For 23 years, game designer Julian Gollop worked for himself, and created what he wanted. After spending six years at Ubisoft creating games for other people, he's now ready to get back to doing it for himself again.
Gollop is the very definition of a video game industry veteran. The British designer started out creating tabletop strategy games for Games Workshop, before moving on to strategy games on the ZX Spectrum, the Amiga, Amstrad, Commodore 64, and eventually the Windows PC.
His credentials include creating the X-COM
series, while also founding Mythos Games and Codo Technologies. In 2006 he decided to join up with Ubisoft, and lead a team to create the under-appreciated Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars
for the Nintendo 3DS.
But after work was completed on Assassin's Creed III: Liberation
, Gollop decided he'd had enough. "I wanted to get back to making the games that I'm actually good at making and I am interested in making," he tells me. "I did manage to make a cool turn-based strategy while at Ubisoft, but it seemed that I would be unlikely to make such a game again if I remained there."
"I did learn a lot, working for a big publisher," he adds, "but it wasn't exactly my most creative period."
After Gollop left Ubisoft at the end of 2012, he founded a new company, simply called Gollop Games. Since then he's been piecing together a sequel to his 1985 ZX Spectrum game Chaos: The Battle of Wizards
, and he's finally ready to show the fruits of his labor.
is set to be a turn-based strategy game with RPG elements, playing out in both single player and online multiplayer. Gollop is planning to take the in-development game to Kickstarter next month.
had some unique qualities," he says of the original. "It was an effective multiplayer game, with up to eight players on one computer, and despite the fact that it was turn-based, it was still quick playing and fun. The randomness meant that every game was quite different and excitingly chaotic."
In the years that followed the 1985 release, Gollop received numerous requests from other developers to remake the game. He always consented, and as such there are over 30 completed Chaos
remakes out there. Now the designer is ready to try his hand at his own remake.
"I did learn a lot, working for a big publisher, but it wasn't exactly my most creative period."
With this updated take on the concept, Gollop is aiming to both capture nostalgia in former Chaos
fans, while also modernizing the idea for a fresh audience.
"The core mechanics of the wizard battles are almost identical to the original game, and there will be a 'classic Chaos
mode' which closely matches the workings of the original game," he explains. "The presentation has been remarkably spruced up, but still keeping the mono-color themes of the creature."
New features including a massive single-player mode in which you explore the Realms of Chaos, and various online multiplayer modes including tournaments, rankings and co-op play.
Now into his 30th year creating strategy games, Gollop has seen the genre evolve rapidly. Of modern strategy games, he says that many fall down from the very beginning of development.
"I think the biggest problem is an inadequate preproduction phase where the core gameplay has not been proven with an effective prototype," he reasons. "The key for building a good prototype is to 'find the fun' quickly and test it regularly with people who haven't been exposed to it before."
"Too much focus on design and planning without something testable and provable is definitely the biggest mistake, in my view," he adds. "It's probably no surprise that I am not a big fan of large game design documents, especially early in the development cycle."
Which modern strategy games does he enjoy, then? The latest XCOM
team will be happy to hear that the man who started it all is quite the fan of the updated series.
"I think the latest XCOM
stands out as a remarkable triumph for turn-based strategy games," he says. "Apart from this I can't think of any direct influence on my latest work. I have taken an interest in some of the rogue-like games, such as Hoplite
. I am also intrigued by Spelunky
with its random levels and daily challenge. Chaos Reborn
will use a lot of procedurally generated content, which is to some extent inspired by these games."