XCOM: Enemy Unknown Interview With Firaxis' Jake Solomon
Last fall, Civilization developer Firaxis treated fans to XCOM: Enemy Unknown, the critically acclaimed console and PC strategy game that pits humans against aliens. In a surprise move, 2K Games elected to port this title to the App Store, so to learn more, we spoke with Lead Designer Jake Solomon.
How did XCOM wind up on the iPad?
XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a natural fit for the kind of "game-anywhere" style that works for iOS. The game's turn-based approach to combat works very well because it gives you time to consider the possible outcomes of each action. The tactical missions are discrete entities, and paces well with the strategy layer back at headquarters. I'm really happy 2K made the decision to bring the game to iOS.
Why is this a great move?
We love XCOM: Enemy Unknown! It's such an awesome game, and we want as many people as possible saving the world. XCOM: Enemy Unknown is the kind of game we love to play, and we feel like mobile is ready for the kind of game we're used to making here at Firaxis.
What role did you play in adapting XCOM to the iPad?
The game is based off the gameplay code we wrote here at Firaxis. I was able to help on the adaptation by providing feedback about the interface changes.
What challenges did the team face in bringing the game to Apple's tablet?
There were some technical challenges that had to be considered in getting the game to run on the hardware, along with the interface needing to be redesigned. It's very cool to see that this is essentially the same game from PC and consoles running on this new platform.
Did you cut any corners in development? How close is this to the console version?
This is very, very close to the console version. Some of the graphics may differ slightly because of the hardware power, and there are a few maps missing, but the gameplay is exactly the same as it is on PC and consoles.
Does the iOS edition have any exclusive features?
Not at present. It's just very cool to have the main game coming to such an unexpected gaming platform.
How do the controls work?
In some respects, it is very similar to the mouse and keyboard interface for PC, but with additional refinements that take advantage of the multi-touch screen. For example, you rotate the tactical camera by twisting two fingers. There are buttons for the menu items, rather than hotkeys. But it's something you can pick up and play right away.
How do you plan to support XCOM following its release?
I know 2K is extremely excited about bringing XCOM: Enemy Unknown to iOS and seeing how the audience will respond to this sort of new game experience. What they learn after the launch will inform how we move forward with post-release support.
Is there any sort of integration with the console version?
No, there isn't.
Having played XCOM on console and mobile, which platform do you prefer?
I don't really have a favorite platform, honestly. Mobile's perfect when you're out in the world travelling or sitting in a waiting room, and then when you're home and in front of a giant TV with really great sound, nothing beats a console.
Now that the Xbox 360 and PS3 are nearing the end of their respective life cycles, do you think we'll see more of those games being ported to smartphones and tablets?
It's certainly possible, and that would be very cool. I've got a few games I wouldn't mind seeing make that jump to the mobile platform!