The real finishing touches to the world’s best strategy games is that door to infinite possibilities: modding support. Just stroll over to the Steam Workshop and gaze over the pages of mods for Civilization or any of the Total War games. PC bliss. So it’s a little bit of a disappointment that one of the closest strategy games to our hearts – XCOM Enemy Unknown – doesn’t have modding support. But don’t give up hope, this situation may not be forever. “Never say never” claim developer Firaxis.
In an interview at Gamescom, XCOM designer and producer Garth DeAngelis explained to us that whilst modding tools wasn’t something they were looking at implementing right now, it wasn’t outside the realms of possibilities. “ I wouldn’t say it’s on the table currently but we never want to say never,” he said.
But the clear thing here is that modding XCOM is possible, unlike games such as Battlefield. “Technically, sure, there’s a lot of support for UDK and modding and things like that,” said DeAngelis. “And, if we were to do it, we’d want to do it right. We’d provide the proper level of tools and support and that takes a little more planning and time to get that right and we’re not on that right now.”
Senior designer Anand Gupta explained why modding tools aren’t as easy to drop in as you might think: “The problem is that our map editor isn’t just our map editor. It’s got a whole bunch of steps before it and after it that are necessary to get a maps to be playable. It’s not as simple as Unreal Editor.”
Gupta did offer an example of how players could modify XCOM to alter the rules to something more preferable, though. “All the stuff you’d expect to be in the easily accessible data, the .ini files, is. Like the “How much does a mech cost?” stuff is relatively easy for players to touch [in XCOM Enemy Within]. We also did make an effort to move more core game data into those things, things that we didn’t have to. It doesn’t rise to the level of tool support or editor support. But we did make it more accessible for people who wanted to tweak those files.
“I’ll give you an example: one of the things fans have, er, mentioned in various forums is panic. So, it turns out there was a bug in the panic system that was causing friendly fire to happen more than we wanted. So, now, friendly fire will happen a lot less in general but, in addition, panicked units will get an aim penalty. Because, obviously, if you’re panicked, you’re not going to be shooting as well. The size of that aim penalty has been moved into data.”
It might not be full-on mod tools, but at least Firaxis have acknowledged the demand for mods and made it easier for players to adjust elements. Expect to see forums filled with tweaks in the weeks following XCOM Enemy Within’s release on November 15th.