X-Com creator Julian Gollop on how he would have designed Enemy Unknown differently, and why it would have failed

Dan Griliopoulos at

It’s well-recognised that PC Gamer favourite XCOM was lost in rights-hell for years until Firaxis rescued it last year. In a charmingly-open interview at GDC, UFO: Enemy Unknown / X-COM co-creator Julian Gollop revealed how he felt about the new game, how he would have changed it - and why it would have failed.

"He was probably worried that I'd come up to him and say, 'Jake, you've been a naughty boy'."

“I would have designed it differently, for sure,” says Gollop, of the new game. “Would it have been as successful as the new XCOM? Probably not. No, I'm afraid.”

Gollop is definitely in love with the new game - “It's great. It's very very good,” he says - but he does admit to some frustrations with it. Talking of Jake Solomon’s work on the game, he says, “He's changed so much. I think he was probably worried that I'd come up to him and say, 'Jake, you've been a naughty boy. What have you done to my XCOM?' but no. It wasn't like that at all.”

Gollop’s first criticism comes from the game’s difficulty level. He himself is on his third run-through the game now, but hasn’t yet finished it or even reached the Gollop Chamber named after Julian and his brother Nick. “Maybe I should try it on an easier difficulty level because I haven't managed to get to the end yet! If there's anything that's a problem with the game, it's that you can be playing it for quite a while without knowing that you are actually completely screwed and you should have stopped and started again.”

"Would I have designed the game in the same way? I would have to say no."

On his first run through, Gollop didn’t pay enough attention to the satellite system - the game’s slightly-obscure funding mechanism. “I think my second playthrough I did a lot better but it got to a point where I could see I was in a bit of a downward spiral, and I just couldn't see a way out of it. I thought, well ok. I've got to restart again. I was losing too much funding. It's quite unforgiving, actually, in that sense... Pretty much every decision you make has to be fairly carefully considered, because there's always a very distinctive trade-off in decisions. I think Firaxis did a really, really good job. If you ask me, would I have designed the game in the same way? I would have to say no.”

Gollop also was slightly critical of the repetitiveness of the mission maps, “I certainly would have gone back to my idea of generators again. I would not have accepted anything less than pseudo-randomly generated maps. I probably would have had more... less contrived elements to it. I felt that the... was it the Terror missions? Where aliens are terrorizing three places. You've got to pick one of them... You're going to definitely lose out somewhere. You have to choose which one you're going to lose. I would have designed it differently, for sure. Would it have been as successful as the new XCOM? Probably not. No, I'm afraid.”

"I would not have accepted anything less than pseudo-randomly generated maps."

He also felt key elements were absent from his design. “The Geoscape is kind of missing. In the original game, the position of your bases - what you put in those bases - was important because aliens were active in particular areas, but the position of stuff in the new geoscape from the new game is actually, irrelevant, really. It doesn't really play any part in the game, so you don't have that. The Interceptors are based in each region. I guess my original game was a bit more simulation-ny and the new game is a bit more board game-y.”

"For years I tried to remake Xcom. With the new one, the urge is gone. That demon’s been laid to rest."

He has less to say on the Missing-In-Action FPS reboot from 2K Marin, which Take Two’s trademark and website actions seems to indicate will be rebranded as ‘The Bureau’. “I think they got some bad reactions on several levels. One was the fact it was an FPS. Secondly, the presentation was a bit... this 1950s style alternate reality thing probably didn't go down too well with a lot of people, either, so it may be they're rethinking that. I'm not sure. Graphically, it was amazing.”

In the time since finishing UFO: Enemy Unknown, Gollop admits, he has tried many times to reclaim the feel of his masterpiece -  but he’s done with that. “For years I tried to remake Xcom. But with the new one, the urge is gone. That demon's been laid to rest."

The full interview will be published this Sunday right here on PCGamer.com.