David L. Craddock writes fiction, nonfiction, and grocery lists. He is the author of the Gairden Chronicles series of fantasy novels for young adults, as well as numerous nonfiction books documenting videogame development and culture, including the bestselling Stay Awhile and Listen series, Shovel Knight by Boss Fight Books, and Long Live Mortal Kombat. Follow him online at www.DavidLCraddock.com, and on Twitter @davidlcraddock.

David L. Craddock writes fiction, nonfiction, and grocery lists. He is the author of the Gairden Chronicles series of fantasy novels for young adults, as well as numerous nonfiction books documenting videogame development and culture, including the bestselling Stay Awhile and Listen series, Shovel Knight by Boss Fight Books, and Long Live Mortal Kombat. Follow him online at www.DavidLCraddock.com, and on Twitter @davidlcraddock.

Monsters in the Dark: Special Edition by David L. Craddock

It is the Year 1994…

In North America, turn-based strategy games were trampled by flashier video games like Doom and Mortal Kombat. All but one: Sid Meier's Civilization, a game of conquest and megahit developed by Maryland-based MicroProse.

Over in southwest England, the producers at MicroProse UK aspired to design a tactical game that matched or exceeded the success of their American counterparts, who viewed the UK branch as nothing more than a support studio. Nearby, a bespectacled teenage boy toiled away on his home computer, dreaming of the day his programming aptitude would catch up to the epic campaigns unfolding across his imagination.

From his early experiments in board games to digital battlefields that lit up bestseller charts, Monsters in the Dark charts the career of legendary designer Julian Gollop through the creation of 1994's X-COM, a terrifying and terrifyingly deep wargame hailed as "the finest PC game" (IGN) and "a bona fide classic" (GameSpot).


Monsters in the Dark was a pleasure to write, but there was more content than I could justify packing into the book's main narrative. I'm a hoarder in terms of my writing: I cut words that need to go, but I never throw them away. Monsters in the Dark: Special Edition—which is only available as a digital book for this bundle—offers several interviews that expand on the roles many designers played on the original X-COM, and a lengthy interview of X-COM: Apocalypse, the third game in the series. -David L. Craddock, curator, StoryBundle



  • "Monsters in the Dark is an engaging history of not just X-COM, but of Julian Gollop's path to creating one of the cornerstones of strategy gaming."

    – Soren Johnson, lead designer of Sid Meier's Civilization IV
  • "Reading Monsters in the Dark was like traveling back in time to one of the great periods of PC game development. David not only tells the untold story of X-COM's development, but the incredible adventure its creators underwent to bring the game to life. "

    – Chris Taylor, creative director of Total Annihilation and Supreme Commander
  • "Craddock writes exhaustive and fascinating investigations into how games are made, and Monsters in the Dark is no exception. X-COM is one of my favorite games and a huge influence on my work, and I thoroughly enjoyed learning about its development."

    – Erich Schaefer, co-creator of the Diablo, Torchlight, and Rebel Galaxy franchises



TEN-YEAR-OLD JULIAN GOLLOP scanned the packages arranged underneath the tree on Christmas morning. His eyes swept past too-small and too-large boxes until they latched onto a thin rectangle cocooned in brightly colored paper. Behind him, the adults stumbled into the room rubbing sleep from their eyes and gave the children permission to open gifts.

The kids exploded into motion, everyone rushing for one box or stocking. Julian went straight to the gift-wrapped rectangle. Hefting it, he smiled. Something rattled inside. Bits of plastic, perhaps small pencils and notepads. He could not say with certainty what the box contained, but its size and those telltale sounds amounted to his favorite holiday tradition. Every year, the Gollops rounded up Julian and his siblings to spend Christmas with their grandparents in Leeds, Northern England. Every year, Julian and his siblings expected one present of a certain type. Unless he was quite mistaken, Julian held that present in his hands.

"My father was very keen on games," says Gollop. "He liked to play all kinds. Bridge, canasta. Backgammon was a favorite game of his. He actually bought us a lot when I was around nine or ten. And not just the classics like Monopoly. He tried to buy something interesting every Christmas."

His brother and sister wore expectant looks as they spotted what he held. Their father leaned in to watch as they tore into the paper. At last, Julian held aloft a colorful box containing a board game. The lid depicted a towering castle crouched on a hill. Nazi guards prowled the grounds under an ominous sky, oblivious to the pair of frightened but determined POWs hiding nearby. Bold white letters spelled out Escape from Colditz, and it was unlike any board game Julian had seen. The menacing tableau contrasted starkly to the bright and colorful illustrations that adorned games aimed at children.

On that snowy Christmas morning, Escape from Colditz became a family affair. Julian, his father, his siblings, his mother, his grandfather, and others made up a team of eight. (His grandmother opted to sit out the game, preparing dinner so all of her soon-to-be-escapees would have sustenance following their desperate escape.) Together, the family worked out the rules. One player acted the part of security officer; the others assumed the roles of POWs. One of the prisoners was appointed escape officer, a coordinator charged with gathering equipment such as helmets and preparing to escape. The security officer monitored the prisoners to thwart escape attempts, such as by confiscating equipment and throwing conspirators in solitary confinement. All the while, the escape officer worked to free POWs within a tight time limit. Freeing two or more meant victory for the British soldiers, whereas all the security officer had to do was run down the clock.

The Gollops were not the first to escape the infamous German castle. That bleak honor goes to Airey Neave, the first British POW to break free of Colditz. Patrick "Pat" Robert Reid was another. An officer in the British Army, Reid was captured on May 27, 1940, alongside other members of the British Expeditionary Force by German soldiers and sent to Laufen Castle in Bavaria for imprisonment. Reid plotted escape within a week of arriving at the POW camp in June, his resolve so ironclad he believed he'd be home in time for Christmas.

For his first attempt, Reid connived with seven other prisoners to dig a tunnel from the prison basement to the outside. Over seven weeks, they carved out a twenty-four-foot passageway that led to a small shed. From there, they disguised themselves as women and made their way to Yugoslavia but were apprehended in Austria and returned to Laufen Castle, where the guards punished them with a month in solitary confinement and nothing but bread, water, and a bed of wooden boards.

After half a dozen foiled attempts, the German guards grew tired of Reid and his cohort and shipped them off to Colditz. To the Germans, imprisonment in Colditz was as good as a death sentence. They had occupied the castle since World War I, during which no POW escaped. Security was even tighter during WWII. According to Reid's memoir, guards outnumbered prisoners at all times, and at night, floodlights burned away shadows from every angle. The drop from cell windows to the ground measured at least one hundred feet. Sentries patrolled the area night and day, barbed wire coated fences, and the castle itself stood on a hill where the only way down was a drop of varying heights, most lethal.

Life inside Colditz was less harsh than its security measures suggested. Its commanders adhered to the terms of the Geneva Convention; prisoners spent their days reading, playing sports, and, in the case of Reid and many others, hatching escape plans.

Reid tried plot after plot. His first entailed teaming up with eleven other men to bribe a guard, only for the guard to take their money and snitch to his superiors. On another occasion, Reid and another soldier donned the uniforms of laborers and, using a saw smuggled into the castle through their network of conspirators, sawed through a barred window and descended into a sewer. They emerged on an outer lawn, where a forty-foot drop halted their progress.

Colditz wasn't as impregnable as the Germans liked to boast. Two factors worked against it: its sprawling size, which made it difficult to staff and operate around the clock, and its reputation. From 1933 until 1939, it held "undesirables" such as Jewish people and homosexuals. After six years, the Germans repurposed the castle as the final stop for Allied soldiers, many notorious for breaking out of other POW camps. Every prisoner was a Houdini of escaping castles, fortresses, and installations. For most, freedom was a matter of when, not if. Schemes ranged from duplicate keys to copies of maps to documents giving prisoners fake identities to pretending to be physically or mentally ill and getting transplanted to a medical facility. More elaborate plots entailed prisoners sewed into mattresses and tying bedsheets together to form ropes, which became a comical plot device in cartoons.

For Reid and other would-be escapees, the goal was to hit a home run, meaning an escape that took them out of Colditz and into Allied territory. On one occasion, Reid rounded third when he and a group of prisoners worked for seven weeks digging a tunnel that stretched twenty-four feet from the prison's basement to the adjoining shed of a house. They entered their tunnel in October and came out the other side but were captured in Austria and sentenced to a month of solitary confinement as punishment. Undeterred, he became what the prisoners referred to as an "Escape Officer" and helped others make bids for freedom. On October 14, 1942, Reid and several others swung for the fences by sneaking through the kitchens, crossing the yard, and descending into the cellar where they stripped off their clothes to climb nude up a cramped chimney and over a ten-foot-tall wall topped with barbed wire. On the other side, they slogged through sewers for eleven hours until they surfaced in a park and trekked for four days until reaching the neutral territory of Switzerland. Years later, Reid wrote two successful nonfiction memoirs and went on to co-design the board game based on his experiences.

The Gollops played Escape from Colditz for hours. Julian was as mesmerized by the theme and history that informed the adventure as he was the game's mechanics. Its rules and constituent parts were more complex than any game his dad had introduced him to, and the tense narrative made him feel like he was living someone else's life, part of a story instead of a bright-eyed boy sitting warm and comfortable at a kitchen table. After the rest of the family dispersed, Julian, his mind still spinning, found someone else willing to play other games. "Often I would play with just my brother and sister. I remember a game we had called Buccaneer, which was a board game with pirates."