When you think of video games, it’s a fair assumption that Microsoft’s spreadsheet program Excel probably doesn’t enter into your mind. Excel might be the most boring part of the Office package, since Word lets you write whatever you want, and with a bit of skill Powerpoint can be used for crude animation. But Excel is just for spreadsheets, the most boring of all kinds of sheets, and it takes a particular level of skill to do something great with it.
We’ve seen games created in Excel before, most notably Arena.XLSM, a short arena based RPG by Cary Walkin. Someone has also managed to create a realistic flight sim in Excel 2003, complete with real-world physics. However, probably the most ambitious project comes to us from one Reddit user, who has managed to make a functional version of the game Xcom in Excel.
The creator of the project states that they were learning to code in VBA, a coding language Excel uses, and decided to try and build a version of XCOM an game they enjoyed. The game takes place between XCOM: Enemy Within and the upcoming XCOM 2, and concerns a group of guerrilla fighters attempting to liberate their city from ADVENT, the evil human faction from Enemy Within. Since, down at it’s core, XCOM is really a game of numbers and math, the theory of porting it to something like Excel seems feasible, and so with only a few weeks of coding experience, work slowly began.
As of this writing the game, code-named EXLCOM, is in very early stages. A test build does exist, but the creator requested it not be posted here. When asked about the time frame, they said they’re aiming to be released before XCOM 2 in Febuary, but that’s just an estimate, and that there’s no hard date yet. Still, for an early alpha of something that probably shouldn’t exist it’s remarkably well done, and much of the ground work is in place, including a somewhat functional level editor. It also features things from Firaxis’ 2012 reboot of the XCOM series like destructible terrain and unit perks. While it doesn’t yet feature the alien forces the series is known for, the creator did outline that they would be added in time, and that there was the possibility of more enemy types in the future.
It’s always great to see ambition in the gaming world, especially when it comes from fans themselves, and this is just another example of when practical meets enjoyable. Small projects like this are a great reminder of the old days of gaming, just people making projects out of whatever code they could wrangle, and it’s hard not to root for the person behind this. If we can get Doom on a printer than something like XCOM in Excel just makes sense.