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Codex Interview RPG Codex Interview: Julian Gollop on Phoenix Point

Infinitron

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Tags: Julian Gollop; Phoenix Point; Snapshot Games

Of all the members of the oldschool game developer pantheon, original X-COM creator Julian Gollop is among the most admirable. With a career spanning over three decades, he's remained humble and unlike many others has never lost his passion for nitty-gritty game design. These days, Julian and his studio are working on Phoenix Point, an X-COM spiritual successor with some interesting twists, and they're currently seeking funding for it on Fig. Prestigious community member sser, who is a connoisseur of all things tactical and a big Gollop fan, decided to send him some questions. It's a more cursory style of interview than our usual, but I'm happy to have an excuse to promote this game. Here's an excerpt:

So the big question: Time Units or 2-AP or a mix? Lot of folks chomping at the bit to know this one, ha.

It seems to be a really contentious issue. At the moment we have a nominal 2 action system which is extended by two things. Firstly, if an enemy becomes spotted during movement, then movement is halted, allowing the player to react by either moving or firing. Secondly a range of special actions can extend the number of things a character can do in a turn. These cost 'will points'. Overall its more flexible than modern XCOMs, but still keeps the pace of the game relatively high. My concern with a pure Time Unit system is that it can result in the most optimally effective play being very slow, and ultimately a bit boring. There may be other ways to solve this, and we will experiment some more without a doubt.

New-XCOM uses ‘abilities’ for its units, and in Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars you implemented something very similar, with the squad being a toolkit and each squaddie a unique ‘tool’ with abilities directed toward very specific solutions. Will Phoenix Point use a system similar to this or return to the hands-off approach of the original X-Com?

Phoenix Point uses willpower as a key stat. A character's willpower rating determines initial and maximum will points for a battle. Will points are spent on most special actions and abilities. Will points can be lost through injury, morale effects (such as comrades dying or facing a horrifying monster) and special enemy attacks. Forcing will points below zero may cause panic and loss of sanity. Will points can be recovered by resting or through special abilities, such as a leader rallying action.

What sort of squad compositions can we expect in Phoenix Point? And how can we expect the squads to develop on the strategy screen over time?

Squad sizes will range from 4 to 16 roughly, but the larger battles will be base defence missions (which don't happen too often). The player will be encouraged to keep squad sizes smaller due to experience point bonuses for smaller squads. The main limitations for squad size will be the availability of healthy soldiers and transport capacity. There won't be other arbitrary restrictions.

Enemy mutations seem to be a key-point in the game’s design. “Evolution” of objects in games has been a design that surfaces now and again in games, sometimes quite overtly (Spore, Impossible Creatures). With the creature designs, it almost seems like if you lost a squaddie you might see them and their lost equipment repurposed against you in a future monstrosity. What level of ‘evolution’ can we expect out of our enemies, or out of the world in general?

Alien mutations are based on archetypes which have a particular 'chassis', such as 'humanoid', mixed with body parts based on animal groups, such as 'cephalopod'. Each body part may mutate, providing different functions and capability. It's possible to have a human with relatively minor mutations, such as a tentacled arm, or to have something much more alien looking. The evolution aspect is based on a response to poor performance in battle. If a particular mutant type does badly, it will be mutated in a random fashion. If the new mutation does well, then more of them will be deployed. Each body part type has three levels of improvement, and when a random mutation occurs to a part that has been used previously, the next level of that part is used. Different alien archetypes will arise from different parts of the world, based on the animals that are native to that part of the world.

You mentioned on Reddit that the ‘pod popping’ XCOM system will not be in Phoenix Point. Excellent! But it begs the question, if the baddies are roaming about independently of the player, can we expect them to be pursuing their own objectives? And will they scare players by opening and slamming doors in the fog of war?

The enemies will indeed be pursuing objectives, depending on the mission. If they enemy is attacking a haven, or one of your bases, they will actively seek to destroy the vital functional elements of the base or haven. Aliens will also attempt to kill, eat or abduct civilians. If you are attacking then you may be able to infiltrate without alerting the enemy, but once alerted they will search and attack. Sound will be an important factor, especially since the aliens deploy a thick mist in many battles. This will be indicated visually as well.

Wayward shots leading to disaster or unplanned triumph is one of the charms of procedural combat. So let’s talk bullet physics! A shot in X-Com had the chance to fly by and hit something in the distance. In XCOM, this is (for the most part) not the case, as shots ‘glue’ themselves to their targets and either hit or miss. Chaotic misses were relegated almost entirely to rockets. How is this going to be handled in Phoenix Point?

We will use a proper trajectory system for rockets, bullets, grenades and so on. Missed shots will definitely hit something, and potentially damage or destroy it. We haven't figured out a way to represent to the player the potential outcome of such attacks yet.​

Read the full article: RPG Codex Interview: Julian Gollop on Phoenix Point
 

Darth Roxor

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Q: Speaking of names, are there any people who have had a large influence on you and your game design recently or in the past?

Recently Jake Solomon and Ananda Gupta for their work on the new XCOM series.

borealesad.jpg
 

Taka-Haradin puolipeikko

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What established franchise or setting would you most like to design a game for?

Judge Dredd is something I wanted to do for a long time. I proposed a Dredd game to Games Workshop back in 1985, but they went with someone else's proposal. My idea was a strategy/RPG game, but the published game was some crappy platformer.
X-com Apocalypse tried to do Mega-City: of course lots of planned content had to be cut.
 

undecaf

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Cautiously optimistic. I had hoped they'd steer a bit further from the nuXCOM games than how it seems.
 

ArchAngel

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Very cool article although no new info, at least nothing major. Only new thing I learned is that they are not 100% set on 2 AP system but will still be trying out alternatives.
 

sser

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Yeah I wanted to probe more, but it sounds like design-wise there are still things being baked. Partly why I put forth a lot of non-PP questions to try and fill it out a bit.
 

orcinator

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There are a few ‘key’ games in the tactical turn-based genre that come up pretty frequently. X-Com is one of them, but two others that spring to mind are Jagged Alliance 2 and Silent Storm. Have you played these games and if so do you have any opinions on them, or perhaps about how they informed your own game design?

Yes, I have played them, but not a great deal. I don't think they have had any influence on my game design.

Disappointing answer.

Wayward shots leading to disaster or unplanned triumph is one of the charms of procedural combat. So let’s talk bullet physics! A shot in X-Com had the chance to fly by and hit something in the distance. In XCOM, this is (for the most part) not the case, as shots ‘glue’ themselves to their targets and either hit or miss. Chaotic misses were relegated almost entirely to rockets. How is this going to be handled in Phoenix Point?

We will use a proper trajectory system for rockets, bullets, grenades and so on. Missed shots will definitely hit something, and potentially damage or destroy it. We haven't figured out a way to represent to the player the potential outcome of such attacks yet.

That's good to hear but I really want to see it in action until I get excited.
 

Grotesque

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the interviewer catered for storyfags but not one question about bases construction/economy/research/manufacturing etc
GTFO
 

Iri

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Every single thing Gollop says is priceless. He is as cool as he seems.

Excellent interview, sser!
 

Black

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1. Destructible environment?
2. For or against brexit?
 

Mustawd

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1. Modified AP system - incline over nuXCOM
2. Physics of weapon bulets like in X-COM - incline
3. Destructible terrain - incline
4. TURN based strategy layer - fucking incline
5. Emphasis on smaller squads - meh; I liked the aspect of X-com having a mix of rookes, squaddies, sgts, and captains. This is a bit of a let down. At least there IS the option for up to 16 so if modding IS available, maybe some tweaking with the system could make larger squads more viable. Or maybe it's hard mode, in which case, I'm good with that.
6. Different alien types based on different "parts" being put together - I'm withholding judgement on this, but I hope it doesn't turn out like No Man's Sky's "unique" creatures.
7. NO mention of modding - declne. I wish modding had been asked about in light of all the creativity of Open X-com and the modding community in XCOM and XCOM2. It's really a missed opportunity if this doesn't come easily moddable.


Overall I'm happy with the his answers and this is looking like the pieces of a great game. I am very confident Gollop will deliver on this.
 

Alienman

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Skipping JA2 and Silent Storm and taking inspirations from nuX-com instead :o

Nice interview, but short answers. Not much new.
 

Mustawd

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taking inspirations from nuX-com instead :o

Based on some of his other interviews when XCOM and XCOM2 came out, I think he was mostly impressed with how they were able to adapt X-com for a modern audience. Not just AP, but also the presentation and the cinematic angles that are kinda necessary to keep the attention span of many new players in a turn based game.
 

Alienman

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taking inspirations from nuX-com instead :o

Based on some of his other interviews when XCOM and XCOM2 came out, I think he was mostly impressed with how they were able to adapt X-com for a modern audience. Not just AP, but also the presentation and the cinematic angles that are kinda necessary to keep the attention span of many new players in a turn based game.

Yeah I know, remember seeing some interviews with him and Solomon. I just found it very surprising that the man behind X-com haven't played JA2 that much.
 

sser

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the interviewer catered for storyfags but not one question about bases construction/economy/research/manufacturing etc
GTFO

A fair critique. This is the first time I've conducted a Q&A before so I probably missed some things. I also cut out a lot of questions, some because 'answers' kept popping up elsewhere (including answers to your question). After awhile, I just said fuck it and rolled with the questions anyway. I wanted to hear more about the core of Gollop's design strategies, and I kinda beat around the bush here and left the ball in his court, but that's probably better suited to a phone call than it is a Q&A anyway.
 

Israfael

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Good interview, but some critical points were not asked, like:
1) Why simulation is better than game - he covered this in his XCOM postmortem interviews, but it'd be still nice if he confirms that (or explains why he's changed his opinion)
2) how he will implement freeform combat in a 2-phase system (aka will the Willpoints be actually TUs apart from their name or he'll have to do crutches like classes / perks in Solomon's abomination)
3) how will cover work (this is the most worrying part at this moment, check Fig's FAQ - he says it'll be like XCOM 2 and we definitely don't want % based cover system as it ruins all tactics)
 

Goral

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Thanks sser.

Infinitron
You're taking credit for others work again, when clicking on the interview only you are mentioned when it should be sser.

http://www.rpgcodex.net/forums/inde...-editorials-are-not-credited-properly.113510/

This is why we add [Review by X] at the beginning of the article. Not much else we can do other than encourage you to brofist the author when he shows up in the thread.
Another lie.

Edit:
Proof that you need to keep (((Infinitron))) on a short leash lest he will try and use you:

He changed it only after I've told him to do it, has no decency himself and rates my post butthurt :D.
 
Last edited:
Unwanted

Wonderdog

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Make a review submission area, have the person post into that area, then move the review into the news area once the review is final. Another 'impossible' problem solved thanks to my 150s IQ.

2 action system is shit, I really hope they don't do that. Why on earth can all these spiritual successors just not make the same exact game, except with graphics that aren't massively outdated?
 

ciox

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Game looks interesting I guess, but I was always a biggest fan of the original Laser Squad, it didn't have the world map strategy, but it had the most simulation depth, too bad that franchise was buried with that unimpressive email multiplayer game.
 

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