Gollop Gossips About The New XCOM

By Craig Pearson on January 20th, 2012 at 3:07 pm.

I'll bet they bought that globe in the Gadget Shop.
Monolithic (yet huggable and surprisingly good dancers) gaming culture chaps EDGE have an interview with Julian Gollop, the original creator of the XCOM series. With the upcoming reboots exciting and enraging fans in equal measure, the man who made the terrifying tactical turn-based treat has a lot to say on the new XCOMs: “It was a bit disappointing from my point of view and for many fans of X-COM. When from out of the blue we heard that Firaxis are doing a turn-based version, it’s as if 2K are trying to cover all their bets.”

It’s an interesting interview because he’s looking at it from the same perspective as the fans. He’s not involved, he claims, only learning about it from the announcement: “I would have liked to have been, because in a way I’ve been trying to remake that game for so long, without much success”, he tells EDGE.

It’s not just fans that look at the screenshots and attempt to extrapolate potential pitfalls, but Gollop’s discerning view brings some anecdotal tales of various tricky design problems that the XCOM team face: “It’s difficult to see how the camera works from the screenshot, but disorientation is a problem. In Valkyria Chronicles it worked fine because you have a strategic map view that I thought worked well; I didn’t find Valkyria Chronicles very disorientating. It is an issue – I don’t know how [Firaxis is] doing their camera control but it’s one thing they need to get right if they’re going to get accessibility correct.”

Of course, the original games are hardly the most accessible, and it’s the main issue Gollop hopes developers Firaxis take on: “This is the major thing, but it doesn’t mean you have to dumb anything down in the sense that the full complexity of the game would be eventually revealed to the player as he learns all the systems. That was one thing that was difficult about the original UFO [X-COM was known as UFO in the UK]. It put you there and forced you to make decisions straight away without much idea of what you were supposed to be doing!”

Via EDGE Online.

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50 Comments »

  1. Kdansky says:

    Having played UFO recently, I really hope that they clean up the GUI. You have to assign everyone’s guns again for every single mission, and you can’t bring more than 80 (or so), which was just a boring chore. There is a lot of superfluous clicking involved. I sure hope they remove that, and even add a few convenience buttons like “try to distribute all crap about evenly and sensibly (heavy gun goes to strong soldier), and let me adjust manually afterwards”. And so on. And the isometric view could be really fickle at times. A game does not need bad UI to be complex.

    • Nick says:

      Don’t worry, they fixed that by not having an inventory screen at all. Or ammo.

    • Dominic White says:

      Removing ammo management is a very good move. Yes, you need to reload regularly still, but you don’t need to ensure that you put the requisite number of ammo blobs in each soldiers inventory, after ordering them invididually from the catalogue or (worse still) having them manufactured.

      It was really hard to genuinely run out of ammo in any of the Xcom games, because most shots were very lethal. So yeah, it’s something I’m glad they cut. Any additional depth it brought to the game was FAR outweighed by the amount of bean-counting and tedium.

    • Chicago Ted says:

      Removing ammo requirements for things like rifles and pistols are ok with me. I think heavy weapons like rocket launchers ought to have ammo you bring along, though.
      Could you imagine a game with infinite blaster bomb ammo? The map would be a smoking crater.

      By the way, Xcomutil automatically reequips soldiers when you start a mission, which is amazing.

    • jonfitt says:

      Ammo management is pretty critical in the early game. Your soldiers cannot shoot for toffee, and they can burn through ammo quickly in full auto (offers the best chance to get one hit).
      Also the heavy weapons are ammo limited, and trading off more ammo versus other equipment is important.

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      Those are PC version bugs fixed in the PlayStation port (along with a raft of other niggles which modders can’t fix without access to the source code). Hence I can only stand to play the PS1 version.

    • PearlChoco says:

      Wasn’t that one of the perks of laser weapons early on? That they didn’t require any ammo?

    • MellowKrogoth says:

      Relatively recent remakes like UFO: Extraterrestrials already feature a quite improved UI compared to the original XCom… especially if you use Grayfiend’s Unimod.
      Just check out this mod if you want a rather good take on an xcom remake, actually. It adds back the map of earth to UFO: Extraterrestrials, you get attacked by UFO swarms, and the game is hard :P.

    • Chaosgabe says:

      Looks like i am the only one around here who did not like Valkyria Chronicles. What really broke it for me were the enemy that kept on shooting while i wasn´t even moving. I can live with them shooting at me while i move, but once i stop so should they. I really should not be a game about how you can finish your turn the fastest . . .

      Edit: Dayum, reply fail.

  2. Dominic White says:

    I’m currently replaying Valkyria Chronicles, and it really is rather brilliant. It blends turn-based, action-point-limited movement with realtime, hands-on involvement. It’s also absolutely lovely to look at, and I can see why the Gollops were such fans of it. It really feels like the next logical evolution of the squad-tactics/strategy genre. Naturally, the game bombed in the west and the franchise moved to handhelds in Japan, never to be seen again in English…

    Ffffffuuuuuu-

    • Buemba says:

      Agreed. The story is kind of meh, but mechanically that was exactly what my dream modern X-Com reboot should be.

    • killias2 says:

      I basically bought a PS3 for VC, but I still haven’t played it some 3 years later. Oh backlog…

    • Aerothorn says:

      It really was. It’s too bad the story was so awful.

      Which, inevitably, the general gaming press championed as “heartfelt” and “moving” rather than “an amalgamation of every JRPG cliche.”

    • Snidesworth says:

      I loved the gameplay, but the story just got a bit too twee for me and ultimately put me off the game. I think it really started to grate in the chapter that more or less revolved around that bloody pig. Especially since, if I remember correctly, it got more screen time than the not-so-bad bad guy who was introduced at the same time.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      I’ll third that. VC is a masterclass in modern turn based tactical gaming. Mechanically it is everything I would want from X-COM or a little 40K game even.

      It was a shame it bombed because it think that it was a little bit revolutionary and after playing that I searched for something similar to play but found nothing.

    • Ginger Yellow says:

      Seventhed. Valkyria Chronicles is one of my favourite games of this generation and it would be brilliant on a PC and maybe a bit westernised (though I love the anime art style). If Mr 2K bossman doesn’t know how to make TBS contemporary, he should have a play.

    • Dominic White says:

      Anyone who hasn’t played VC yet and hasn’t got a PS3, I recommend you at least look at this review. It sums up fairly well why it’s such a clever game.

      http://www.gametrailers.com/video/review-valkyria-chronicles/43160

      Also, they’re up to Valkyria Chronicles 3 now, but only the first game is available in English. Japan now has new and regular Xcom-successor (Gollop approved) and Wizardry games released on a regular basis, as well as a strong vein of commercial roguelikes.

      Why are these staples of classic PC gaming not only over there, but not in English? How did they fail!?

    • Therax says:

      I’m a bit baffled at the confusion over VC2. The ever faithful Wikipedia informs me that it was released as a PSP title in North American, European, and Australian markets in 2010. Amazon.co.uk helpfully offers new and used copies for around a tenner.

      The lack of VC3 outside of Japan is a shame, but we foreigners certainly had our chance(s) to support the franchise.

    • Buemba says:

      @Therax

      Hey, I did my part – I bought both games at launch (In fact, when I bought the first VC I didn’t even have a PS3 yet).

      VC2 did some interesting things with the class specialization system, but its story is horrendous in a way I thought only fanfic could be. Seriously, if anyone thinks the story in the first game is bad they should give the first 3 chapters of the second game a try.

    • InternetBatman says:

      We didn’t have the chance to support it on PC.

    • Dominic White says:

      Ah, oops – my bad. Yes, VC2 was available in English. My PSP died early last year, so I’d just not followed it.

      But yeah, VC3 (which apparently went back to a more serious war-story setting after the disasterous high-school/academy drama of VC2) isn’t getting an official release anytime soon. Here’s hoping for a fan-translation sometime down the line.

  3. armaankhan says:

    I hope they have a quick-skirmish mode where you can pick (or maybe even create) a team, then just jump into a randomly generated tactical mission (the broad details of which — difficulty, setting, etc — you can customise beforehand). I never much cared for the real-time bits of X-Com, but loved the tactical battles.

    Xenowar offers that option, and I love it, but it would be amazing if Firaxis implemented it as well simply because of the high-fidelity graphics that’s going to be in Enemy Unknown.

  4. Robin says:

    If I were rich I’d give him the money to make that game he has in mind right away.

    Why is he working on an Ubisoft generic title and not on that game?

    Why?

    Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

    • Arathain says:

      GIven that he developed the game that many PC gamers still consider the finest ever to appear on the format, a game which was packed full of clever and imaginative design, I think one of the more enduring mysteries of the gaming industry is why Julian Gollop hasn’t had a far more high profile career.

      Still, things turning out how they did gave me some lovely times playing Laser Squad Nemesis, so that’s alright then.

    • Robin says:

      No, it’s not alright!

      We MUST someway make his vision into a real game. As soon as possible.

      Since I don’t have money I’ll start with gambling and researching on incautious summons of wish-granting demons.

    • MellowKrogoth says:

      The answer is probably that he himself doesn’t know how to remake his own game in an optimal way.

    • Robin says:

      Erm… did you read the interview?

  5. Will Tomas says:

    But what if you could talk to the aliens?

  6. jonfitt says:

    It’s funny that both Julian and EDGE get the name of Terror From(not Under) The Deep wrong. They seems pretty dismissive of it considering it was nearly a palette swap.

    I liked it. From a UI point of view the improvement of having the button for “reserve TUs for ducking” was something UFO always lacked!

  7. Inigo says:

    Dominic White: It was really hard to genuinely run out of ammo in any of the Xcom games, because most shots were very lethal.

    IF they hit something.

    • Snidesworth says:

      Ammo was generally never an issue early on, but it certainly could be in terror missions or assault on alien bases/really big UFOs. Especially if you were using heavy weapons, which had bulky ammo and ate through it quite fast. Your line troops were almost never going to run out of ammo, but there was a big difference between still having rockets left and not having any left when you’re dealing with terror units.

    • sephiroth says:

      I agree was rarely an issue,

      start only good weapon was the rifle as no troops can move fire the heavy stuff and rifle ammo is cheap, light and plentiful anyway.

      about a month later, Laser weapons NO ammo to worry about and the heavy guys have a laser pistol anyway

      mid – late game Heavy plasma and acurate troops (well one or two anyway) most things die quickly and almost everything you kill gives you more ammo

      that being said I have had times when someone runs out of ammo and is unable to just grab a near by gun to get in the fight but its so rare and mainly against mutons. that being said it happened once against chrysalids that mission went very bad and I learnt to deal with those extra clicks to make sure it never happens again those poor poor soldiers i feel for their familys knowing what happened that day.

  8. Nameless1 says:

    They will probably lose those bets both with the disappointing turn based version and with the FPS.

  9. sephiroth says:

    The more details come out the more I just want a graphics update and a few tweeks like being able to take more gear and loadouts for an soldier being saved. In fact the laodout system from X-com:Apocoylpse would be great patched in to the original.

    why can’t we have this its not ‘that’ hard to do surely??

  10. lowprices says:

    Keep your hair on.

    • lowprices says:

      Gah, reply fail.

      Although the statement could apply to all the die hard XCOM fans getting their knickers in a twist over this…

  11. henben says:

    Kind of a missed opportunity that Edge didn’t ask him anything about Laser Squad Nemesis (and similar games like Frozen Synapse).

    Games with that WEGO resolution system, where both sides submit a set of orders and then the game resolves them simultaneously, are the real advance in the turn-based genre. I don’t understand why so many developers want to clone UFO/Jagged Alliance and ignore the mechanical advances of LSN. I mean, UFO was good for its time, but do we really need half-a-dozen near-remakes?

    I hope Frozen Synapse has sold well and it encourages a lot more WEGO projects.

    • Mungrul says:

      Personally henben, I much prefer the turn-based systems used in traditional Speccy Laser Squad, Rebel Star Raiders, Silent Storm, Valkyria Chronicles et al. I tried both Laser Squad Nemesis and Frozen Synapse, but never really got along with them. It’s a matter of personal taste, not of one system being better than the other. The WEGO system isn’t the evolution of turn-based combat. It’s just a different spin on it.

    • Therax says:

      I don’t know why 1991′s Robosport doesn’t get more recognition as an early implementation of the simultaneous-planning, simultaneous-execution model. The game certainly had its flaws, but it’s the first thing I thought of when I saw Frozen Synapse for the first time, and I was surprised to see no-one else making the connection.

  12. wodin says:

    Why didn’t the Xenonaut crew get him involved?? Considering he wanted to do the game for ages..even on a part time basis..

  13. UK_John says:

    Somehow i think i’ll just be still playing my original X-Com. The one screenshot that worried me was the battlescape screen, which seemed to have a bright blue zig-zag (as in hex) “front line”, as though all you have to do is “beat the map” by going “down” the screen and killing aliens!

  14. aircool says:

    1. Sign him up.
    2. Give him money.
    3. He makes XCOM.
    3. Profit!

  15. Josh W says:

    I really agree with Jullian on what x-com needs more of; when playing the game after a while I got a little disappointed to find the way that things repeat, you still improve at mastering them, using your troops etc, but I would have liked more change in the moment to moment tactics.

    More procedural generation, more backroom complexity, is exactly what this kind of game needs, (that and a more scalable and clear graphics engine, but that’s a pretty easy fix). And then you need to give players a nice path where that complexity gently folds out into the full game.