running the setup. Mainly I don't like for the interceptor only ships to be capable of carrying soldiers. That changes the game too much for my tastes. Just search for "XCOMShips". The default stats should be listed above in comments.
I've found the StatStrings feature to be particularly useful for me, but I was certainly not satisfied with the default strings, so I designed my own. My first system was far too spendy on the number of characters it used so I scrapped it and started over with a totally different idea.
The code below opens up the NameStats portion of StatStrings. I separate it here because I chose to split up the individual strings and my class strings. Both my stats and classes fit within NameStats with classes at the end so I include it here to make it clear exactly where in XcomUtil.cfg this belongs.
I'm going to describe my system in some detail here, but I'm also leaving my comments in the code in case anyone wants to try these, because it's a good idea to have the comments available in case you forget how it all works.
// New Custom StatString System!!!! // This system minimizes space usage by using placement and capitolization to designate // strengths and weaknesses. The basic idea is to sort the stats from least to greatest moving from left // to right, and provide some important designators letting you know where in the string you pass a certain // numerical threshold. The letters themselves represent individual stats. Only ? which represents zero // psi/mc skill and C which designates a coward actually change. // In the middle of the string I have placed three stats I consider particularly important, (TU's, // Firing Accuracy, and Strength) as numerical representations. These three digits are placed in the // middle to serve as a seperator. // All of the possible designators, in order are as follows... ?CBRTKPEHbrtkp###brtkpBRTKP The letter // for any particular stat will only appear once in the string, however. I've also made an attempt to sort // stats within a given capitolization group, though the fidelity is pretty low. In other words if your // reactions are significantly better than your throwing accuracy but within the same capitolization group // you should get "tr" in the string instead of "rt". You kinda have to know what order they naturally fall // into, to make any real use of it, but generally two stats in a row tells you that the second can't be much // worse than the one before it. I'll add more fidelity, but I'm not going all the way down to individual digits! =O // For now the fidelity on the sorting is every 5 units. // Note: The inner letters are lower case to help differetiate them from the numerals, which can // be hard to tell from upper case letters in some cases. Also keep in mind that most stats for // most soldiers will NOT have a designator at all. The system purposefully omits middle of the road // stats to save space. The designators, therefore are only really meant to highlight particularly // strong or weak stats, other than the three I deemed important enough to ALWAYS designate, which // actually display their numerical value to the tens. // Even greater coverage could definately be squeezed in, but the intention is to keep these StatStrings // very minimalist, while still conveying all the important information. This way you can keep longer names, // and/or use Class designators in addition to this system. (And, why the hell not!? heh) // Weaknesses listed first! ? k:0 // Test if they have been Psi trained. R r:-5 // Reactions T t:-5 // Throwing Accuracy K k:1-5 // Psi Skill P p:-5 // Psi Strength E e:-5 // Stamina (Energy) H h:-5 // Health C b:-10 // Extra warning for COWARDS! R r:6-10 T t:6-10 K k:6-10 P p:6-10 E e:6-10 H h:6-10 B b:11-15 R r:11-15 T t:11-15 K k:11-15 P p:11-15 E e:11-15 H h:11-15 B b:16-20 R r:16-20 T t:16-20 K k:16-20 P p:16-20 e e:16-20 // Stamina (Energy) only tested for 0 to 20 to find weaklings... h h:16-20 // Health only tested for 0 to 20 to find wimps... b b:21-25 r r:21-25 t t:21-25 k k:21-25 p p:21-25 b b:26-30 r r:26-30 t t:26-30 k k:26-30 p p:26-30 b b:31-35 r r:31-35 t t:31-35 k k:31-35 p p:31-35 b b:36-40 r r:36-40 t t:36-40 k k:36-40 p p:36-40 // Display the first digit for TU's, Firing Accuracy, and Strength # dfs // Strengths listed after weaknesses... b b:61-65 r r:61-65 t t:61-65 k k:61-65 p p:61-65 b b:66-70 r r:66-70 t t:66-70 k k:66-70 p p:66-70 b b:71-75 r r:71-75 t t:71-75 k k:71-75 p p:71-75 b b:76-80 r r:76-80 t t:76-80 k k:76-80 p p:76-80 B b:81-85 R r:81-85 T t:81-85 K k:81-85 P p:81-85 B b:86-90 R r:86-90 T t:86-90 K k:86-90 P p:86-90 B b:91-95 R r:91-95 T t:91-95 K k:91-95 P p:91-95 B b:96- R r:96- T t:96- K k:96- P p:96- /:-
Note: The odd "/:-" is a special case. Entering a slash as a statid is meant to tell XcomUtil that this is the last required namestat. So if the soldier's name is too long after all the rest of the strings get done XcomUtil will backup to this point. What that means here is that if XcomUtil has room for just the stat indicators and not the class then it will cut off the class. Of course, this was initially more useful when my classes were longer than 2 characters. With 2 char classes it might be more useful to reverse this behavior. In order to reverse it, however, I would have to make all of my classes mutually exclusive.
Here are my classes. Each class is a 2 character string that consists of a symbol (either "^" or "*") and a letter. The symbol and the capitalization of the letter denote the rank of the soldier in that class.
My classes are not necessarily mutually exclusive. In other words if all of these were evaluated soldiers would wind up qualifying for multiple ranks within classes as well as multiple classes. It was just a lot easier to write that way, taking advantage of the fact that once a statstring longer than 1 character gets added to a name XcomUtil ends the search and no more strings are added. I've arranged my classes so that the highest rank of the best class that the soldier qualifies for will be displayed. Any others will be ignored.
The "^" I hoped would look kinda like a chevron like on military uniforms but instead it looks like an up arrow. I left it in anyway. I'll probably redo these, but I'm putting them here for reference in case it helps anyone.
The comments pretty much explain the rest about my classes so I'll leave it at that.
// Soldier Class // I have created several classes each with four ranks within the class. A soldier can // simultaneously qualify for multiple classes, but will only be tagged with the highest // one in this list that they qualify for. Most soldiers should be regular army, these are // merely meant as a way of quickly pointing out some specific combinations of stats that // could be useful to note. // Note: While there are only four ranks per class some ranks have multiple acceptable criteria. // This allows one stat to make up for another in some cases. // Commando (This class is actually a combination of Marksman and Ranger... the all around badass.) *C f:90- d:80- r:65- b:20- s:30- e:40- h:20- *c f:80- d:70- r:65- b:20- s:20- e:30- h:20- ^C f:80- d:70- r:50- b:10- s:10- e:20- h:20- ^C f:70- d:70- r:60- b:10- s:10- e:20- h:20- ^C f:60- d:70- r:70- b:10- s:10- e:20- h:20- ^c f:70- d:60- r:40- b:10- s:10- e:10- h:20- ^c f:60- d:60- r:50- b:10- s:10- e:10- h:20- // Marksman (You friendly neighborhood sniper.) *M f:90- r:65- *m f:80- r:65- ^M f:80- r:50- ^M f:70- r:60- ^M f:60- r:70- ^m f:70- r:40- ^m f:60- r:50- // Ranger (Recon troops... the good at it, non-expendable kind.) *R d:80- r:65- b:30- s:30- e:40- h:20- *r d:70- r:65- b:20- s:20- e:30- h:20- ^R d:70- r:60- b:10- s:10- e:20- h:20- ^r d:60- r:50- b:10- s:10- e:10- h:20- // Artilleryman (Special class, good for carrying heavy weapons and throwing stuff. // Plus brave enough not to kill the whole squad at the first sign of trouble..) *A f:50- d:60- b:30- s:70- e:80- h:50- t:30- *a f:50- d:60- b:20- s:60- e:70- h:40- t:30- ^A f:50- d:60- b:20- s:50- e:60- h:30- t:30- ^a f:50- d:60- b:20- s:40- e:50- h:30- t:20- ^a f:40- d:60- b:20- s:50- e:60- h:30- t:30- // Scout (Recon troops... the expendable kind... though the top two ranks are more for a heads up on who's nearly ranger material.) *S d:80- *s d:70- f:51- *s d:70- r:51- ^S d:70- f:-50 r:-50 ^s d:60- f:-50 r:-50 // Washout (Ditch these guys before they get you killed!) Wash b:-10 d:-50 f:-50 h:-30 Wash d:-20 Wash f:-20 Wash d:-60 f:-60 h:-20
The code below closes the NameStats portion of StatStrings. I separate it here because I chose to split up the individual strings and my class strings. Both my stats and classes fit within NameStats with classes at the end so I include it here to make it clear exactly where in XcomUtil.cfg this belongs.
SortStats StatStrings // This sort order is complex but should put important PsiSkill personnell in the rear for protection, along with cowards... // will put Rookies in the front to get the chance to become Squaddies and then gives me a nice sort of all remaining soldiers. # +k-d-r+f // Sort in ascending order by PsiSkill, descending order by TU's, and Reactions, then ascending order by Firing Accuracy R k:40- // Move high PsiSkill to the rear # -a+R+b-d-r+f // Sort by descending Armor, ascending Rank, Bravery, descending TU's, and Reations, and by ascending Firing Accuracy F R:-0 // Move all Rookies to the front... (So they can get kills and become Squaddies... as well as being expendable) # -a+b+d+f-r // Sort by descending Armor, ascending Bravary, TU's, and Firing Accuracy, and descending Reactions F b:-20 // Move cowards to the front # -a+d+f-r // Sort by descending Armor, ascending TU's, and Firing Accuracy, and descending Reactions // # +R // Sort by Inc Rank // R R:4- // Move two highest Ranks to rear // # +f-r // Sort by Inc FireAcc, Dec Reactions // R k:40- // Move high PsiSkill to rear // R f:70- // Move marksmen to rear // F R:-0 p:-30 // Move weak-willed rookies to front /StatStrings /SortStats