Firaxis on XCOM: Enemy Within – New, Old and the Future

Along with a first hands-on experience of XCOM: Enemy Within, the recently revealed second leg for 2K Games’ XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Electronic Theatre was granted the opportunity to sit down with Anand Gupta, lead designer of this new content. Discussing XCOM: Enemy Within and the […]
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Electronic Theatre ImageAlong with a first hands-on experience of XCOM: Enemy Within, the recently revealed second leg for 2K Games’ XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Electronic Theatre was granted the opportunity to sit down with Anand Gupta, lead designer of this new content. Discussing XCOM: Enemy Within and the future of the XCOM franchise, Gupta was clearly very confident of the product that his team at Firaxis are creating.

You can read Electronic Theatre’s hands-on preview of XCOM: Enemy Within right here, and the full transcript of our interview with Gupta follows below. Electronic Theatre will keep you updated with all the latestElectronic Theatre Image details on XCOM: Enemy Within and other titles from the XCOM videogame franchise.


Electronic Theatre: So how did the XCOM: Enemy Within project come about?

Anand Gupta [AG]: So, in practice we like to make big expansion packs for our games. You’ll find that the types of game we make, like strategy games, are very layered and very nuanced. For those it makes the most sense to make big expansions so after XCOM: Enemy Unknown what we’re seeing is that an expansion is something fairly straightforward to pitch to 2K Games on doing, so we were very happy to be doing it. And XCOM is sort of ripe with possibilities for expansion so it was a lot of fun brainstorming to figure out what we were going to do.


Electronic Theatre: So has it been difficult to decide where the line between downloadable content (DLC) and expansion is drawn?

AG: Yeah, I would say that that is definitely something we had to figure out and something we had to figure out with 2K Games. And especially because XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a console and PC title and so console players are not really accustomed to expansion packs but I think that they will like this one quite a lot.


Electronic Theatre: So we’ve seen the Mec Troopers what else are we likely to see in there?

AG:  So you saw the Mechtoid, which is one of the new enemies that we’re putting in. Many new maps, many, many, many new maps; our lovable design and environment teams were very… they kind of went nuts with many maps! And in addition to that lots of new items, tactical options; you saw the needle grenade in the demo? When you played hands on you got toElectronic Theatre Image see the gas grenade, the flash bang grenade you may have seen and the mimic beacon; those are actually just a few of the things we’ve added. We’ve also added a lot of new foundry tech. Did you play the original very much?


Electronic Theatre: Yes.

AG: So the foundry we’ve added, this is something I feel was a really good thing we could do in an expansion because we added a foundry project called tactical rigging. Tactical rigging is… you buy that and you get – everybody gets – a new inventory slot, so now all your soldiers get two of the choice slots and your support, who normally gets twin first slots at major rank, instead of getting a third slot now adds one extra charge, one extra use. So that’s a super fun addition and that really lets player enjoy all the new expansion content while also not being forced to say, ‘well I really still want my scope.’ So now you can still have your scope and the new stuff.


Electronic Theatre: So all this new content you’ve got, obviously on the console version this’ll be included on the disc. Is this content back dated or…?

AG: Yeah they’re all there together. Think about it like a Civ expansion, where you still have the great sweep of history from the stone age to near future, but now you have the chance to create a great new world. And so we’re taking the same Electronic Theatre Imageapproach; it’s the same alien invasion and there’s a lot of prequel. It’s not an additional episode on the end: it is same alien invasion but with more stuff, it’s bigger, it’s the same stage, more actors, more props, more sets.


Electronic Theatre: So on the console version when you put the disc in the tray is it separate from the menu?

AG: It is not, on the console option. You put in the disc, you are playing XCOM: Enemy Unknown. On the PC, because we require the original to be installed on the PC, you will get the choice: you can play XCOM: Enemy Within, which is the campaign with everything or you can play your original campaign which is just…


Electronic Theatre: So will you be able to use the original saved data for consoles?

AG: No. No and one of the reasons for that is we introduce a large amount of stuff right away. You know, you’ll have access to the maximum amount of content very soon into the campaign, and as a result somebody who reloaded a save would probably be several steps behind professionally, so that would kind of be a disadvantage for the player.


Electronic Theatre: They will have also presumably have developed the team in the way they want which wouldn’t necessarily gel with starting afresh.

AG: That’s correct.


Electronic Theatre: So out of all the newer additions, what is personally your favourite?

AG: Oh, that’s hard. So I think the whole idea, the core idea of XCOM: Enemy Within was so fertile for a great many things to do, so here with the Mec Trooper and Gene Mods, the idea that the enemies are in the bodies. You are no longer merely wearing armour and weapons that is based on their tech, now you are actually taking their technology or their DNA and Electronic Theatre Imagebringing it within your soul. I think that the fact that we were able to come up with such a great idea for an expansion, that then gave rise to a whole other bunch of ideas, many of which we are announcing in the future is what I’m happiest about.


Electronic Theatre: So we’ve seen the cover destruction and free fire, will we get that ability right at the start, or very near… ?

AG: Yeah, you will get that all Mec Troopers that can destroy cover with free fire near the start.


Electronic Theatre: How do you think the fans are going to react to such a significant change?

AG: Fans of the original 1993 game I think will be gratified because they, free fire was something you could do in that game, but something we did not give in XCOM: Enemy Unknown. And we had our reasons for doing that but it made a lot of sense on the Mec Trooper, as a mini-gun wheeling… that mini-gun make a lot sense as something you could free fire and take cover. And say I know there’s an alien behind that wall, I’m taking that out. I need to take out that mutant; he is in full cover… now he is not!


Electronic Theatre: I personally couldn’t get enough of the flamethrower.

AG: The flame thrower, yes! So the point for it is, something we actually pulled around the flame thrower in the original but we could never quite get it to gel with the rest of the… it didn’t quite work. So once we had the Mecs as a concept it made a lot of sense and it was a lot of fun. The flame thrower – it has limited shots but it does a lot of damage – it causes enemies toElectronic Theatre Image panic which is something that’s pretty handy and it has the skill of a mechanic where you have a cone, but it also spills into square and this is another way of beating cover, where I can use that spill over stuff to get burn tiles that the Mec can not see.


Electronic Theatre: So when the original XCOM: Enemy Unknown launched there was a huge debate has to how it would perform at retail, and when it did come to launch everyone expected a dozen copy cat titles…

AG: I definitely think that there have been other studios that have taken some inspiration from XCOM. They just haven’t come out yet, like I’m personally looking forward to Incognita, which is sort of an espionage idea that they talked about a little while ago and they said they were big XCOM fans and they wanted to do something similar. We love criticisms but we also love when studios say we are taking great inspiration.


Electronic Theatre: Your move to iPad was met with a great response…

AG: Yes, we and 2K Games are very happy with that. I think we’ve made some progress and it’s showing that first of all that the iPad is an ideal platform for strategy. People are already realising that, there are so many strategy games for iPad, I sort of Electronic Theatre Imagereally made sense for us to say well, we know the iPad is a good platform for strategy, we will see if people want a really big full feature translation of the game and we’ve been very happy with it.


Electronic Theatre: Is there the possibility of another platform like Windows 8 and Android?

AG: That I don’t know, I know that that is a discussion that 2K Games will have. I think 2K Games is a very good publisher partner to have in terms of maximising the spread of titles and so they will discuss that.


Electronic Theatre: Presumably down the line you’d want to bring XCOM: Enemy Within to mobile formats?

AG: I would love for all that to happen.


Electronic Theatre: Do we have a launch date for XCOM: Enemy Within?

AG: Yup, XCOM: Enemy Within will be out November 15th internationally, US is three days earlier. It’s PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Mac.


Electronic Theatre: How do you feel about the fact that the next-generation will be following shortly after that?

AG: It’s nice. I’m glad there is a new generation of consoles. But an expansion pack obviously makes sense to expand on what we’ve already produced. Competitively we won ‘Game of the Year’ awards for XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and I thinkElectronic Theatre Image people will enjoy seeing the expansion for a game that they will get potentially just as much play as they did on XCOM: Enemy Unknown, when they see value and critical acceptance I think…


Electronic Theatre: Where do you see the future of XCOM lying?

AG: We are always discussing ideas about where to go next. I think there’s always a very creative atmosphere there but we haven’t decided anything.


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