X-COM Colonization Interview

by on 25th Aug 2006

What's your name and position in this project?
Along with Ivan (Bulma at this site) I'm one of the original members of the team so I'm one of the project coordinators.

I mostly work on storyboarding for the project and most of the initial concepts start off with me, be they weapons, aliens, missions or a host of other things.

How many people work on it?
Between the project beginning and now we've had literally dozens of people join and leave the project; communication is less than easy with members from every part of the world! Currently we've just moved sites so the team is effectively being recreated from scratch. So far only the coordinators have found their way to the new codeplex site but once we get around to telling others they're bound to turn up eventually!

What is XCom : Colonisation?
Colonisation is a further expansion of the XCom timeline that brings a lot of aspects of the other games together and clarifies a lot of what's come before it. So many people have tried UFO remakes and parallels but no one really tries to expand on the franchise so that's what we're doing. This particular game is actually a prequel to the other titles and effectively it will give the player a chance to witness the Ethereal genesis story. As the game plays out we'll see more and more links to the future of this newly evolved alien race, some more obvious than others. Even the ill-fated Enforcer title has been borrowed from for Colonisation!

Why are you making XCom : Colonisation?
It doesn't take a genius to see that the fans want a new XCom and although there are similar titles being released and a host of projects being worked on by the hardcore XCommers amongst us, it's just not enough! Like I said previously, most of the projects we're seeing in development at the moment are more remakes than expansions on the original timeline. This is why we've decided to make Colonisation. It's not an easy undertaking but if we can provide the fans with a new XCom game true to the original franchise, it'll all be worth it!

What's the background story of XCom : Colonisation?
As I said, Colonisation is a prequel to UFO and other XCom titles and so it takes place before any of the games we already know. Significantly before the original games in fact! Any XCom fan will be able to quote to perfection the UFO end game. That is of course the alien brain claiming that Mars was once a paradise like earth and that it was they who seeded Earth all those years ago. Colonisation is set approximately 65million years before UFO and is played out on that paradise planet that the brain spoke of. In its simplest form, the game follows a human-alien civil war on Mars but there is of course much more to it than that! During the course of the game the player will get to see exactly what the brain was lying about and what was true. It's going to be a real eye opener to anyone who's played the original games! A more in depth background story can be found in the Project Colonisation forums on this website.

How far along are you?
Currently the programming side of the game is going along very well; we already have a working battlescape demo and a very early and limited Martian Geoscape. Both are either already downloadable via links in the Colonisation forum or they soon will be once the move to Codeplex is complete. Graphics are a big and ongoing concern at the moment as of course games have moved on leaps and bounds since Enemy Unknown! While the 3D and 2D artists we have now are fantastic at what they do we need a lot more to get the visuals of the game to the same point as the code and unfortunately people do judge a book by its cover so it's something I'm very keen to move along with!

What do you view as the core gameplay elements of X-Com?
XCom games have always been crafted around several very simple but very different elements. The basic two would have to be the Geoscape for global manipulation and the battlescape for localised missions. Then we have the base management part of the game that divided again into a host of other departments. Base construction was all in the hands of the player as was the hiring and firing of soldiers and staff alike. Equipment all had to be bought in from elsewhere in every game to date and vehicles and aircraft needed ammunition, storage space and every so often repairing and replacing! Research and Development was a massive part of the game as well, without it we'd never have made it to Cydonia at all! Researching new weapons and interrogating captured aliens. Every aspect of every game was finely interwoven with one or more of the others. I think that's what made them so endlessly replayable but kept them so simple.

Will XCom : Colonisation improve any gameplay elements? How if so?
Colonisation will stay as true to the original games as possible, and while that means we won't be making any drastic changes we will be altering several aspects of the game as well as including a few new ones. The only major change from UFO : EU to XCom : Colonisation will be the addition of campaign missions and the removal of a strictly player determined storyline. Whereas in the original games certain research led to certain advances which in time led to the final battle, Colonisation will have many key battles and important missions as well as the run of the mill encounters that we remember so well! Some of these missions will be a direct result of the player's actions; others will occur on a certain date or after a certain level of technology is reached. Other missions may never even occur in a game depending how the player progresses! Research and development will not change significantly but there will be additional facilities owned by the player solely for the purpose of specific research. These will range from laser research laboratories and vehicle workshops to genetic experimentation centres and interrogation cells. The research tree for Colonisation is much larger than those of the original games with over forty weapons in just the starting human armoury. Along with these additions and expansions, Colonisation will also feature over twice as many aliens as the original games, flying, walking and swimming, this time nowhere is safe!

Do you think the project will ever turn into a finished game?
I think I can safely speak on behalf of everyone involved in the project when I say we certainly hope so! It is fun making the game but it would be an indescribable achievement to see the Project Colonisation forum move from the special projects department to the XCom series!


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The Veteran\
28 Aug 2006 - 1:09pm
The Veteran
We are effectively doubling the number of aliens from the original series just by using both land and sea aliens and we'll probably be looking at 100+ weapons by the time we've done the alien ones too...

That isn't as bad as it sounds though, the human weapons come in batches, so each rifle for example has 5 different models but they'll all be very similar to each other with very minor changes to a standard base model.

Alien weapons won't be the same, they'll more than likely be a standard one off mass produced gun, fit for the alien hordes. There will still be a lot of additional weapons to produce though. Human developments, alien developments, we're easily looking at dozens more...

We aren't trying to kid ourselves I don't think and we do realise that if we get to the end of this project it won't be for a good few years yet! But we also don't expect to produce something of S3 or Aftermath quality. This is a fan game and its true to the originals. I hated the way Apocalypse look and I still do, I'd much rather they kept slightly more loyal to the original games with the graphics.

The bonus of making this game the way we are is that we can patch it endlessly so even if we finish it and it looks cack and has no sound we can keep working on it and releasing new source every few weeks. I would also imagine that once people get to see a working game that rings true to XCom we'll find ourselves with a lot more interest and help!
27 Aug 2006 - 4:26pm

Slaughter, on 27th August 2006, 11:21am, said:

I think you should be a little less ambitious with the number of weapons and aliens however. There are reasons why most games takes a full development team two years to make, and modelling, skinning and producing sounds for hundreds of weapons is surely one of them. If you can manage to have 40 weapons in total for the entire game you should be pleased.

About those aliens.

Well, if you all recall, the 1st and 2nd game had about 11 aliens each. In this one, we're thinking of going for 22-23 aliens. And 16 of those comes from across the game series.
UFO, TFTD, Enforcer and a couple from Interceptor.
Some of them have different names and forms and some just have different forms. So you can really get a sense of 65 million years of evolution.
This also means we have about 6-7 new aliens appearing.
27 Aug 2006 - 1:32pm

Slaughter, on 27th August 2006, 5:21am, said:

There are reasons why most games takes a full development team two years to make, and modelling, skinning and producing sounds for hundreds of weapons is surely one of them. If you can manage to have 40 weapons in total for the entire game you should be pleased.
Automation, automation, automation....

The only way to drive the programmer time down (beyond programming practices suitable for small development teams), is to have a suitably artificially intelligent development environment.  Artist time is even harder.

Regrettably, I don't see one out there even for programming.  So I started coding one (with XCOM-likes as one target) in C++.  It's vaporware right now, even with using the Boost library moderately.
27 Aug 2006 - 10:21am
I think you should be a little less ambitious with the number of weapons and aliens however. There are reasons why most games takes a full development team two years to make, and modelling, skinning and producing sounds for hundreds of weapons is surely one of them. If you can manage to have 40 weapons in total for the entire game you should be pleased.
The Veteran\
27 Aug 2006 - 1:00am
The Veteran
We're certainly getting there slowly! Unfortunately that's how all fan projects progress! Slowly! But we'll get there someday even if it's just me and Ivan the whole way :)
26 Aug 2006 - 11:24pm
Nice job, Slaughter! Thanks for taking the time to do a proper interview for this project. Looks like it is progressing nicely! :)

- Zombie


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