XCOM Expansion Grudgingly Acknowledges Save Scummers

I was away when body-horror XCOM expansion Enemy Within was announced, so that means you’ve tragically been denied my thoughts on it. Clearly, I am outraged that Firaxis are going to pervert their beautiful and unique snowflake with CHANGES and I beseech you to sign my online petition demanding that they cancel months of work immediately and develop a 100% faithful remake of Terror From The Deep instead.

Nah, there isn’t a game I’m more looking forward to right now. I can’t wait to play it. I’m especially enamoured of the idea that now is when they truly make XCOM their own game instead of beholden to its noble origins, and the new soldier-modding stuff sounds fascinating. A smaller added feature is that they’re offering the option to deactivate what’s something of a Firaxis house rule – pre-determined outcomes, regardless of how many times you reload the game.

Speaking to PCGamesN, lead designer Anand Gupta (assuming the mantle for this expansion from Jake Solomon) explained how a feature that’s thwarted attempts to gain a perfect result through repetition in a series of Firaxis titles (including Civ V) will now be toggleable to off for those who desire an easy ride. “It’s called Save Scum, in honour of what Jake Solomon likes to call players who do this. It resets the random number seed whenever the game is loaded. For people who really want to keep shooting until that 80% shot hits.”

If you are prone to reloading the game in the event one of your soldiers consumes an unwanted plasma buffet, you’ll probably have noticed that you’ll get the same result every time. I.e. the game has decided whether or not a given a shot will hit its target before the gun is fired, rather than rolling a dice every time the trigger is pulled. With the Save Scum option on, you’ll get a different result every time. While I experience some discomfort about using savegames this way – much as I am occasionally prone to it – what I do like about this new option is that it keeps everything random. I don’t much like the idea of a fixed destiny in a non-narrative game like this, if you see what I mean.

Of course this is going to be irrelevant to anyone who Iron Man-modes it, as I surely will.

Also being added for lily-livered players is a ‘bad streak breaker’ on Easy and Normal difficulty settings. “On Easy, if you miss three times in a row you’re not going to miss your fourth shot. It can be a 1% chance to hit and you’re not going to miss that shot.” This effect will lessen on normal, and be absent for Classic and above.

Won’t affect me, though I am convinced that something’s been done to ensure an inflated number of misses on shots with 90% and above chances – I’d miss on 95% shots far more often than I would on 60 or 70 percenters. Perhaps I’m just paranoid. Or perhaps slowly eroding the moral of veteran X-COM players is just stage one of the Sectoids who’ve infiltrated Firaxis’s masterplan.


  1. daphne says:

    I’m not sure I’m happy with the streak breaker being incorporated into Normal difficulty. I’m playing XCOM too late, too sporadically, but I picked Normal difficulty expecting a fair warm-up period (I am familiar with XCOM UFO Defense, though my age led to me playing it retroactively some years ago) and pretty much got what I asked for. I think it could do without the stealthy handholding. Easy is easy for a reason.

    Of course, if it can be disabled, then the complaint’s moot anyhow.

    • mouton says:

      I am positive you will be able to mod out miss-breaking mechanics. There already were mechanics on easy and normal that made you more “lucky” in the base game and I vaguely remember modders giving an option to remove them.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Yeah, that’s pretty much my feeling. I’m fine with that being an option, so long as I can leave it off without having to move up to Classic.

      Likewise disabling storing the PRNG state in the savegame; I’m sure that was an option in SMAC or Civ 4 (or both), and I’m fine with that as long as I can leave it enabled because I don’t want to savescum bad rolls; I only want to savescum when I’m tired and stupid and have clicked the wrong button, dooming a soldier to a death that exists only as a contrivance of imperfect control. (Several times in XCOM I somehow thought I had a different soldier selected to the one who actually was, and that actual action bar is buggy as all hell at actually updating what’s under the cursor.)

      ((OK, ok, I savescummed whenever I lost someone too, but I forced myself to live with any bad decisions short of that. Next playthrough…))

      • Michael Fogg says:

        Reloading seems reasonable in case of squad-wipe. Incidental casualties should be taken in stride.

        • LionsPhil says:

          The great thing about difficulty-through-conduct is that everyone can hold to different levels.

        • khomotso says:

          I think the opposite is true. A squad wipe signals the sort of fuck up that you deserve, and deserve to have to deal with. Incidental casualties can result from interface clumsiness, the cat jumping into your lap, spilling your coffee, etc.

          When my favorite assaulter bizarrely leaps off a ledge and into a pile of mutons because the square grid looked like it was one level higher on the z-axis … well, I think I’m entitled. When the whole squad bites it because I was too aggressive in open space, well, I just need to suck that one up.

          • LionsPhil says:

            God, the Z-level overlaps…I think I understand why Firaxis haven’t done a new SMAC, now, thinking about that. The Civs don’t demand they can identify which tile you’re pointing at on anything more complicated than a flat plain.

          • mouton says:

            Exactly, squad-wipes never occur by accident. Even on Classic, I simply pull out if things go south. Even – especially! – if only your sniper survives, you can easily bounce back.

    • Zenicetus says:

      My first reaction was that it shouldn’t apply to Normal, but then I remembered all those times where a soldier moved to within 1 square of an enemy, flanking around the corner of a truck or something, and missed the shot.

      That’s infuriating. Even a rookie on their first mission shouldn’t miss a point-blank shot, and I had it happen to more experienced soldiers too. You would never hire a soldier who was that incompetent for an elite team like XCOM. So while it won’t completely avoid breaking immersion, at least the option of having a do-over isn’t a bad thing. You can always choose not to abuse it, and only apply it to situations that are just silly otherwise.

      • Michael Fogg says:

        Turn based movement is just a requirement of the simulation. In the reality which is simulated everything is in constant motion. It’s definitely likely to miss a target that, say, darts right past the shooter. Being on the adjacent square should not guarantee hitting the target, imo.

        • nmarebfly says:

          Yeah. Don’t think of it as the soldier missing, think of it as the alien dodging. Or hell, a hit that just pinged off the alien’s armor or exoskeleton or whatever to no effect. It’s all an abstraction anyway.

        • Zenicetus says:

          Okay, I can see the argument for “hidden details” in a turn-based game like armor deflection, or ducking the shot, or whatever.

          However, it’s a game where you’re supposed to make decisions about tactical positioning for your guys. Why would I want to move my soldier into that square next to the alien, if there wasn’t an advantage in being there? Why not just build a team of 3 snipers and 3 forward spotters in cover, and never risk getting close?

          It’s about reasonable expectations for your tactics, otherwise the tactics mean nothing. If I manage to get one of my guys into an “Ah ha, NOW I’ve got you!” position, I expect the shot to hit.

          ETA: It’s even okay if the shot does minimal damage, and it turns into one of those “Oh shit!” moments when my guy is exposed for return fire. But don’t make it a total miss.

          • darkChozo says:

            Well, the advantage is that your soldier is going to have an increased chance of hitting. If the numbers add up such that he has a 95% hit chance (he’s a rookie, he’s a little shaky, aliens are scary, blah blah blah abstraction), and he rolls a 1, he’d have missed regardless of what you’d done; that’s the nature of the random number god. In theory, you should be weighing probabilities and risk vs. reward to make decisions (ie. is “95% hit the alien 5% alien alive and rookie out of cover” better than “60% hit the alien 40% alien alive but rookie safe-ish” given your current situation?).

            Whether that’s good or not is mostly a matter of personal preference.

          • WrenBoy says:


            This will either make your day or ruin it.

            link to i.imgur.com

          • airmikee99 says:

            Is it too realistic for you, is that the problem you see in missing at close range?

            Consider the NYPD shootings of Sean Bell and Amadou Diallo.

            A total of 9 cops, 5 for Bell 4 for Diallo, fired a combined total of 91 bullets, 50 at Bell 41 at Diallo, and only 23 bullets connected, 4 for Bell 19 for Diallo, while Bell’s friends were hit 19 times and 4 times, so even adding those “hits” even though they weren’t the intended target, we have 9 trained officers only able to connect at roughly 50% at close range.

            So even a trained cop can miss at close range, certainly makes sense that a rookie would miss just as easily.

          • Zenicetus says:

            An NYPD cop shooting isn’t a good analogy. Police aren’t trained like a Seal Team 6 squad, and a typical cop will never fire their gun on duty. So ti’s not surprising that we see stats like that. But you don’t expect it from a Navy Seal or any of the other hardcore black ops guys, and you shouldn’t expect it from even a rookie that makes it to the elite XCOM team.

            Point-blank misses also happen frequently with XCOM soldiers who have already been on many missions. So it’t not like they’ve never seen an alien before, or scored hits at close range before.

            Anyway, I know it’s just a game mechanic that helps the player feel a sense of danger and risk for the squad, which is totally appropriate for the feel of XCOM. It’s not the biggest problem with the game, which is the linear scripted “campaign” and repetitive maps, which lead to lack of replay value. Just a minor gripe. Once your soldiers level up enough, the chance-to-hit at close range goes up dramatically anyway.

          • airmikee99 says:

            Okay, well if you don’t like the NYPD’s horrible shooting stats, how about the fact that the for each insurgent killed in Iraq, the American military shot 250,000 bullets? According to a January, 2011 GAO report, the American military was using 1.8 billion bullets per year. Even factoring out long range shots and practice, that’s a hell of a lot of weapons fire for so few hits. So I’ll ask again, is the problem you’re seeing with misses in XCOM that it’s too realistic, and you want more fantasy in bullet connections?

          • Stromko says:

            Those billions of bullets per year are mostly spent on suppression fire, or even just training. That example also isn’t completely relevant to the X-Com setting because every soldier placed under your command is understood to be elite and talented operatives pulled from military forces all over the world.

            However, the aliens are also supposed to be pretty dang superhuman in a lot of respects, and as someone already pointed out the turn-based mechanic where everything happens one after another instead of all at once is just an abstraction, so aliens are running around from cover to cover even as they’re being shot at.

            Though I still think XCom has a pretty borked algorithm, or that the hit percentages simply aren’t an accurate gauge. I found after I adjusted the chances in my head, reducing my hitchance by about 20% overall, the results were more consistent with expectation.

          • airmikee99 says:


            Okay, yeah.. if the police can’t shoot straight, they’re a bad example.
            If the military can’t shoot straight, they’re a bad example.

            Can you just admit that shooting a moving target while being shot at is fucking hard? Please?

          • darkChozo says:

            The military shooting stat is irrelevant because it’s not a matter of a soldier stepping around a corner, spotting an insurgent, and firing 250,000 bullets to kill due to poor accuracy.

            Actually, scratch that, the image of soldiers carrying around a literal metric ton of ammo is too amusing. I imagine they use some sort of half-gun, half dump truck.

          • jrodman says:

            The real issue here isn’t the armchair theorycrafting, but rather that a lot of people really do NOT enjoy this kind of chanciness in games. Many many games have fake-modelling mechanics that ensure that your expected returns are met over relatively short runs. Eg if you miss a lot at 80%, you build up some kind of credit that makes you hit more likely later, and vice versa if you hit a bunch at 20%. It’s extremely common in games because of the amount of negative reaction people have to missing two 95% shots in a row.

            Certainly going with the flat percentages is one way to do it, but you have to accept that this WILL lead to a significant number of players feeling your game is obnoxious. Variation in damage is way more accepted. A big fat nothing is just not something people enjoy for their efforts.

            if you do choose to design a game this way, you shouldn’t just toss it together but really think through WHY you want it to be tense like this and think about the length of the engagements, the repercussions, and so on and be sure this kind of chanciness is working with your design.

          • Ovno says:

            This is quite amusing to read in the context of an even more random arena, that of gambling.

            One of the many things you have to accept when making gambling games is that humans are absolutely crap at getting the feel for odds.

            Using your own example a 95% chance means that he will miss 1 time in 20, which will be what happened (within standard deviations etc) but to a human you won’t remember the 19 times it did happen you’ll remember the one where it didn’t and it will feel unfair.

            Within gambling (UK Cat C if your interested) we have a similar problem, we have a a high low gamble which is done on a reel showing the numbers 1-12, if we run that reel randomly we get accused of it being rigged and unfair, because people expect to win gambling low on an 11 and when they lose they blame the game.

            To deal with this we do rig the reel to produce streaks of 10, 3, 10, 3, 10, 3, 11, 2, 10, 3 etc, eventually showing a 7 to tell the player they are about to lose, this makes the player feel like the game is fair when in fact it is far from it, but as I said if we don’t rig it we get accused of it being rigged.

            So it’s no wonder so many people feel like these 5% misses should never happen and that they happen a disproportionate number of times, its down to our perception of these things and our tendency to try and see patterns in things which don’t contain them and sadly, unless we make things deliberately unfair, we will always see them as being unfair…

      • bledcarrot says:

        “That’s infuriating. ”

        That’s Xcom baby. Git gud. In all seriousness though, like others have said, being adjacent shouldn’t necessarily guarantee a hit. There’s all sorts of advantages to moving your guy up next to a unit, certainty just isn’t one of them. People complain about a lot of these kinds of frustrations in Xcom but I think they really fail to appreciate how it’s precisely these little frustrations that make the game so intense and so rewarding. Stripping them out, while making things a little less stressful, loses a lot of what makes it great.

  2. Syra says:

    I didn’t even realise that was possible… I was iron manning it but on my rubbish laptop which would overheat crash, so when i did play the same map twice things would always be different for me anyway.

    • dragonfliet says:

      If you replay the entire map, the entire map will be different, but if you were to save right before you shot at a particular person, and then reloaded with that exact same moment, the outcomes would be the same. It’s a very, very minute change.

    • briktal says:

      Think of it more as a list of pre-rolled rolls. Then, when you (or the aliens) do something that requires a roll, the game goes and gets the next number in the list. If you did things in the same order every time, it would end up using the same numbers for every action and the results would be the same. However, if you did things in a different order, the same actions would get different numbers and the outcomes could change.

    • mouton says:

      I love vanilla, but I will definitely try this at some point.

    • khomotso says:

      Doing my first play-through of Long War now. Still only in the first quarter of the strategic game, but I think I agree. I look forward to a Long War mod adapted to the new content.

  3. Jeremy says:

    I’m convinced that those percentage numbers are misinterpreted, not because of the algorithm, but as a result of people only ever taking shots that are 85% and better. You’re only ever going to experience a miss at a high percentage when you take those kinds of shots and that elevates the idea that “the algorithm is wrong.”

    • mouton says:

      From what I remember, the algorithms were analyzed by some codeheads on 2k forums and deemed genuine. If you missed at 85% then that’s that, you were just unlucky.

    • Grygus says:

      I think the harsh punishment for failure in games like this tend to skew the perception of probability; 75% is actually a pretty good chance, but in XCOM I probably wouldn’t take that shot, while 90% means a 1-in-10 probability of a miss but in XCOM the relative difficulty of creating a shot with that high of a chance makes it feel like a sure thing. I have the exact same problem with Fire Emblem.

      • Horg says:

        Exactly, the perception that a 90% miss is a ”bullshot” is just a psychological response to how the probability is displayed.

    • WrenBoy says:

      People are just really bad at recognising randomness. For instance here are the lengths that one guy had to go to to prove to his users that the numbers used in his online games were actually random.

      link to gamesbyemail.com

    • bledcarrot says:

      Part of the problem is that the same people who complain that they ‘missed a 90 per cent shot’ never complain when they make a 10 per cent shot. One of those events registers as ‘unlikely’ and confirms the ‘bullshit’ detector, but instead of balancing that out, the other unlikely shots that do get made get quickly forgotten.

      Xcom is brutal and unforgiving, missing those ‘sure things’ sucks, but it’s also what makes the game amazingly intense. Taking that away is like saying “Yeah Dark Souls was great…but it should be easier!”

      • Mungrul says:

        All this talk of randomness and people having problems with it makes me think:
        Is there room here for a mechanic to abstract the rolls even more, while allowing for guaranteed hits?

        Bear with me here; people are bad at interpreting percentage chances to hit and often feel jilted when high percentage chances miss.
        So how bout changing the rules slightly so that instead of seeing a percentage, the player sees low, average, high and perfect?
        This would also allow the developer to design for gameplay that would guarantee a hit, such as a sniper lining up a shot for a couple of turns, or an assault trooper running right up to something and blasting it point-blank.

        For another example of something that should be a perfect shot, say a heavy successfully suppresses a Sectoid; if you manage to get a unit within 3 tiles in the same turn, with a clear line of sight, they should be guaranteed to hit.

      • SkittleDiddler says:

        Why would anyone complain if they manage a successful 10% shot? That makes absolutely no sense under any circumstance.

        If you can’t understand the difference between a 10% chance and a 90% chance, and why people tend to get upset when a 90% chance fails but a 10% chance doesn’t, then…

  4. 2late2die says:

    Outcomes are different if you do things differently. Even just switching the order of actions you take results in a different outcome. I’ve been guilty of that on occasion when in a particularly bad situation.

  5. LTK says:

    Even though I know that humans consistently overestimate high probabilities and underestimate low probabilities (or was it the other way around?), I still felt like I was getting cheated by XCOM. There’s gotta be someone who took it upon themselves to check whether their probability distributions actually checked out, right?

    • Gregoire Simpson says:

      I saw some chart once, which was said to prove that the rng was fair.
      However I had a hard time enjoying the new XCOM as a strategy game. The numbers never felt reliable enough to help in your decisions. To me 25% shots and 75% shots seemed to have an equal chance of hitting, making it a highly random experience. Too many times it felt like tipping the odds in your favor didn’t affect the outcome much.
      The idea of letting 1% shots hit if you’ve missed the three previous shots is exactly more of what made XCOM hard to understand in the first place. I never would have taken a 1% shot. Guess it’s all about learning how the system works.

      • Rizlar says:

        I’m sure I remember reading somewhere that the actual odds in XCOM are even better than those displayed, simply to try and adress the perception bias.
        (citation needed)

      • SkittleDiddler says:

        Yep, the probability rolls in Enemy Unknown may have been “accurate”, but they never, ever felt that way to me. The seemingly fucked up THC is what led me to eventually uninstall the game.

        I’ve encountered the same thing in a dozen other games (Disciples III and Blood Bowl are two that really stand out), but it never gets easier to digest. Every roll feels like a potentially pre-coded cheap shot.

        • Christo4 says:

          i don’t know if it really is random or not, but when i miss 3 80% chance shots in a row multiple times, it’s really hard for me to believe that it’s truly random.

          • Panda Powered says:

            The beauty of probability and randomness. You may piss the dice gods off enough to miss a hundred 80% shots in a row. Except that it is really really really unlikely. I once rolled five critical fails in a row in a tabletop RPG. That was rolling a 20 on a 20-sided die 5 times in a row. The probability for that was 1 in 32 million or 0,000032%.

  6. Kakrafoon says:

    The most interesting question for me: Can I use the Save-Scum option in Ironman mode so the RNG becomes impartial and doesn’t use black magic to favour me or the aliens? I mean, will it turn the Seed thing off so each shot is rolled independently, or does it just generate a new Seed when the player loads a savegame?

    • jalf says:

      It… makes no difference. That’s how random number generators work. It picks a number to act as the seed, and based on this, it comes up with a new number. The next time you request a random number, it uses the previous number as a seed, and so on. And the random number generator algorithm guarantees that no matter the initial seed, you will get a uniform distribution of values (unless you are using a broken algorithm, of course). Sometimes there will be runs of “good” or “bad” numbers, an sometimes not. But if you keep rolling random numbers with the same seed, you will get a uniform distribution.

    • mouton says:

      It would make no difference. The numbers are all random either way, it’s just that they are rolled earlier and kept secret from you. There is no difference, unless you are feeling spiritual.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Yay spamfilter. Here’s my comment in two parts:

        It’s more accurate to think of a PRNG as an infinite* sequence, like one of those books of random numbers that get such great Amazon reviews. When you start a game (possibly a mission), XCOM turns to a random** page, but then just keeps reading numbers from there in turn every time it needs one. When you save, XCOM marks its place with a bookmark, so the save/load action doesn’t peturb the sequence of numbers. Turning on this option will make XCOM turn to a new page on reloads instead.

    • darkChozo says:

      For some clarity, and because the conversation tends to get a bit bogged down in exactly how a pseudorandom number generator works, here’s what saving the seed does by way of analogy:

      Say you bet 100 zorkmids that a coin is going to come up heads. You flip the coin and it comes up tails, and you’re sad because you’re a fan of having fantasy money. Luckily, you have a time machine (we’ll call it the Save Scum, or SS for purposes of illustration), so you go back to before you made the bet.

      If the SS saves the universe’s seed, you know that that coin is going to come up tails no matter what you do. However, you can change what you do with that coin flip; maybe you bet that it’ll come up tails. Maybe you give it to someone you don’t like and hope they want a heads. Maybe you flip it once and then bet that it’ll come up heads the second time, at which point it’s up to chance again.

      If the SS doesn’t save the seed, you have no idea what that coin is going to do. If you make the bet again, you’ve got a 50% chance of being right, just like the first time you flipped it. However, you can always just keep going back until you get heads, if you’re willing to spend the time.

      In either case, the coin isn’t any less random, per se; you just may know which way it’ll flip because you’re from the future. Whether that’s an issue or not is more of a philosophical matter than anything else. Also something something causality/determinism.

  7. Wisq says:

    As I understand it, your soldiers’ destiny was never “fixed”; rather, the random number generator was — as are all computer random number generators, unless reseeded. So while you would continue to get the same numbers in the same order each time you reloaded, and doing things exactly the same way would result in exactly the same outcome, you could still do things differently and have those numbers apply to something else.

    If this is the case, then the “save scum” mode is actually better for the overall balance of the game. The main reason that computer random number generators work fine (despite being non-random) is that we can’t easily predict what the next number will be. Once you start letting users go “back in time” and repeat those numbers, they become easy to abuse. Missed that critical shot and got yourself killed? Let someone else shoot first to “use up” that result, then try again. Got a whole series of misses in a row? End your turn early and let the aliens get all of them. Etc.

    It’s tempting to think that restoring the state of the RNG and generating the same numbers over again will prevent cheating, but really, it just allows a much worse form of it. You may as well just keep everything random, let the self-imposed ironmanners ironman it, let the savescummers savescum it, and prevent people ruthlessly abusing foreknowledge of the RNG to cheat even more effectively than savescumming itself.

    • mouton says:

      Balance is irrelevant anyway, if you reload situations that went badly for you.

  8. Kohlrabi says:

    In the meantime, the teleport bug and mind control panic bug are still not fixed, and neither is the broken alien discovery extra turn mechanic? My PC certainly can handle the AI for moving aliens in the fog of war, but I guess the small maps and limited AI make it easier on mobile platforms. I really doubt they will fix this game so that it’s finally enjoyable instead of frustrating at higher difficulties.

    • mouton says:

      “alien discovery extra turn” is not a bug, but a feature. It is not going away, you could just as well demand Time Units.

    • almostDead says:

      I still don’t understand this ‘the aliens get an extra turn’ argument.

      They spot you, or you spot them, then they react to this. If they didn’t you would mow the shit out of them every time and then would complain about the game being too easy.

      Please explain.

      • darkChozo says:

        I think it’s mostly a matter of poor presentation. Essentially, the expected rule with turn-based games is that you can never do anything outside of your turn unless you do something on your turn to prepare for it (ie. Overwatch). Because the aliens are presented as just milling about, being surprised, and scurrying into cover, it feels like they’re breaking the turn-based mold, because they’re acting out of order without preparation.

        If the aliens just started out in cover, I doubt anyone would have complained, despite the fact that the gameplay implications would be nigh-identical (hell, it’d actually be worse for you, because they wouldn’t trigger Overwatch).

        • almostDead says:

          Excellent points.

          Do you agree, though, that the game would be horribly easy if you discovered aliens in the open and could just decimate them.

          • darkChozo says:

            Oh, totally. But I still think it’s poor design because it’s basically a bad patch for the fact that aliens don’t do much in the fog of war. Roughly, it’s something that seems unfair but is actually actually more favorable to the player than the alternative — aliens that take cover when they see the bus their friends are hiding in explode.

            It’s not game ruining or anything to me, but it’s still pretty bad.

        • LionsPhil says:

          If they started in cover positions based on where the Skyranger landed (which is not exactly a stealthy craft), then at least sweeping the flanks as you go would be worthwhile. With the current mechanic, you seem better off sending some well-armoured (or expendable) soldier forward to trigger their dive for cover while the rest form one overwatching deathblob, then start flanking them.

          Unless it’s a terror mission. You don’t want to wake up the Chryssalids. :(

          • darkChozo says:

            My idle design thought is that aliens should have some rudimentary stealth game guard-type AI, in that they should have a cautious state that’s triggered by nearby sounds like gunfire, explosions, Skyranger engines, etc. In that cautious state, they’ll take cover against wherever the sound came from. Soldiers stumbling upon them or vice-versa would not trigger the free move, but they should already be in cover unless you’ve “stealthed” them.

            You could also do fancy stuff like have silencers for soldiers so they don’t alert aliens, or have aliens communicate human positions (and maybe different species don’t like to talk, who knows!) via radio-substitute or telepathy, but that’s probably asking for too much. Based on how hackneyed their solution was, I’m guessing they didn’t throw too much design effort at the problem.

      • mattevansc3 says:


        A) You aren’t offered the same benefit, if your units get spotted they don’t get a free turn.

        B) Its unbalanced, especially with jump pack troops. On numerous occasions Ive spotted the flyers and they’ve used their free move to jump behind my troops.

        C) Its far too disruptive. Sneaking around the flanks is an almost pointless exercise because you cant surprise the enemy and catch them unguarded. I’ve also had those free moves set off my units’ overwatch from the other side of the map where they’ve got no chance of hitting from. This is even more problematic when that unit is covering a door.

        Its a cheap tactic to cover a flaw in the enemy AI.

        • almostDead says:

          A) But don’t the aliens always do the same thing regardless of who spots who- the aliens grab cover. They never get to fire, but they can trigger overwatch? Is this the cheap trick, that the aliens don’t move around like players, going from cover to cover with overwatch?

          That seems to me to be like simulating what the aliens might be doing all over the map (going from cover to cover), but they only have to program in the last step, when they are spotted.

          B) I don’t believe I have experienced this, but I am certainly not disputing it. I know I’ve had flying units drop behind me (near my sniper), but I don’t recall it being triggered on a ‘discover’. Certainly the turn after.

          I know I would have raged at the screen if this had happened to me on a ‘discover’, which is why I am sure I’ve not experienced it.

          C) Yes, I don’t remember ever catching enemy without cover, but I mean, if the AI were programmed the way you wanted, you could never do this anyway, because they would behave like the player, moving from cover to cover with overwatch.

        • Zenicetus says:

          A) You aren’t offered the same benefit, if your units get spotted they don’t get a free turn.

          Sure they do. It’s not a free turn as such, but there is never a situation where you move forward and are instantly fired on by an alien you haven’t “discovered” yet. It’s symmetrical. You don’t get to surprise and shoot newly-revealed enemies during your turn, and they don’t either. As others said above, discovering aliens out of cover and being able to fire on your turn would make it too easy for the player. And people would gripe about how “unfair” it was to be hit by undiscovered aliens during their turn.

          Also, I think another reason they designed it this way, was for the shock value of seeing a new alien type for the first time. It’s a jump out of the monster closet, then they go into defensive positions (or jet pack towards you, but they can’t fire at the same time). The brief animation sequence gets old after awhile, but the first time I saw the Chrysalid reveal on my first playthrough, it definitely got my attention! Remember, this isn’t a game they (wrongly) expected people to want to replay, based on the dev interviews. I think those reveal animations were supposed to be part of the overall “atmosphere” and drama they were going for.

        • mouton says:

          “A) You aren’t offered the same benefit, if your units get spotted they don’t get a free turn.”

          Sure you are. Aliens never fire first, except for a rare bug. Even in their own turn, if they discover you, they only move to cover.

          “B) Its unbalanced, especially with jump pack troops. On numerous occasions Ive spotted the flyers and they’ve used their free move to jump behind my troops.”

          Almost never happens. And when it does, said flyers are sitting ducks and are flanked by numerous team members.

          “C) Its far too disruptive. Sneaking around the flanks is an almost pointless exercise because you cant surprise the enemy and catch them unguarded. I’ve also had those free moves set off my units’ overwatch from the other side of the map where they’ve got no chance of hitting from.”

          You can catch the enemy by surprise using higher ground and battle scanners. You can flank them alright once they are activated. Overwatch can’t be triggered from beyond the sight range, which is pretty short.

  9. NotToBeLiked says:

    I think this mostly acknowledges that their game is just horribly broken. They have never bothered to fix the bugs in which aliens from across the map get perfect shots through (sometimes several layers of) cover, and in which the players soldiers get 10% chance to hit with a shotgun even when they are right in front of an alien with no cover in between. Highly entertaining on Iron Man, I must say. If they add this new “feature”, it just means they still won’t fix those bugs in the DLC. If you happen to get in such a situation, just keep reloading!

    I know this goes against the RPS mantra that XCOM is the best game ever and has no dumbing down whatsoever, sorry for that. I bought the first Firaxis XCOM game despite the demo because RPS swore the full game was amazing and far more complex. I won’t fall for that again. Firaxis still owes me a working game.

    • almostDead says:

      You are certainly not to be liked. Ugh, about everything in this post.

    • The First Door says:

      Yeah, I agree with almostDead… I’m not entirely sure you’ve played a ‘horribly broken’ game if you think this is one!

      • Viroso says:

        On the Internet, if you don’t exaggerate anything you say you might as well not be saying anything at all. At all!

      • mattevansc3 says:

        I’d say this game is horribly broken. While it may not be the buggiest game the game mechanics themselves are broken, especially for this genre.

        The cover mechanic is broken for a start. Ive lost units because they’ve been critically shot by a Sectoid who’s plasma blast went through two cars AND the corner of a brick building without damaging them. If a shot can’t go from A to B without hitting something then that shot cannot reach its destination.

        On the hard setting allowing a Sectoid with a plasma pistol to be more accurate than a trained soldier with a rifle at range is broken. There is a lot in this game that is broken and frankly I barely enjoyed the game.

        • Deadly Sinner says:

          The first part is you not understanding how the cover mechanics work. The second part is you expecting a turn based strategy game based on numbers to match up perfectly to reality, which is impossible, and which also applies to the first part. (Hint: defense affects hit percentage since there is no damage negation in the game.)

      • NotToBeLiked says:

        The most basic element of an XCOM game is positioning your soldiers to create a tactical advantage. If I can not reliably put them in a defensive or offensive position, based on what I can see, this is broken. So yes, a broken game is the result.

        • Christo4 says:

          Finally someone who doesn’t praise the game and sees it’s flaws!
          Honestly it got me so frustrated i tried it 2 or 3 times from the beginning thinking “maybe THIS TIME it’ll be better”.
          Not to mention the stupid cover system where you think you’re in cover from something, but actually you’re getting flanked by the enemy.

    • Zenicetus says:

      It would be nice if the cover mechanic included full 3D modeling of obstacles, but it doesn’t, and probably for performance reasons.

      Yeah, it’s disconcerting when you first see shots fired through the corners of buildings, or cars, but if you just take the time to understand how cover is based on the firing angle to the underlying square your soldier is on, and any surrounding cover, then it makes sense. It’s just a visual glitch, because they’re not modeling every surface in the game for cover detection.

      • Viroso says:

        I’m glad it doesn’t, because I don’t trust it would work effectively. During the entire game there was only once where a shot went absurdly through a wall with me, so it caught me by surprise when I was attacked. I prefer having a very rare problem than having something like Fallout, where the game tells you there’s a 100% chance to hit something but all shots hit an obstacle in the way because the game couldn’t properly calculate that.

        This was very frequent with grenades. Using grenades on VATS was really unreliable.

      • NotToBeLiked says:

        They don’t just cut corners. They go through walls in the middle of a building, or right through trucks. The reverse is also true in which you can stand right in front of an enemy with nothing in between you, and you still only have a 10% hit chance. That’s not a problem with having some rounding going on with the firing solution. That’s a major bug.

        Also, none of the original XCOM games (or any TBS games for that matter) have this problem that much. If this was not a problem 15 years ago, it should not be a problem now, especially since the combat rules have been simplified and have to take far less variables into account.

        • Deadly Sinner says:

          You simply do not understand how the game mechanics work. The cover mechanics are very consistent and I’m glad that they didn’t screw that up for aesthetic reasons. And positioning is not the only thing that affects accuracy. I don’t see how you could have missed that if you played for any amount of time. Press F1 if you don’t believe me.

          • sleepisthebrotherofdeath says:

            I’m pressing F1 right now in my browser and nothing is happening.

      • CaidKean says:

        Yet there are older turn-based strategy titles that do make sure that each shot is fully simulated, I am curious as to why it would be a performance issue for this particular title. For one, as I can recall in X-COM, TFTD and Apoc bullets were in some way physical entities that actually traveled across the map and whatever got in their way they directly interacted with it. Mind you, it has been quite a number of years since I last properly played any of those titles so my mind does deceive me.

        For a more modern example, take Silent Storm. That game had bullets be physical in-game entities. Heck, once I fired a sniper shot at an allied soldier, missed, hit the pavement, had the bullet ricochet into an oil drum and cause a huge boom. It’s an immersion factor for me that the older X-COM titles had and XCOM didn’t.

        Mind you, this is coming from someone who actually enjoyed XCOM thoroughly despite the flaws it had.

    • Lagwolf says:

      Well said and so true. Totalbiscuit agrees with you (and me) on this issue. The patience XCom fans have with the bugs and broken game parts is quite astonishing. I think Firaxis needs to fix the bugs & then worry about a new game.

      • almostDead says:

        I think it’s a shame when the weight of your argument requires celebrity endorsement.

        • SkittleDiddler says:

          Celebrity endorsement only highlights the fact that more than one person thinks that Enemy Unknown is a great game marred by some horrible fun-punching bugs and questionable mechanics implementation. I happen to feel the same way.

        • Nick says:

          don’t misuse the word celebrity =/

    • Nick says:

      “I know this goes against the RPS mantra that XCOM is the best game ever and has no dumbing down whatsoever,”

      Who the fuck has ever said that or anything like it?

      • NotToBeLiked says:

        When a lot of people were disappointed when the XCOM demo came out, RPS ran a big feature about how much they had already played this game and how great it was (link to rockpapershotgun.com ). I do not believe anyone can play this game for many hours without noticing the bugs. And in the beginning this game was riddled with those bugs, from invisible enemies to disappearing exit zones and many more (which Firaxis admitted to after release!). The technical bugs were patched, the AI problems are still in there.

        They followed up with an interview with Solomon, in which he admits he doesn’t even know what bugs were fixed or even how many patches there are, which for some reason is an acceptable answer. And after that a whole bunch of (admittedly entertaining!) features about ‘The Wimpy Squad’s Adventures. Which seems to be more advertorial than editorial in nature.

        I don’t know whether it’s fanboyism, a great love for Firaxis, or why they just chose to turn a blind eye to XCOMs problems, but it has caused me to distrust anything RPS says about XCOM.

        • airmikee99 says:

          So even though the article you linked quite clearly says the demo is broken and they hope that they game will be better, you’re claiming that article says it’s the best game ever and nothing is wrong?

          They give multiple reasons for not liking the demo, and even more for not liking the game, they state the demo is too short, doesn’t include enough features to represent the game, and mention how the interface seems sluggish. They mention the ‘bland commander guy’, and even state the missions locations aren’t as memorable as in the first game.

          Going back to Nick’s comment, ““I know this goes against the RPS mantra that XCOM is the best game ever and has no dumbing down whatsoever,”

          Who the fuck has ever said that or anything like it?”

          Nobody ever said that, and if you think RPS said that in the article you linked, you either didn’t read the article, or can’t read at all.

        • almostDead says:

          The only things I noticed about the game were the difficulty moving between vertical planes and how (as I’ve mentioned twice in other comments) disappointed I was that you could not tell whether you could fire or be fired at, when you moved to a new position. I get that this is important.

          In my opinion, this new XCOM is about as good as games get in this world we live in. I enjoyed it immensely despite its linearity as well.

          The internet has been incredibly vocal about how much disdain there is for this game. And I agree, some of this stuff looks like it could be fixed, or changed. I am sorry that this spoiled something utterly for you, that I thought was about as good as it gets.

  10. Drake Sigar says:

    That’s sweet of them but I enjoy finding ways to break that system and would rather keep it on.

    Also, moar X-Com news!

  11. BioSnark says:

    I wish I could play this game with RNG off. No hit vs. miss. No hit vs crit. All shots deal damage varied based on range, cover, movement speed and flanking.

    I don’t like random in my strategy.

    • Viroso says:

      Random is awesome, it’s a dark cloud over your plans. Not having my plans work exactly as I want is more fun I think. It makes me plan for when my plans go wrong. Plan within a plan. Could it go deeper?

      • Christo4 says:

        But why not make it deal damage but have a chance to crit or to miss depending on the cover you’re in?
        for example in medium cover you have 20% chance to crit, it removes 5 damage from the weapon and 10% chance to miss. Otherwise your shots always hit, but depending on the range you deal more or less damage.
        with heavy cover you have 10% chance to crit, it removes 7 damage from the weapon and 20% chance to miss.
        IMO this would have been more interesting as it made destroying cover more important.
        Also i think the weapons should fire in bursts of 3 shots and the chances are for each shot in particular so that you don’t miss or crit with each shot.

        • Viroso says:

          Because then you’d always hit. If you always hit you’re going to win sometimes, there won’t be those moments where you absolutely need to hit something to kill it right then and there. Specially because XCOM is a game of a few hits, so actions matter more.

          Imagine, you’d just stay put letting enemies come to you, as you always hit. And if the damage for range thing works both ways, then it isn’t effective anymore. Imagine, you’d come across a group of aliens, stay put shooting them for less damage, and they shoot you for less damage. They approach you, you hit for more, they hit for more. You’re always hitting, approaching enemies will just make things faster, but otherwise it is guaranteed that someone’s going to die.

          Uncertainty is different from that. It allows for a more all or nothing approach. Plus destroying cover was still important in XCOM. I had a skill that if I killed an enemy that was out of cover I got a free shot. I once killed 4 enemies in one action.

  12. HadToLogin says:

    Lately I replayed Gorky 17 (btw: if you bought Groupees’ Be Mine 6, since game appeared on Steam, they provide Steam Keys for it, along with Enclave) and that showed/reminded me how annoying XCOM’s “move+move/action” system is.
    It’s just so restricting – you’re practically forced to move in snail mode (move+overwatch), otherwise your last soldier might run into enemies while you’re unable to defend yourself (heh, how many times my run-and-gunning soldier dashed to some cover, seen noone, so rest of team dashed after him only to discover band of mutons just by getting into cover right next to first soldier :) ). And there’s so many tactical movements you can’t do because of this system – as run out of hide, shoot, and run into hiding again, which was really funny in Jagged Alliance 2, especially with windows (from prone to crouch, shoot, and prone again) or doors (open door, burst from automatic rifle or headshot from semi-rifle and then closing door – fun as long as enemies don’t have grenades :P).
    Still annoyed XCOM is on Unreal Engine 3 so there can’t be mod changing it into some Jagged Alliance-themed mod, with band of mercenaries going around world doing random missions (heh, Enemy Within is that kind of mod, with those new ‘terrorists’)..

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      Honestly I thought the “move+move/action” system was one of the best things about this game.

    • Svant says:

      That is not really a problem with the move+move/action system but rather a problem with the utterly broken “discover enemies” mechanic. Where enemies can stand 1 square away from your team and not react even though it is a big firefight with bazookas and grenades going off. But if you move one square in the wrong way and get line of sight to those undiscovered enemies they suddenly activate and you are now fucked.

      This is probably the biggest and most limiting problem with the tactical game right now, that for some reason flanking and scouting is more dangerous than just going deathblob with a sniper killing everything.

      They really really need to activate all enemies within earshot for a fight, or have aliens tell each other so that if you attack one group the group right next to them will join the fight. It is bizarre to not being able to reasonably expect that if no enemies appears from a small room when you are fighting outside that the room will be empty.

      Sure now and then you could have aliens cowering in fear, or hiding to flank you but make that a bloody mechanic not every single time (and 3-4 mutons cowering in fear? hell no…)

  13. almostDead says:

    This is my most looked forward to thing as well. I will windmill slam buy this, even though I am sure it will not add much but a few shiny toys. I just want another excuse to play it, because it is so linear and there really is only one way to play the strategic layer.

    I tried a couple of the mods, but I think they are pretty limited in what they can achieve without more developer support, which won’t come. I suppose with such a linear story there is only stat tweaks you could do anyway.

    I adore the colour scheme they have used for their splash screen on steam, that gold. I stop and stare at it frequently.

  14. LionsPhil says:

    One of my main subtypes of “input error” that I reloaded for was moving someone to a position I was sure had a line-of-fire on an enemy, but apparently didn’t. And because of the simplified two-actions system rather than any kind of action points (time units?), it’s not like I can just take one extra step before firing.

  15. almostDead says:

    Can everyone else use the edit function with chrome? I can’t edit my posts any more.

    What I was going to say was, I just can’t face Ironman on this game, with the unpredictable line of sight issues. I find I can never guarantee whether I will be able to see an alien when I commit to a move, even when it seems totally obvious to me that I should be able to see them from the position I have moved.

    This is the only true disappointing thing about this game to me- that you just can’t work out whether you can see an alien or not from a new position.

    • Viroso says:

      Really wish they’d add something that exists in a lot of other games, that lets you know if you can attack or be attacked from a certain position. Like, you get all the squares for the character’s move range and hovering the mouse over any square would indicate if an attack is possible from there.

      • almostDead says:

        What a good idea.

        It is actually the most horror I have had in my recent gaming lifetime, to move to a spot in a tense situation in this new XCOM and not be able to shoot an alien, or realise you are able to be shot at, when you didn’t think so.

        Oh unintended consequences.

  16. LionsPhil says:

    So since we’re talking ironman, a spoilery question:

    Does the final mission still make one of your team absolutely-essential-else-game-over, rather than the usual even-a-squad-wipe-is-“just”-a-setback? Because that was surprising in non-ironman. And after that many hours of play, with sudden death being so possible, that seems just a little potentially aggrivating.

    • almostDead says:

      I believe, even on Ironman, if you lost the sacred dude/dudette on the last mission, you could replay it.

  17. Strangerator says:

    So if you are going to openly acknowledge savescumming and allow it, why not just make the option something like “all chances to hit of 65% or greater automatically hit”? Would sure save cheaters a lot of time while they pretend to play XCOM.

    Original X-com got around save-scumming by allowing only the option to save, but not to load or exit the game from the battle map. In order to reload from a bad combat situation, you had to press “abort mission,” see the failure screen, and then load your game from there. It was maybe not the most elegant solution, but it kept me from doing it all the time.

    X-com’s projectile tracking system I enjoyed a lot more, even with it’s very unforgiving line of sight limitations. The percentages were only part of the story, because “cover” just meant your bullet might hit a wall before actually hitting the target. The percentages also reflected only deviations from the correct path, so at close range it was next to impossible to miss.

  18. Lusketrollet says:

    The “Bad Streak Breaker” absolutely needs to be optional, as well. I would like to play on “Normal” mode without the game cheating quite so overtly.

  19. drinniol says:

    It’s not when your guy misses at 85% – it’s when the whole squad misses at 85%! *mutters about barns and broad sides*

  20. Narbotic says:

    “Sir, we’ve replaced every piece of his anatomy with armored machinery except his head. Shall we start work on an indestructible helmet?”

    “Absolutley not! — leave the man his dignity!”

    • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

      When a gentleman sallies forth to guard his home, his country, and his world against the alien scourge he is naturally expected to maintain certain traditional standards, such as the ability to sing a rousing chorus of the British National Anthem. He is also expected to be able to assemble flatpacked furniture and cook at least three meals suitable for entertaining a reputable lady. Officers are also required to be able to rig and sail a ship, and diagnose rare diseases in cattle. While many of these functions can be carried out with a mechanical body, none of them can be done properly with a mechanical head.

      The day a gentleman does not bare his face to the enemy for a grimace of defiance or a rictus of rage is the day humanity deserves to die.

    • darkChozo says:

      You know, ironically enough, it kind of looks like the head is Photoshopped on.

      Would it be appropriate for XCOM to be hiding some alternate control for the robot suit? Say, oh, I don’t know, a squirrel in a glass dome manipulating adorably tiny old-timey crane controls?

      • Narbotic says:

        “Sir – the aliens shot off his head!”

        “Oh well – activate remote control protocol”

        sounds good to me.

  21. Lyrion says:

    But it was already possible to savescumming, all you had to do was act differently: Shoot sniper with 90% that misses, then load again and move an assault first and then shoot the sniper and it works too… don’t see the needed option to now completely add it.

  22. remoteDefecator says:

    If you don’t play Ironman, you’re a pussy.

    • Llewyn says:

      I assume you need Ironman to assuage your constant feelings of inadequacy? It’s slightly ironic then that it merely highlights that you lack the willpower to resist save scumming otherwise.

  23. Bobtree says:

    XCOM is still a half-assed (lame strategy layer, no random maps) and broken game (teleporting aliens), with ridiculous DLC (pay to change uniform colors, really??), fudged combat math, and now they’re catering to cheaters. By far the worst $50 I have spent in ages, no thanks to RPS.

  24. Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

    “It’s called Save Scum, in honour of what Jake Solomon likes to call players who do this

    …aaand this was the last time you have seen THIS scum’s rupees, Jake.