Friday’s shock announcement that X-COM co-creator Julian Gollop is creating a version of Chaos, his nigh-on legendary, wizard-based strategy game for the Spectrum, is the best gaming news in forever. But with zero known about it and even some concerns that his little-used, little-followed (at the time) Twitter account was the real deal, a whole slew of concerns can be assuaged by the development blog he’s set up to cover the making of the new game.
In the first major post, he addresses just why he’d remake/sequelise Chaos, which is now 27 years old. Short answer: because it’s amazing, because its values should translate well to a modern game, because people keep requesting it, and because he’s left Ubisoft (where he’s been working on mobile versions of franchise titles such as Ghost Recon and Assassin’s Creed for a half-decade) to work from home on his own projects. He also acknowledges that starting his new indie studio with a game that already has “some traction” is probably a wise move.
The most fascinating part of the post, for me, is his fascination with randonmness in games – a large part of the Chaos/Laser Squad/X-COM lineage, as anyone who’s ever miraculously survived thanks to a lucky shot will know – but something that was apparently steered clear from by his colleagues at Ubisoft. “They want more determinant decision making based more on skill than on luck. However, randomness does inject a fair dose of tension and fun into a game.”
Certainly, I personally incline towards games where there isn’t a certainty of outcome – the high stakes gamble element. Whereas playing Assassin’s Creed III this weekend, as well as wanting to hurl the disc into the sun when the tutorial showed no signs of ending even after five bloody hours of being told what to do, I was reflecting on the fact that it’s a very much a game of controls. Press the right buttons in the right order according to which situation you’re presented with (pack of guards, angry bear, chasing a piece of paper floating on the breeze, etc) and you can be absolutely assured of victory. An exact outcome, in fact. The predictable behaviours and need for control mastery gives the game an overwhelming mechanical feel despite the noble attempts to create a busy, organic world. Even within an open world, there is no scope at all for surprise, and surprise – plus the anecdotes that can stem from it – is what I crave.
I digress. This is why I can’t play games purely for fun anymore. Stupid brain of mine. Back to the point: X-COM, and before it Chaos, is the grand master of tension from the random, so I’m entirely incapable of anything other than slightly fanboyish excitement about what this new Chaos may bring. And I’ll be following its devblog closely.