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Interview: OpenXcom developer Daniel

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Time for our second ever interview, this time with Daniel the main force behind the OpenXcom project! For more info on what XCom is see this wikipedia page.


[Q] Tell our readers a bit about yourself and how you got into game development.

My name is Daniel, I'm from Portugal and I'm currently a university student taking a Computer Sciences degree. I've always been an avid PC gamer with an interest in programming, and the two just ended up colliding.

[Q] Why did you choose Xcom over other older games?

Xcom is one of my favorite games of all time. I still remember playing it back when I was a kid and all I really understood was that all my dudes were terrible shots who got annihilated every step by enemies in the dark. On Beginner! I grew incredibly fond of the series ever since, it's just such a fun mix of strategy and management elements that makes each game a completely new and exciting experience, something no longer found in modern games. Combined with the huge following it has gained over the years while the industry lost interest in it, I decided it was worth remaking Xcom.


[Q] What makes OpenXcom different to other remakes of the engine?

Xcom remakes are a dime a dozen, I was well aware of that when I started and even worked on a few before. I had to make OpenXcom stand out, so I focused on what the other remakes didn't: the original game. I don't mean to badmouth, but most Xcom remakes start off wanting to improve the original gameplay but end up aiming too high, changing and altering the gameplay too much so it gets worse. Or they just vanish off the face of the Earth. In the end fans just end up clinging to the original Xcom, claiming it's still the best game. So I decided to give the fans what they want: Just take the original from its old murky DOS days, and reimplement it to be playable again in modern platforms, with none of the limits, none of the bugs, but all of the same gameplay we love. No bells and whistles, no visions of grandeur. It's not that crazy, there's plenty of other Open*** projects that've given the same treatment to other old games, so I figure Xcom deserves it too.

[Q] Will the game engine stay as close as possible to the original game or do you plan some alterations? If yes to alterations - anything interesting?

Yes and no. I mean, on one hand the primary goal of OpenXcom is to provide the exact same experience the original did, without any risks of completely ruining it forever. Buuuuut... come on, it's impossible to take a project like this and not wanna improve it a little, right? I mean, I'm a fan and I still think the original Xcom wasn't that perfect. Eventually there will be small alterations for things that Xcom fans have always wanted, like interface improvements, keyboard shortcuts, being able to pre-equip soldiers before battles or group crafts for interceptions, etc. The engine's also being designed so it's open and moddable, so later on fans can add their own graphics, sounds, languages, soldier names, or even change gameplay elements like weapons and aliens as they see fit. So purists will still have their traditional unadultered Xcom gameplay, while others can get more out of it if they prefer.

[Q] Any current planned/hoped for date for the next release of OpenXcom?

I'm hoping to get version 0.2 out by January-February. It'll feature Daiky's wonderful work on the Battlescape, which I'm sure people are itching to try out, as well as various fixes and improvements to the engine to make it more open and easier to develop in the future, maybe even a sneak-peek at modding.

[Q] Since Xcom is originally a single player only game - do you plan any kind of multiplayer features, like scoreboards, online play or anything of the sorts?

I don't have any plans for multiplayer. The Xcom vs Alien gameplay is designed to be a major challenge for the player, so Xcom is vastly underpowered, undermanned and underarmed compared to the Aliens. Balancing both sides for multiplayer would alter the original gameplay a lot, which kinda defies OpenXcom's goal. Plus there are already two multiplayer Xcom remakes, UFO2000 and UFO: The Two Sides, I think they got things covered. Scorebards though... that's an interesting idea. I'll have to add it to my ideas-from-others-that-are-interesting list. It's a big list.

[Q] If people wanted to contribute to the game, how could they? What would you want/need?

Well if they're a programmer, there's always room for improvement in the code, like fixing bugs, improving performance, porting to other platforms, etc. I'd rather avoid having new people wanting to implement brand new gameplay features though, it becomes a nightmare to manage. Later on the engine will also have support for different languages, graphics, modding, etc, which should give people more opportunities to contribute.

[Q] Something our readers will no doubt be wondering - what is your primary OS of choice? (And why ;)).

I'm probably gonna be pelted with tomatoes for saying this on a website called "Gaming on Linux". :p But I'm a Windows user, currently using Visual Studio on Windows 7 to work on OpenXcom. Don't get me wrong, I have no problems with Linux (or other platforms), and in fact we mostly use it for programming at university. But in the end I just prefer Windows' simple and user-friendly style, not to mention being the primary game platform. I still keep a copy of Ubuntu on a virtual machine whenever I need to do any cross-platform testing / development though.

Editer Note: Using windows is fine, i am open minded and also use Windows 7, Ubuntu (Mainly) and Fedora - a lot of Linux users dual boot!

[Q] Where there any major roadblocks/setbacks in making the game engine crossplatform.

Not really. I've always been taught just generic all-around programming, nothing platform-specific. And I started working on OpenXcom using SDL, a wonderful cross-platform library which has supported it all the way through. So I've pretty much just been programming on Windows and using the same code for every platform with little issue. Most issues come from outside the engine. Things like building and distributing (installers/packages) change wildly from platform to platform, and no matter how many cross-platform tools you may have, nothing beats actual experience with the various platforms to figure it all out. Plus being used to developing for modern systems spoils you, if you wanna port to more limited hardware like mobile platforms you have to be a lot more careful with your programming, because you may need to handle completely different input methods, and the game may perform much worse if you don't watch that CPU/memory usage.

[Q] Any plans to create more crossplatform engines, remakes or completely new games?

It's something that's always been on my mind. I don't plan to do much more while I have OpenXcom to worry about, but once it's well developed I might have a look at some other favorite old game or even a completely new game to focus on.

[Q] What is your favourite game at the moment?

Recently I've been playing a lot of Civilization V, it's still a great strategy game that sucks hours of your time without notice.

Editor Note: Ahhh fond memories i have of playing number 1 many moons ago, good games!

[Q] Any words of advice for all the other open source developers out there?

Stay motivated, stay modest, stay awesome.

I would like to thank Daniel again for this opportunity as XCom is still one of my favourite game series ever!

If you would like to see interviews with people or be interviewed yourself let me know in the comments and on the forum!

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
Tags: Interview, Misc | Apps: OpenXcom
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About the author -
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I am the owner of GamingOnLinux. After discovering Linux back in the days of Mandrake in 2003, I constantly came back to check on the progress of Linux until Ubuntu appeared on the scene and it helped me to really love it. You can reach me easily by emailing GamingOnLinux directly. Find me on Mastodon.
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The comments on this article are closed.
3 comments

Sabun Jan 18, 2011
Awesome stuff :)
Thanks for sharing!
J Jan 23, 2011
Very cool. I'm excited to see the release!
matt Feb 3, 2011
Excited about this
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