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Syndicate: 'FPS plays to our strengths... we're not going to please everyone'

Developer discusses its Bullfrog reinvention

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NM: A lot of science fiction books and definitely movies. All these things for when you do something creative is drawn upon those things, like comics. Basically you can take it from anywhere.

RJ: There are a lot of advertisements and kind of visions already around about what a future society could bring. Feeding into all of that basically, it's not just making a game out of one or two inspiration sources.

Any particular favourites? Perhaps Inception or Blade Runner?

NM: Definitely Blade Runner. Blade Runner was such a reference point for the original. Definitely up town aspects...

RJ: And perhaps the Johnny Mnemonic book. The uploading and downloading data...

How has the Dart gameplay influenced how you've designed the world?

NM: Dart is constantly evolving and I don't think the original concept of what Dart would be is what we've got now, her kind of being a sentinel side-kick. But getting that balance so she doesn't become too overpowering or an annoyance in your head is quite a difficult thing to get right. And the evolution of the way in which we've developed the applications... she constantly changes from how we originally thought she would be

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RJ: She's probably been the one thing that's evolved the most along this path, but she defines everything. It shifts from the fact that you are a chip carrier and what that chip can do - that is kind of the edge of the game.

It's interesting the way you refer to it as a 'she'...

NM: I think she's always been a she. It's that thing that a male tends to be more aggressive whereas she can take a more calculated diagnostic approach...

VS: She kind of soothes you. She's kind of the mother and the sidekick, the friend, it's all of that. You don't want an action grunt screaming at you.

RJ: But then again we also didn't want to make her personality too strong either. She should be more like this - not emotional... her personality is... I don't know...

NM: Yeah, you can't switch her off. She's always there in you head - apart from when people hack you.

Given that you've got both powers and guns it must be a challenge balancing gameplay. But you must have learned from the Darkness which had a similar dual layer approach?

RJ: Well we can speak about how we balance it, and it's less scientific than you might think. My goal is I need to be able to play through the encounter just by using backfire and no upgrades or anything else like that. And then, having played it 100 times, I survive, and then when I give it to someone else I say, okay, what do you think? And then remember to give all your upgrades and all the stuff that you will have at this point and then someone can play it and say 'it's way too hard, tone it down a little bit'. That's how we've done it to this point. It needs to be said also that we want it to be challenging. Not frustrating, but probably harder then a lot of games out there...

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NM: It's something that we want, y'know. It's not trial and error working out where these guys are, you need to adapt your gameplay to how they're playing. We're not spawning guys behind you or anything ridiculous like that y'know. These guys will flank you and communicate to each other and change their tactics on the fly and using your IPA and your applications you need to counteract that and move around the maps as well. So the first time you play it, if you're used to other first-person shooters, it's not going play the way you expect it to...

VS: They won't just politely take cover but leave their heads sticking up [laughs]. They will take cover so you need to use your powers. Also one of the reason why I think it's a little but harder than a lot of games is that the original Syndicate was very, very hard. At least I thought so, and this... you couldn't just make an easy Syndicate. That wouldn't be right I don't think.

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