Firaxis on the XCOM reboot you never played

XCOM line-up

An XCOM remake prototyped back in 2003 was scrapped because it was “awful”, according to Firaxis lead designer Jake Solomon. “It’s a good thing it never went ahead,” he told us.

Firaxis made a prototype of an XCOM reboot back in 2003. It was overseen by Jake Solomon, now lead designer at the studio. Solomon was inspired to create games at a young age by 1994 classic UFO: Enemy Unknown.

But the studio’s first attempt at a reboot was unsuccessful, he told us. “It was awful. It’s a good thing it never went ahead, because I was way too young, I had very little experience, and I just wasn’t in the right place to make that game. It really took a long time until it made sense for the team and for the company.”

That first remake never saw the light of day, but by 2008, Solomon had accumulated years of experience working under Sid Meier and risen through the ranks at Firaxis. He was now senior enough to push for another XCOM revival – the game which became 2012’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown. It didn’t begin life as a reboot, rather a more straightforward upgrade of the original. “We were going to remake the original game, with the original game mechanics, and we were going to add a couple of things to it,” explained Solomon.

“We had to identify those things that make a game XCOM, and it’s very hard to do with a game that’s so big and emergent, and has all these complex systems in it.”

Firaxis eventually produced the excellent XCOM: Enemy Unknown, which we awarded a 9 in October last year. Firaxis spoke to us as part of an in-depth look at the culture of video game reboots, to be published here on the site on Thursday.