18 September 2011

Syndicate, Interaction and Time.

A reply to Starbreeze's game director Neil McEwan's defence of their upcoming Syndicate themed game



This software company announced a new Syndicate game, they stated it's gonna be a first person shooter. Many videogamers of diverse background, possibly many elitists, attacked this choice because they're not stupid, they smell the bane of humanity(Our Lord Money!) behind this decision, they sense the rodent-like aroma of a market expert, you know, those who hate both videogames and gamers because they assume the majority of people wanna play dumb products(expressed magnificently in the phrase "like the salivating dogs that you are"), and they hate videogames because they don't care about them becoming as deep as "The Importance of Being Earnest". I like to believe, instead, that the videogamers got angry because they are ready for more interesting games, not to mention most PC gamers adore real-time strategy.

Sorry for the long premise. Mr. McEwan defended their decision stating that because of today's technology most of the games are bound to have a first person perspective, they will naturally be visceral, immersive. Syndicate will be like this, then, it's only logical, and the game would have been a fast-paced FPS back then.

he's just talking about graphics, apparently, about aesthetics, they improved because time has moved on. It totally makes sense, in a way.

The problem is, that person is willingly(or not) hiding many other statements that implicitly follow from the simple and candid argument of technology. He's ignoring gameplay and interaction. Modern graphics will change a lot of things in the gameplay, but he's assuming it's just a question of different interface and camera applied to an untouchable game style. There's consequences to the choice of making an FPS that each fall to the ill-treated unfortunate and virtuous child that is Miss interaction:

First to the ever-enjoyable time-travel argumentation that "always works" because time paradoxes are ideal to confuse us dumb players: if the original Syndicate had cool and immersive 3d graphics then, its gameplay would have been generally more streamlined. The game featured a good system of "surgical" augmentations to the agents roster which would have disappeared(and will be) in a FPS. Then we'll say goodbye to the simulative urban navigation we had in the original game in favor of more constant and dramatic shoot-outs filled with useless dialogues. Next we'll never have that dynamic global-map gameplay that turns Syndicate into a total war'esque kind of game. As a matter of fact, Creative Assembly would do a wonderful job with a new Syndicate.

But the biggest consequence is that this game does not feature a 4-characters tactical management and this we already know for sure, they told us. It is possible to do it, technically, but this new Syndicate will not; there will be instead visceral single-character co-op play, because time has moved on.

Sure, He says they'll try to "pay as much homage as they can", which simply means everything will go. That's fine, it's their marketing choice. It will be my choice not to buy the game and boycott it. But what does that have to do with time moving on, pray tell us, you simply referred to graphics by that, you said it yourself. Let's recapitulate:

-old games were great
-time has moved on
-graphics let you immerse into the action
-action has to be visceral
-the new Syndicate will be visceral
-the new Syndicate will pay homage to the old games "as much as we can"

A line is missing there, please complete the syllogism.

How can you, Mr. McEwan, mention time moving on, when co-op gameplay comes directly from 25 year-old arcade gaming? We move on by replaying Gauntlet?

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I teach history, literature, linguistics, philosophy and psychology. I believe in a cosmic order. I love each place on Earth because everything has its unique attractions. I worship the God of progress and That of biomechanics. I try to write novels in a strongly interaction remainding formulaic fashion. As i'm progressist, i am a socialist extremist. I wanna open a social library art chocolate house. I write lyrics for my musician metal-crazed friends. I wanna be a theatre master. I believe Star Trek vision of society can be realized, but people are afraid of change and Power frightens people because they are afraid of loosing their privileges. I am incredibly dense in astronomy but i philosophically love it. I can't live without spirituality. I try to find the the key to happiness, investigating, exploring the way nature works, understanding its mechanisms, its secrets and mysteries. I believe one of the goals of living is to make life better for everyone.