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How  XCOM's  creative director was inspired by  Mario + Rabbids

How XCOM's creative director was inspired by Mario + Rabbids

January 11, 2018 | By Emma Kidwell

January 11, 2018 | By Emma Kidwell
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More: Design

"What a joy, then, to have another team come along and upend your thinking, showing you that there is always room to improve on old concepts."

- Creative director of XCOM Jake Solomon on being inspired by Mario + Rabbids.

In a piece recently published by Polygon, creative director and design lead for XCOM Jake Solomon describes the moment he understood how important Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle was going to be for providing a new perspective on the turn-based tactics genre. "It was one of the most surreal experiences of my professional life," he recalls. "There was Luigi, sliding into cover, his gun at the ready. There was Mario, unloading a volley of blaster fire from his overwatch position. And there was Princess Peach, weighing a 50 percent shot on an enemy."

Mario + Rabbids isn't an XCOM game in the slightest even though it features the ability to flank or cover. Missions play out differently as well. Where XCOM has few scripted moments and lets systems like procedural environments and soldier abilities take over, Mario + Rabbids has a "right" way to do things. The missions are hand-designed and are like puzzles that need to be solved. There was never any real fear of competition, but instead, hope. "The nice thing about working in a genre like turn-based tactics is that it isn’t a zero-sum game. Good tactics games create new tactics players, and then everyone in the genre benefits." Solomon notes.

Ultimately, Solomon took inspiration from how characters moved around in Mario + Rabbids. "In XCOM, moving a soldier is typically a simple case of running them from cover A to cover B. That’s how it’s always been, and it's not something I ever thought of changing," he writes. "Until I played Mario + Rabbids, that is, where movement is a chain of interesting decisions like springboarding off of your squadmates, sliding through your enemies, rolling through warp tunnels — all before you fire a single shot."

"Movement in Kingdom Battle adds a whole new layer of tactical interest to every turn. It jolted me into reconsidering one of XCOM’s design principles," He explains. "Don’t be surprised to see movement work completely differently."

Be sure to check out the entire piece over at Polygon. 

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