Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

“This is like your nightmare interview here, huh?”>

Nah. This might not be going too well, but I’ve had worse. Much worse. (The most terrible was probably with an executive at one of the industry’s biggest PC game developers a couple of years back, where I had the distinct impression I was interviewing a robot who’d much rather murder me than talk to me).

This half hour with the lead designer of BioShock: Infinite would definitely win a place in my Top 40 Botched Interviews, but it’s not up there in shotgun-to-the-head territory yet. The mutual acknowledgement that it’s been a misfire does wonders too. Eventually. (more…)

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

Some interviews with prominent figures, as in Polygon’s widely-circulated one with BioShock: Infinite lead designer Ken Levine, are held on top of skyscraping Californian hotels. While it’s not something I’ve experienced myself, I can entirely appreciate why this often leads their eventual write-ups to be somewhat defined by awe, be it overt or subtle: a famous figure is encountered in a dramatic setting, the trappings of aspirational luxury around them. Thus, they are inevitably presupposed to be superhumans of a sort, with achievements and a lifestyle far beyond those of mere mortals such as the humble interviewer. This is the tale. Notoriously, this week also saw the outermost extreme of this, in Esquire’s absurd interview with/clearly lovelorn ode to the attractive but otherwise apparently unexceptional actor Megan Fox.

I can’t ever imagine going as far as Esquire, and I’d hope someone would throw me into the nearest sea if I did, but I do understand why it can happen. The scene is set in such a way that the interviewer is encountering, if not a god, then at least royalty. Even on a more moderate level, I have never conducted an interview in a Californian luxury hotel’s roofgarden, and my own interview with Ken Levine last month was no different, but I am nonetheless left thinking about the narrative created in that half hour. What tale could I now tell from just a talk with a guy in a room? Initially, I thought it impossible, or at least redundant, to spin a story out of a short, slightly awkward conversation in a dark little room somewhere in London: this is why Q&As are the standard interview format here. Let’s try, though. I want to tell you about what happened in that interview, and how it felt to me, as well as sharing Ken Levine’s comments about BioShock: Infinite’s characters, pacing and mysteries with you. (more…)

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

In this concluding part (the first one is here), we discuss boardgame influences, commercial success, what XCOM might mean for the future of strategy, the need for realism within science-fiction, and why XCOM wound up rather buggy.> (more…)

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

'Tell us everything, mutie!'

With Firaxis’ de-hyphenated, largely very well-received remake of the legendary, incomparable, enormous-haircutted X-COM now out there saving the Earth from the worst scum of the universe for several months, now seems the time to sit down with its enthusiastic main man Jake Solomon. What went right, what went wrong and what comes next? As per recent tradition, we had a very long chat.

Covered in this first part – the base, the skills, the missing element of surprise and what they’ve learned if they ever do this again. Edited out to spare you the horror: his Punch & Judy-style impersonation of an Englishman.> (more…)

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in. By which I mean, just when you thought I couldn’t possibly muster another marathon interview with XCOM: Enemy Unknown lead Jake Solomon, I did. Later this week he post-mortems the largely brillo remake of the 90s ultra-classic, but firstly we chat about the impending free Second Wave add-on. Skeletal remnants of this set of balance-tweaking toggles were found by modders at launch, but now the full-fat version is ready to go. Here, Solomon talks about why Second Wave was made, how it in some ways makes XCOM more like X-COM and why the add-on’s very existence might just be down to you lot.> (more…)

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

Earlier this week, I played around four hours of BioShock: Infinite, which is due for release next March. While this was at a publisher-held event (disclaimer – I ate some free salt and vinegar flavoured Hula Hoops and a small bowl of Moroccan tagine. Alas, I hate aubergine) and I was part of a gaggle of journalists, I was not guided or observed during my playthrough, so I approached it at my own leisure and pack-rat pace. >

It has given me much to think upon, a few examples of which I shall share with you below. I will avoid all spoilers as regards to the events of the plot, but please be advised that I do talk in detail about the setting, its population and its backstory as presented by these initial hours of the game. (more…)

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

So many friends, loved ones, dead pets, Auotobots and French philosophers have fallen. We’ve each of us made decisions that led to loss of noble life in our attempts to save the Earth from the malevolent alien hordes of XCOM. Briefly, we mourn their loss. Then, all too soon, we move on and forget them forever.

It is time to more meaningfully honour the fallen. Uh, via Facebook. (more…)

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

I should be over the moon about new content for one of my favourite games of 2012, but a) I wear specially-made grumpy pants at all times and b) the Slingshot add-on for XCOM really does sound underwhelming. It’s out later today, and currently I’m not particularly likely to play it. The biggest problem with it for me is less its nature – a few bonus missions, a pre-generated hard-ass squadmate and some new outfit options – and more that, reportedly, most of it can’t be accessed without starting a new campaign. I’ve played the game through two and half times now and what I want are new levels of challenge and new types of menace, not to repeat all those early stages once again to play three new maps, even if they are set in China.

See? Like I said, these pants are stitched from the finest grump hide. (more…)

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

The Stunday Papers

Somehow, I wasn’t aware that there was an official novelisation of 1993 strategy/everything game X-COM until just last month. Given my decades-long fixation with X-COM, this was rather like discovering that there was a book about my mum that had passed me by completely.

Diane Duane’s slim text X-COM: UFO Defense – A Novel, published in 1996 by game guide firm Prima, has long been out of print (and never made it to e-print), so despite long scouring of fansites my only option was to explore the secondhand market, which in general wanted over £20 for this 250-page paperback. One joker’s even asking £500 for it. Fortunately, a lucky eBay bid got it to me for a mere £11, and so it is that I now own this fascinating oddity: a novelisation of a strategy game, written by an author with a long history of penning books based on existent sci-fi franchises. Could it truly recreate the tension and horror of X-COM? The thoughtful trauma of the minute-to-minute decisions and the long game of base-building and troop-nurturing? (more…)

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

What a wizard wheeze

Friday’s shock announcement that X-COM co-creator Julian Gollop is creating a version of Chaos, his nigh-on legendary, wizard-based strategy game for the Spectrum, is the best gaming news in forever. But with zero known about it and even some concerns that his little-used, little-followed (at the time) Twitter account was the real deal, a whole slew of concerns can be assuaged by the development blog he’s set up to cover the making of the new game.

(more…)

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