OpenXcom Interview

by on 18th May 2011

In past years we have seen many X-COM-like projects rise and almost as many fall. Seeing a project coming along nicely, with new results being presented regularly is really refreshing. So we asked project leader Daniel, aka "SupSuper", a few questions on OpenXcom, an open-source reimplementation of the original X-COM.

SC: Thank you for taking the time for an interview with StrategyCore. We take pride in having our roots in pure X-COM fan-based web pages so seeing a project like yours brings tears of joy to our eyes!
We will not start with a question like "why X-COM", the answer is all too clear; because it ROCKS. But still… why recreate something that is already made and readily available?

D: You're right, the original is still alive and well in its DOSBox shell. If you ignore that you're limited to 80 items per mission. And when aliens attack your base you often have to fend yourself off with just dozens of electro-flares. And sometimes you research the wrong thing and end up stuck. And your soldiers have a tendency to take the worst path possible. And sometimes your weapons don't work exactly the way you intended. And if you're lucky you might hit a memory limitation or a crash.

That's what made me realize recreating something that's already been made wasn't such a bad thing. It's been done before, and the XCOM fanbase is nothing if not devoted to the original, so why not take advantage of that? Plus it keeps us distinguished from all the other remakes.

SC: Ok, we are convinced! When were you infect… err, first came into contact with X-COM?
D: Well my memory ain't what it used to be sonny... but I remember first running into X-COM: Terror from the Deep when I was younger, probably around 10. Back then, I couldn't make a lick of sense out of it: “What are all these weird gibberish words? Why are all these markers floating around a globe? Where is my money going? Everyone is angry at me! My dudes are being brutally murdered by invisible aliens! This sucks! I love it!”

Since then, the X-COM games have become my favourite videogame series of all time. I’ve joined the many legions of X-COM fans around the world, all with their own feverish opinions of why X-COM rules.

SC: Aaaaahhh, thank you for bringing out our childhood memories, too. In what ways do you plan to surpass the original?

D: I plan on turning it into a modern-day FPS about a gruff down-on-his-luck space marine who has to fight off the alien menace and save the universe. Realistic physics, cover system, deep intricate plot, bloom, what's not to love?

Oh you mean OpenXcom? Well a lot would argue that you can't surpass the original, but what the hell, let's do it anyways. All those nasty bugs and crashes? Gone! Item limits, soldier limits, transfer limits? Get outta here! Play it on whatever platform you want? Sure! Keyboard shortcuts, auto-sell, grouped interception, soldier pre-equipping, right-click doors, improved pathfinding, game modes and more? Why not!

Of course everyone has their own idea of what would make X-COM better, so we'll be taking a very careful approach to not mess with the core gameplay and keeping everything modular so users can customize it as they see fit. Fans range from hardcore purists to creative dreamers, and trying to please them all is just insane, so we prefer to leave it up to them to decide how they wanna play. This doesn't mean players have to make their own game though. If you just wanna play the original X-COM out of the box, you can do that, but if you wanna take it further, you can do that too.

SC: I guess we're not as purist as we thought, those are all features we'd love to see! Another field where we always wanted to see X-COM improved upon was AI. Our alien foes knowing the locations of all our squad elements after turn X (turn 20 in the original) is a pretty cheap AI tactic. Do you plan on evening the playing field by adjusting this kind of thing, and maybe improving the AI in other, less campy, ways farther down the line? 

D: Messing with the AI is a very delicate issue. Yes, it's true the original is a ruthless cheating bastard that will stop at nothing to make you cry for your mommy, but I'm sure most fans wouldn't have it any other way. We might improve the AI where we can make it less “cheap” without removing the challenge, but it's integral to the gameplay that you're fighting against terrible odds and have to work your way up. Instead we'll probably tweak the difficulty levels to make sense, since there was barely any difference between playing in Beginner or Superhuman.

SC: We see there's an effort to make things as open as possible for modding. How easy would it be, for instance, to add a new race or a new type of UFO to the game?

D: We're gonna put all those game elements separate from the code in external YAML files, so adding in a new race or a new type of UFO or any other "gameplay element" will be as simple as grabbing a text editor and just adding in whatever new stats you want. Tying it to new graphics will take more work though, since currently OpenXcom is very hardcoded to the original game graphics.

SC: Which platforms will be supported? It would be very interesting to have this ported to iPad and iPhone (Objective-C/iOS) so reaching unprecedented tactile goodness. Is this possible without much hassle?

D: The classic Windows/Mac/Linux trio is supported, and fans ported it to Dingoo and Android so far. I'm not familiar with iPad and iPhone development but OpenXcom runs on SDL which is very portable, so I wouldn't be surprised if it worked there too without much hassle.

SC: Do you have plans of perhaps later growing this project into a completely new game?  

D: While it could be modded into one, there are no plans to turn OpenXcom into a completely new standalone game. The whole XCOM-basis is the heart of the project.

SC: How is progress coming along for Version 0.3 - have the aliens been smoked out yet?

D: Currently you can buy weapons, equip them into your craft, send it out to a crash site and have fun shooting aliens, blowing them up or setting them on fire. The aliens won't react back though... just the way we like them. Hopefully we'll get it out in a few months for people to mess around with.

SC: Can the still-existent X-COM community help you with your project in any way?

D: Sure. We're not experts at everything, and no doubt the community knows a lot about how the game works that we don't. Feel free to share any valuable insight you've got that we may have missed.

Even if they're not that X-COM-obsessed, they can still help improving OpenXcom with testing, programming, porting, translating, etc. Just check the website for details.

SC: Will the finished version of OpenXcom need the original X-COM installed?

D: Yes. Later we might extend it and get the community to help provide an alternative, but probably only after the finished version. Plus are you honestly gonna tell me you don't have at least 10 copies of X-COM just in case? Really? Go hang your head in shame.

SC: What is the estimated release date for OpenXcom?
D: While OpenXcom will be continually developed and improved over-time, I'm sure the  "release date" everyone's interested on is v1.0 when the game is fully playable from start to end just like the original. Nothing definitive, but hopefully we'll reach that milestone in a year or two at most, don't wanna drag everyone's expectations out.

Many thanks for answering our questions, Daniel. We admit a year or two seems a long time but fans have stayed true to X-COM for much, much longer. Waiting a bit more for things we always wanted to see in the game we love is hardly a problem, especially since you're doing all the work! :insert evil laughter here:

So, StrategyCore members, lurkers, stalkers and the rest of our regulars, for news check out OpenXcom's homepage and you can always ask how to make it all get completed faster in the forum, too.


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Space Voyager\
21 Jun 2011 - 12:07pm
Space Voyager
I was... recently... :blush: reminded that there is a video of openXcom testing on YT.

Looks just like the original.
Space Voyager\
28 May 2011 - 5:17pm
Space Voyager

SupSuper, on 28th May 2011, 4:39pm, said:

as a long-time X-Com fan I'm pretty skeptical of myself too. :)
:P :) :)  

Thanks for dropping by!
28 May 2011 - 3:39pm

SGCSG1, on 26th May 2011, 8:31pm, said:

There are two problems with these 'fan based' things.   One, they never get finished.  Two, they always ramp the difficulty up to ridiculous levels.  

If it makes you feel better, as a long-time X-Com fan I'm pretty skeptical of myself too. :P
Space Voyager\
27 May 2011 - 12:04pm
Space Voyager
I agree, that would be pretty nice! Also it would allow OpenXcom to be stand-alone. SupSuper's goal is recreation of the original (minus flaws) so IMO original art is probably obligatory.
27 May 2011 - 11:48am
I would really like to see the "Ufo The Two Sides" game put its reworked graphics under an open source licence (Creative Commons, CC-BY-NC for example) so that they can be reused inside OpenXCOM ! So you could play with all the goodies of the original XCOM with modern graphics !
26 May 2011 - 9:52pm

SGCSG1, on 26th May 2011, 8:31pm, said:

There are two problems with these 'fan based' things.   One, they never get finished.  Two, they always ramp the difficulty up to ridiculous levels.  


Lets be optimistic :P I've got a good feeling about it getting finished and I don't see why the difficulty would be different of the original one. In contrary, all bugs of the original one that made it more difficult will be gone.

26 May 2011 - 8:42pm
Yes. This is most excellent. I can play it natively on my system just like the good old days! :P
26 May 2011 - 7:31pm
There are two problems with these 'fan based' things.   One, they never get finished.  Two, they always ramp the difficulty up to ridiculous levels.  



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