Solomon Vows: Firaxis on XCOM’s Second Wave Add-On

By Alec Meer on January 8th, 2013 at 5:00 am.

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in. By which I mean, just when you thought I couldn’t possibly muster another marathon interview with XCOM: Enemy Unknown lead Jake Solomon, I did. Later this week he post-mortems the largely brillo remake of the 90s ultra-classic, but firstly we chat about the impending free Second Wave add-on. Skeletal remnants of this set of balance-tweaking toggles were found by modders at launch, but now the full-fat version is ready to go. Here, Solomon talks about why Second Wave was made, how it in some ways makes XCOM more like X-COM and why the add-on’s very existence might just be down to you lot.

RPS: Is this the same Second Wave options that modders found or something different?

Jake Solomon: Modders are amazing. They say water will find a crack – modders will find anything. Anything you foolishly put in there four years ago or whatever… But yeah, the Second Wave, they unlocked it and actually that was really helpful. Second Wave is free add-on content, it’s a free pack that’s going to go live I think [today]. It’s the stuff that the modders found and it’s a bunch of basically gameplay options.

It’s sort of like the Iron Man option, but there are sixteen options in total and they just sort of change the way that the game plays. When it goes live, you’ll automatically get four new options to play the game and there are 12 other options that unlock if you beat the game on normal, classic and impossible. And it’s retroactive, so if you’ve already beaten the game it will recognise that and unlock all the other options as well.

RPS: So you need to have beaten all three difficulty settings to get all the new options? I’m not sure I can ever finish it on Impossible.

Jake Solomon: Right, and I’m typically not a big fan of unlocks, but the reason why we decided to do that is that the ones that are behind Classic and especially Impossible are really, really punishing. The idea with the unlocks behind Impossible are… Well, I said this about Impossible and it turned out not to be true. People have beaten impossible Iron Man, but this time, I’m telling you, it really won’t be about beating the game but rather it’s supposed to be like a roguelike. It’s a little more like Dwarf Fortress, like how long you can survive not that you can beat the game. I say that knowing full well somebody will beat the game with those options unlocked.

RPS: Yeah, I give it 72 hours before they do.

Jake Solomon: I’m in awe of people who’ve already beaten it on Impossible, that’s awesome, but this time I’ll be a little sceptical if people tell me they’ve beaten it with these options on. It’s things like the overall funding levels around the world drop inexorably with every month, so money is just automatically going to get tighter and tighter. And Elerium now has a half-life, so the minute it goes into storage it starts degrading. Obstacles like that create a sort of race condition and make it tough on the player. Man, it doesn’t even sound fun when I say it, but for some people that’s what counts for fun.

RPS: How close is it to what the modders dug up?

Jake Solomon: It is the stuff that the modders dug up, in fact. That was actually very helpful. I’m thrilled by that kind of stuff, it doesn’t bother me at all. We were all kind of laughing about it, they found it so quickly. I had to go back, because I hadn’t balanced them, some of them were broken and didn’t work. So before we even got QA on the Second Wave stuff I was able to go to the Nexus mods website and they had already posted a functionality list and said ‘this one doesn’t work, this one’s bugged…’ So I basically used the mod to [fix this]. There were even a couple of ideas they had to improve them where I was like ‘oh yeah, that’s better.’ So I used their ideas to improve some of the modes, like Marathon mode.

Some of these came from different places. Some are design ideas I had that didn’t make it into the final game for whatever reason, like there’s one called Diminishing Returns and what that does is, with every satellite you build the next satellite is much more expensive. So it creates this really escalating cost. I wanted that in the game because I think that’s a great, solid design mechanic, but the thematics are terrible. It doesn’t make any fucking sense. Why would all of a sudden satellites get more expensive? I probably could have handwaved to make it work, but that seemed very punishing. But I thought the mechanic worked well, because there’s no way to build all the satellites that you need.

So that’s an option that went in because that’s what I wanted, and some other options are meant to mimic the original game. The idea for Second Wave came about really, really late in the project – well past alpha, well past beta probably. The way it works on the team is that for the vast majority of the project I’m the team lead, but once you’re in alpha and beta and actually trying to skip a game, our producer, Garth([DeAngelis), becomes the team lead. We were past that point and I was having trouble dealing with that, y’know? He was actually putting the brakes on some of the stuff I was doing – rightfully so, I would not be good at shipping a game.

So we were right at the end and I was sort of running out of things to do, so I was reading comments, and honestly it was probably RPS, but people were worried about how the original did something and it doesn’t sound like this game would. I started thinking, ‘well, this stuff’s not actually that hard to give to people.’ So I started working on this Second Wave thing really, really late in the project, and the idea was never to release it with the core game, but to release it later.

Some of those options are meant to mimic the original game in that they’re more unpredictable. Things like weapons have a wider range of damage, rookies have random starting stats, their stats will increase randomly. Marathon mode at least doubles the length of the game, if not triples. So things that can give you a little bit more of the feel of the original game.

RPS: Is there anything that alters the fixed hit chance thing? The way the game seems to pre-determine some outcomes and keep them even if you reload?

Jake Solomon: Oh, that’s a good point. I probably should have done that, actually. Sorry. I think Civ includes an option, don’t they, where basically you can either have things be synchronised where every single time, even if you reload, the same thing happens, or it’s random. I could probably have made an option where the results weren’t synchronised. [Sighs]. That’s a good idea. I didn’t do that. I’m sorry.

RPS: And it’s free, right? Why do that in this age of ubiquitous DLC?

Jake Solomon: Yeah, it’s free. It’s not something we wanted to charge for because a lot of people are playing the game and actually playing it a lot more than we expected, to be honest. It’s funny because, when I was doing press before the game came out, it was this big thing that the maps were pre-made, but don’t worry, you can play through the game twice and you probably won’t see the same map. But in hindsight that’s not very helpful, because we didn’t realise people were going to play the game that much. A lot of people have played it four times, or five times, or they’ll start it over and over because they’re playing Iron Man. What we want to do is add to the replayability of the game, so there’s a way to help those people find more value for their dollar, or Euro, or whatever.

One of Firaxis’ core values, in addition to trying to make addictive gameplay obviously, is value for your money. We want people to feel like if you buy a game from us – because games are really expensive, right? – that at the end of the day it’s the cheapest entertainment in terms of hours spent, and this really feeds into that.

RPS: When the Slingshot DLC came out and I needed to start a new Campaign just to see three new missions I just didn’t want to, but it’s a better prospect if I’m going to have quite a different experience throughout.

Jake Solomon: Yeah, I’m excited to see how it works out. The hope is that there’s still people playing it in a couple of years. Obviously a smaller subset, but you always hope, and by then maybe they’ll have the perfect gameplay toggles and they’ll say ‘oh, the only true way to play is with this option and that option.’ I’m kind of excited to see how people take these and go with them.

The original game has a lot of neat things that it allows it to stand completely different from our modern remagining, and it was much more of a simulation. We call it a strategy game, but I wouldn’t call it a strategy. I’d call it more of a simulation. That allowed it to be much more unpredictable, and maybe there are some uneven moments because of that, but it also allows it to have really, really high highs. Higher highs than we’re able to recreate in our reimagining, because our game is much more a game, with pretty explicit choices and the balance is a little tighter. Because of that we can eliminate some of the unevenness, but I think that you also chop off some of the highs that you get when systems are completely open.

I’ve actually been playing the original again, and that game remains unparalleled as far as I’m concerned. Both games don’t fill the same role, it’s not like the modern one replaces the original at all. They feel very different to me, so as I was replaying the original I was like ‘man, it’s actually much more of simulation’ and I think that’s where a lot of the fun stuff comes from. The Second Wave is meant to allow a little bit more of that sort of completely unpredictable gameplay that hopefully can add some really interesting stuff.

Later this week, we talk about XCOM itself – what went right, what went wrong, bugs, bases and what, if anything, its commerical success might mean for the future of turn-based strategy.

Here are those details of the Second Wave DLC, that should have patched into your Steam version by now.

  • Damage Roulette: Weapons have a wider range of damage.
  • New Economy: Randomized council member funding.
  • Not Created Equally: Rookies will have random starting stats.
  • Hidden Potential: As a soldier is promoted, stats increase randomly.
  • Red Fog: Combat wounds will degrade the soldier’s mission stats.
  • Absolutely Critical: A flanking shot guarantees a critical hit.
  • The Greater Good: Psionics can only be learned from interrogating a psionic alien.
  • Marathon: The game takes considerably longer to complete.
  • Results Driven: A country offers less funding as its panic level increases.
  • High Stakes: Random rewards for stopping alien abductions.
  • Diminishing Returns: Increased cost of satellite construction.
  • More Than Human: The psionic gift is extremely rare.
  • And once you’ve completed the game on Impossible difficulty (which seems something of a contradiction):

  • War Weariness: Funding goes down over time.
  • E-115: Elerium degrades over time.
  • Total Loss: Lose all soldier gear upon death.
  • Alternate Sources: The power source cost to build facilities increases dramatically.

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106 Comments »

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  1. TCM says:

    I–what?

    Today? TODAY?

    Curse you RPS, now I won’t be able to sleep.

  2. unangbangkay says:

    Hrrm…not happy that I have to beat Impossible to unlock the other 12 options. Impossible to me is just plain unfair difficulty and I’m not having fun at all.

    Maybe a kind modder (or Firaxis, ideally) can alter this so it unlocks the other options after beating Normal, Classic, and Classic Ironman instead? That’d make me a happy commander.

    • Nim says:

      Each difficulty setting unlocks 4 modes on their own, but harder difficulties also unlock all easier ones I think.

    • Pie21 says:

      It is bloody hard, but anyone who thinks it’s actually impossible can perhaps take some inspiration from the glorious (and Aussie!) Beaglerush saga.

      • Chalky says:

        Do this ^^

        Beaglerush is absolutely fantastic to watch, he has really useful tips and a great sense of humor. By far the best xcom gameplay videos I’ve ever seen.

      • Adriaan says:

        Definitely worth watching even if you’re not looking for inspiration. I’m no XCOM player (turn-based strategy was never my thing, unfortunately) but the game and his commentary are hugely entertaining watch and listen to.

      • bigjig says:

        Thanks for the recommend! He’s definitely one of the better youtube commenters

  3. Nim says:

    Well all the options sound fine as a small free add-on but none of them really catch my interest for replaying X-Com. I’ve finished it now four times, seen all the maps, finished every type of mission, shot down all types of UFOs, etc.

    I would like to see a more involved meta-game than what is currently available. Every month is essentially two abduction missions, one or two UFOs (always in a country with satellite coverage), and a terror mission or council mission for every month until the game is completed. There is no base defense, I cannot prevent abductions taking place (they even spawn with global satellite coverage) and I cannot prevent terror missions. There should be far more UFO’s (all types) flying over the globe at the same time, forcing me to pick targets. Air combat needs to be developed from the current situation of select best equipped fighter and hope for the best. And more maps of course, it didn’t take more than two play-throughs before I had seen all maps.

    • erutan says:

      I’m hoping they can 1) randomize parts of tactical maps / stitch together submaps to freshen up the tactical layer without having to completely rebuild the mapping system 2) as you say have more UFOs in the sky and make interception a required/interesting part of the game (that may interfere with their risk/reward on abduction missions, oh well). The 1 base/1 skyranger thing is here to stay, and that has implications on the strategic layer, but these two changes to me seem semi-reasonable / have a chance at implementation.

      I’d pay for a proper “expansion” that added depth to the strategic layer… it might be a little odd as just a DLC (I skipped slingshot and will probably just get it and potentially similar ones in some future steam sale).

      I have to say I really really enjoy that Jake gets why a lot of us were disappointed with the game – we all had the old “simulation” in mind, and this is a slightly different beast. Still glad it’s been getting GOTY and reviving interest in TBS though!

    • Werthead says:

      IIRC, there’s a mod which allows you to see the UFOs carrying out terror and abduction missions and have a chance to shoot them down before they take place. That sounds like a good optional mode for the game.

    • Techne says:

      … one or two UFOs (always in a country with satellite coverage) …

      Er… Not to be a dick, but isn’t the point that you can only spot UFOs where you have satellite coverage?

  4. Zenicetus says:

    This may appeal to a subset of players who are into min/maxing their performance on the tactical battles, but what this game badly needs is a reason to replay it more than once or twice for the rest of us.

    It’s a terrific game engine, but replay value is crippled by a linear strategy layer and repetitive maps (especially the “big”, story-driven maps).

    I would pay for DLC that offered a wider selection of maps and settings, along with some kind of sandbox approach that didn’t make me replay that fixed story line. As good as the tactical combat engine is, I miss the more open and varied strategy layer of the original game that kept me playing it over, and over again.

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      Gap Gen says:

      Do you still have to play through the gigantic tutorial every time? I say tutorial, but a tutorial might have said things like “Satellites. Build all of them. Unless you hate having money.”

      • yogibbear says:

        Err… you never had to play through the tutorial :P

        From the start new game menu you could always click “Turn tutorial off” or whatever it is called right next to where you can click to turn Ironman mode on. I think 90% of people would’ve played their first victory in Classic or above difficulty with the tutorial off as it allows for waaaay better base optimisation.

    • Lemming says:

      100% agree.

  5. yurusei says:

    The answer he gave to the question about pre-determined RNG outcomes gives me no hope at all.

    • Nim says:

      That feature is meant to discourage save-scumming. Essentially if you can just reload a game and do the exact same action until you get the desired result, you can brute-force your way through the game without any challenge at all.

      • arccos says:

        It’s a huge, HUGE help with testing and debugging to save the random seed with the save file. That way you can get consistent results when you repeat actions on the same save file to catch and fix issues.

        My guess is Firaxis’ development process adds the seed in the save file by default, and nobody really thought to change that for the release. It’s not normally an issue, because people usually reload exactly because they want to try out different approaches, but in XCOM’s case most of the random rolls are going to be doing the same thing on each reload.

    • erutan says:

      While the numbers are set in stone, it’s not like the game says “hit/miss” etc. You can still save/reload & play differently that turn or even retreat back a turn or two and then try a new approach… it just makes it a little more thoughtful than saving before every 10% shot that would save some exposed officer and reloading until it hits. :)

    • yurusei says:

      I understand the intention, but at least give us an option.

    • noodlecake says:

      What possible reason could you want that for other than save scumming?

      • yurusei says:

        Fine, I admit, it’s for save-scumming. I don’t see any crime in it, people just don’t do it because it lengthens their e-peen. I have no such fancies.

        • timzania says:

          Save-scumming just seems like a really tedious way to lock the odds at 100%, that’s all. Better to just play on easy.

          • jonfitt says:

            OOh that’s an idea. All odds 51%+ become 100% and anything else is a miss. Then it becomes more deterministic. A chess match.

  6. arccos says:

    I’m kind of surprised at the negativity/apathy so far in the comments. It’s great they’re spending a bit of extra time to make the game even better, and giving players the option to add the new features to the game instead of forcing it upon them. The features they’re adding are ones a lot of players have asked for, and really do seem to shake up the game more than just adding a few new maps would.

    Jake Solomon seems to be as honest as he can be about the game; what it is, what it isn’t; and doesn’t try to sell it as THE BEST GAME EVER and perfect in every way like most interviews end up. Postmortems like this are both useful and interesting. He seems to understand why the new game is both more popular and not as loved as the classic.

    I personally thought it was an outstanding game. I’m looking forward to going back to it soon for a second full run through with the new options. And I’m hoping Firaxis puts Jake on as project lead for more projects in the future.

    • AngusPrune says:

      To a large extent, there’s just no reason to care. I’ve beaten the game on every difficulty I probably care to. Since there’s no real base building or expansive tech tree like a civ game, there’s just no reason to replay. Neither is there the sort of fast dip-in experience that keeps me occasionally going back to Laser Squad after all these years.

      What this game desperately needs is proper modding and map-making support. The engine as a basis for xcom-likes could easily last a decade if only they’d let it. If they had the foresight to turn customers in to fans then the xcom franchise would still be going strong in 2020. As it stands, they need to do all the sales work again to convince me to buy their next game. It’s not an automatic preorder.

      • Popcornicus says:

        This. The lack of built-in replay value (no map randomization, repetitive mission structure, not enough tech/weapon/power/gadget options) and absent mod support make the game a regretted purchase for me. DLC desperately needs to add randomized mission content and strategic depth. Mods could’ve made the game worthy of repeat playthroughs by introducing new maps and enemies. Solomon mentioned that the Firaxis team didn’t include random maps because they didn’t expect people to play through the game more than once or twice. I’m glad he’s honest, but it’s agonizing for huge fans of the engine and core gameplay who could enjoy XCOM endlessly if it were more unpredictable.

        • HadToLogin says:

          I’m really sad about no real-mod (aka something more then texture swaps and ini edits) support – but that was expected, I can’t recall any Unreal Engine 3 game to have mod support.
          But it’s sad because with real mods somebody could cut aliens out, put more real guns and make proper Jagged Alliance…

        • Arglebargle says:

          Solomon seems like a pretty good guy, but sometimes he sounds pretty…..clueless …. let’s say.

          People are STILL playing the original game today. I ponied up some moolah, and bought it again a couple of years ago, just to get a version playable on a modern OS and one that avoided the original’s manual DRM. I play it for a while every year or so.

          No RNG option, no randomized maps, various other aspects squeezed down for simpler development; well, that’s a bit of a failure of vision, imo. Hope the modders can hack something out of the somewhat stolid block.

          • TCM says:

            How is he clueless when he himself admits the original is still very much worth playing, and the games fill different roles?

            Also, on randomized maps: The thing I most disliked about original X-COM was actually its lack of variety in so-called randomized maps. The maps THEMSELVES were random, but the ELEMENTS composing them were static. You could quickly and easily pick out the UFO’s layout, the layout of the buildings, the width of that cabbage field, etc.

            I actually think the new game has better variety on this front, though my opinion is likely minority — some kind of compromise would have been nice, though.

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            Gap Gen says:

            I think making good randomised maps is actually kinda hard. I know someone who is writing an AI to make game levels, and it’s harder than it looks to make stuff that isn’t broken or unfun in some way.

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          PoulWrist says:

          Just for reference, how many games don’t you regret buying? And what triggers regret?

        • Dariune says:

          Yeh I am in this camp as well.

          I played through once and found no reason to play it again. The replyability is non-existent due to limited inventory slots, up to only 6 soldiers at a time, repetitive maps, poor base building, lacking research, terrible UFO hunting, few ufos and just one base.

          I didn’t hate the game, but I very much doubt I will play it again.

          I just hope Xenonauts will scratch my XCOM itch.

          • noodlecake says:

            Having more than 6 units would have been annoyingly complicated. When a game allows for more soldiers, if you choose not to use more soldiers you can’t win. I think having more soldiers would put tons of people off the game. Civ 4 has the same problem when it comes to having to hire and keep track of so many unit.

          • Dariune says:

            Really? Can’t say I agree with that. I understand where your coming from but i can’t relate to it.
            Loads of games lets you deal with many units at the same time. Even the game that XCOM is reimagining allowed up to 20 odd units at a time and with more customisation possibilities.

            If your looking for simple, in my ideal world, you wouldn’t be looking for tactical simulation researchathons.

            There are plenty of “easy to manage” games where as the more complex games are few and far between.

          • mouton says:

            Just play the Original Game or Xenonauts.

            I prefer some evolution in my games, kk

          • Lemming says:

            @mouton

            I think you need to define your definition of ‘evolution’.

          • mouton says:

            @Lemming

            It can consist of the following:

            Wonderful enemy designs (mutons!), making multiple weapons viable (instead of just Heavy Plasma and Blaster Launcher), making a better AI (instead of randumb in OG), making actual cover system, making the aliens move in squads, balancing many game elements for the better (psionics less OP, blaster launcher less OP), creating varied maps (no joke – OG had, like, farm farm farm farm. Just mixed around).

            Not all changes are positive, of course, and many things could have been much better. But this game deserves way less hate than it gets.

        • LintMan says:

          “The lack of built-in replay value (no map randomization, repetitive mission structure, not enough tech/weapon/power/gadget options) and absent mod support make the game a regretted purchase for me”

          Really, a regretted purchase? I would have liked a deeper game with more mod support and replayability as well, but I’m still thrilled that we got this game at all and that they did did a pretty good job on it. I’m happy with my purchase and hope they’ll continue to support the game and perhaps add in some of the stuff it’s missing.

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      FhnuZoag says:

      Me too, I’m pretty chuffed at this. I was just going to go through with another run, and was considering Second Wave options anyway.

  7. IneptFromRussia says:

    I thought teleporting cyberdisk from nowhere is actually a feature, not a bug (its in bugfixes). Ha-ha. My only wish for the next game – completely randomly generated maps. Do not care how the hell they are gonna pull it off , but it will result in practically ideal game for me.

  8. JoeGuy says:

    Really the DLC I want is a comprehensive map pack & a mission type pack. Variety is the spice and all that. I absolutely adore the game and more modes/options is great. I just want a few less trees and suburban cities during my playthrough and a few more foreign landscapes and missions. The x2 or x3 game length option along with random rookie stats sounds like they wouldn’t upset the game balance and can be left on tbh.

  9. Kohlrabi says:

    So, another DLC while gamebreaking bugs like the alien squad patrol teleport bug and mind control panic bug are still rampant? I have really lost hope in Firaxis by now.

    EDIT: Scratch the first complaint, apparently the accompanying patch fixes the former: “Minimizes the bug where aliens teleport into the middle of a player’s squad”. Whatever “minimize” means. No mention of the latter bug. Is it a feature by now?

    2nd EDIT: Scratch my first edit, there are reports about the teleport bug still occuring: http://forums.2kgames.com/showthread.php?201721-XCOM-Enemy-Unknown-3rd-Patch-is-now-live&p=2643956#post2643956

    • Astroman says:

      Steam achievement: “Beat the game on Impossible difficulty” % of total players = 0.5%

      Less then 1% of Xcom players on steam will ever see this new difficulty level. I bet a lot more then that get bugs.

  10. Premium User Badge

    dare says:

    I got the chance to play XCOM only a couple of days ago, and so far I’m loving it. Never played the original though – I think System Shock was as hardcore as I wanted to go those days.

    More strategic depth would be great, as would the idea of aliens attacking your base or having to do multiple missions at the same time. However a simple thing that bugs me so far is that all the world seems to look the same. I go do a mission in Nigeria, there’s pine trees in the background. I don’t really think that’s how it works. We’re saving the Earth here, please show me all the variety of the stuff I’m working to save, not just an endless bunch of mini-malls, bridges and gas stations.

    • Perjoss says:

      There must be some kind of law surely that forbids XCOM and System Shock to be mentioned in the same sentence, its far too much awesome concentrated in such a small area on my screen.

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      Gap Gen says:

      Yeah, more variety across the globe would be neat. Also an accent pack would be ace, but again take time and money.

  11. Chizu says:

    I think more than anything, I’d just like an option that removes aliens getting a free go.
    Too many times I’ve been able to actually see the aliens on the edge of my vision, then they’ve moved right into my guys line of sight, and then since thye are “spotted” they go ahead a move again, usually right up to my guys.
    Its kind of idiotic and I do not know who’s bright idea that was, but they deserve a slap.

    • TCM says:

      They get a free move, but they don’t get to attack or overwatch after it — if they are moving right up to your guys, that’s a blessing for you, since it’s giving you a free shot or four at them with high accuracy.

    • Low Life says:

      The way I see it, just disabling the aliens’ reaction move wouldn’t work, it’d also require making the aliens actually move using cover out of combat. It doesn’t really make sense for a group of three mutons to be standing in the middle of a room when guarding their crashed UFO.

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        Zephro says:

        This.

        Removing the “free” move, better called a reaction move, would mean re-designing the Alien AI so that it always moved in cover and used overwatch. Which would just mean when you bump into them they’d be hiding behind cover and shooting you in the middle of your turn. Which would inevitably result in even more people complaining about the aliens cheating.

        Just removing the reaction move would mean the game would just go. I move, spot aliens standing around in the open, critical hit them all, they all die. Repeat.

  12. IneptFromRussia says:

    For next update i think a simple map pack would be the most efficient way to please the fans. Old ones will get incentive to play again, new ones will be mesmerized by how many maps are there. Its a win\win.

  13. Radiant says:

    That was a wonderful interview.
    It’s pretty rare to see that kind of honesty and it’s bloody commendable.

  14. Premium User Badge

    Stellar Duck says:

    “[…]don’t worry, you can play through the game twice and you probably won’t see the same map.”

    I… what? I’ve played the game half way through and I’ve seen the same 5 or so maps time and again.

    • IneptFromRussia says:

      thats impossible, i played on Classic with 38 battles, it started to loop only after every map was featured once, so more towards the end of the game. They were smart enough to make it like that.

      • MrMud says:

        The large UFO’s are nothing but the actual UFO so I don’t see how this is actually possible…

      • Premium User Badge

        Stellar Duck says:

        The diner map, I’ve seen that several times. The crashed UFO map in the fores, several times. The warehouse in a container yard, twice. Some building where I have to pick up a scientist, twice. A high way with abandoned cars where I have to extract a dude, thrice.

        I don’t know that it’s impossible. Seemed quite possible as it was happening.

        • Dark Nexus says:

          There’s more than one “UFO crashed in the forest” map….

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        Gap Gen says:

        So does it loop through maps, or pick them completely randomly? Because if it’s the latter, it’s technically possible to have the same map two times in a row, like how shuffling your music collection will still sometimes put two songs from the same album one after the other.

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          Zephro says:

          I’m pretty sure it loops. But for things like council missions it loops through about 4 options, so it’s not hard for them to repeat.

          It’s more like shuffle. Each track is played once in a random order, then this is repeated with a different random order.

  15. rossasaur says:

    Given it seems quite likely that this Solomon chap may be reading the article’s comments in his downtime, I would adore the ability for much larger squads (I believe the original had something like 20) allowing for operations more akin to a large scale conflict; both in singleplayer and multiplayer would be amazing. I suppose if you provide some more mod support that would also be really cool!

  16. JackDandy says:

    Very interesting stuff. I started playing this a little while ago, (Classic Ironman, already been defeated twice..) and having lots of fun with it.

    The thing that could help this kind of game the most is random maps, definitely.

  17. Potocobe says:

    I would simply like to see location specific maps that correlate to the country/region a lot more closely. Little things like different signage at the fast food/gas station locations, different rooftops. Some weather effects for the time of year might be nice. You add weather effects and that could open doors to limited visibility during storms or fog and high tech optics research for IR goggles or radar for my SHIV.
    Really though, if I shoot down a UFO over Italy, give me vineyards. Mid-west USA? Give me cows and corn. The maps don’t need to be random, just relevant…

    • rossasaur says:

      I have to agree with this, combined with some accents actually based on your soldier’s country would add a significantly greater amount of authenticity and to a degree immersion than what is currently present.

      • Mrs Columbo says:

        The lack of regional accents is a bit frustrating, especially considering the game itself has been regionalised and translated into several different languages. I’d have thought that getting the foreign cast to speak a few lines each in English wouldn’t have been too much to consider.

      • SanguineAngel says:

        Originally the lack of localised maps was most annoying me but as I have come to appreciate the unqiue soldiers under my command, it’s really the localised accents that I would love to see most. I wouldn’t mind so much even if I couldn’t really understand them, so simply lifting from the localised versions of the game elsewhere would be a start.

    • Mrs Columbo says:

      On a mission last night to Egypt, I was amused that it took place in a ‘Liquor Store’ which was playing country & western muzak over its PA.

      • rossasaur says:

        So that’s where the music comes from! I had always thought it was some sort of bizarre glitch or easter egg given it’s tendency to still play after the store had been plasma blasted into oblivion.

    • Premium User Badge

      Faldrath says:

      You know, this is the thing that bothers me the most about the game. If you’re going to make a game about the Earth being in danger, make it *the Earth*, not just “the USA with different names”. I really wish Alec would ask Solomon about that, because it’s such a glaring thing.

  18. Prime says:

    …when I was doing press before the game came out, it was this big thing that the maps were pre-made, but don’t worry, you can play through the game twice and you probably won’t see the same map. But in hindsight that’s not very helpful, because we didn’t realise people were going to play the game that much. A lot of people have played it four times, or five times…

    That’s an astonishing admission! He honestly thought people were going to play this game once or twice, maybe three times, then get bored and move on? When they’re still playing the original?

    • MeestaNob says:

      He’s being realistic, most people only play something briefly then move on to the next game. There’s so many games out there it’s impossible to hold a gamers attention for long (except for one in a million games like CS, Dota, Warcraft etc).

      • Premium User Badge

        Zephro says:

        Yeah pretty much. Most games only get played once, if that. I’ve seen statistics on games (console admittedly) if that, the vast majority of users only get part way into a game before giving up or being distracted.

        Seems sensible to base your assumptions on statistics rather than the vocal minority on forums, to me anyway.

        • HadToLogin says:

          Just check Steam statistics for any game. Less then 40% won The Walking Dead. L4D2 – not a single campaign was won by 50% of players (but I guess some blame can be put on this sales, since I seen that number higher, around 53%).
          Really, I would love someone to ask developers and publishers about those numbers. Would love to see their reaction for “are you happy your game sucks so much people doesn’t even try to win it once?”

    • NathanH says:

      I think it’s understandable that he felt this way, as the game is not designed to be replayable like the original, given it isn’t a simulationist approach and the strategy layer gives little margin for experimentation. I am surprised that there are many people who have played it four times by now.

    • Premium User Badge

      FhnuZoag says:

      ‘Still playing the original’ is a rather misleading claim. I sincerely doubt that anyone playing the original today has been playing it continuously all those years. More realistically, it’s a steady dribble of people discovering the game for the first time, and people who went away from the game long enough to forget about it, and then decided to come back to it at a later point. I fully intended to come back to XCOM, and it’s obvious that you’ll get fatigued with any game if you pour hundreds of hours into it without a break.

      So far I have completed the new XCOM more times than I have the original.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      It’s strange because it goes against the core value he mentions. To have that core value and then consciously make a game for only a few playthroughs is… weird.

    • mouton says:

      Speaking of the original, it doesn’t exactly have varied maps. Mostly just a farm with a bunch of squares shifted around. I am positive I exhausted all the combinations in one-two playthroughs.

  19. Cooper says:

    He sounds so pleased with the modders. That’s nice to hear.

    Except; does he realise they broke / hamstrung modding possibilites a couple of patches ago?

    The game now “phones home” on startup and downloads the configuration files from their servers, replacing any custom ones you have installed. It does this silently, with no warning.

    Which means that currently the only way to play mods is to play XCOM with your computer unplugged from the internet.

    Seems like not everyone over there is quite so pleased with the modders.

    • Nim says:

      You can get around it by firewall-blocking the executable from accessing the internet.

  20. MeestaNob says:

    The game is great, but it NEEDS more tile sets. Desert and Snow would be a perfect place to start, and less downtown NYC city-scapes for Kenya please, it’s silly.

    Another bugbear is when your squad of six gets off the plane only 4 dudes ever run out, loading screen only has 4 squaddies as well.

    Also, if they could fix the interface when it comes to different levels of elevation that would be most appreciated.

  21. Eric George says:

    “one in the same”, really?

  22. Zogtee says:

    So, a handful of settings that never made it into the game? I guess it’s nice to see them actually doing some work on the game, but it’s not the DLC I was hoping for. I’d pay for a proper expansion or some worthwhile DLC, because right now there’s no reason for me to go back to the game. Yes, modders are great, but where’s the official mod support? I’d kill someone for a map editor.

  23. Totally heterosexual says:

    Wow that is awesome. I was going to lend this game a to a friend but now it will have to wait.

  24. Michael Fogg says:

    I’m a little puzzled this doesn’t feature a ‘sanbox’ mode where you can just play without the story objectives, perhaps after beating the game. Personally I think the way XCOM seamlessly mixed the campaign stroyline with the gameplay was kind of briliant, but I’ve seen quite a lot of people annoyed by it.

  25. Sardonic says:

    A good interview. Can’t wait to try some of the options. The game absolutely needs new maps though. Arctic, jungle, desert, and so forth. Have a UFO crash map in a suburban neighborhood, or a shopping mall. More than anything else, more maps would help the game, and I would gladly shell out money for them.

  26. Premium User Badge

    Erithtotl says:

    I think Marathon mode was needed. I was talking to a friend and we both agreed that you never really get a chance to appreciate a lot of the gear because you are usually onto the next wave of stuff after one or two missions.

    Anything to include more randomization is good too.

    I think I’d still want more content expansions before playing through this again, especially since I did it on Classic Ironman.

  27. Vinraith says:

    This is a very nice surprise!

  28. gingerbill says:

    X-com was my favourite game of the year , loved it . It’s different than the original and i like that . I admire firaxis making new games with new idea’s and not just the same game over and over with better graphics.

    Civ 5 and x-com are both different games than the ones that came before and i think firaxis should be applauded for that , if i want Civ 4 and original x-com i load them up again.

  29. NathanH says:

    Red Fog is interesting, if your soldiers get very injured then it is possible that they can miss adjacent aliens. I’m not sure whether this is a good mechanic but it certainly makes a big difference.

    • Baines says:

      I think Beaglerush already missed an adjacent alien in one of his Hardore Impossible videos.

      Yes, second video. Clear assault rifle shot at range misses, takes a point blank shotgun, dodges pistol fire from a couple of feet away, dodges point blank pistol fire, and is finally killed by clear pistol shot at range.

  30. LockjawNightvision says:

    Jake, if you’re listening, I’d love a toggle for “unshackled AI” on normal. So, basically, classic AI with Normal probabilities.

  31. NathanH says:

    I’ve been playing this today, and have had strange behaviour where some random far away part of the map was in sight for no reason, allowing me to see the aliens patrolling there and eventually triggering the aliens from far away. Has anyone seen this bug before?

  32. Strangerator says:

    “That allowed it to be much more unpredictable, and maybe there are some uneven moments because of that, but it also allows it to have really, really high highs. Higher highs than we’re able to recreate in our reimagining, because our game is much more a game, with pretty explicit choices and the balance is a little tighter. Because of that we can eliminate some of the unevenness, but I think that you also chop off some of the highs that you get when systems are completely open.”

    Yeah it’s the lack of “unevenness” that makes me not want to keep replaying the game. When you can start a mission and say, “oh good, it’s just the bridge terror mission, this will be easy,” then you sort of lose the motivation to keep playing. If maps were random, I’d probably be more likely to use a SHIV for the movable cover, since maps wouldn’t have the in-built “solutions” for advancing in cover. It also creates the situation where you get better at playing specific maps, instead of better at the game in general. The reason I stopped playing Impossible was not the ultra-high difficulty, but the ultra “gamey” tactics it forces you to use.

    The Geoscape in this version became vestigial, as each region had the same terrain, gas stations, etc. It didn’t matter where you shot down UFOs, even if you shot them down in the ocean off the coast of a desert region, it would manage to crash land in a temperate forest. I’d like to see the geoscape with the climate zones of the original, which would then lead to different randomly generated maps. I’d also say cut back on the amount of abduction missions, since they become a grind quickly. Instead, more UFOs and lots more maps for UFO missions. Just one map each made UFO missions bland quickly. I’d also like more randomized numbers of UFO survivors. Sometimes you’d have 2 sectoids limping around the crash site, with the ship almost totally demolished. Also, interceptors being region-locked is a little too gamey for my taste. My Europe stationed interceptor should be allowed to attempt an interception over Asia. More control of aircraft in general would be great.

    All griping aside, maybe Jake Solomon’s wheels are turning on making the next installment more “simulation” and less “game.”

  33. katscan says:

    Sooooo are you guys going to ask him what the hell is going on with the teleport enemy groups right on top of your squad bug ???

  34. katscan says:

    Any news on why niggly little bugs like the arrows moving out from under your mouse cursor when customization options change from 1 to 2 digits haven’t been fixed yet ?? Thats something simple a high schooler could fix. Just add a leading zero.

  35. ScorpionWasp says:

    What X-Com really needs is two things:

    1 – An incentive not to be ultra super careful in tactical missions, which is just cheap and boring, but is the optimal strategy currently. The game punishes you for advancing too much by triggering multiple alien groups. The game punishes you for moving more than one soldier per turn with no aliens spotted, by having less than the maximum number of free soldiers ready to shoot when you DO spot aliens. Ideally this entire system should be redesigned from the ground up, but that ain’t gonna happen, so how about this: All missions have “incentives” similar to terror missions. That is, the longer you take to complete them, the less you get/the more you lose.

    2 – The game reaches a boring equilibrium once you have satellites over every remaining country. You can’t lose the game anymore, the aliens won’t finish you off. I realized that, once I lost my entire squad of vets trying to capture the first Ethereal. My rookies would then have an even harder time at that mission, which made me fail it several times. I realized I’d have to take my time and boringly grind them before attempting the mission again, but that’s when the feeling of pointlessness set in. I have won already, in that I cannot possibly lose; the game won’t let me. Going forward now is but a formality, devoid of tension or uncertainty or drama, and full of grind. That’s when I put the game down, without finishing it.

    If these two issues were to be resolved, I’d go play the game again. It appears that issue 2 is addressed by the new options, but not issue 1.

  36. Slinkyboy says:

    “maybe they’ll have the perfect gameplay toggles and they’ll say ‘oh, the only true way to play is with this option and that option.’ I’m kind of excited to see how people take these and go with them.”

    Release the modding tools and then we’ll give you the best options, motherfucker.

    • Stan Lee Cube Rick says:

      So many disappointments in this game that could be fixed by mods but the devs have been less than uncooperative. I pre-ordered but I can’t bring myself to finish game in its current state.

  37. katscan says:

    What the hell ? They didn’t address unequipping soldiers when removed from you active squad ?? We still have to hunt for that one arc thrower through 20 guys, because we also cant move next/prev soldier in loadout screen.”

    Sigh… I seriously doubt that the development team actually plays the game, unlike what Jake stated. Or if they do, they play it on console.