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X-COM is a series of computer games, started by MicroProse in 1994. The first installment, released as UFO: Enemy Unknown in Europe (and as X-COM: UFO Defense in North America) was written by a team led by Julian Gollop. After the success of X-COM: UFO Defense, The Gollop brothers went straight to work on X-COM: Apocalypse, which would end up being the third in the series when released in 1997.

MicroProse quickly had an internal team create the sequel X-COM: Terror From the Deep in under a year as a quick cash in (hence the amount of uncanny similarities between the first two games). These first two games also show strong similarities to games such as Rebelstar and Laser Squad for the ZX Spectrum, including names of organisations such as 'Marsec'. The fourth title, X-COM: Interceptor was an action-based space combat/strategy game, while the fifth (X-COM: Enforcer) was simply a third person shooter.

All titles were developed for the PC, and some ported to the Sony PlayStation and Amiga. The first three titles were originally developed to run under DOS, though the first two have subsequently been ported to run under Microsoft Windows using DirectX. X-COM: UFO Defense was the best selling computer game of 1995 and is considered a true classic, and despite its age, still has a large following.

Series Standards

The premise for the series is fairly simple and straightforward, with variations among them: armies of hostile aliens have begun invading the Earth, killing and enslaving the human race. The style and theme of the game closely mirror those of the classic BBC television series UFO.

In each game of the series, the player is put in command of "X-COM": the Extraterrestrial Combat Unit. By defending countries from enemy invasion, the force gains monetary support. Any nation may quit, if X-COM's service is deemed unsatisfactory or the nation's government has been infiltrated by the invaders. Through research of recovered alien artefacts, X-COM is able to develop better and more powerful weapons, armor and vehicles to combat the alien menace and eventually uncover their true nature.

The game takes place within two main views: the Geoscape and the Battlescape, a dichotomy that's the hallmark of the entire series. The Geoscape is where the player waits for enemy alien activity and makes strategic decisions.

While in the Geoscape, the player can view the X-COM bases (located in various locations on Earth), make changes to them, equip X-COM craft, order supplies and personnel, direct research efforts, schedule manufacturing of advanced equipment and sell alien artifacts to raise capital. The Geoscape is continuous and not turn-based.

Gameplay switches to the isometric combat view of the Battlescape whenever X-COM personnel come in contact with alien units. This can result from investigating downed enemy crafts, combatting alien terrorist activities or attacking alien bases discovered during play. Aliens may also be encountered if they manage to attack and infiltrate one of the X-COM bases.

In the Battlescape view, X-COM combatants are pitted against the alien enemies. In addition to personnel, the player may have vehicles such as heavy weapons platforms outfitted with powerful weapons ranging from rockets to plasma beams. The Battlescape mode is turn-based and each combatant has a number of "time units" which can be expended each turn. When all alien forces have been neutralized, the mission is scored based on number of X-COM units killed, civilians saved, aliens killed or captured and the number of alien artefacts obtained.

The X-COM series is known for its difficulty. Third party programs have been developed to modify the game files to make playing the game less frustrating, and to increase replay value. Those third-party programs can also make the game more difficult for highly skilled players. The most complete of these tools is XcomUtil.

Ports

  • Amiga500
  • Amiga1200
  • Amiga CD32
  • DOS 1.2, 1.4 (Zipped Box Art for the U.S. DOS version is here)
  • Windows CE
  • Playstation (both PAL and NTSC formats)

System Requirements

Minimum

  • 386 processor
  • 4MB RAM
  • Hard drive (10MB free, game alone)
  • MS-DOS 5.0 or higher
  • VGA Graphics

Recommended

  • 486 or better
  • 8MB RAM
  • Hard drive (15MB free, game + manual)
  • SVGA Graphics

Sound Cards Supported

  • PC Internal speaker
  • AdLib compatible cards
  • Sound Blaster compatible cards
  • Roland LAPC-1

Working In Windows

  • The Collectors Edition of XCOM works in all versions of Windows natively.
  • The DOS version can be finicky in WinXP, as modern processors run the game so fast that the slowest speed in Geoscape is about the speed of "5min", not to mention that projectiles are so fast that following them with eye to determine where it come from is impossible. While it's probably possible to subdue it manually, many people use DOSBox as a WinXP DOS emulator, with a high degree of success. It does have some minor inconveniences, but they're a lot less than figuring everything out manually! A tutorial for DOSBox can also be found here.
  • How do you check your game version? I know there are a bunch.

DOS X-COM in WinXP

DOSBox settings

As of August 2012, these settings work fine for the latest DOSBox (0.74) in WinXP, for DOS X-COM v. 1.4. This is on a 2 Ghz quadcore Intel CPU with wide-screen display (the display is not warped) and RealTek HD audio built into the motherboard.

Although one can make a separate DOSBox file just for running X-COM, I (MTR) just edited the DOSBox configuration file to run X-COM.

As the documentation states (section 13), the configuration file is automatically created the first time you run DOSBox as: "Start/WinLogo Menu"->"All Programs"->DOSBox-0.74->Options. This is a shortcut to the file C:\Documents and Settings\[Your Name]\Local Settings\Application Data\DOSBox\dosbox-0.74.conf (If you copy an old dosbox.conf file into the new DOSBox directory, it will be ignored!)

Here are the only things I changed. I didn't experiment with anything; I just got to something that worked:

[sdl]
fullscreen=true
output=ddraw
[render]
aspect=true
[cpu]
cycles=12000
[mixer]
rate=49716
[sblaster]
oplmenu=compat
oplrate=49716
[autoexec]
mount c D:\Games
c:
cd \X-COM
Go.bat 

That last part causes it to be in my X-COM directory (D:\Games\X-COM) when it runs X-COM's GO.BAT. Note that I have the mixer rate matching the opl (synthesizer) rate. Also:

  • Run X-COM's sound SETUP.EXE (should be in your X-COM 1.4 directory) and have it match the DOSBox [sblaster] settings: Board= Soundblaster 16, Base=220, IRQ=7, DMA=1, any channels (8 is fine), music board = AdLib/SoundBlaster FM.
  • I found it a little tricky to get DOSBox to shut down when exiting X-COM. Editing the last line of X-COM's GO.BAT to say "exit" seems to do the trick.

Starting DOSBox with RegEdit

I (amitakartok) found a very convenient way to run the game with DosBox: using regedit, I added registry entry

HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\*\shell\Run with DosBox\command (the part after *\ doesn't exist at first on XP, you have to add it yourself)

and changed the (Default) key's value to

"C:\Program Files\DOSBox-0.73\dosbox.exe" "%1" //optionally, you can append -exit to the end so that DB closes when X-COM closes

The result is a new command in the right-click context menu that causes DosBox to start up and load the exe/bat I gave out the command on! Only problem with this approach is that DosBox absolutely refuses to load the configuration file and starts X-COM with

cycles=max

which is WAY too much. I find the optimal value to be 20% (I got a 2.8 GHz single-core CPU overclocked to 3 GHz).

Screenshots

Taking screencaps (screen captures):

  • For the CE version, use F12. It will make a .TGA file in your game directory.
  • For DOS 1.4, it's more complex. I (MTR) use DosBox (see above). Once I could simply hit PrintScreen when in fullscreen XCOM, then switch out and paste to a graphics app. At some point in time that stopped working (makes for a garbage screencap), so instead I now switch out (Alt-Tab, not Ctrl-Enter), take a PrintScreen (of everything on the WinXP desktop), paste this to a graphics app, and crop the graphic to the XCOM window. (And x2 it, if wanted.) DosBox does have the ability to take a screenshot of the shell by pressing CTRL-F5. The resulting image is in PNG format and is saved in the "capture" folder of the DosBox directory.

The Makers

Published in 1994 by Microprose (bought by Atari), developed by Mythos Games, chief designers brothers Nick and Julian Gollop.

Mythos preceded X-COM with Laser Squad and have recently produced Laser Squad Nemesis.

Created by:

  • Microprose (1994)

Owned by:

  • Atari (2004-2007)
  • Take-Two Interactive (2007-present)

Credits

Primary Credits (DOS, Windows)

Game Design and Programming

Mythos Games Limited
Julian Gollop
Nick Gollop

Graphics and Animation

Julian Gollop
John Reitze
Martin Smillie

Music

John Broomhall

Sound Effects

Andrew Parton

Quality Assurance

Peter Woods
Andrew Luckett
Richard Bakewell
Darren Kirby
Philip McDonnell
Jason Sampson

Manual Author

Kristian Ramsay-Jones

Managing Editor

Alkis Alkiviades

Packaging and Manual Design

John Emory
Joe Morel
Cesar Novoa
Sarah Warburton

Producer

Tim Roberts

Publishers

Paul Hibbard-Teall
Peter Moreland

Additional Credits (Amiga)

UFO 500 Conversion by Climax Productions

Programming

Steve Legg

Artwork

Mike Baxter

Music

Matt Simmonds

Producer

Jason Lihou

For MicroProse

Programming/Tech Advice

Scott Johnston
Bob Koon

Producer

Tim Roberts

Documentation

Nick Stokes

UFO A1200 Conversion

Programming

Scott Johnston
Bob Koon

Documentation

Alkis Alkiviades

Amiga CD32 Conversion

Programming

Scott Johnston
Bob Koon

Additional Programming

Tim Cannell
Paul Dunning
Adrian Scotney
Nick Thompson

Additional Credits (Playstation)

Producer

Stuart Whyte

Quality Assurance

Darren Kirby
Craig Lear
Daniel Luton
Justin Manning
Philip McDonnell
Jason Sampson
Klaus Starke
Donald Witcombe

Programming Conversion

Graeme Ashton
Bob Koon

Additional Programming

Tim Cannell
Paul Dunning
Nick Thompson

Playstation Design Implementation

Andrew Williams

Additional Artwork

Drew Northcott
Martin Severn

Original Game Music Composition

John Broomhall

Original SFX Design

Andrew Parton

Playstation Music Conversion & Additional Music Composition

Allister Brimble

Audio Post Production

Matt Vowles

Audio Producer

John Broomhall

Publisher

Rob Davies

Packaging Design

Sarah Warburton

Manual Design & Layout

Sarah Kerr

Managing Editor

Alkis Alkiviades

Manual Writer & Editor

Rick Haslam

Brand Manager

Adrian Turner

Thanks To

Sheila Boutin
Valentina Britten
Marc Curtis
Gareth Davies
Steve Hickman
Laurie Sinnett
Scott K. Tsumura


Some of the material in this article was adapted from Wikipedia's X-COM page.

See Also

  • The Making of Enemy Unknown - An interview with Julian Gollop, one of the game creators on Edge Magazine.
  • Background -- a timeline of events in the X-COM story line and other connections to the "real world"


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Original Series UFO Badge UFO Defense Info (1994)TFTD Badge TFTD InfoApocalypse Insignia Apocalypse Info
Reboot Series Vigilo Confido black.png XCOM Enemy Unknown (2012) InfoVigilo Confido shield.png The Bureau: XCOM Declassified Info
Spinoffs Interceptor Badge Interceptor InfoE-Mail X-Com Em@il InfoEnforcer Info
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