XCOM: Enemy Unknown developer Firaxis accepted delivery late this week of a pair of matched, custom-built XCOM arcade cabinets. The cabinets, custom-built for 2K Games, were originally deployed as demo units for the Rezzed PC and indie game show in Brighton, UK, and have now come home.
Inside are a pair of Xbox 360 units with flat-screen monitors. The control buttons and joysticks correspond to the Xbox controls, making play somewhat intuitive, if a bit complex. Solomon said it controls well, but the cabinet does not, contradictory to lead developer Jake Solomon's tweet about it, accept quarters.
We caught up to Solomon as he was inspecting the cabinets.
"This was just delivered today. It's pretty sweet," Solomon said.
Solomon has been busy recuperating from the chaotic development of XCOM, which lasted close to a decade, all-told. Polygon chronicled the game's development (and the rise of Solomon's career) earlier this year.
When asked how many hours he had put into playing XCOM after finishing it, Solomon let out a huge sigh of equal parts frustration and disbelief.
"It's funny, because I'm actually playing through again right now. It's very useful to ... put myself in the shoes of the people who have played and beaten the game multiple, multiple times so that their frustrations can become my frustrations ... and I can say 'Yes, I see what you're saying. That is irritating.'
"Every map I know so well. I remember these maps from when they were just grey boxes in a row."
Release of XCOM was followed for Solomon by the birth of his daughter, who was born premature and spent the first several days of her life in the NICU ward. She is now six months old and doing fine, but she struggled for her first ten days.
"She had a really hard time," Solomon said. " After that she came home and she's like the biggest, strongest tank in the world. It made her stronger.
"If we were, like, in medieval times, I would be a king. It's a sign of wealth to have a big, fat baby."
Solomon feels stronger as well, after enduring the tortuous ups and downs of development on XCOM, his first game as a lead designer, he feels that the experience has also made him stronger.
"I don't think I'll ever again have that experience where everything is as intense."
"I have a little more space now," he said. "Now I look back on everything very fondly. Everything's got the Instagram filter on it now.
"Now I see it for what it is: such an awesome opportunity. It's never going to be like that for me again. It's such a blessing. That one for me ... I don't think I'll ever [again] have that experience where everything is as intense."
Solomon said that during XCOM's development, he told his wife they would have to move away from Maryland, where Firaxis is based, so that he could work at another studio. He believed the game would fail and that he himself was a failure.
She reminds him of this now, whenever he's stressing about something else, although these days, after launching XCOM to near-universal acclaim, that happens a lot less often.
"My wife would tell you, it's completely changed my personality. I'm so much more laid back about things. ... Once you have a couple of those under your belt you realize how much you love what you do."
Solomon said that overall, however, game development, however complex, can't compare to the experience of watching your child suffer in the hospital.
"It's those experiences, they actually remind you how much you take everything for granted," he said. "When things work out, and you come out of those ... those are the things that make you a much better person because it's very hard for other things to rattle you."