Original X-COM: UFO Defense Designer Interview

20 Jan 2012

Edge Online has cranked out an interesting two-page interview with Julian Gollop, whom many of you will recall as the original designer of X-COM: UFO Defense. In the Q&A, Julian answers questions about Firaxis' upcoming XCOM: Enemy Unknown and 2K Marin's first-person shooter abomination, what he would do differently with the series if he could do it all over again, why turn-based combat is so hard to find in modern games, and more.
Are there aspects of the original game you'd like to see developed?

Yes - procedural mission and terrain generation, which we did very simply with the original game. We designed little sections and fitted them together semi randomly to create a unique map every time. Unfortunately the UFOs themselves were all fixed, so I'd like to see something which could generate an interesting tactical mission and be different every time it generated it.

Developing better AI would be interesting. In the original game I'd have liked to have gone more into the UFO lore which is generally known by people into UFOlogy. I'd have liked to have gone into the RPG element more, the character development. More options as to how they develop. That would be interesting.

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Do you feel in any sense that this attitude is changing? Social gaming is built on many turn-based gaming principles.

I think you're right. There's no need for turn-based games in themselves to be extremely niche. When you think about it, Pokemon has at its core a turn-based system. In fact, I'd say Pokemon is very similar in many ways to X-COM when you think about it - you recruit your squads, you have lots of choice over where you go and what you fight, though the story is ultimately linear. And it has a strategic meta-game to it as well as a tactical one. It's an involving and complex game. Pokemon is not a small-selling game, though at its core its a turn-based system. That's enough to say that turn-based does not mean some geeky niche for spotty RPG nerds.

And you're absolutely right about Facebook in the way they are games which are in many ways - they're not entirely turn-based because they have a realtime element, but real realtime, so the pace is dramatically slower, so it has more in common with turn-based gaming.