Long War 2, the total conversion mod for XCOM 2, is available right now! We wanted to find out more about its creator, Pavonis Interactive (formerly known as Long War Studios). Thankfully, John Lumpkin, design lead and managing partner, was kind enough to answer a few questions for us!
Thanks for doing this, John. First, can you tell us what your exact position at Pavonis Interactive is?
We got to make up our own titles! I’m the design lead. Also a managing partner. And public relations coordinator. And rookie-killing sadist.
How did Pavonis Interactive form?
Its informal beginning was when my partner Rachel “Amineri” Norman contacted me in early 2013 with some suggestions on how to dig into XCOM: Enemy Unknown’s code to make grenades a little less reliable. We started modding EU and then EW together with the help of several other talented programmers. We formed Long War Studios as a company as we got to work on our own title and shortly before signing a contract to develop the release-day mods for XCOM 2. With the release of Long War 2, we are rechristening our company Pavonis Interactive to capture that our future work will range beyond modding XCOM and toward developing our own independent titles. “Long War” will be indelibly linked with XCOM.
What are you and your team most proud of in Long War 2?
We think we’ve recreated a lot of the “Long War” feel in the XCOM 2 engine, although we tried to peg full campaigns at around 100 to 120 missions, which isn’t quite as many as the original.
In your own words, can you briefly describe how you’ve changed the Strategy Layer?
We’ve made a lot of changes. ADVENT now has a certain strength in each region on Earth, and it will move troops around in response to XCOM activity. This strength will determine how hard missions will be. This encourages XCOM to build a global Resistance and strike where ADVENT is weakest, just as a proper insurgency should.
In addition, in each region you’ve made contact with, you assign Resistance members to various jobs in a Haven: scavenging supplies, recruiting more rebels and soldiers, or gathering intelligence to generate missions. Many missions have set durations, and you must send a squad to infiltrate the target site over several days. The longer you infiltrate, the fewer enemies you will face, but larger squads need more time to sneak into the mission area.
Finally, it is now possible to liberate regions entirely from ADVENT control. Doing so will grant bonuses in resource gathering and more importantly trigger the AVATAR plot missions, but ADVENT will try to take them back.
How did you conceptualize and execute on these changes? Did you always have a vision in mind or is it something you guys stumbled upon by testing out different mechanics?
The general ideas of a hit-and-run insurgency and having mission difficulty scale both with strategic conditions as well as squad size are things we’ve had from the start. The general idea behind the infiltration mechanic was to replace our fatigue mechanic from the original Long War – we want to tie up your soldiers and force you to develop a deeper roster, and frankly the infiltration mechanic works better narratively than fatigue to fulfill this purpose, especially in a guerrilla war narrative. We also wanted to make squad size something organically determined rather than a straight set of upgrades you acquire over a campaign. Now, the extra flexibility provided by bringing 10 soldiers on a mission has costs, so it’s ultimately up to the player to decide how they want to take on a mission.
In your own words, can you briefly describe how you’ve changed the Tactical Mission gameplay?
We’ve implemented, and in many cases improved on, most of the content from our prior mods. We’ve also added an additional soldier class, the Technical, who can specialize in either the rocket launcher or flamethrower wrist weapons, which are available from the start. Each of our new classes has its own secondary weapon: The Sharpshooter has a holo-targeter, the Ranger a sawed-off shotgun, the Assault an arc thrower, and the Gunner a combat knife for self-defense. (We’re allowing all classes to equip pistols.) In addition, we’ve reworked the AWC bonus perk system to give each soldier a randomized mini-tree of offensive, defensive and pistol perks they can train, but they have to spend several days in the training tube to acquire the additional abilities.
We’ve added several mission types – ambushing a troop column, attacking an ADVENT military base, and rescuing multiple rebels from a jail, to name a few. We did try to add more pitched battles alongside the timed missions.
We’ve also made officers more integral to tactical play. They have the Command ability from Long War; they also provide bonuses to soldiers whom they have been on several missions with, and they have the ability to spend the intel resource to extend the timers on timed missions.
What else? All of Alien Pack is in there, plus some new ADVENT bad guys, sometimes in pods of up to eight enemies. Uncontacted enemy pods will now behave differently, sometimes trying to flank your squad or moving to defend the objective. The Skyranger now takes several turns to arrive when you throw the flare.
Which of the new mission types is your favorite and why?
Probably a toss-up between our alternate Haven defense mission, in which you have to defend an extraction zone in the center of the map while holding off increasingly strong Alien reinforcements and rescuing your rebels, and the invasion, when ADVENT tries to re-take a region. It functions something like a retaliation mission, but in a city.
What are you and the team most proud of in your changes to the Tactical gameplay?
I polled our playtesters, led by the illustrious Tim “Bilfdoffle” Evans, and they offered the following:
- The AWC/officer perks creating unique soldiers
- Corpse reanimation by unactivated sectoids
- Yellow alert and pod job mechanics
- The coil cannon
- All the new missions
- Changes to evac timer and meta around stealthier missions/
- Controlling Rebels and Civs
- Defending the Evac
- The new Arc Thrower
Thank you for your time, John!
The Long War 2 mod is available now as a free download through Steam Workshop for XCOM 2 on PC.