The Creative Spark
Douglas Adams suggested in his opus that mice were not simply mice but rather the unassuming projections of a pan-dimensional race into our universe. I’ve met Daniel Cook before, wiry and lean, compact, an organism apparently designed for fold-up travel, and I wonder if there isn’t something similar going on with him.
If you’ve played Panda Poet or Triple Town, you’ve played his games. There is a very interesting (though perhaps “inside baseball”) account of his dealings with publisher 6waves that we have taken great care to summarize in today’s strip.
Gabriel wanted to know if I had played the Terrible Syndicate Demo, which was bad, and I told him that I had only played the Great Syndicate Demo. He was not aware that this demo existed, for reasons which aren’t entirely his fault.
There have been a raft of game selling demos lately: Kingdoms, which we’ve already discussed ad nauseam, the Darkness II which was another game I had no interest in, and now Syndicate, a game I had no mental bin for. I played a lot of Syndicate as a young person, playing Syndicate and listening to Tori Amos was my thing, and some of these recent “remakes” are so attenuated from the source material thematically or mechanically that they don’t “catch” in my head. If it hadn’t been from Starbreeze, even the demo may not have penetrated.
Gabriel’s experience with Syndicate’s multiplayer was similar to most people’s, I imagine, because Syndicate doesn’t tell you something very important: it may walk like a shooter, and talk like one, but the ebb and flow has more in common with MMO endgame Raiding than some latter-day inheritor of the action mantle. I had to fight the “final boss” at least twelve times before defeating him, with three different “pub” groups, and when it finally happened it was because we ported over broadly defined RPG roles like grabbing adds, tanking, and main heals.
Gabriel didn’t get a chance to see any of the stuff I did: he had no opportunity to hack, or “breach,” a grenade in mid-air, saving teammates and turning the explosive into useful equipment. He didn’t see anybody pull a chip out of an opponent’s head, for use as a currency in character improvement. People invariably quit at the last guy, which means that Gabriel was being matchmade into games at the very end with no opportunity to learn and file away any of the rudimentary skills like healing or buffs.
My twelve attempts took place on Normal difficulty, Normal, which is the lowest of three. I just read an article on Eurogamer entitled “Starbreeze ‘in constant fear’ Syndicate is too hard,” which strikes one as a reasonable fear, but also establishes that multiplayer is for people who know the ropes. What they’re doing with this demo is dropping you off at Ragnaros, giving a curt salute, and then running away.