Interview with John Miles (Art Director of Syndicate at EA)
Back in 1993, Syndicate was a hit PC strategy game from Electronic Arts set in the distant future. On February 12, 2012, what’s old is new again with Starbreeze Studios’ remake of the sci-fi classic. Here, John Miles, art director of Syndicate at Electronic Arts, talks about developing the new game.
How did you go about updating the original for today’s PC gaming audience?
John Miles: Syndicate, as you know, is an original game from 1993. It’s something that, internally, EA has always been really passionate about recreating, and it’s been milling around as a concept for quite a long time. Eventually, we partnered with Starbreeze, who we thought would be a great company to work with because of their dark, Machiavellian-style worlds. We created a first-person shooter set within the world of Syndicate, which brings all of the action back and puts players in the first-person video of actually being an agent.
Can you talk about the setting of this game?
J.M.: You play in the future -- 2069 -- and the game is set in New York City and Los Angeles. It’s a world where the governments have fallen and corporations have taken over and control everybody. As a consequence, the industrial espionage that’s going on between these corporations is unparalleled. You play as an agent, Miles Kilo, and you’re doing missions for the Eurocorp corporation.
What have you added to the actual first-person shooter experience?
J.M.: It’s not just a simple first-person shooter. The whole thing with Syndicate is that, in the future, everyone has a chip inside their head. These chips connect them to the dataverse. As an agent, you have unparalleled access to other people’s chips. You can breach them and cause them to do things like commit suicide. You can also persuade them to fight alongside you or just do simple things like breach elements in the environment, like objects and doorways. You can also cause weapons to backfire and jam.
When it comes to the shooter genre, what are the challenges of creating something new?
J.M.: This is an incredibly competitive space, and we wanted to do something that felt like it was very true to the Syndicate world. Having the ability to breach -- and to use an IPA adrenaline conversion to slow down time and let you see through the dataverse and see their neural networks -- adds an additional layer of complexity and interest to the gameplay. You’re both firing the weapons but also kind of breaching characters.
What kind of online or multiplayer experience will you guys have for this title?
J.M.: We’re focusing on the single player, but also we’ve got a fantastic four-player co-op experience as well, where you get to play with three other friends in these exciting, interesting environments in this world.
What will the hardcore PC gamer like about this game?
J.M.: The cool thing with Syndicate is we’ve really tried to cater to the hardcore shooter fan. It’s not just a linear-driven game where you experience only cinematic moments. It’s a rich, challenging experience. With the layering on top of that, plus breaching and the chip technology, it just makes it a much richer and more engaging experience.
What role have the advances in technology played in allowing you to bring this much different experience to gamers?
J.M.: The big development over the last 20 years is that we can make a much more visceral first-person experience. We have a rich experience where the AI of the characters is very interesting and plays out in different ways. There’s much more than just shooting in this game. You get different opportunities presented just by the kind of AI the characters and the enemies employ.
Do you have a favorite strategy you employ in this game?
J.M.: One of the cool things in Syndicate is the ability to persuade characters to fight on your side. If you’re in a gunfight and you’re getting overwhelmed by the enemy, you can choose to slow down time, breach one of the other characters, turn them to your side, and then they start fighting the enemy for you. This allows you to build your allies, which helps you overcome these huge waves of people.