EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Starbreeze Studios
Here is our exclusive interview with Nicholas Sirén, Art Director and Viljar Sommerbakk, Senior Designer (combat & bosses) on the newly released Starbreeze Studios game, Syndicate. Here’s what the guys had to say about the birth and development of the game.
TechTV101: OK you must be sick of this question and as a fan of the original games, I have to ask how and why this project germinated into an FPS?
Viljar Sommerbakk: For obvious reasons, it took the FPS track because that is what we do here at Starbreeze studios and we like to think we can do them well. We like to think that we could bring something to the Syndicate universe by taking the view into one of the Syndicate agents from the original game.
TechTV101: I know there have been a few times that Syndicate has been brought out of cold storage only to suffer some fate and be locked away again. How did Starbreeze become involved and what were your initial thoughts when you heard the news?
Viljar Sommerbakk: That actually goes back quite a while, from what I understand, EA have been looking for partners to do another Syndicate and they approached Starbreeze and took it from there and obviously we were interested in doing the project.
TechTv101: The enemies AI in Syndicate is particularly unique in that, we’ve yet to see an enemy run around aimlessly, they were quite good at taking cover behind objects and seemed to respond to each other when shouting. I hear this is down to Starbreeze’s scene points, what can you tell us about this?
Viljar Sommerbakk: We have spent a lot of time on the AI and our goal from the outset was the ability to just chuck a character into a level and they should behave reasonably well without any hints. Then we have the scene points which require manual placement and tweaking to give the AI hints about what’s a better position for example and in that case they can respond. You can also see them jump over cover and stand behind cover and that’s down to the scene points. They tell the AI what is a cool way to transition from one point to another and also, what’s a good position to be in.
Techtv101: Do you have any plans for DLC or multiplayer map packs?
Viljar Sommerbakk: At this point, we don’t have any concrete plans but it would be up to EA. They would initiate that.
TechTV101: One of the most striking pieces of the game is its art style, from the hazy blue lighting to its use of lens flare and lots of HUD elements and interfaces. Starbreeze’s previous games have always been very minimalistic in their screen art. How did your artists adapt to this change?
Nicholas Sirén: That was a battle pretty much from day one. When you are an artist and you see your stuff being manipulated, it can be quite annoying but at the same time, we are creating a whole package so everything has to come together. The coloring and lens flares where a choice we made, and good or bad, I like it.
TechTv101: Did you draw from any real world influences when crafting the various agencies in the game? What was your most influential source for conceptualizing these different organizations?
Nicholas Sirén: We have the three different agencies in the game. Eurocorp is a New York based company so it obviously has American influence. Then we have the next one (Aspari) which has more of an Asian style so we get most of our inspiration from Asia and finally we have the Cayman-Global which is more Hispanic but at the same time we don’t show that that much in the game.
Techtv101: Stylistically, Syndicate is a kind of retro-future and cyberpunk. What research did you guys do for the game? (Marathon viewing sessions of Blade Runner, Akira, AppleSeed and Fifth Element maybe?)
Nicholas Sirén: Of course, Bladerunner is a big source of inspiration especially for the downtown areas. On the other hand, the sleek uptown areas are more based on movies such as Minority Report. It’s not really a full on Sci-Fi game and we aimed to more closely resembling reality.
TechTV101: Last question: What projects are you guys working on now?
Nicholas Sirén: What we are currently working on is called P13 and that is a collaboration with Swedish film director Josef Fares but unfortunately I can’t tell you anymore.