Where are they now? - Julian Gollop

Screen grab of Julian Gollop from Phoenix Point pitch video
Julian Gollop: Still keeping the fire burning for turn-based tactics (okay, it's technically an electric lamp - don't ruin the metaphor :))

Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you: it's another "Where are they now?" post! Don't get too excited though, I'm not going to be reviving the regular "Where are they now?" post every Wednesday; this is a once off, but for a very important reason since one of my favourite game designers of all time, Julian Gollop, is working on a new game called Phoenix Point, but before we get to that, let us learn a bit about the man's history.

If there's one thing that can be said about Julian Gollop is that he really loves his turn-based tactics games – you just need to take one look at the games he's worked on and it won't take you long to come to that conclusion.

Gollop apparently started in the UK in the early 80s. Right out of school, he worked for a company called Red Shift Games for a few years. Red Shift Games was a publisher that had a close working relationship with Gollop as well as Games Workshop and Gollop's first couple of games there weren't actually coded by him, but designed by him; they were called Time Lords and Islandia (a turn-based island trading strategy game that from the perspective of someone who has never played the game, bears some similarities to the board game "Settlers of Catan"). Gollop would soon get into programming for platforms such as the ZX Spectrum and developed the games Nebula and Rebelstar Raiders (a turn-based combat strategy game for two players).

In the late 80s, Gollop became managing director at Target Games and arguably the biggest game he developed here was Laser Squad because (a) it was critically acclaimed at the time and (b) it was basically the predecessor to what became UFO: Enemy Unknown (aka X-COM: UFO Defense in the USA). The game was originally released on the ZX Spectrum in 1988 but would eventually be sold on many PC platforms, including DOS in 1992.

In the early 90s, Gollop started up a new company called Mythos Games and he developed games there with his brother, Nick Gollop, for over a decade. The first game that Julian Gollop worked on under the Mythos brand was the 1990 game Lords of Chaos which served as a sequel to his 1985 turn-based tactics game Chaos.

However, the game that Mythos and indeed Julian and Nick Gollop are most renowned for would have to be UFO: Enemy Unknown released in 1994. The combination of a turn-based tactics game with a story that involves an elite paramilitary organisation defending the Earth from an alien invasion was great for strategy fans and sci-fi buffs. The game was followed by a couple of sequels such as 1995's Terror from the Deep (which wasn't developed by Mythos but by Microprose instead) and 1997's X-COM: Apocalypse (basically XCOM set in a retro-futurist city). There were a couple of other spin-offs that no fan ever talks about except in hushed tones and then there's of course the rebooted series by Firaxis Games which started off with XCOM: Enemy Unknown in 2012 and XCOM 2 in 2016.

Around 2001, Gollop's involvement with Mythos ceased and he started up a new company called Codo Technologies. Codo developed games based on previous franchises such as 2002's Laser Squad Nemesis (which interestingly had a Play-by-Email feature) and 2005's Rebelstar: Tactical Command (a tactical RPG for the Game Boy Advance).

Gollop married in 2002 and in 2006 he ceased working for Codo Technologies and moved to Sofia in Bulgaria to work for Ubisoft Sofia. Here he served as a game designer/producer on Ghost Recon Shadow Wars for the 3DS and as Creative Director for Assassin's Creed III Liberation for PS Vita.

Around 2013, Gollop formed a new company called Snapshot Games with another industry veteran, David Kaye. They launched a Kickstarter project in 2014 to raise $180,000 in order to create a remake of Chaos called Chaos Reborn; Snapshot Games was successful in securing $210,854 in funding through the Kickstarter campaign. Chaos Reborn was released in 2015 and was generally well received by the press and the public.

So now in 2017, Gollop has returned to the crowdfunding scene to see if he can secure $500,000 for what is effectively another XCOM style game called Phoenix Point. All the elements are there including an alien menace, turn-based tactics gameplay, world based strategy and even the same friggin' composer from the original UFO: Enemy Unknown: John Broomhall (being a VGM nerd, I admit, this was a big drawcard for me).

He's not going through Kickstarter this time though and instead he's going through a crowdfunding platform called Fig which is the brainchild of some folks from Double Fine, Obsidian Entertainment and inXile. The campaign has only been online for about a day or so I believe and it has already exceeded three quarters of the goal (so it seems likely it's going to get funded no matter what).

And there you have it. Julian Gollop is still in the game of making, erm, games – and ones involving turn-based tactics at that. You can never have too many turn-based tactics games, right?

[ Fig: Phoenix Point ]
[ Kickstarter: Chaos Reborn ]
[ MobyGames: Julian Gollop ]
[ Snapshot Games Official Website ]
[ Wikipedia: Julian Gollop ]
[ Wikipedia: Red Shift (publisher) ]