Julian Gollop created X-COM: Apocalypse at Mythos Games in 1997. For decades he has been creating turn-based strategy games that affect fans.
He started Snapshot Games in 2013 with David Kaye, and they are now ready to launch Phoenix Point, a turn-based strategy game and 4X strategy (explore, develop, exploit and exterminate) for the XCOM franchise (of which Firaxis owns ) is not gone yet. Gollop's idea was to take back some early concepts and accompany them.
You must use a squad of elite soldiers to fight an extraterrestrial threat that can adapt to your choices. The game has reproducible battlefields generated procedurally. You must properly position your soldiers on a battlefield grid. And when your soldiers shoot, the view goes from a descending camera position to a third person fight view.
I briefly played the game at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), and then I interviewed Gollop and Kaye. The solo game will debut in September on PC (Epic Games Store) and Xbox One (it will also be on Xbox Game Pass).
Here is a transcript of our interview.
David Kaye: We started Snapshot Games in 2013. Phoenix Point is our second game. We started working there about three years ago. Regarding the genesis of the game, Julian wanted to return to his genre probably the most successful and most appreciated, XCOM. It was the very beginning.
GamesBeat: Has there been crowdfunding on this project?
Kaye: Yes. Project history – we collected our first funding through Fig. We raised about $ 1 million, roughly 50-50 between investment and rewards funding. It helped us start growing the team. After that, we have an agreement with Microsoft. It will be on the Xbox Game Pass, which will be released in September. Then we went through an institutional round of funding for Snapshot itself. Starting funding from Greycroft, John Goldman arrived early, doing a pre-seed, and then Tencent arrived and led our control tour last year.
The last thing to do is we signed an agreement with Epic earlier this year. The game will be launched exclusively on the Epic storefront for the first year, also in September.
GamesBeat: So it will be both on Game Pass and on the Epic store?
Kaye: Yes. In September, it will be launched on Game Pass, in Microsoft and Epic Games stores. It will not be on Steam.
GamesBeat: It seems that people do not get tired of this type of game XCOM.
Julian Gollop: It's a popular type of game. We thank Firaxis for restarting the franchise. This shows that this style of play is really very popular. From my point of view, it's great because I want to evolve the idea of XCOM for many years. Phoenix Point is really a step forward from what I have already done. I've had some new interesting ideas about procedural generation of aliens and enemies, about their mutation and adaptation.
The most involved strategic layer – it's more about simulating this apocalyptic environment. You have different human factions with which you must interact. They each have their own ideologies, technologies and ways of dealing with the problem of aliens. It gives the player four possible ends to the game. One pursues your own research, your own path, but the other three possible purposes allow you to join one of these human factions. You can choose their particular solutions to the extraterrestrial invasion, which are all very different. This gives you a different story each time.
Players have interesting choices as to who to partner with, who to oppose. You can not maintain an alliance with all the time. But you can do interesting things. You can steal research from one, combine with another to get their research and combine all that. You can steal resources. At the same time, you have your own research and manufacture. You need to find bases and build them so you can recruit large-scale staff. It is very similar in this respect to the original XCOM.
GamesBeat: I've noticed that you are entering this view in the first person when you are about to shoot.
Gollop: This is an innovation in the tactical system. First-person view is a free-view mode that allows you to target individual body parts. You can make tactical decisions on how to attack each enemy. When you get a very big monster, like a multifunctional battleship with all these different limbs and weapon systems, and that it spawns other aliens or that it launches fog bombs or other, you can choose a specific target.
GamesBeat: There is a bit of Fallout.
Gollop: Yeah. It adds some interesting layers to the tactics, which is not in the current incarnation of XCOM.
GamesBeat: It's also more attractive for players who want it.
Gollop: I've always wanted to do something like this. Even about 20 years ago, when I was working on a project canceled at the time, called Dreamland Chronicles, we were experiencing this first-person view of body parts. We were doing this game for Virgin Interactive, which was bought by another company – I think it was Interplay at the time, and then Titus – and the project was canceled. But I wanted to go back to this idea and some of the ideas I was developing in XCOM Apocalypse, which had this idea of several organizations in this city, with their own economies and agendas, and you interacted with them.
I liked the idea of underlying systems in the game, creating a living world-like situation. Even if, as a player, you do not interact with it, things still happen. The factions are still pursuing their own goals. Phoenix Point is very much built around these ideas. In this sense, it is less linear than the Firaxis XCOM, which gives you a simple path to follow. Phoenix Point, you have more interesting choices to make as to directions.
GamesBeat: Their role is more simply to choose the battle to fight.
Gollop: Well, and somehow minimize your strategic layer to get the best resources so you can advance the scenario.
GamesBeat: I think I've generally managed to mishandle this game. I've accidentally managed to forget a lot of things.
Gollop: It's hard. It's a tough match. XCOM games have earned the reputation of being quite difficult. It suffers from this problem where you are either behind the curve, the extraterrestrial progression curve, or you are ahead of the curve. If you fall behind, it can make progress very difficult. It makes things very difficult.
GamesBeat: How are you trying to adjust such things, the most difficult parts of the XCOM model?
Gollop: We are trying to solve this problem by making extraterrestrials and other factions more or less adaptable in some way to what you do. If you are extremely effective in your battles against aliens, it will literally encourage them to mutate and react to their defeats. They will introduce you to a new challenge. On the other hand, if you are not so good and the extraterrestrials are wiping the ground with your squads, they have no reason to mutate, because they are doing very well. This adaptation is integrated with the way the enemy reacts at the strategic and tactical level.
GamesBeat: Is a veteran soldier as valuable as in XCOM?
Gollop: Yes, there is inevitably an element of that. The fresh recruits you hire, you can treat them like cannon fodder. This is usually not a good idea, as your access to recruits may be quite limited. Again, it depends on the systems to a certain extent. You must get your recruits from other human factions. If they're all hostile to you, that's a problem. You will not have any source of recruits.
But you have to make sure your characters are experienced and trained. Your experienced soldiers will be very valuable. You do not want to lose them. You must deploy them because you must earn these missions. There are different routes. You can build training facilities to train your recruits relatively safely, but this is slower than sending them to battle. There is a compromise there.
GamesBeat: How many hours of play are there in the main campaign?
Gollop: The critical campaign will be around 30. To a certain extent, it depends on the player, the way you play. It's not a fixed number of battles. It's more dynamic than that. As I said, enemies tend to react to the way you play. If you are a little slow as a player to advance your forces, the enemies will also progress a little more slowly. It's the nature of the way they go.
The game will eventually force an end. You can not stay indefinitely because extraterrestrials build all these structures around the world and level them. They have an ultimate goal. If you do not intervene to stop this, you will lose the game. But there is a certain element of choice of the player in the speed with which you want to progress.
GamesBeat: Do you have projects beyond the initial release?
Gollop: Yes, we have planned a whole series of downloadable content and many free updates. We will interact a lot with our community regarding areas to be improved and developed.
We have published four support releases up here. Our early access contributors have been playing for just over a year through various upgrades. This has already given us a lot of feedback from the community. The idea will be to continue this approach after publication. It's not like we're going to stop updating the game. The DLC content will cover a lot of new content, new areas of the game, new purposes. It's a very dynamic gaming system. We can build on this world that we have created in interesting ways.