My take in the Action Point System

I don’t believe that console release was the reason.

Jake is a fan of UFO, and what he started with was a more complex recreation of what modern UFO would look like. (timestamp: 35:25 and especially relevant bit: 42:40)


This overly complex prototype wasn’t very fun to play, and at some point they went for the complete oposite - how much can we simplify the systems while keeping the core decision making? Core design in Firaxis is much different from Gollops sensibilities, so it is only natural that they went in different direction.

They succeeded in many ways, though I do feel that enough unintentional problems with their systems revealed themselves to warrant reexamination of the design.

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Not sure what relevance it has of being a fan of the game which was one of the most popular games of a decade, like who wasn’t? They bought IP, of course they would try to make a game that was expected by fans first.

“It wasn’t clear what choices you are making”, “it was more like organic than making choices” he basically had no idea how to design a good XCom game. You see in this prototype a complete lack of covers, stances, difference between walking and running, inventory, choices of ammunition and no grid movement system, there are no tools besides weapons either. In which universe something like this would be fun to play? Of course there are no choices to make, as there are no mechanics to present or justify those choices. Which “overly complex prototype” mechanics you see in that video?
I don’t know which games he worked on before, I have no idea if maybe he is a fan of something like Fire Emblem or other fantasy turn based games or maybe board games. The reality is that X-Com is not a simulation based game, but a board game or a card game, it’s a turn based strategy in a way how Chess is a turn based strategy. The turns is a core mechanics in X-Com but in XCom it was just a convenience of being able to adequately control large set of units, which doesn’t work well in real time when many options are involved. Simply put, they probably went with something that was easier to code and balance and was more transparent to folks who like CRpgs. The whole alien invasion thing is just a scene dressing.

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AP systems are required as a balancing mechanism for a strategy games based around controlling multiple units. Practice shown that a real-time strategy game with a large degree of control per unit has a good flow only when amount of units is small, like 3-4. You don’t need them in something like a Starcraft as there are only few things an individual unit can do. But take something like 7.62 game, which is basically a Jagged Alliance in 3d and in real-time. The amount of actions that you can do and parallel development of the battle makes it a hectic experience where your mind have to constantly switch between understanding what each unit does right now, what it did before and what it should do. On top of that you have a high chance to miss all action as you are likely to be looking at something else on other side of the map. AP system provides both a time for you to think and choose actions and always have action in the center of your screen. It scales much better as amount of units goes up. Granted at large count it can be boring but that is better than frustrating.
We don’t see much of such games being made anymore, they are not necessary complex to design (simulation based games have more issues with making different game systems play well together) but they are very time consuming to implement. Even worse when it comes to polishing them. They require more art work too and have a higher requirement on the said art.

Combat Mission comes to mind, which is technically real-time but has a superior turn based mode with ability to rewind and re-watch turn simulation from different perspectives. The point is that typical game design problems can be solved in different way, making a completely different game is a not a typical solution :smiley:

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First if all, your lengthy response doesn’t refer to the point I respoded to: design choices for FiraXCOM, specifically for two point movement, weren’t influenced by “dumbing the game down because consoles” but were concious design choices, based on designers intentions.

:rofl: I think you are overastimating cultural impact UFO game had. It’s an IP that has been dead for years, and didn’t have legacy that would make it relevant and therefore make people aware of its existance. I am pretty sure that community, which facepalmed when FPS XCOM was annoyed, and rejoiced when Firaxis announced their game, was fairly small.

As I said: Firaxis and Gollop’s sensibilities are different. Even if one approach alligns more with your personal tastes none of them are fundamentally superior to each other. FiraXCOM was always marketed as “reimagening” not “remake”. It was never meant to replace the original. It takes borad strokes, ideas, structure and appeal of the original, but its focus and execution is different. And it’s fine and it’s good. It’s not about PP vs XCOM3. Both games and designs are good and I hope to play and enjoy both.

Sid Meier always mentioned how board games influences his design, and that approach is still present in Firaxis games. Board games are great - they achieve a lot with limited resources at their disposal - calculations have to be simple, amount of pieces limited, playtime managable. There is an elegance and efficiency in them that is so often lacking in unrestrained digital medium. Somewhat like films vs. theatre I suppose.

So yeah, straight up moving over systems from UFO to FiraXCOM didn’t work so well. And therefore, they went for something that fit better with their sensibilities and resulted in overall better game, then it would otherwise. What they show is a prototype, a vertical slice - something they built for testing in early development. Of course it lacks gameplay element that would make it fun. No single element in there is finished, and plenty that would have were not implimented. You don’t create a game immediately with all pieces in place. It’s only natural they that started figuring core mechanics (moving, shooting) before spicing it up with additional stuff.

If I were a betting man, I would be willing to wager, that it isn’t because technical or design reasons that we don’t see classic AP anymore, but because there haven’t been a game which have done them well in a long time.

When we see turn based games they straight up use two point movement, or something with lower values (or pretending to be lower values) because of XCOM. People like XCOM, therefore me want to be like XCOM-but-with-a-twist. Things happen in cicles. One game sets up a trend, others follow it because:

  1. people like it, so you don’t need to spend time convincing them it’s good.
  2. it’s modern, it’s polished and it works, so you can safely impliment the machanic into your game, while focusing on things that you want to stand out with.

I am somewhat worried that PP might not break away from the Firaxis mold enough, to succesfully flesh out their own ideas. But that’s all speculation - we will see in December.

Well, you came to such conclusion because devs didn’t openly said “we want more streamlined game”? Or your point is that it’s not dumbed down because of consoles, just generally dumbed down?
Making game simpler is as good gamedesign choice as any other.

Just first game alone, sold over 600 000 units, this is in 1997. Since then, market grew about 6 times.
X-Com: Enemy Unknown sold about 1 mil units, scaling with a market growth it sold much much poorly than original game. Basically, original game grabbed a much bigger portion of the total game industry market than it’s successor. If we scale by market, we are looking at new game being much less popular than original one and review do reflect that.
Original XCom inspired about a dozen of games which aimed to recreate it’s look and feel and inspired games such as Fallout and Jagged Alliance. What did new X-Com inspired? The only loud player I would mention is Divinity Original Sin, which I’m not sure was inspired by it at all. Yes there are games in development and there was Hard West and Fantom Doctrine, neither of which was received too well.

Personal choice have nothing to do with changing sub-genre of the game. Just as many where not happy with shooter, many where not happy with a board game mechanics. Sales number show it. For me personally, gameplay mechanics is what constitutes the game, not the cover art and names of the characters. Changing core of the game design and slapping on top a brand created by someone else doesn’t constitute as a good game development, but a cheap way to gain some sales from exploiting existing IP. Sure, the game created in the process was good (definitely not great), but it was designed around what they could do, not what people expected/wanted. You are wording your point like X-Com is some sort of miracle of game industry. I don’t think it is, it could have made a much better legacy by being it’s own product. At least they wouldn’t have to pretend that we are fighting alien invasion.

Yes, board games can be great, just as any other games can be great when done well. Or you think that board games are superior to tactical strategies so we probably should replace them all with board games?

Well, it’s pretty basic vertical slice to judge much about it being fun or not as a tactical game. I see already a lot of graphics and animations but not features that actually matter. Designer himself mentioned how he cared so much about camera. Probably, his focus was already on making an experience game rather than a sim like. Are you trying to convince me that they made a better tactical game by making it a board game? :smiley: Because somehow magic of gamedesign driven them to such solution?

Why bother investing time into coding a sim if you can make a light weight version of X-Com a like (at least 3 came out this year) and call it a day. Because one would be happy with grabbing even 5% of the fun base.

Look at Xenonauts team, which started with an actual remake of X-Com, then pooled some features from Firaxis for Xenonauts 2 and then reverted back but improved look and feel. You can even read their post explaining their design process and what exactly they tried and what was the result. These are the guys who deserve the praise. They are improving something that we like and expected to see in the game.

According to me, FiraXCOM did the “2 action” system for the following reason.
A TU system allows players to move in line of sight of enemies, shoot and then go back out of line of sight therefore avoiding enemy fire.

  1. Would the player like it if the aliens did the same, how frustrating would it be ?
  2. Also must be more complicated to program the AI to use this.
  3. Going for two moves forces the player (and aliens) to be targetable.

Now what I don’t like in FiraXCOM is that shooting or reloading ends your turn and you need perks to be able to do it without this huge cost (that not all classes can have).

So while I really like the freedom of PP, I can’t help thinking that it can be abused by making a bunker with you assaults shotgunning what dares enter or get too close and the rest shooting at range and breaking line of sight.

That was easily solved both in JA2 and Xenonauts by adding interrupts. Open X-Com has the same features. Moreover in JA2 1.13 you still can do that and AI can do that, but it doesn’t matter as it’s not as exaggerate as it was in X-Com. I mean, this was a well know exploit, of course people thought on how to fix it and did fix it. It’s hard to imagine how someone would go for a complete redesign of the whole system just because one specific exploit exist.

Cheers for the video that was cool to watch. :slight_smile:

I was, as a PC gamer, looking at that prototype and thinking, damn, I would have loved to have got my hands on that. It certainly didn’t look overly complex when compared to other PC games of the genre, on first impression I’d say it was around the mark of Silent Storm, and there’s games in other genres that take that complexity and square it; Panza General, Temple of Elemental Evil, Football Manager. I don’t think that the guys playing those games would have been looking at that early Xcom prototype and thinking that it was too complex.

I think the pertinent question is at what stage of development did they have a target audience of console gamers? Just the fact that a game is going to be played on a controller vs mouse and keyboard means that it’s going to be dumbed down to accommodate, but the whole concept of what is ‘fun’ in a game also changes when you move platform.

I think we’ve had this to an extent with PP TBH, the game feels like it is in a lot of ways being developed with consoles in mind. The movement system, the aiming system (pretty much built for a controller), the reduced number of solider stats, and the addition of perks instead, even the UI.

And that’s not taking into account how rife video game piracy was back then.

UFO was one of the biggest and most successful games of its time. New gamers might not have been so aware of it, but anyone who was gaming back in the day, it was almost certain one of the titles that you were aware of, whether it was your cup or tea or not.

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If I had to choose, I would say “generally dumbed down”, though I would personally don’t like “dumb down” term.

If those numbers are accurate, then I do see your point. Did you get number of sales for FiraXCOM from any particular source? Between PC and console sales this number sounds suspiciously low.

Both games are still from nineties, and I don’t see how Fallout has anything to do with XCOM. The point I was trying to make is, how many turnbased tactical games in XXI c. did we get before FiraXCOM showed up? Maybe we are still waiting for the great turn-based tactical game to come out, but at least they are being made. Hey, Empire of Sin is in production, an XCOM-like-mafia game is something I have been wanting since mid 2000s.

It seems that you feel about FiraXCOM similar way I feel about Dragon Age: Origins - not being willing to acknowledge the good it has done, due to personal disappointment with the game.

No, as I said both simulationist and “gamey” approach have their advantages and disadvantages. I am happy to play both simulationist and board gamey XCOM-like games. I think Firaxis can improve on their design a lot, and my disappointment with XCOM2 was that they left certain design aspects which revealed themselves to be broken in XCOM1. I do hope that they will address those issues in XCOM3, or I will be waiting for sale.

Listen man, the whole original post was a response to a silly claim that consoles “dumbed down” XCOM. I am not defending all their decisions. I think there is advantage to the approach Solomon took, but I don’t think it’s anywhere near flawless. I can see why their made certain decisions, some of them I strait up don’t understand (why all shots act as single bullets and we get one roll for a machine gun?) and some, like two point movement and pods, created new problems, which they are yet to properly address.

Focus on spectacle over substence does irritate me. You have no idea how annoyed I was when on stream about WotC Jake said something like: “well, we thought the strategy layer was pretty barren [me: yayyyy!], so we added chosen so they talk to you constantly [me: noooo!]”

But that is the game they were going to make. They wouldn’t make XCOM you want, because it is not in their style. So yes, I do believe that many choices they made were better for THEIR XCOM.

I didn’t like Xenonauts 1 too much - with release of OpenXcom I found Xen to become obsolete, because UI enhancments Xen offered appeared in OpenXcom, so what got is less compelling knockoff.
I can’t say anything about Xen2. Tried the kickstarter demo and haven’t paid attention to the game ever since.

UFO: Enemy Unknown still exists, it is available to buy and run on modern systems. I would rather take a drastic reimagining of the game (like Firaxis XCOM) then weaker reskin of the original.

I suppose, that unlike you I don’t care about the IP. Unlike story driven games, which can make irreversable damage to characters, story and worlds, purely gameplay oriented games can change and evolve.

Good point about piracy. In Russia alone that was the 99% of how people got it :smiley:

And so did I. I remember seeing it for the first time, and being surprised they didn’t go with it. Cones of sight, adjustable aim, AP units those were all things I missed in FiraXCOM.

But he gave the reason for change, and I do buy it, as it is in line with overall design and Firaxis legacy: clear trade-offs.

Let’s not pretend that UFO’s design is some holy grail of perfection - AP system was less about smart tactical play, and more about counting and micromanaging of AP.

Could the system be modernised and made easier to interact with by modern UI? Yes, I believe it could be. But that’s more of a Paradox thing, not Firaxis. Firaxis were always to make a Firaxis game, and they changed design so it suits their sensibilities.

I am just quite tired of people blaming every change they don’t like on “dirty consolers”.

I didn’t realize that SteamSpy still works, they have different estimate:
https://steamspy.com/app/200510
and add sales from console, so it’s not 1 mil but probably 4 or maybe higher
don’t know how accurate it is, these are the number for XCom2
https://steamspy.com/app/268500
and 2 mil for sequel looks a bit too low

I know about many attempts at remakes of JA, well technically they still trying :smiley:
War themed there was Fallout Tactics, Silent Storm, Valkyria Chronicles, Shadowrun(?) A bunch of various Warhammer themed games. There where some others of smaller scale, meaning more niche games that mostly sold from other shops like half of Combat Mission came out at that time. The UFO series, granted one of them was realtime. It’s not like others just didn’t exist or something.
You have games like Battle Brothers which have no connection to XCom but it’s one of the more popular TB tactics. Meaning people do play those, regardless of existence of XCom.
I can’t say that XCom is somehow “resurrected” TB tactical games, because in essence it’s not one of them like X-Com or Jagged Alliance was. Like Invisible Corps for example, you can call it a TB tactical game but would you recommend it to a fan of classical XCom?

It just annoys me in some of the gamedesign choices that where made. And I’m not taking about being too different to X-Com. I mean things like how classes and character focus drive you into a spiral of fails. Or how so many things in the game are meta abilities and arbitrary rules, the concept of pods. I can’t even play it anymore without mods.
Dragon Age: Origins - I actually really like it, unlike what came after it. I remember it as really fun fantasy RPG where playing as a good guy had more negative consequences compared to being selfish :smiley:

Fair enough.

I just associate IP with the core game design. So if next Crusader Kings becomes a card game I would probably be pissed :smiley: as that would be a bit too much of evolution. Imho some games are better to be left alone. Like not every book or a movie needs a sequel.

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I also had the same thoughts when i saw that video way back then, i thought it was way more interesting that the stiff two point system, however after playing “old” AP system games i understood why they did it. there was also a part in the video were they said using the AP to increase the aim of the soilder, this would be a nice a add-on too.

P.P is is updating the “old” AP system without going the firaxis route, but the AP system in P.P can be further improved, i came to the forum to talk about what was bothering of such system, even though small, it is still something that is present, the visual representation of unspent points in the game.

But it was a “dumbed down” RPG, instead of spiritual successor of Baldur’s Gate i have been waiting for. :wink: Though an NPC trying to sell me DLC in my camp was what really left a bitter taste.

Luckily Obsidian with Pillars of Eternity has nicely scratched that itch nicely.

Was it trying to be a spiritual successor to Baldur’s Gate? If so I’m stunned, I played through, and also liked, both games but I would have never made that connection. If anything I thought that Dragon Age played like Summoner.

I’m a console gamer myself, I just think that it suits a different style of game to the PC. I’ll use the console for FPS, Driving, platform games, and Twin Stick shooters. But anything with deep layers of strategy in it, I’ll use a PC.

Silly why? It wouldn’t be the first time that a game had this treatment in order to accommodate the console market.

I’ll never forget trying to play Populus on the Playstation 1, I was so made up that such a great old PC title was being converted over to my console, and my god it sucked when I got my hands on it. I don’t think I’ve ever once come across a serious strategy title that’s been remade well for consoles. The difference that came later, is that devs learnt that it was smarter to develop the game for all markets at the same time, you don’t get a remake of the game anymore, you get a port and a simultaneous release, and in order to do that for strategy titles you have to dumb down/streamline the gameplay to accommodate that console market.

Or do you think that console gamers would have lapped up an old style Xcom game in the way that they did the Firaxis version? (PC gamers would have, they’d been longing for it.)

There was quite a bit of marketing around it, yes. Bioware going back to it’s roots etc. Whenever it was devs intention - I don’t know. Not that I expected isometric D&D - I just found it dull after first couple hours (up to the end of battle of Ostagar). I also thought, that Bioware didn’t pull the morally ambiguous writing well - it had all the traps but none of the appeal of their traditional black&white approach. And it was the first game of theirs I notice the overindulgent exposition of boring and unremarkable lore (we look and sound like every other dwarf you have ever seen in the videogame, so let us tell you our indepth history, which will in no way enrich or expand us).

Probably just like Phoenix Point is spiritual successor of X-COM. :wink:

PS. How do you make double nested quotes? Do you quote two times and then edit one quote to include another?

I think they’re trying to make those JA remakes worse and worse with every go. :wink:

What was Combat Mission like? I’ve seen it being mentioned a couple of times, but I never heard of it.