With all the eSports, randomly generated levels, and giant online experiences, sometimes it’s easy to lose track of what made First Person Shooters popular in the first place—nonstop, balls to the wall mayhem. Developer FOREGONE’s DESYNC seems to get this, with trailers showcasing constant, crazy combat in a neon-tinged world. I managed to get in contact with FOREGONE’s Sean Gabriel to discuss DESYNC‘s art style, enemy design, and everything in between.
Also, just below get a look at some new DESYNC footage debuting first here at TechRaptor! Below the video is the interview.
TechRaptor: What other games or media has inspired DESYNC?
Sean: DESYNC is our attempt at making players feel awesome at playing a first person shooter again. Every mechanic in the game is geared towards incentivising players to inflict awesome looking moves on our enemies. Its conception came about through our boredom with the FPS genre back in 2014. It’s not enough now to have basic shooting mechanics… you can only hold down the fire button and watch enemies die for so long until you need something more. Most of the games around that time were inserting RPG elements, roguelike elements, stats, and we felt the genre was missing much of what makes it interesting. So instead of adding more bloat to surround the simple act of pointing and shooting, we’re looking to create the deepest and most fun core FPS gameplay we can. You know how every new 2D action platformer has a dodge button now? Someone did that, and now that genre feels boring without a dodge.
TechRaptor: DESYNC has a very striking art style, why did you go with this art over more traditional looks?
Sean: Every game needs to differentiate itself. You need to be able to look at a screenshot and instantly know what game it’s from. We knew our gameplay ideas couldn’t be supported by realism, and that our focus on readability (think lowest settings in a competitive shooter) and speed required a minimalistic, abstract approach. You’re meant to feel like a bit of a digital killer in the game, too, so we gravitated towards a foreboding, dark, and larger-than-you vibe. DESYNC‘s aesthetic and atmosphere could be described as a caustic mix of FRACT and Painkiller. Also we’ve only got one artist doing everything in the game and we’re targeting silky 144fps. F*** textures.
TechRaptor: In the trailer, the player always had a sidearm. How will these sidearms work? How important are they?
Sean: Sidearms are supportive tools that give you access to higher complexity Attack Sequences (combos). You unlock, select, and upgrade them, and they’ll spawn around the level as you increase your score. They require extra attention/skill to use but increase the core skill ceiling higher when used correctly. Each Sidearm supports a specific “playstyle”, for example the blade is best used by aggressive players, the Shield is obviously great for defence, and the other two allow you to manipulate enemies in a variety of ways. They’ll be important for high scores.
TechRaptor: What will the weapon variety be like in general?
Sean: The weapons are inspired by the classic arena weapon set. Railgun, Plasma, Rocketlauncher, that sort of thing – with our own added twists. Rockets launch enemies up into the air, the Shotgun blasts enemies back. We’ve taken systems and principles from multiplayer games like Quake and UT and built mechanics around them. Each weapon is distinct and functionally orthogonal, and have a primary and secondary fire. Due to the nature of the systemic Attack Sequence system, whenever we add a new weapon or iterate on a current one, the combo possibilities expand exponentially, which is great. You can customize weapon properties with Shards, too – though each shard comes with a positive and negative trait, so it’s never a straight upgrade.
TechRaptor: DESYNC has combos called Attack Sequences, how important are they to the gameplay?
Sean: Attack Sequences are essentially the crux of the game. FPS games typically focus on the instant gratification that comes from blasting away enemies – with DESYNC our focus is on the moment to moment fun and reward of performing combos. The gratification comes from well-placed launch into midair kills, or a tense situation that culminates in a unintended new combo. Of course, you could largely ignore the system and still make it through, but you’d be missing out on the complex dance of death this sort of depth gives the game. DESYNC incentivises the use of Attacks with higher scores, streaks, and a slow-motion Desync Time that triggers when you use “Imbued” Attacks against “Synced” enemies.
You also get those fantastically cheeky moments when you discover a new Attack unintentionally. With the many ways you can manipulate enemies, Attacks are often rewards for just playing the game efficiently, though some Attacks are a little more contrived. DESYNC‘s endgame shines when you have a complete knowledge of the available Attacks and play through levels trying to get the most score out of every kill. We’ve had some testers continuously expand the score meta by exploiting certain Attack combinations, it’s awesome.
TechRaptor: The trailer also shows off what looks to be skill trees, what are their function? Will the game have other RPG elements?
Sean: So there aren’t any skill trees but there’s loads of avenues for progression. What you saw there are Sidearms, Cores, Imbue Stones and Shards. Without getting into it too much, these are all things that add more depth to the combat and are earned/found/unlocked through the course of the game, and you’ll need to decide what gear you take into each level beforehand. DESYNC is all about player skill rather than character skill. As you get better at the game you’ll keep finding new gear and tech to keep it fresh.
TechRaptor: What will the level design be like? Is it pre-designed or procedurally generated?
Sean: The levels are all hand crafted and have a fair few traps and secrets. Every encounter has an intention behind it, hazards to be cautious of / used to your own advantage, and can be mastered over many attempts. DESYNC is a highly replayable game by nature of the weapon and gear progression. You’ll earn new stuff that you’ll want to employ in earlier levels to raise your score. Similar to Geometry Wars. Since we put place considerable importance on Leaderboards there’s no room for randomization and the game is as deterministic as possible. You can approach levels in a wide variety of ways and see it differently each time.
TechRaptor: Besides the singleplayer, will DESYNC have other modes?
Sean: Right now it’s all strictly singleplayer, with an advanced take on Leaderboards. There’s the Dark Mode that allows you to go akimbo with weapons and sidearms while bringing extra challenge with fiercer enemies and gameplay mutators, and there’s an “Ironman” mode where you’ll have one life per Zone – score hunting under pressure is actually really intense. If we ever could do a DESYNC 2 it’d be all about co-op combos.
TechRaptor: There seem to be a lot of different enemy types, what sort of challenges do they pose?
Sean: In games that are all about survival and the catharsis that comes from simply killing heaps of things, you want to escalate the combat with an array of increasingly subversive enemies that throw off the basic gameplay. DESYNC‘s enemies do this, but also adhere to a ruleset that allows the player to perform the majority of their Attack Sequences on them. For example, each enemy has a weight class. Light enemies can be launched any time, Medium enemies need to be staggered first, Heavies you can’t at all. We have flying enemies that avoid most of the manipulative Attacks because they can fly, too. If we had enemies that run on walls and jump around erratically the Attack Sequence system would become a bit of a chore. So other than just trying to kill you in cool ways, some of your enemies can mess with your gameplan by teleporting, dodging successive attacks, and being Synced with various buffs to health, damage, etc.
TechRaptor: Finally, when can we expect DESYNC to release?
Sean: Not soon, but sooner than you might think. Thanks heaps for the interview, much love.
TechRaptor: Thank you for your time.