In anticipation of next week’s release of XCOM 2 on PC, I recently sat down with two members of the development team at Firaxis to talk about the game. In part one of the interview with Garth DeAngelis, Lead Producer, and Mark Nauta, Designer, we discussed some of the new systems in the game and what has changed from XCOM: Enemy Unknown.
We spoke in depth about the introduction of procedurally generated maps to the series, which was something the team originally wanted to do in XCOM: Enemy Unknown but never quite came to fruition. According to DeAngelis, procedural generation “has always been a goal of design’s, and with XCOM 2 we made sure that we would make it happen by putting in the work up front and getting the [development] pipeline in place.”
In terms of how procedural generation will actually work in XCOM 2, Nauta says that map design combines hand-crafted elements with procedurally-generated portions. This allows the designers to “mark up” certain portions of the map with key mission objectives or spawn points, then fill in the rest with procedural elements. DeAngelis explains that the handcrafted elements are required to ensure that the levels still make sense and are fun to play.
When it comes to what is procedural versus hard-coded into the levels, Nauta informed me that “Everything is procedural to a degree.” This includes enemy types, numbers, spawn points and behavior, as well as environmental elements such as cars and building placement. These procedural elements should result in a unique experience every time you play through a map, and they will affect how you approach each mission while trying to maneuver your squad to flank enemies and take advantage of cover points.
Procedural generation may be the biggest change to XCOM 2‘s multiplayer. Other changes include the addition of the new alien enemies and a refinement of the loadout system, which Nauta states “makes for a quicker way to get into games and build your squad.” Both DeAngelis and Nauta are quick to point out how the new alien abilities made for some interesting moments playing against the other development team members during testing.
One of the other new features we discussed is the concealment system. In XCOM 2 you will begin each mission undetected, and you can use this as an opportunity to scout out the map and maneuver your squad into position to get the drop on enemies. According to DeAngelis, the concept for the concealment system came about very early in development and fit well with the guerilla fighting theme of the new game.
Nauta explains that the concealment system evolved over the course of the game’s development. The team experimented with letting players stay concealed throughout the missions but learned that by doing so the missions weren’t as fun, and players were missing out on one of the series’ hallmarks: fighting aliens.
Come back later this week for part two of the interview. DeAngelis, Nauta, and I discuss how lessons learned during the development of XCOM: Enemy Unknown were applied to XCOM 2, the Firaxis team’s plans for mod support and tools, why the game slipped to this year, how XCOM 2 fits into the overall lore and canon of the series, and whether or not we can ever expect to see the new game on consoles.
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