Kickstarter Interview: Satellite Reign hacks new life into the cyberpunk, tactical, sandbox genre
We like to think that competition drives up the market. Once everyone is trying to outdo one another, advancements will be made. Society will prosper due to capitalism.
But what if this became so true that corporations ended up taking over? In Satellite Reign, you will control four cyborg agents in a cyberpunk, dystopian city in this exact scenario. You’ll rise up against the corporations that run the world for better or for worse… that’s up to you.
As you progress though this open world sandbox game, your actions will affect the very city you’re working in. How will corporations respond to you on sight? How will civilians treat you? Are you a liberator who cares about the common man, or do you hack their neural inputs and have them soak up bullets as you complete your tasks at hand? Both the city and those who live within it will respond to how you play. So how will you play?
The good folks over at 5 Lives Studios were willing to answer some of our questions about Satellite Reign. Definitely check out their Kickstarter page, watch the video, and read the interview below. If you like what you see, back the project here and hit up their Steam Greenlight page.
What exactly is Satellite Reign?
It’s a real-time tactical strategy game set in a living breathing cyberpunk dystopian city. You have real-time control of 4 cyborg Agents, armed with a sophisticated array of weaponry and gadgets designed to allow you to take down the corporations that control the city.
Where did the idea for Satellite Reign stem from?
It’s essentially a spiritual successor to Syndicate Wars; I made the original game back when I was project lead at Bullfrog. Satellite Reign takes the basic premise of the Syndicate games and brings them up to date, as well as evolving the gameplay with agents that have specialist abilities, like the hacker who can gain access to civilian neural implants to take them over or override the security parameters of a combat mech to turn it on its owners, or the assassin that's better at long-range weaponry or short-range stealthy terminations.
How long have you had a project like this in mind?
Since the first successfully Kickstarted video game about 18 months ago. People have often said to me. "When are you going to make a successor to Syndicate Wars?" And I would always reply, "One day." Well, that day has come. It really needed Kickstarter to exist to allow this type of game to be funded. It’s too big for a group of industry veterans to make just with their savings, but it's also too big a risk for a publisher to fund; they like guarantees of a million sales before they even get out of bed in the morning.
What games inspired you for this project?
There are many inspirations we have drawn from, but the most obvious are the Syndicate series of games. As well, we are all big fans of the Deus Ex Series, XCom, Commandos, Company of Heroes and Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War, to name a few.
I sometimes think of Satellite Reign as StarCraft 2 but with control of only 4 very powerful units and none of the resource collection and set in a futuristic city, and the enemies are corporate agents armed to the teeth. Erm, nothing like StarCraft 2 really.
Is your team set or do you get to pick your crew?
You have a set number of 4 agents, and while this number won’t change you have an immense amount of freedom to make your agents in the style you see fit.
Is there customization?
Very much so, this is an area of the game we will be putting a lot of effort into. Agent skills, augmentations and weapons will all be customizable, even your gender.
Are there classes?
Yes, again they are extremely flexible through skill and augmentation customization. Each agent has a series of base traits which favour certain situations the player can expect to face in the game. However, these traits are not locked in stone. If the player wishes for a combat-heavy squad, they can equip combat augs and skill up combat traits and vice versa.
The classes as they stand now are:
- Their base role is geared more towards frontline management
- Being able to take a large amount of damage and dealing out a tone of their own
- Effectively attracting much of the agro from enemy combatants
- They are also adept at strong arming so using their ‘charisma’ to force someone's hand will be critical to the more civil encounters
- Their base role is a mix of defensive and countermeasures
- Their base role is controlling the field of play, be it through suppression and/or interaction with the environment/enemies and/or the populace
- Hack into the neural links of the populace to control them to do your bidding
- Activate/deactivate any electronic device to manipulate your surroundings, be it alarms, mechs, drones, turrets, road spikes or even traffic lights
- Deploy airborne drones to hack, scout, defend or attack
- Their base role is one of stealth and subterfuge
- Use their long-range skills to pick off incoming forces from afar or stealth up behind a commander and take him out with your melee to turn the tide of battle your way
- Scout out protected areas or sneak in to lay explosives
Is there perma-death?
Yes and no. Agent defeat is a much more complex system than either being the binary, dead or immortal. Your agents can and will die... a lot :) However, they are merely clones, vessels for information and skills. These clones can be obtained in various ways; bought on the black market, via research funding, or harvested from the general populace.
Harvesting I expect to be a crowd favourite, as each will have stats which marry to certain traits you may wish to exploit or grow. As you progress, you will be able to recruit higher levels of the populace with even greater traits.
When an agent's dies, their current skills and experience are transmitted back the closest safe house to be downloaded into a new host. The kicker is the clone you had on the battlefield may have gained significant skills since you last uploaded to a clone so this ‘backup’ needs to be of an equal or higher level than you were to accommodate the extra data.
The other issue you face with death is your kit is lost on the field. You may have amassed enough spares at HQ for this to not be an issue, but if not, we have a system of investing some of your money in ‘insurance’ to recoup lost gear. If you’d rather use that money on something else then you have the choice of finding the corpse(s) and attempting to salvage the lost kit.
This again has pros/cons; depending on the situation the kit may have been heavily damaged and/or even taken. One skill we were looking at is an ability to salvage more from a lost agent.
So yes... permadeath is a feature, but even it has playstyle options.
What is a scenario where propaganda can be used to complete a mission?
Propaganda is a secondary effect; it’s more of an ongoing part of the game that feeds into the city simulation. It’s really about bringing the city to life and adding an extra dimension to the sandbox.
There seems to be a lot of player choice, have you run into any difficulties making Satellite Reign so nonlinear?
There is actually quite a large amount of work involved in linear scripting of missions/interactions; being a smaller team, we wanted a way of making the game both efficient to develop and open-ended enough for people to have their own unique experiences.
It's early days in development, but we are very aware of how we would like to manage the core system interaction. One of the benefits to not having a linear/forced system is in finding emergent gameplay; these ‘happy accidents’ are precisely why we went with behavioural models over more rigid scripted systems.
What sort of gameplay occurs off the battlefield?
We are trying to integrate the meta-game into the game world, so you will have a safe house -- really more of a base of operations -- and tek lab that’s actually in the city. From there you will be able to fund R&D into the tek tree, engage in cyber attacks/ research better encryption/cracking algorithms... So really we are trying to keep the whole game inside the gameplay world rather than having a menu screen where you do meta-game actions then a loading screen then a gameplay part.
Is it possible to complete a map/level without firing a single bullet?
To address the first part of your question, the game won’t actually have ‘levels’ as such. The world is an open-ended map; you will only be limited in progress based on how you approach a given situation.
Try a head-on assault on a well-guarded supply depot before you’ve upgraded your force and you’ll most likely be unsuccessful... incite a large enough riot to distract the patrol away from the entrance and you are good to sneak in.
To answer the second point, I don’t see a player being able to complete the entire game without firing a bullet, but there will be many situations where you can do just that -- in fact, where that option may be the smartest way to proceed. But again, this will all come down to playtesting and balancing as we go through development, so never say never.
How will your decisions affect the city as you progress through the game?
Your status within the world will ebb and flow as you take down corporate propaganda, or live up to the corporate hype as ruthless killers. This will change how citizens behave to you. Will they rush to join you in arms or will they take up arms against you or simply flee? Will black market dealers raise their prices as you become known as an even more ruthless entity than the corporations, or will they lower their prices as you become seen as the savior of the people?
Turning a district into a war zone will cause shops to shut, commerce to stop; taxes generated for that zone will plummet.
We want your actions to feed into the city simulation, but not in a purely binary way; you won't be simply good or evil. People will act on the evidence of their own eyes and word of mouth as well as the output of the corporate-run news agencies.
Once Satellite Reign is finished, do you have any interest in Stream Greenlight?
We have actually just started the process of Steam Greenlight. Your viewers can find it here! Vote vote vote. :)
Historian, teacher, writer, gamer, cheat master, and tech guru: follow on Twitter @AndrewC_GZ