2K Marin has shed further light on the transformation of first-person shooter XCOM into third-person squad manager The Bureau: XCOM Declassified. The executive summary is: 2K shouldn't have opened the oven door before the cake had time to rise.
Five members of 2K Marin took part in a Reddit AMA this weekend where the topic of the upcoming shooter's notable transformation was broached several times. Asked why 2K Marin had ever though a FPS game was a good fit for the XCOM universe, lead narrative designer Erik Caponi said that it turns out the team did not think that.
"Game development is a process. You don't have an idea, plonk it down, and then build what you had in your head. You try things. You see what works. You put stuff on the screen and see how it plays. It's something that non-developers don't realize. For everything you see on the screen in a shipping game, there was a ton of stuff that was tried and thrown away," he said.
"So, the interesting thing about the history of the earlier version of The Bureau, is that you guys got to see behind the curtain a bit and see some of that sausage being made. The game (and full disclosure, that version of it was before my time here), was announced too early, before the process had really been seen through to the best and most credible version of the game."
"In 2010 and 2011 the devs were still fine tuning the concept for what an XCOM shooter really is. It's hard to consistently tell fans what to expect of a game when the concept for that game is still being baked," senior product manager Nik Karlsson added.
"Once we knew The Bureau was a very challenging, very tactical, very calculated third-person shooter we went to work telling the world about it. I feel like we've finally overcome the education hurdle that was in front of us, for the most part people understand that this game is no longer a FPS, and it's no longer a detective game, it's a tactical third-person shooter that's reflective of the core XCOM tenants."
As for the ins-and-outs of the genre shift, lead UI artist Pat Guarino said going from first- to third-person wasn't easy.
"You suddenly go from a character who is essentially hidden 100% of the time to a character who is constantly on screen. That means modeling, texturing, and a significant amount of animation work," he said.
"There also needs to be a complete revamp of the camera system. A camera that used to be tied to a single perspective is suddenly out in the world bumping into geometry and clipping through walls."
Creative director Morgan Gray thinks it was worth it, though.
"Third person gave us a lot in terms of gameplay benefits. With the focus on tactical combat third person let's you see yourself, your team, the enemy, and grok the battlefield all in a single eye scan. But it was a hard change, the chief difficulties came from work done on cover mechanics, and player animations," he said.
"There is lot more to create when you are moving away from disembodied hands holding guns. The other major benefit, is it let us put our main character, William Carter, front in center all the time, which helped cement him as a proper character in the game world and in the narrative."
The full AMA contains some interesting discussion of how the game fits into the XCOM canon, why it has the enemies it does, and much more. The Bureau: XCOM Declassified arrives on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in North America on August 20 and in Europe on August 23.