Why it seems to me stubbornly that the new XCOM is a ported board game

    Old and new bases: the new one has a room with a holographic globe.

    Once upon a time, thanks to the good uncle Obryashchikov from Tula, I failed a couple of exams. It seems back in school. Then the first UFO returned a couple of times on the DOS emulator, which cost me at least one session. The new XCOM killed only a couple of weekends, but did it very clearly and competently.

    Later, I found out that there was a heated debate on the forums that a remake could have been better: there are few squad fighters in the new game, not very rich tactics, strange inventory, one base ... And then I realized that I had been playing all this time to the table. Seriously, if I suddenly wanted to transfer the first UFO to the desktop version, I would have done exactly the same thing that Firaxis did with the new XCOM. Moreover, they have wonderful experience - “Sid Meyer Civilization” - for several years one of the best-selling strategies on the Western market.

    So let's go over the mechanics a bit and see what has been done.

    Firstly, the board game is completely controlled by people. She has no leader in 99% of cases, that is, there is no one to play for AI. Accordingly, all environmental effects, all randomnesses and other conditions are also manually calculated by players using different game mechanics. This means that we cannot automate anything, so we need to simplify the interface of interaction with people to the utmost.

    UFO-1 had an indicator of time and energy per move: for example, a soldier had 80 units that he could spend on running, shooting, and so on. At the same time, shooting took up a percentage of the time, and running - fixed 4 units per cell, that is, a trained member of the squad could run half the map, but still shoot as many times as a rookie.

    Naturally, if you transfer this to the desktop view, you would need to significantly change the mechanics, saving players from sitting with a piece of paper. The easiest way is to divide the field into cells and say: the fighter has 10 action points, the aimed shot costs 6, the fastest - 4, the movement to the next cell - one. A bit like Fallout, right? Further, if the board game were to occupy a wide market (and not just cover hardcore geeks), then a chain of simplification would be required. And in this regard, the mechanics of XCOM are brilliant: move anywhere in the radius or shoot. It is clear that you can move 1 cell to look around the corner and move back - and this will take a whole move - the transfer error. But then the simplification that happened immediately saves a ton of time.


    Now let's look at the AI. He also behaves quite strangely. If you played the new XCOM for a long time, you know that enemies do not walk on the map when you do not see them. That is, if you do not see a single alien at the end of the turn, you need not worry, they will not shoot at you on their turn. Moreover, if a fighter in invisible armor approaches a handful of aliens near a plate, you can see a cool effect: at the end of the turn they teleport to the next point of the “patrol”, and do not go there with their feet. This is the classic mechanics of simplifying the fighting of the desktop: for example, in the old Space Hulk according to Warhammer there is such a thing - blips. There, the Space Marine player sees only marks of the enemy’s presence - and you need to approach such a mark so that it turns into a pack of enemies.

    The old soldier crouches, shooting at the sectoid. The new one is hiding behind the wall.

    Secondly, the less micromanagement - the better. This is a question of determining what is most interesting in the game: mechanics should give a maximum of interesting and simplify everything else. In computer Civilization, each move is a fairly small action, most often requiring attention to a bunch of cities, buildings, and so on. In the desktop “Sid Meyer Civilization” (there are actually two of them, there is still Serge Lage), the move implies a lot of actions. To help you understand the difference in scale, I will give you another example: in the Game of Thrones there are only a dozen moves to finish the game. And this dozen moves can take 2-3 hours quite calmly: a lot of diplomacy, 5-6 battles per turn, and so on. Each move is a significant event that changes the course of the game.

    Remember, in the old UFO, downed plates by the end of the game were under a hundred minimum? This is realistic, but in places it is very annoying. In the new XCOM, there will be only a dozen assaults on plates, but each will meet something new: either a new ship architecture, or a new type of aliens. Each assault will be an event for the player.

    Interception: very beautiful inheritance

    In the same way, at the level of getting rid of micromanagement, the issue of inventory is being resolved. One grenade, one medical package, one paralyzer is terribly unrealistic, but playable. In dashboard, the stage of greatly simplifying the inventory begins before release, so that there are fewer components and they are unified. In combination with the fighter’s class (defining his main gun), this made the team’s equipment extremely simple. Two clicks - and all landed. Beautiful, convenient, fast and flexible. Again, of course, with a decrease in realism - but playable! Plus, a wonderful role-playing branch of pumping a character according to his abilities is the very thing that is needed for the desktop.

    Thirdly, the combat system. This is one of the most holistic moments in the game: on the one hand, it should be realistic, and on the other, not turn into a chip-laying championship. Possible ranges - from a simple attack on the cell with the enemy in the "Jackal" (where the enemy is beaten without options) and to inhuman miscalculations, for example, in the "Arc of Fire".

    In the new XCOM, the gun deals a fixed amount of damage. If a critical shot falls out - again fixed, but twice as high. This is very angry at first - perhaps just that element of “cardboard” that could easily be solved by a simple random. The “random damage” mode also arrived with the patch, the decisive question. But for some reason, it was the rejection of one superfluous accident that convinced me that the authors of XCOM first played for some time on it, and only then transferred everything to the computer, and not just simplified the interface of the old UFO.

    Fourth, the focus of attention. In a board game, the player’s attention is one of the most important resources. If I transferred XCOM to paper, I would also have made one common base and a bunch of outposts for fighters. Although no, I would rather reduce the number of modules, for example, leaving the laboratory, workshop, radar, isolation ward and protection. Each base would be equipped with hangars, residential modules and warehouses - also by default. A radar would upgrade to a hyperwave, for example. But with one base even easier. Simple science? From there.

    Here, for example, is a simplified desktop base for Starcraft.

    And this is a base from an unofficial port on iOS (called AvH, management, by the way, is very inconvenient)

    The same with the ships: just one “ranger” for delivering fighters to the place. Hellishly wrong after the first UFO experience, but playable. And here is a system of simultaneous abductions in different places of the continent. In the dashboard, I would simply ask the player to choose which country he is helping - and calculate the buns at the end of the move from this. By the way, pay attention: countries do not lower or increase funding, but simply exit the project. It is also a rather simplified thing - and also, perhaps, gives out the desktop origin of mechanics.

    But the inability to shoot from plasma into the walls just like that or curve control over an alien (without the ability to shoot it with one's own) is most likely just a prefix legacy that simplifies management.

    There are still many not so obvious moments - but, again, the feeling about the desktop is very clear. It’s clear that the game came out on consoles with a different control (explains the theory of six fighters and other simplifications), but in my opinion, the development scenario could be like this: the guys invented the game, made a prototype on paper, turned it into a desktop, played a couple of years , and then simply transferred without any changes. Then other guys came, made a bunch of negotiations between the characters, story missions (but did not randomize the cards), script scenes, and so on - this layer is typical only for a computer game, and it was clearly built at a higher level.

    And all this time I recalled a conversation with one developer of games for social networks: “You know, I always look at the desktops. All good mechanics come from there. ”

    Well and yes, what else gives a direct connection between the desktop and the original? Of course, rethinking the plot and the connection with familiar things. The same thing connects the remake with the original. For example, it is interesting to look at the siege tank in the desktop Starcraft, and finally to see what is in Wraith’s cabin on the model. In the new XCOM, all the same beautiful moments remained: a similar architecture of the middle scout, an assault on the base with the capture of the sectoid commander, cool sorties to terror (though not very scary anymore), the same laser rifles, an analogue of flying armor, psionics ... All this in the table it would also be solved in approximately the same way: for example, in “Twilight of the Empire” by Master of Orion (without a license, so the names of the races are different) there are almost all the key points of the “plot” of MOO.

    I hope I did not bore you with my love of desktops and XCOM.

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