Modern games are “obscenely accessible”: 2K on why The Bureau will be tough as nails

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified

By on April 26, 2013 at 7:52 pm

Morgan Gray, creative director at 2K Marin, is very excited. He’s been talking down the phone at me for the last three minutes, and as far as I can tell, he hasn’t stopped to breathe.

XCOM’s not a game about putting on your diaper and giving you a bottle of milk,” he says. “It asks you to be a hero if you want to have any chance of succeeding.”

We’re talking about The Bureau: XCOM Declassified. It’s the FPS XCOM game from three years ago, the Game That Flipped A Million Desks. Now, however, it’s not an FPS any more. It’s a third-person tactical shooter (watch the trailer here) that tells the origin story of the XCOM organisation.

And, apparently, it’s tough as nails.

“The emphasis on tactics cannot be stressed enough,” says Gray. “We’re trying to get a very hardcore, really small-unit tactics game. This could easily have been a game about modern day special forces, but in our version imagine modern day special forces back in 1962, using technology provided by NASA that never could have existed — but should have, because it’s cool — fighting an alien threat.”

“Anybody who attempts to run and gun or Rambo this will die. It’s about a team working together.”

Agents in The Bureau will have to live under the spectre of permadeath, something that Gray says will hopefully show reluctant XCOM fans that they mean business. It’s part of “the DNA”, part of what makes XCOM XCOM, something that the team spent hours painstakingly assessing.

It’s also something that can have a huge effect, in a game where there’s no turn-based system to plot your moves. “Unlike, say, Firaxis’ excellent Enemy Unknown, in our game the campaign does not wait for you,” says Gray.

“There’s no ability to sort of delay the major beats. The battle is near and present and constantly moving forward. The repercussions of losing an agent are extremely huge. It’s serious stuff.”

Why so serious? Gray says that he and team at 2K felt that the market was ready for a return to tough games. “We felt confident that the modern gamer was gravitating towards things like Demons Souls, like Firaxis’ XCOM, and that we can make games with a difficulty and a skill level more in line with what us old-school gamers were used to growing up and cutting our teeth on.”

“What is generally happening in the more modern era is that things are almost obscenely accessible,” laments Gray. “So it was nice to see this movement towards more skilful play — and I just want to call it difficulty because it’s not about hard games, it’s about challenging games — and seeing that wave come back, seeing people really wanting to have some games with some crunch to them, some meat, is one of the things that let us go ‘yeah, we can bring this aspect of XCOM into The Bureau’.”

Unfortunately while Gray wasn’t able to speak to specifics, he did reassure us that the PC version of the game would be getting the proper love and attention it needed. “Obviously the PC has higher-end graphics, and can take advantage of higher fidelity textures, framerate and the like,” he said. “For someone who has a high-end PC rig, it will no doubt be the best version, graphically, of the game.  Which is in line with the cost! If you spend $1500, $2500 on a gaming rig, it should outperform a 300 gaming console.”

The Bureau will be landing in Australia on August 23. “It’s priced at $59.99 US, which I understand in Australia will equal something like five hundred billion dollars,” laughs Gray. “That’s a joke!” he says quickly – although the game will be getting a price hike of $20 in Australia at $79.99.

The early shots we saw of the XCOM FPS only seemed to show one type of enemy, a polygonal black species who formed enormous shapes such as monolithic slabs – but XCOM is well known for its large variety of enemies. When I asked Gray about this, he paused and laughed.

“It’s been two years,” he said. “That big black box you’re talking about, we call it the Titan. He’s actually one of the aliens that’s always been there for us because we love him and we love what he does to the battlefield.”

“But, we’ve also introduced some of the classic XCOM menagerie of aliens into the game, albeit with a cool narrative context that explains why they’ve been brought in. And we’ve invented some new ones.”

So did the negative feedback around the initial reveal of XCOM as an FPS get the team down? Did it cause them re-evaluate their development?

“The sad thing is that when we originally showed the project in 2010, the response was that we’d made BioShock with XCOM slapped onto it, which was an incorrect assumption, but I can understand how you’d get that from static screenshots,” said Gray.

“In 2011 we started to show the aspects of squad management, squad tactics. People started to understand that ‘oh, I see, this is not just a run-and-gun FPS with XCOM slapped onto it, they’re trying to emulate some of the core aspects of the XCOM franchise’.  I got the negative feedback, I understood that, but I also understood where it was incorrect, and where we were actually making a game more in line with what people were saying they wanted.”

“Where we stand now with The Bureau, I think people are going to find that the XCOM DNA is not only faithfully respected, but is core and upfront and prominent in the gameplay experience. “

14 comments (Leave your own)

sounds alright to me, of course, at 31, im yet to be jaded by the industry! even after buying DNF and A:CM. guess its all these damn happy pills…

 

sirgriggles,

Can you send some of those my way? I could use some…

(actually cautiously optimistic about this one, could turn out real good. Although…3rd person now?)

 

I for one welcome our new 3rd person overlords. But that’s mostly as I don’y play that many 3rd person games really. Sounds like it could be fun.

 

Let’s hope it’s hard because of intelligent AI and not because of bugs and badly placed checkpoints.

 

jez:
Let’s hope it’s hard because of intelligent AI and not because of bugs and badly placed checkpoints.

Agreed. The ‘hard old school games’ were 99% of the time only hard because of rubbish AI, rubbish UI, and generally poor game design/balancing from what was largely a cottage industry (the number of game devs who worked in their garage in the 80′s to 90′s was pretty embarising).

It sounds like Morgan Gray has bought into too many of the recent kickstarter pitches.

“The Bureau will be landing in Australia on August 23. “It’s priced at $59.99 US, which I understand in Australia will equal something like five hundred billion dollars,” laughs Gray. “That’s a joke!” he says quickly – although the game will be getting a price hike of $20 in Australia at $79.99.”

And this is just downright insulting, that the tool would be making jokes about the disgraceful price-jacking situation.

 

I find this rather interesting considering two days back there was a post about the Splinter Cell series ‘streamlining’ to appeal more to the masses, and the challenge/complexity been the reason behind its lack of success.

Also, insulting? Fascinating. I figured by his extreme exaggeration of the topic, he was more alluding to how the entire situation is a joke, rather than joking about the situation. That said though, I have a habit of doing this when I talk about things I don’t believe, or think are stupid.

Besides, isn’t everyone just going to go through GMG or something and get it for like $40 on release?

 

Need more permadeath.

 

jez:
Let’s hope it’s hard because of intelligent AI and not because of bugs and badly placed checkpoints.

Yeah this. Making a game difficult by putting an invisible hand on the scales, endless repetition (looking at you Dark Souls) or set pieces the player has no way of knowing about the first time around…. that’s not fun.

Cautiously optimistic, as vcat said.

coatsy22: And this is just downright insulting, that the tool would be making jokes about the disgraceful price-jacking situation.

It reads to me like he was (erroneously) assuming that the US dollar was much stronger than the AU dollar. Just typical American Ignorance… I’d be surprised if anyone knew or cared about the price jacking here.

Even if it is about the price jacking, are you actually that easily offended? Wow…. I hope you don’t leave the house much, the world gets much nastier than that.

 

And this is just downright insulting, that the tool would be making jokes about the disgraceful price-jacking situation.

I agree. The coupon arrangement GMG has and the many CD key selling sites show that it is entirely possible to have a successful distribution option without artificially inflated prices, and until such a time as the retailers recognise that I will continue to buy pretty much exclusively online.

 

I won’t be paying $20 more just because I live in Australia. You cannot choose where you are born.

 
NoobyMcNoobnoob

wonder if its gonna bet 3rd person squad sorta in the line of brothers in arms game, were you can setup overwatch on a person then take control of the other on in you squad to bait them into a killzone

 

linkin93:
I won’t be paying $20 more just because I live in Australia. You cannot choose where you are born.

First world problems. Buy it elsewhere then donate the $20 to starving African kids who also didn’t get a choice where they were born.

 

Yes.

This sentence and the above statement is all.

 

It reads to me like he was (erroneously) assuming that the US dollar was much stronger than the AU dollar. Just typical American Ignorance… I’d be surprised if anyone knew or cared about the price jacking here.

I doubt that very much. I think he is definitely aware of the price jacking issue here in Australia (I’m sure the fact that a bunch of software companies were recently called before a Senate enquiry here would have generated a little chatter in the US gaming circles). I think it’s just a case of him doing his homework before talking to the Aussie gaming media.

So yeah – he’s making light of a ridiculous situation that he has absolutely no control over – acknowledging the pain if you will. He’s not mocking you or trying to get your backs up. Anyway, getting annoyed at him is as pointless for being pissed off at a salesman at the car yard because your Fiesta doesn’t have a V8 in it. He makes games. Distributors then set the price. He has zero control of that.

 
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