139: X-Com: The Truth Is Out There

X-Com: The Truth Is Out There

"'When Julian [Gollop] went to show the game at MicroProse UK he had a good reaction. However they wanted the game to be more ambitious. They said they wanted a "Big Game" like Civilization and also one which people could relate to in some way, again like Civilization.'"

"Instead they got X-Com."

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Ah, glory days. Nice read.

I think the Gollop brothers have been making a comeback on the indie scene with an X-Com *edit* inspired multi-player game called Laser Squad.

http://www.lasersquadnemesis.com/index_html

Never played it but people have done nothing but rave on the forums.

And quite rightly too. I've been playing on and off for several years now. Whilst it isn't X-Com (and isn't meant to be) it is a superb turn-based pvp game featuring four playable races. I can certainly recommend it.

As the designer of Terror from the Deep, and producer of Apocalypse, I feel the article skims the franchise in the most superficial way and fails to represent the many people (aside from Nick and Julian) involved in X-COM over the years.

It's a shame Alan did not cast his net wider and attempt to interview or represent more of the team(s) involved in the series (before the franchise got lost with Interceptor)...

sTeVE

I"ve never truly heard any one give any praise to the ufo series of games that were so heavily inspired by the x-com series. I'll admit that the first one, aftermath is sluggish and overly simple while the secound one (aftershock) was a really fun game but with a stratagy angle that wasnt very well explained. All of that said afterlight (the 3rd one) may be the greatist pretender to the x-com throne and it does this by adding a lot of its own twists as well as cuting a lot of needless complications from the series to create a game that both easy to grasp and yet incredably, deceptivly deep. An underated series

Laser Squad Nemesis isn't really a clone. It has turn-based combat featuring aliens, but it's a multiplayer-focused game with online play. They have their own play-by-mail sort of system that notifies you when your turn is up. You can play the demo for free online, which gives you one of the four races in the game.

Also, "believable, likable characters" in X-Com? Huh?

I hope you enjoyed the piece. It is what it is--just a fleeting glimpse into the complex mystery of why X-Com succeeded as a game and failed as a franchise. I primarily wanted to make the piece accessible to the casual observer, while still offering one or two new tidbits for the X-Com faithful who already know a tremendous amount about the history of the series.

Steve, I would love to have spoken with you had I known how to reach you. Unfortunately, as it turns out, deadlines and length limits made it difficult to include too many viewpoints without the article becoming way too unfocused. I tried it, and it became very difficult to tell who was saying what. I pared it down to just a handful of representatives, and I would have been remiss to exclude the Gollops.

Admittedly, I chose to focus on the original game and then fast-forward to the end of the series. As a result, TFTD and Apocalypse don't get as much coverage as they deserve; perhaps there will be another opportunity to revisit them in the future.

The "believable, likable characters" comment was more about the way people could name their individual soldiers and became attached to them over the course of a game. The tricky part is coming up with a concise way to say that.

- Alan

Real nice article, very accurate on all points. I myself fall into a rare niche where I LIKE sequels to be just the same game with new maps/units/graphics. I got X-Com as a birthday gift ages ago, and fell in love with it. TFTD was later released as a shareware demo in PC Gamer Magazine, and I fell equally in love with TFTD. Problem was, I never could score a copy. Along came Windows 95 and my favorite DOS games wouldn't work anymore, that was when I stopped playing X-Com. UFO:E was a godsend to me, and I love the game to death... It IS very similar to X-Com, but thats WHY I love it.

I loved all 3 of the Strategy games. Apocalypse was actually my first, so that may explain why I love it about the same as Enemy Unknown/UFO Defense and Terror from the Deep.

I even somewhat liked Interceptor, maybe it was because I was so good at space sim games at the time or maybe I just liked the humor too much to notice the flaws.

I've constantly heard rumors that Irrational Games, the makers of BioShock and Freedom Force may bring this series back to life as their partner has the license to the whole series. Let's have faith.

TFTD was the best. One of the most difficult, detailed and satisfying games I've ever played.
Gormless mentioned UFO Afterlight which I can also vouch for. It's the only decent UFO game after TFTD. It is surprisingly good.

Enemy Unknown is still one of the best games I have played. Apocalypse was decent enough to play, but really left no feeling one way or another.

There are also many free / fanmade versions such as:

UFO: Alien Invasion, http://ufoai.sourceforge.net/

and the multiplayer version

UFO2000: http://ufo2000.sourceforge.net/

I'm still waiting to enjoy a video game as much as I enjoyed X-Com.

Do you know why its hard to do a different kind of XCOM? IMHO, it was because XCOM was one of the early hybrid games, genre spanning ... interestingly enough, it seems like other games either already or destined to be classic are very hard to class as being just one genre of game.

These days in games we are constantly seeming to get our peanut butter in with our chocolate - that RPG has a bit of RTS, that RTS has a bit of RPG, that FPS has a bit of RPG, and they all borrowed heavily from the dearly departed Adventure games or the casual platformer. Because of that, you could do XCOM again these days, just be sure to let us blow up the walls, build those secret bases where we want, play up those squad character building, and research a the booty we steal to use in interesting "human" ways.

Since one of my biggest problems with XCOM these days is just getting it to work at a reasonable speed, kinda hard to intercept a UFO when they only appear on the screen in the blink of an eye, since I haven't found any of those programs that supposedly slow your computer down to actually work, if someone would take the original and just make it work at the right pace for today's computers, I would play it again.

UFO: Extraterrestrials - I thought this version doesn't let you blow up structures, build bases around the world and research or maybe I have that mixed up with a XCOM mod and missed out.

my opinion on a proper sequel:

i would love to see an X-Com sequel, but it needs to be more than just graphical and interface updates to justify me playing it - much less paying for it. i don't think you need to fudge the original core-formula much, but fill it out with very different stuff.

didn't TFTD do this? they added new weapons, monsters, etc, right? well, i don't think they did really. i played it for quite a bit, and it didn't really feel different. sure, some guns only worked under water, but mechanically they still did the same thing. so it felt like X-Com...but underwater. and the underwater didn't really change things much.

how about X-Com with multiple planets, new vehicles and weapons that actually change gameplay, new armor-types straight from the get go, new deployment methods (paradrop?), new gadgets (invisibility, CoH-style buildables?), and new enemies (some HUGE enemies, flying aliens, etc.)? i think that would be a sequel worth playing and buying.

i think every successful sequel follows this pattern. they keep the original formula, but really take it to the next level, making a transition that's smooth yet very noticeable. TFTD did not do this successfully. Fallout 2, God of War 2, Doom 2, etc. all pulled it off. i don't think there's anything special about X-Com that makes a proper sequel impossible.

Well start to get excited because their a remake on it's way -

http://ufo.yaa.dk/

It's a highly professial remake with an alpha coming out soon. I think as do stargeycore who reviewed the team - think it's one of the best looking remakes coming up. Ok i'm part of the team so i would say that but hey it's pretty damn good looking. Nightbird brings you UFO:CF :P

stevesan:

how about X-Com with multiple planets, new vehicles and weapons that actually change gameplay, new armor-types straight from the get go, new deployment methods (paradrop?), new gadgets (invisibility, CoH-style buildables?), and new enemies (some HUGE enemies, flying aliens, etc.)? i think that would be a sequel worth playing and buying.

OMG, I would so buy that. I think you just got my Alpha Centauri mixed in with your XCOM. :)

CanadianWolverine:

stevesan:

how about X-Com with multiple planets, new vehicles and weapons that actually change gameplay, new armor-types straight from the get go, new deployment methods (paradrop?), new gadgets (invisibility, CoH-style buildables?), and new enemies (some HUGE enemies, flying aliens, etc.)? i think that would be a sequel worth playing and buying.

OMG, I would so buy that. I think you just got my Alpha Centauri mixed in with your XCOM. :)

w0rd. i only played Alpha Centauri for a lil bit, but yeh, half-way between AC and XCom could make for an interesting game. really take X-Com's multi-level gameplay to the max...

Thanks for the nice article, I made a news post on StrategyCore (used to be x-com.co.uk), which covers X-COM and similar games.
There's a lot of thoughts buzzing in my mind right now, hopefully I won't forget anything.
I'll go with the flow of the article:

First of all, I see you have quotes from Nick Gollop, did you make contact with him? I would be most grateful if you could somehow provide me with a means of contact. The reason is simple: I have been trying to piece the history of X-COM and people surrounding it together, and although I have collected quite a bit of interesting information (scoured some 60 pages worth of old newsgroup threads on Google), there is a lot more missing and I think it would be very interesting. I imagine it as a combination of a long article and interviews with developers. And Julian and Nick Gollop are top priority, yet sadly they have been impossible to reach so far. I have a few other contacts and know where to find some people, but this is really the most important.
Mr. Goss, PM me with contact details, please. I'd be very happy to hear what you could tell us, too. :)

As for the comment about the popularity of X-COM, although it may not have been popular in the U.K. back then, it seems to me that the fans now are mostly spread between Europe, USA and Australia these days, with an occasional fan from other places. In Europe, X-COM seems to be quite popular in Eastern Europe, which is not a surprise really.

I think you have the wrong impression when it comes to Apocalypse. I think it is incorrect that it had no audience, and it still does. From my observations on the internet, it seems that the fan base, in the broadest sense of the word, is split between those who like Apocalypse and those who don't. I couldn't tell you the correct ratio, though. And quite frankly I can't think of a good way to collect such data.
Also, going back into 1997, from the newsgroup postings I read it seems Apocalypse did have a following, most notably Robert Fermier who was one of the three founders of Irrational Games, together with Ken Levine and Jonathan Chey. By the way, when it comes to the "Irrational doing X-COM" rumors, I did a lot of searching back when I first heard that and one thing I can definitely say is there's quite a few fans of X-COM in Irrational including all three of the founders. Plus, a good deal of the Canberra team consists from the Microforte team which worked on Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel. With all of that taken into account, I can definitely picture this as a possibility.

As for Interceptor, Alliance and Genesis, there's a good three-part interview with Dave Ellis on TLO written by cyke. Here's a link: http://www.thelastoutpost.co.uk/games/dave-ellis-early-days
The Genesis intro looks like it would have been great!
There's also an interview with Bob Kathman about Alliance here:
http://www.thelastoutpost.co.uk/games/bob-kathman-reveals-all
Enjoy!

Dreamland Chronicles indeed looked like it was X-COM 2.0. There are still some things that are not clear surrounding its cancellation, so I can't really say more. By the way, I think it was Titus who actually canceled it, and if I'm not mistaken the man in charge was none other than Herve Caen. If you don't know who he is, ask the Fallout fans. :D

When it comes to Chaos Concept's UFO: Extraterrestrials, I have to admit I haven't noticed a lot of people saying that it was too much like X-COM. I do remember the time around its release, and one of the first things that turned a lot of their potential customers off were the "immortal soldiers" as an attempt to prevent players from constant reloading in order to save them. I heard there was also criticism about the recruiting system and criticism that pertained to the game economy, i.e. buying and selling equipment. However, I hear that the game has since been modded (Bman's mod) to be more like X-COM which got some interest from the fans.

I wouldn't say that the fans don't want a new X-COM game, and each of the many "remakes" has gotten attention from parts of the fan base. My personal favorite right now is UFO: AI, but it still has a long way to go. Still, it looks the most mature and is in some aspects even better than X-COM. Still being an open source fan project, you can't expect things like destructable terrain, and it isn'ta one-on-one copy, but its future definitely looks bright right now. UFO: CF has some nice design, especially the excellent music, but it's still early in development.
What I think most people don't realize though, is that even making a straight update of the original would not be an easy task. How many 3D games do you know with "fully" destructible terrain and random maps? I don't know any, and it seems like a difficult task. Add to that the fact that some things would not pass these days (interface!) and you'll see why developers aren't jumping on it. It's not impossible to make a good spiritual sequel though, but you need to give it love and you need to understand what is it that makes it so good. :)

That we consider the game to be flawless would be incorrect. Not to go too much into the subject, I'll just mention it has stability problems, balance problems (PSI!), setting/story problems, interface problems (no hotkeys, doesn't remember squad equipment between missions) etc. etc.
But all that doesn't matter, because despite some issues, the gameplay was superb. Randomly generated maps, destructible terrain, tense atmosphere, R&D, base management, the ability to rename soldiers are things that made it so good that a lot of us still play it. I have intentionally left out the combat engine, which was superb, and although it could be improved, there's not a whole lot of games these days that could compete with it. There's just so many little things about it that most people are not aware of. For example, if you destroy the roof of one of the 2-story farm houses, the floor under it would get lit differently on night missions. A few of the fans are digging through the tactical game, and it's really amazing how many things there are in it (I think it's all documented on the wiki). Still, Apocalypse has shown that it can be further improved, though the combat in Apocalypse suffered from some of its own problems as Nick Gollop notes.
I think the main reason that we ignore some of these flaws despite being well aware of them is that it was basically made by two guys, and it was quite a complex game that more than made up for all its shortcomings. For me it's the same thing with say Fallout, Serious Sam, the original C&C, Planescape: Torment and my other favorite games. While there hasn't been a game in my book that deserves more than a 90% rating (although I dislike ratings) each of them more than makes up for its shortcomings to me. :)

It would actually be quite interesting to really dissect each of the X-COM games, there's a lot that could be written about the good and the bad sides of each game, but one never has enough time sadly.

Well, that's all from me.
Cheers,

Gimli
StrategyCore staff
(www.strategycore.co.uk)

P.S. Mr. Au, I noticed you said there were more quotes from developers, would you mind PMing me with those, I'd be most interested in reading them. :)

So yes, X-Com is far from perfect, as anybody who has played it lately can tell you. One quirk is that nostalgia is often better than reality. For instance, consider that TFTD was better than the original in many ways, but what fans remember is the emotional impact of the original and the emotional letdown of TFTD (and to some extent, Apocalypse). I guess that means that fans really want an emotional successor to X-Com, which isn't created by simply replicating the feature-set or improving the graphics.

- Alan

Yes, TFTD is a very mixed bag. As an end product I tend to look at it as the second episode of the same game, rather than a full fledged sequel. Still, it was marketed as a full sequel by Microprose which is their own fault. TFTD is like the big, bad brother of UFO Defense. I remember reading an interview somewhere with one of the TFTD developers who said something to the effect of: "You think it's tough? You should have seen it before we made it easier." Actually, that would make sense, because thanks to UFOPaedia we know for example that the Hallucinoid was going to have a freezing ranged attack which wasn't in the final game, but I guess they forgot to cut it.
I really loved the inclusion of melee weapons into the game, those were quite useful. The music was a lot better than in UFO and there were some memorable aliens. I think to this day the Lobster Man is the trademark of X-COM, closely followed by Chryssalids and Ethereals. But the Lobsters could just take so much more punishment that virtually everything below the Sonic rifle was useless.
I also think that the terror sites with the 5 alien species strike squad was a great idea.
The single biggest complaint I think was those dreaded shipping routes where all the flaws of the combat engine really "shined". The funny thing is that, as much as Apocalypse got a fair bit of criticism from some, it actually got rid of a lot of flaws of the old combat system. Remember the overpowered Psi? In Apocalypse it was toned down quite a bit, with the amount of time units the alien would have under your control depending on your agent's Psi power, so you'd never get to have the alien's full TUs. Your agent also had to make visual contact which prevent some unfair strategies from the first two games. Hehe, I remember making chains of aliens under mind control which I would use to clear the map. The trick was to keep the aliens in each other's sight and then just MC the first one. The second one would then be in his view, so you'd MC him, then the next alien would be in his view and so on. By carefully moving this chain around the map you would need only one of your own units in the field which drastically reduced the death toll. But that was kind of a cheat, so it was good that it was gone in Apocalypse.
Also, remember how everyone hated searching for that last alien, especially in the TFTD shipping routes? It was for the most part gone in Apocalypse, all thanks to the exit arrows and the fixed AI which would seek them out once you killed most of the aliens, and the remaining alien or two would flee.
The reaction system was also heavily improved, with the aggressiveness controls which meant that you could assign your rookie who was a poor shot with the least aggressive behavior, and when he spotted an alien, he wouldn't try to shoot him, he would hide. Things like this gave you even more tactical options.

I think that if you combined all the best features of each game's combat system, and added a bit more to them, you'd have a real beast of a tactical engine.

As for Apocalypse's RT mode, I do think it was good on its own, but I guess the problem was that the tactics were more headfirst, whereas the first two games were a lot more stealthy, going from cover to cover, because if the aliens could see you even the best armor didn't ensure survival.
In other words, the RT system was good, it just didn't fit X-COM's style for a lot of people.

Not to go even more into the games, I can definitely say this: each of the games had some really good ideas coupled with some not so good ideas. I think in the end UFO remains the favorite for the most part due to being the first game to seamlessly combine a global base management game with a tactical squad based game.
But in the end, I can also say that there is still a lot of room for improvement in X-COM, which was shown by each attempt to copy the game. Altar's UFO series added a lot to the base management part and also introduced skill specialization which is a great way to create a team in which everyone has his own role, be it medic, sniper, engineer or demolition man. The open-source UFO: AI has added better research reports that sound a lot more authentic than X-COM's ever did. Recently I got an idea that it would be cool if the aliens also responded to your ships on the map. You may have noticed that the aliens never initiated interceptions of their own. Then you'd have to send a transport and protect it with a fighter craft, which would force you to think more about your actions in that area. Imagine my surprise when I fired up the new UFO: AI build and sent a transport to a crash site, when all of a sudden it came within range of an alien vessel which happily shot it down.

In the end the biggest problem I think is that if you go and do a direct sequel, you'd have to have destructible terrain and random maps and show some improvements, otherwise as you said, people would just go back to the old games. I saw a post on the Quarter to Three boards (I've been waiting since December to get my account validated there, lol) by one of the now defunct Iron Lore developers who said that this would mean a budget of at least 8 million dollars which goes hand in hand with what I heard about the Dreamland Chronicles' budget which was at 10 million at the time and reportedly climbing when it was canceled.
The somewhat sad though understandable thing is that those who would be willing to do this either don't have the money to pull it off or have more than enough money but are focused on more mainstream games (such as Blizzard).

I guess that X-COM is just one of those lucky games that as you said was made by the right team at the right time published by the right company.

Is it all so black? Well, I honestly couldn't say. There was a report in one of the recent Game Informer issues which said that TFTD was selling really well on Steam and that a chance of a new X-COM game is 99%, which brings hope.
The biggest problem with TFTD and X-COM right now is that the Windows (Collector's Edition) version doesn't work in Vista, and with no source code it looks like in a few years we may not be able to play the games anymore, except for those who have the DOS versions which can always be run in DOSBox. It seems that Infogrames/Atari didn't get the source code from Hasbro, and now Take 2 (current owner of the X-COM IP) doesn't have a way to make the game working on newer systems. The only ones who might have the source are the developers, but even that is a long shot.

Cheers,

Gimli

stevesan:

CanadianWolverine:

stevesan:

how about X-Com with multiple planets, new vehicles and weapons that actually change gameplay, new armor-types straight from the get go, new deployment methods (paradrop?), new gadgets (invisibility, CoH-style buildables?), and new enemies (some HUGE enemies, flying aliens, etc.)? i think that would be a sequel worth playing and buying.

OMG, I would so buy that. I think you just got my Alpha Centauri mixed in with your XCOM. :)

w0rd. i only played Alpha Centauri for a lil bit, but yeh, half-way between AC and XCom could make for an interesting game. really take X-Com's multi-level gameplay to the max...

Upon reading this post again as I was looking at the new excellent posts, for some reason that had me thinking of Star Control 2, which can be found as Master of Uraquan (spelling?) now, and Galactic Civilizations 2.

Come to think of it, as Dancing Muton mentions, in some regards, even though it may not seem to be the case at first glance, I think we have had other really special games like XCOM which were it 'spiritual successor', then and even to this day. I really do think being willing to mix and match what a developer sees as being the best parts from different genres allows for a better game. I wouldn't be surprised if today's developers have been inspired by games like XCOM and those who ignore it's lessons do so at their own game's peril. I really do hope XCOM history (and other extremely fun but unfortunately poor sales numbers games) does get dissected, so more developers learn from it and improve upon it.

I'd say that the true failing of UFO: Extraterrestrials was that it wasn't true enough to the original. The problem was that while it was an X-Com clone (which was what it was sold as and what we wanted), it tried to be unique at certain points which killed the illusion.

What was wanted was essentially "X-Com (Now with new graphics and Windows XP compatability!)"
But what we got was that but with a number of changes to the way the game was played that ruined the illusion. Things like the "immortal soldiers" change basically removed the ability to really manage your team, and the micromanaging and detailed strategy involved in setting up and running your bases was essentially removed. This was a shame as that was one of the nice things about the old X-Com games.
One of the drives you had to go after ufos in X-Com was in order to stock up on Alien Fuel and other materials you needed to either build new equiptment or keep your new alien-tech ships in the air. In UFO:ET, the only thing you can really do with the salvage from ufos was to research it then sell it. This removed alot of the motivation and strategy that helped drive the game in it's 2nd half.

It was a nice try, but they simplified it far to much to make it a true clone, which proved fatal.

Oh, I just recently played Star Control 2. From what I can tell, there wasn't an article on the game on the Escapist, and it definitely needs some love. :)
Since the impressions are still fresh, I'll just copy what I said on another forum:
The moment the intro started I knew this was one of "those" games, one of a kind, one that is truly a work of art. The way the title faded in and that sound that accompanied it which reminded me of a beating heart really struck a chord with me. After the intro I flew my ship to Earth and was immediately greeted by the Ur-Quan leaving a very strong impression on me given their appearance, their dialog filled with threats coupled with intimidating appearance and music. I was notified that the Earth was under an impenetrable shield which the Ur-Quan placed around it after they forced humans to be their slaves and blew up every trace of technology, throwing humans into stone age. Still under impression of that I continued to the orbital station which was in need of repairs. Risking my neck on the hostile Mercury I return with the materials, notifying the commander there that the Moon base is empty, and right then an Ilwrath ship closes in on the station and I am forced to fight.
All this happened in the first five minutes of the game. First. Five. Minutes. Think about that ladies and gentlemen. How many games have managed to draw you in like that?
There were so many little things that made the game fun: the humor, the battles, the interesting races, but for me the single most impressive thing was how it threw surprises at me at every corner. I had just won over the Zoq-Fot-Pik and was done mining. I opened the map to go home when all of a sudden they disappeared from the map. Then there was the time when I had convinced the Thraddash to attack the Kohr-Ah. Even though I had already seen quite a bit of weird stuff in the game, I still couldn't believe it when they started traveling across the map.
On a somewhat related note, I noticed there was a petition for a new game, but so far it doesn't seem to be going well.

X-COM has a lot of fans, not just among gamers, but developers as well. Did you know that Diablo was at first modeled somewhat after X-COM? In fact, in early builds it was TB, not RT. I think however that for Diablo RT was the perfect choice.
Which reminds me, "Diablo - the game that wasn't" would be an interesting article. There is quite a bit that was not in the final product. There was a website dedicated to that and it has a lot of information about some great quests and characters that sadly got cut due to time tables. At one point I had all that information about Diablo and its sequel in my head and I can say it's one of the better worlds in games. There is a lot of thought put into it and the missing information I got on Diablo has filled in the blanks somewhat. For example, remember the Summoner (Horazon) in the Arcane Sanctuary? I used to think that he was totally out of place and wasn't really fit into Diablo 2 all that well, but it turns out he was planned for Diablo 1 and there is a lot more information on him. Could be that Blizzard is planning something for him in Diablo 3. Well he's dead obviously, but he has a brother. ;)

@thenightgaunt Have you tried Bman's mod? Reportedly it makes the game much more like X-COM. You know, now that I think about it, I don't recall the game ever having a public test version. It seems to me that it's a common mistake of new developers. Really, I think a lot of these problems could have been fixed has there been a public beta. Too bad. :/

Dancing Muton:
:/Could be that Blizzard is planning something for him in Diablo 3. Well he's dead obviously, but he has a brother. ;)

Pfft evil never dies :P anyway the world stone was destoryed cutting off the world.

Stab Lobstermen, don't shoot them :-)

sTeVE

Alan, good article but I have to disagree with you about UFO: Extra-Terrestrials.

The poor reception was not because it was 'too much like the original', but rather that it was a direct but inferior copy the original. Ok, it runs on the modern OS, and has 3d graphics, but otherwise it has lower quality and less (functional) features.

-When it came out, it lacked decent interface elements like hotkeys.
-It was generally very buggy (I don't want to over-generalise, but you know how these eastern-european games often turn out).
-It did not allow you to build a second proper base (only the first base had all facilities).
-The randomised tactical maps were made from limited pre-fab elements, and were extremely repetative (to the point of not feeling random at all).
-The destructibe terrain was bizzarely tuned - a single bullet or two from an ordinary rifle would destroy an entire wall section (the original required heavy weapons to destroy walls).
-The alien AI was weak.
-The graphics were better in the sense that they were modern 3d, but the artwork was very poor - they looked to me like the models were made by students. The animation was also very weak - the walk cycles were very stiff. The original's 2 frame sprite walk cycles were less of an eye-sore because they were rough and fast. ET's were slow and bad.
-The research results (ie, the story delivery) were bad transaltions from the original (czech was it?) and were presented in small font in a tiny window - which could easily have been much bigger (the original had full screen reasearch results, with evocative pictures).

I could go on and on, but my point is just this: UFO:ET was not 'like X-Com' .. it was just a bad, sad, amateurish imitation.
If a real, quality X-Com remake came along, it would get a much better reception than UFO:ET did.

Khell_Sennet:
Real nice article, very accurate on all points. I myself fall into a rare niche where I LIKE sequels to be just the same game with new maps/units/graphics. I got X-Com as a birthday gift ages ago, and fell in love with it. TFTD was later released as a shareware demo in PC Gamer Magazine, and I fell equally in love with TFTD. Problem was, I never could score a copy. Along came Windows 95 and my favorite DOS games wouldn't work anymore, that was when I stopped playing X-Com. UFO:E was a godsend to me, and I love the game to death... It IS very similar to X-Com, but thats WHY I love it.

XCom remains one of my favorite games and this article was excellent. There is an excellent solution for those like Khell who want to pay old DOS games ... DOSBOX

http://www.dosbox.com/

Runs under Windoze as well as Linux. About twice a year, I fire up DOSBOX, start a new XCom game and once again take my frustrations out on Snakemen.

CanadianWolverine:
Do you know why its hard to do a different kind of XCOM? IMHO, it was because XCOM was one of the early hybrid games, genre spanning ... interestingly enough, it seems like other games either already or destined to be classic are very hard to class as being just one genre of game.

These days in games we are constantly seeming to get our peanut butter in with our chocolate - that RPG has a bit of RTS, that RTS has a bit of RPG, that FPS has a bit of RPG, and they all borrowed heavily from the dearly departed Adventure games or the casual platformer. Because of that, you could do XCOM again these days, just be sure to let us blow up the walls, build those secret bases where we want, play up those squad character building, and research a the booty we steal to use in interesting "human" ways.

Since one of my biggest problems with XCOM these days is just getting it to work at a reasonable speed, kinda hard to intercept a UFO when they only appear on the screen in the blink of an eye, since I haven't found any of those programs that supposedly slow your computer down to actually work, if someone would take the original and just make it work at the right pace for today's computers, I would play it again.

UFO: Extraterrestrials - I thought this version doesn't let you blow up structures, build bases around the world and research or maybe I have that mixed up with a XCOM mod and missed out.

I should have mentioned above that DOSBOX has a parameter that allows you to set the number of cycles given to the program it is running. DOSBOX itself tries to make a reasonable selection, and on my machine it seems to work just fine. I have an AMD X2 dual core processor running Ubuntu 8.04 at 2.0 gHz. XCom under that runs just slightly faster than the old DOS version, and is quite playable. YMMV

I still play Ufo Defense, Terror and Apocalypse regularly when the notion takes me. For nostalgia's sake, I still enjoy them as much as I did when I first played them, though, admittedly Apocalypse took a hit and after getting it again on Steam I found it not to be what I recalled it to be.

But as for Interceptor, the article was spot. On. That game stunk.

In relation to UFO: Aftermath and it's kin. On the one hand, it's not the worst series of games you could play. But still, the creature and level designs are dull and uninspired. I mean: Fungus Aliens? And mutated earth animals? Think of all the interesting shapes and forms they could have come up with. And what did we get? Floating potato monsters. Yay :\

Personally I haven't played Extraterrestrials, but judging by some of the comments here I'm glad I gave it a miss.

And for a proper sequel...I don't see what's so hard about it. I mean, taking the original: The game was dark and bright. It was scary, and colourful. The aliens were terrifying at times yet almost like cartoons. It shouldn't be so hard to do a simple artwork update, nor, tweak the tactics a little and use a modern engine.

But...I guess like the article says..that'd probably be sticking to close to the original formula. Just don't get what's so bad about that...I'd settle for a bumped up carbon copy if it were still good.

I feel like I belong in this thread

Ah, X Com. So very well thought out. Very fun and challenging AI, pulsing music that is simple and works for the game. I go back to this game all the time. If I see anything new or recreated from this without any of the details messed up or milked like crazy, I'll enjoy it. If someone were to change it even the slightest bit, it might not work out.

I have a hard time accepting that it is Nostalgia considering I still play Master of Orion 2 and X:Com quite frequently.

Basically anytime I find myself amidst the morass of billion dollar "just enough" modern day video games I slip back into a few older much less expensive titles.

Xcom provides a wonderful atmosphere and the unusual nack for making me care about my characters. I give them a name and now I care. When people die on me in XCom (and it does happen) I am left deeply sad.

One of my favorite things to do if I know someone is going to die is to go out "like a hero", grasping onto a high explosive with 1 turn to explosion and dashing towards the enemy as close as I can.

Once I get alien grenades it is a pretty good way to send my heroes off in style.

I bought X-com 1 & 2 when they first came out, and continue to struggle with windows as it updates to play the originals, its sad and its obvious to me why there has not been a decent sequal, first of all enough with the FPS games or RTS games, keep x-com the way it was originally,. heres my list of things they should do to make a successful x-com sequel who knows maybe someone will listen. (I'm sure you all have some.)

Story related
1.) Earth should be the primary focus, because we all want to defend earth.
2.) It should take place after the events of UFO, and TFTD
*-Since there are still aliens alive, after the destruction of their masters, we should
have some alien refuges that join the x-com ranks when you hire soldiers. (sectoid human
hybrids were in Apocalypse)

Geoscape
1.) You should have access to both the surface of the planet, and the ocean. and be able to
construct bases in both, which both can yield different research opportunity's, and
manufacturing benefits.

Missions
1.) There should be multiple mission types, not just kill the aliens win a prize. escort
missions, or rescue particular people. like protecting a cruise ship, or cargo
vessel(TFTD), or protecting a high ranking political official his family and home, etc.
(The Ufo trilogy has some of this)
2.) The environment should remain destructible, much like it was in the first 3,
(Apocalypse I likes some of the effects in this such as fire burning the upper floors)

AI
1.) Aliens shouldn't be so fly around and do nothing, attack you when it suits them. Aliens
Should plot different ways to attack you, and new mission types should result, for
example, Capturing an alien commander may reveal that the aliens are comprising a
biological weapon and a delivery system to target humans in some way, so you have to
infiltrate their lab, and destroy it. things like this, the aliens should plot new ways
to attack you when they don't succeed in a full force alien attack.

Battle related
1.) When Aliens attack your base, and vise versa. you should have to attack the ground level
to gain entrance to the base before you enter the underground level. (TFTD at least had
this with regards to the aliens) this would allow you to then develop exterior defense's
other then those that you would use to shoot down their craft.
2.) Alien ship combat should allow you to auto-resolve (Like heroes of might and magic),
reason being, I love the combat, but theres so many alien crafts. its annoying to have
to do them all especially when you have tactical superiority, 20 guys vs a scout craft.
is annoying, If there was more mission variation it would be ok.

Unit Related
1.) You should be given the choice when your soldiers level up, where the points go.
(Ufo: Extraterrestrials, Ufo Aftershock, Aftermath, Afterlight all had this)
2.) You should be able to train your troops. not just for psi-training. but weapons
training and piloting of vehicles. (Ufo Aftershock, Aftermath, Afterlight)

Equipment Related
1.) Tanks and Vehicles should not be useless, they take far to much damage in all the games
Including the new ones. for the cost of 4 units in your drop ship, they should be worth
4 units. and you should be able to select who is piloting the craft. vehicles should also
have multiple damageable parts. wheels, treads or legs being destroyed should result in
the vehicle not being mobile, which adds the dimension of having someone with an
engineering skill.
2.) Cybernetic Implants should also be available to increase your stats slightly or give you
new forms of vision to detect aliens (Ufo: Trilogy)
3.) New forms of equipment should be avalible such as the ability to have a flying or aqua
scout craft, with higher movement, but low health, no attack. to allow you to do
reconnaissance on the maps.

I'm not saying this would make a perfect game, but I'm saying if you want to find out what would improve the original game, and make a fitting sequel the game developers should check out the already vital fan community of the original's, and from that figure out what would make good additions to the game.

Zombie Thread!

X-Com available on Steam. $5.00

And a quote from a PC game magazine, "Don't name one of the soldiers after you, thinking you'll protect him, and he'll be a total badass. The aliens always know."

 

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