Today, when classic series change formats and genres, every mention about the revival of popular games from 90’s cause storm of emotions. When Satellite Reign appeared on Kickstarter, about the game didn’t write probably only laziest. Satellite Reign is the classic cyberpunk, the ideological successor to original Syndicate and hardcore tactical strategy in open world. In general, famous Bullfrog game series have a lot in common with 5 Lives strategy. Here four agents are fighting with corporate soldiers directly on eyes at civilians. Nevertheless, here objectives and goals are different: we just do what we want. We talked to Mike Diskett, chief technical officer of the studio, about Satellite Reign, and now we want to share with you the latest information.
Why you decided to go on Kickstarter with Satellite Reign? Did you try to contact any publishers?
No. The publisher funded model is pretty broken you have to jump through hoops every month to get a milestone payment, then when its all done and shipped the developer gets a similar cut to the company that drives the games from the warehouse to the game shop.
Kickstarter is a beautiful thing, it lets you test the market before you spend hundreds of thousands making a game, it also lets you fund development off the back of pre sales and provides a huge amount of PR for when you do finally ship.
People from 5 Lives team worked in big studios. Now you’re an independent studio. How much does workflow change? What has become easier?
In big teams there is a long chain of command, the lead environment artist would have no say in game design, with a small team everyone has a say every voice is heard, and it’s easy to come to a consensus. Also in big teams you often have a chain of command that spans continents, with green light meetings with external dev directors at HQ, I’m amazed any games actually manage to get made at AAA studios, actually that may explain why so many fail to get made.
Many books and films at all times reflected events taking place in reality. Popularity of cyberpunk in recent years indicates that today’s society has many problems. We have high technologies, smart cities, many countries began post-industrial, but also social problems are growing exponentially. Not even so — it was before, but now it appears more clearly. Do you agree with the fact that videogames like movies and books must demonstrate these problems? (Cyberpunk games — in particular)
It shows a sign of maturity in the industry that we can see games as political commentary, although you only really see that in indie games.
Cyberpunk games do generally portray a dark side to futurism, we have amazing technology but it’s usually used as a way of controlling the masses rather than enabling them, hopefully the cyberpunk fiction can act a warning against a future where Big Brother controls the population. Which is of course especially relevant at the moment with Edward Snowden’s revelation that the NSA is recording the public’s electronic communication.
When we spoke to Mateusz Kanik, director of Cyberpunk 2077, he said that their game is fully consistent with criterion «High tech. Low life». Do you practice this idea?
Very much so, it's kind of a given that if everything was wonderful it wouldn’t create the friction needed to make a great entertainment experience whether in film, book or video game. As soon as you cast your fiction decades into the future, it starts to bring in levels of high tech we can only dream of now, but it also allows you to imagine society further separated by the haves and the have-nots. In a high-tech society the rich become almost like gods with their augmentations compared to the squalor of the have-nots.
What cyberpunk books and films inspired you to create the world of Satellite Reign?
Blade runner of course pretty much inspired the genre that William Gibson then went on to define much of the language for in Neuromancer. Snow crash is a book that's crying out for a movie, I kind of want to put a guy into Satellite Reign that has a very small gun attached to a very large suitcase and wanders the streets with his own nefarious purpose. Hard Boiled by Frank Miller is also a classic inspiration.
Tell us more about the world and the story of Satellite Reign.
So one of the major parts of this game that has caused a bit of controversy amongst Syndicate fans is that you control a small group who are rebelling against the corporate rule, but the interesting thing here is that doesn't make you the good guy, you can be just as ruthless as the corporations probably even more so, you aren't necessarily out to free the oppressed population, you are out for money and power, whether you achieve that by getting the people on your side or just by using them as a stepping stone on your quest is up to the player. And I don't mean that in terms of wanting the player to make a moral choice, it’s purely a by-product of giving the player the freedom to play how they like.
Tell us more about gameplay. What will fights look like? Will they be diverse? Will environment have any impact on battles?
One of my main gripes with the syndicate series was that mostly people played them by grouping all 4 agents together and used them as single powerful tank, I want to add more tactics to combat, I want the player to pre-plan what they are doing, look for escape routes before they start an operation, perhaps mine routes where reinforcements can come from.
That’s one of the reasons we have the different classes with different abilities, moving a stealthy assassin in to a point where a powerful gun-emplacement can be disabled mid battle, having used your hacker to flood a reinforcement route with a crowd of civilians, while your heavy soldier takes out a mech with his rocket launcher.
What classes main characters will have? How they will be developed?
We have 4 main classes, soldier, hacker, support and assassin. The soldier is the tank and provides heavy weapons, hacker provides the ability to do digital counter measures, as well as electronic infiltration or controlling civilians implants, he will later have the ability to be armed with drones for various interesting purposes. Support has a mix of abilities from the other classes as well as buff abilities like medic, ammo, shields. Assassin is about stealth and close up kills as well as distant sniping. I like wide and complex tech trees which allow players to really tailor each classes abilities based on how they want to play the game.
The class system helps to make the independent control of the agents a much more useful strategy than just selecting all 4 agents and using them all to shoot, it adds depth and tactics to the gameplay.
Will civilians have any impact on game events? Is it possible to interact with them?
That really depends on your definition of civilian.There won’t be conversation with them apart from exceptional cases if we need to get across a particular point for the plot but at that point they stop being a faceless civilian and become a VIP.
You can use your hacker to control Civilians by corrupting their augmentations, allowing you to use them as meat-shields send them to attack enemies, or just using them as a distraction.
Will destructible environment be in Satellite Reign as it was in Syndicate Wars?
There will be a base level of destruction, destroy vehicles/scenery, but full on destruction is a stretch goal that we haven't actually announced yet.
Tell us more about open world and opportunities that players will have in Satellite Reign. Will player be free to choose how to achieve his goals?
As I said in the Kickstarter video, I hate being spoon fed missions, Kill person A, now retrieve a briefcase, Now kidnap scientist, now follow person B, this sort of linear mission structure has been played out forever in computer games, I want the player to have to decide their own goals, they will need money they will need weapons, perhaps they will need meat for their clone banks, the player will have to explore the world, intercept electronic communications, take things by force, use bribery and corruption. You need money perhaps you simply kill some civilians and become a high-tech mugger, perhaps you rob a bank by crashing a hacked mech through a wall into a vault, perhaps you sell a decryption algorithm you have researched on a black market bulletin board. How much of this we can achieve depends upon how much funding we get.
Will we be able to control different cars or, maybe, robots?
Absolutely, one of the things I’m most looking forward to with the hacker is to be able to take over the simple brain of the giant mech we have in some of the gameplay videos and use him to gun down enemy agents.
You have participated in the development of original games in Syndicate series. How do you feel about the new Syndicate, shooter from Starbreeze Studios?
In Australia the game was banned, but I watched quite a few videos of it, and never really had a great need to play it. From what I saw Starbreeze did a great job in making a FPS, it’s just that I really really wanted to play a modern update on the classic syndicate RTS games.
On your opinion, why cyberpunk is so popular in recent years?
I’m not sure it is that popular, no TV series, books are few and far between a trickling of video games, it’s very big in anime, but I feel like it’s actually a neglected genre in the west that hopefully will be turned around with cyberpunk 2077 and Satellite Reign.
Thanks for your answers. We are looking forward for the release.
Thanks for taking the time to do this interview.