Firaxis’ Jake Solomon Post-Mortems XCOM: Part Two

By Alec Meer on January 15th, 2013 at 8:00 pm.

In this concluding part (the first one is here), we discuss boardgame influences, commercial success, what XCOM might mean for the future of strategy, the need for realism within science-fiction, and why XCOM wound up rather buggy.

RPS: XCOM launched rather buggy and there’re still a few hanging about. What happened there, and do you have a plan for how to iron all that stuff out?

Jake Solomon: Yeah, it did. I agree – it’s just a shame. It’s something that we take pretty personally and honestly most of that’s my fault because the design came together so late for the game that everybody was scrambling. We had such a last year on this project, you would not believe the hours that me and my team had put in over the last year, and a lot of that is because the design came together so late. It probably went out with a lot more bugs than anybody was happy with. But that being said, how many times have we patched? Twice or something like that? There’s actually another patch coming with the Second Wave.

RPS: This week, you mean? (Last week, by the time of publication – Timeshift Ed)

Jake Solomon: Yes, and that’s addressing, y’know, sometimes aliens can teleport into your squad, which is bad. People don’t like it when I say that that’s alien technology. I just say that’s like Ethereal magic. But yeah, that’s one of the bugs, and I don’t know exactly which bugs are being addressed but there is another patch coming, with second wave, so hopefully that addresses a lot of them. I think it’s mostly on me, mea culpa, and I take responsibility for it. That’s probably the one thing where I look back and go ‘oh man, that’s a big shame.’

RPS: There have been quite a few people who’ve been saying ‘They don’t seem to care, they’re not doing anything about this.’

Jake Solomon: No, this will be the third patch, we’ve patched three times I think. I hope that people know that Firaxis has a long commitment to our products. People shouldn’t worry on that front because we are definitely committed to our products. I guess the only thing I can point to is Civ, but to take heart that we stay involved with those products for a very, very long time after their release.

RPS: Are you restricted in terms of how many patches you can push out due to the console versions and the limitations Microsoft and Sony put on you?

Jake Solomon: Yeah, it’s definitely different because you’ve got to go through certification when you do console patching, as opposed to Steam, you can sort of throw it out there whenever you want, but console you’ve got to go through certification, and all that stuff costs money. It’s something we’re committed to and this will be our third one. We’re long-term committed to the product.

RPS: Do you have a sense of how the player base is skewed in terms of platform? From my corner of the world people only seemed to be talking about the PC version.

Jake Solomon: All I know is that it’s done really well, but in terms of what the breakdown is, I don’t actually know. I think that, and this is anecdotal, on Steam it did awesome. I think that it resonates with PC players, and that’s good, and for Firaxis that’s our bread and butter, and we’re extremely comfortable. For me, if PC players are happy, and that’s a big audience for us, then that’s certainly what we’re happy with. But I don’t actually know what the breakdown is. I think it’s done pretty well across the board.

RPS: Do you have any theories for what this means for the future of real time strategy or just strategy in the mainstream? Do you feel you’ve disproven speculation that mainstream turn-based strategy is dead?

Jake Solomon: I’ve thought about this a lot actually, but that doesn’t mean any of what I say has any authority whatsoever. I don’t know that XCOM means anything for strategy as a whole. I really don’t. I think that that’s like pointing to Civ, which is a multi-platinum game every time we put one out, but that doesn’t really mean anything for turn-based games really.

It’s almost like you can’t point to Starcraft, not that I’m making a comparison to Starcraft; nobody wants to do that, but you can’t point to Starcraft and say ‘oh RTSs are fine’, because they’re not, but it’s almost like there are some outliers and Civ is one of them. It’s incredibly successful every time we make one but that doesn’t mean that there’s a lot of room for other products like that.

RPS: Yeah, it’s kind of in its own bubble.

Jake Solomon: Right, and if I were to hazard a guess, these are the kinds of games I’d like to play to some extent, but XCOM is a game that one, was made by Firaxis and we have a lot of institutional knowledge of these types of games, and two, these are the kind of games we’re interested in making.

I don’t know how many designers and teams out there are like ‘oh right, let’s make a turn-based strategy game’, but for us we’re like ‘Fuck, yeah, let’s make a turn-based strategy game.’ And then on top of that, XCOM is basically the game of the entire career before my career, this is the game I’ve wanted to make. I love Jagged Alliance, and we have Sid [Meier] in-house, and I think that’s helped us, it seems like it’s a unique mix but maybe that’s just because I’m internal here, maybe it’s not that unique. I don’t know that because people play XCOM that means that they’re interested in playing other turn based games. I dunno, I hope people want to play more turn based games, that’s my personal favourite mechanic for strategy.

There’s also this effect that design-wise, I’m not like a hardcore strategy fan. I know that this sounds weird, I’m not sure how this is going to come off, but I’m not the most hardcore strategy fan there is. I certainly like Civ, and I actually worked on Civ Revolution with Sid. But I think that there’s a danger in genres sometimes, and I think you see this with strategy games as a whole actually, where the people who love strategy, a lot of times the design defaults to ‘well if you like this, we can give you more of that.’ What you need is more in-depth and what you need is more ‘we can simulate more of this’ instead of trying to pull back and say, try to make a game that I think operates on simpler principles.

It’s not because I have some deeper understanding of design or anything, I think I honestly benefit from the fact that I’m typically not the smartest guy in the room, I’m pretty much a lowest common denominator-type guy. And so for me I love Sid Meier type games. Sid’s brilliant, but his brilliance is that he tends to focus on simpler systems that then hopefully create complex behaviour.

It’s trite to point out things like flight simulators, but I think RTSs are the exact same way, they become so distilled because the people making them are so fucking hardcore that they become distilled, and distilled again/ Like I used to love Age of Kings, it’s one of my favourite games of all time, but RTSs for me became harder and harder to play…

RPS: Same here, I guess. I need to prepare myself for vast amounts of learning rather than just sitting down to play.

Jake Solomon: Flight sims went through this period when it just became this really complicated thing, and it was just a turn off because unless they’re your number one favourite thing to do, to play RTSs towards the end, it felt like RTSs had to be your favourite type of game. To play flight sims, flight sims had to be your favourite type of game, because you had to really invest a lot of time to understand all these concepts.

I think a lot of times you get strategy games that just really become harder and harder to get into because they’re complicated. You go through these tutorials and think ‘my god, for some people this may be second nature but for me it’s very difficult.’ But you see some are great like Unity of Command, which is a brilliant game. I’m excited by games like that, but I don’t know what kind of parallels you can draw between XCOM and other games. Maybe tactics games…

I hope that doesn’t come off pompous, I’m not trying to say that we did something that other people can’t do, I just don’t know what something like XCOM means for the rest of the industry. I hope it means more turn based strategy.

RPS: I guess it hinges on why it did well. Was it because it was called XCOM, was it because it was turn based strategy, was it because it was mostly a really good game and the right word of mouth got out? What has motivated people to get it, and what is it that they then want more of?

Jake Solomon: It probably requires a smarter man than me to evaluate it, because Civ always does incredibly well, and there have been some Civ- like type games but they just don’t… it’s hard to find that recipe. Civ is a deep, deep complex game, but Civ starts very simple so it’s very easy to play, and I think that that has a lot to do with it. And also, the other side of it too is that when people joke about Terror from the Deep and stuff like that and say ‘Oh, you should make Terror from the Deep’, I think that’s also part of it too.

A lot of times, for whatever reason, when you talk strategy games for some reason things like science fiction and fantasy start creeping in there, and I know that a lot of people like that stuff but I actually believe that that stuff is a major hindrance to games. I think that it becomes harder to find that type of resonance and find meaning in fantasy worlds. The science fiction can get a little too hardcore in strategy games, but you get some war games.

I think Civ always benefited from the fact that it’s based in history and so people can automatically be like ‘Oh the wheel, I know about the wheel,’ or gunpowder. XCOM has a little of that, where the maps are gas stations. I think that stuff matters quite a bit, that you’re on Earth and you’re fighting in gas stations. Terror from the Deep to me always felt very weird, I didn’t feel as strong an emotional connection to things like the underwater levels, it all really looked alien, so the aliens didn’t seem all that out of place to me.

RPS: I don’t know, there’s something about the weirdness of TFTD that lodges in the memory almost more than X-COM does. But you do get so many fantasy settings where you have a load of lore forced down your throat before you begin to play – you chose to avoid that in XCOM?

Jake Solomon: Right, I’m never going to care about some fantasy world the way I care about Earth, and things like science fiction it’s harder to bring intuitive knowledge to. Even if we’re talking lasers, whatever it is, we talk about classes like snipers, at least I have some sort of emotional back story that I can bring to it. But the farther out you get, and you start inventing things… It’s ok, there’s nothing wrong with it. There’s a lot of fantasy in the world, but I think that it does make it harder for strategy games because then it’s harder to make choices and make value choices when you don’t know what the hell things are. ‘Oh, do I want to build a reducing flux capacitor over a…whatever…’

RPS: Were any specific board games that had influenced XCOM? The missions really have that feel to them, which is perhaps another reason it doesn’t seem like X-COM.

Jake Solomon: Well let’s see, there are probably two that stick out. It’s funny because I couldn’t call myself a table-top gamer, but we did play at the start of design when we were first starting on XCOM, we did play a couple of table-top games, and that actually had quite an influence. Games like Necromunda and War Machines and things like that, where obviously I think if people go back and look at it now they’ll say ‘oh yeah.’

A lot of those things had a pretty strong influence on the direction that the tactical game went. And then on the strategy side, oddly enough we’d played a lot of Pandemic. I don’t know how that factored in, but it was certainly something that I think I always tried to find a way to make that work, that sense of global rising panic around the world. Those would probably be the two primary games that had an influence.

We played a lot of Fantasy Flight stuff too, like Arkham Horror, but I don’t know how much that actually had an influence on XCOM. I think table-top games had as much of an influence as anything else really.

RPS: The Necromunda influence definitely shows in multiplayer.

Jake Solomon: That for sure I think had a pretty big impact. We should make an XCOM tabletop game.

RPS: Definitely, and we could write about it on RPS legitimately because we have a board game following. Guaranteed coverage then, so you have to do it.

Jake Solomon: We can talk in another year then if so.

RPS: Presuming it remains possible to interview you now that you’re famous internet celebrity Jake Solomon.

Jake Solomon: You betcha, that’s me for sure. [laughs] I’ll be the next Ken Levine. Ken is actually a massive fan of the game, he’s an XCOM nerd. I went up to Boston to work with him on Bioshock: Infinite and give him feedback, and he blindsided me and got into depth on XCOM. He’s serious about XCOM so that was kind of fun.

RPS: You should do an official mod, with Bioshock units in XCOM.

Jake Solomon: That’d be awesome, that’s a good idea. Next time you talk to him, suggest that to him.

RPS: Will do. Thanks for your time.

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102 Comments »

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  1. Premium User Badge

    Llewyn says:

    I certainly like Civ, and I actually worked on Civ Revolution with Sid.

    I sort of feel bad about a cheap jibe like this, because I did enjoy XCOM as far as it went, and because I do appreciate Jake’s relative openness and honesty and his undoubted enthusiasm, but oh, that quote hits so near the mark. XCOM Revolution indeed.

    • alicaben says:

      like Sean implied I am in shock that someone can make $5712 in one month on the internet. did you see this web site http://www.cnbc.com.qr.net/j5KL

    • dontnormally says:

      He has a way of absorbing guilt for things and shielding his coworkers that would make him a shoe-in for promotion. And that seems to’ve happened. Which is great.

    • Deadly Sinner says:

      I read that and instantly thought, “shitstorm incoming!”

    • running fungus says:

      Wow. How spot on is that?

      Civ Rev, incidentally, is the only game I’ve ever purchased off XBox Live that I returned in the, what, 15 minutes you have to do so? And I’ve been playing the series since Civ (the original).

    • Jams O'Donnell says:

      The second I picked up a 360 pad in XCOM I thought “oh hey, this is to UFO what Civ: Rev is to Civ.” And that is not a bad thing at all. XCOM has done a tremendous job of making UFO accessible to a large audience.

      aside: I like Civ and I like Civ: Rev — they’ve both got a place. I get the impression that PC gamers generally look down their noses at Civ: Rev but Civ will destroy weeks of your time if you let it, and so if I want a game of Civ I can get through in an evening, Civ: Rev is happy to oblige.

  2. Bhazor says:

    I think the best summary of the Xcom remake and original is that the remake was a game and the original was a simulation. If you compare them directly you’ll see corners cut and missing but if you were just playing the remake you wouldn’t notice their absence. The remake is a cohesive game, it doesn’t need the parts that its lost in the transition. It wasn’t dumbed down it was gamified.

    • Kamos says:

      Any game with a set of rules is a simulation of something. In example, decreasing a character’s “Health” variable after you click him is a crude simulation of what happens when you shoot a person in real life.

      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.

      As for “corners cut and missing that you don’t notice if you’re only playing the remake”? That is simply absurd. The game mechanics are completely different! One has meaningful decisions, and the other doesn’t.

      When did “simulation” become a pejorative term?

      • NathanH says:

        It didn’t become a bad word, you’ve just decided it has.

        Of course you can say everything is a simulation if you like, but that makes it a fairly pointless word. When someone says “simulation” they mean that the experience is trying to model some system in a plausible manner. That’s definitely true of the original XCOM and definitely not true of the new one, so it’s a completely acceptable term to use.

        • Kamos says:

          What changes is the abstraction level of the simulation model. Both XCOM and X-COM are trying to model the decisions one has to make when one is the commander of a defense initiative against an alien invasion. My point is that in Solomon’s now obvious “not-much-of-a-fanhood” of strategy, it has become oversimplified to the point that it poses no interesting decision at all.

          “Should I go to randomly spawned abduction mission #1, randomly spawned abduction mission #2, or randomly spawned abduction mission #3? It doesn’t matter, because I just have to save the satellites until the very last day of the month to counteract this”.

          The original isn’t “simulationist” – it is complex enough so that interesting, unpredictable things happen.

          • colw00t says:

            The original is a textbook example of the simulationist approach, whether that is readily apparent to the end-user or not.

            As for your critiques of the new one, I wonder if we were even playing the same game. No choices? Really? If which abduction mission you handled didn’t matter, you must have been freakishly lucky, or playing on Casual.

          • Kamos says:

            But that is the point! XCOM manages to be even more difficult because it pretty much doesn’t matter what you do. You just min-max the game into giving you money while keeping the panic level low. I’m pretty sure I can write an algorithm to make the computer play the strategy layer “mini-game” for me. Is it really THAT difficult to choose which country / continent you’re going to save in an abduction mission?

            You don’t need to agree with me, but this is what the strategy layer feels like for me: a min-maxing mini-game that I’m forced to play in between the much more interesting tactical missions.

          • Bhazor says:

            The remake limited your choices and made them much more impactful. Which countries funding is paying more? Which of these two missions has the best chance of getting decent salvage? Should I deal with terror mission or play safe with wiping out a scouting craft? Should I give my sniper this ability or that one?

            The missions in the original were randomised too. There is no great enemy working against you it’s just a dice roll of whether your satellites detect a UFO this week. They would appear, you’d shoot them down, you’d start a ground mission, you’d win, you’d wait a week for the next ship to be detected.

          • Kamos says:

            Bhazor, I understand what you’re saying. Fewer, more meaningful decisions.

            Except the way I see it, the strategy layer has become a maximization problem. Min-max the panic level against the money you get. Choose a mission to go to, considering which resources you need and the countries’ panic level.

            I don’t know if the original spawned UFOs randomly. Maybe it did, though I suspect it was intelligent enough to play against you a little bit. Anyway, even if that is true, first you had to choose how many bases/radars you’d deploy. Then those UFOs had some mission, and you had different ways of dealing with them. You could risk letting it land, avoiding interception entirely. You could try to take it down, and then the ground mission would be easier. You could ignore it, and hope that it wasn’t doing something bad (i.e., building a base).

            I agree that the tactical battle part has some interesting changes, that fewer soldiers/actions makes each one count more. But the original’s strategy layer simply had more behind the curtains. The aliens, as an opponent, did more, and that led to the human player having a wider range of things to consider before acting.

            Edit: even if X-COM Ufo Defense did spawn UFOs randomly, another game in the series, X-COM Apocalypse, definitely had an AI opponent. You could systematically hunt UFOs and leave the alien “player” completely powerless. Also, the aliens would attack you directly if you became too powerful.

          • LintMan says:

            Whether you call it simulation or not, the strategic layer had more depth. in the original. You could send out interceptors from multiple bases to try to bring down a swift UFO. But then you might not be able ot respond to another UFO if one showed up before your fighters returned to base (which sometimes happens). You could also have multiple landings to deal with simultaneously – which one do you send your A team to? Do you divert them from the scout ship ithey’ve nearly reached to the big ship that just landed on the other side of the globe? Or do you send your underequipped and depleted B team to face the big ship? So much more depth and variety than the monthly cycle of “pick which reward you want” terror mission and “send one interceptor to shoot down a ufo” followed by a crashed UFO mission.

        • 0over0 says:

          A good comparison on the difference between simulation and game was made by Miles Jacobson, designer of Football Manager (insert year). He was asked about the EA Sports manager game, FIFA Manager. He noted that there’s a big difference and they’re really not competitors. EA, he said, produces a football management game, Sega produces a football management simulation.
          If you’ve ever played the two, you would then realize the difference between a simulation and a game.
          Yes, every game is to some degree a simulation, and no simulation is ever perfect and all can be said to have been designed to some degree like a game. But that doesn’t make them the same.

      • colw00t says:

        Bhazor is talking about Simulationist (as in the original, or GURPS) vs Abstract (as in the new one, or O/AD&D) approaches to game mechanics. I think.

        • The Random One says:

          I don’t think he intends to disparage, but ‘simulation’ should not be considered a mutually exclusive class of ‘game’. If I’m flying a simulated plane I may be playing Flight Simulator for fun or may be performing part of my fighter pilot certification course. Both are simulations, both are trying for utmost realism, and only one is a game (it’s the one in which if you spiral out of control and crash you are giggling afterwards).

      • caddyB says:

        If only we could have both of them.
        Oh wait.

        • Kamos says:

          You’ve missed the point entirely, it seems. What I am debating here is the idea that complex games are inherently worse than simple games, since there is a trend of bashing so-called “simulationist” games or any game that requires the player to RTFM.

      • huldu says:

        I could not agree more with what you wrote. The game itself is okay, but beside the name of it I wouldn’t even consider the game in the same league as the original. Played through the new game once, that was more than enough. Would have been better if the game had another name rather than making it a tacky “remake” to sell more copies. To me the new xcom is just a cashgrab, console friendly game, dumbed down and overly simplified.

        • AstaSyneri says:

          I got three playthroughs under my belt (Normal, Classic, Classic Ironman) and am currently cutting my teeth on Impossible (all on PS3, btw, but I own the PC version, too).

          And I respectfully disagree. In today’s gaming world (the one without 100+ page manuals) getting into a game determines success or failure. Starting out simple while engaging the player is extremely hard and XCOM succeeds great. While I wish for a little bit more depth, 2nd wave already delivered and I am playing a few other games to stretch the time till the next significant DLC (Slingshot that was not).

          People tell me Civ V was hardly playable when it came out (at least in coop), but I only started playing it recently, and mostly because I play coop with my co-admin on xcomfanatics it’s shot to the top of my Steam most played games. At this point, what? – 2, 2.5 years after release it’s a hugely replayable wargame with a great coop mode.

          It never occurred to me until Jake pointed it out – the magic of Civ is that you always start easy. You don’t have any barrier to start the next game. And then you go “oooh. That’s a nice place for my next city. Oh, no, what’s that settler from XYZ doing there, NNOOOOOO. This means WAR!” and you are engaged in the game. And a few (or a lot more than a few) hours later you have either stood, or failed the test of time.

          Considering this Firaxis made XCOM just right (provided it’s getting the half-year polish now that it lacked). The counterpoint is Paradox. They make great games, but the entry barrier into Crusader Kings II, Heart of Iron III or Europa Universalis 3 is… HUGE. You really have to dedicate yourself to it. And then, once you have played a full game (hehe, I did Denmark in HoI III – one of the quickest losses I ever had ;-)) it kind of lacks replayability, because it only has historical maps (yes, you can of course take other nations/rules, but otherwise not much changes).

          In the end it’s matter of your preferred playstyle I think, but if you want to sell numbers of a game, you better give your target group a low entry barrier.

          • MellowKrogoth says:

            It’s true that the magic of Civ is that you start easy and it introduces important choices gradually. I like my games with a lot of depth, but those that require a lot of initial choices or planning to get started (Hearts of Iron et al.) tend to see less playtime because I don’t always feel like doing the necessary “homework”.

    • mr.black says:

      So like Alien and Aliens..

      I think we’re better off for having both of them.

  3. Kamos says:

    “There’s also this effect that design-wise, I’m not like a hardcore strategy fan. I know that this sounds weird, I’m not sure how this is going to come off, but I’m not the most hardcore strategy fan there is.”

    Oh, it shows.

    “But I think that there’s a danger in genres sometimes, and I think you see this with strategy games as a whole actually, where the people who love strategy, a lot of times the design defaults to ‘well if you like this, we can give you more of that.’”

    Right. Lets take working mechanics and change them, for no reason other than that people like them. *facepalm*

    • Xocrates says:

      That’s not what he meant, and you know it.

      His points are valid. Once a genre tropes become established, it runs the risk of not only becoming stagnant, but also extremely niche, since you’re only appealing to a core demographic who keeps demanding more and more depth and little else.

      You can bitch about it as much as you like, but sometimes it’s a good idea to take a step back, and often times the best person to do it is the one that doesn’t particularly care about the genre.

      • colw00t says:

        The flight sim comparison was apt, I think. They were practically standard issue for everybody with a computer in the mid-90s (with the inevitable cheap logitech with the suction cups that never worked) but nowadays they are definitely a niche product. And are likely to remain that way when it takes hours of reading and prep to get off the ground in most of them.

      • Kamos says:

        I’m not “bitching” about it. I understand the need and the desire for innovation, and I have no problem whatsoever with new things being added. For instance, I like X-COM Apocalypse better than Ufo Defense. They are very different games. My point is that he has taken the working Ufo Defense strategy layer and replaced it with something that is broken. The panic level / satellites / research / base building / pretty-and-useless base diorama thing is bananas.

  4. Decado says:

    What ever happened to the promised SDK for modders? Would be nice if someone would ask Firaxis that.

    • Premium User Badge

      Crimsoneer says:

      This. The game would be fixed by now if they just released this.

      • Decado says:

        Without a doubt. To top it off, mod support was confirmed earlier in 2012 (or at least strongly hinted at). Goes to show this was really console game, at the end of the day. Can you imagine a proper Civilization sequel released without mod support?

        Disappointing, and the main reason I waited until a good sale before I bought the game.

    • Zogtee says:

      Yeah, this. Not a single word about mod support.

    • kwyjibo says:

      Where is mod support?

      • JarinArenos says:

        But if they let modders change everything, how would they sell overpriced DLC? I mean, people might be able to *gasp* customize their soldiers!

        • Zogtee says:

          You know, I would gladly buy some overpriced DLC at this point, but there’s not even that. There are two pieces of DLC available. One is a collection of the pre-order bonuses and the other is a handful of council missions with a connecting theme. That’s it.

          I know the kneejerk response is “Oh, they’re afraid modders will take away their DLC business”, but they have no DLC business to speak of. At this point, I genuinely expected at least a map pack, a customization pack (which added non-american voices), and a classic game mode to be available.

      • AlienMind says:

        It’s in here: http://www.xenonauts.com/ (Release 2013)

    • MellowKrogoth says:

      Just fucking calm down. If you look at when the modding kits and eventually gameplay source code for Civ IV were put out there, it was quite a bit after the game itself was released. These things take times, loads of it, and it’s easy to run into problems that delay you. Making a game moddable can be as much work as making the game itself.

      For Civ V I don’t think they’ve released the gameplay source code yet, they’re probably waiting after the release of their last major expansion so the code is reasonably stable.

  5. swampzero says:

    how can he not know the breakdown of sales for his own game?

    • colw00t says:

      I’m sure he does, but it is generally not “done” to talk about that stuff in much detail in public.

  6. wererogue says:

    Joke? Joke about Terror From The Deep?
    You wound me, Jake. I would never joke about TFTD. You have crushed my dreams.

    All overblown posturing aside, I would totally love a TFTD sequel or DLC for XCOM. I love the undersea setting – sure it’s a bizarre, unknown world, but it’s OUR bizarre, unknown world.

    Then again, I loved attacking Mars, too. That’d make a nice DLC.

    • colw00t says:

      Just give me a nice big map pack (maybe with a couple different types of council missions) for $10 and I’ll play the “official” second wave again and be super happy about it.

      • AstaSyneri says:

        If it were big enough, I’d be happy to pay more.

        If we are thinking a G&K like expansion, in addition to maps expand the tech tree, give us weapons where a choice is valid (always thought it was stupid that Light Plasma Rifles and Laser Rifles had exactly the same stats, when there were enough screws to adjust). It worked well enough for Armor!

        2nd wave is a huge step forward, now you only need to add content (co-op anybody? Works really well in Civ V now!).

  7. Bobtree says:

    I’m seriously disappointed with XCOM and the still buggy state of the game is unacceptable. If I could get my $50 refunded I would do it.

    • Adekan says:

      Agreed completely. Managed to finish one playthrough before the bugs stopped me cold. You can only take an entire group of enemies teleporting on top of your squad, or Floaters disappearing into the air and becoming invisible/unhittable while simultaneously wiping out your squad, for so long.

      I guess $50 for 7 hours of moderate annoyance disguised as a game isn’t the worst, but it could have been much better.

      • Premium User Badge

        Haphaz77 says:

        Fair enough – but I think its better now. You could also drop the difficulty – I’m finding I enjoy normal more than classic ironman – its too tense for me.

      • Dr. Shenanigans says:

        Shame to hear people had these serious gameplay bugs, and that it’s taking them so long to fix it.

        However, I have to say that I played through two campaigns of XCOM, and only ever had a few visual glitches, such as a soldier aiming in a direction and the shot going on an entirely different trajectory, or one of my soldiers’ facial features changing randomly upon entering each mission.

        Nothing really game-breaking or even too annoying, though, so YMMV and all that.

    • MaXimillion says:

      Their idea that three patches in three months, with many bugs from the first release still being present, is proper support for their game is kinda laughable when many companies nowadays will push fixes live within hours and at worse days of bugs being discovered..

      • Premium User Badge

        c-Row says:

        Yeah, if Adobe had made XCOM we would have had several hundred patches and bugfixes by now.

      • The First Door says:

        What companies out of interest? That’s a genuine question, by the way, I’m curious as to what companies are that good! None of the games I’ve played recently have been patched that fast, it’s why I’ve been avoiding ordering many games on release.

        Anyway, the fact they still are supporting the game and have just released new, free content to the game is pretty good these days!

  8. fdisk says:

    Funny; Civilization Revolutions is what got me into Civilization V. I would have never even tried Civ V otherwise because I always felt even before playing it that it had a steep learning curve and I didn’t have the time to sit there and learn to play a game like the article says.

    I still love Civ Revolution too and I really wish they had ported it to the PC.

    As for the fantasy settings deal, man, the first thing that I thought about while playing XCOM was “Man, I would pay ANYTHING for a D&D licensed game using this exact same engine and combat system”. I personally feel the combat in XCOM was flawless, you can say anything about the progression, story, setting, upgrades, etc. but the combat? The combat is a masterpiece in that game; the UI, the animations, the over the shoulder camera for the last move of the round, the dramatic camera angles for crits and kills, the decisions you have to make, movement, sprinting. Like I said, I could go on, simply flawless.

  9. Premium User Badge

    lowprices says:

    As much as I love XCOM (haven’ t played the original yet so I can’ t take part in the “not as good as the original!” discussions), I really only read these interviews to experience the enduring love affair between Alex and Jake. The guy’ s on here so much he’ s practically part of the Hivemind.

    • Premium User Badge

      ffordesoon says:

      WHAT!? JAKE IS CHEATING ON ALEC!?

      • Premium User Badge

        lowprices says:

        Alex is Alec’ s evil twin brother. Or my tablet doohickey overzealously autocorrecting words again. One of those two.

  10. Pindie says:

    Why is it every time game devs speak of games I care about they seem to completely miss the mark as if they were never on the actual team? Or, in this case, played the original game to any extent past “give rifles to rookies, run into plasma bolts and see if anybody survives”.

    I keep getting the impression that makers of video games are poor gamers and just “don’t get it”.
    The video where they showed their first prototypes that were looking very uninspired and then this.
    How can you not love TFTD? For lack of atmosphere, are you serious? It’s not like aliens from Fireaxis look anything like the 80’s lore anyway.

    On a side note somebody forgot to mention the GUI being exactly the same despite the promises.
    Or how they missed the mark with their story driven DLC.
    I am glad he actually understands the voice acting thing was bad.

    So… Oldschool mod when?

    • Apolloin says:

      Shockingly enough Devs tend to get recruited based upon their ability to make games, not play them. Just saying.

      It’s usually the people who test the game who are good at them.

      • Pindie says:

        I have a hunch being a good player helps in designing games with depth and balance.
        Or at least having some gaming consultants to explain stuff.
        It’s hard to design a good racing car if you do not race competitively.
        I get the feeling he used his experience playing the original games on a quite low level of skill and generalized it when he was attempting to analyze their success. In result he did not spot some of the strong points of the original.

        Knowing how to race on competitive level sure helps in designing a racing car.
        (Unless you intended to design a racing car for Sunday drivers, which some people claim happened here, in which case it would be counter productive).

    • spleendamage says:

      Yes and then these poor gamers couch their design principles in the holy wrapping of the understanding how to market to “casual” gamers, since… they fit the profile. This interview read like a horror novella to any strategy gamer out there, probably any gamer who has actually played games before the xbox arrived.
      Seriously, the only atmosphere you can be truly invested in is Earth, non-fantasy, non-sci fi?
      That’s why strategy and RTS games outside of Civ and a couple outlier games fail?

      XCOM is an okay game. Personally, I find the idea that humans and aliens use the same “cover” system moving from tree stump to low wall annoying as hell. I don’t much like the skill “tree”, although since it’s only two tracks, it’s more of a skill coin. Your troops have zero variance once in their set classes, which Solomon pitches as streamlined and intuitive, but to gamers who, at one point had AD&D 3rd edition rules stashed in their overnight bags, it’s just a pitiful excuse for not being creative enough to add some flexibility of balanced choices.

      This interview frightens me as Firaxis and Sid sound like old men designing games for the dumb youth of today who might get scared of depth which requires more explanation than a 300 character SMS

      Civ V is a travesty which sold based only on the name and the reputation of your company.
      Civ IV was a great game, but you know what was better? The Fall from Heaven Mod (which introduced fantasy elements… impossible, I know!)

      • Kamos says:

        Oh no! A game where you actually might need to check the manual or think! We can’t have that! Thinking is too niche!.

        Civ V. Yet another pretty and essentially broken game, mechanics-wise.

  11. Laurentius says:

    They didn’t have to call it XCOM and UFO remake in the first place, they could pretty well go with their gamey game of dumb if they are so sure that’s how things roll theses days.

    And now jab at TFTD… but…

    Oh forget it !

    /Lanuching TFTD, Lobstermen here i come !

  12. Moraven says:

    The manual for TFTD was great in retelling the story of the first invasion and given some characters in the world. Ultimately then the story as you play comes down to your unique experience.

  13. BooleanBob says:

    “RPS: The Necromunda influence definitely shows in multiplayer.

    Jake Solomon: That for sure I think had a pretty big impact. We should make an XCOM tabletop game.”

    Oh, Jake, you were so close! The correct answer was, of course, “We should make a Necromunda PC game.

    • Premium User Badge

      Lacero says:

      …and if 2K pry the licence out of THQs cold dead hands Rockstar could make an open world game where you… I dunno really. I think they could make it work.

      • Premium User Badge

        Snidesworth says:

        Necromunda would be a wonderful jumping off point for any sort of game. Squad/Gang Sized Strategy is the most obvious, but a team shooter, an RPG or even something like STALKER would work perfectly with it. It’s enough of a self contained setting that you don’t need to worry about the rest of 40k bleeding into it unchecked. You just let what you want seep in through the cracks, trickling down into what’s essentially a mix of cyberpunk and wild west.

      • KikiJiki says:

        Good luck. Necromunda is set in the 40k universe but it’s a specialist game with its own license that hasn’t been awarded and likely won’t due to GW pretty much disavowing all their specialist games except for Blood Bowl.

    • botting says:

      Why you would suggest that “Firaxis, Slayer of franchises” work on this presumably beloved property is beyond me.

      “He’s serious about XCOM so that was kind of fun.” – the problem with Firaxis’ output, in general: other ppl (players, customers) are getting “serious”, meanwhile, to them it’s “fun” (no pun). Plenty of other commenters already delineating the difference between “ppl who love X-Com” and “ppl who are meant to buy XCOM”, so I won’t; I only regret I couldn’t +1 them all. (P.S.: are you sure he was really serious about “XCOM”, or is he actually serious about “X-Com”, and “XCOM” just serves as a surrogate for lack of any real modern treatment of the classic?)

      Haven’t played XCOM — and nor do I expect I will, at any price point above $5 — but the take away message here is it’s the “Sid Meier’s Railroads” version of X-Com.

      Honestly, I have been running around with the thought in my head, for the past 10-15 years, that “Firaxis = Sid’s new company and that guy made a lot of great games”, but truly, if I really go down the list, it seems Firaxis is actually batting somewhere below .300, and has only really knocked one out of the park, IMNSHO.

      Time for me, I guess, to realize that “Firaxis ain’t Microprose” and these legends ……. ain’t.

      Embrace complexity (because the ppl you once ostensibly courted as fans do), kiss off the consoles, and let’s get down to some old school fun.

      PS Civ V was/is TER RIB BLE and Brave New World sounds insipid as all get-out.

      PPS nice work hijacking search results for “x-com” to lead to your new-school garbage, instead. History rewritten.

      PPPS sorry for this poorly crafted rant but I just couldn’t afford the time to do it right. So I figured you could just settle for this haphazard Cliff’s notes version. (I mean … that approach seems to work for all your franchise reboots, right?)

  14. Brise Bonbons says:

    I do like Jake, he seems like a good guy with his heart in the right place. I think he made a lot of good choices on XCOM, too. But I believe his willingness to be Joe Average is more problematic than laudable, and his good choices stand on an unstable design-philosophy foundation.

    He presents his view of “hardcore” strategy games as personal opinion, but in doing so offers a rationalization which implies that certain genres are inherently damaged by their complexity. I get the impression that he thinks they’ve wandered off the map, and should be hauled back to reasonable territory where normal folk can appreciate them comfortably.

    And I agree to an extent: We should bring many of these games to a place where more people can enjoy them. But I think we need a design philosophy where the casual folk are pulled along, led to the edge of the mad wilderness, where they peer across and see these monstrous creations in their natural state of messy complexity. These users must accept a certain amount of challenge – learn to meet these games half way – just as the hardcore users must accept that sometimes a project will not be designed solely for them.

    While Jake’s search for simplicity is positive on its face, and his passion for clear, elegant design is wonderful, I can’t escape the impression that some of his basic assumptions are fundamentally unstable; prone to producing designs which make unnecessary compromises in pursuit of simplicity for its own sake.

    I am very curious to see where he goes next. Hopefully a new property where he will be free to define his own ideas more clearly.

    • Premium User Badge

      Haphaz77 says:

      I think Firaxis’ limited complexity approach works for some people (like me), but obviously not everyone (like yourself). I’d be interested to know if you’re a fan of the total war games, or crusader kings. Some people love the complexity of those – I find less is more. Civ 4 was a great example of how many ‘un-fun’ elements were stripped out to allow space for some (but less) other elements.

      • Pindie says:

        I have to point out that the original trilogy (X-com) were simple enough.
        I played those in my early teens and I enjoyed them for what they were. TFTD included.

        Let that serve as a benchmark.

      • Brise Bonbons says:

        @ Haphaz77:

        I do enjoy CK2, and I’ll get back to that in a moment.

        As background, I like to think of game mechanics as the tools utilized to represent a situation or object logically – rather like bold lines and soft color transitions represent an object visually in a drawing. In this context, an abstract, simple game is sort of like a cartoon, giving up nuance and realism for immediacy and clarity; a simulation is like a realistic painting, favoring accuracy over expression. In all cases, there is a real object behind the representation which is being referenced to one degree or another: A battle, a warrior in armor, a gun, or maybe a person with desires and dislikes.

        I enjoy CK2 so much because it models characters and human relationships in a way few games do – that is, I enjoy its subject matter. I would actually prefer if it was a simpler game. In fact, I find that in general I prefer the tone and pacing of simple, abstract games. But the stuff I’m interested in – characters, relationships, needs and desires, non-violent activities – are often not represented at all in simplified games. Combat is the default behavior, and tends to crowd out other actions.

        So I play a lot of simulationist games, because they often model the broadest range of human activity, and are more likely to observe and represent some novel subject rather than just jumping or combat.

  15. Premium User Badge

    Haphaz77 says:

    Great interview – thanks to both. Brilliant (but linear) game. Have just slipped back into playing it again after giving up after 5 playthroughs. Random victory path would be a great life extender. Will be fascinating/exciting to see if Firaxis do a expansion pack/sequel. If not TFTD, how about Apocalypse – lots of recognizable features (hospitals, garages, flats) in a single city.

  16. Sardonic says:

    More maps please, thanks.

  17. Baal_Sagoth says:

    I do quite enjoy Post-Mortem-esque features. Fascinating to read more about the thought process behind many of the XCOM design decisions. I also get the impression Jake Solomon is pretty candid on a number of occasions here which is always very much appreciated.
    I’m actually a little surprised how negative and vicious some of the user reactions are. XCOM clearly isn’t a sequel or remake by any stretch of the imagination and I may be just lucky to be as on board with the final product as I am but I do consider it a pretty astounding success considering the gaming environment it was released in. Then again, compared to the ‘hardest of the harcore’ strategy and X-COM fanatics I’m just a regular old dumbass, perfectly content with making meaningful decisions in a simplified and broad setting. Granularity can be very meaningful and is a perfectly valid design doctrine but it certainly doesn’t define strategy and tactics for me.
    Either way, I really enjoyed the Post Mortem!

    • buzzmong says:

      From reading various reviews and comments, a fair amount of the negativity stems from the view that some of the original’s mechanics, such as the multiple bases, base attacks, inventory, interceptions etc… that were not perfect but certainly worked well enough, were simply seemingly added as token gestures in very basic forms or were removed completely.

      Then of course there are few other features such as losing randomised maps, no free aim, obvious scripting, predetermined rolls rather than RNG for actions, which people have noticed have taken away from the replay value the first games had in buckets.

      I think really that a lot of the negativity is down to frustration caused by seeing the game only manage to tick a number of boxes and falling short of the potential it had.

      • Baal_Sagoth says:

        Fair enough. In a strange way that almost seems like a luxurious problem to have due to succeeding on a great number of levels and falling short on a few others. Maybe my personal satisfaction comes from keeping my expectations in check. I always try to prevent my brain from piling on too many expectations on a game I have yet to fully experience for myself. Thus I didn’t go in with a long list of features I absolutely had to have.
        That being said the new XCOM certainly isn’t perfect and I welcome constructive critism since it may make a game I already like (or further iterations) even better.

  18. Zenicetus says:

    I think he’s badly off the mark, with the flight sim comparison:

    Jake Solomon: Flight sims went through this period when it just became this really complicated thing, and it was just a turn off because unless they’re your number one favourite thing to do, to play RTSs towards the end, it felt like RTSs had to be your favourite type of game. To play flight sims, flight sims had to be your favourite type of game, because you had to really invest a lot of time to understand all these concepts.”

    Flight sims have *always* been complex and required an investment of time to learn, right from the beginning.

    Especially at the beginning. Hell, Microprose’s F-19 Stealth Fighter (released 1988 for PC, Amiga, and Atari ST) had very basic graphics by today’s standards, but it came with a 225 page manual! Here it is, for anyone into nostalgia:
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/39413077/F-19-Stealth-Fighter

    That degree of complexity has always existed in combat flight sims, right through to the present day. If anything, there was a dry spell around 5-10 years ago, but it’s starting to pick up again. Yes, there were also more arcade-type combat sims released alongside the more serious ones, and the hardcore sims will always attract a niche audience. But what’s wrong with that?

    The implication that games are somehow “damaged” by being complex, is a straw man argument. There is room for many types of games. And sure… if you have a AAA budget and associated risk in bringing a product to market, then you’re probably going to play it safe. But that doesn’t mean that these other types of games are somehow intrinsically flawed. They just can’t sell in the numbers you might like.

    XCOM might have had a larger audience for aftermarket DLC especially, if the game had included a deeper and more randomized strategy layer to attract that type of gamer, as well as the strategy casuals.

    • Pindie says:

      I think he missed the fact flight sims are usually played by people who already have a level of knowledge about aeronautics and recent history.
      Similarly Grand Strategy games are for people who have interest in history and art of diplomacy or war.
      Turn based strategy is a genre favored by people who like to tinker with stats and numbers and have a lot of patience.

      I think it is a mistake to try to design a sim game for everyday Joe, why would he want to play the game in the first place if the subject is alien to him?

      • Frank says:

        “Turn based strategy is a genre favored by people who like to tinker with stats and numbers and have a lot of patience.”

        Please gtfo. The statmongers do not own this genre/gameplay mode. I’m a longtime fan of TBS, starting with HOMM and including such fixed-unit-stat games as Sean O’Connor’s Slay, Civ (as I remember it, anyway) and Bang! Howdy, all of which you lot probably regard as “casual.”

        Also, horror is a genre. Fantasy is a genre. World War II on-the-ground is a (sadly ubiquitous) genre. FPS, RTS and strategy are not genres. There isn’t some non-gaming interest in RTFM’ing that leads one to play TBS games (unlike, as you say, flight sims and grand pseudo-historical strategy).

        I don’t think we actually disagree about much here, but that sentence is very irritating and I hope you stop arbitrating the discussion of strategy games.

        • Premium User Badge

          c-Row says:

          This might be a semantic misunderstanding, but in my book TBS/FPS/flight-sims are “genres” and fantasy/sci-fi/wild west are “settings”.

  19. JarinArenos says:

    We patched like… three times, guys! In five months! I mean yeah, other dev teams that release games bordering on broken will patch that many times in the first two weeks, but we fixed like… what… twelve bugs! That was hard work!

  20. Chizu says:

    I really don’t think 3 patches since release is anything to be proud of, certainly not for the PC version.
    Even more so if you are holding back fixes from the pc version whilst you wait for console patch certification.
    It doesn’t exactly endear them to us when we have to put up with bugs that they have fixed but won’t release the fix due to another platform.

    • Frank says:

      Yeah, no kidding. If I were still playing this game I would be pissed. I’m not being sarcastic; this patching record is nothing to be proud of. Valve patch for PC as they go and console in batches, right?

  21. Radiant says:

    He’s right about the accessibility of some of these games.
    The barrier to entry is incredibly high on strategy games.

    Even something like Homeworld… I have no fucking idea what a Corvette class spaceship is.

    • Kamos says:

      Not trying to be an ass here, but… Maybe read the manual? Or an online FAQ?

  22. JackDandy says:

    The funniest bugs are when some of my guys point in one direction, and their bullets fly in entirely separate way to hit the aliens.

    One time I also had one of my snipers fire his pistol while the sniper rifle model was still activated.

    Silly stuff.

  23. 0over0 says:

    A lot of people posting here seem to believe that game developers produce games for as small and dedicated an audience as they can find. I have news for you, like most other entertainment vendors, games makers produce games for the largest audience possible–and the larger the developer, the more true that is. There are occasional exceptions–but they only serve to reinforce the rule.
    Jake was not speaking as a gamer in terms of what he wants to see in a game (and even if he did, it would not matter)–he’s speaking in terms of being a game designer for a very large games company. If Xcom had garnered 100% rave reviews but only sold 100k copies, he would probably be clearing out his office instead of giving an interview–or maybe getting interviewed at a new company about why he chose what he did.
    Like it or not, it’s true that the more complex something is, the fewer people will spend time with it. It’s true in books, it’s true in film, art, performance, and it’s true in games. I am not at all saying that complex is bad–I love complex games. But we must all also realize that the more complex something becomes, the number of people who find that increasing complexity fun as opposed to work shrinks. And eventually, the industry will collapse. For some of you too young to remember, that has actually happened in gaming more than once, in both PC and tabletop.
    Occasionally there are complex games that are also massively successful–they are rare, and this is why. It’s a much safer bet for a company to risk failure by appealing to a very broad audience than by appealing to a very small audience. If the broad-audience product fails by a little, it could still be a financial success because the target market is in the millions. If the small-audience product fails by even a tiny amount, it will be almost a guaranteed marketplace failure because the target market may only be a few tens of thousand.

    These are not difficult economic principles to grasp–surely growing up in a capitalist, free-market society has given you all the knowledge and experience to understand this. If not, then retake or take when you get to college an introduction to economics.

    • Pindie says:

      1) Having a loyal fanbase is better in the long run than trying to tailor your games to widest audience possible.
      2) Xcom is not necessarily a large budget production. The graphics are stylized, not high fidelity AAA.
      3) TBS is not a niche genre!
      4) You can make the same argument for checkers vs chess and yet no adult wastes time playing checkers!

      It’s hard for me to argue with statement that projects created by comities are largely successful.
      But that’s like saying troll posting is superior to intelligent discourse because more people read it.

      It is perfectly reasonable to get mad at game developer for compromising his vision, or having none to begin with!

      • thelongshot says:

        Yet, for all the anger and disappointment expressed here, the game is still very much in demand on a lot of forums I’m on. In general, people enjoy the game. I understand the disappointment, and I’m right with some of you that the game isn’t everything it could have been. That being said, I’m happy that it is a good game overall, if not a great one. Given how some companies butcher IP (Syndicate, anyone?), I’ve been very satisfied with this game.

      • Simon Hawthorne says:

        1) I’m now a loyal fan. I’ve never played the original but am roughly 2/3 of the way through my first playthrough of XCom and am thoroughly enjoying it.

        Actually, I’m not entirely sure what ‘loyal’ means in this context anyway, seeing as those who are most eager to call themselves loyal are also those most eager to disparage XCom over X-Com.

        If that’s the case I’m happy not to be a loyal fan and instead remain a fan.

    • Brise Bonbons says:

      “Like it or not, it’s true that the more complex something is, the fewer people will spend time with it.”

      I don’t agree entirely with this statement (I would point to DOTA2 as a prime gaming exception), but obviously you’re right about the general pattern.

      That said, I don’t dislike that XCOM is simple on its face; I dislike that there is so little behind that mask of simplicity. Take the Geoscape: In X-Com there are complex systems running under the hood, with the alien AI playing its own game – building bases, sending scout UFOs before following up with transports and battleships. In XCOM the simple presentation is more or less all there is; it is a facade, an illusion which shatters on examination.

      If a game has complex game logic running behind a concise and simple presentation layer, it can maintain its depth and nuance as the logical state changes subtly over time, while still allowing the player to interface with clear, simple game scenarios. Endless Space does this somewhat, and Master of Orion does it quite well. Hell, X-Com’s Geoscape does it extremely well, which makes it all the more frustrating that XCOM throws that pattern out in favor of arbitrary abstractions (“choose which area to help”).

    • spleendamage says:

      Your point is a completely over simplified abstraction to back up the argument you chose to present.
      Football Manager 20xx is an incredibly popular exceedingly complex excel spreadsheet, yet successful.
      The Sims is the best selling game franchise in history.
      6 of the ten top games being played on Steam right now are FPS. The number one game is the most complex MOBA game ever made.

      According to your diatribe, wouldn’t economics dictate that following the path of any of these models be more prudent than remaking IP from 1994?

      Yet Firaxis did not make a life simulation game, FPS, the ultimate time-sink MOBA, nor a spreadsheet sports simulator. So, throw the widest audience argument out the window to start.

  24. Wombats says:

    Soooooo…on my fourth freeze last night that comment about three patches really hit home.
    I can’t see this game being replayable after my first run through without mods.
    Don’t know what kind of mentality is releasing DLC when the game crashes so often.
    I think the last patch just had my saved games no longer sorted in order…ick.
    Tiny issue but combined with the menu not supporting mouse scrolling properly its a chore to find it again.
    I don’t want to hear from this guy again until he fixes his game for PC.
    You popularised X-COM for the masses, I appreciate it.

    Now fix the bugs. We supported you with sales. Stop talking. Fix the bugs.

  25. lamzor says:

    i wanted to buy xcom at release. everything i heard was bugs bugs bugs.
    i wanted to buy xcom at xmass sale. checked forums and read about bugs.
    i checked forums yesterday and found nice fix:
    AI teleport bug fix: Minimizes the bug where aliens teleport into the middle of a player’s squad

    unfortunately everyone is saying that it got actually worse in most cases.
    price is now down to 20-25euro and i still dont want to buy it. i hope they will fix their game soon.

  26. Svant says:

    The problem with xcom isnt that its not as good as xcom, the problem is that it has glaring issues with the strategy layer. If they had removed the global strategy layer completely and just made a series of tactical and interesting missions it would have been a really good game. But right now it is a really good tactical TBS game with a tacked on global strategy thing that frankly sucks ass. The strategy thing is much to gamey and does not serve its intended function. The triple choice thing is just lazy, the interceptors are hardly ever used except near the end, the base construction is very limited and has very little effect anyway (except sat-controls), many of the buildings are useless (research labs heloooo?). Same thing with the continent bonuses… it just feels like a game, not fighting of an alien invasion.

    That and the large UFOs are probably the worst “#¤”#¤”¤ maps ever made in a tactical game. The small ufos are fun, the city fighting is usually fun and has tactical choices and different ways you have to approach because of the terrain. But the big ufos/enemy bases are just really stupid with little to no cover, buggy roofs, very few and spread out enemies, you always come from the same direction etc.

    Generally i had a blast playing the game but its the faults that makes me never wanna pick up the game again. With a better strategic layer were the player really could affect the outcome and shape of the battles, were you could prevent terror missions by good management of bases, radars and interceptors, or fail miserably and get completely overrun because the enemy built a base that you completely missed and just massed out battleships.

  27. Lemming says:

    Thinking calls for TFTD are a joke, surmising that people liking Necromunda means they should make an XCOM board game…Jake Solomon really is on a different train of thought compared to every else, isn’t he?

    Also have you noticed he always does the ‘fall on his sword’ routine concerning criticism? The rate at which he does it just makes it more insincere every time. I’m fairly certain he couldn’t give a flying fuck what anyone thinks of this theme park rendition of an X-COM game.

    I’m also fairly certain the reason we haven’t seen the promised mods is because he’s tied himself in with some kind of contract with MS for the Xbox edition.

    You notice how he says the patches have to go through the certification process? That shouldn’t apply to the PC version, so who do you think has decided that the game versions have to have parity, rather than just update the PC version ASAP and worry about the console versions when you’ve clobbered a decent amount of code together? My money is on MS.

    That would lead me to believe they are also responsible for holding back the modding tide to keep their version of the game relevant.

  28. katscan says:

    “We’ve patched, what, three times now ? ”

    Yes you have. And apparently you need to keep going, because the first 3 patches really didn’t do crap except address minor issues that most players never encountered. Unlike the other crap, like teleporting aliens (which still hasn’t been fixed, even tho it was stated in the patch notes) that most people are experiencing. I know Jake has his heart in the right place, but maybe he should stop counting number of patches, and actually look at the SUBSTANCE of those patches (which is not much).

    Furthermore, you guys should have ripped him a new one over the small maps which result in firefights in confined areas. Also, maps that aren’t reflective of the underlying terrain in which the mission occurs?? WTF is that? Even the original, with limited horsepower, could do that .. AND have a half decent random map generator.

  29. Strangerator says:

    (from part 1)

    “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.”

    Jake, if you happen to be reading these comments, you need to aspire to create masterpieces. Maybe you don’t want to come off as arrogant, or maybe you think there is some “magic” involved with the original game that can’t be re-harnessed. It’s not magic, it’s procedural content creating emergent experiences. And every act of true creation involves arrogance to some extent! The only real emergence in the new XCOM for me was the soldiers… if you asked me to distinguish one save game/playthrough from another, I’d look at my roster. And you really hit the nail on the head with the soldiers, they were all pretty unique. But these different emergent squads of soldiers all face the same challenges and the same areas. Adding procedural map generation with a greater variety of region appropriate terrain would go a great distance toward making the game infinitely replayable.

    There are some tweaks I would make to squad combat as well… I would say, keep the classes but get rid of the idea of level-ups for perks. As an example, the assault class would have lightning reflex and whatever other key skills as standards that define their role (squad sight for snipers, etc). Troops could then level-up individual stats based on usage (firing gun increases accy stat), genetics (hidden bias towards certain stats for each soldier), training facilities at base, and randomness. The best would be a combination of the above, with the formulas hidden from the player (but bring back the colorful progress-indicating bars too! I miss being able to track the progress of my stats). In this way, there is no point where soldiers become “capped” and unable to receive more experience. For all the perks that don’t become “standard” gear (for example, the shredder rocket of the heavy would probably not be standard), make these things gear-based or tech-based instead. Classes should be able to choose more gun types as well. Still other perks could absorb into new stats (ie instead of different overwatch perks, you could have a reflex stat that improves reaction fire shots).

    I’d say with this new setup for classes, you’d just “recruit assault,” “recruit support,” instead of finding out after training rookies. Make the actual rank promotions player-selected (which would be pretty original as far as I know). Once you have a certain number of soldiers of a certain rank, you’ll be able to designate who to promote to different officer levels. So rank would tie to number of soldiers at certain ranks, independent of stat level-ups. (i.e. for every 4 squaddies, one sergeant. for every 3 sergeants, one captain.) Obviously there would be some stat that would be more desirable in a leader (will/bravery), but leaving promotions to the player would be a pretty cool thing. You could promote your favorites against your better judgement or pick the best man/woman for the job. Or you could choose the brave but weak/inaccurate squaddie and turn him into a star commander.

    Set it up to where eventually you can form up to three squads of 4, and one member of each squad could be designated the “squad leader.” This is where the officer ranks come into play. For each officer rank you get morale bonuses. So if a Major is your squad leader, it is a bigger morale boost than a Sergeant. To spice things up, maybe on the second officer promotion you begin to find out what kind of leader the soldier really is. So in addition to morale, you will get a second bonus for the squad, from better aim, to more movement, to better sight distance, etc. In this way, you’d avoid the trap of players wanting to create all 3 squads the same way. Squad A might have a movement bonus from its leader, so they might consist of 2 assaults, a support, and a heavy. Squad B might have a nice accuracy boost from its leader, so they might be 2 snipers, a support, and a rifle-toting assault. I would also keep open the possibility of more classes, to help diversify the field even further, since the max size will be now 12 instead of 6. And to promote having a larger force of troops, you could introduce some mechanic (apart from injury recovery time) to keep troops being switched out and fresh. Maybe just a “days since last mission” counter on each soldier. Maybe after being out of the action for too long troops begin to stagnate and lose their sharpness, so you always want to keep the counter fairly low for as many troops as possible.

    To handle the problem of moving all 12 soldiers becoming cumbersome… it might make things more manageable if you could only move one squad of 4 at a time. So after all of Squad A has moved and performed two actions, only then do you move over to Squad B. So you’re never faced with moving all 12 at once, and you are encouraged to coordinate each squad with itself and keep them close together.

    The positive side of this seemingly “streamlined” way of changing troop advancement is that you can suddenly have more troops and larger maps. And also, more casualties! I found that my troops in XCOM became closer to “heroes” (real American heroes, judging by accent… Gooooo Joe!) instead of “troops.” I found ultra-conservative play to be the best way to proceed, because each became so irreplaceable. With more troops suddenly you’re able to create larger maps (randomly generated ofc), and you can have multiple fire teams moving in different areas of the map.

    And naturally, the behavior of the aliens can also change to become more deadly. Just because an alien hasn’t seen anyone yet doesn’t mean he’s not in cover and on overwatch. It’s not like the Skyranger is particularly stealthy about where it lands, the aliens would absolutely know they are being attacked. In other words, with more XCOM troops on the field, you won’t need to pull so many punches with the aliens. Currently it feels very “gamey”, and high level play on classic and impossible difficulties revolves around management of triggering enemy groups. Enemies could also have squads and morale to manage, and morale should be a factor for them as well. If I wipe out 4 of 5 sectoids in a turn, I expect to see that last one drop weapons and flee or else go berserk.

    Ok, wow. This is too long. But posting anyway.

  30. Kamos says:

    Edit: reply fail. this is a reply to the post above.

    “it’s procedural content creating emergent experiences.”

    This is precisely what I meant on page 1 before I became angry Internet man.

    “And naturally, the behavior of the aliens can also change to become more deadly. Just because an alien hasn’t seen anyone yet doesn’t mean he’s not in cover and on overwatch.”

    I think this would turn out pretty bad with the cover system that is in place. The way the game calculates the chance to hit, it seems if you’re doing anything other than hugging walls, you might as well shoot yourself in the head. Giving aliens the ability to overwatch (on top of getting a free move when spotted, which is borderline cheating) would be way too much.

    Most of my squad wipes happen when I move the last soldier (no one else has any moves left) and then I spot an alien and it decides to move forward, into the middle of my team. Turn ends, everyone dies. This is flawed design, in my opinion.