Developer 5 Lives Studios has taken to Kickstarter with its new real-time strategy game, Satellite Reign. The game draws inspiration from and is even considered to be a spiritual successor to Syndicate Wars, a game that was released back in the mid-nineties and developed by 5 Lives creative lead Mike Diskett.
Satellite Reign’s main pillars of gameplay are tactical, classed based action and corporate espionage all set within an emergent, cyberpunk open world.
The city is controlled district by district by oppressive mega-corporations and the goal is to reclaim those territories. There’s no hand holding here though, you can do so in any way you choose: bribe scientists, kidnap doctors to augment your agents, fund your cause by robbing banks, or just all-out war in the streets. You take control of a class based squad: The Soldier, The Assassin, The Hacker and The Support Agent. 5 Lives co-founder and environment artist Brent Waller tells us more about these classes along with the game’s extreme open ended design in our full in depth interview below. “…We’re still going to give players the option to tailor their team towards an all-out, death-dealing offensive force, but we want to make sure that other play styles are just as viable. Giving the players freedom doesn’t mean anything if there’s only one way to really be effective.”
Enemies, civilians and police will all react uniquely to the player’s actions–this is a game about cause and effect as well as player choice.
“They’ll have to bribe, steal, hack and augment their way through the barriers between them and their ultimate goal…but what are they trying to achieve? To free the masses from the corporate stranglehold, or to take control for themselves? That, is up to you.” – 5 Lives Studios
Not only is there choice in combat but also in the way the player chooses to handle different situations on a minute-by minute basis: “How you go about doing it is entirely up to you, you can take the action route of just running in and taking out any opposing corporation’s agents in the district,” Brent Waller tells us.
“While that might grant you control of the district, the citizens might not be very loyal to your cause…There will be civil unrest, possibly even riots. That can actually be more fun, but if you like to keep your territories in-line, you’ll need to spend money bombarding them with propaganda and hiring security to keep and maintain order,” Waller explains.
On the other hand you might choose to first stealthily break into that territory’s propaganda system and quietly get your message out to the civilians so “if you were to start a fire fight in a crowded mall, if the district is controlled by the enemy but loyal to you, they will join in the battle and help you take them down.” This is just one small example of the Satellite Reign’s emergent gameplay systems. You might have chosen to hack an ATM or rob a bank like we mentioned above, but then realize you collect less tax from that district when you take it over.
“We have the open sandbox world of something like GTA, the option to tackle any given situation with multiple paths and tools like Deus Ex, the tactical elements of games like SWAT 3…” Brent Waller, co-founder, 5 Lives Studios
Scroll down to check out our full interview with Brent Waller along more info on deployable mechs, the mini gun sentry as well more practical examples of what sounds like fantastic squad based combat mechanics: “While you’re hitting the front lines with your soldier and support agents you could be sneaking your hacker in the back door while the assassin sits guard above them all picking off anyone who comes near.”
JHS: Can we start by getting you to briefly introduce us to the world of Satellite Reign and what some of the main pillars of gameplay are here?
Brent Waller: Satellite Reign is a real time tactical strategy game in the vein of the Syndicate series from the 1990s. Our main pillars are our simulated and open-world city, our classed based action and corporate espionage.
JHS: You will command a team of four agents. Can you tell us about each of their unique abilities? Will players find themselves having/wanting to make use of all 4 agents? Multiplayer, co-op?
BW: We’ve specifically designed the four agents to be complimentary and to solve some of the design issues Mike had seen while working on the Syndicate Series. The main issue was that the majority of players (including myself) treated the 4 agents as one unit, and directed them around the levels together. Often the only time an Agent would die would be when they got separated from the team, at which point the whole concept of having 4 agents becomes void.
With 4 distinct classes we’ve designed them to offer more of a supportive role to each other, so there’s more tactics involved in approaching combat. We’re still going to give players the option to tailor their team towards an all-out, death-dealing offensive force, but we want to make sure that other play styles are just as viable. Giving the players freedom doesn’t mean anything if there’s only one way to really be effective.
First up with the classes, we’ve got the Soldier. He’s your front-line, he’s got the big guns and dishes out the heavy hitting. Next is the Support agent, he can pack a punch in his own right but he’s there to watch the other agents’ backs via deployable cover and power-ups.
The Assassin is lethal at close range with brutal melee attacks and is just as deadly at a distance with anything from a traditional sniper rifle all the way up to a railgun. At the other end of the spectrum is the hacker, he’s all about getting in the back door, shutting down defenses, security cameras and drones. While you’re hitting the front lines with your soldier and support agents you could be sneaking your hacker in the back door while the assassin sits guard above them all picking off anyone who comes near.
As for co-op multiplayer, it’s something we’ve got plans for, and the whole team is really eager to do it. Like, really, really eager. It’s a fairly hefty stretch goal though, as it would impact the game design at a fairly low-level. We’ll be giving more information about our stretch-goals (including multiplayer) later in the campaign.
JHS: First lets go over the basic combat, can you explain to us how this works and some of the more interesting features?
BW: Our combat differs from most other strategy games as instead of commanding an army of units, we have only 4 at one time. Each of the 4 classes is designed to balance and compliment the others.
Our most interesting feature is choice; much like Deus Ex, you have the option of approaching an operation in a variety of ways, from stealth to running in guns blazing. On top of that, each of the agents is highly customizable, while each class has it’s own distinct role and strengths, you can tailor each of them to adapt to your own play style. You have the option via their tech trees to make them more offensive, defensive or even covert.
For example, one design features we’ve been exploring is for the Support agent. He’d have a backpack which is a deployable power up. When you activate it, the backpack pops off his back and transforms into a small mech (think Boston Dynamics’ “Big Dog”) you can then order it into position as a deployable cover. That piece of equipment however is upgradeable, you can choose to upgrade it with shields to offer anyone standing behind it some protection, or you could choose to attach a small minigun sentry unit to it to really dish out some damage.
This allows those who want a full blown combat experience to have just that, whilst also allowing a style of play for those who desire a much more clinical, surgical approach…and everything in between.
JHS: “Power conduits, communication networks and security systems are there for you to hijack, modify or destroy. Learn how the city and its inhabitants operate, then exploit them all to advance your agenda.” Can you elaborate on this for us? Are these tactical combat advantages or is there a bigger picture at times?
BW: Your final goal of the game is to take down the corporations, which can be done in a variety of ways. One way you could do this would be to take their territory from them, district by district.
How you go about doing it is entirely up to you, you can take the action route of just running in and taking out any opposing corporation’s agents in the district, and while that might grant you control of the district, the citizens might not be very loyal to your cause. There will be civil unrest, possibly even riots. That can actually be more fun, but if you like to keep your territories in-line, you’ll need to spend money bombarding them with propaganda and hiring security to keep and maintain order.
You could do it the opposite way though, if you enter a district that is controlled by any enemy, chances are the local citizens are going to be loyal to the opposing corporation. Instead of shooting first, asking questions later, you can hack into the propaganda systems and spread your message to the citizens covertly. So if you were to start a fire fight in a crowded mall, if the district is controlled by the enemy but loyal to you, they will join in the battle and help you take them down.
That’s just a small example of how manipulating the systems in the city can have an effect on your minute-to-minute gameplay, and that’s the type of experience we want to create, where you’ll start witnessing unique, unexpected experiences based on how you’ve been playing the game.
JHS: “Bribe scientists to advance your technologies, and kidnap doctors to augment your agents. Steal money from the banks to fund your war against the corporations, and exploit neural implants to bend the will of others.” Is there any kind of moral system in place here? What are the results of acquiring funds etc. illegally?
BW: You can generate money via taxes on districts you conquer. But that’s not the only way to get cash, you can hack into an ATM or break into a bank for a quick boost to your funds, but if you were to then take over that district, it would have a negative effect on the amount of taxes you receive. That’s just one example of how your choices affect the experience as a whole.
We are envisioning a society where corporations rule as much through violence as commerce, not just with the people but against each other. It’s a very different moral perspective of right and wrong, it’s more like ‘Might is Right.’
JHS: During the day civilians and the police will inhabit the streets and “react uniquely to your actions.” Can you tell us more about this and how it factors into the gameplay and the decisions players make?
BW: Every action the player takes has some effect on the inhabitants of the world; if you brutally slaughter a crowd of civilians while taking over a district, you’re going to find they’re not very loyal to you. Throw enough money at propaganda and security though and they’re treat you like saviours.
JHS: How does the covert espionage and stealth tactics work? Can you briefly walk us through a situation?
BW: Lets say for example you want a prototype weapon that the enemy is developing in a compound, all the gates are guarded and there’s a small locked access panel off to the side with a CCTV camera watching it. If you’ve upgraded your hacker to have a drone with hacking capabilities you can send it over the fence and have it hack into and open the access panel from the other side. The CCTV is still watching the area though. One of the hacker’s abilities is a scanning pulse which sends out a ping which temporarily reveals the location and paths of any wiring the the environment, so you follow and track the wiring of the CCTV camera to a terminal around the corner. Then it’s just a matter of getting your hacker to break into it, shut it down and then you and your whole squad can walk straight in the back door and come at the enemies by surprise from behind.
JHS: If you had to, what games might you compare Satellite Reign with and why?
BW: Obviously the Syndicate Series of games is the main inspiration for Satellite Reign but we borrow elements from all sorts of places. We have the open sandbox world of something like GTA, the option to tackle any given situation with multiple paths and tools like Deus Ex, the tactical elements of games like SWAT 3 where it’s about setting up your team in position for an ambush or an attack with the satisfaction of executing your assault perfectly and annihilating the enemy forces in one swift action. We have a similar class structure to the Commandos series, although much more fast paced and action oriented, with the addition of upgradable agents to customize to suit your own play style.
JHS: Any final thoughts?
BW: We’ll be doing weekly video dev chats to talk about the game in more depth, the first of which is available here. So if anyone has any questions you’d like to see addressed in future videos, just let us know!
5 Lives is looking to bring Satellite Reign to Steam for PC, Mac and Linux as well as to offer a Kickstarter backer version DRM-free.
Craig Hunter – who has written 1224 posts on The Jace Hall Show.
Craig Hunter is a main contributor for the Jace Hall Show and has been an avid gamer for over 15 years. He also freelances for a number of websites and magazines covering mobile products and emerging technologies.
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Jace takes a break from hosting and gets the chance to be interviewed on NGAME.TV – where things quickly take a sour turn for the worst. And are video games too violent? Jace talks the politics of video games with Ted Price, the CEO of insomniac games.
Jace gets invited to the “Lost Planet 2″ party and runs into “V” Star, Logan Huffman who is still upset that Jace hasn’t gotten a video of him pulled from Youtube.com yet. Jace then goes to Crystal Dynamics to talk Tomb Raider with brand director Carl Steward.
Jace manages to piss off two of the most important people in the country, Barack Obama and Jessica Chobot. The former is upset at Jace’s TV show, while Chobot doesn’t appreciate Jace crashing his set. Plus, Jace sits down and talks V with the legendary actress Jane Badler.
Jace Hall visits BioWare to check out Star Wars: the Old Republic and sees a secret Tomb Raider project. Tempers finally flare on set of Jace’s interview with NGAME TV, not before Jace has a sit down and talks with cast members of ABC’s “V.”
Jace catches up with Stargate Executive Producer, Brad Wright on location in Vancouver to get even more insider info on what has kept the Stargate franchise popular with the fans and networks for so many amazing years. Also, more Star Wars: Old Republic exclusives pop up at Bioware.
The “EPIC” Cliffy B. himself has taken up the KABOOM! open challenge on the office Atari to test if he really did put the FUN in fundamentals. Plus, Jace relives one of his lifetime dreams of doing the happy dance on the set of Stargate…much to producer Brad Wright’s dismay.
Jace witnesses nerd mating rituals at Sony Online Entertainments fanfare and visits the DC Universe Online studios, where he is met with quite a challenge. Jace also has another intimate chat with President Obama, as the latter continues to express his dismay.
Jace has decided to take advantage of his co-hosting duties at the Sony Online Entertainment Fan Faire celebration, by showing his new music video to the thousands of EverQuest players in attendance, much to the dismay of the crowd. That didn’t stop one enthusiastic guest from doing something radical.
Jace finally meets his match, getting destroyed in a game of DC Universe Online. That doesn’t stop him from rocking Vegas with Randy Pitchford from Gearbox, and venturing to Gaikai, where he learns about cloud gaming with company President Dave Perry.
Donald Faison and Jace discuss the best biblical ally to have in a fight, while Donald tries to pitch his newest show idea, he only needs a few bucks. Jace then goes to Vegas to talk Doom, Quake and some of the greatest first person shooters of all time with the guys at id Software.
The team at id Software reveals Exclusive RAGE footage, direct gameplay that only The Jace Hall Show can bring! Plus, Jace puts Sandeep Parikh, one of the stars of The Guild on the spot about his series, and just what exactly he and Todd Roy are trying to pull behind his back.
The Jace Hall Show debuts more Exclusive RAGE footage with the id Software team, but Jace isn’t satisfied with just “looking”, he wants to play and has decided to pull a runner! Then Jace and Todd decided to pwn the Goodyear blimp, getting a limited access view of Los Angeles from up above.
The Season Finale is so 1337 it just couldn’t fit into a single episode. In part 1, we take a special trip to the home of Gears of War and Cliffy B himself in North Carolina, EPIC GAMES where Jace is looking to cash in on the “favor for a favor” that Cliffy promised him.
The Jace Hall Show closes it’s 4th season with an Epic sized finale (is there any other way?) Showcased is Exclusive footage from the new Mortal Kombat game in all of its gory goodness, as well as perfectly inappropriate Duke Nukem: Forever footage in all of its “Glory”.
The Season 5 debut features Jon Heder a.k.a. Napoleon Dynamite losing a video game battle to Jace, forcing Jace to debut his “Blame It On The Game” music video (starring Fab Morvan and John Davis) that made history. Plus, we sneak into Blizzard headquarters for Diablo 3 EXCLUSIVES.
Geek Goddess Felicia Day stops by to settle an old score and try to steal something back from Todd and Jace – somehow her underwear drawer gets in the way. Plus, the I Play WoW video that grossed over 13 million views is back in the new I Play WoW redux ENTIRELY using machinima.
The fight with Felicia Day continues, as Jace gets the opportunity of a lifetime to record an ACTUAL character in Diablo 3 – it didn’t go as well as everyone had planned. Plus, Jace receives an ATARI automobile that you have to see to believe (something Todd can barely put up with).
Jace continues to struggle in his Diablo 3 voice session, causing lead designer Jay Wilson to ask for more BLOOD. The SOE team behind PlanetSide 2 offers Director Todd Roy the chance of a lifetime. Jace’s Kaboom skills are put to the test against a team of ambitious gamers.
49ers Tight End Vernon Davis visits the office to buy Jace’s T-Rex, offering a huge price! Matt Higby show Jace more from PlanetSide 2, while YTCracker and MC Lars try to get Jace to show some nerdcore skills by rapping live as Jace debuts his latest music video, “My Game Ain’t Done”.
Comic book legend Stan Lee returns and promptly destroys his ACTION COMICS #1. Meanwhile, Vernon Davis offers a HUGE offer for Jace’s T-Rex, only to have everything fall through in the end. Plus, Jace continues putting up ridiculous scores, pwning little kids in Kaboom.
Jace begins building what is undoubtedly the greatest ARCADE Machine in the history of space and time, while the much balleyhooed PlanetSide 2 trailer Todd was hired to direct debuts…to much jaw dropping. Plus, the fight continues as Thousand Pound fighter Amy Johnson kicks ass.
The Ultimate Arcade Machine is finally revealed, with pretty much every video game ever made! Get a look at Jace’s new toy and its insane features! Plus, Todd auditions a film and TV star to take Jace’s place as host of The Jace Hall Show, without Jace even knowing it.
Exclusive gameplay and all access behind the scenes look into Defiance, one of this year’s most anticipated shooters. NBA champion and celebrity actor Rick Fox makes his move to replace Jace as host, while Producer Todd makes moves on Rick’s hot sister.
Actor and NBA champion Rick Fox scores an exclusive look at the top secret Sims City game at EA. Jace then crashes Gears of War designer Cliff Bleszinski’s celebrity packed wedding – the only problem is that none of Alison Haislip, Isaiah Mustafa or Randy Pitchford will let him in.
Jamie Lee Curtis and Christopher Guest are caught committing a MAJOR gamercode violation, while NBA star Rick Fox previews a never before seen SimCity demo. Plus, if you thought the annoying orange was annoying, wait until you see what Apple’s biggest competitor has cooked up.
ATARI founder Nolan Bushnell faces off against INTELLIVISION’s Keith Robinson in the final battle of which gaming platform is better. Then actress Eliza Dushku confronts Jace, proving why he shouldn’t question a girl’s game cred, in one of the most epic rap music videos ever.
The Jace Hall Show gets an exclusive look at the hidden scandal behind why Kevin Pereira left Attack of the Show. Meanwhile, Debbie Gibson and Jace fight over Afterglow Headphones then think about making a music video together. Has Electric Youth been reloaded?