Book review: Monsters in the Dark: The Making of X-COM: UFO Defense

I loved X-COM: UFO Defense. OK, I played the second installment, but I loved the game. So when I saw on Kickstarter a book on the game designer of the game, I jumped at it.

Discussion

Like Sid Meyer’s book, this is a story of a game designer, Julian Gollop. He’s not as famous as Civilization’s creator, but still made a few games that deeply impacted game design.

The book is chronological and starts with Julian’s childhood, in which we see his deep passion for games, their design, and how he tried to create new ones. We see also how he started writing code as soon as he could, even before finishing school.¬†At that time, I understand the drive to do so, as I played with computers just the same.

We see also the interaction with Microprose at the beginning, how the US and the UK branches interacted with each other, and also the fact that Julian had far less leeway than Meier. It looks like he came up with a game idea that then got transformed with lots of discussions into UFO Defense. We also see the way Microprose tricked its management into publishing the game.

All in all, we stop the story just after the third game in the series, but we don’t know why Julian doesn’t own the brand, or what happened to him after it and how he really felt about the series reboot. Why is it called XCOM (without the -)? So still lots of questions remaining at the end of this (quite short) book.

Conclusion

The book is very interesting but maybe not deep enough. There are still unanswered questions after the last page, and I wished we had the answer to them.

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