Patrick misses the start of the podcast so Rob hits the crew with his Persuadertron and gets everyone excited to talk about Syndicate (2012). Then the gang discusses the grim tidings around Relic and Company of Heroes 3. Fortunately, Alan Wake is here to save the day, along with some other highlights from the PlayStation State of Play Showcase.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://shows.acast.com/vicegamingsnewpodcast/episodes/episode-568-a-minute-to-midnight
I just have to comment on the irony that the first 15 minutes of discussion in this podcast is about Syndicate - a shameless reuse of the ip from the original Syndicate [an isometric third-person small-teams tactical game on the Amiga and PC] which some of us remember fondly, and were horrified by the cynical corporate rebundling of, it’s fascinating to see this perspective with everyone just raving about the FPS remake.
It’s nice that Rob remembers the original - although it was never twinstick (the agents move towards mouseclicks, you never have direct control). And it is nice that Satellite Reign is mentioned - I’m surprised that Rob didn’t know about this, given he actually did a whole podcast on it!
This when we’re all collectively being sad about the deeply cynical reuse of the Marathon property by Bungie over in another thread right now.
I’ve never played any of the Syndicate games, but that 2012 game did seem cool when they played it during Savepoint. That segment is seared in my brain because (2020 US politics) since folks were finding out about the death of RBG right around then and Austin said something about “yeah we know, we’re doing our best to soldier on”
Satellite Reign always looked neat, does anyone know how it fast paced it is? Looks like it’s one of those “we begrudgingly added active pause as an unlockable ability” games (I’m forever begging game devs to try using a head mouse for just one week, I’m convinced more of them would make active pause a first class thing)
That ending and talking cancelling waypoint subs was interesting. It seems like they may be coming back under waypoint in some way?
If I had any sort of photo editing skills I would be posting Jeff Gerstmann with laser eyes.
EA had all these cool bets on smaller interesting games and yeah, none of them panned out, but they also barely gave any of them a chance. You know, around the same time we had another weird game that only found a cult audience, that’s Demons’ Souls. Now I’m not saying that every single franchise buried to time because it isn’t making Call of Duty numbers would go to be the most influential game of the century, but man, if you gave these teams and creators a chance to elaborate on their ideas and build profiles for the series, you could go from Nier to Nier Automata.
Also, EA of the late 2000s desecrated and murdered Command & Conquer so maybe they were the most evil company in America, I dunno.
I have no idea what to make of that so I’ll just wait and see what’s up by then, I don’t want to insinuate too much based on vague podcast banter
I should have replied to this earlier, even if not very helpfully - Satellite Reign isn’t super fast paced (I remember some reviews criticising it for feeling “sluggish”, in fact), but I never played a huge amount of it, despite being a Kickstarter backer, because of that same lack of default active pause, which just made me very anxious playing it in general. So I can’t comment on if there’s bits later on that need more rapid interaction.
I’d be interested in reading a proper write up on the late 2000’s era of games and how that influenced the reaction to games like the Syndicate reboot. Because while I lived through it it’s difficult to separate my memories between facts, discussions and even a proper timeline.
What I think is that for a time then it had felt like PC gamers had lost a lot of what was unique about the platform from the late 90’s era. RTS studios had been shuttered all around, computer RPG’s were becoming fewer each year and a lot of studios were refocusing around consoles to balance the increased budgets from the new high-def graphics era which was still killing off a lot of the mid-budget section of games.
Syndicate (2012) followed what seemed like a bigger trend than it in hindsight was: to take a popular IP from this “golden era” and steep it in a first person mold. Using properties from genres that were now otherwise ignored in the larger cultural space of games. This was following (among others?) games like Fallout 3 and the announcement of XCOM: The Bureau (and only barely after XCOM: Enemy Unknown had been revealed, early 2012).
So there was a lot of bitterness in PC gaming circles about this mini-trend (and a lot of it was very “I’m not the center of attention anymore!!”) which probably culminated exactly around the time when Syndicate was announced and coincided with a lot of other gamer whining (Mass Effect 3, likely? fatigue of bloom heavy graphics?) to be even louder than deserved. If Syndicate had been announced just a few years later, after the successful revival of XCOM as a strategy series and computer RPG’s from successful Kickstarters, it had probably escaped a lot of that and been seen more for what it was doing.
I think it was fair to be pissed at it as a reboot (it came out during peak reboot) but that kind of anger tends to peter out after over a decade, which gives us a chance to give it a fair shake. I think there are situations where those reboots actually ending up sucking, but there are occasions where those games actually are doing interesting things underneath it all.
The opening Syndicate discussion here really is wild. It’s a game I distinctly remember being disappointed with enough to blog about it at the time, otherwise I’d probably have forgotten what I thought at all, but listening to Rob and Ren unexpectedly rave about it kinda makes me want to go back. After all, Starbreeze did make a few killer games, and the “they don’t make them like this any more” talk around Syndicate made me realise they really don’t make them like that now. For whatever problems the Syndicate reboot may or may not have had, I could imagine it being refreshing to revisit that style of shooter.
I mean, the problems were always “reusing this ip rather than just making another one” (which was what was so weird about this period - the “XCOM FPS” game would have been far cooler if it had just not tried to attach itself to an existing IP that 2K had bought ; the original alien designs and encounters from the first trailer were great and also not at all XCOM).
Was that what became the Bureau: XCOM Declassified, or am I mixing up different projects?
I kinda jumped the gun on my response above re: the reception of Syndicate in 2012 - and I’m doing it again as I’m still listening to the episode! - but I am starting to feel like there’s a bit of ahistorical recollection happening. It’s not just that EA “killed studios”, though that reputation was still relevant and informed reactions to their actions in the late '00s, i.e. around the time they purchased BioWare.
The crew places Syndicate (2012) alongside games like Mirror’s Edge or Brutal Legend - games that did genuinely feel like EA being interesting and experimental, and part of EA’s negative reputation (that they hit on with the “worst company in the world” discussion) was that EA never supported any of those interesting projects properly or followed them up in meaningful ways. Mirror’s Edge was 2008, Brutal Legend was 2009. The interesting experimental era was drawing to a close - Syndicate came in an era when EA was better known for chasing trends (Medal of Honor jumping to the modern day in the wake of CoD, Dante’s Inferno as a God of War 3-clone) or controversially meddling with sequels in terms of scope, budget, or multiplayer-focus (Dragon Age 2, Dead Space 3, etc). It was the era of “Project Ten Dollar” and myriad other ways to tie-in additional transactions in an attempt to sour the used game market or promote related mobile games.
Did that make them worse than oil companies, as someone on the pod (I missed who!) noted? No, of course not. But I think there’s a lot of additional context that is being glossed over in favour of a “gamers are mad” narrative. Which is, you know, understandable. Gamers often be mad, and often for odious reasons. In this case though I don’t think there was a lot to cheer for in EA circa 2012 - and whether Syndicate was unfairly treated because of that, or because it was “just” a first-person shooter in an era inundated with them (in the same way an open-world game is often dismissed now), I don’t know.
I’m not opposed to reusing IPs to do new things, generally (especially given now it feels like companies are just reusing IPs to make the same thing) but there was this feeling that these reboots were often attempts to replace the “embarrassing and unapproachable” past of a series with something else. Part of the reason I didn’t find The Bureau so offensive was because it literally came out a year after a more direct reboot of X-COM. Syndicate is obviously a bit different because not only did it lack a more direct follow-up it was also a game that could have quite literally been branded as anything else. Talk to me about Prey (my beloved) and how that title did absolutely nothing for it and just confused people.
I think you’re slightly eliding the history of The Bureau here (which, yes, is the “XCOM FPS” I’m talking about above, Korlis).
The reason “The Bureau” came out after the “more direct reboot of X-COM” was at least partly because of the massive public reaction against the initial launch of “XCOM” (the thing that became “The Bureau”) back in 2010 - it was seen very much as “just using the X-COM name” to sell something that wasn’t X-COM at all (not just by being an FPS, but also because none of the alien designs looked or acted anything like anything from the original games).
The subsequent retooling of “XCOM” into the third-person sort-of-squad shooter with research elements and actual aliens from the X-COM games (“The Bureau”) seems to have been an element that pushed back the game’s release (partly because the partly-rebooted version shown in 2011 did get positive feedback, encouraging further work in that direction) - although IIRC, it was also delayed again (and it’s that delay which finally pushed it to release after XCOM: Enemy Unknown, the “more direct” reboot).
Basically, the “The Bureau” we got could have been very different, and it’s hard to separate the reasons for that from the “anti-shameless-reuse of ip” climate at the time.
(And, I should be clear, I’m in two-minds about this: I think the version of “XCOM” from 2010 would have potentially been the more interesting game… if 2K hadn’t sabotaged it by trying to call it “XCOM”)
Similarly, there’s some evidence that that same unexpected backlash against the original version of “XCOM” led to more resource or interest in supporting the “XCOM: Enemy Unknown” project within 2K, although it had been in development before then.
[On the topic of Prey: I still don’t understand how that piece of pointlessly attaching a title to a thing happened. But, then, I talk a lot about Quake stuff over in the What we’re Playing thread, and famously its IP contiuity is messed up because id just couldn’t think of a good name for their next game which wasn’t already trademarked, so just went with “Quake 2”.]
That’s true, I forgot about that!
I still do think it stings less in the big picture, but I forgot about that whole debacle. Man, the late aughts were weird.
In short, Bethesda still owned the Prey “IP” (such as it was) when Humanhead went under. Arkane Austin was working on a New Space Thing. Bethesda decided to slap the Prey name on it more or less because they were still getting a little pop from the ill-fated Prey 2 and they wanted to slap the name on something.
I think most people get how it happened when you read see the history, its just unbelievable that they actually did it. Like… not only is it confusing and not a sequel or reboot, Prey isn’t even a good title for that game at all! Nothing about that game fits that title!
Someone suggested “Neuroshock” as a better title and I wish they had done something like that.
They literally have “Psychoshock” as power in that game, but I’m sure Bethesda didn’t want to drop a free meal in the lap of 2K’s lawyers.
More than a bit disappointed in that Syndicate does not seem to be available anywhere on PC. Not even on EA Play, although it may have the console version? I reinstalled Origin for nothing …
Along with Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay that’s two FPS games by Starbreeze that simply cannot be purchased or played on PC anymore. Our future blows.