2K Games Announces XCOM

I'm actually not bent out of shape by the game, I'm bent out of shape by a game developer saying something like "strategy is not contemporary".

That is not a good omen for a hobby that I love.

DanyBoy wrote:
SallyNasty wrote:

Seriously, your options are either A) a shooter with the word XCOM on the box or B) no XCOM.

FTFY

I'll take B. Already got A, XCOM: Enforcer.

Turn based is so outdated, its amazing those crappy franchises even exist. I mean, come on, who plays Civ, am I right or am I right?

TheArtOfScience wrote:

I'm actually not bent out of shape by the game, I'm bent out of shape by a game developer saying something like "strategy is not contemporary".

That is not a good omen for a hobby that I love.

That's my issue. That's my only issue, actually. I never even played XCOM.

What I think the developer was clumsily trying to say is that strategy games of the X-Com style, i.e., insanely difficult, completely unforgiving, and really deep, are pretty niche these days. StarCraft 2 and even Civilization are a pretty far cry from the original X-Com. It's more akin to some of those deeper indie strategy games that are fun, sure, but they're not exactly lighting up the charts, and 2K would doubtless rather light up the charts than make a niche game that PC gamers scoop up for $3 in a Steam sale and never play.

Something else to think about, supposedly Xcom is being led by 2k Australia(Canberra), who also had a hand in Freedom Force when they were the Australian bit of Irrational. Apart from that the only real history Marin/Australia have is Bioshock2, and from what footage they've shown it seems like that's the experience they're drawing from.

I'm honestly looking forward to XCOM, but there are so many things wrong with that Ray Charles analogy that it leaves the realm of offensively stupid and enters the realm of "that man deserves a throat punch."

Strategy games aren't contemporary? What a strange thing to say. It's almost as strange as taking a strategy game IP, thinking the IP has cache with console gamers and then morphing it to try and appeal to the shooter audience. This strange decision may also be a product of current times as the medium budget games have been completely killed off this generation on consoles (sadly) so they have to play it safe and go where the money is. But why not take a chance and make a strategy game built around excellent mechanics and go the Steam/PSN/XBL/iOS route instead of trying to get a piece of the already crowded shooter market?

I think the answer to that is that 2K Marin isn't a studio brimming with great designers. They make "experience" games. They should ask themselves what Blizzard, Valve, Relic or even Nintendo Tokyo EAD would do with XCOM. Would they take the creatively empty route of just taking Bioshock and reskinning it? I highly doubt that. Perhaps 2K Marin simply understands that as a studio they aren't capable of creating an excellent modern day strategy game and so they have settled on what's easy (even if it doesn't make any sense).

To be fair, BNice, from the sound of the latest previews of XCOM it sounds less like they're reskinning Bioshock and more like they're trying to make an alien-themed mashup of Bioshock and Mass Effect 2. That's not exactly a super risky template, but it's not exactly retreading the same ground, either.

ClockworkHouse wrote:

To be fair, BNice, from the sound of the latest previews of XCOM it sounds less like they're reskinning Bioshock and more like they're trying to make an alien-themed mashup of Bioshock and Mass Effect 2. That's not exactly a super risky template, but it's not exactly retreading the same ground, either.

Yeah that's true I wasn't being very fair when I wrote that. I'm not even a diehard XCOM fan but it's disappointing that big studios are playing it safe so late into the console cycle meanwhile indi developers with almost no bankroll/marketing/resources are producing games like Frozen Synapse.

The Ray Charles analogy was actually a good one. The guy was proficient in so many styles and changed his game up to meet not only his own interests but the interests of his audience.

- first guy to mix gospel and soul/RnB
- first soul artist to record a country album
- eventually got into recording with orchestras and what not
- "YOU GOT THE RIGHT ONE BABY!" (Oh, I liked Ray before he sold out)

So yeah, if he were alive, he would probably have done a duet with Kanye. Oh wait...

And before you get all uppity about it being Jamie Foxx, please keep in mind it's Jamie Foxx singing a Ray Charles sample.

Anyways, I do realize that it's a bitter pill to swallow when you realize that your once in-fashion hobby is now a niche, but hey, that's life. /renegadeshepard

nel e nel wrote:

Anyways, I do realize that it's a bitter pill to swallow when you realize that your once in-fashion hobby is now a niche, but hey, that's life. /renegadeshepard

I hear there's room at the CRPG table... buncha nerds.

If somebody decided to come out with Final Fantasy Kart Racer where whipping Aerys' decapitated head was one of the weapons, my guess is there'd be a number of people horrified that their particular sacred cow was being screwed with. X-Com is, for me, a giant pile of sacred milkmaking. Same for lots of people. Am I trying to give it a fair shake? Sure, but the part of me that adores the game resents the whole idea of it being remade different. Sure, it's dumb to think that way, but doesn't stop me from doing so. We're geeks, we obsess over things.

Also, I would totally play Final Fantasy Kart Racer.

nel e nel wrote:

And before you get all uppity about it being Jamie Foxx, please keep in mind it's Jamie Foxx singing a Ray Charles sample.

SallyNasty wrote:
Feeank wrote:

True. Whatever opinion I or anyone else has we'll save it till the game is released. God spare us from us discussing upcoming games in a gaming site. Disengaging.

My friend - I am not trying to stifle conversation, quite the opposite!

Wow, people are getting all bent out of shape over this game. My only contention is that I just don't think everything is as dire as people are making it sound.

Feel free to hold whatever you opinion you want, and / or to express it. I am no mod to tell you to do otherwise.

Sorry, in hindsight I *snapped* without reason. Lousy day

My vision for this game would be some sort of hybrid of F.E.A.R. and the original Rainbow 6 (or SWAT 4 or something). A FPS with tight squad control and horror elements. If it were to have those, I feel it could be very true to the original game and still be fun.

A message from Jordan Thomas:

Hey folks,

So we've been flying under the radar with XCOM, for about a year -- and felt that it was about time to put together a little video update in order to lift the curtain on the reasons why.

2K Marin had just finished working on BioShock 2, and that game will always be deep in our DNA -- but our first crack at adapting XCOM to a more personal, real-time experience was way too much within our creative 'comfort zone'. It was kind of a run-and-gun affair, without a lot of focus on the command of your squad, or indeed on tactical play itself.

Candidly, it just wasn't "XCOM" enough for the hardcore fans of the original games at 2K Marin, who serve as our creative conscience. So over the past year, we've made some pretty aggressive design changes, in pursuit of the feelings that we experienced when we played the original games. I'll cover those in the video itself, but a quick note about story:

Narratively, XCOM is an all-new origin story in its own timeline; a deliberate reimagining along the lines of something like Battlestar: Galactica or Batman Begins. What that means in practical terms is that while we take narrative inspiration from the original games, we have also deviated in a couple of key ways. For example, our game is set in 1962 within the continental United States -- at the moment the XCOM organization is formed.

We wanted to tell the story of the first man on the ground -- exaggerating cold-war fears about invasion from within -- via this alien threat for which there is no precedent. And we felt the best way to express that kind of intimate take on the XCOM universe is from that character's perspective: limited information, overwhelming odds, and direct personal involvement.

In our XCOM, you play William Carter, Special Agent in Charge of field operations at XCOM. So as you start up the video, I'd like you to slip into his shoes as he reviews a piece of evidence which was discovered somewhere out there in mid-century America.

Hope you dig it -- there's a whole lot more to come.

And a twenty-minute-long narrated version of their E3 presentation:

ClockworkHouse wrote:

A message from Jordan Thomas:

Hey folks,

So we've been flying under the radar with XCOM, for about a year -- and felt that it was about time to put together a little video update in order to lift the curtain on the reasons why.

2K Marin had just finished working on BioShock 2, and that game will always be deep in our DNA -- but our first crack at adapting XCOM to a more personal, real-time experience was way too much within our creative 'comfort zone'. It was kind of a run-and-gun affair, without a lot of focus on the command of your squad, or indeed on tactical play itself.

Candidly, it just wasn't "XCOM" enough for the hardcore fans of the original games at 2K Marin, who serve as our creative conscience. So over the past year, we've made some pretty aggressive design changes, in pursuit of the feelings that we experienced when we played the original games. I'll cover those in the video itself, but a quick note about story:

Narratively, XCOM is an all-new origin story in its own timeline; a deliberate reimagining along the lines of something like Battlestar: Galactica or Batman Begins. What that means in practical terms is that while we take narrative inspiration from the original games, we have also deviated in a couple of key ways. For example, our game is set in 1962 within the continental United States -- at the moment the XCOM organization is formed.

We wanted to tell the story of the first man on the ground -- exaggerating cold-war fears about invasion from within -- via this alien threat for which there is no precedent. And we felt the best way to express that kind of intimate take on the XCOM universe is from that character's perspective: limited information, overwhelming odds, and direct personal involvement.

In our XCOM, you play William Carter, Special Agent in Charge of field operations at XCOM. So as you start up the video, I'd like you to slip into his shoes as he reviews a piece of evidence which was discovered somewhere out there in mid-century America.

Hope you dig it -- there's a whole lot more to come.

And a twenty-minute-long narrated version of their E3 presentation:

Glad they agree how samey the first few previews were to the run-and-gun gameplay of Bioshock. Really liking the direction they're taking with the tactics and alien design.

I liked the gameplay footage there a lot. Based on the comments left on YouTube, however, it doesn't look like this is going to convince the haters at all.

ClockworkHouse wrote:

I liked the gameplay footage there a lot. Based on the comments left on YouTube, however, it doesn't look like this is going to convince the haters at all.

Yet it will still sell shedloads, owing to the free publicity that the xcom-purists bring. Just as expecting Bethesda to make an hex isometric turn based RPG was a long shot, expecting 2K to make an isometric turn based RPG is a long shot too.

My nerd rage is somewhat mollified; it does look pretty interesting.

Something's wrong with the universe when I'm the one that needs to do the clocking.

CLOCK CLOCK!

I'm still trying to resist the temptation to pre-emptively judge this game before release, but I think that trailer raises more questions than it answers:

1. Saying that you've made "aggressive design" changes to include more tactical, squad-based action is one thing, but do those design changes include a reconsideration of the encounter spaces to match the new mechanics? The level used in the trailer was a series of very confined, linear segments, punctuated with a typical arena-style space to host a mid-boss encounter with the Titan. Compare that encounter space with other tactical shooters, like Rainbow Six Vegas or Brothers in Arms, where the player is given much more room (figuratively and literally) to lead a more tactical traversal of the space and the enemies are given much more room to develop compelling behavior outside of simply holding a line.

2. Should we be concerned about the AI's capability to respond to the new tactical options? The diversion/shield combo that was used to open up the flanking opportunity in front of the University was an incredibly transparent manuever; the enemies bit way too much, completely forgetting (or outright disregarding) the player's move to the flank. The lack of any further reaction from the enemies when the player began shotgunning directly beside them might as well have been the cherry on top.

3. Is the decision to research/deploy alien tech found in the field truly going to be important? Both of the situations in the demo seemed to indicate that there's very little incentive to research, especially when you're placed in deliberately compromising situations (examples from the demo: when the player is centered within a crossfire within an open arena, or when the player is faced with a huge manpower disadvantage on opposing lines with no flanking/traversal opportunities) shortly after procuring the tech. It's not like the long-term disadvantages of forgoing research can be that punishing to the player's progress -- and how would the game communicate to the player that they needed to "tech up" at a later time anyway? How could the game even enforce that without inflicting an incredible setback upon the player?

OzymandiasAV wrote:

2. Should we be concerned about the AI's capability to respond to the new tactical options? The diversion/shield combo that was used to open up the flanking opportunity in front of the University was an incredibly transparent manuever; the enemies bit way too much, completely forgetting (or outright disregarding) the player's move to the flank. The lack of any further reaction from the enemies when the player began shotgunning directly beside them might as well have been the cherry on top.

Often enemies and allies are designed to be dumb, as otherwise they're not fun to play against/with, and may end up playing the game for the player leaving them with little to do. There's other factors that tie into this such as how you communicate to the player what's happening and why. That's not to say those challenges shouldn't be attempted, but it's a very tough thing to get right.

OzymandiasAV wrote:

1. Saying that you've made "aggressive design" changes to include more tactical, squad-based action is one thing, but do those design changes include a reconsideration of the encounter spaces to match the new mechanics? The level used in the trailer was a series of very confined, linear segments, punctuated with a typical arena-style space to host a mid-boss encounter with the Titan. Compare that encounter space with other tactical shooters, like Rainbow Six Vegas or Brothers in Arms, where the player is given much more room (figuratively and literally) to lead a more tactical traversal of the space and the enemies are given much more room to develop compelling behavior outside of simply holding a line.

Charitably, I'd say this is an early level designed to get players thinking tactically in smaller spaces before they're opened up into larger spaces. Less charitably, I'd say that the ideal for "tactical, squad-based action" has shifted away from Rainbow Six to Mass Effect, where the player is expected to lead their squad through a smaller area where use of powers and cover is more important than tactical traversal of a space.

2. Should we be concerned about the AI's capability to respond to the new tactical options? The diversion/shield combo that was used to open up the flanking opportunity in front of the University was an incredibly transparent manuever; the enemies bit way too much, completely forgetting (or outright disregarding) the player's move to the flank. The lack of any further reaction from the enemies when the player began shotgunning directly beside them might as well have been the cherry on top.

I'd like to see some combat where the Distraction power wasn't used, or else I'd like to know if that was a leveled-up effect for that power. In both cases where the player flanked the enemy, it was while a squadmate was using that power to draw enemy fire and attention. It could be that the Distraction power is too powerful, or it could be that it's more effective earlier in the game, or it could be that the AI completely sucks. It's hard to say.

Also, notice that in both cases the player took a lot of damage getting to the enemy's flanks. The developer running with invicibility on doubtless makes the maneuver look less costly and the AI more easily fooled.

3. Is the decision to research/deploy alien tech found in the field truly going to be important? Both of the situations in the demo seemed to indicate that there's very little incentive to research, especially when you're placed in deliberately compromising situations (examples from the demo: when the player is centered within a crossfire within an open arena, or when the player is faced with a huge manpower disadvantage on opposing lines with no flanking/traversal opportunities) shortly after procuring the tech. It's not like the long-term disadvantages of forgoing research can be that punishing to the player's progress -- and how would the game communicate to the player that they needed to "tech up" at a later time anyway? How could the game even enforce that without inflicting an incredible setback upon the player?

I expect that this will play out similarly to ADAM in the Bioshock games, in that you can ignore the Little Sisters entirely in exchange for making the game much harder for yourself, or you can get every one and have so much ADAM that you'll spend it on anything just to see that counter go down. Similarly, I expect that the tech research curve will follow such a path that players will be pressured by rising difficulty to research a little bit without being expected to research everything.

As far as the situations you mentioned in the demo, keep a couple things in mind: first, that the narrator specifically mentions an alternative strategy before deploying the turret (i.e., bottling the enemies up in an energy shield to deal with them in smaller groups). Frankly, it didn't look like that hard of a fight based on what we'd seen so far, so I assume the turret was deployed to show what it looked like in action more than out of necessity. It was deliberate overkill.

With the second situation, I had a hard time figuring out exactly what happened there. As they're going up the stairs before the boss shows up, the narrator makes a reference to the disintegration gun in such a way that makes me think that players wouldn't normally have one available at that point in the game. If that's the case, the boss battle might not be a boss battle so much as an encounter that needed to be run from (oh, no! I can hear the bleating of people who hate those kinds of encounters already). I thought the crossfire situation was a result of having harvested the boss, so it would make sense of follow that with a hard encounter where the player needed to decide how best to handle the tech they've just acquired. Personally, I would have used that turret that didn't get used earlier.

Like I've said before, I'm not an old school X-Com fanboy, and I get the sense that you are, but there wasn't anything in that video that didn't make sense within the context of a modern game. The issues you mentioned seem like the normal things that get trotted out after every gameplay video ever: the enemies didn't look bright enough to win, and what's the progression curve going to look like? Unfortunately, those things are very hard to capture in even a twenty minute demo. I doubt that even a twenty minute demo of X-Com would have captured the tactical depth, need for research, and character progression that people love so much about it.

Interesting. I am an old school Xcom fanboy, but that video gives me some hope for the reboot of the franchise. I'll still miss a lot of the old mechanics of base building, large squad combat, etc, but this seems to be a step in the right direction. With some TLC the problems mentioned above can be overcome. It certainly seems like they are listening to the feedback they've been getting, at the very least.

I'd still like to see a blaster launcher that lets you fly the disc to its target.

OzymandiasAV wrote:

1. Saying that you've made "aggressive design" changes to include more tactical, squad-based action is one thing, but do those design changes include a reconsideration of the encounter spaces to match the new mechanics? The level used in the trailer was a series of very confined, linear segments, punctuated with a typical arena-style space to host a mid-boss encounter with the Titan. Compare that encounter space with other tactical shooters, like Rainbow Six Vegas or Brothers in Arms, where the player is given much more room (figuratively and literally) to lead a more tactical traversal of the space and the enemies are given much more room to develop compelling behavior outside of simply holding a line.

I'll admit that I only skimmed the video, but my impression was that the changes they made were hardly aggressive. From what I could tell, they mostly added a completely optional "freeze time to command your two companions" mode. I don't know that level design has changed much, and I certainly didn't come away from the demo thinking the game was what I'd consider tactical.

I do appreciate the change in focus for this game--they want to tell the story of an alien invasion, not create a global tactical experience--but I don't really understand the point of attaching "X-COM" to this title. Its only relationship to the original X-COM that I can see is that the core theme concerns an alien invasion.

2. Should we be concerned about the AI's capability to respond to the new tactical options? The diversion/shield combo that was used to open up the flanking opportunity in front of the University was an incredibly transparent manuever; the enemies bit way too much, completely forgetting (or outright disregarding) the player's move to the flank. The lack of any further reaction from the enemies when the player began shotgunning directly beside them might as well have been the cherry on top.

The alien AI looked pretty stupid in general. In the first encounter a scout class alien charges the heavily armed party to punch them to death, and in a later encounter the aliens basically beam down into a minimally fortified area and just stand there to be shot at by the player, albeit while encased in a fancy shield made of ice cubes. From this I can surmise that the aliens don't really exhibit any real tactical decision-making, but rather appear at scripted locations to be killed in a roughly pre-determined way by the player.

If this game didn't have "X-COM" attached to it I'd probably play it and think it was maybe pretty cool, but as it is I'm not terribly excited for this, even with the reboot. 2k Marin's pedigree doesn't give them a pass either--I quit Bioshock 3/4 of the way through because I couldn't force myself to muddle through any more boring encounters in a boring world of boringness. I fear this title will be very similar--pretty to look at, but not much depth, tactical challenge, or originality.

Developer Diary

Hmpf.

Yea! More time to make it better.