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Behind The Kickstart: SATELLITE REIGN with Brent Waller

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Thank you for taking the time to speak to me about Satellite Reign Brent, and like many I'm excited to see more from the title. That said, I do have something to confess. I am actually one of the 5 people from my age group that doesn't have any hands on experience with the original Syndicate or Syndicate Wars. Always heard about it, and have seen both games in action extensively, but have never actually played them.

While my head hangs in gaming shame, I imagine there are others like me who might stay a bit silent when others share their Syndicate gaming nostalgia, in hopes we won't be found out. For those of us who missed the train what would you say is the key thing that Syndicate (and now Satellite Reign) does that no other game does?

Apart from being a cyberpunk action/strategy game which few games can claim to be, the Syndicate games were a top-down isometric RTS that wasn’t really an RTS as we know it traditionally. There’s no base building, and apart from the taxes you generate from dominating districts, there is no resource management as such. It’s all about managing your squad of 4 agents, upgrading them with augmentations and equipment so they can go face-to-face against another corporation in all-out warfare on the streets.

Spiritual Successor is a term I've heard used quite a bit the last year or two. It would seem to be a minefield of legality depending on who owns the rights. Is there a lot of development time going towards making sure that a line doesn't get crossed? What kind of precautions do you have to take?

You should totally use the Ludacris Gun by the way.

While we are obviously inspired by the Syndicate games, we’re creating a story and universe that stands completely on its own.

The team are all diehard fans of the both the genre and cyberpunk setting captured by games such as Syndicate, but our goal is to create something of our own. Satellite Reign is going to build off the themes and mechanics everyone loved in the Syndicate games, but having an entirely new world of our own gives us the freedom to try new things without being tied down by an established canon.

 

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Speaking of Satellite Reign, The hacker seems like it would be a really fun class to use, and the thinking behind him is right in line with what I noticed in watching gameplay of the previous titles, as it was common to just use all 4 agents together as one big unstoppable mob. Having classes helps stop that from being such an issue, but what about the hacker specifically excites you the most?

For myself, I’m excited about using the hacker to manipulate the simulated city. For example, one of your informants might come across some information about a new prototype weapon being developed at a competing corporation that you want to get your hands on.

You’ve found out some information about a scientist who works on the project, he’ll have a key or passcode to access the facility where the weapon is being held. But all you have is his name and face, you don’t know where he is at any given time. So you break into the city’s CCTV system (either via force or stealth) and hack into their systems to use their cameras to find him using facial recognition built into the cameras. The cameras pick him up getting into his car on his way to work.

So naturally you might decide the best course of action is to set up an ambush. You position your agents along a road you’ll know he’s coming down and wait. As he approaches you get your soldier to open fire on the car, the scientists accelerates and at that moment you instruct your hacker to override the traffic diversion system which forces a set of bollards to pop up out of the road in front of the car, causing it to crash.

Now it’s just a matter of wandering over, killing the scientist or persuading him to join your side at which point you’ll have access to the facility where the prototype weapon is being held. That’s just one way you could approach that mission. You could just decide to just take the brute force approach and attack the facility where the weapon is being held, but having the option for a more covert approach is what excites me the most about the hacker.

Augmentation is a big part of developing your team and enhancing their skills, so could you go into a bit more detail on how the system works?

Our augmentation system is very similar to the Syndicate, Deus Ex series of games, with options for upgrading  brain, eyes, legs, arms, lungs etc. Each augmentation will allow you to do things better or faster than you could before. Eyes might give your agents a longer line of sight, legs allow you to move faster, arms allow you to carry larger weapons, lungs allow you to sprint further and breathe in toxic environments etc. There’s a lot of options in the way you can upgrade your agent, but you’ll have to choose carefully to tailor your agents to your place style, and some augmentations will be more offensive while some are more defensive.

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One of the features being spotlighted in the Kickstarter campaign is having a living, breathing city. Is it just about immersion in the game world that excites you about it most, or is it the gameplay possibilities?

I think the gameplay possibilities actually build the immersion. If the player performs a certain action in the world, you want, and would expect, to get a realistic response from the simulation of the population. Whether the player views these reactions as positive or negative will really depend on your play-style, but we’re careful not to force any morality into the impacts of your actions. We feel a realistic reaction to your actions will help build the immersion more than forcing certain play-styles down the players’ throats.

I love that, as playing in a world of grey can be a lot of fun. Speaking of your living world, the way missions are delivered to your character promotes interacting with the npc's and your environment to a great degree. I love the idea of discovering people and missions as opposed to being delivered them, as it gives you a credible reward for exploring your surroundings. Can you go into a bit more detail as to how that will work?

A little bit like an RPG but without the time consuming workload of rigid scripting. We want the players to discover the missions and objectives in the world. You can physically make the hacker break into a competing corporations office and uncover some tidbits of information that reveals a new objective or goal in the world, or bribe an informant or guard for information.

You’ll also have the option of paying for information on the black market; there’ll be places in the world where you can go and just pay someone to find the information for you. The other option is to pump some of your money and income into data mining which over time will hack into any systems in the city and give you drops of information as it finds it. All of this information will be presented to you in communication between people, emails, memos, etc.

It really seems like there are a ton of ways to interact with the world you've built, and while we're talking about the surroundings, it should be mentioned I absolutely love the art style you've gone with. Also, your soldier designs are pretty damn cool. It's gotta be hard creating a soldier or guard that doesn't look like every other soldier or guard. Any behind the scenes details on how that style was created? I'm a sucker for that kind of thing.

We have an amazing group of concept artists we contract for that. We gave one particular artist a fairly loose direction for a faceless corporate soldier that is somewhat reminiscent of Stormtrooper and his initial “rough” sketch completely nailed it first go.

You've recently added the digital novella written by Russell Zimmerman to your rewards list, who has plenty of experience with cyberpunk worlds. Is that a prequel to the story of the game, or something that takes place during?

We’ve only just brought him on board so our plans haven’t been nailed down as of yet. The universe we’re building has existed for over a century under the control of the current corporate power, so there’s going to be lots of room for Russell to stretch his legs. Whether or not his novella will directly set up the events of the game or stand on its own is still yet to be decided.

A novel gives you an ample amount of room to flesh out the world, so is there one particular part of the fiction that you wanted more room to develop?

We’re careful not to box ourselves into story elements that will dictate things for the long term. If we’re successful with this first game, we want to leave ourselves some room to explore the world beyond the one city Satellite Reign will be taking place in. Are there other cities out there? Other corporations? We want some freedom to explore in the future.

Well it's safe to say I'm convinced, and thank you for taking the time to speak with me Brent. Congrats on being over halfway funded with 20 days still to go! I sincerely hope I get the chance to play Satellite Reign, and look forward to seeing more of it.

Thanks for talking to us!

If you're interested in finding out more about Satellite Reign, or just want to donate, you can head to their official Kickstarter Page here

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