XCOM 2 Mod Tools Will Result in "Fantastic" Creations: Jake Solomon

"Improved support for modding was one of the pillars of the design of XCOM 2."


XCOM 2 is wearing its PC pride on its sleeve. The upcoming strategy game is a confirmed PC exclusive, with creative director Jake Solomon previously stating that the game couldn't have been made in the same way on the current generation of consoles. We recently spoke to Solomon about why PC was the natural home for XCOM 2, as well as finding out more about how developer Firaxis is planning to support mods and the modding community.

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GameSpot: You've previously stated that XCOM 2 is a PC exclusive because it was the only platform that could help you realise your goals for the game. Can you give us more detail on what those goals are, and in what ways consoles couldn't achieve them?

Jake Solomon: Our first goal is to make a great XCOM game. A game about loss and overcoming obstacles, with intense combat and a strategic component that feeds cleanly into that. We looked at what people were asking for in terms of making XCOM: Enemy Unknown more replayable along with the new elements we wanted, including procedural levels, new skills, new enemies, more customization and modding. When we saw what it meant to implement all of these elements into the game, we knew we had our work cut out for us. Our studio has its most experience building strategy games on PC, and we needed to take advantage of that core expertise and focus on making the very best XCOM we could on the platform we knew the best.

How early in the development process did you realise PC-only was the way to go?

We came to that realization early in development. It’s something we feel strongly about and have stuck with since

Having said that, what are the chances that we see XCOM 2 on Xbox One and PS4 someday, perhaps in a modified form? Or even mobile platforms?

Right now we’re really focused on the PC version. We’re enthusiastic about the possibility of other platform versions, but making the best XCOM for PC is what we’re working on right now.

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Given that maps are procedurally generated, how is XCOM 2 telling its story? Will "story missions" have their own pre-made maps? What kind of events can we expect to encounter that will escalate that story?

We do have some story beats within the game, in that you have milestones to guide your progress. Some of those story moments have specific level assets, but they can appear within the context of a procedurally-generated level, which means you’re never going to see the same key items in the same map from game to game. We’ll have more to say about the story; I just don’t want to be the spoiler, yet.

We saw the concept of personal, physical sacrifice for mechanical or genetic upgrades in Enemy Within. Will that carry over into XCOM 2 at all? Perhaps in the option to upgrade soldiers with the DNA and genes of your alien oppressors to create hybrids?

In our story, the XCOM project never really got off the ground, and never so much as slowed the alien invasion. This is true for most people’s games of XCOM: Enemy Unknown--they resulted in a loss, especially the first time around. Narratively, this lets us have players start out as the ultimate underdog. But it also means XCOM never got around to messing with genes and giving people mechanical limbs.

How is Firaxis planning to support the game post release? Does it plan to support the community and promote mods to highlight the better creation?

Improved support for modding was one of the pillars of the design of XCOM 2. And a lot of the changes we’ve made to the game are designed to open up more systems to modders. We also plan to offer modding tools and Steam workshop support.

Civilization has benefited immensely from a talented and long-standing mod community, and the Long War mod team has done incredible things with our game despite it not being super mod-friendly. I’m confident giving the community proper modding tools is going to result in some fantastic mods.

If we do release content after launch, I hope players would be interested in what we were offering.

Is there a worry that the availability of mods may impact any DLC plans?

I don’t think that mods or post-release content are an either-or proposition. If we do release content after launch, I hope players would be interested in what we were offering. Again, Civilization has had both mods and DLC, and players seem happy with those options.

Will the more popular tweaks and changes made by community be rolled back into the main experience, if they're deemed as beneficial?

When we make changes to our game, we generally look at it in the context of the unmodified game. It’s possible that we’d come across the same solution as a modder, but we usually don’t start with a mod and then look at how we would incorporate that into the game.

Valve allows mods to be monetised, and this is an area publishers and developers are exploring. Are there any plans to allow people to sell mods?

Like I mentioned above, modding is a big pillar for XCOM 2 and we’re excited to be supporting Steam Workshop and offering more tools, but we can’t confirm any plans for paid mods at this time.

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Avatar image for spikepigeo

So excited for this. Everything just seems to be lining up perfectly. Nothing I've seen yet has disappointed.

Avatar image for digitalheadbutt

If the modtools are robust and I can shake off the lazy, it would fun to use this game to make a GI Joe mod.

Avatar image for Tabarnaque

Are you guys trying to convince me you are posting your comments about wanting it on console from your consoles?

Avatar image for gigabytemon

@Tabarnaque: It seems to be a common theme across most console gamers that if they can't something the way they want it, they passive aggressively insult everyone and their mother.

Avatar image for budah78

i only recently got into the first game by accident really and i find it quite fun i really love this game, it is a fucking crime at the very least it isnt on the one or ps4,wtf is that

Avatar image for Arkhalipso

Well, I won't be playing this game for a while (or ever), but I'm glad they decided to go exclusive to make it as good as they can. Looks like they actually care about delivering. I hope it gets released on consoles at some point though.

Avatar image for straightcur

It's too bad that I wont ever play your great game.

Avatar image for sethfrost

First of all, Jake Solomon is a genius!

Having the vision and the guts to make a 'modern' X-COM - I was a non-believer until I played it. And he even turned me from a PC keyboard/mouse person into a PC+gamepad player. And then the "Enemy Within" team made it even better. And then "The Long War" mod made it even betterer!

Btw, if you haven't seen it, googlebing "Jake Solomon Undercover" on Gamespot or Youtube and watch how he was trying to sell his game to clueless Gamestop walk-ins. Still hilarious.

Avatar image for PinchySkree

There were so many cutbacks to shoe horn a franchise of this scale onto consoles for the first game.

Avatar image for archav3n

OMG Gamespot begs so much on behalf of the console fanboys.. Now where are those fanboys calling people beggars? You should hide your face in the toilet bowl!

Now i don't really give a crap about exclusives but these console elitists seems to be enjoying insulting people. They should get a taste of their own fart.

Avatar image for gigabytemon

@archav3n: Hey wait a minute... XCOM 2 has you playing as the underdog who's finally going to get the jig up on the alien invaders... and PC gamers finally get to point at console gamers and laugh? META CONFIRMED.

Avatar image for budah78

@archav3n right: like pc enthusiths like yourself havent been talking shit about console gamers for years if not decades, fall the **** back:

Avatar image for rem234

Xcom was perhaps one of my favorite recent games. Even though it made me feel really bad in that all my friends died at one point or another. (I named my troops after my friends)

Avatar image for gigabytemon

@rem234: You're not alone on that. I named a few of the soldiers after my friends too. One of them got killed by a Chryssalid... ;_;

Avatar image for Grimkillah

I played XCOM Enemy Unknown on console and loved it, but since I don't have a PC that can handle modern day PC games (my PC still ran on Window XP), I am very sad I will miss out on the sequel.

Avatar image for Alurit

@Grimkillah: xp is no longer supported, you should change that OS as soon as possible. to win 8.1 or win 10. If you don't have money change to Ubuntu or any other linux distro with gui or you can buy win keys on reddit on /r/microsoftsoftwareswap for $20. (recommend s5aen) those legit keys but cheaper cause bulk purchased so the retailer's cut and tax is missing from the price.

Avatar image for gigabytemon

@Grimkillah: Going by how the graphics look and assuming they're displaying the most polished, Ultra-tier settings, I think XCOM 2 would be able to run on even 10-year-old PCs from release date. Don't rule it out just yet! (;

Avatar image for Mevrick

@Grimkillah: Don't rule out your PC yet. I'm running XCOM on an extremely weak 6 year old laptop. It runs at the lowest settings and at about 25 fps - but it's very much playable.

Avatar image for Arsyad00

@Grimkillah: dont worry, when they think they need more money, they port it soon enough.

Avatar image for GhoX

@Arsyad00: I don't think so: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firaxis_Games

As you can see, XCOM was the only title they ported to consoles in a long long while, and it failed. So now they are going to make the XCOM series as a PC-only series similar to Civilizations.

Avatar image for MindWeb

@Arsyad00: Not only did XCOM sell terribly on consoles, but the Steam userbase is larger than both the Playstation and Xbox user base combined. Firaxis is a PC dev, first and foremost.

Avatar image for Vojtass

@Arsyad00: Porting requires money and it's probably not a small amount, That's why Firaxis made XCOM2 PC exclusive. Too few console players bought XCOM1.

Avatar image for SJGSpook

@Arsyad00: Enemy Unknown barely sold on for a large console market of Xbox 360 and PS3. It would probably be a waste of time and resources to release it on current gen.

Avatar image for CatAtomic999

I think the real reason is that XCOM's sales on consoles were underwhelming, but very good on PC. So it just wasn't worth limiting the game on PC to accommodate the small console audience.

I'm really glad it's PC exclusive. I always hate the huge, chunky interfaces that come with games designed to be ported to consoles.

Avatar image for Cloud_imperium

@CatAtomic999 said:

I think the real reason is that XCOM's sales on consoles were underwhelming, but very good on PC. So it just wasn't worth limiting the game on PC to accommodate the small console audience.

I'm really glad it's PC exclusive. I always hate the huge, chunky interfaces that come with games designed to be ported to consoles.


Avatar image for Vojtass

I'm really glad they focus on PC. XCOM 1 was developed with consoles in mind - interface was designed mostly for TV (specific use of screen space, font and icon size, amount of text and detailed information, camera angles etc.) and controls were first created for gamepad, not for mouse and keyboard. That was very bad decision, because XCOM's home (aka main customers base) is on PC.

Avatar image for barbarossa213

@Vojtass: Are you playing on a smaller screen? I hate that most PC games have fine text and tiny interface. Despite the relative ease to add the option, (for people in the business of making software/games anyhow), they almost never seem to have UI scaling. I feel like I need opera glasses when I play.

My HDTV is 60", and I'm only about 10' away from it. I can't be the only one who set up their PC this way, and I want developer love too dammit! XCOM EU/EW was fine for the most part, but reading the research text was annoying. And before you ask, yes, I have 20/20 vision.

Avatar image for straightcur

@barbarossa213: You see this a lot with indie games. Even some AAA. All these games are made on a PC with the developer sitting inches from the screen. It's amazing how little they think of the customer experience

Avatar image for Vojtass

@barbarossa213: I have 22" Eizo monitor (I sit 1 meter away from it) and I'm okay with small interface. It's probably a matter of image quality, because everything is crisp and fine on my screen.

Avatar image for CatAtomic999

@Vojtass: Agreed. Those interface issues are always so annoying.

Avatar image for normanislost

@Vojtass: it wasn't that bad considering all that

The only really irratating thing was when two levels of elevation overlapped and it'd take 5 minutes of rotating the screen till you found an angle where you could actually select the tile you wanted to move to...... more annoying than an 80% miss

Avatar image for Mevrick

@normanislost: There are still certain areas of some maps that I just can't access because the camera can't focus there. Although I'm not sure if that's related to the development for consoles.

Avatar image for gigabytemon

@lim30041982: Woah partner keep the orgasm for when you play the game. Nothing worse than a premature release.

Avatar image for tyronefonsworth

Just spend this PR money on getting the damn game right plz

Avatar image for Mogan

@tyronefonsworth: Yeah, I'm sure this interview with Gamespot cost them a bundle. : p

Avatar image for tyronefonsworth

@Mogan: You don't think the damn support staff to set up all this PR doesn't cost something? Listen, they can spend their budget any way they wish. My comment came from frustration. I won't deny that, but aren't you a BIT tired of every game with any semi-mass appeal associated with it being spoon fed to use bit by bit till release. It leave no surprises when you get the game. Don't you even start with the don't read the article stuff. Yea, I know I can choose not to real the article but just even seeing 5 different articles about things that should be covered in one just irks me. I do realize this is a slow time of year and the site's business model demands constant content. Just saying that I personally am sick of seeing all these useless and minimally informative articles that exist for the no other reason than to generate press for a game and garner revenue for this site through clicks. I mean, no kidding your sharpshooter has a sniper rifle, who would've thunk it?

Avatar image for Mogan

@tyronefonsworth: I really doubt it costs much to spend an hour answering questions on the phone/instant message.

And if you're tired of getting a game's surprises ruined, or just don't like these kinds of articles, don't read this stuff. But I don't see the problem with Gamespot trying to drum up some traffic by making a lot out of a little. They need to stay in business, and they can't make me read any of it.

Also, the entire point of calling this new class the Sharpshooter is because it doesn't JUST have to use a sniper anymore. There's an entire pistol tree now.

Avatar image for barrybarryk

"Valve allows mods to be monetised, and this is an area publishers and developers are exploring. Are there any plans to allow people to sell mods?"

Pretty sure they scrapped that idea, immediately, but even so it's not 'selling mods' people had a problem with. Selling mods isn't new. Officially licensed expansions made by third parties have been a thing for more than twenty years, the only 'new' component to it was Steam's incredibly lazy, automated and completely curation free implementation of it.

Still I can't wait to get my hands on XCOM 2, Solomon and his team at Firaxis done an amazing job on Enemy Unknown and this one sounds even better.

Avatar image for RS13

@barrybarryk: The Paid *Skyrim* mods thing was scrapped almost immediately. But there are paid (entirely cosmetic) mods for games like DOTA. Someday, someone's going to bring it back for their game.

Avatar image for chrise68w

@barrybarryk: I thought it was more a Bethesda thing rather than a Valve thing? Like Valve gives the option to developers. Irregardless it seems like they're putting in a lot of love, so i'm willing to put money on it being awesome. And allowing modders free range seems to be the new trend. So that's exciting.

Avatar image for tyronefonsworth

@chrise68w: I'm honestly not trying to be that guy, as my English is FAR from perfect. Someone was kind enough to point this out to me so I wouldn't make the same mistake twice. So, I'm paying it forward. Irregardless is not a word. Just say regardless. Just a tip with no ill intent behind it.

Avatar image for gigabytemon

@chrise68w: I think it was Valve that contacted modders first, because I don't ever recall reading about Bethesda being even remotely involved in the process to begin with. It was effectively a Valve initiative and it met with total resistance from everyone because Valve's cut was somewhere between 10%-20% of a mod's cost. It would've also seen the shut-down of a ton of modding sites because then they wouldn't be able to freely redistribute mods, and nobody likes a market hogger.

Avatar image for tyronefonsworth

@barrybarryk: I hope you are right man. I really don't mod anyway, but for those that do I hope you are right.