Chapter 8. Interpreting Feedback and “Leveling Up” Your Product

It’s a Creative Journey, After All

One thing that comes out in myths is that at the bottom of the abyss comes the voice of salvation. The black moment is the moment when the real message of transformation is going to come. At the darkest moment comes the light.

JOSEPH CAMPBELL, THE POWER OF MYTH

BUILDING A PRODUCT IS MESSY. Just ask game designer Jake Solomon, lead designer of the critically acclaimed XCOM: Enemy Unknown.

After growing up obsessed with video games, he turned that fixation into a gig with famed game designer Sid Meier at his company Firaxis. Meier is the mastermind behind legendary classics like Pirates! and the Civilization series.

Solomon moved up within the ranks quickly, becoming a “trusted member of Sid Meier’s team, helping solve complicated problems and interfacing between Meier and other members of the staff.”

There was one game in particular that captured Solomon’s interest as a kid: 1994’s XCOM: UFO Defense. And from the earliest days at Firaxis, Solomon lobbied the team to make a modern version of XCOM. As Polygon reported, he believed so much in the dream that it even became a running joke.

Yet it paid off, and Solomon got a small team and a few months to come up with a prototype for how the new XCOM would work.

But Solomon screwed it up. Over and over again. For almost half a decade.

“Our job is to make a fun XCOM and we’ve completely failed at it,” he said in an interview. “It was a really hard ...

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