Few were in love with the idea of an XCOM first-person shooter, least of all Julian Gollop, the franchise’s creator. The game’s recent re-jigging as a tactical third-person shooter was a massive step in the right direction — but what led to developer 2K Marin’s decision to overhaul the design in the first place, other than fan discontent?
This video from IGN, which contains interviews with the folks from 2K Marin, goes a long way to answering that question. In it, the 2010 and current version of the game are compared, along with an explanation from creative director Morgan Gray on how the team figured out what sort of game it wanted (even needed) to make:
The goals in 2010 with the shooter expression of our XCOM game aren’t too dissimilar from where we are today, but at the highest level it was trying to find the tenets of the classic XCOM recipe and put it to a different mix for modern gamers.
After exploring the core of what XCOM is about, it became clear that it wasn’t sticking true to the franchise:
[One of] the biggest things that [was] lacking was a sense of team. XCOM is a game that is generally about a unit — a squad of people out on the battlefield working together. Although there were two AI companions your control over them, your interaction with them from a gameplay / mechanical standpoint was pretty limited, they were mostly like autonomous turret AI buddies — not really something you could command and control.
It was also trying to be a little more visceral on the action front — the FPS perspective, the weapon set was much more of a mixture of cerebral investigation with quick moments of panic and tension.
The result wasn’t a bad game, just not one 2K Marin could honestly whack the “XCOM” brand onto with complete confidence. Gray mentions it had more in common with survival horror, “like a Silent Hill sort of game, where it’s sort of the cerebral horror versus the run and gun horror game”. He admits terror is an important component of XCOM, but “not at the forefront” of the series.
While it remains to be seen if The Bureau will hit the right notes, it’s refreshing to know there are developers out there with the flexibility and desire to make radical changes when needed. I can imagine most publishers just flushing the whole thing down the toilet, or releasing something undercooked to recoup costs.