Firaxis: XCOM is a "very, very big budget game"

Dev responds to dumbed down for console audience concern.

2K pumped all the money and resources needed to make its XCOM remake a triple-A, multiplatform release, developer Firaxis has said.

In an interview with Edge, Julian Gollop, the man who created the ground-breaking turn-based strategy original back in 1994, guessed that Firaxis' effort wasn't "a hugely big-budget title" - based on the first batch of screenshots.

But lead designer Jake Solomon told Eurogamer this isn't the case - and confirmed XCOM as a fully-fledged retail release.

"We're 50, 60 guys, I don't know exactly," he said. "We've been working on it for three-and-a-half, four years. It's a big, big game. It's definitely as big as any game we've ever made at Firaxis. It's huge. It's a bit like piloting a big old boat."

He added: "2K went all in with us. They definitely gave us everything we asked for. This is our attempt to make a very, very big budget game that spans all the platforms."

Solomon spoke to Eurogamer at a recent London event as part of an interview, below, in which he discusses the beginnings of the project, reveals why Firaxis made the game multi-platform, and insists the hardcore strategy experience the series is known for hasn't been dumbed down for console gamers.

Firaxis debuts new XCOM: Enemy Unknown trailer

How did the project get off the ground?

Jake Solomon: XCOM has always been my favourite game, which is not a surprise, me being from Firaxis. So I've always been agitating to make it. But for a long time I worked for Sid. I've been Sid's lieutenant for a long time. I've worked on all his titles. And every time after that, we've talked about, you know, well, we'd like to make XCOM.

But to make an XCOM that's faithful to the original, there's just a lot of elements to it, right? There's things like fully destructible environments, and fog of war, and you've got the strategy layer and the combat layer, base building - things that were a lot easier to do when a game's 2D. When games made the transition to 3D, it actually made a lot of things the Gallop brothers did, that the original game did, it made them really, really technically challenging. People say, how come they haven't made another XCOM? I can tell those people why: because there are a lot of really challenging elements to it.

We kept saying, let's make XCOM. It was like, we can't. This is insane. We need the right tech for it. We need all these things. Finally, it was the sort of thing where the stars aligned and we just decided to go for it.

Was it easy to convince the powers that be at 2K that this was a good game to invest in, at a time when perhaps the genre isn't as big as it once was?

Jake Solomon: In some ways that helped us. Obviously we have the benefit of, we make Civ. We can always point to Civ and say, that's a very big selling game. So they know that if that market exists you can sell buckets.

It's nice to have that in the stable because then we can say, look, we think there's this other title, and it's similar in the sense that it's turn-based, but it's new for the studio because we want to grow as a studio and do this.

The selling point is we can say, this is not like any other game out there, which, you know, can sometimes be scary to people. But 2K is really good about being like, well, okay, that's interesting, we can grow a new market. And they know we've done Civ, and that's done very well for us.

I think they were like, well, okay, this makes sense for you guys, and the fact it [the original XCOM] sells on Steam, and it does really well on Steam, means there is definitely a market for this.

It wasn't the sort of thing where I had to do the hard sell, which actually was kind of surprising. I guess the thing about it is, because it's a genre that stands on its own, it makes it easier to sell the game because you can say, look, this is something different. We think this is going to be something new.

It's PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. Why do console at all given your heritage on PC?

Jake Solomon: It just works. Unlike something like Civ, it's pretty straightforward from an input perspective. Certainly the base is just a lot of UI and selection, so that's not complicated. And in combat, a lot of what you're doing is steering your soldiers around and choosing abilities for them to perform.

There are guys on the team who prefer it with a gamepad. There are guys on the team who prefer mouse and keyboard.

It's the sort of thing that works really well on a gamepad. When we saw that, we saw there was the potential to make a true XCOM - don't have to cut any corners, right? So we're making a true XCOM, and it runs really well on the gamepad. There are guys on the team who prefer it with a gamepad. There are guys on the team who prefer mouse and keyboard.

But there's no real tension between the two input systems and that's because, input wise, it just isn't particularly complicated. We don't even use all of the buttons on the gamepad, because there's not that many things you do input wise in XCOM. It works really well.

Some PC gamers are worried the experience will be dumbed down for a console audience. What message do you have for those fans?

Jake Solomon: I don't blame people. I guess I would just say, I hope being Firaxis and making the PC Civs we have, I hope that can buy us hopefully a little bit of cred.

But also, I'm excited because the more they learn about this game, the less and less that will be a problem. There is a lot we've added to the game. It's not even a question of, what have you cut? It's like, look, we can talk for hours about the stuff we've added.

Like what?

Jake Solomon: Basic things, like a cover system, but on top of that, all the new abilities, all the new weapons, all the new items, all the new armours, all the new aliens. All the original aliens we've given new abilities and things like that.

And so, I can say, truly - and I know, this sounds like marketing - but I can say, truly, we've added far more. We've never lost an ounce of sleep saying, are people going to get this? Is this too complicated? With this game, we just sort of said, look, if we mess around too much it's not going to be XCOM. The original is my favourite game, so I can sit there and say, I think if we make the best game we can, and we have all this depth, XCOM just sort of blossoms in such a way that it doesn't overwhelm you at any point.

It's obviously going to be different than a lot of console games. There's no denying that. We're putting a lot more depth on there than I think a lot of people have seen. And certainly the genre is not one that's represented very strongly. But I don't think that's a bad thing.

For PC players, I am happy to have the argument about cutting things or reducing depth. I'm happy to sit people down and show them everything we have.

My hope is - perhaps na´ve - but my hope is that, because we can say to people, look, for console players this is a new experience. For PC players, I am happy to have the argument about cutting things or reducing depth. I'm happy to sit people down and show them everything we have.

So, just an in depth an experience on console as on PC?

Jake Solomon: Yes, absolutely. We have not changed the feature set at all. There are some things with the PC interface we're not doing with the console, just because we have a little more freedom in terms of the depth of zoom and the ability to show different things tactically on PC. Certainly the interface will be different between the two. So we are doing some things on PC.

But in terms of core game elements and the way you interact, you can do everything on console you can do on PC.

So how is the camera perspective different on PC?

Jake Solomon: It's more you have more zoom. You have a longer zoom. So you can get out even further. On the console you can pull the left trigger to go out. But on PC, you could potentially play at a very high zoom level.

Is XCOM a downloadable game or full retail release on console.

Jake Solomon: Retail release.

In terms of the scope of the project, is XCOM the kind of endeavour, investment and staff level we're used to seeing from triple-A console games from 2K?

Jake Solomon: Absolutely. We're 50, 60 guys, I don't know exactly. We've been working on it for three-and-a-half, four years. It's a big, big game. It's definitely as big as any game we've ever made at Firaxis. It's huge. It's a bit like piloting a big old boat.

For us it's very, very big. 50, 60 guys and girls, three-and-a-half, almost four years in development at this point. Yeah, it's big.

XCOM creator Julian Gallop had some interesting things to say in an Edge interview recently about the budget of the project.

Jake Solomon: 2K went all in with us. They definitely gave us everything we asked for. This is our attempt to make a very, very big budget game that spans all the platforms.

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