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Every week, Richard Cobbett rolls the dice to bring you an obscure slice of gaming history, from lost gems to weapons grade atrocities. This week, what if the nations of the world decided to forget the X-COM project and just have Robocop fight their alien wars for them? It might work! In 1994, a game was released called UFO: Enemy Unknown. You may have heard of it, or even now be mid-way through its inaccurately named remake. (Psst: They're Sectoids!) It was followed by several sequels and spin-offs - Terror From The Deep, which was much the same only much harder and rather more blue, X-Com: Apocalypse, which wasn't half bad... even if it wasn't finished, and X-Com: Interceptor, having a valiant if ultimately unsuccessful attempt at a space-sim spinoff. And then there was... this. A game that even now, X-COM fans just usually agree not to talk about - a game that betrayed the series, its heritage and the fan base to such an extent that even saying the words "X-COM: Enforcer" can... can.... BLEURGH! Oh, damn. Those were new shoes. But was it that bad? Now the pain has faded, maybe it's time for a retrial...
XCOM: Enemy Unknown was revealed yesterday, a modern remake from Civilization developers, Firaxis. Tremendously exciting news for fans of the classic original, but what if you never played it? Steam and Gamersgate have you covered. You can get the XCOM Complete Pack today for a fraction of its original price. That means you can grab X-COm: UFO Defense, X-COM: Terror From the Deep, X-COM: Interceptor, X-COM: Enforcer and X-COM: Apocalypse for just £2.49 on GG, and £3.05 / $5.09 on Steam. Blimey. There's just six hours left on the Steam deal. Go go go!
In 2000, six years after its release, X-Com: UFO Defense had sold 470,000 games and made the Gollop brothers just over £1 million in royalties. But, according to Julian Gollop at his GDC post-mortem of the game - it nearly didn't happen. Twice in the project's development it faced cancellation and, for a brief while, it was officially dead. Sure, had it not been revived we'd have been spared from Enforcer. But at what cost?
Every year, thousands of games are pitched, hundreds are released, and just as many... simply vanish. In most cases, we never even hear about them. Sometimes, the code can be on the verge of hitting the shelves, only for the company to fold or the publisher decide to cut their losses. We've been on a nostalgic trip through our back issues to remind ourselves of the ones we were most disappointed not to get the chance to play, both because we thought they were going to be great, and because we just really, really wanted to see what the hell some of our favourite developers were working on. Here's our list. Share your biggest non-release regrets in the Comments...
Julian Gollop interview: on X-Coms old and new, the Ghost Recon strategy game that never was, AI, auteurs and "Fork My Fruit"
Julian Gollop is a 27+ year veteran of the industry. He can list classics like Chaos, Laser Squad and, of course, X-Com, on his long career resume. As Firaxis successfully reboot X-Com for modern audiences with Enemy Uknown, Gollop has donned indie threads to pursue a current remake of his multiplayer wizard-duelling game, fittingly named Chaos Returns. I caught up with him for an affable chat about his work on the original X-Com, progress on the new Chaos game, and his thoughts on how the great machine of modern development compares to the tiny teams in operation during the turn-based-strategy boom.