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Why X-COM creator Julian Gollop left handheld gaming behind and came back to the PC

The XCOM reboot from Firaxis changed the landscape of turn-based strategy on the PC, says Gollop - but there is more to the story.

Before the (hopefully) imminently Kickstarted Chaos Reborn, X-Com creator Julian Gollop hadn’t made a PC game in over a decade. As an independent developer and as a producer at Ubisoft Sofia, he’d made games mainly for Nintendo handhelds – the platforms which for some time he considered the “last refuge” of turn-based strategy.

But now he’s back, building a PC-first tactics game. Something – a couple of things, actually – changed his mind.

Gollop’s last strategy game before Chaos Reborn was Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars – a 3DS launch title he pitched to Ubisoft management as “Ghost Recon-meets-X-Com for the Nintendo DS”.

“Nintendo handhelds were kind of a bit of a refuge for turn-based strategy gaming,” Gollop told PCGamesN. “Because you’ve got Advance Wars and Fire Emblem and stuff like that. Advance Wars is one of my favourite game series’ of all time.”

With the announcement of Firaxis’ XCOM reboot a distant prospect, it seemed to Gollop like the PC was home only to very particular types of strategy games – and didn’t leave much room for his take on turn-based tactics.

“Civilization is the flagship turn-based game, and PC-based strategy gaming was all about these complex 4X games and that seemed to be it, or maybe obscure war games perhaps if you were lucky,” Gollop explained. “So until the recent Firaxis XCOM there wasn’t really any turn-based game that could really break through and gain this hold, this popularity.”

Now, Gollop believes things are “looking up” for the genre on PC – where the “quality and range” of games like XCOM, Age of Wonders 3 and The Banner Saga are such that he hopes turn-based strategy can finally “reach a wider audience”.

“As far as Chaos is concerned, our focus is initially on PC and Mac and Linux because that is where, perhaps, the biggest community of turn-based-strategy gamers reside still,” he said. “And it’s because of distribution channels like Steam that there’s a way to reach these people.”

Gollop gushed, too, about the impact of Unity on his work – the engine that already enables Chaos Reborn’s current browser prototype, and will power the game in its final form.

“I think Unity more than anything has really changed the landscape of gaming, because it has made this cross-platform development much, much more economical,” said Gollop. “I mean it’s almost unbelievable how much easier it’s made it.”

In time, Gollop hopes that Unity will allow cross-platform play for Chaos between PC and tablets.

“It’s almost like Unity is the platform and not the actual physical hardware anymore,” he said.

Gollop’s handheld games were uncompromising, isometric affairs we’d recommend to any X-Com fan. But it’s wonderful to see him emerge from his ghetto and embrace the wider strategy gaming world, wouldn’t you say?