In the first part of a two-part mega-interview, XCOM’s lead designer Jake Solomon regales Rock Paper Shotgun with the troubles of reviving an eighteen-year-old franchise. It’s been a three year process to create both a loyal recreation and innovative continuation of the title. According to Solomon, “we have taken this game left, right, up, down, whatever: we’ve done all kinds of crazy things with it.”
The greatest dilemma for the team was not whether to take or leave the hyphen from the title, but what game elements to take from the original, what to add, and what to change. Solomon explains how the complexity of the game’s elements and the varied opinions of its fanbase makes it difficult to decide what to cut.
We view it more from a design perspective and say look, and the original is still absolutely my favourite game, and the favourite game of a lot of guys on this team, so we view the original not as holy and sacred and we can’t change it because that’s how Julian did it, it’s more that those things worked,… because we made our changes based on play and prototypes, the only things that stuck were the things that when across the board it was like ‘this is an improvement to the game.’
To divine the vision the team wanted for the reboot, they handed the game’s core idea to the art team and let them build a tone and feel for the game first. Then, they collected all the elements of the original, looked at the list, and decided on a philosophy. “We don’t take anything out unless we can improve it… “
Fans of the series should take serious solace from this interview, as it seems you couldn’t find bigger fans of the original to work on the development. Solomon acknowledges many of the core ideas, like the inherent emotional connection players have due to the game being set on Earth.
PC purists and console lovers won’t have to fight over the title either, as Solomon makes it clear that XCOM will get the proper attention for both. “Input control wise, XCOM is a simple game and thus won’t need any ‘dumbing down’ to make the switch to consoles.”
More importantly, he makes it clear that PC users won’t suffer with a clumsy developed-for-console-first port. “We’re totally committed to making a separate experience for PC, and in fact there are things we can do on PC obviously that we couldn’t do on something like a console.”