Time Unit: X-COM vs XCOM / Gollop vs Solomon

By Alec Meer on April 2nd, 2013 at 4:00 pm.

I say ‘vs’, but the reality of this meeting between the 20th and 21st century masters of X-COM is that they repeatedly seem on the verge of embracing each other, rather than trading blows in a bitter row about time units and action cameras. Rev3Games arranged for original X-COM co-creator Julian Gollop to meet Jake Solomon, the lead dev on Firaxis’ XCOM remake, the result being this rather delightful recording of their seventeen-minute exchange.

This is a wonderfully nerdy discussion between two turn-based strategy veterans, covering X-COM and X-COM’s design and mechanics, the history of the original game, why Microprose dropped the series’ ball so badly, Gerry Anderson and the joy of death.

Good thinking to get these two in a room and point a camera at them, Adam Sessler. Oh, my regret about not being able to go to GDC is boundless.

Also: if only this encounter could lead to Mr Gollop joining Firaxis to work on the recently-teased XCOM sequel (or whatever it is). Dreams, dreams, Martian dreams.

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107 Comments »

  1. BobbyDylan says:

    Nerdgasm.

    Jake’s looking a little healthier these days, post Xcom’s release. Almost didn;t recognise him without his plad shirt.

  2. Bhazor says:

    KISS HIM YOU FOOL!!!

    It’s good to see that Sessler has escaped SyFy at last.

    “Microprose had abandoned turn based games for the real time boom at the time”
    And its that foresight and the daring move of forsaking your fans and your own studios that has made Microprose such a giant of the industry today.

  3. kirkkh1 says:

    I was such a huge fan of the original. I couldn’t swallow the new incarnation :(

    • JoeGuy says:

      The creator of the original clearly loved it and eluded to the sensibilities of the new design. Is that not enough to appreciate change intended only to be made for the good is allowed in a re-imagining/modernization?

      • jpvg says:

        Ah my good Sir! you’re confusing “change intended only to be made for the good” with “change intended to make it easily consumed by the mainstream audience”. One is not the same as the other although some times they do cross paths.

        • mouton says:

          Contrary to the popular belief of “hardcore” gamers, increasing accessibility does not have to mean reducing quality. In certain amounts it can be harmless or even beneficial – something that, in my opinion, did happen in the new iteration of X-Com.

          • jpvg says:

            Yet, I’m a developer, make the puzzle fit together.

          • mouton says:

            Your point eludes me, good Sir.

          • Discopanda says:

            I am a turkey sandwich. GIVE ME MUSTARD.

          • jpvg says:

            The point was merely that I am no hardcore gamer yet I have the same oppinion. Farmville is a great game with all that simplicity! There is a point where certain type of games goes from “Oh this is pretty good” to “Alright consolified!”.

            That being said, I believe that Mr. Solomon did all he could to reach out to as many people as possible yet if you were into the complexity of the original then you’re disappointed today with good reason.

          • mouton says:

            Time units and sandbox-y geospace do not necessarily mean complexity. More freedom, yes, but the end effect was comparable.

          • Grey Poupon says:

            I don’t consider myself a hardcore gamer, but I guess some might see me as one. However, the new XCOM is a lot worse in my book than the old one.The choices are so saturated and simplified in both combat and geoscape. Yes, I get it that the casual gaming community finds it a lot more accessible because of it, but I don’t have to like it just because it makes sense from a commercial point of view.

            A funny detail from the video about the evolution of game development: X-COM wouldn’t have been the game it was, but a mere tactical combat game if it wasn’t for Microprose, the publisher. There once was a time when publishers didn’t force streamlining and simplification in games. Luckily we’ve got crowdsourcing now.

          • jpvg says:

            If it was just about those few changes I would agree but it’s a design decission that goes through the entire game, the ones you pick out dosen’t stop me from experiencing the heritage from the original game but “Overwatch” and all of the things that it helps to eliminate most certainly do.

          • jansweika says:

            Once the burning gaze of Solomon has burnt into your soul, you can never return lest the second gaze complete the destruction.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWNV7FG0qBU

        • JoeGuy says:

          They clearly did cross paths, as both developers pointed out numerous times. Change is not inherently bad. Neither is change an attack on core mechanics because they are more accessible. Being a dumb game or easy would make it a negative change. Being a change of quality but different makes it only different.

          • Arkh says:

            I’m with the OP and 33 jpvg. They took all the freedom and forced you to make choices. It felt like XCOM on rails.

          • jpvg says:

            XCOM on Rails ;) That’s a good wording, I suppose it really is the closest that you could get to a streamlined XCOM without having an open rebellion on your hands.

          • mouton says:

            @arkh

            And that is why we have more armor and weapon options in the game.

          • JoeGuy says:

            Calling it on-rails is clearly a biased negative opinion, its not accurate at all. You could point to any mission choice in any game and you are being limited by the game no matter what.

            You had no more freedom in the original, you just don’t like it wasn’t full of texts and too many things to click to get anywhere when they instead gave you choices when they meant something for a pacier game. It’s again, called different. But whatever.

          • Arkh says:

            @JoeGuy

            Calling it on-rails is clearly a biased negative opinion, its not accurate at all.

            Of course it is accurate. How else would you explain that my engineers, that cant reverse-engineer alien technology, can’t figure out a way for you to carry a scope and a grenade, barring if you have a class and a skill?

            You could point to any mission choice in any game and you are being limited by the game no matter what.

            Of course you are. But the question is, why limit a game where large part of it is sandbox? Silent Storm is a brilliant series, even if is a collection of missions. XCOM also was a collection a missions, but the XCOM mark was the freedom of choice. You could pick or not missions. You needed to down ufos rather than just go into mission X and Y and by researching you advanced in history. Of course this is in the remake, but in a rather limited fashion, for example:
            I don’t remember the original forcing me to take one mission or another. If I did took one terror mission, I could go in other with other team. I wasn’t magically forced to choose because the XCOM organization, funded by all (or most) countries in the world, was limited to one team and one dropship.

            You had no more freedom in the original, you just don’t like it wasn’t full of texts and too many things to click to get anywhere when they instead gave you choices when they meant something for a pacier game. It’s again, called different. But whatever.

            The original was full of text, what? It’s not a text adventure. There’s wasn’t a wall of big scary letters for you to read. The UI was horrible, yes, but playable. Better than the DF UI, at least.

            And sorry, saying you had no more freedom in the original is just plain wrong. Did the original force you to aim only at the enemies? In the original you could carry more than one grenade, or better yet, carry a medpack and a grenade in that magical thing called bag? You know some soldiers do carry more than one grenade, and they do carry around some bandages. That’s not far fetched. Cutting out options to force you to carry a grenade or scope (and they don’t even go in the same “place” in a soldier! One goes into the weapon, the other doesn’t.) is not a tactical decision, is a gamey way to force your hand. Then PR comes in and says it’s more tactical because “look, you HAVE to make decisions!”.

            To finalize the wall of text, let me try to metaphorically put it:
            Imagine a game where you need to choose one thing: To have your tongue or your hand cut off.
            In one version of the game, you NEED to choose. That’s the only thing you can do. You can choose rail X or rail Y.
            In the other one, you have those options, but you also can talk your way off, try to bargain for less, try to hit your assailants and kill them, you can suicide bomb you and them. That’s rail X, Y, Z, W and a lot of other options. Sure, in the end, they are all limited, but which one is the less limited? Which one is more rail-y?

            Which one would you rather play?

            XCOM remake is a fair game, it’s not a good game. Seriously, the latest entry in the UFO series was more fun than this one. At least the engineers in that game have the magical technology of wearing kevlar vests, scopes on weapons and carrying more than one grenade all at the same time!

          • mouton says:

            @Arkh

            Oooh, you want realism!

            Why can’t I send 100 soldiers to a crash site in the Original Game? Why can’t my soldiers have air/artillery support? Helicopter support? Local military support? Why can’t I share the laser technology with national militaries, so that they shoot UFOs by themselves?

            Because those are arbitrary and unnatural limitations created so that the game has specific kinds of choices and situations. The original game was just as filled with such constraints as the new game – you simply played the former first.

          • Arkh says:

            @mouton

            Why can’t I send 100 soldiers to a crash site in the Original Game?

            That would be a lot of micro-management plus engine and hardware limitations. 100 guys would fit in an RTS or TBS. Also, they wouldn’t fit in the skyranger. Although you can send 20 guys in each aircraft to various sites, as opposed to a 4 man team to only one place. That’s it, the big multinational XCOM organization can send 4 guys to only one place! That’s a fireteam at best, while you could send, ten years ago, a squad/section and almost a platoon to various places at the same time. What’s the closest to reality? What one gives you more freedom? What one is logical?

            Why can’t my soldiers have air/artillery support?

            In terror missions, you would kill civilians. And you generally want to capture things to do research, although that would be a nice option to add. I’d love to nuke some towns or crash sites, and I would like to deal with the consequences. You know, in APOC you could make a self sustaining mega organization who could battle and raze every building and organization in the town. That’s how many soldiers you could field and how you could shoot building! (Free aim, what a futuristic thing!)
            More freedom, if applied correctly, is a good thing. The original and the successors applied freedom in a successful way and that made it a classic. Now? You can choose your grenade, your scope or your kevlar, sir. Pick one.

            Why can’t I share the laser technology with national militaries, so that they shoot UFOs by themselves?

            They are paying you for dealing with it. If they would fight for themselves, why would they pay you? They are making a concentrated effort, uniting the most brilliant minds and best soldiers (btw since XCOM is the elite of the elite, that’s also a good reason on not having 100 soldiers) to fight the aliens.

            Because those are arbitrary and unnatural limitations created so that the game has specific kinds of choices and situations. The original game was just as filled with such constraints as the new game – you simply played the former first.

            Nah, they made sense in the original and I explained to you above. Now, what sense does it make for a soldier not be able to attach a scope to a weapon, carry more than one grenade and wear a kevlar vest at the same time? That never happened in any military, ever? It is impossible to put it in game?

            Sure, the original game had limitations, engine-wise and hardware wise. But it’s undeniable it gave you more liberty to deal with things. You know what I liked to do in APOC? I liked to mount two fireteams. One stands at the entrance of the downed UFO and the other one circled it. The first fireteam throws a smoke grenade and wait the aliens come out, sometimes trying to attract them. The other one carried a fuckton of explosives and blew a hole in the other side of the ship and flanked the aliens. I also burned a house once in the original to deal with a entrenched alien. Sure, the house didn’t collapse, that’s an awful engine limitation, maybe the hardware couldn’t handle it all, but it could be done now-days, couldn’t (and APOC kinda did it)? Oh wait, you need a skill to climb things. And there’s barely anything to climb anyway, buildings only have one storey. You barely have space for a house in a standard map anyway. And the tactic of waiting for aliens to come out, drawing them out is impossible to do because aliens now are magically activated when you see them. That’s it, when they don’t magically spawn in the middle of your fireteam.

            Of course a XCOM game can’t be all about reality, and reality can even constrain a game sometimes, but making some sense or being logical is a requisite. Do our engineers know how to use alien tech? YES! Do they know how to attach a weapon scope? No. :(

            So in the end, nor the original, nor the followers, neither the spin offs like the UFO series are more or as constrained as this remake. In all of them you had AT LEAST the same freedom the original gave you. And all it had made logical sense, there was no arbitrary constraints that made no logic in the game:

            Look, the multinational elite organization tasked with defending our world, the XCOM organization, can send up to 6 guys to defend us from certain doom! They can’t even hire more personnel and fit them in a common airplane to send them to a downed UFO crash site.

            That’s what people call “gamey”, and that’s what I call “On Rails”. Forcing decisions and slapping “tactical” in it instead of just calling it for what it is, just A or B decisions instead of A,B,C,D,E,F,G…
            And I didn’t even mention the non random environment/maps. That kills the fun so much.

          • mouton says:

            @arkh

            - sending only 20 soldiers makes as little sense as sending only 4, for a global military organization. It is a goddamn extraterrestial military unit you are dealing with, you send as much people as you can. I can have 3 skyrangers and 60 soldiers. Why can’t I send them all in?
            - who cares about civilians? Armies use air and artillery support in cities if they need to. They can be careful, sure, but in the end if the threat is great, collateral damage is perfectly acceptable. Also, things like helicopters can be quite precise, it doesn’t have to be carpet bombing or anything.
            - the general premise of X-Com project makes no sense whatsoever in terms of realism. 10,000 soldiers will be always better than 20, even if they are hardcore commandos. The pitiful funding does not exactly drain the international treasuries, does it. And did they disband their militaries in panic or something?
            -you can’t attach a scope in Original Game either. You can’t jump over a fence. You cannot go prone. You cannot bounce grenades. You cannot climb up a ladder. Hell, you can’t move when aliens move!

            Those are turn-based games, their essence is in stupid arbitrary rules that make no sense whatsoever. You simply prefer one set of board-game rules to the other.

          • Arkh says:

            @mouton

            - sending only 20 soldiers makes as little sense as sending only 4, for a global military organization. It is a goddamn extraterrestial military unit you are dealing with, you send as much people as you can. I can have 3 skyrangers and 60 soldiers. Why can’t I send them all in?

            As I said, engine and hardware limitations. Also, it wouldn’t be manageable. 20 soldiers is manageable. 8 soldiers is manageable. Sending 20 soldiers to 5 places, 100 soldiers. Makes sense. Sending 4 soldiers to one place, and you can’t send a single one to other one? Doesn’t make sense.
            Also, the first and last defense of earth sending 4 guys to only one place makes sense? Really? Makes as much sense as a series of bases who can send multiple aircraft carrying 20 soldiers each?

            - who cares about civilians? Armies use air and artillery support in cities if they need to. They can be careful, sure, but in the end if the threat is great, collateral damage is perfectly acceptable. Also, things like helicopters can be quite precise, it doesn’t have to be carpet bombing or anything.

            XCOM clearly does care about civilians, since killing them or letting them be killed subtracts funding of nations from you. That may not fit with your vision of reality, but makes sense in game.
            Sure, we could have helicopters and artillery. That would be a great thing to improve upon when making a more than ten years later remake. I wonder if they would ever do this instead of just taking freedom away.

            - the general premise of X-Com project makes no sense whatsoever in terms of realism. 10,000 soldiers will be always better than 20, even if they are hardcore commandos. The pitiful funding does not exactly drain the international treasuries, does it. And did they disband their militaries in panic or something?

            Not so much, not in game nor in real life terms. Countries with standing professional armies like the USA have more power than a country that relies on conscript armies. You can’t compare a rookie, a conscript with a veteran or elite unit/soldier. Despite that, the argument of strength in numbers is long and in the end, that’s the lore of the game. It’s a elite organization uniting elite soldiers and the best scientists. It can’t be realistic as you like but it makes sense in game.
            And actually, maybe they disbanded. According to the game lore:” XCOM serves as first and last line of defense of Earth.”

            -you can’t attach a scope in Original Game either. You can’t jump over a fence. You cannot go prone. You cannot bounce grenades. You cannot climb up a ladder. Hell, you can’t move when aliens move!

            Sure, there is no scopes in the original. But you can carry a grenade and a medpack in that magical thing soldiers carry called bag. Yes, you can’t jump over a fence, and buildings also don’t crumble. You cannot bounce grenades. That’s all engine limitations of a (correcting my dates, btw) almost twenty years old game. And I know you are being silly on purpose, but humans and aliens actually move at the same time in APOC. And they also added the prone option on top of the crouching options, normal military instances that are missing in the remake. Because a sniper standing tall in a bus instead of crouching or going prone to fire a sniper rifle makes sense, in any logical way, isn’t?
            See? Even one of the worst ranked sequels of the game can improve on the game instead of cutting it in pieces.

            I know you are being a dick trying to straw man me by exaggerating the fact that I wanted some measure of realism in the new remake. When I say realism, it wasn’t stricto sensu. An alien invasion is not realistic right now. There are some things that aren’t going to be realistic. Yet everything makes some sense in the game, even if lore wise.
            But in the new one, the magical human planet of earth has everything the same as ours, except for bags, pockets and attaching scopes. I guess the soldiers carry the scopes in their pocket and try to fire and aim using it at the same time instead of, you know, attacking to their weapon. Or maybe they attach hand grenades to their weapons. They set up the game with random limitations – that doesn’t make sense in game or in a logical or realistic way – and called that tactical. They took freedom to play and put in tiny maps and killcams. They even took away free aim.

            So please, provide logical arguments. Don’t pretend you are dumb. I know the original, a game made in 1994, doesn’t have physics and it doesn’t let you do things you could do in real life. But answer me: Does the original (or TFTDP or APOC), in any moment purposely takes away a feature a predecessor had (in case of the sequels) or don’t implement a feature trying to artificially force you to make a decision that otherwise, logically, should have other options?
            The inability to go prone in the original is just a way to force you to stay at cover? You can’t jump fences but you can destroy them means they are forcing you to make a decision or is just a engine limitation?

          • mouton says:

            @Arkh

            That may not fit with your vision of reality, but makes sense in game.

            Exactly! That’s exactly the approach I have towards the New Game.

            Yet everything makes some sense in the game, even if lore wise.

            What lore? Is there lore saying “can’t have more than 20 soldiers”? “can’t jump fences”? All is slave to arbitrary game design, just like in the NG.

            Does the original (or TFTDP or APOC), in any moment purposely takes away a feature a predecessor had (in case of the sequels) or don’t implement a feature trying to artificially force you to make a decision that otherwise, logically, should have other options?

            I have no problem with such sequels, but I am not opposed to trying a different approach, especially when it works for me.

          • Arkh says:

            @mouton

            Exactly! That’s exactly the approach I have towards the New Game.

            Except a lot of things in the new game doesn’t make sense in reality and in game. Like the arbitrary imposition of carrying a grenade OR a medpack.

            What lore? Is there lore saying “can’t have more than 20 soldiers”? “can’t jump fences”? All is slave to arbitrary game design, just like in the NG.

            The lore that says the XCOM unit is a elite organization, and a paramilitary one. Wouldn’t make sense for them to have millions of soldiers. And you can’t jump fences or bring more than 20 soldiers due to engine limitations. You think you can’t go prone in the remake because of engine limitations or because of some arbitrary limitation?

            I have no problem with such sequels, but I am not opposed to trying a different approach, especially when it works for me.

            I also don’t have problem with a different approach. I played APOC in real time, and I found it super fun. And you didn’t answer my question. The problem that I have are with arbitrary limitations that doesn’t make sense in the game or logically, and are imposed in a way to make the game look tactical. Like: Limitation in carrying grenades, the option to only choose one mission, no free aim, and the various examples I gave. These are arbitrary limitations that take freedom from the game, make it less fun and less rewarding. It’s like taking away all freedom of Adventure Mode in dwarf fortress and making it a linear cRPG. If it doesn’t have a great writing, it will suck at worst and be fair at best.

    • jalf says:

      Why not? Because it’s not the same?

      They’re different games. XCOM isn’t even *trying* to be X-COM. it’s different. Some things are better about it, some things are worse. But it does not replace or supersede X-COM any more than Dark Souls or Planetside did.

      You can play XCOM and have fun with it for what it is, and it won’t magically make X-COM cease to exist.

      • Smion says:

        Maybe there’s some facette of the english language in kirrkh1′s statement that escapes me, but isn’t he just saying he didn’t like the new one, since he had hoped for something more akin to the original?
        That’s a completely legitimate complaint, both about the general quality of the game (it was much too “gamey” for my tastes) and about the divergence from the original. Being disappointed when something which you expected to be one way (whether it be through advertisement, being part of a series of games which up to that point had done things very differently) turns out another, is a perfectly reasonable reaction.

        • jalf says:

          Perhaps you’re right, and yes, that is perfectly legitimate. Some games you like, some you don’t.

          I just object to the attitude that “this isn’t a ‘true sequel’, and therefore I won’t play it”, which some people do express, and which is just… silly.

          The fact that it differs from the original just means that, well, it isn’t the original. But then, neither is any other game, and then it boils down to “I won’t play this game because it bears the name XCOM, but if you had made the exact same game under a different name, I might have loved it”.

          But yeah, some people just don’t like the game for, well, game reasons, and that’s perfectly fair.

      • Banana_Republic says:

        Perhaps because fans of the original were desperately hoping for a modernized version, not a re-imagined version that borrows little from the original beyond name and premise.

        I also dispute that the new game is great on it’s own, at least not as a strategy game. I’ll give it a “fair” at best. Sorry, but it’s just too damned simple for my tastes. There’s not enough that needs juggling, especially in the tactical game, to keep it engaging for me. Tiny maps for tiny squads isn’t very interesting either. Also, the strategic layer was a little too simplified as well. The fact that it’s impossible for me to create an antarctic penal base for all the troops who fled combat or killed a buddy with panic fire, well, just saddens me. Those are supposed to be my terror mission throwaways! Sure that’s a direct example of the differences between the two games, but it also illustrates how much more could be wrung from the original, that the new one just lacks.

        X-Com was a winner. There were flaws, but there’s a reason why that title graces the Top XX games of all time list of nearly every game mag and journal worth its salt. XCOM throws out most of those things that made the game classic, while keeping little more than the concept. It’s tough for people who know the potential, to settle for what we’ve been presented. Getting an action camera instead of TUs, was not a fair trade.

        • Arkh says:

          I agree with every single world, except for the TU trade. I played XCOM – APOC in realtime and it was great, I wouldn’t mind the new move system if it was a little more complex. What kills it for me is the lack of freedom. You can only carry a grenade OR a scope. How does that make sense? Can’t the guys who reverse engineer alien technology strap a scope on a gun? Can’t the guy carry the grenade on an appropriate pocket/container? Why my guys can’t aim where they want? Why I’m forced to choose missions instead of just sending two teams and two crafts?

          That’s not tactical, it’s forcing your hand. The great thing about the series was the freedom it gave you. In that sense, the series disappointed me, and it ruined the game for me.

    • RedAnchorite says:

      I enjoyed both immensely but I must say I was disappointed that it was not the old game with a slick new interface and some new options and tweaks. I’m praying they enable some good modding tools to help the community move the new game towards some of the old standards.

      • mouton says:

        I am glad it wasn’t the old game with a slick new interface. I like some evolution in my games and that is why I dislike, say, Starcraft 2.

        • karry says:

          So you will not bother with the new Space Hulk, for example, is what you’re saying, right ?

          • mouton says:

            It depends. Space Hulk 1 was a bit clumsy, If I recall correctly. Space Hulk 2 was a shooter (albeit nice). So the new Space Hulk seems to be quite different to previous offerings. Even if it is close to the original board game, I played it only a few times, so it is not a problem. Also, I think they did say they will change it a little.

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          darkChozo says:

          I think there’s room for both types of remakes, to be honest. Copy-paste remakes can introduce newer gamers to old games that they either missed or were too young for the first time around, while giving long-time fans the ability to play old games with not-from-the-nineties graphics. Stuff like clunky interfaces can really turn off gamers used to games that were made after the invention of UI design (X-COM is actually a pretty good example there, the interface is all kinds of impenetrable to a new user), so an updated rerelease or copy-paste sequel can do good for an old series.

          The being said, criticizing a game because it’s using a particular style of rerelease is a bit silly (and I mean that in either direction; if you’re updating a decade old game, both a complete redesign and a spit-and-polish upgrade can do wonders). Sure, you can be disappointed with a taken direction, but it’s more a matter of what goals were targeted than incompetence or poor design.

          • mouton says:

            I agree, both ways have their place. Problem is, there is a huge bias among the gamers towards the conservative approach.

          • jpvg says:

            I’m unfamiliar with that conservative sample remake you’re speaking of, would you care to point to it?

            (no indies please since it’s not reasonable to compare multimillion budgets with less then a million).

        • Arkh says:

          The old one with a slick interface would be an evolution, since evolution just means difference.

          I would like to see some additions to the original formula, like more control over the air battles, sea battles and some other things but I too would like the original formula mostly untouched rather than vandalized.

    • Drake Sigar says:

      That’s a shame, it really is a superb game. I’ve played some of the pretenders over the years like UFO and at best they turn out to be passable. This new X-Com avoids the pitfalls by taking the core concepts of the original and doing their own thing.

  4. ZHsquad says:

    It is pretty cute how nervous Jake is. But, how would anybody feel is they met someone they felt was a hero!

  5. karthink says:

    Hah, Jake has the I’m-talking-to-my-idol face.

    I’m about halfway through, and I keep waiting for Sessler to ask Gollop the question: “If you were to make X-COM today, what would it be like?”

    EDIT: Eh, he didn’t ask that question. I would have loved to know what a Gollop designed X-COM would look like today.

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    Surlywombat says:

    Literally two of the best names in gaming.

    “Jake Solomon” sounds like something from a movie or novel while “Julian Gollop” sounds.. well lets face it its “GOLLOP” thats just a fantastic word, whether its a name or the act.

    • Trithne says:

      No Ocean Quigley? I mean, disregarding his unfortunate affiliation with Simcity

      • jalf says:

        He said “two of the most”, which is not the same as “the two most”.

        I don’t think anyone can dispute that Ocean Quigley is, and will forever be, the #1 best name in gaming.

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      welverin says:

      Trisha Allcock, would this be worst or best?

      To be clear this is NOT a joke, She’s worked on the last two Assassin’s Creed games.

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    lowprices says:

    Every time XCOM (or X-com, to a lesser extent) is mentioned on RPS the tone gets deeply homoerotic. I just popped in to say how much I approve of this, and hope that it will be applied to other subjects in future.

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    amateurviking says:

    Surely Alec, you’re overdue another interview with Mr Solomon. You must both be pining terribly for one another!

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    colossalstrikepackage says:

    Makes me want to play XCOM on Ironman mode. I chickened out the first time and kept all my people alive. But really great interview, as it seemed to draw both guys out on the ‘soul’ of the games.

    • mouton says:

      I recommend it. Makes the game much more interesting.

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        colossalstrikepackage says:

        I’ll give it a go. Not dying is for losers! ;)

        • Vorphalack says:

          I couldn’t play XCOM without Ironman. I like the game, even with the bugs (seriously fix those), but it isn’t good enough to just ”save scum” my way through. If you can reload every map then it quickly becomes a grind. Ironman changes everything. Terror missions especially have literally had me on the edge of my seat, and I do mean literally in the literal sense. Ironman gives you those magical gaming moments where you either punch the air or throw your keyboard through the wall. More games should be utilising genuinely hard difficulty settings and / or Ironman mode.

          • greydt says:

            This. It’s always interesting to see someone post “XCOM is so easy! I finished the game with the same 6 guys all the way through!” and you know then that they just save spammed through the whole game. Ironman adds a sense of paranoia to the map, it actually makes you retreat/flee in order to preserve the remaining few veteran soldiers you have if things go wrong, and there’s the heartbreak when your best soldier dies in the line of duty. Wounds mean more as your experienced troops get laid up in the infirmary and you find yourself fielding whole squads of rookies. It really does take the game to another level.

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            Llewyn says:

            You don’t actually need Ironman settings built in for that though. I played through it by simply not save scumming – my mistakes were permanent, but I at least had the option of recovering if some bizarre bug screwed my game (it didn’t). I agree though that the option is a good thing, more built-in support for different playstyles is something that almost all games would benefit from.

          • belgand says:

            I have to agree. There’s always the issue where you accidentally mis-click or something and you want to take it back. Not because you’re save-scumming, but because of an interface error.

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            colossalstrikepackage says:

            Wow. I had no idea the word “save scum” even existed. Although its not clear who the scum is – player/xcom operative/both?

            I personally wanted non Ironman mode as a way to learn the game without getting disheartened, and go back at a later date. I never finished my first play through (exams, then other games), so never got around to trying Ironman. I do like the idea of being totally at the mercy of your own actions (and the game’s glee at your guys/gals missing aliens at point blank range from time to time).

          • mouton says:

            “Save-scumming” is an unnecessarily derogatory word, I agree. Still, Ironman is simply much more fun.

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            colossalstrikepackage says:

            For the record, Classic Iromman is kicking my ass.

  10. Keyrock says:

    I nerdgasmd, I won’t lie.

  11. Drake Sigar says:

    Lovely jubbly!

    Two RTS games at the top of my head I wanted to mention were Myth and Shadow of the Horned Rat. Myth allowed you to name units and carry them across levels, but they died so easily it barely seemed worth it. Shadow of the Horned Rat had the player form attachments to a unit of men, rather than individuals. It’s not quite as personal as X-Com, but you still get a deep sense of regret when Ragnar’s Wolves don’t get through the gates of Zhufbar in time, and must now fight a hopeless last stand.

    • Subject 706 says:

      You mentioning Shadow Of The Horned Rat just gave me a PTSD-moment remembering Black Fire Pass. Damn that was a hard level.

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        TheApologist says:

        That whole game kicked my ass

        • Subject 706 says:

          With the correct alignment of the stars + copious praying ,swearing and pleading to various deities, my mortars and cannons decimated that absurdly huge wave of black orcs enough that my soldiers could deal with them sustaining only horrendous casualties. Oh, the nostalgia…

          • Drake Sigar says:

            There is no greater feeling than when a mortar round lands smack dab in the middle of black orc central, but I guarantee you the shot right after that ends up being a misfire that blows up your own crew.

      • Bhazor says:

        Never played Shadow of the Horned Rat. But watching a couple of videos has really got me nostalgic for Dark Omen. Love that game.

        It’s probably the last game I want that GoG hasn’t got yet.

        • mouton says:

          I got to the last mission of Dark Omen, almost finished it and then the game crashed wiping the save. Goddamn cheating Necrons.

    • Bhazor says:

      Another example is Original War. An RTS where every unit was a unique named character, with their own portrait voice work and storyline and a campaign where dead was dead. It had a ton of great ideas but the execution was terrible with the slowest/least reactive movement I’ve ever seen in an RTS.

      http://www.gog.com/gamecard/original_war
      Available on GoG its still worth a look just to honour what it *tried* to do.

    • Lagwolf says:

      A new version of Myth would be so very good.

      • Subject 706 says:

        A new version of Myth would super ace! The disinterested voice telling you about the deaths of your units is one of my greatest gaming memories :)

        *Disinterested narrator voice* : Casualty. Casualty. Casualties. Casualties.

        *Me* : “GODDAMN F*CK NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!”

  12. karry says:

    “The creator of the original clearly loved it and eluded to the sensibilities of the new design.”

    I do think it would have been weird if Gollop publicly decried some young perpetually lying upstart and his primitive boardgame. No, you keep smiling and keep silent, it is the British way. Pretty much the choice for Gollop at this point is between perversion of his legacy, or total oblivion, and he chose to at least have something instead of nothing.

    • Banana_Republic says:

      I agree. If Gollop had been overly critical, he would have just appeared to be bitter and petty. The damage has already been done so there’s nothing to be gained. Better to remain civil and magnanimous.

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        darkChozo says:

        Isn’t it a little bit disingenuous to assume that he said he liked the game because of ulterior motives, and not because he, um, liked the game? I mean, despite its flaws, EU was by and large well-received by both critics and gamers, and is generally considered to be a very solid game. It’s not exactly inconceivable that he had an opinion that happened to align with the masses’ and not with your own.

        • karsk says:

          Adding to that, what would Gollop care about “total oblivion”? The original franchise was driven into the ground and all but forgotten about years before the re-imagining was even thought of, and the man’s had a fairly successful career in the industry since anyway. He has absolutely no reason to hide his opinions. If it was simply a matter of maintaining poise, why would he agree to this interview to begin with, let alone heap the kind of praise he did on the game?

          • Captain Joyless says:

            “He has absolutely no reason to hide his opinions.”

            Of course he does. He doesn’t want to look like a dick.

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      welverin says:

      He could have actually liked the game. I believe it was in his GDC postmortem for the original that he also mentioned liking the new game.

      p.s. that’s not the most enthralling speech.

  13. Premium User Badge

    TheApologist says:

    Jake’s look of relief when Julian gave his stamp of approval was brilliant. That must have been a fantastic feeling! And it speaks well of Jake’s respect for the original game that he so obviously cares what Julian Gollop thought.

    • karry says:

      “Jake’s respect for the original game”

      *tired voice*
      …Lies…

      • Whosi says:

        Well it’s good to see you are omnipotent and know the “Truth” behind everyone else’s statements. You “know” that Gollop was just being polite and that Solomon’s respect for X-Com is a lie. You are a miracle worker.

      • StashAugustine says:

        You do realize that they did try to create a 1:1 copy of the original, and it wasn’t very good? That Solomon fought unsucessfully for random maps?

        • Captain Joyless says:

          Yeah, when I forgot to turn in my homework on time, I had a lot of really good rationalizations, too.

          • Josh W says:

            Your pseudonym seems appropriate here.

            Edit: Anyway to be fair, it’s obvious why they didn’t have random maps; to look snazzy, and to maintain balance.

            That feel of slowly increasing complexity and focused tradeoffs wouldn’t work if the levels had the chaotic difficulty curve of a random distribution.

            But it still makes more and more keen for xenonauts to come out, (I know I can technically play it now, but I want to get into a fully working version, and think of it as a world rather than a buggy game).

          • lordcooper says:

            You’d be amazed just how often that pseudonym does fit.

          • StashAugustine says:

            I’m just saying that claiming Solomon was lying about being a fan of the original is wrong (and a little unkind on top of it.) We can argue back and forth over how well it captured the spirit of the original, what its cultural impact will be, how good a game it is in its own right, etc but you don’t have to demonize the developers.

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        TheApologist says:

        @karry Come on – I respect you have a view of the remake, but you should be able to distinguish between making a judgement about the quality of a game and making assertions that an individual is telling lies about their own feelings.

        That isn’t a very helpful way of having the discussion.

  14. Fiatil says:

    I’m glad it only took a few posts to start claiming this is a sham and he’s only pretending to like the new version. You people win the bitter prize for the day!

  15. scharmers says:

    I want the frame of the video shown in the headline blown up 3x so I can use it as a desktop background.

  16. Zogtee says:

    WHERE ARE THE MOD TOOLS?

  17. Scumbag says:

    HIDDEN MOVEMENT

  18. iucounu says:

    I enjoyed every minute of XCOM but having finished it have no desire to play it again. That’s largely because I can’t actually conceive of a different path through the game than the one I followed. That is: the credo that we should have fewer, but more significant choices is a good one the first time you play. It keeps the tension in the game. Everything matters. But I can’t really see how I can get a different experience out of it – anything I’d do differently in a replay would just be optimising stuff. Doing things more efficiently. I’m not going to end up with a radically different squad and playstyle by the time I build my next Gollop Chamber.

    As much as I enjoyed it, and I’m glad that it was a success, I’m glad they got this conception of XCOM out of their system. They made a much more balanced, focused, approachable game than the originals, but it lacks a certain wildness. A sequel might be an opportunity to take a pretty good engine and go nuts with it a bit. Let’s have a massive, bonkers tech tree. Let us design our own guns with physics sliders. Give us modelled personalities for the squad members, and let them form relationships and swap war stories. (Toady has significant events write themselves into Dwarf art and culture emergently. Let’s see some of that in an AAA military squad game.) If it unbalances the game – if people start to exploit new systems and come up with nifty ways to break it – that’s actually fun, and they already made the tight, reverent version.

    • soldant says:

      When you really take a good look at the original though it’s not that different – it’s always had a clear progression where you’d capture aliens to interrogate them until you found their base and attacked it. The general flow isn’t significantly different, the only change is that the missions are more structured. It’s more restricted but the game flows the same way.

      Also the random maps didn’t really seem to make much of a difference for me – the generator generally put them in fairly similar arrangements so it didn’t make much of a difference. The blocks were so large that most maps tended to look the same anyway. What really was different was the variety in tilesets and that’s something I miss from the original.

  19. Josh W says:

    One of the amazing things about a turn based game is that it gives you the time to take it in. There are so many first person shooters out there that blur their way through their moments, keeping to their prescribed pacing, whereas turn based games, even more than games with active pause, allow you to feel that moment of disaster or amazement. They allow you to move through each moment at your own speed.

  20. Strangerator says:

    5:50 – 6:06 Gollop pretty much sums it up. I really don’t think Gollop blames Jake Solomon (nor should we for that matter) that the new incarnation was a bit on the restrictive side compared to the generous freedom of the original. You simply can’t “get away with it.”

    But it is more than the fact that reviewers/modern gamers wouldn’t be able to handle open-ended freedom, causing exploded heads and review scores below 9/10. Modern graphical technology has placed its own burdensome shackles on game design, and in this case it makes things like random maps and target-able terrain a lot more difficult to swing. If you look at how much the Gollop brothers accomplished and compare it with Solomon’s much larger team and longer development time, you’d expect that the new game could be at least as feature complete as the original. But we expect such high degrees of graphical fidelity that features begin to get traded for curb appeal. The lack of randomized maps (or allowing the addition of player-created maps) has reduced the replayability of the game by orders of magnitude.

    I’m not sure how I’d feel if I were Gollop. We’ve progressed to a point in the industry where greatness is discouraged in favor of accessibility and reductionism, so his game might very well remain a high water mark. Perhaps at some point in the future schoolchildren will have a course on classic videogames (like a literature class)… I hope to see X-com on the “required playing” list. It’s a bit like a classic novel whose language has become a bit more difficult to understand as changing times have made its method of communication seem archaic. I fully expect those schoolchildren to bitch about the difficulty of the assignment, and to read some online version of Cliff Notes to avoid playing the actual game. But a few of them will play it, and, ever so secretly, admit to themselves that they enjoy the hell out of it.

  21. Arkh says:

    @mouton

    - sending only 20 soldiers makes as little sense as sending only 4, for a global military organization. It is a goddamn extraterrestial military unit you are dealing with, you send as much people as you can. I can have 3 skyrangers and 60 soldiers. Why can’t I send them all in?

    As I said, engine and hardware limitations. Also, it wouldn’t be manageable. 20 soldiers is manageable. 8 soldiers is manageable. Sending 20 soldiers to 5 places, 100 soldiers. Makes sense. Sending 4 soldiers to one place, and you can’t send a single one to other one? Doesn’t make sense.

    - who cares about civilians? Armies use air and artillery support in cities if they need to. They can be careful, sure, but in the end if the threat is great, collateral damage is perfectly acceptable. Also, things like helicopters can be quite precise, it doesn’t have to be carpet bombing or anything.

    XCOM clearly does care about civilians, since killing them or letting them be killed subtracts funding of nations from you. That may not fit with your vision of reality, but makes sense in game.
    Sure, we could have helicopters and artillery. That would be a great thing to improve upon when making a more than ten years later remake. I wonder if they would ever do this instead of just taking freedom away.

    - the general premise of X-Com project makes no sense whatsoever in terms of realism. 10,000 soldiers will be always better than 20, even if they are hardcore commandos. The pitiful funding does not exactly drain the international treasuries, does it. And did they disband their militaries in panic or something?

    Not so much, not in game nor in real life terms. Countries with standing professional armies like the USA have more power than a country that relies on conscript armies. You can’t compare a rookie, a conscript with a veteran or elite unit/soldier. Despite that, the argument of strength in numbers is long and in the end, that’s the lore of the game. It’s a elite organization uniting elite soldiers and the best scientists. It can’t be realistic as you like but it makes sense in game.
    And actually, maybe they disbanded. According to the game lore:” XCOM serves as first and last line of defense of Earth.”

    -you can’t attach a scope in Original Game either. You can’t jump over a fence. You cannot go prone. You cannot bounce grenades. You cannot climb up a ladder. Hell, you can’t move when aliens move!

    Sure, there is no scopes in the original. But you can carry a grenade and a medpack in that magical thing soldiers carry called bag. Yes, you can’t jump over a fence, and buildings also don’t crumble. You cannot bounce grenades. That’s all engine limitations of a (correcting my dates, btw) almost twenty years old game. And I know you are being silly on purpose, but humans and aliens actually move at the same time in APOC. And they also added the prone option on top of the crouching options, normal military instances that are missing in the remake. Because a sniper standing tall in a bus instead of crouching or going prone to fire a sniper rifle makes sense, in any logical way, isn’t?
    See? Even one of the worst ranked sequels of the game can improve on the game instead of cutting it in pieces.

    I know you are being a dick trying to straw man me by exaggerating the fact that I wanted some measure of realism in the new remake. When I say realism, it wasn’t strito sensu. An alien invasion is not realistic now. There are some things that aren’t going to be realistic. Yet everything makes some sense in the game, even if lore wise.
    But in the new one, the magical human planet of earth has everything the same as ours, except for bags, pockets and attaching scopes. I guess the soldiers carry the scopes in their pocket and try to fire and aim using it at the same time instead of, you know, attacking to their weapon. Or maybe they attach hand grenades to their weapons. They set up the game with random limitations – that doesn’t make sense in game or in a logical or realistic way – and called that tactical. They took freedom to play and put in tiny maps and killcams. They even took away free aim.

    So please, provide logical arguments. Don’t pretend you are dumb. I know the original, a game made in 1994, doesn’t have physics and it doesn’t let you do things you could do in real life. But answer me: Does the original (or TFTDP or APOC), in any moment purposely takes away a feature a predecessor had (in case of the sequels) or don’t implement a feature trying to artificially force you to make a decision that otherwise, logically, should have other options?
    The inability to go prone in the original is just a way to force you to stay at cover? You can’t jump fences but you can destroy them means they are forcing you to make a decision or is just a engine limitation?

  22. b0rsuk says:

    Jake Solomon comes across as an extrovert, throwing “You know”s and “Like” left and right. He seems to have trouble expressing his thoughts clearly. More of a leader than a programmer, perhaps.

    Jullian Gollop is an introvert and a nerd not just by look. He seems much more analytical and focused on points.

    I’m a bit disappointed they don’t talk to each other and exchange thoughts, but rather in parallel.

  23. mbourgon says:

    Regardless of what you think about the new game, it’s an absolutely fantastic interview. Thanks for posting this, even if we should all Hail Sessler!

  24. Themadcow says:

    One of the reasons there is less no real contention on TU’s is because Gollop himself has moved towards ‘turn and action’ rather than TU’s in his recent games – Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars and the new Chaos remake / sequel ( http://www.gollopgames.com/ ), although the original Chaos was also a turn/move game so that’s possibly expected. However, the hallmark of Gollop games has always been a greater degree of freedom of choice – a little chaotica in the coding. This is sadly lacking in the new game.

    With Chaos you never knew whether you would start the game with an amazing spellbook – fighting on the front foot with the knowledge that your power would make you the primary threat target for opponents, or a terrible spellbook – on the defensive, trying to stay out of trouble until the more powerful wizards whittled each other down. Like your skyranger starting position in the original X-Com missions, this factor alone made every game of Chaos more exciting than anything the new game can offer.

  25. Kamos says:

    “One thing I think you did very well with the new game is that every choice in the game that you make has a clear trade off” – Julian Gollop

    Oh god. Game design is doomed.

    Reading “XCOM” and “excellent” in the same sentence always gives me a laugh. You don’t make interesting decisions if the game is a railroad. The game is dumbed down to the point where you could write a script to play it for you.