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Julian Gollop’s X-COM: UFO Defense Postmortem at GDC

By on March 29th, 2013 5:55 am
X-COM: UFO Defense (aka UFO: Enemy Unknown) | Tactical gameplay

X-COM: UFO Defense (aka UFO: Enemy Unknown) - Tactical gameplay (

Allow me to digress a bit about myself and my history with Julian Gollop’s games. If you’re not interested, just skip to the first video below, which is brought to us by Gamespot.

If I would have to pick a person on the games industry who has influenced me profoundly over the years, in a good way, then Julian Gollop would definitely be one of them.

You see, I grew up with Gollop’s games. Chaos: The Battle of Wizards for ZX Spectrum from 1985 was a major milestone in my gaming youth. The Rebelstar series from 1986, also for ZX Spectrum, was another major influence on my gaming likes, as it was probably one of the game series I enjoyed playing the most.

And then, Julian, with his brother Nick Gollop, designed and developed X-COM: UFO Defense (aka UFO: Enemy Unknown in Europe). And, boy, was I hooked. I can’t easily think of a game I loved playing as much or more than Gallop’s X-COM. Sid Meier’s Railroad Tycoon perhaps, or Steve Barcia’s Master of Orion, but all other games come next.

X-COM: UFO Defense (aka UFO: Enemy Unknown) | Geoscape

X-COM: UFO Defense (aka UFO: Enemy Unknown) | Geoscape (

Yesterday, Julian gave a talk at GDC about X-COM: UFO Defense, where he talks about what went wrong and what went right about X-COM’s development. The pitch to Microprose, the crunch time, the history of X-COM and what he thinks about the latest XCOM installment from Firaxis, and what may lie ahead for him in the X-COM context.

If you’re an X-COM fanatic you can’t miss this presentation. If you’re a game designer, you’re going to want to learn a few tricks from this guy. If you’re just a gamer have a look nevertheless. Even if you didn’t play X-COM: UFO Defense, at least you’ll know a bit about PC history, and what made PC gaming so popular in the first place. Enjoy!

And now, prepare for goose bumps (for the oldschool guys of course).

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  1. Mark says:

    Wow, that was amazing! It was really interesting to hear how one of the greatest games of all time came together. Hard to believe it almost got cancelled, what a tragedy that would have been!

    Seeing all this has inspired me to re-install X-com and go through the not – so insignificant hassles of getting it to work on DosBox. But now, an hour later I finally have it working glitch free and I’m falling in love all over again.

    Thanks for the video Adam, I was just glued the the screen for the entire time.

    • Adam Solo says:

      Same here :) 40 minutes of pure pleasure. You know, I may fire it again soon too. Let me know if your initial momentum to play continues after a while. It’s been a long time, and sometimes things should be preserved as they were, I guess…so, I’m not sure.

  2. ashbery76 says:

    I am curious if you actually finish a campaign.Personally I replayed the game before the new X-com release and found the game good at the start but turns into a tedious slog due to crazy amounts of micromanaging and lost interest pretty quickly.

  3. csebal says:

    I once shortened a seaside vacation so that I can get home a good 3-4 days earlier and play XCOM. :)

    Looking back at that, it might have been a little antisocial, and definitely an addict behavior leaving my family there just to be able to play a game :)

    What can I say, that game was worth it. Did beat cydonia for the first time that week. Thinking about it, i still have flashes of memories in my mind about it. It also was the first time I was alone at home for an extended period of time, further deepening the memory of it.

    Oh boy.. to think that all this was nearly 20 years ago :) good old times.

    ** blank, misty eyed stare as the wave of nostalgia passes **

  4. Keith Turner says:

    I watched this while doing some work on Friday and really enjoyed it. Sadly, my first experience with XCOM wasn’t until Terror from the Deep, which I now know the original developers weren’t really involved in.

    Since I lack the nostalgia, I suppose I’ll just see how Xenonauts ends up.

  5. Florian says:

    I played through it a few months ago and at the moment I am playing terror from the deep. I also write it as a kind of story in a message board as the members there participate as soldiers.

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Post category: Game Design, Videos