Gollop: Own X-COM “Hopeless Cause” After Firaxis Game

X-COM creator Julian Gollop did have plans for his own new version of the legendary strategy game, but abandoned them in the wake of 2K’s well-received XCOM. “I seriously considered that before Firaxis announced their XCOM,” he told RPS in an interview published today, “but of course once they announced it I thought, well it’d be a hopeless cause because it’s just not going to get the same traction.”

“I may have been completely wrong in thinking this by the way,” he added. When I suggested that he’d probably have succeeded nonetheless, he added that “I probably could have. I don’t know.” The Laser Squad and Chaos developer, who yesterday released wizard-battling strategy remake/sequel Chaos Reborn on Steam Early Access, hasn’t entirely ruled out an X-comeback of his own, however. “Well, we’ll see. Got to finish Chaos first.”

I think it’s on all of us reading this to let him know below that that a new Gollop-made XCOMlike is far, far from a hopeless cause, eh? Also below: the game Julian Gollop almost made instead of Chaos Reborn.

In the interview, available here, Julian Gollop also addresses the sense that he slipped out of sight for a time – “languishing in obscurity,” as he puts it, with a laugh. After putting in three years on asynchronous multiplayer strategy sequel Laser Squad Nemesis, and a GameBoy Advance remake of Rebelstar, “I guess I did kind of disappear… I went to Bulgaria and took a year off doing games, even though I was still working on designs, and I started working for Ubisoft in Sofia… just over 5.5 years I was working there.”

Gollop “was still pretty sure what I wanted to do, which was my own design of strategy games”, but was unsure of how to make this a reality, noting that he had a family to provide for. “When I first heard of Kickstarter funding of games I though that this would be an ideal mechanism, but it actually took me a long time to really decide to leave Ubisoft and do my own thing.”

Eventually he settled on “a shot in the dark” – crowd-funding a remake of/sequel to fondly-remembered Spectrum strategy game Chaos, but almost made a new sequel to proto-X-COM squad-strategy game Laser Squad instead. “It was a toss up between this and Laser Squad. And I did work on a new design for the Laser Squad game but it was a bit more ambitious than Chaos.” Gollop also felt that “I’d explored the Laser Squad style game quite a lot, but not so much the Chaos style game, so I think it really deserved to be made.”

While the eventual Kickstarter for Chaos Reborn proved successful earlier this year, “I was very worried that I was asking for too much money, that we wouldn’t meet the target, that people had become too jaded and too cynical. But the response was very good, so that was encouraging.” He is conscious that “if I’d launched it just a year previously it might have made a big difference in terms of the amount that could be raised.”

Given that Kickstarter for games isn’t the money fountain it once was, he’s unsure of the future. “It’s difficult to say but the biggest concern is how sustainable both the combination of Kickstarter and Early Access is for small indie developers.”

While Julian Gollop’s name is a little more bandied around in the wake of Firaxis’ XCOM, he doesn’t feel that it’s altered his own fortunes. “Not really, but it’s helped to establish turn-based strategy games as something that can actually be successful and popular.”

While he hasn’t been attached to high-profile projects for some time, “I’m still quite proud that XCOM has retained that level of interest, and it’s also very good that Firaxis did a pretty good remake of it, because that’s also in some ways made it easier for me to talk about my earlier stuff as well, because again the XCOM name is well-known and automatically sparks some interest.”

42 Comments

  1. Joshua Northey says:

    Well I for one would buy an updated XCOM-like or LSN-like designed by Mr. Gollop in a heartbeat. LSN was such an under-appreciated game, amazing multiplayer, and UFO Defense is a strong contender for best PC game period.

    • badger1194 says:

      The only things that are missing from xcom now that I’d like to see are the option to play as the aliens and taking over the world, or going to the aliens home world and destroying it would be fun too. Humans would be the aliens. That would be a great new xcom game or DLC.

  2. jalf says:

    I absolutely love Firaxis’ XCOM, but I would also love nothing more than an X-COM spiritual successor from Gollop.To me, XCOM and X-COM are different games, and I have room for both in my heart. I hope he decides to go ahead with an X-COM-like.

  3. Premium User Badge

    Wisq says:

    XCOM definitely felt too streamlined to me, but Xenonauts felt almost too far in the other direction, too grindy somehow. Balance-wise, I tended to agree at the time with their removal of things like player-controlled psionics and blaster bombs, since it made later missions a cakewalk — but in hindsight, more than just adding a lot of fun, I think those things really helped streamline the late game, where you could actually deal with huge downed UFOs in a reasonable amount of time.

    Maybe I’ll never be truly satisfied with any of the spiritual sequels to X-COM. Maybe I just don’t have time for it any more. Maybe these really are rose-tinted glasses. :/

    • Shadow says:

      I really liked both the original X-COM (and Terror from the Deep) and Firaxis’ XCOM:EU, but they’re not really the same kind of game. The originals are strategy/management games with RPG elements, while the recent incarnation went for something new and came out a strategy RPG with management elements.

      I liked Xenonauts some, but less. It’s overly long, too conservative or counter-intuitive at times, not properly balanced and lacks personality. As such, I couldn’t finish a single campaign. I haven’t played since the official release, though, and Solver has since taken over with the balancing patches, so it might be more interesting now.

      But anyway, there’s always room for more X-COMs and X-COM-likes, so I fully welcome a new installment by the original creator.

      • Joshua Northey says:

        I find Xenonauts enjoyable, early on the balance was off, and it is perhaps a bit long/repetitive by today’s standards, but I am old so I don’t mind that as much, and you do have to keep in mind their small budget. I am sure they would have loved more diverse content if possible.

  4. Premium User Badge

    Neurotic says:

    I wonder what the legal is on a Gollop X-Com. Would happily pay a AAA box price for such a thing, tbh.

  5. moa says:

    I’ve backed Chaos Reborn on Kickstarter and would definitely back any Gollop’s game just to express my gratitude for all happy memories playing his games.

  6. Hex says:

    This is what happens when you let a fan-boy play with his idol!

    Cover yourself, Alec. It’s embarrassing.

  7. In Zod We Trust says:

    I’m right there with UFO Defense and Terror From the Deep being absolute favourites. I love the XCOM remake as well, but it’s only as good because the originals gave such wonderful inspiration for it.

  8. Haborym says:

    If Mr. Gollop made a new x-com game I’d buy it in a fucking heartbeat.

  9. captain nemo says:

    The original xcom is one of my favourite games

  10. cheeley says:

    I’d love another crack at taking down Sterner Regnix

  11. GunFox says:

    Who sees the 2k variant of xcom and goes “oh man, I guess there is nothing else to be done”. The Xcom concept could be innovated in a thousand different ways with interesting mechanics.

    I mean jesus, you could just take xcom’s meta game and atmosphere and combine it with jagged alliance 2’s (1.13)’s equipment and combat and I’m pretty sure I’d never leave my house again. Throw in Silent Storm’s ballistics for bonus points. This isn’t even innovation, it is just straight copying, and it would still produce an amazing game.

    • Hedgeclipper says:

      I’m throwing money at the screen and nothing is happening!

    • Gonefornow says:

      A mixture of X-Com, Fragile Allegiance and Solar Wars would be rather nice as well (Base building in an asteroid field constantly moving based on Newtonian physics; taking over rival company bases with missile strikes and tactical combat).

      X-Com Apocalypse is also a worthy target for a re-imagining/make/design (less micro management and a cleaner interface please).

    • Ishbane says:

      Didn’t the meta game part happen with JA:F? All that’s missing is content (lots and lots of content…).

    • gmillar says:

      If XCOM had a more open and less restrictive campaign system, I would have put in 10x the hours.

  12. Themadcow says:

    The original x-com is still superior – even more so if you play Open X-Com which sorts out some of the minor niggles. Gollop is a genius. I say ‘is’ rather than was because I’ve just come off the back of a marathon Chaos Reborn session and it’s excellent, even at this early access stage. It’s a game you can lose spectacularly and still somehow enjoy!

    • huldu says:

      Just wish they updated the graphics, that would have gone a *long* way.

      • Kaeoschassis says:

        Firstly – you just wish they’d what? Open X-Com is a fan project with no official funding of any kind. You want a bunch of people working presumably out of their own pockets (did they take donations? I forget) to… what? Redraw every single sprite and scene? That’s more or less what they’d have to do to “update” X-Com’s graphics.

        Secondly – X-Com looks great, and the majority of projects to replace or update art assets in these older games end up looking worse than the originals.

        Anyway, there’s always Xenonauts or new-Xcom if you want more pretties…

    • rodan32 says:

      I have to agree; original X-com is one of the only games from that era that I can still really enjoy. I don’t think anything else has matched the terror of meeting that first chrysalid. Still a creepy, tense, engaging game, graphics and all.

  13. dglenny says:

    Consider this an official pre-Kickstarter pledge: anything Mr Gollop suggests that is even tangentially related to X-COM I will support, at a tier I can’t afford.

    • Themadcow says:

      This.

      And it’s quite noticable how many people currently playing Chaos Reborn are higher tier backers. I thought I’d have quite the swagger marching around with my Wizard Lord aura but there are quite a few DemiGod’s out there!

      Yeah, higher tier auto-pledge right here.

  14. cog says:

    If Mr. Gollop returned to X-Com/LSN style squad based tactics, I’d be there wallet in hand and salivating like a dog with a steak. That said, based on his past work and what Chaos Reborn is turning out to be, I anticipate that whatever he does next (be it X-Comy or not) will be awesome. I hope that Chaos Reborn is the first of many new projects for Mr. Gollop in a fun, productive, and financially rewarding period as an independent developer. In short: Thanks for the all the fun and please keep them coming!

  15. Kaeoschassis says:

    I do wonder if perhaps a lot of the people who might once have backed a new, Gollop-designed X-Com got what they wanted from new-xcom and therefor wouldn’t be as likely to cough up the cash.
    Myself, I’d be throwing money I don’t have all over the place if he went ahead with it – sequel, spiritual successor, whatever.

  16. huldu says:

    I thought the new xcom was okay, it wasn’t that great as many of you are portraying it as. I thought it was way too linear and too simplified(mostly for console play obviously). It didn’t have the charm of the old classic. It just felt like a shell, empty inside. You could play it through once and never look back again – it was that linear. The original xcom you could play over and over again and have a blast each time. I doubt a complete “remake” of the old xcom would be any good, because it’s 2014 now, not 1994. At least I’m proud to say I played the original xcom when it was new and I loved every second of it.

  17. jezcentral says:

    What heresy is this? With all those tags for the article, you couldn’t find space to use “UFO: Enemy Unknown”?

    Tut. The youth of today. How soon they forget.

  18. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    That’s a bit of a sensationalist headline, I feel, considering the content of the blog post. But I suppose ‘Gollop: Might make new X-COM’ isn’t as catchy.

    • ironman Tetsuo says:

      actually I think it’s the opposite, if they’d gone with the alt title you suggest then RPS would now be responsible for at least one heart attack!

  19. XhomeB says:

    But, but… Firaxis’ XCOM bloody SUCKS.
    All right, that might sound like an overstatement, but I’ve fininished it once and don’t feel like reinstalling it again. Unappealing, generic art direction, too streamlined, way too “on rails/story-focused” for my liking (not what I expect from a strategy game) and abandoning the APs was one of the worst decisions they could have made, it rendered the combat so devoid of depth I got bored with the game way too quickly.
    Oh, and the UI/camera controls are beyond awful, clearly designed with gamepads in mind.

  20. ironman Tetsuo says:

    Such a modest man, I’d buy (and have done) anything he touches. Chaos is shaping up lovely but the thought of a new X-COM from the master himself makes me giddy, please make it happen!

  21. mattevansc3 says:

    Personally I’d rather have a spiritual successor to XCOM than the actual successor we got. There’s just no spirit in the latest XCOM.

    X-COM was great in player empowerment. You were responsible for almost every aspect of the game. It was also difficult but fair. XCOM on the other hand sacrificed that player empowerment for streamlined mechanics and brought in unfair and unbalanced difficulties.

    Yes X-COM at times could be unwieldy and some mechanics could have done with streamlining but XCOM just wholesale removed elements, good elements and instead made decisions for the player or artificially curtailed your abilities such as those chose a mission segment. Then there’s the squad mechanics. In X-COM losing a squad member, especially a squad member with experience, hurt but it wasn’t devastating and you could carry on. In XCOM those were to valuable, especially on the harder settings. Losing troops early on is devastating and makes the game pretty much impossible. It wasn’t a game about squad tactics, it was a game about individual uber soldiers.

    • Themadcow says:

      Yeah, the squad limit was one of the things I really didn’t like about the Firaxis game. Who the hell goes into an alien battlezone with 3-4 men? Part of the majesty of the original game was being able to take along a large number of expendable red-shirts who might (often) die on their first mission… but equally one of them might become a god-damn legend.

      Equally you might get everyone killed by a blaster bomb in turn 2, but them’s the breaks and there were always more red-shirts ready to strap on some battle damaged and slightly bloodstained armour for the next mission.

  22. wraithgr says:

    I like the firaxis version. But it it most definitely not what x-com is about, as others said. For me, the fact you only ever get one skyranger was almost a dealbreaker, along with being forced (artificially) to abandon missions as a “choice” and only having 4-6 squad members. Completely throws any suspension of disbelief out the window that humanity’s last hope amounts to 6 dudes and a glorified c-130.

    • mattevansc3 says:

      It would have been so much better if instead of launching satellites you could install outposts in a country. Each outpost could house a maximum of ten troops and one short range transport and one short range interceptor to deal with “local” UFOs and missions. Also you’d have to be on good terms with that country by completing missions before an outpost could be setup.

      At least that way you’d feel like you were in control a world spanning defence agency.

  23. plugmonkey says:

    I would be all over this like a shot.

    XCOM was alright, but badly flawed in many, many ways. I can’t imagine me buying another one.

  24. DrollRemark says:

    Well I thought the new XCOM was fantastic, and the old one equally so. So there.

  25. Abaleth says:

    I think Julian Gollop should definitely make another game, I’m not sure another X-Com is the way forwards, he’s already written that once, and it was brilliant. Making something with similar themes, but a different plot, or just something completely new would be very welcome though.

    (PS, thought the new XCom was superb, one of my favourite games in the last few years)

  26. Rorschach617 says:

    if I could make a suggestion to Mr Gollop, King of Chaos, Ruler of Rebelstar, Lord of Laser Squad (I love his games as you may now realise), it would be this.

    Release an ENGINE for squad turn-based games, maybe bundled with Laser Squad single player missions or mulitiplayer maps, and let the modding community make games within it. Later on, campaign modes (a la X-Com) could be bolted on.

    Given the tools and a blank canvas, we’d have Rebelstar and Laser Squad within the fortnight, and Wizards vs Marsec inside a month.

    And I would live my life with a huge grin on my face :)

  27. Haborym says:

    The new XCOM game isn’t bad, but there are some things I can’t say I like. It feels really casualized, which, as someone who grew up with the original, with it’s action points and whatnot, do not like. I also dislike how scripted everything feels. It’s not organic the way the original was. You always get the same exact missions at the same exact time and frankly I think that’s pretty dumb. In the original, you MAKE your own damn missions by shooting down UFOs, finding their bases, and whatnot. Go to that terror mission? No fuck that noise. Shoot the fucking terror ship before it even gets there and fight them on your terms, not theirs. Also you can’t pick and choose when to do them like in the original. You get three missions and you can only go to one of them? Why? In the original you could send out 3 dropships if you wanted to and go to ALL of them AT THE SAME TIME if you wanted. Or, time permitting, just go to each individually with the same team, but I really doubt you’d have enough time or even supplies to do so. You wouldn’t even need to return to base between each mission, just fly to each one one after another. I just hate how they took away most of your freedom in the remake. It feels extremely linear to me and that is a bad thing when it comes to this kind of game.

    But you know, having said all that, I do kind of want to give it another try I suppose. I suppose I’ll give it another shot when I have the time. I just wish they didn’t dumb it down so much. I figured out what each of the buttons in the game did just by looking at them and giving them a press and seeing what they did. Yes, even all of the buttons on that battlescape interface that everyone complains about, and I wasn’t that old at the time. I feel like games are getting dumber and dumber and it is making gamers lazier intellectually.