Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Satellite Reign starts now

Hey guys,

I'm in the process for writing a full Kickstarter round-up, but felt that I needed to get this particular project some attention as soon as possible, since it's got less than a day to go. Unfortunately I only found out about this project a few days ago, and had been rather busy and unable to get time to write anything up until today. I also felt that this project deserved a bit more attention than I'll be able to give it in an article with multiple projects.

So, let's talk about SATELLITE REIGN

Welcome to the neon wonderland of the future, where they really ARE watching you

Hopefully some of you might be familiar with the SYNDICATE games (the old squad based tactical games, not the FPS reboot that was done last year), in which case you're well on the way to already understanding what SATELLITE REIGN is. For those of you who aren't familiar with them though, the creators have summed it up better than I ever could on their , so let's hear it from them:

"SATELLITE REIGN IS A REAL-TIME, CLASS-BASED STRATEGY GAME. You control a team of four agents, each with DISTINCT AND UNIQUE ABILITIES, collectively battling for control of a FULLY SIMULATED, LIVING CYBERPUNK CITY.

The game world is designed to facilitate EMERGENT GAMEPLAY, giving you the TOOLS AND FREEDOM TO PLAY HOW YOU WANT TO PLAY, so you can create strategies and scenarios that not even we had anticipated!

Customise your team with the strength to DESTROY YOUR ENEMIES HEAD-ON, or hack into their facilities to MANIPULATE THEIR INFRASTRUCTURE without them ever knowing you were even there.

Will you take down your enemies with BRUTE-FORCE? Covert espionage and INFILTRATION? Or will you use PROPAGANDA to influence the citizens of the city and overthrow the controlling powers?"

Now I'm a big fan of tactical strategy games, particularly video games. Alongside traditional RPGs, it's probably my absolute favourite style of game. Syndicate and it's sequel, Syndicate Wars are excellent, though atypical, examples of the genre. The normal format that these sort of games, or at least the ones I normally play, is a turn-based battle played out on a map grid with a squad of units. Satellite Reign on the other hand, as a spiritual sequel to the Syndicate games, is more like a cross between an RPG and a Real Time Strategy game. Similar to an RTS, you view the world from an isometric point of view, and control your units from that vantage point. Instead of having whole armies under your control though, you control a squad of four specialised agents, each with their own skills and specialisations that can be upgraded as you progress through the game. This mix of RPG elements and strategy really appeals to me.

Say hello to the Agents. They'll be your eyes, ears, and weapons in the world of Satellite Reign. From right to left we have the Hacker, the Support, the Assassin and the Soldier.

I love cyberpunk as a genre in all its forms, be it for video games, table top games, novels, films, whatever. If you're looking for a really good crash course in classic cyberpunk, try William Gibson's SPRAWL TRILOGY (NEUROMANCER, COUNT ZERO and MONA LISA OVERDRIVE). Phillip K. Dick's BLADE RUNNER is one of the best known examples of the genre. In terms of video games, the DEUS EX series may be some of the best known cyberpunk games (the most recent entry in the series, HUMAN REVOLUTION, is one of my favourite games of the last few years), while in table top RPGs the best known would probably be CYBERPUNK 2020 and SHADOWRUN (though admittedly Shadowrun does mix cyberpunk with a healthy dose of fantasy as well, with magical creatures and powers all through the world).

At its heart, cyberpunk is about high technology in a world where the social order has been broken, or gone through such radical change as to be nearly unrecognisable. Common elements include hacking; direct neural interfaces between man and machine; a virtual world or 'cyberspace'; surveillance and monitoring of the population; and increased power for corporations, often to the extent that they can begin to replace world governments. The protagonists of cyberpunk are often disaffected outsides, hackers and outlaws either fighting back against the system, or struggling to earn their survival by working in the grey areas of the world. Satellite Reign is in a world where the mega-corporations run things, and society is designed to keep those in power comfortable while the lower classes struggle. A classic cyberpunk world, which is something I can never get enough of.

The view from the lowest levels of the city, where the poor struggle for their day-to-day survival

A brief note on the technical aspects of the project. The game is being built on the UNITY engine, and it's looking gorgeous. Just take a look at these images from the project page:

I love the use of the neon colours. It's a big part of cyberpunk architecture, and it's been implemented well here.

I can't say for sure, but I'm pretty sure this is one of the corporate police from the game. I believe the call this particular type a Hammerhead.

Anyway. Now that we've had a look at the concept behind the game, and what the gameplay style etc. is like, it's time to talk about the team behind this game. The references I've been making to Syndicate aren't just due to the similarities in the world and gameplay. 5 Live Studios is an independent game studio made up by five industry veterans with a long history together. Dean Ferguson, Chris Conte, Mitchell Clifford, Brent Waller and Mike Diskett have, between them, worked on the Syndicate games and many more, including DARKSIDERS II, GTA IV, and L.A. NOIRE. Mike Diskett was actually the lead on Syndicate Wars. The studio has one hell of a pedigree, and it's one I feel worthy of trust. If I didn't have faith in them, I'd not be supporting them, especially given the time frame for release (the estimated delivery is December 2014, but given that this is a video game project, I expect that sort of wait). Seriously, just look at these guys. Those are some trustworthy faces right there, and an enviable beard on Chris Conte.

From left to right: Dean Ferguson, Chris "My-God-That's-A-Glorious-Beard" Conte, Mitchell Clifford, Brent Waller and Mike Diskett.

Unfortunately I can't afford to pitch in as much as I'd like for this project. Honestly, I'd like to give them ALL OF THE MONEY! But, I do have other commitments. Some to other Kickstarter projects, and some to necessities of life, like bills, rent and so on. But I've pitched in at as high a level as I can manage, the Digital Only pledge level. Thankfully I was able to justify this to myself due to the fact that it gives me a second digital copy of the game, which gives me a convenient present for a friend when the game does get released (Ian, if you're reading this, please forget that you just saw that). Honestly, the thing that has surprised me most about this project is that it hasn't just smashed its way through all of the stretch goals one after another. Given the nostalgia that people feel for the Syndicate games (which were critically acclaimed when they were released) and the experience behind the development team, I can't understand why the funding appears to have been so slow. One of life's mysteries I guess.

To sum it up, please, go and take a look at the project page for this game, which you can find . The project only has another 15 hours or so before it's funded, so I'm hoping they can get a last-minute push and crack another stretch goal or two. I'd at least like them to get to the Environmental Destruction goal.

Anyway, that's it from me for now. I'll try to get the rest of my Kickstarter round-up written tomorrow and posted. Until then, take it easy.Not written while listening to something for once. Instead I was watching WALLANDER, a UK television series based on Swedish author HENNING MANKELL'S novels. I highly recommend the series to anyone who enjoys crime drama. The format will be familiar to fans of SHERLOCK, with each season being three movie length episodes. Kenneth Branagh plays Kurt Wallander, and is absolutely brilliant.
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