Firaxis’ Jake Solomon Post-Mortems XCOM: Part One

By Alec Meer on January 14th, 2013 at 8:00 pm.

'Tell us everything, mutie!'

With Firaxis’ de-hyphenated, largely very well-received remake of the legendary, incomparable, enormous-haircutted X-COM now out there saving the Earth from the worst scum of the universe for several months, now seems the time to sit down with its enthusiastic main man Jake Solomon. What went right, what went wrong and what comes next? As per recent tradition, we had a very long chat.

Covered in this first part – the base, the skills, the missing element of surprise and what they’ve learned if they ever do this again. Edited out to spare you the horror: his Punch & Judy-style impersonation of an Englishman.

RPS: I went back and played the original recently, even did a retrospective on Eurogamer about it, and it really was so different. They felt like companion products rather than replacements because yours is… Look at all the skills and tools you’ve got, you can basically calculate what all the potential outcomes are, whereas XCOM is more about throwing all this meat at the grinder and just hope you survive whatever you encounter.

Jake Solomon: Yeah, I’m very very glad that it’s worked out that way. The original remains this masterpiece, nobody’s going to make a game that’s going to overshadow the original, but I’m just glad that it still stands there as its own completely separate game. I would never tell somebody ‘oh yeah, play our XCOM, you don’t have to play the original’. It’s not at all the case. It’s ‘look, they are two completely different games that you need to play, if you’re a gamer you need to play the original and have that completely unpredictable experience. It’s very fuzzy, but it also feels really authentic because you know that the UFOs are out there, whether or not you can detect them, they don’t care. They’re out there flying. I love that game.

RPS: Yeah, they’re doing their thing, secretly, and maybe you can catch some of them…

Jake Solomon: It’s awesome.

RPS: What’s your general feeling about XCOM now, now that it’s out in the world? How much does it match what you’d expected and intended it to be?

Jake Solomon: It’s such a strange position to be in. Making a modern XCOM, that’s been the goal, that has always been my dream job. It’s very weird to be on the other side of your dream job and still only be 35. And it’s weird because our team, we worked on it for a very long time, about five years, we put in crazy, crazy hours, and for the bulk of that nobody even knew the game existed.

I think it was almost exactly a year ago that we even went public with it, so there was this long period of time when we had no idea what the reception was going to be. For four years we were just working on this thing, and the reception was great, and the previews were great, and then the actual critical reception was awesome, and fans loved it. I was just very, very happy for the team and it was nice to have that occur, but it’s a very weird transition to then all of a sudden be done with it.

I was so thrilled when we were done with the game because I was so tired of it in some ways, but then you know, everybody likes it, and it’s human nature I suppose, then you start forgetting about all the long, long nights and the terrible prototypes and the year-long stretches when the game wasn’t any fun at all and you were terrified that you were a failure and you were going to ruin everybody’s lives.

Then you look back and you’re like ‘I almost don’t want to let it go’ which is why the Second Wave’s been kinda fun, to go back to it and still work with the code. I’m happy, it’s strange to transition from that point where the XCOM that we all worked on is actually at this point kind of history.

It’s almost like ‘Oh, that’s a game I worked on’, as opposed to, for the longest time personally for me that was my life, for the longest, longest time, and a lot of guys on the team, that was their lives. It’s strange to be like ‘Ok, that was just a game we worked on, and now we’re moving on.’ That being said, it’s not like it’s a bad thing, it’s just very strange to still come to terms with that. Last week was my first week back at work in almost three months, so…

RPS: You’ve just been lounging on your luxury yacht made of gold…

Jake Solomon: Yes, also taking care of a newborn. It’s the most rewarding vacation, not the most relaxing one. Now, looking at the future, and looking at everything that’s to come, it’s just very different. When we were working on XCOM, nobody even knew it existed, the game we were trying to re-make was twenty years old, so in some sense design-wise and everything, every development aspect of the game, we could do whatever we wanted. There was nobody to tell us, there’s no data telling us whether that’s right or wrong, and so…

I don’t know if that was actually a good thing, it made for a lot of the terrifying nature of the development process where we made a lot of mistakes, and me personally, I made a lot of very un-fun decisions, and the game wasn’t very fun for very long. But then going forward you miss the freedom of saying ‘Well, now we can just do whatever we want’, because you find that you actually can’t do that if you want to think about XCOM’s future or whatever, you find yourself saying ‘well, we actually have hard data saying “people want this, people don’t want that”’ and it’s just a much different perspective. It’s been really awesome, but it’s just been such a change, such a shift over the last couple of months.

RPS: I guess you changed from being a black ops outfit to doing it all in the public eye. People know your name now, which I guess they didn’t before – the internet knows who you are and wants to know what you’re doing, which is bound to be a big shift.

Jake Solomon: Yeah it is, it’s the sort of thing where in some ways, thinking about things, debates are certainly easier. We used to have the ability to debate between, let’s say, engineering and design, or art and engineering, whatever it is, you sort of had to make your case of what you thought people would find value in. I would say ‘No, no, no, we have to have this, people are going to really want that’, or ‘No, that stuff doesn’t matter, people aren’t really going to give a shit’.

Like the accents on soldiers (all soldiers in XCOM speak with American voices regardless of their country of origin – International Ed). That was me, I was kinda like ‘People aren’t going to give a shit that everybody sounds the same’, and obviously I was completely wrong, but it’s one of those things.

RPS: A lot of readers on our site were annoyed about that, yeah.

Jake Solomon: (laughs) I’ve heard that Yahtzee, from Zero Punctuation, has offered to spearhead a mod in which they actually do real accents. It’s one of those things where before you sort of had this freedom to have these debates, but now there’s a lot less freedom in those debates because we can say ‘Well, there are a lot of people playing the game, we have a lot of feedback now.” So we can say “this is what people find value in, this is what they did not like, or did not find any value in that we spent all this effort on” or “look, we need to really think about this going forward because people found a lot of value in this and we didn’t expect that”’.

It’s not like that’s a bad thing. Good lord, the alternative is that nobody gives a shit about your game and you primarily are making a sequel. It’s the sort of thing where going forward, when you think about the game and think about design, it’s just interesting to view things from a perspective where you have a lot of feedback. It really makes people who are fans of the game, they become a major part of the development process where that just didn’t even exist before.

RPS: Presumably there’s a fine line to walk between making sure you’re responding to what people want and not being this sort of bland, made by committee thing like a Farmville, where it’s just about the hotspots where people click and what the behaviours are.

Jake Solomon: Oh yeah, we are definitely not metrics-driven. Metrics don’t have a lot of value for us, it’s more interpreting, but it is interpreting what you hear and saying ‘ok…’ Like the maps thing is very, very interesting, I went out there before release and I was very confident in saying ‘two full playthroughs and you won’t see the same map.’, Butt that’s not as much value as I thought that was, that actually doesn’t work out to be as much value as you would hope because people have played for hundreds of hours, people have played 100 hours, and 200 hours, and it’s shocking to them, it really is shocking.

So you really have to say ‘ok, we need to reinterpret what is actually going to give the most value to people, how they really want to play the game’. It’s interesting. The danger too is to sit there and say ‘Well, people really liked this so we should give them more of that.’ The danger is that then you don’t come up with anything new and interesting, and instead you are just polishing edges or not innovating in any interesting way, that’s dangerous too.

RPS: Yeah, or you could end up with a sort of ‘Revenge of the Sith’ situation where it’s just a parade of fanservice and no real heart. Is there anything you personally regret or wish you’d done differently, anything you look at and think ‘oh God, why?’

Jake Solomon: I don’t have any major regrets, it’s just more that now that the game is a finished product and I’ve played it enough, and to hear feedback, to really evaluate it, I think that the weapons, I think they’re interesting, but not as interesting as I’d like. The classes are certainly interesting, but then the weapons… Like, Laser weapons are not much more than more powerful conventional weapons. Then the Plasma weapons are not much more than more powerful Laser weapons, so it’s kind of a lost opportunity there.

We’ve got some really cool stuff, like in the armour, the Ghost stuff and the jet packs, but the weapons didn’t do that, and I think that that’s sort of a missed opportunity. Anything that doesn’t add to replay value, where it’s like the game objectives are the same every time, and so you have to do the same hard gate to beat the game…

That’s fine, but it’s one of those things where I wish I’d found a way to maybe make that a little more random or at least have an option where you have to do different things to beat the game, or multiple victory conditions, or something that would allow the game to feel much more organic. Things like that, anything where it sort of feels like the game doesn’t feel as organic, those are the things that you kind of give a hard look to, and say ‘people are playing the game a lot, and these are the sort of things that maybe wear thin after a while.’ I was playing Borderlands 2, and their weapons system, which is straightforward but they do such a good job of it, and I just think that that kind of stuff is really interesting, and it makes a lot of sense for games, even like XCOM.

RPS: Yeah I guess even on harder difficulty settings you’re following the same route up the tech tree and once you’ve done it once there aren’t any surprises.

Jake Solomon: It’s a balance between balance basically and endless play. The original game had a little bit more of that endless play, because it’s very hard to strike that balance between well balanced gameplay and then gameplay that goes on forever. I think Civ does a really, really good job of that. You never really beat a game of Civ and think ‘alright, that’s it then’. You always feel like there’s another way to do that.

RPS: But then that’s the game where you get a fold out wall chart because there are so many skills in it.

Jake Solomon: Right, exactly. And you always set out to do one thing. You sort of set out to do one thing in Civ, and typically you end up doing something else. That’s always what makes it interesting for me. XCOM’s more of a game of struggle but you know what you’re trying to do, and you’re struggling against odds but you’re never, from my angle on the strategy layer, surprised enough. That’s something I think about a lot now, post-launch.

RPS: But it’s also a strength to some degree. It’s quite like a board game, you have a hand of cards in any given situation, you learn gradually what they all do, you try and calculate what to do with your hand, and that suits the strategy as well as helping it stand apart from the original.

Jake Solomon: That’s true, the idea of using the hand you’re dealt and dealing with mounting losses and unexpected losses. From a post mortem angle, the Iron Man mode was never something that we considered to be a big deal internally, and it has become a very very big deal now that the game is out. That was something that went in post-alpha, and I don’t know that we considered it to be that big of a deal, it was just sort of like ‘oh yeah, this is a feature we think we should offer people.’

It’s become a lot of people’s de facto way to play the game, which was again surprising, and if you think of Iron Man as the de facto way to play the game then I think you can do a lot more interesting stuff too. You could have something where… you know in Torchlight where you can enchant weapons, and I love that, it’s this sort of random ‘oh fuck, you just cursed the weapon’, every time you’re like ‘well, I’ll have one more enchantment’, and then it’s like ‘oh, it’s ruined, it’s ruined?’

RPS: Yeah, or you put four valuable items into the blender hoping to get something better, but you wind up with something worse.

Jake Solomon: It really is fascinating. Before the game comes out you’re just guessing, you’re just guessing at what you think people are going to like, and certainly you know to some extent, but you really don’t know until people have played it. ‘Oh, so that’s what people need more of, that’s what they really enjoy,’ and so it’s just funny to do something without any of that input. Now we can look back and say ‘ok, these are the things.’

RPS: How do you feel about how the base turned out> It seemed to me as though it, and Interception, was not entirely fleshed out. It seemed to be purely a way of serving the battles rather than serving its own function if you see what I mean.

Jake Solomon: Yeah, I think that’s true. I think that to a certain extent, functionally, I think there’s something to be desired there. There’s still a lot of potential there, because personally I love the base, I love, love, love the way it looks, I love having it and seeing the little people.

I don’t know, maybe it’s my GI Joe nature coming out. It feels really cool and adds to that sense of ‘I am a commander’. Seeing that always reinforces that sense of ‘I’m the bossnder.’ But, that being said, I think we all have had these really long lists of things that we would like to do to it, but I think that functionally there could be more that could be done. Obviously the base attacks weren’t in there/ I think that that probably reduces some of the impact of it, because in the original game you had your base and you didn’t really feel a strong connection to it until all of a sudden you had a base assault, and then you were down in the actual base that you constructed and fighting for it.

RPS: That’s the thing, it doesn’t feel like much more than a graphic or a really nice looking menu backdrop, because it doesn’t come into play itself.

Jake Solomon: Right, and the fact that when you go to build we show a blueprint instead of showing the actual facility, so there’re some things. I think there’s still a lot of potential there. Personally though I still love going in there and zooming around, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t still a lot of potential there to be fulfilled, and I think you’re right.

Functionally there’s still a lot of stuff that it could do, base assaults probably being the primary thing that you think of in terms of building a stronger connection between what the player does with their base and making that pretty thing into something that’s a little more…like everything in XCOM seems to matter, except maybe the base doesn’t matter as much. The layout does, but the actual 3D base doesn’t matter as much and so that’s certainly something that I agree with.

RPS: I guess you’ve probably looked at it as a proud father, ‘Look at what I have wrought’, but to the rest of us it’s kind of ‘What does this do? How does this help me?’

Jake Solomon: (laughs) I suppose in that sense everything does seem to have meaning in the rest of the game, everything does have meaning, so maybe that has less, I think that’s probably fair.

In part two, we talk bugs, patches, console vs PC reception, attachment to soldiers, what XCOM may mean for the future of strategy and the potential perils of fantastical settings.

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134 Comments »

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  1. Premium User Badge

    Faldrath says:

    Love the game, but it baffles me that he thought people wouldn’t give a shit about making the whole world just like the USA (it’s not just the accents, but also the maps themselves – although I admit that the accents are much easier to fix).

    • 2lab says:

      Beacuse they’re Amreicans, the the other 95.6% of the world all want to be just like them, honest.

      • Jeremy says:

        Totes.

        • Danarchist says:

          Wait….there are other countries other than the US? Colbert lied to me! I am so distraught!

          Honestly though, I doubt it was a matter of nationalist pride, more likely a matter of cost versus value. I find it hilarious that other people think were trying to convert the rest of the world to us via media. We spend the majority of our time laughing at ourselves like a crazy man on the sidewalk.

          • wu wei says:

            Part of Australia’s “free” trade agreement with the US required us to remove all local media-content laws, because they were getting in the way of the US selling us more entertainment. (That and handing over a software pirate who had never set foot in the US….)

            Cultural imperialism isn’t really a myth, and not so funny to those who watch their own cultures eroded through actions like this.

          • marshabilly5 says:

            what Ernest explained I am alarmed that any one can profit $3773 in 4 weeks on the internet. have you seen this page..Job Creation

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      • Grygus says:

        Nonsense. I am American, and on my fifth playthrough I noticed that my Scottish sniper woman sounded like Candice. Candice works at the Chik-Fil-A at the mall, and she’s not Scottish. It dawned on me that this sniper was a foreign person! I checked the rest and my entire squad were some kind of immigrants! And yet, they all sounded like people in my church youth gun-study group. End result: hidden foreigners. I was bothered.

    • mnimmny says:

      Or… you know… if the rest of it was shite none of that would have mattered. I think they did the right thing by cutting scope and making sure the core of the game was fantastic.

      That being said, looking forward to seeing a strong modding community doing stuff like adding all the fixings to properly make it international and generally fiddling with it.

      • Premium User Badge

        Faldrath says:

        I understand the *reason* why they did that – but to me, the reasoning would be “yes, we’re going to get flak for this since it’s far from ideal, but given budget/time/etc. that’s the right decision to make”. But to think that people wouldn’t give a shit? That’s the baffling part.

      • AngusPrune says:

        I don’t think that’s true. I think they slashed the gameplay back too hard. The one item slot was particularly egregious. Did anyone send their snipers in to battle with something other than scopes? Supports with something other than medpacks and grenades? Assaults without mindshields? Compared to its progenitors where you could load your soldiers down with enough firepower to destroy a small moon, as long as you didn’t mind that they had no action points it’s very limiting.

        The maps too, for being pre-designed, were very tactically limiting. If they were randomly generated I could forgive them, but people actually thought about this. The big alien craft are the worst since, because the AI is very cautious, you tend to get in to slogging matches in tiny corridors where neither side has good cover. It’s a case of getting your snipers to blow them away before they get in to range to lob a grenade at you, and blow all your soldiers away.

        • qlhbqvrm says:

          EDIT: Found some clarification. It really does exclude Bioshock only for North America. Ouch.

          http://blog.greenmangaming.com/2013/01/25-prepurchase-voucher.html

        • Reapy says:

          This I think was my beef with the game. I enjoyed most of my first play through, but I never wanted to come back into the game. It basically looked as though it would play out the same every time, same tech tree, same load outs. One sniper was basically the same as the next, and the load outs were the same across the board.

          All in all the game offers a lot of potential, but doesn’t know how to serve it up. This could easily be corrected with mods, but since those are not supported, it really is a wasted effort of what could have been fixed up into a great game.

    • Zogtee says:

      It is weird. If they really didn’t think people would care, then why have different nationalities at all? Just make tham all americans.

      • Xocrates says:

        Yes, let’s make a global defense group where every soldier is American…

        Yeah… I’m sure that would go down better /sarcasm

        It’s fairly trivial to get the flags to a dozen countries and glue them to the back of the armour. Getting voice actors to do the accents for the soldiers from those countries isn’t.

        • Zogtee says:

          But that’s the point. They ARE all americans. They didn’t get localized voice actors, because they didn’t think people would care, not because it was difficult.

          • Xocrates says:

            And from a story standpoint it doesn’t make sense for them to be.

            I rather they acknowledge that and give everyone the same voice, than make an “America saves the World” because they couldn’t afford the voice actors.

          • bgf says:

            It sounds like “we didn’t think people would care” is just a more comfortable way to say “we didn’t think people would care enough to bitch if we didn’t spend the money on it.”

            And to be fair if the game hadn’t been as good as it was, few people probably would have.

        • Dozer says:

          Team America: World Police: The Game?!?

        • fn8rd says:

          what Xocrates said: its _very_ hard to find actors who can do accents well. as an austrian i’m kind of not bothered by people not really hitting german accents that well … but try to emulate schwarzenegger and you can scare me out of the room by hitting a single wrong note.
          i think christoph waltz did this very well in inglorious basterds (you know, the scene in the cinema). but then: they wanted to throw an oscar at him for that – not sure if he’s available or anywhere near affordable by now ;)

    • colw00t says:

      I get the sense that, for all it was ‘under development’ for five years, the budget was actually pretty small for a major release. Most of the development time was probably spent with just a handful of people working a crude prototype to get the mechanics into shape, before they went on to expand the team for asset creation. Presumably borrowing staff that freed up once Civ5 came out.

      If you think “well they didn’t have much budget” than the limited “American-Suburb” tileset and the very limited voice acting makes sense. Tilesets take artists and time, and voice acting is always VERY expensive, especially with how many nationalities are pseudo-represented in the game.

      And for all he didn’t really phrase it like that, I think Solomon’s implication is “we were too busy being worried about getting the gameplay right so we weren’t burned in effigy throughout the internet to worry about the accent situtation.” People gripe about the tileset and the accents largely because the core game mechanics are so damn good. If the core mechanics sucked, nobody would have cared that the accents were wrong, too.

    • NathanH says:

      To be honest the accents is something that I agree with him about, it’s not a big deal at all and I’m surprised that people genuinely care. The voices don’t really add anything to the game, so either you don’t care that they all sound American, or you do care and then you turn off the voices and the quality of the game basically doesn’t change. I’ve never even heard the voices, since I turned them off immediately because I rarely like unit voices in a strategy game, unless they’re comedy voices which wouldn’t be appropriate.

      Essentially, voice acting can’t be worse than no voice acting because you always have the option of no voice acting, and in a game like this, no voice acting would be fine, so complaints about voice acting is only a minor quibble at best.

      Uniformity of maps is a bigger deal though, because that does make it harder to get into the game.

    • Premium User Badge

      Gap Gen says:

      I remember thinking way back that it was weird that in Red Alert all the soldiers were American, despite the military command being European. Maybe you were an American expeditionary team or something, though.

      • Premium User Badge

        Gap Gen says:

        Oh, also I just figured how prophetic that game was, given that a paternalistic German tells you to do things while a Greek person has a nervous breakdown in the background.

    • Stormwatcher says:

      “The accents are much easier to fix” That made me laugh.
      You people have no idea of how much work, time and money go into recording any amount of voice acting. I’ll give you a hint: It’s a billion times more than you’d guess.

      And I honestly agree with him, when looking at the issue though his eyes. It’s a game about aliens invading Earth and being repelled by 6 people with rifles. I’m not from the USA and I don’t give a shit about the accents at all. I care about the maps, the guns, the soldiers, the research, the funding… No variety of accents would have fixed a shitty game, and we should be thankful the game is so good overall.

      By reading the interview, it´s pretty clear that Solomon did think that because he’s the harbinger of imperialistic doom, but just a lead with too much in his hands and not enough time and money to avoid compromises. He himself admitted he was wrong! I also agree the game would have been a bit better with authentic accents, but would that be worth the cost in all kinds of valuable resources?

    • m_a_t says:

      I’m not an American and yet, I really don’t bother at all about the American voices. Heck, recording and adding all those additional, individual foreign voices would have added a lot of not really very necessary ballast to the package and honestly, I think the issue is mostly with non-American english native speakers who feel it disturbing to hear an Englishman or an Australian with an American accent. As a German, I couldn’t be less bothered and the whole issue seems more like a matter of over-the-top political correctness than anything else.

      I am much more concerned with the issues that Salomon himself points out, namely the that the gameplay itself tends to become a bit one-tracked. Also, as someone who has played the game for 100 hours, I really crave for new maps and I can definitely say that I am growing a bit tired of UFO landing/crash missions as opposed to missions in urban areas. I think there’s a lot of potential for exciting new maps and missions with their own settings and stories.

    • m_a_t says:

      I’m not an American and yet, I really don’t bother at all about all the voices sounding American. Recording and adding all those additional, individual foreign voices would have added a lot of not really very necessary ballast to the package and honestly, I think the issue is mostly with non-American english native speakers who feel it disturbing to hear an Englishman or an Australian with an American accent. As a German, I couldn’t be less bothered and the whole issue seems more like a matter of over-the-top political correctness than anything else.

      I am much more concerned with the issues that Solomon himself points out, namely the that the develoüment of the game is rather one-tracked. As someone who has played the game for 100 hours, I also really crave for new maps and I can definitely say that I am growing a bit tired of UFO landing/crash missions as opposed to missions in urban areas.I think there’s a lot of potential for exciting new maps and missions with their own settings and stories there.

  2. Mario Figueiredo says:

    I haven’t got it yet, unfortunately. Can’t manage that expense. But this interview just made me feel even more miserable about it. Jake Soloman is behind the remake of my favorite game of all times. He’s my hero. And you interviewed him!

    • OpT1mUs says:

      You could have gotten it from Green Man Gaming during Christmas sales, it was 17$

  3. Ruffian says:

    Yeah, I feel ya Faldrath, it would have been cool to see a little more cultural influence in the maps and whatnot. I was honestly surprised that they didn’t take the base assault and make it into one of the later story missions or something, at least. Still a great game though. Definitely worth a playthrough or two.

    Soloman seems like a cool guy. Nice to see a developer who’s actually open and honest about the shortcomings (which in the case were minimal, IMO) of their product, instead of making excuses and skirting around everything that’s not a glowing endorsement.

    • LintMan says:

      Yes, kudos to Solomon for giving an honest straightforward interview where he wasn’t afraid to acknowledge some mistakes and coulda-done-betters.

  4. epmode says:

    I love this game to death but any potential sequel needs procedural map generation. This doesn’t necessarily preclude more focused map flow (as opposed to the bug-hunts from the first game)!

    • khomotso says:

      I think the game could really have reached new heights if they’d released some modding tools: a tactical map editor being foremost among them.

      The game has such a building-blocks structure to it, these compartmentalized episodes, that it seems like a horrible waste not to put the power in the hands of players to slot new pieces into place.

      • Premium User Badge

        phuzz says:

        Yup, I’d quite like a map editor too. Not that I’d be creating lots of maps, but within a few weeks there’d be enough available from the community that you really wouldn’t see the same map twice.

    • Zogtee says:

      A map editor and Steam Workshop support would have solved that, but they seem unwilling to talk about mod support, mod tools, etc.

      • Premium User Badge

        Wisq says:

        Hell, the game even phones home and un-mods itself unless you tweak certain things (like, say, blocking access to their servers). Or it did, last I tried modding.

      • fn8rd says:

        that must have been mostly an economical decision. see http://www.unrealengine.com/en/licensing/ – what do you know about things you don’t get told the price upfront? (hint: they are usually far out of your price spectrum) see: it’s the same with game engines. i don’t know if its even possible to sub-license the editor as well… (you know: short of having the pocket cash to buy your own deathstar first … or whatever you fancy)

    • colw00t says:

      I’ve seen a lot of people say this, but I have my doubts about the ability of procedural generation to work with the more complicated maps and AI in this game. It worked fairly well in the original largely because the AI consisted of “Wander at random until turn 20, then go towards your nearest Squaddie. Shoot if you see them.”

      So I could do without procedural maps. A map editor would be killer, though.

      • epmode says:

        I dunno, some 4X developers pride themselves on making complex AI that can deal with randomized maps with both short-term and long-term strategies. The guy may be kind of awful but I’m sure someone like Brad Wardell would jump at the challenge.

        The lack of random map generation kills so much of the simulation aspect of the first game. For example, there are only a handful of UFO crash maps so all of the awesome variables are out. How big is the ship? Did the UFO land or was it forced down? Did it only take light damage or is it a complete wreck? And I definitely miss the day and night cycle actually affecting the missions.

        • Neoviper says:

          The daylight cycle was a pretty cool feature, I still remember the dread of seeing a terror mission pop up, knowing full well that you won’t get there before nightfall. And of course it’ll have concluded by the time daylight comes, so you’re forced to send your under equipped, inexperienced squad into the meat grinder.

    • Hogni Gylfason says:

      When I was surveying engines two years back, Unreal (v3.5 at the time, iirc) did not support runtime prefab instantiation, thus precluding procedural map generation.

      Love to see it in XCOM, but imo so many other things need to be fixed as well – actor characterization (barks, accents, etc), base layout, tech diversification come to mind – that it can wait.

    • sophof says:

      It needs a more interesting meta-game first I think, which is at least as hard. The interview assures me that they are aware of both though, so that is great.

      I think the easiest solution to the maps would be a map editor. The steam workshop would be swarming with good map packs in no time imo.

  5. TsunamiWombat says:

    I still play this game, and it definatly just needs “More” to make it better. More accents, more weapons, more items, more technologies, more viable tactics, more more more.

    Also terror from the deep. Please?

  6. Laurentius says:

    Ok, I have some many complains about this game being presented as UFO remake which is frankly disservice to the original but let just leave it. I have one question though for Jake Solomon: why PC version controls suck so much? I tried on my friends PS3 and, wow on console pad everything works better and faster, from selecting targets to going overwatch. Mouse+KB are o subpar despite all their ramblings how PC version got special care… load of crap.

    • Low Life says:

      I ended up playing the game with a gamepad on PC. It does feel a bit odd at first, but as you said it’s just so much faster and more intuitive (and again as you said, not really because the gamepad controls are good but because mouse+kb is bad).

      As an added bonus I probably saved my neck by being able to play the game from the comfort of my sofa.

  7. Vegard Pompey says:

    I love this guy. I hope there will be a sequel with him in charge.

  8. Premium User Badge

    mpk says:

    I was slightly disappointed that this wasn’t as sandboxy as the original, and also disappointed to find that the outcomes of some actions seem to be pre-determined and unchangeable*

    Other than that, it’s a solid enjoyable game. I miss the base defence and I agree that not having the correct accents to match the flag was a silly mistake to make. On that note – I wonder how many Scots were on the development team? It’s really, really odd to see the Saltire alongside the Union Jack anywhere but in an SNP pamphlet.

    I also ask this because I had a mission set in Glasgow that started outside a giant off sales, called Operation Cold Rain, so someone has a sense of humour.

    *Playing on classic, started an escort mission quite early into the game. Two turns in, Thin Man pops up, kills one trooper. Second trooper panics, runs. Civilian panics, runs. Third trooper panics, shoots and kills fourth trooper. Though, sod this for a lark! Reloaded game, same thing happened. Different part of the map, but Thin Man, kill, panic, panic, panic, kill. Reloaded game, same thing happened for a third time. Ragequit.

    • iucounu says:

      As far as I know, every die roll is determined at the start of the mission – you can’t reload and get it to reroll. On the other hand, I’m not sure if you couldn’t take a different action with another squad member, use up that roll, and then try the original action. Maybe you’d get the next one?

      • Premium User Badge

        mpk says:

        Pretty sure it was different troopers who were initially shot by the Thin Man on every attempt, can’t really remember now. Got past it by just overwatching the fucker to death, although I still lost one trooper.

        • LintMan says:

          Random number generators (RNGs) work by starting out with a seed value (often a timer count). This seed gets chewed on by the RNG to produce the first value. Each subsequent random number requested is then based on the previous result used as the new seed. So if you save and restore a seed, you will get the same result every time.

          So, repeating the same action after a restore doesn’t help, but you can still try to manipulate the system by changing the order in which random events will occur.

          Let’s take a very basic example: say that it’s just your one guy against one alien. Your guy has a very high chance of hitting the flanked alien, but shoots and misses. (He probably rolled a very low number on the RNG -we’ll call this roll #1) Then the alien decides (which itself might be a random roll – roll #2) to shoot at your guy who has full cover (which should be a low probability to hit), but the alien gets lucky and hits your guy. (He probably rolled a very high number on the RNG – roll #3)

          Now if you reload and repeat your action, it will play out the same way, so what can you do? You can shake up the RNG system by doing something different that will change the order the random numbers are drawn in.. So let’s say instead of shooting at the alien, you make your guy hunker down (which likely doesn’t use a random number). Now, the alien will make its decision and get the random number you guy’s shot would have used (roll #1, so it might do something different than shoot at your guy). But let’s say that it does still shoot at your guy. Now, the random number it gets is roll #2, instead of roll #3. We don’t know if roll #2 was higher or lower than roll #3, but it’s a different random chance that your guy won’t get hit.

          More typically, it’s far more complex, with multiple soldiers and multiple aliens, but you get the idea. This won’t let you reload until you get the results you want every time, but it will help protect you against things like freak bad luck.

      • squareking says:

        Wait, really? Oh. Oh man. I thought I’d be OK with non-randomized maps and a stunted tech tree and the goofy shoot-through-walls animations, but…

        *Strikes XCOM from to-buy list, watches Beaglerush videos*

        • Grygus says:

          It isn’t as important as it sounds. Most people seem to end up playing Ironman, either formally or practically, so there isn’t that much reloading to begin with. When you do reload, yes repeating your actions will give the same results, but since whatever you just did failed, chances are that you had no intention of repeating them anyway.

        • Premium User Badge

          Wisq says:

          Pretty much every game has the rolls predetermined, because they all use a pseudo random number generator (pRNG) and you need to seed it at some point, usually at game start or mission load or something. It’s just that with most games, they typically won’t store the state of the pRNG in the savefile and restore it when you load, so you’re picking up a different stream of random numbers (or a different point in the stream).

          XCOM does this in order to prevent savescumming. Frankly, I think it’s a great decision, even if I’m not totally keen on the game as a whole (mainly due to rigid gameplay and lack of replay value).

          Either way, it’s not like the outcome is predetermined just because the random rolls are. The outcome depends on a combination of the rolls and your decisions. Different decisions mean that different rolls get applied to different things.

          I believe Blood Bowl had the issue whereby you could peek inside the pRNG and see what the upcoming rolls were. I mean, you can do that in any game, but it had particularly strong implications for Blood Bowl multiplayer, where you could now know exactly whether an action would suceed or fail and could plan around that. I don’t recall how they solved it; perhaps by moving the rolls server-side.

          • Baines says:

            It doesn’t prevent save scumming, it just alters it.

            You cannot just keep reloading until you get the exact result you want, but you can keep reloading and trying different actions, and then go back and pick the best path.

          • aepervius says:

            I never understand why people are so against save scumming. I do like save scumming, removing it make a game worst for me. If you don’t like save scumming don’t use it, but preventing other people using it and being happy for a SINGLE PLAYER game ?

            Why do you take joy into making the game less appealing to other people for a feature you would not use ?

          • Premium User Badge

            Zephro says:

            Yeah this. I’d leave it as is, partly as it’s just normal to use random number generators like that as well as the save scumming thing.

          • SanguineAngel says:

            because having the ability to do so means that a lot of people will make use of it, despite producing a less enjoyable experience for themselves. Heck I’ve done it myself plenty of times – immediately regretting it of course. Similar to the old adage “Absolute power corrupts absolutely”

          • cptgone says:

            they should have made restoring the random seed optional (as it is in Civ).
            let the gamers decide for themselves!

          • LintMan says:

            In an interview I read about the Second Wave additions (either on RPS or PAReport), Solomon was asked about this, and apparently it just hadn’t occurred to them to make it an option, but thought it would have been a good idea.

    • Premium User Badge

      AmateurScience says:

      The saltire for scots/union flag for brits thing was indeed a bit weird. I wonder if that’s something that’s moddable?

      • Premium User Badge

        mpk says:

        I expected the Welsh and Northern Irish flags to turn up too, just assuming that someone somewhere had assumed Union Jack was the English flag. Still to see them. Perhaps because there’s no missions set in Belfast or Cardiff?

  9. iucounu says:

    So, I really enjoyed XCOM when I played it, and even completed it – which is something I rarely bother to do, to be honest – but then I found I had no real desire to replay it. I think we have to look at XCOM as the John the Baptist of TBSs – the prequel, not the main event. Some of that may be down to the understandable feeling that Firaxis had to be kind of conservative with it and prove they respected the original game.

    I certainly think a more Borderlands approach to the weapons could be great. I have long wanted a weapons design section in a strategy game where you can play with all kinds of sliders and tech trees to create weird and wonderful weapons. Remember the power designer in Freedom Force? You could spend ages in there giving a guy a homing cluster missile that controls minds. Or the unit design in Alpha Centauri et al. Stuff like that.

    The maps… having only played XCOM through once, I can’t say I noticed maps repeating, but I also never really believed that they couldn’t make the procedural generation work.

    • Premium User Badge

      ffordesoon says:

      Yeah, like DXHR, it’s a fantastic game and a fantastic successor that doesn’t quite scale to the heights of its revered predecessor, but came so close that a sequel with properly incorporated feedback and the swagger a successful prequel gets them (think Borderlands 1 versus Borderlands 2) could equal or even surpass UFO Defense in scope and quality.

      The best thing is that the core feedback loop is one hundred percent rock-solid, and much of the stuff around it is, too. Ninety-five percent of the features work just as intended, so polishing that five percent and bringing more variety to the table in the successful ninety-five can occupy the majority of dev time. The feedback has also been remarkably consistent across wildly different groups of players, which means there aren’t multiple factions of fans to placate.

      I mean, aside from the people who still want TUs, but nothing anyone does – the restoration of TUs included – will placate those lunatics.

    • jalf says:

      You.. never noticed the maps repeating? I felt like I was playing and replaying the same 10 maps over and over. Had lots of fun with the game, but it was *really* obvious that the game just had a set list of pregenerated maps it shuffled through.

      • iucounu says:

        No, I never did. I should qualify that by saying that I definitely noticed the same kinds of environments repeating – one wilderness UFO crash was much like the next – but I never got a feeling of ‘Oh, look, this one again.’ Even if it did actually repeat on me a few times.

        That said, the nonrandom maps are a definite reason that I probably won’t replay XCOM for a long while, if ever – they contribute to the overall sense that the next time I play it, I won’t be able to do very much differently. There’s very much a correct way to play XCOM, and I can see why they did that – it will beat up on you if you make mistakes, and that’s regarded as key to the XCOM experience. But it also affords you less room to experiment and develop novel, possibly OP builds.

        It feels like a boardgame in many ways – clear rules, clear decisions to make with interesting and significant effects. It doesn’t want to give you enough freedom to break it. That is a double-edged sword, though; Morrowind was amazingly easy to exploit, to the extent that you could speedrun an epic RPG in, like, ten minutes. You could almost treat it like a sandbox from about ten minutes in. Oblivion, on the other hand, removed all the loopholes and interesting tricks and made you grind your way through Ayleid ruins for a hundred hours. Which one’s more fondly remembered?

  10. InternetBatman says:

    He makes it sound like developing the game gave him the same emotions as playing the original.

  11. Premium User Badge

    AmateurScience says:

    Great game, lovetty loved it to bits. Needs more. More maps, more kit, more everything – then it might become the game to end all games.

  12. wodin says:

    It was fun for abit but lacked long term playability..also he goes on about the base like ti was fun to watch..erm..nothing happened..two blokes at the bar..and a couple on running machines and thats it…hardly hive of activity or watching your troops chill out or have a little scuffle or something..certainly didn’t feel like a little mini world he makes it out to be.

    The lack of long term playability though is sinful when where talking about an XCom game.

    • guygodbois00 says:

      Am of the very same opinion myself, sir.

    • Kamos says:

      Wasn’t the “diorama” base one of the reasons why they cut base invasions? If so…

      • Serpok says:

        In one of Solomon’s many interviews (don’t remember which one, only that it was 40 minutes long or more) he said that major problem with base defence mision was the fact that you can only build one base. If you lose a mission or skip a mission, or even lose some nations from council – it’s not the end of the game.

        Where the loss of base defence mission would be a pretty abrupt ‘Game Over’.

        And that alien assault has potential to catch you with your pants down, with your soldiers either en route or all in sickbay.

        • Kamos says:

          Yes, there is that. But I seem to remember he (?) said that since the base was an ant-farm, it wasn’t really possible to create a map for the base anyway.

        • leQuack says:

          I don’t see how it is that hard to be able to build different bases which would could then be attacked, where you just focus on different aspects (like science or tech), but still try to spread the important stuff like satellite uplinks etc. Then add some base defense building and make sure that you have to pick your actual HQ for continent bonuses.

    • NathanH says:

      I never even looked at the base, it was just an annoyance that slowed down switching between the different base interface screens.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      I’ve plugged 60-70 hours into the game myself. I rarely put anywhere near that time into any game. Having said that, there is SO MUCH scope to improve longevity. Just like he says in his interview to be fair.

      However, yeah the base was not the hive of activity he talked about in the run up to release. He was talking about soldiers forming dynamic relationships and interacting with their specific friends – playing pool together, visiting their friends in med, visiting the memorial for dead friends. in the end, the same soldiers stayed in the same places all the time. It was supposed to be fun to see what your soldiers were up to, how they were getting along etc. Instead I rarely saw more than half a dozen of my troops and they never did anything at all.

  13. Advanced Assault Hippo says:

    It’s essentially a hyper-focused, rigid, simplified (in many ways), limited, safe interpretation of the general theme of the original game.

    As soon as you accept all that, the game is pretty good by itself. But it’s an 8/10 game that never needs to be replayed – and the locked-in design of it means it could never have been anything more unfortunately.

    With so much at stake in expensive modern game development, it was never going to be anywhere near as expansive and freeform as the original. Which is a shame, but that’s the way it is these days.

  14. Dariune says:

    To go against the grain somewhat I thought this was a medeocre game at best. There were just no choices. As mentioned above it wasn’t nearly sandboxy enough.

    I think, had they removed the top tactical layer and just made the game a series of subsequent missions (Maybe you get to choose between two) it really wouldn’t have played much differently.

    I hope, if they make a second, they add to the complexity and depth of the tactical layer. They wont, but it doesnt hurt to hope.

    Looking towards Xenonaughts now. (Or by some amazing chance Cenega come back and announce a UFO: Afterlight sequel.)

  15. Premium User Badge

    ffordesoon says:

    It’s so cool to read an interview with a non-indie designer who’s totally upfront about his successes and failures, even to the point of saying out-of-context pull-quote-worthy stuff like the thing where he mentions base assaults being something worth considering. Too many designers are afraid of that shit.

    Rightly so, but still, if you look at, say, any Bioware interview where the questions aren’t just fawning declarations of love, their reluctance to confirm anything always gets them in trouble more than any honest answers do.

    Basically, as long as you don’t go the full Molyneux and keep talking about how lame your last game was after every game, and as long as you don’t say something idiotically sexist or racist, honesty really is the best policy.

  16. Arglebargle says:

    Soloman sounds like a great guy, and he did a decent job of shepharding this project along. But he still comes across as pretty clueless on a lot of aspects. Even more so than the last interview. Not understanding the possible replay value in this game, when people are STILL playing the original. Not getting that players like to fiddle with the tech tree, to have differentiation in the weaponry, to have the option of random rolls. The map situation, the accent situation, etc.

    Perhaps being too long in the wilderness led to faulty decisions, to the point where they couldn’t be changed. Oh well. It is certainly better than having to postmortem Xcom:Enforcer

  17. drChengele says:

    Five years development time? I was seriously willing to tolerate the multiple bugs and other stuff in the game on account of the game release being rushed (I was under the impression, for whatever reason, that it was only in development for a year or a bit more). I was even optimistic because, hey, now that XCOM succeeded, it means they can get their A team on a sequel and do it properly this time.

    And then this.

    Keep in mind this is the same Solomon who said he decided against randomly generated maps because “it was difficult to do”. GEE, IF ONLY THEY HAD A CRACK TEAM OF PROGRAMMERS WORKING ON IT FOR FIVE FUCKING YEARS.

    • mattevansc3 says:

      Took the words right of my mouth. Five years? The UFO:Axx series were more polished than this game.

      Considering all that’s gone before, X-COM, TFTD, Apocalypse, the UFO series, etc this version seems devoid of any originality, hell the original X-COM had differences in weapons extending past lvl 1, 2 and 3.

      The tech tree was also plain awful. Most of those “skills” were weapon and armour upgrades. Did XCOM have a command meeting and decide that squaddies weren’t experienced enough to handle a belt that could hold three grenades?

    • Zarx says:

      I got the impression from other interviews that most of that time was just half a dozen devs in a room. It’s not like they had 100+ people working on the game for 5 years, probably just for the last year or so of development.

    • jalf says:

      Ok, I’ll take the bait. It’s pretty clear that your post has little to do with debating the actual game, you clearly just want to vent, but nevertheless…

      Has it occurred to you that perhaps they didn’t have a complete full-sized team working on it for five years? That perhaps, as you do with nearly every game, you start out with a very small skeleton team who try to build a good, fun prototype (and who spend most of the time experimenting to find out what the game should be like, and therefore, are working on something that won’t even be part of the final game, because it’ll turn out that this idea just wasn’t any fun, and they’ll scrap it and start over again, and again, and again).

      Most likely, they had much less time to build the actual final game, and they certainly didn’t have access to a full-sized dev team for 5 years.

      Just a thought. But perhaps until you’ve developed an AAA game, you should give those who have done so the benefit of the doubt, and not just assume that they’re lazy and incompetent because the end result is not perfect.

      • drChengele says:

        The question is simple. They charge the game as a full AAA release. They didn’t have access to a full team? Funny, because they seemed to have access to a full price tag.

        You are right, I am venting, and the reason I am venting is not because I think the game is bad. It’s because I think it is so good and have spent a lot of time playing it is that that all the little annoyances start to add up. As a sidenote, I have actually shipped commercial games and applications before. But what I am trying to say is that whether I did or didn’t doesn’t give me any more credibility. Game development is not a peer-review field. It is a consumer targeted industry. I am a consumer. And I take issue with the fact that the game I paid for is buggy. I also am baffled by the fact they could not make procedural terrain work with Unreal engine, when I have worked in it before and know for a fact that it’s possible.

  18. rossasaur says:

    Am I the only one whose mind is boggled by the fact that in none of the numerous XCOM interviews on RPS they haven’t been grilled on a lack of modding support? If this game was more open so many more amazing things could come of it, I’m talking larger scale multiplayer and custom maps and weapons AND OH GOD PLEASE HELP THE MODDERS

    • mondomau says:

      No, this has been bothering me as well. Especially the bit where firaxis released a patch to the exe that silently updates itself and breaks any mods you have running, which probably has a very reasonable explanation behind it but strikes me as a bit odd for a dev that ‘loves’ modders.

      I’d also like to see if the next interview covers the lackluster and even spurious DLC and how easy a ride they get for the shocking amount of game-breaking bugs still present in the game.

      Call me a nasty suspicious git if you will, but I can’t help but feel like a lot of corner- cutting is being passed off as misguided good intentions and inexperience.

    • mckertis says:

      “Am I the only one whose mind is boggled by the fact that in none of the numerous XCOM interviews on RPS they haven’t been grilled on a lack of modding support?”

      RPS or any other source. Honestly, if you listen to TMA podcast with Jake Solomon, its like a meeting of fanboys, they barely bother to swallow the saliva while praising the game. That was one disgusting podcast to listen to…

    • SanguineAngel says:

      Heck, I love the game and I really like how Solomon comes across but this bugs the heck out of me too. Partly because there’s an XCOM Nexus out there languishing but mainly because he did say, or at least strongly imply, that mod support was a sure thing. It’s a certainty that modders would fix all those niggles that solomon is concerned about given half a chance.

  19. JackDandy says:

    I’ve just beaten my first Terror mission, I’m really enjoying the game.

    But I definitely agree how random maps and a larger tech tree would help the game out.

    And also, HOLY SHIT NOT PUTTING IN DIFFERENT ACCENTS WAS THE DUMBEST FUCKING DECISION EVER.

    • Premium User Badge

      Gap Gen says:

      The best thing would be if they all spoke entirely different languages so the Japanese guy is like ALIENS and the Swedish guy is like WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY and then the Russian guy is like SHOT IN THE FACE due to a lack of common tongues. Maybe.

      • JackDandy says:

        I’d love it if they would speak in English with an accent, but stutter and start yelling in their native language when going into Panic mode.

        A multitude of non-English swearwords against the aliens would also be very welcome.

        • Premium User Badge

          Gap Gen says:

          Like how the British shout-outs in Company of Heroes is just various regional accents shouting WANKER?

  20. Premium User Badge

    Gap Gen says:

    You know, RPS would be alright if it was comprised entirely of Jake Solomon interviews.

    • Dariune says:

      @ Gap Gen

      RPS is already almost entirely comprised of Jake Solomon Interviews and XCOM news.

  21. AlienMind says:

    I don’t know if that’s wrong in Firaxis’ book, but I didn’t play it because it requires Steam[TM].

    • Premium User Badge

      Wisq says:

      As someone who practices the same policy against EA’s Origin, I can understand the sentiment. What I can’t understand is the feasibility.

      Surely it’s pretty much impossible to be a serious gamer and not be knee-deep in Steam games by this point?

      It’s also not like a Steam boycott is going to change anything at this stage in the game. Avoiding them on principle or as a matter of personal taste is another matter, of course, but also means losing out on a ridiculous amount of savings — not to mention a centralised download-anywhere library and a very competent social networking tool.

      • AlienMind says:

        Yes, it’s painful. But you just have to say NO. And it’s quite easy as soon as you see the reality that is the majors abandoning serious games with modding anyways. I’m more than happy in the GOG / Kickstarter / Free game League, recently I discovered my love to “Cube 2: Sauerbraten”. More and more AAA online games (Guildwar2/Planetside2/..) thankfully are not bound to a single shop system, anyways. I think it helps when you are not a heavy “content locust” (The one customer the majors want the most today it seems). “Ex und hopp” it’s called in Germany (drink up fast and throw away).
        As far as socializing goes, we have our own infrastructure, Teamspeak3 with a Website (Clanforge based). We can outright raise the middle finger to all Spy Portals out there.

  22. Sunjammer says:

    I loved loved loved my first playthrough, but after that I was a little sad. Because there was practically zero incentive to play the game again. I messed with classic a bit (fuck that) and uninstalled the game.

    I think the increased emphasis on narrative and “milestone” missions diminishes what it means to win a strategy game. I also found the research absolutely linear; Every choice I made was obvious and I would always make the same choices again. Why experiment when the path to success is so clear?

    I hope if a sequel or proper expansion is made, greater care is shown when developing the strategic game, offering more choices, less signposting and more ways to screw up or adapt. It is a joyful tactics game to play but strategically it is X-COM with big daft training wheels.

  23. kwyjibo says:

    Where is mod support?

  24. bugaris says:

    Although I did enjoy playing this on Classic mode, I agree with his comment about the lack of mission variety wearing a bit thin and the uninspiring weapon progression. Also, the animations started to bore. Yeah yeah it’s one of those sectoid guys. Seen it. Get to the bit where my major in full cover gets killed by a single shot from a tall man who is at the other corner of the map … again.

  25. Wartank says:

    Adding to the quantity/variety of maps seems like a great idea for DLC. I appreciate the idea that well- designed take time and effort, and having two playthroughs of guaranteed original maps seems like a fair deal for the core game and most players.

    That said, I’ve played this game for ~100 hours and I actually find the repetition of maps interesting. They take on a character and story for me, just like the characters themselves do. I have missions that I do well and get cocky with, and then get surprised. I have the maps where I know I’ve suffered carnage — where soldiers I’ve loved and depended on were gunned down. And then I have the maps that have been the endpoint for failed ironman games — scenes of complete disasters where my treasured vets were cut down one by one, chased to the ends of the map and slaughtered. These are the missions with ghosts, and I return to them, if I’m lucky, with the feeling you get when you return to your university town, and you get all uneasy because you can’t shake the feeling that you’ve forgotten to study for a test. If I’m unlucky I instantly break into a nervous sweat.

    Cheers, Jake Solomon!

    • leQuack says:

      like the terror mission at the tank depot.. brrr

      Before last playthrough my fully vet squad was completely slaughtered here, so I wanted to make sure that wouldn’t happen this time. My last still standing assault was gun & running every chryssalid for what seemed hours, until I guessed wrongly how far the chryssalid could run and was butchered.

      No survivors, 28 aliens killed

      • Wartank says:

        Holy hell that’s the one for me too. Is that just a tough map? I’m still not even sure what to do if I get there again. Make sure I have lots of ammo? I’m not even sure charging ahead and trying to get people to not turn into zombies/chryssalids is even a valid strategy….

  26. scottyjx says:

    I’m dying to hear if mod support is still going to be a thing (as promised forever ago.) I would love to see a giant modding community for XCOM.

  27. katscan says:

    1) I love how there are tons of things to talk about (good and bad) with this game, but the most pressing issue becomes ‘adding accents’ in the first couple dozen posts. What a waste of time, lol.. I suppose this is coming from people that are insecure about their nationality most likely. If you want the developers to spend resources on the game, lets do it for something meaningful like more maps/weapons, not stupid crap.

    2) The maps, in general, are horribly small. Maps easily repeat in a single playthrough. And MOST maps do not have multiple entry points. They become very stale very fast because of these attributes. Most of the maps, you don’t even end up exploring because the combat takes place within the first couple tiles of your Skyranger. Why, then, was time even wasted on making the maps detailed then? I can’t remember a single mission in the original where an entire (successful) battle essentially played out in the exit point of the landing craft. i still think that the maps were only play tested with 4 or less soldiers and only a couple groups of alien spawn, AT MOST. This is pretty ridiculous considering most of the game is spent with 6 soldiers and usually with multiple enemy spawns. The construction yard map, for example, pretty much plays out around the digger in the middle, and you really have to ‘force the issue’ to use most of the cool parts of the map. Just baffling.. I think Jake needs to acknowledge that the maps suck, they should have been made MUCH larger, and that they were not playtested with large amounts of units. Christ, half of the maps are essentially CORRIDORS with little room for any serious maneuvers, or any ability to come at the objective from a different direction.

  28. Elmar Bijlsma says:

    I, as HUGE fan of the original, never bought it because many odd the small niggles and trimmed gameplay would have driven me up the wall. I just don’t think Mr Solomon is a particularly good games designer when he forces crude choices on the player like his game did

    Take terror missions. I believe three of them are offered at a time and you can only do one of them?
    Save London for +$200 or Moscow for +4 engineers or New York for +4 scientists?
    Where as a true meaningful choice would have been to allow the players to send his crack squad to London but a gaggle of ill trained, ill equipped rookies are going to have a crack at tackling Moscow. And whomever survives either of those missions maybe gets to go to New York in the dark, if it is still a terror hotspot by the time everyone gets back.
    THAT is player choice. Those choices were totally on me. A natural result of how I had shaped the X-COM organization and it’s capabilities and weighing the risks I was willing to take.
    Me, not Mr Jake Solomon, was in charge of what happened and who got saved.

    • huldu says:

      I agree, the geoscape in general just fell flat on so many levels. Just reading the interview got me a little annoyed for some reason.

    • ktkelvin says:

      agree.
      IIRC, player should plan carefully to build the HQ to defends the aliens’ invasion in the orig XCOM ….

  29. Wombats says:

    Surprising Jake is so fixated on the graphics in the base.
    I barely looked at them and I’ve clocked days…I was using menus at the time.
    Base assault would be an awesome mission.
    Modular maps with a different section for each building would be a cheap way to implement it.

    • Premium User Badge

      Wisq says:

      The natural objection to base assault missions is that it’s “do or die” — if you fail, it’s game over, since you only have one base.

      In light of how the game actually plays, though, I find that a rather odd objection. Mainly because:

      1. If you’re playing in Normal mode, the game tends to be a pushover, so you’d have to really screw it up to lose.

      2. If you’re playing in Classic or above, pretty much every mission is already a “do or die” mission. Losing your top crew is almost impossible to recover from, due to the game’s annoying habit of universally escalating things and never again giving you easy targets to train a rookie squad on.

      3. The game already has do-or-die missions. At least one at the end, possibly others. Granted, they’re voluntary, but the sentiment exists.

      Really, the more post-release stuff I hear about XCOM, the more disappointed I am. It’s natural to assume that a lot of the shortcomings were due to lack of time or budget. But the more I hear, the more it sounds like Firaxis fell into the trap of so many other “X-COM remake” teams who just fundamentally did not understand what made the original so great — and thus, were not qualified to decide what to keep and what to leave out, and inevitably made the wrong decisions.

      • sophof says:

        This is a good point and the main problem of the game imo. On any hard difficulty, mistakes are more or less an insta-lose. I guess that is fine for some players, but not how i would like to define hard. Hard should mean it is more of a struggle. Having to win everything is not a harder struggle, it just makes the strategic layer boring and annoying when you randomnly lose a country through the panic mechanic.

        The game was clearly designed completely around the tactical-layer, which besides some bugs and small niggles plays really well imo. Looks like they kind of ‘forgot’ that it takes both layers to make it more than the sum of both parts.

        It is like playing a civ game where you hardly can stand to lose one single unit. It is a challenge certainly, but not the right kind.

  30. running fungus says:

    “the reception was great, and the previews were great, and then the actual critical reception was awesome, and fans loved it”

    Absolutely. Wait, what game are we talking about?

  31. huldu says:

    I liked the new xcom at first, but it had some terrible design flaws the further in to the game you got. Once you beat the game there is no point whatsoever to do it again. The game plays out exactly the same over and over again.

    It doesn’t have the original game sandbox feeling about it. You could play that for such a long time it was just straight out ridiculous. This modern version sadly has none of that. Such a shame to see them going down the “easy” console, streamlined type of game path.

    Personally I doubt I’d ever play the new xcom again unless they released some beefed up expansion that fixes many of the issues I had. It was a fun game for what it’s worth, at least the first few hours.

    • katscan says:

      I dunno.. As an aside, the recent ‘second wave’ patch has opened up the game much more, and moved it closer to “the original” in my opinion. Certainly made it more fun. The fact that your soldiers are no longer clones of each other, statistically, is very satisfying, as well as the ability to fully randomize damage (grazing shots, for example) and the ability to randomly improve on level up. These are all points from the orginal that made the soldiers more unique and identifiable. These options should have been in the original design.

      So they finally made a change that improved some of the shortcomings of the original design. Fat chanse that they will be able to change the strategic layer or improve the maps. Looks like we will have to wait for a sequel for those fixes.

  32. Benkyo says:

    This entry didn’t have much to interest me, but can’t wait for part two… XCOM bugs and patches are on my mind a lot lately.

  33. mckertis says:

    Jake Solomon interviews ? Again ?? Just how much are you paid for all this publicity ?

  34. Kamos says:

    It baffles me that out of all things, Mr. Solomon is concerned about how the “Yes, sir!” one liners sound.

    The strategy layer in this game is a broken mess. There is no meaningful choice to be made. You just save your satellites until the end of the month to revert the unavoidable panic hits you’re going to get, and do whatever mission the game randomly decides to spawn. And then sometimes it randomly spawns an UFO, leading to the awful interception mini-game, presumably only included because it was in a checklist of “things to include to placate X-COM fans”.

    That saving satellites to use only after the abduction mission takes place is a viable strategy is so gamey, so min-maxing, so fourth wall breaking that it makes me wonder how this can be considered an improvement over the original’s so-called “simulationist” approach.

    Also, why do I see “simulationist” being used as a pejorative term? Any game with a set of rules is a simulation of *something*. XCOM is as much a simulation as X-COM is – only XCOM’s model describes a wacky world where a global defense initiative is only ever allowed to have one base, where you can only ever send soldiers to one place, only one interceptor is ever allowed to engage an UFO, etc. Shockingly, one leads to meaningful decisions and the other doesn’t!

  35. Nim says:

    Yet another interview that tells me nothing about the thing I truly care about.
    The question is simple: What comes next for X-COM?

    Will Firaxis move onto another project?
    Will there be more maps made availabe?
    Will patch support continue?
    Will the game receive an expansion pack or more DLC?
    Will modding be supported?
    etc.

    Will these things be addressed in coming parts of the interview?

    • katscan says:

      Nim –
      Yes, they are going to do more DLC
      Yes, they will continue to patch this (they have to, the teleport bug is worse than ever)
      No, modding will not be ‘officially’ supported

      • JFS says:

        They still haven’t fixed the teleport bug? The game has been out for three months straight, and they still haven’t fixed that? Ah well, I’m not even sure why this strikes me as odd, seeing as the game still won’t run without lag for more than ten minutes on my machine.

  36. dmoe says:

    Accents: Serious Business.

  37. katscan says:

    Exactly Kamos.

    There are dozens of more important things to address than what accent the stupid one liners have. Frankly, they shouldn’t even be in the game since they are so cheesey. I have played with them off since day one and it makes the game so much more tolerable.

    As a crystalization of this: Do a VIP rescue mission and see how annoying the VIP voice overs are. I mean, come on, they actually play tested this ? You can’t even cut their inane dialogue short by pressing ESC, you have to listen to their entire stupid quote about “how terrible those things are” over and over…

    Can we please have someone ask Jake why most of the maps are so small ? Why half of the battles unfold in your landing zone, preventing you from using the entire map for cover and maneuvers ?

    I would worry more about map design than “linearity of weapons”.. or make the strategic layer less of a scripted mess.. I still don’t understand why they didn’t stick with the original formula of having UFOs spawn on earth, and then fly around performing missions. Instead, we get ‘forced’ abduction missions (no chance to intercept the UFOs, unless you mod the game) and some ‘forced’ terror missions. What ever happend to 5-6 different mission types that UFOs would perform, with the ability to intercept them and interrupt the AI player in their plans ? I really don’t understand what Jake didn’t like about the original strategic layer. They should have duplicated that and combined it with Jake’s improved tactical/battlescape layer (yes it is better than the original, this coming from a massive OG fan myself)

    Now its essentially a scripted mission set with some variability. Once it appears, the scripted UFO overseer will fly around forever until you finally intercept it. How cheesey/scripted is that?!

  38. screeg says:

    Wow. You really *really* know how to stretch out an interview. I read and liked the previous XCOM three-parter, but this part one(!) was almost 100% devoid of information of any kind. One Peter Jackson in the world is quite enough, thanks.

    • LintMan says:

      Devoid of information? LOL.

      Look at the article title. This is a post-mortem discussion of the game – ie: what went right and wrong and why, lessons learned, what they might do differently in the future. And that is exactly what was talked about. If you were’t interested in that, why did you read the article?

  39. Slinkyboy says:

    Modding tools bitch.

  40. Kamos says:

    Solomon: “the alternative is that nobody gives a shit about your game and you primarily are making a sequel.”

    When you make a sequel to a well known game, nobody gives a shit? Wouldn’t it be the opposite?

    Solomon: “The danger too is to sit there and say ‘Well, people really liked this so we should give them more of that.’ The danger is that then you don’t come up with anything new and interesting, and instead you are just polishing edges or not innovating in any interesting way, that’s dangerous too.”

    It is great to innovate. You might want to check out X-COM Apocalypse for some of it. And while the tactical battles in XCOM have added some interesting things, and succeeded (in my opinion) in adding a feeling that you’re part of the action, the danger is that you may end replacing working systems with stuff that is broken. In example, the wacky line of sight where you never really know where it is safe to move your soldiers. Or the fact that, since you only have two actions, it is impossible to know where you need to move your soldier in order to get a clear shot at a given opponent. The list goes on and on.