Holy crap! Julian Gollop, the renowned strategy game designer behind titles like Laser Squad Nemesis and X-Com: UFO Defense (with help from his brother Nick), revealed some crazy news about his current project while discussing the dearth of turn-based releases lately:
"Publishers run a mile from anything with turn-based mechanics — it is regarded as too niche. RTS games pretty much killed off turn-based strategy games in the mid-90s — but now even RTS games are regarded as niche. So all my experience working turn-based games from 1983-1997 is now somewhat obsolete, despite the success of X-Com.
However, I am now working on a turn-based tactical RPG which will be a 3DS launch title.”
Gollop’s LinkedIn profile says he’s spent the past three years at Ubisoft Bulgaria/Sofia, so it’s likely he’s working on the project with that team. The studio’s previous releases include Chessmaster XI (DS/PSP/PC/XBLA), Rayman Raving Rabbids (PC), and CSI: 3 Dimensions of Murder (PS2). Perhaps this will be the title that puts Ubisoft Sofia on the map, then?
Of course, Gollop also worked on Rebelstar Tactical Command for GBA, another turn-based strategy game for a Nintendo portable. It definitely had its flaws, but I thought it was a cute, streamlined version of X-Com that played great despite hardware limitations.
In the Gamasutra article where Gollop revealed the 3DS project, he also talked about how Nintendo handhelds have kept turn-based strategy titles alive, as well as parallels between Pokemon's battles and X-Com:
"Thanks to Advance Wars, Fire Emblem, and Final Fantasy Tactics it seems turn-based games are not totally dead — at least for Nintendo handhelds.
I would also argue that Pokemon has a lot of parallels with X-Com in its game system, despite being classified as an ‘RPG’.
The core of Pokemon is a turn-based tactical battle enriched by a sophisticated higher level meta-game that allows players to experiment with many game elements and combinations of forces — and Pokemon is the second most successful game franchise in the world. If done right, would an X-Com game with a turn-based combat system be successful? Absolutely!”
I really hope that his 3DS project is more like X-Com than Pokemon (or XCOM)… Of course, it’s also possible he’s just working on a 3D port of Chessmaster XI — that sorta counts as a “turn-based tactical RPG”, right? Either way, I’m so grateful and thrilled that he’s working on a Nintendo portable again!
[Update: Minutes after posting this, I remembered that Ubisoft announced Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon
Lead the Ghosts for the Nintendo 3DS a few months ago. I bet this is the title Gollop is working on. This doesn’t seem as exciting as a spiritual successor to X-Com/Rebelstar Tactical Command, but Gollop’s involvement definitely makes this title something to keep an eye on, IMO.]