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Syndicate Developer: Time Has Moved On

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For those old shuffleboard lovers all in a tizzy about how EA and Starbreeze have turned yet another classic strategy game into a first person shooter, Starbreeze has a message for you:

Wake up and smell the 21st century. (My words.)

The actual words from game director Neil McEwan are as follows (from OXM).

“It was always going to be an FPS. The original nub of the idea was to take that viewpoint from the original game and zoom into the Agent’s head, and play that part. A closer experience – to become one of those Agents. [Our] game speaks for itself. We’ve been very lucky to work with a great, original world, and create another facet of it really. I would love [fans of the original] to like it. You’re never going to please everyone. I don’t want people to stop playing the old games, but time has moved on.”

Here’s the thing. He’s right. He’s absolutely, without question correct in that statement. The reason people get upset about these announcements is that yeah, time has moved on, but what made those old games (X-Com, Syndicate) great back in the day would still make them great today. But with today’s technology they could be made better and introduced to a new audience.

I hope the Syndicate shooter is great, and it might very well be.

But it’s NOT Syndicate. It can’t be.

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Bill Abner

Bill has been writing about games for the past 16 years for such outlets as Computer Games Magazine, GameSpy, The Escapist, GameShark, and Crispy Gamer. He will continue to do so until his wife tells him to get a real job.

26 thoughts to “Syndicate Developer: Time Has Moved On”

  1. I agree with the last sentence.

    What is it about NEW companies taking over OLD IPs that think that nothing… NOTHING in this world is successful EXCEPT for FPS?

    Herp Derp = lets make COD.

    I think Blizzard has proved… 3 times in a row (correct me if I’m wrong) that you’re game doesn’t have to be a FPS to make money.

    And BTW MR EA… they weren’t ” self-determining Agents ” – the were remotely controlled Cyborg Combat Chasis (Terminators more or less).

    They got it WRONG from day 1. As usual.

  2. I’m kind of torn on this. On the one hand, utilizing an existing IP in order to create a completely new, possibly entirely unrelated game is probably a good way to get recognition and try out a potentially risky idea. In fact, some of the best “sequels” were games unrelated to the original. Look at Silent Hill 2, for example.

    On the other hand, this isn’t a risky idea at all. It’s a futuristic FPS, the likes of which we’ve seen a million times over. They shouldn’t need an existing IP to sell this. But even disregarding that, what bugs me about this particular case is that they billed it as a “remake” when it’s nothing of the sort. Maybe that was just the rumour mill working and EA never actually said it was a remake? I’m not sure. The fact that they seem to have misunderstood how the Agents functioned in the original game doesn’t help either. Maybe there’s a plot about your Agent becoming self-determining or something.

  3. I suppose the most uncomfortable dilemma for those of us who loved Syndicate is… what future action does buying or not buying the game encourage? Because if the game DOESN’T succeed, they will probably just abandon the franchise and be less inclined to use older IPs since this one failed. If the game DOES succeed, will they keep making new games for old beloved IPs, including sequels to this, but only as first-person shooters? Is that even preferable?

  4. This is pretty upsetting.

    I guess I’ll just have to wait for the eventual indie remake of Syndicate that won’t contain the license but will get the original gameplay and setting right.

  5. Ya’ll are some angry people!

    First off, the press release doesn’t mention “Self-determining,” another poster suggested that as a plot line. Now granted… if you’re playing a video game the protagonist is probably self-determining, but let’s not jump down their throats over words they didn’t use.

    Everyone take a deep breath!

  6. All kidding aside… it could be interesting. It’ll be like a cross between Deus Ex and Rainbow Six, depending on the level of control they’re willing to give you over your squad. Otherwise it’ll be a bunch of scripted crapola a-la Call of Duty. Either way, I’d much prefer the original top down… with some of the issues ironed out like blindly meandering around buildings with no visual references.

  7. Right. I hope it’s great and I want to play it.

    But that has absolutely nothing to do with the name Syndicate being attached to it.

  8. I just don’t get the point of taking old games and turning them into things they aren’t. Why not just make a new futuristic, cyberpunk FPS? Does Syndicate really care the brand recognition? All you’re doing is pissing off people who want a new Syndicate game.

    Look at Shadowrun. Who wanted an FPS based on Shadowrun? Nobody. Who would want it as an RPG? Shadowrun fans.

  9. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we’re hearing the same basic line (“It’s the future, get over it”) from these companies. It’s defensive condescension, a way of dealing with people who may have a very good point by treating them as though they’re backward and short-sighted.

    Here’s a very good point: An updated Syndicate, in the right hands, could be an excellent game.

    Here’s another good point: A first-person shooter, based on the Syndicate brand, gains nothing from that association, except maybe a few extra sales from people nostalgic for the original game. You might as well base it on any existing cyberpunk background, or God forbid, some new content. (The reasons why a background often flows from the game, and not the other way around, is a whole separate topic.)

    So, how do you deal with these points? Instead of rebutting them, tell the speaker that they should just get with the program, it’s the 21st century, this isn’t your dad’s game industry, etc.

    Unfortunately, it’s total BS. As many have pointed out, we’re awash in good strategy games these days. They may not sell a gazillion copies through Gamestop, Target, and Costco, but there’s a market for them, to be sure.

    It’s the same BS we heard when collectible card games became the rage. Hey, get with the program! It’s the 1990s! Boardgames are passe, RPGs are passe, the future of games is Magic: The Gathering and all of its imitative offspring! I think we all remember how that turned out.

  10. I think all of the coverage this game is getting around the web over the last few days proves that using the Syndicate name has greatly enhanced it’s exposure. Also who is to say that if the technology were available at the time, the original Syndicate would not have included a first person viewpoint? To me a first person game in the Syndicate universe sounds like a great idea. You people need to let go of your teenage memories.

  11. Do you think if Peter Moleneux/ Bullfrog made a new Syndicate game in 2011 it would not have at least the option of playing the game from a first person perspective?

    Even the Dungeon Keeper games can be played from the 1st person view and they are closer to Starcraft than Syndicate was.

  12. What would the point be? It wouldn’t add much to the experience, and it would take finite development resources away from the core game.

  13. If Molyneux made it, it would allow farting unicorns and would most likely suck balls. And yeah every game with a “first person shooter option” — those always work out so well. Who th ehell played DK from 1st person view?

    Second, you are missing the point.

    Of COURSE the Syndicate name has given the game press, more than it would have received otherwise.

    No shit Jeff.

    That’s why it’s called Syndicate and not Generic Sci-Fi Shooter X. Welcome to the gaming industry. It’s marketing. Allowing for quick buzz due to name recognition in this business lasts for about oh…wait the time has already passed. No one is going to care if the game is shit. If the game is great then the name won’t matter. No one knows anything about the guts of it, so right now all of the press is mostly negative and for good reason. It just looks like EA is trying to squeeze blood from an old franchise that no one but the core fans care about anymore.

    This line: “Also who is to say that if the technology were available at the time, the original Syndicate would not have included a first person viewpoint?”

    Shows you’re truly mental, though. I may be holding on to teenage memories (more like late 20s memories) but do some fucking research before you start talking like you know something.

    Because in this case, trust me, you don’t.

    Why is it so hard to comprehend why people would look at this announcement with apprehension and maybe a little cynicism?

    It’s like announcing The Walking Dead: The Musical.

  14. Walking Dead: The Musical would probably include songs like…


  15. I was 10 or 11 when I played syndicate so maybe my memory is poor but was strategy that big a deal in syndicate? I remember spending ages making choices in between missions and upgrading my agents but when i jumped into a mission it seemed more like an action game than a strategy one. You had 4 guys with pre-mission determined loadout with some fairly straight forward objectives.

    A change in perspective would not make it impossible to create a game that came very close to my remembered experience. It might even allow for better development of what was a very interesting setting.

  16. Thanks for setting me straight KyleS. You are truly an expert in this area.

    I bow to your greater knowledge in the area of remaking 1990s Bullfrog games.

    Don’t know what I was thinking hoping for a more modern take on an old isometric DOS game.

    Although I do think it’s valid to speculate on how Molyneux would create a modern version of Syndicate, since of course you know, he was the producer of the original game.

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