XCOM: Enemy Unknown Has Permadeath For A Reason

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XCOM: Enemy Unknown Has Permadeath For A Reason

Difficulty is "like heroin" in the XCOM universe.

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"I guess it's like heroin at some point," joked Jake Solomon, lead designer on Firaxis' XCOM: Enemy Unknown project. "You need the hardest shit, and you keep wanting more and more." He was talking about challenge, and how some things are sacred in the XCOM universe, permadeath being one of them. The way he tells it, you need a factor like that to make the game worth playing. Otherwise the whole thing's less of an achievement than it could have been. There's a place for narrative-driven games, but that place isn't where XCOM needs to be.

In its heyday, the XCOM franchise was about managing resources and the consequences of making mistakes. The enemy was out for blood, and if you wanted to beat them, you had to be just as clever and ruthless as they were. This, says Solomon, is what Firaxis' contribution to the franchise is all about. "If there aren't real consequences there," he says, "then you can't have real successes either."

XCOM features turn-based combat against invading aliens, where your squad either tracks down the threat and neutralizes it, or faces the consequences of failure. Real consequences means that when resources are spent, they're gone for good; when friendly NPCs get discouraged by your lack of success, they abandon your cause. That means the player has to fight for every victory. On the other hand, the adrenaline rush the player gets when they make the right choices and see the results play out is what will keep them coming back to XCOM, like junkies in need of a fix.

"In terms of the game's mechanics," says Solomon, "you need to make sure you have things like permadeath." So expect to feel a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when you realize that the only equipment you have that can hurt the enemy is on the corpse of a squaddie that's being covered by the enemy's sharpshooters, but comfort yourself with the knowledge that clever planning and resource management will turn things around for you. Or as Solomon puts it "that's what made games like XCOM special."

XCOM: Enemy Unknown is due out October 9th, 2012.

Source: Gamasutra

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Fox news headline: X-COM IS HEROIN
SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN

The X-Com series is intriguing me with all the discussion about it. It sounds like exactly the kind of strategy game I could get into if I made it past the learning curve.

I got X-Com: Terror from the Deep recently, but I'm kind of confused, and I have no idea what I'm supposed to be doing. Is there a noob's guide to X-Com somewhere? I haven't even found any aliens to fight yet.

Unfortunately I feel like either this feature is not going to be in the final game, or the game is going to be too difficult on launch.
Why? Because of the much maligned four squad members thing, oh and each squad member can only fulfill one tactical role.
So if one of your squad members dies, your tactical capabilities are diminished in a way that would never happen if you could simply bring along more people, which is -not- the good kind of difficulty, it's the "%*$& YOU!" kind of difficulty that makes a game -suck-.

Nah, they'd go even further with the hyperbole and just straight up shriek "VIDEO GAME DEVELOPER ADMITS VIDEO GAMES ARE LIKE HEROIN, THE TOY MAKERS HAVE GONE TOO FAR!"

Wait, was there ever a question about removing the permadeath? That's what makes X-COM what it is. There's nothing better than carefully nurturing the lowly soldier that you named Bruce Campbell into an alien-destroying badass, only to have him suddenly get gunned down as he turns a corner.

It's tragic and rage-inducing, and that's what makes the game so great.

I am a bit concerned about the "only 4 squad members" business, though.

If a Firaxis game was going to be compared to heroin, I'd have assumed it would be SMAC.

hazabaza1:
Fox news headline: X-COM IS HEROIN
SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN

I wish I could 100% believe that that would never happen. However, experience shows otherwise.

This, says Solomon, is what Firaxis' contribution to the franchise is all about. "If there aren't real consequences there," he says, "then you can't have real successes either."

I like this design philosophy.

MPerce:
I am a bit concerned about the "only 4 squad members" business, though.

I believe it actually starts at 4 and can be extended to 6 through proper researching. Also I don't think that 4-6 person cap includes stuff like the tracked robot shown in the trailer.

toomuchnothing:

MPerce:
I am a bit concerned about the "only 4 squad members" business, though.

I believe it actually starts at 4 and can be extended to 6 through proper researching. Also I don't think that 4-6 person cap includes stuff like the tracked robot shown in the trailer.

I hope this is true; I definitely miss the 10-person squads from the original.

Tradjus:
Unfortunately I feel like either this feature is not going to be in the final game, or the game is going to be too difficult on launch.
Why? Because of the much maligned four squad members thing, oh and each squad member can only fulfill one tactical role.
So if one of your squad members dies, your tactical capabilities are diminished in a way that would never happen if you could simply bring along more people, which is -not- the good kind of difficulty, it's the "%*$& YOU!" kind of difficulty that makes a game -suck-.

Well that's what makes it challenging, isn't it? Work to keep your squaddies alive and it's a bit simpler. If one dies, your job is tougher. Don't let them die!

I don't think there will ever be a scenario in the game where one type of unit is vital to your success, assuming you leveled your team fairly evenly, so you probably wont find yourself in a full stop moment. If you're smart, you can come back from that.

Tradjus:
Unfortunately I feel like either this feature is not going to be in the final game, or the game is going to be too difficult on launch.
Why? Because of the much maligned four squad members thing, oh and each squad member can only fulfill one tactical role.
So if one of your squad members dies, your tactical capabilities are diminished in a way that would never happen if you could simply bring along more people, which is -not- the good kind of difficulty, it's the "%*$& YOU!" kind of difficulty that makes a game -suck-.

I imagine you can hire another one at a lower level after a mission. At least thats how it worked in the other games. It would still be a setback but not necessarily a game breaking one. To me the change sounds more like they want to discourage reloading, in the same way they do in Civilization for instance.

Perma-failure works best in games when the setback can be overcome.

XMark:
The X-Com series is intriguing me with all the discussion about it. It sounds like exactly the kind of strategy game I could get into if I made it past the learning curve.

I got X-Com: Terror from the Deep recently, but I'm kind of confused, and I have no idea what I'm supposed to be doing. Is there a noob's guide to X-Com somewhere? I haven't even found any aliens to fight yet.

You may be able to get a few hints from this playthrough:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zj_-NvyXU-4

The basic idea in both games is that you advance time until you spot a UFO/craft on the map, then you try to shoot it down with interceptors. If it crashes or lands you use the transport craft to fly to the landing site.
You need to assign people to the transport craft and give them equipment first. Another important step in the beginning is to assign scientists to a research project.

If you got those first steps covered, you should be able to figure out more details on your own.

Play on a very easy level first, and if you find it too easy restart the game at a higher difficulty. Terror from the deep is very hard compared to the first one.

I am interested in this game but am perturbed by the steep learning curve it possess.

Such games need comprehensive and complete tutorials in game, a commodity poorly lacking in today's market.

In addition, what is meant by 'perma-death'? I thought it was common practice for soldiers killed in action to stay killed, unless your playing Mount and Blade with a high surgery skill.

I never played X-Com but this description seems to put the game in an interesting quandary. "Back in the day" games were made particularly challenging partially to draw out the play time you might get from the game. Once you were good enough at Contra or Super Mario Bros., the games could be beaten in a couple of hours depending (much less for SMB). Today, gamers expect easier games. It seems like the developers are going to be torn between making the game accessible to a wider audience and satisfying those with memories of the older games.

Of course, to me the biggest problem this game faces is that I've already played Frozen Synapse.

Karloff:
Difficulty is "like heroin" in the XCOM universe.

Duuuuuuuuuuuuude make RTS not FPS.

I hope they have a res option like if you take a medic into battle they can bring squaddies back up.

Because honestly I dont want to suddenly have one cheesy attack obliterate half my army.

Hey, this hyped me a bit. Apart from The Secret World, I've seen no other game set to launch this year or next that interested me more than just "I'll wait and see". This almost turned X-com into a definite purchase for me now. Thing is, I've always been an X-com fan and expected this reboot to be fanrape, but I guess I was wrong? Unless someone have heard about other game features being fanrape?

XMark:
The X-Com series is intriguing me with all the discussion about it. It sounds like exactly the kind of strategy game I could get into if I made it past the learning curve.

I got X-Com: Terror from the Deep recently, but I'm kind of confused, and I have no idea what I'm supposed to be doing. Is there a noob's guide to X-Com somewhere? I haven't even found any aliens to fight yet.

You really jumped in at the deep end there (pun unintentional but brilliantly relevant). TFTD is seven shades of ruthless darker than the first one. There can be long periods of apparent inactivity due to only having a short range radar at the start.

Beware of night missions. The aliens do not suffer from the same reduced field of vision as your squaddies do. They can, and most definitely will, shoot you from deep into the darkness. Bringing flares can help a bit but night missions will always be much more dangerous than those taking place during the day.

Bear in mind that you will probably have to play and lose several games until you find success. Also beware of a potential bug with the research tree. Researching certain technolgies or enemies before others can put the game in an unwinnable state.

Bostur has it pretty much spot on.

DVS BSTrD:

Karloff:
Difficulty is "like heroin" in the XCOM universe.

Duuuuuuuuuuuuude make RTS not FPS.

Outside of Apocalypse X-COM was never a RTS and it shouldn't become one. Fraxis is making a turn based squad strategy game like the original. There is also a shooter in development by another company but that got pushed back at least a year and may end up dying for all we know. So w00t for October 9th and I want this game on Steam.

SacremPyrobolum:
I am interested in this game but am perturbed by the steep learning curve it possess.

Such games need comprehensive and complete tutorials in game, a commodity poorly lacking in today's market.

In addition, what is meant by 'perma-death'? I thought it was common practice for soldiers killed in action to stay killed, unless your playing Mount and Blade with a high surgery skill.

Based on their previous interviews the entire first mission is a lead by the nose cinematic tutorial that introduces players to a lot of the elements of combat and shows them a good chunk of their squad dying. So hopefully that works without hurting replay value too much.

As for perma-death X-COM is built around two interlocking gameplay mechanics. You have tactical battles where you deploy soldiers to deal with aliens, in most games these would be considered separate missions. Then you have macro issues which include building out your base, researching technology, manufacturing new weapons, intercepting UFOs and managing your budget. In the original you also had to sort out where to build new bases, but apparently Fraxis is sticking with a single base which you decide the location of after the tutorial.

In the original gameplay went sort of like this:

Game Starts
1. Place your Base on the Map; The location of your base affects your ability to find UFOs as these can only be discovered by your base's radar (I think they're getting rid of this).
2. Build new facilities, start researching new technology, buy weapons / ammo and hire new troops and scientists because your starting stuff isn't good enough for long.
3. You detect a UFO and either shoot it down and deploy troops to the crash site or you get your new stuff then do the above.
4. A group of 10 troops (or 6 plus a tank) show up.
5. You hunt down and kill the aliens. If you're lucky you lose 2 troops or less. If you aren't your tank is destroyed as soon as it leaves your craft and you lose even more men.
6. Once your initial research finishes start researching alien technology. Odds are you do want to keep laser rifles (in the original) for a while but you need the tech for body armor.
7. Intercept and deal with other small UFOs.
8. Near the end of the first month a terror ship shows up causing your first terror mission (where you have to protect civilians from aliens) unless you get REALLY lucky and intercept it. If your dealing with floaters smile, if your dealing with sectoids (little grey men) tough it out and hope you brought enough firepower to deal with cyber disks. If you're dealing with snakemen cry because that means you're most likely facing Chryssalids with rifles.
9. Random UFOs continue to appear over the course of the game, activity continues to rise, larger ships show up, nastier aliens show up and your base may be attacked by the aliens, but this doesn't always happen in a game because they need to find your base before they can attack it. I don't think the new one has base attacks because they only give you one base, but I could be wrong.

As all of your squad members level up as time goes on this makes it very different from a lot of tactical RPG style games. For example in Freedom Force if you lose a hero in a mission the hero is just KOed and unavailable in that mission, but you will still have them later. Likewise in a game like Mass Effect if a squad member is killed you can wake them up after the battle (or possibly during it) to keep moving forward. However in X-COM if a squad member is killed then that's it. All of their leveling and training goes out the window and you need to replace them with a fresh rookie without any of their special abilities in the next mission.

There are also a few ways to lose:

1. Go into debt for too long.
2. Have all of the nations of the world pull out of the X-COM project.
3. Lose all of your bases due to alien attacks.
4. Lose the Final Mission

I'm guessing they're removing some of those loss conditions in the new game, and I wouldn't be surprised if they made managing finances easier because most gamers don't enjoy accountant simulators, but who knows.

SacremPyrobolum:

In addition, what is meant by 'perma-death'? I thought it was common practice for soldiers killed in action to stay killed, unless your playing Mount and Blade with a high surgery skill.

I really do not get what they mean by this. It is pretty standard in RTS games that when an unit is killed, you have to build a new one to replace it.

Are they going to remove the Save Game option? "Save scumming" was quite popular in the original X-Com. If a mission went really bad, you would just load the game and try the mission again.

This seems like a lot of hype over nothing.

Nielas:

SacremPyrobolum:

In addition, what is meant by 'perma-death'? I thought it was common practice for soldiers killed in action to stay killed, unless your playing Mount and Blade with a high surgery skill.

I really do not get what they mean by this. It is pretty standard in RTS games that when an unit is killed, you have to build a new one to replace it.

Are they going to remove the Save Game option? "Save scumming" was quite popular in the original X-Com. If a mission went really bad, you would just load the game and try the mission again.

This seems like a lot of hype over nothing.

Most RTS's don't allow non-hero units to level however, and those with hero units that do level like Warcraft 3 often allow them to come back to life. It does look save scumming is a valid option in this unless you play a game in iron man mode which disables the save feature for you and apparently auto-saves every turn. That said Fraxis is playing up the hype with this, but at least for me it's working. :)

TJ Johnston:

toomuchnothing:

MPerce:
I am a bit concerned about the "only 4 squad members" business, though.

I believe it actually starts at 4 and can be extended to 6 through proper researching. Also I don't think that 4-6 person cap includes stuff like the tracked robot shown in the trailer.

I hope this is true; I definitely miss the 10-person squads from the original.

The thing is that in the original UFO unless you really worked at spreading your XP out you would generally have a 6-8 man squad of competent guys and then another 10 or so door openers/grenade detectors who you might, might trust with a pointy stick if they didn't look too feeble brained.

It was largely a function of the fact that a Faceless Goon was so cackhandedly rubbish at absolutely everything that as soon as a couple of them made a few lucky shots and got their accuracy up it was best to use them for all shooting ever.

So actually, small squad size where your guys start out borderline competent is probably going to lead to more interesting and less gamey play.

Otherwise the whole thing's less of an achievement than it could have been. There's a place for narrative-driven games, but that place isn't where XCOM needs to be.

I understand the point he's trying to convey, that there is no narrative in X-com itself but I don't think there has been any other game in the history of gaming that has given me the oppertunity to build my own narrative as I play.

With the ability to customize my character and name them after my friends made it a very personal and nerve wracking experience when your best buddy was pinned down and you were unsure if you were going to make it in time!

Yeah, with a lesser focus on clown car tactics and each soldier actually having enough basic training to hit something, there's less risk of death overall, but more losses incurred when your specialization goes up in smoke from bad luck or bad decision.

I'm fine with this. The only change I want to XCom's difficulty is to change the learning curve into a curve instead of a punch in the face.

If this game doesn't sell well, this kind of classic 90s computer game is going to be basically fucked forever though.

Wait...

They are giving the game to a design team that understands what was appealing about an old series they are rebooting?

STOP THE PRESSES! D:

A little clarification here. By "permadeath", we just mean that if someone takes a fatal injury, they aren't going to be Phoenix Downed back into the storyline, yes? As per the original X-Com, that is- dead is dead, and if you care that much, you're going to have to load an earlier save point.

'Cuz- don't laugh- I played a couple of games designed by sadistic bastards back in the day wherein if characters died, they saved that status- that is, even when you reloaded, they were still dead. And I really never found that particular quirk endearing.

tmande2nd:
I hope they have a res option like if you take a medic into battle they can bring squaddies back up.

Because honestly I dont want to suddenly have one cheesy attack obliterate half my army.

One thing that the original Xcom taught me. "Oh fuck dont cluster!"

Not G. Ivingname:
Wait...

They are giving the game to a design team that understands what was appealing about an old series they are rebooting?

STOP THE PRESSES! D:

Its true. But it is also rather sad that such an attitude is actually a thing in todays gaming.

Callate:
A little clarification here. By "permadeath", we just mean that if someone takes a fatal injury, they aren't going to be Phoenix Downed back into the storyline, yes? As per the original X-Com, that is- dead is dead, and if you care that much, you're going to have to load an earlier save point.

'Cuz- don't laugh- I played a couple of games designed by sadistic bastards back in the day wherein if characters died, they saved that status- that is, even when you reloaded, they were still dead. And I really never found that particular quirk endearing.

Don't worry, you can save characters back into existence. The devs mentioned doing this a few times during play testing during their interview with Angry Joe and The Spoony One.

Perma-death? Perma-death!? FUCK YEAH! I've been waiting for a challenge like this, BRING IT ON! URGH!

image

Hes right: I am going to love the extra difficulty that comes with training a mook into a full blown Commando Badass, only to have him die by having his guts ripped out by a Berserker in the last month before I destroy the last of the aliens, And then I will feel like a prick because I made a stupid move that got him attacked in the first place.

It reminds me of Tom Clancys: Endwar, except taken further. In Endwar, you could respawn your unit as long as one squad/vehicle was still alive....Not now.

so...I can snort games?

tmande2nd:
I hope they have a res option like if you take a medic into battle they can bring squaddies back up.

Because honestly I dont want to suddenly have one cheesy attack obliterate half my army.

If they keep the wound system from the original then the purpose of a medic (if there is one) won't be to bring soldiers back to life, because dead is dead, but to prevent soldiers from bleeding out before the mission ends... just like it should be. :)

BOOM headshot65:
image

Hes right: I am going to love the extra difficulty that comes with training a mook into a full blown Commando Badass, only to have him die by having his guts ripped out by a Berserker in the last month before I destroy the last of the aliens, And then I will feel like a prick because I made a stupid move that got him attacked in the first place.

It reminds me of Tom Clancys: Endwar, except taken further. In Endwar, you could respawn your unit as long as one squad/vehicle was still alive....Not now.

In Xcom if your team goes down, the enemy gets the ship they took to get there as well.

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