XCom: Enemy Unknown Designer Hopes to "Honor" the Original

XCom: Enemy Unknown Designer Hopes to "Honor" the Original

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XCom: Enemy Unknown Lead Designer Jake Solomon says the game will feature permadeath, a "classic" difficult mode, strategic base building and even the gentle touch of Sid Meier himself.

For old-time X-Com fans, the announcement of XCom: Enemy Unknown was a double-edged sword. Excitement over the thought of a new XCom strategy title was tempered by fears that a push for "accessibility" would turn it into Plants vs. Zombies from outer space. But according to Jake Solomon, the lead designer on the project, there's nothing to fear.

It's not a physics-based game so entire buildings can't be brought down, but walls and environmental "scenery items" will be destructible. At the easiest difficulty the game will "do its best to make sure you don't fail," but soldiers killed in combat will stay dead and the highest difficulty level, called "Classic," will apparently be very difficult indeed. Base activities, like research and scanning for UFOs, will still happen in real-time, but in one notable change the tactical combat sequences will not be based on time units.

"Time units are a great mechanic, but the player spends too much time thinking about that system," Solomon told PC Gamer. "We want to add so much to XCom - classes, perks, a ton of new weapons and a cover system and new mission objectives - and you cannot add that much stuff without making sure everything in there is carrying its weight."

And while the original X-Com creators are not involved in the project, Firaxis Creative Director Sid Meier, who knows a thing or two about making strategy games, has his finger on the pulse. "He and I interact on an almost daily basis," Solomon said. "I say 'Look, I have this problem. What do you think I should do?' and he's a very gifted designer. He can look at a situation and he can say, 'Have you tried this?' And I'll be like, 'Oh, that's really good.' I claim all the credit for it, but I rely on him so much. I'm now to the point where I can basically hear his voice in my head, which is probably not healthy. He tells me to hurt people."

XCom: Enemy Unknown is due out later this year for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.

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"Time units are a great mechanic, but the player spends too much time thinking about that system," Solomon told PC Gamer.

Is there such a thing as "too much time thinking" in a (turn based) strategy game?

I don't know about other X-Com fans, but I enjoyed taking time to plan out my move, making the most efficient use of time units and striking a fine balance between using the time units to their full potential per turn and effective troop placement with reserved units for potential reactions.

I hope I'm wrong, but that quoted statement seems to me like Solomon is missing the point of a lot of the appeal of the original X-Com games.

I think this game is going to be the "Fallout 3" of the franchise. It'll be a good game and it's going to be hugely popular. The changes are great for all the new people playing it. But the hardcore fans will be disappointed to say the least.

Awesome I love me some turn based goodness! It sounds like he at least understands some of what we liked about the Original.

Pity the Gollop brothers coulsnt be involved somehow but cannot have eveything I suppose

Hey! I would love to play me some Plants vs. Zombies from Space.

I hope hardcore fans realize that there is no evidence that a game made purely for them will be successful enough.
An influx of new players could mean better sales and show that lower budget strategy games can bring in good money in the current market and cause a healthy revitalisation of the genre.
This game will be important if this game becomes a bestseller the worth of isometric 3d games will be proven and we might see more old franchises follow suit.
If it fails it could kill big name developers and publisher interest in the genre.

I think this is gonna pull a tribes:ascend The dev's realized there were not enough hardcore tribes players to sustain a hardcore tribes fps.
But they did realize there were enough hardcore PC gamers to sustain a hardcore pc fps and went that way and their game is now known by almost every pc gamer worth their salt.

So is this turn based combat or not? I'm hoping its turn based since doing it real time is hard since it needs either a good ai or just one guy will be doing most of the killing.

Worgen:
So is this turn based combat or not? I'm hoping its turn based since doing it real time is hard since it needs either a good ai or just one guy will be doing most of the killing.

Turn-based, just without TUs. As I recall, each unit gets a move phase and an action phase each turn.

Jamash:

"Time units are a great mechanic, but the player spends too much time thinking about that system," Solomon told PC Gamer.

Is there such a thing as "too much time thinking" in a (turn based) strategy game?

I don't know about other X-Com fans, but I enjoyed taking time to plan out my move, making the most efficient use of time units and striking a fine balance between using the time units to their full potential per turn and effective troop placement with reserved units for potential reactions.

I hope I'm wrong, but that quoted statement seems to me like Solomon is missing the point of a lot of the appeal of the original X-Com games.

I believe he's referring more to players thinking about the time unit system, and not that they have too much time within the turn to make decisions.

rolfwesselius:
I hope hardcore fans realize that there is no evidence that a game made purely for them will be successful enough.
An influx of new players could mean better sales and show that lower budget strategy games can bring in good money in the current market and cause a healthy revitalisation of the genre.
This game will be important if this game becomes a bestseller the worth of isometric 3d games will be proven and we might see more old franchises follow suit.
If it fails it could kill big name developers and publisher interest in the genre.

I think this is gonna pull a tribes:ascend The dev's realized there were not enough hardcore tribes players to sustain a hardcore tribes fps.
But they did realize there were enough hardcore PC gamers to sustain a hardcore pc fps and went that way and their game is now known by almost every pc gamer worth their salt.

I's agree with this, I hope it will pull in enough original xcom fans, enough TBS fans and enough people intrigued by the FPS xcom to make it a success... only if its good though. If its rubbish then I'll be ticked.

but I have faith in Firaxis

Oh god, please don't mess it up. Please.

I hope they split it like the move/attack split of D&D 3rd edition. In one round you had both a move action and an attack action. You could give up your attack action to move further but would take penalties to avoiding enemy attacks to simulate an all out sprint. You could also make a full attack potentially attacking multiple times or making a special attack but you couldn't move beyond a little.

It was a system that worked really well in the pnp game and I think it would translate to turn based strategy.

Snap shot and overwatch snap shot could be standard actions, aimed shots and overwatch moved shots would be full actions. So if you took an aimed shot you could move 1 hex, but if you took a snap shot you could move at your full rate, or you could move double but any enemy would have a bonus to hitting you.

One of the really nice concepts I saw in Magic the Gathering Tactics is "zones of control". Each unit controls a 1 square radius and any enemy entering those squares has to stop movement. Something like that makes "tank" units useful because the enemy can't just run past them to your squishies.

I'm super excited for this release. What would really sell me is if they had hotseat or network co-op play.

This sounds awesome, I hope classic is really like classic with a new paint coat, we shall see.

Although I can't say I miss time units.

Hey, Plants vs. Zombies in Space sounds FUN.

But, but but, X-Com had a cover sytem. Crouch behind a stone wall, stand around the corner, hide behind a tree, that is all X-Com needs, lines of sight and physical barriers. On the plus side it sounds like you will be able to knock out all the ground floor walls and still have a structure still standing just like the original. It just wouldn't be X-Com without permadeath though, that is absolute.

rembrandtqeinstein:
snipo

I'm super excited for this release. What would really sell me is if they had hotseat or network co-op play.

Hotseat would be great, as would play by mail like Frozen Synapse or Laser Squad Nemesis. I'm not sure how network co-op would work. Timed turns to keep it moving forward?

Sorry, but this game has been in development so long, and back to the drawing board more than once, I have no faith that it will hold up to the original.

The only thing it has in common is in name only.

I'm afraid it's just gonna suck.

The_root_of_all_evil:
Oh god, please don't mess it up. Please.

My thoughts.

Albeit it is weird to hear the people who made Civilization saying they don't want folks "thinking too much".

>_>.

10 bucks says I'll like it. I have an incredibly low threshold for being entertained. Which is probably why I'm so harsh when a game bores me.

I'm surprised nobody has actually remarked on the last part of the article.

weirdguy:
I'm surprised nobody has actually remarked on the last part of the article.

That NO ONE that worked on the original is working on it, or that it's going to come out to consoles. Oh, I can hear the gnashing of teeth now. They are coming.......run!

octafish:
But, but but, X-Com had a cover sytem. Crouch behind a stone wall, stand around the corner, hide behind a tree, that is all X-Com needs, lines of sight and physical barriers.

I agree some kind of Gears of War cover system being shoe horned into the game would be silly. That being said a Company of Heroes/Dawn of War cover system would be useful. Differentiating between soft cover and hard cover would add a new tactical level to the game that the original didn't have.

Alone Disciple:
Sorry, but this game has been in development so long, and back to the drawing board more than once, I have no faith that it will hold up to the original.

The only thing it has in common is in name only.

I'm afraid it's just gonna suck.

this isn't the 50s X-COM FPS, its another game. Developed by Firaxis, the guys behind Civilization.

Alone Disciple:
Sorry, but this game has been in development so long, and back to the drawing board more than once, I have no faith that it will hold up to the original.

The only thing it has in common is in name only.

I'm afraid it's just gonna suck.

You do realize that the FPS Xcom is still in development as a prequel, right?
This is a separate game that was only recently announced (note the subtitle Enemy Unknown).
It hasn't gone back to the drawing board, it's just 2K making the most out of their license. They sate the hardcore fans with the strategy title, use the FPS to build name recognition (people will end up buying this because they recognize the name from the FPS trailers), then release the FPS as purely a prequel story.

Am I the only one who is interested to try the new movement system? The different classes will probably have enough variance in the movement to seem different. Having my scout sprint across open cover, then keep my heavy stationary for the reflex shoot, as my soldier uses a suppression ability, all while my sniper lines up a headshot to kill that muton. I could do all that in the original game (just minus classes), but now I can focus on the movement and squad maneuvers, and not necessarily the individual time units.

It feels to me like the way a reboot should be. The original Xcom is still playable, especially with XcomExetender/Util mods. But this reboot, rather than stay EXACTLY the same as the original, uses new technologies and gaming trends to create a similar experience while remaining true to the original. There is still hardcore base building. There is still permadeath for soldiers, and real time research and manufacturing.

Plus, there is still panic/berserk.

otakon17:

weirdguy:
I'm surprised nobody has actually remarked on the last part of the article.

That NO ONE that worked on the original is working on it, or that it's going to come out to consoles. Oh, I can hear the gnashing of teeth now. They are coming.......run!

The original X-COM was on consoles too you know.... and no one gave a shit.

Also: according to firaxis some guys who worked on the originals also worked on this.

Myths debunked.

Wait, is the first person shooter Xcom or the remake Xcom?

Also, I was referring to how Sid Meier has burrowed into Solomon's brain. Nothing good ever happens after that.

Seriously, when you quote somebody, at least have some sort of related remark instead of jacking my words for your own agenda.

It all still sounds somewhat good and everything but I'm still dissapointed about the removal of time units.

Some of my finest moments in the x-com games came about because I screwed up and didn't have enough TU's to do something. To give an example:

I'm not sure if that would be possible in the new system at all, I mean that sounds like an action a move and an action to me, is that allowed?

Ah well hopefully it will still be good in it's own right and if not well there is always that indie x-com inspired thing.

I am very much looking forward to this game, fuck the FPS Xcom.

Ultratwinkie:

this isn't the 50s X-COM FPS, its another game. Developed by Firaxis, the guys behind Civilization.

Have you seen Civilisation V ? It is a horrible bastardisation of a once great game. I shudder when I have the wild urge to re-install it again to see if any of the myriade problems it had have been fixed by now.
It was unplayable at release.
It's design was horribad.
It was absolutly unworthy of the proud games before it.

I seriously hope that Firaxis can make a decent Xcom game out of this, but completly throwing out the TU system because it required the player to think (in a turn based strategy game!!!) does not bode well.
A simple example how TUs could have worked:

Every soldier has 50 TUs.
A perk can raise that to 75 TUs.
Moving one square: 5 Tus.
Firing a gun: 25Tus
Firing a heavy gun: 50Tus
etc.

Whats the change to old Xcom ?
Every soldier has the same TU rating, unless granted Perks. Firing weapons is always a fixed value instead of a percentage of total TUs.
The benefits?
After your first couple of missions you figured out that you can move about 5 tiles on open ground and fire once per turn. You get a feeling for what a soldier should be able to do. The decision weither to shoot twice and not move or make a run and not move is not a choice between two presets (move and shoot or shoot and shoot)but a deliberate design (exactly that far - then a shot - then run like hell)
More room for effects encountered in previous games, like beeing fatigued, shaken or injured.
The Drawbacks?
People have to think about their turn and how they spend their resources.
Those that can't figure out 50/5=10 without asking their Cellphones would be absolutly bamboozled by the system.

LorienvArden:

Ultratwinkie:

this isn't the 50s X-COM FPS, its another game. Developed by Firaxis, the guys behind Civilization.

Have you seen Civilisation V ? It is a horrible bastardisation of a once great game. I shudder when I have the wild urge to re-install it again to see if any of the myriade problems it had have been fixed by now.
It was unplayable at release.
It's design was horribad.
It was absolutly unworthy of the proud games before it.

I seriously hope that Firaxis can make a decent Xcom game out of this, but completly throwing out the TU system because it required the player to think (in a turn based strategy game!!!) does not bode well.
A simple example how TUs could have worked:

Every soldier has 50 TUs.
A perk can raise that to 75 TUs.
Moving one square: 5 Tus.
Firing a gun: 25Tus
Firing a heavy gun: 50Tus
etc.

Whats the change to old Xcom ?
Every soldier has the same TU rating, unless granted Perks. Firing weapons is always a fixed value instead of a percentage of total TUs.
The benefits?
After your first couple of missions you figured out that you can move about 5 tiles on open ground and fire once per turn. You get a feeling for what a soldier should be able to do. The decision weither to shoot twice and not move or make a run and not move is not a choice between two presets (move and shoot or shoot and shoot)but a deliberate design (exactly that far - then a shot - then run like hell)
More room for effects encountered in previous games, like beeing fatigued, shaken or injured.
The Drawbacks?
People have to think about their turn and how they spend their resources.
Those that can't figure out 50/5=10 without asking their Cellphones would be absolutly bamboozled by the system.

First, The guy that designed Civ V has moved onto other projects months ago. Right after Civ V released. Its an entirely new guy now.

Secondly, they had their reasons for Tu being taken out. Look at this.

http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=458283

Don't go just by what the Escapist says.

Also:
http://www.gameinformer.com/p/xcom.aspx

They didn't take out TU, they replaced it with a new system. The old TU system may have been good, but it was a veritable cluster fuck when all the TU are not set in stone. You get multiple costs for different soldiers, and when you have a large force you cannot afford to micromanage up to 50-100 soldiers personally. Especially when its late game and your army turns into warhammer's Imperial Guard when the Ethereals come to town.

@Ultratwinkie - thanks for the links to the articles/screenies

Ohh god the first picture on this link makes me want this game (http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=458283). Terror mission and a garage....

Please don't let this be a screw up - please

Pyrignis:
I think this game is going to be the "Fallout 3" of the franchise. It'll be a good game and it's going to be hugely popular. The changes are great for all the new people playing it. But the hardcore fans will be disappointed to say the least.

I can't speak for other fans of the series but for me personally, my expectations are so low thanks all the crappy wannabe Xcom games over the years Firaxis will have to try pretty damn hard to disappoint me further. So I guess this might be "Batman Begins" of the series?

Really? Damn, I sure as hell can't remember X-Com coming out for the consoles.....

theultimateend:

The_root_of_all_evil:
Oh god, please don't mess it up. Please.

My thoughts.

Albeit it is weird to hear the people who made Civilization saying they don't want folks "thinking too much".

>_>.

10 bucks says I'll like it. I have an incredibly low threshold for being entertained. Which is probably why I'm so harsh when a game bores me.

Me too, I don't feel good about the not thinking too much part and the cover system...

(btw could you please check out those messages I sent you some time ago or just treat me like a human being and say your not interested)

As a new X-Com fan, and one not blinded by nostalgia and its magical saccharine-sweet ability to make things seem better than they are in reality, I thinks this is what they mean when they say about thinking too much.

Operative "Cornbread" has 100 TUs
Okay I can take five steps (30 used)
Great, now crouch (34)

Great now throw the electro-flar (for the sake of argument lets say 40 left)

Alien sighted. Eh... I need to take one step and crouch to really get a shot at him.

30 left

Okay (again for the sake of argument lets say the auto shot takes up the remaining thirty)

!No Time Units Remaining!

What? How... He had to fucking turn! Jesus! God in Heaven! All that dodged fire, all the math!

"Cornbread" is blown to bits next turn.

Then you repeat the process for at least fourteen other people. Factor in weight limit and different people having odd TUs (58 or something) that's hard to calculate and it borders on the ridiculous for even the most avid gamer.

As for what they're trying to implement I like it a lot more. I like classes, abilities, and perks over the random, near-abstract stats of several basically identical people. Sure a guy with lots of TUs and reaction time might be considered a scout. Doubly so if he's a rookie. However, I'll take five highly flexible people over fourteen where any portion of them are fodder to eat up overwatch and mind control.

I actually think it'll make me care more. Seeing as Rookies in the new game don't divulge their class until their first level up. It makes losing Jane Smith the sniper all that more impacting because there's no guarantee that I'll get another sniper. This forces me to come up with a new game plan instead of rolling the medieval style officers in the back fodder up front.

At first it might seem shallow, with just a move-action/move-move system, but when you realize that a rifleman has a "run and gun" perk that lets them double move and then shoot, it changes things up.

Also officers are a lot more precious. The officer's school allows you to send off (I'm not quite sure if it's non-coms to make them officers or just any unit with sufficient rank) men and women so that their experience actually becomes a universal boost for all the troops. Or you could focus on the Super Heavy Infantry Vehicles (new games HWPs, and a better acronym).

Also I think they're making autopsies more effective. I still don't know if they do fuck all in the original, but it's heavily implied that they will provide bonuses to fighting aliens in this game.

I'll gladly give up fourteen not so specialized people for four highly specialized people. I think nothing of losing half my squad say on a battleship or base assault, but each lose should matter. I'm more upset if I lose equipment than if I lose people.

otakon17:
Really? Damn, I sure as hell can't remember X-Com coming out for the consoles.....

Came out on the original PSX. Don't think it did for anything else console-wise.
http://www.gamefaqs.com/ps/572590-x-com-ufo-defense

While I don't recall a lot of griping about it at the time, I don't know that it sold extremely well either. I didn't really care since I was playing the PC version. This time round I'll likely get the PS3 since I no longer keep up with PC upgrades like I used to and my machine is 4 years old.

 

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