Synther is an FPP simulation game with adventure-like, detective elements set in a futuristic, open world. The game is innovative and reminiscent of early 3D games and DOS applications.
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Q1 2019

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Available: Q1 2019


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November 6

Interview with the Mind behind Synther

Interview conducted by Łukasz Burdziński about the creation process, inspirations and future plans of Michał Jaworski - the Mind behind Synther

The important role of colours palette, shadows, lights and image effects and how they stimulate the player's imagination

Ł.B.: Synther, previously known as the Agent: First Person Hardcore Detective Simulator, is coming along quite slowly. Tell me more about it - when did you start working on the project?

M.J: Technically it was 2013. Mentally probably since forever. It might be perceived as weird but I’m suffering from an imagined illness that to some degree is based on hatred for reality. Soon it will be 2019 and we still don’t have megastructures, flying cars or something even resembling self-lacing shoes (at least not like in the Back to the Future). For some unknown reason, I’m experiencing longing for such a place. It is actually scary to me that we are both young yet we probably won’t see any of it - it is vital for people like us to stay positive though. Anyway, I’m feeling a longing for such a place. It’s like when you miss a place you’ve been to and you want to return to it. The thing is I can’t come back to a place that I’m thinking about because it doesn’t exist yet.

Getting back to your question: in 2013 I experimented and prototyped a lot. I was more interested in checking out new mechanics that came into my head rather than finishing games. I imposed a regime on myself that a project can last for a week at most, then I either finish it or delete it. Agent was the last one in that category of projects. The main assumptions back then were to make a small project as possible that would have a maximum possible number of interactions (ranging from light switches like in Duke Nukem 3D to “conversations” with NPCs) as well as a project that will help me understand colours. If you look at indie games and AAA games it is noticeable that colour plays a significant role. On one hand indie game style is often based on 2 colours or there is a single colour enveloping the whole game. AAA titles, on the other hand, filter the colours to create a certain atmosphere. Back then I didn’t think this project would guide me to the point where I am now.

Ł.B.: The game has a very distinctive visual style drawing on early 3D from the 90s. Was it difficult to achieve such an effect?

M.J.: A lot of people accuse me of jumping on the pixel art and retrogaming train but it is not entirely true. To some extent understand that it is not the gamers fault. I think creators are more to blame here, at least partially. In the past when engines were difficult to grasp and inaccessible, making games was more like magic and such trends didn’t exist and at least were present on a smaller scale. To give an example: try to play some of the mini-games that were added to magazines as bonuses. These games were sometimes good, sometimes bad but they were always unique. In the current situation, you can just go to a website, download a free engine with all its documentation written in a language a first grader can understand and suddenly everyone can be a creator. The obvious result is that everyone wants to achieve success and if there is a niche, it will be filled for sure. The problem is that niches are created by someone else. Minecraft did that, Brutal Doom did that too and Kojima with his new title is doing it right now. It’s like when you’re eating sandwiches, each one is different but they are all the same in the basic sense. What will a statistical gamer think when he sees the 30th game in a row about exactly the same thing. On the other side of the argument is a question: what will its creator think and feel?

We are approaching the problem from an entirely different angle. The game’s look is a combination of 3 elements, all of them equally important: colour palette, graphical effects and the story. Why we have that particular graphical style can be explained like this: imagine I have a highly detailed dice in my hand. You can observe it from every single side, you can get closer and get every single detail, see its craft and sometimes even the mistakes of the creator. In the end, you may conclude that it is a marvellous piece of work and that’s it - but there is another way to see it. Imagine I’m holding the same dice but it’s covered in half and it is underexposed. It is identical to the previous one but due to the things that are not shown your mind is not focused on marvelling over the visual aspect but rather on creating your own story. That’s how Synther works, it sets the framework but everything that is untold is left open to interpretation for the player. That’s how we invite people to be creative together in terms of Synther’s meaning.

The same goes for colour. It is not a coincidence that black and white are described as artificial. Snow is not white, it just reflects the sun rays very well. If snow would be white it wouldn’t blind us during a sunny day. It’s the same with blue light as well. At its core, it can be white but after a moment it transforms into its rightful colour. When you walk during the night, lamp’s light hitting a blue car doesn’t change the car’s colour but our perception of it. It works the same in our game. Colour is not modified with a filter but through the environment.

Ł.B.: Where did the idea for DOS-age/Amiga-like graphics come from?

M.J.: It’s another 3-point explanation. Synther in a way has its own “bible” just like Fallout or Doom. Even though it has a multitude of elements that suggest connections with other worlds it also introduces many of its own. That “bible” makes the world more cohesive and real. There is no “just because” in our game. We constantly show tiny, humble preview “cutouts” of the game and we do it deliberately so we don’t show everything beforehand - we want the players to experience some things for themselves. If you ask me personally why DOS and Amiga… I come from a home where parents prioritized our education over game consoles and computers. That’s why for a long time my and my brothers’ best friend was a Commodore 64. I don’t know when it appeared at our house really. Maybe around the time when I was born or sometime before that. I was lucky that apart from a cassette deck we also had a 5.25’ station, dedicated monitor, many cartridges and floppy disks. It can be said that C64 was our best friend for everyone at home as my dad had another work during the after-hours, working as a videographer. He was constantly ripping camera videos to tapes and then using another tape for Commodore effects - after that, he smartly used 2 tapes and 2 video players to combine everything into one. During the day the computer was occupied by me and my brothers. Most of the floppy disks didn’t have any descriptions and the names alone didn’t tell us much. You only knew that something was an application and that something wasn’t. As a result, every gaming session was like an Indiana Jones adventure and now that I think of it - it was glorious. PC arrived in our life very late. Mind that I don’t say it arrived in our house because our first PC was at our aunt’s. She bought it to do accounting and “play games in Excel”. She was very restrictive in terms of how much and who could play on it going as far as taking away the keyboard. That’s how we finished Fallout and how I got to know Commander Keen 4, Hexagon, Hocus Pocus, Colgate and many other DOS games. Why Amiga? I loved demoscene. I’m not a god so I couldn’t participate in it but I could see what others were doing and absolutely adored it.

Ł.B.: Watching the trailer I drew connections with a forgotten production from the 90s called TekWar. Do you know that game?

M.J.: Synther will always be similar to X when you substitute X for any sort of game. What we are similar to is a response to what we publish. Right now only one game gave a small inspiration. The rest is sometimes a complete surprise to us. Truth be told, we are willing to believe that after the release many will want to recreate what we are currently making and their projects will be the ones described as “Synther-like”. I’d like to remind you that TekWar was based on the movie. It gets associated with Synther because the game included public transport in form of a metro network and that’s it. Build and every other engine had better or worse games that got old in a good or bad way. TekWar from today’s perspective is ugly and the gameplay is mediocre. However, if Mr. Shatner would like to he can find an interesting role with us.

Ł.B.: Tell me more about the gameplay. The description gives an impression of an open world exploration but will it be a classic FPS with mission progression based on shooting everything that moves or will it have various options for game completion like a stealth one, with no killing required?

M.J.: I don’t want to be a stuck-up individual that creates fake promotion to sell a product. The truth is that Synther is a different game than others in many of its aspects. That sentence is hard to swallow for me but our game is more of a simulation. However, for some, it might be a walking simulator, for others a typical adventure game and for some, it can just be “go and kill everything that moves”. The world is small and the amount of interactions with it is huge. Smaller area allowed us to enhance many of its elements. Do you like to hack? Then hack. Do you like to be stealth? Use the vents. You like to act and influence the world? Help others. Ultimately if you don’t want to do the main story of the game you don’t have to. Everything here depends on what you like to do and how you want to do it. The main motif is based on finding 3 fugitives and eliminating them.

The core gameplay is pretty simple - we arrive at a city where we are supposed to find them and eliminate them. Everything else depends on the player. We can even die at the very beginning or completely ignore the opening and never accomplish the main goal. We have a weapon and a personal computer, which is an Omni-tool giving you access to everything - from processing the dialogues to game settings. At some point in the development if you didn’t want to ever quit the game you had the ability to simply unequip it and throw it out. After the prologue player receives an information where the first fugitive tracks can be found, then after conducting their own investigation it can be deduced where the rest of them are.

The magic begins when you look at it from a technical perspective. The game world is static but the heroes are not - that’s why I prefer to call them actors. They can take the role of a police officer in one game session and the same individual can be one of the wanted fugitives in another one. As a result, even though the main task of the game is the same, the path, the process is completely different. Another element is that the game time is tied to the real-time of the device you’re playing on. Thanks to that all sorts of activities are happening without you being present. We don’t treat it as a flaw. If you’ve arranged to meet an informant at 12:40 but you’re physically at work you won’t be able to meet him - once he appears at the spot at 12:40 and you’re not there the event fails. You enter the game after 4PM and you can see that your reputation dropped for some but might have elevated for other factions and perhaps some entirely different NPCs are more willing to help you out now.

Synther is a soft permadeath game, Agent has a set lifecycle after which death or something else occurs. Agent can die even when you’re not playing but we have a mechanic allowing you to avoid it, which in itself is quite interesting and can possibly refresh the real-time gaming trend. At the same time, we try to introduce small educational values like hacking being based on logic gates, learning of the Standard Galactic Alphabet assisted with translator, vehicle and player modifications. In the end, it forces the player to think like a “detective”. I think many will find it useful to have a pen and paper at their side while playing the game.

Ł.B.: Is Synther a single player campaign only or do you want to implement additional game modes?

M.J.: There are two modes planned: “Endless” and “Story Mode”. Both have similar features but they are not connected. In “Story Mode” there is the main story arc and depending on our style of play it is governed by different rulesets. In “Endless” mode we are someone entirely different and the possibilities for the player are not the same as well. We will talk more about that mode in the future.

Ł.B.: Game’s atmosphere seems to be heavily influenced by the 80s and 90s cinema. What inspired you to create Synther?

M.J.: One of the main factors was Blade Runner but at some point other inspirations came in as well: B.A.T. and the ability to code the player; Half-Life and microelements that were not visible but present; Ghost in the Shell and the theme of cyberspace; definitely Micon: Noman Soul and its breaking of the 4th wall; a bit of Armitage III; a lot of Neuromancer and the whole trilogy. At some point, after reading the Blade Runner-based book I listened to the Polish audiobook version on repeat. Listening to it so many times gave me a unique way of thinking about its heroes and their motivations. Each and every one was focused on their own goals, which could have been noticed only after a couple of repeated sessions. It inspired me to create my own citizens.

Here, similarly to Ultima, every NPC has their own needs, it’s not a Zerg swarm. If you do something and only one NPC sees it, you kill it and nobody else will know about it. On the flip side if you kill someone in the middle of the city with many witnesses then you have a certain amount of time to prove that your activity was righteous. You can (you don’t have to) gain reputation in certain circles.

Ł.B.: What were the biggest challenges you encountered during the making of Synther? Did you make any major mistakes that were hard to overcome?

M.J.: Main problem is that we are in the no-mans land. Every engine has its own community that stirs the pot but when you’re outside of it and you need to find a solution, no one can help you properly. Sometimes even the engine creators make mistakes. That was exactly the case with our in-game translator solution. At some point of that specific function creation it turned out to work but not how we anticipated - or certain preconditions were stopping us from achieving particular goals. We generally aim to make everything very modular. This way we avoid many serious problems, we just correct the whole module if there is an issue. Thanks to that we don’t have many significant obstacles. The heaviest burden is, in fact, the time as it is a quite extensive project, there’s a lot of work to do. At the same time, we respect our own limits and approach our publisher in a healthy way just as they approach our workload. If we need more time for something, we communicate it clearly with the publisher and vice-versa. Seeing how much we put into the project and how big it actually is they don’t pressure us - we all try to stick to the deadlines as much as possible anyway. Delays are always possible and healthy atmosphere is the only thing that can reinforce the mutual effort.

Ł.B.: How many people currently work on the project? Tell us something more about Neofuturism team.

M.J.: It’s the 3 of us. Marcin Maślanka created the whole audio layer of the game and takes care of the soundtrack. Arkadiusz Kalinowski tackles the code. Then there is me - I take care of everything else so it all works well together. We also have several trusted friends who can help us if a need arises and we are incredibly thankful to them but the main team consists of 3 people.

Ł.B.: Do you have any future plans for your game development? Do you have any ideas for other projects or do you want to keep developing Synther after its release?

M.J.: Currently our main assignment is Synther. We have some plans for another title but Synther is the most important. It doesn’t matter how many people work on the project and what it has to offer. It is the level of polish and whether the whole thing is solid. In the end, I would like Neofuturism to be associated with a “new” level of execution in all its fields: from graphics promoting the game to the gameplay itself.

After the release we will definitely spend some time with other Agents, giving them support and asking for feedback. We already have our own Discord server and you’re all invited. We will announce a couple other cool things there.

“You’re welcome to join the Neofuturism Discord at

Original Polish version of Zin you can download here:
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October 16

Dev Blog: The Art of Voiceovers

The Art of Voiceovers

Music and sound in the Synther video game have to go in sync with visual aesthetics. Whereas the music is almost completely electronic (real instruments appear only on purpose; to emphasize specific location like the opera, or Chinatown), sound effects try to give a realism to the harsh and noir atmosphere of Vesser City. The Player cannot hear low quality ‘pixelated’ sounds like in older video games. But some audio elements are a combination of ‘audio pixel art’, and one of them are voiceovers.

The biggest issue with voiceovers was to come up with an original idea. My coworkers insisted on creating something similar to the ‘Sims’ video game series. I was very reluctant to do this, as my vision was slightly different. I did not want to implement ‘funny jabbing’ into the moody atmosphere of Synther. Instead, I wanted to use single bleeps like in the ‘Undertale’ video game.

However, this time my colleagues were not sure about this approach, so we had to discuss other solutions. We had a brainstorm and discussed many titles including Vangers or Banjo – Kazooie.

In the end, we decided to create our own language, and implement it somehow into the game. But that was another question. How are we going to do this?

First, I used a translator and pasted all phrases created in my unique language into the translating software. As the vision of cyberpunk comes from the east (the vision of eastern market that dominates the world) I wanted to create exotic language; something between Japanese, and Slavic. The result was nice, but there was no expression in dialogues, and because Synther is a detective game, the player will be able to figure out if the NPC is scared, angry, friendly etc. That is why adding emotions into dialogues was pivotal.

There was only one way to achieve that - find actors that will do the right job. I needed one female, and one male actor to do it. They got instructions, and explanations about the game, characters, NPC, etc. As the video shows it looks like they had a lot of fun while working on Synther’s dialogues.

When dialogues were recorded, it was time for post-production. And here is the fun part, where I decided to ‘pixelate’ Synther dialogues. Why dialogues only? I think that unlike graphics which has to fully resemble old video games (otherwise it would look awkward – having fancy HQ car right next to pixelated NPC), sounds may have a bit more freedom.

Moreover, this treatment was made on purpose, as lowering the quality of all sound effects would result:

1) A contrast between music and sounds

2) The constant feel of bad soundtrack quality, which unlike with graphics, the player can turn off if he or she feels annoyed by them, and will decide to play Spotify for example (which may happen anyway).

So pixelating only dialogues reduced the harsh 8-bit noises to a minimum giving still the feel of old video games but allowing the player to enjoy atmospheric ambients, and detailed sound effects. Dialogues are one of few long interactive sound effects that may also encourage the player to interact with NPC’s just to figure out from the voice expression is he or she lies or is scared.

You can hear the final result in the video here in the indiedb link below.

To conclude. The final result may still be different, but so far I do not plan major changes in the Synther soundtrack. I hope that players will immerse into the Synther game and enjoy its aesthetics; both – from the visual and audio perspective
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“Retro immersive sim Synther looks like Deus Ex circa ’95.”
Rock Paper Shotgun

“Synther looks like it could be one of the most interesting games of the year.”
COG Connected

Feature List

  • You Are The Agent - you belong to Steiger corporation, a privatised company employing hunters. You are participating in the Awant project - the first programme that uses servo-savants to remotely accomplish dangerous tasks.
  • Open World - more than 70% of the island is explorable: from docks and metro station recesses to individual flats inside buildings. Use various routes to reach and explore the location.
  • Autonomous City - you are not a hero, you’re a newcomer with a specific task, the city will take care of itself without you and go on regardless.
  • Unique and simple player interface - no excess on-screen information, all actions are accessible with a few keys.
  • Personal Microcomputer - translate, discover, gain valuable information and start conversations with every character you meet.
  • Reputation System - be good or bad, make enemies or allies, every decision matters.
  • General Language SGA - learn the famous Standard Galactic Alphabet or use your microcomputer to translate visually in real-time.
  • World Randomization - thanks to the total randomization of the main mission setup the gameplay is different every time.
  • Think Like A Detective - look for clues and analyse them to solve cases.
  • Learn Electronics - learn the basics of logic systems by hacking, disabling door locks as well as computers or find alternative solutions to gain access.
  • Advanced Artificial Intelligence - characters have their acquaintances, locations where they belong and their personal goals that don’t have to correlate with yours.
  • The Real Real-time - schedule and meet your informants at appropriate places and times. Follow characters in the world and analyse their activities. Your simulation goes on regardless whether you are in it or not.
  • Almost Permadeath - if you leave the simulation in a dangerous location and your reputation isn’t in a good state there is a possibility you will die even when you are not playing - however, you always have the opportunity to escape and survive.
  • Limited Time - your servo-savant has a limited lifecycle. After the expiration point it will start decomposing and eventually end the game session.
  • Extensive Communication & Transportation - walk, use the metro or your autonomous vehicle to reach locations.
  • Define The Simulation - it is you who decides what you experience in the simulation. Accomplish main mission, random ones or neither. Eliminate anything that moves or hack and explore the world.

About This Game

Synther is an FPP simulation game with adventure-like, detective elements set in a futuristic, open world. The game is innovative and reminiscent of early 3D games and DOS applications.

The game is set in a city located on a remote island and the year is 2050. The players get a chance to step in the shoes of Agent from Steiger Corporation, explore vast areas, crime scenes and gather intel, that reveals even more mysteries surrounding the city and its inhabitants. The police, paramilitary groups, gangs, fractions, large corporations - they can all stand in your way or can be helpful during, what can be the most demanding assignment of Your Agent career.

Synther has been in development for five years, since 2013. It's highly inspired by movies like Blade Runner, anime like Ghost In The Shell and games like Deus Ex, B.A.T. Syndicate from 1993.

Mature Content Description

The developers describe the content like this:

This Game may contain content not appropriate for all ages, or may not be appropriate for viewing at work: Frequent Violence or Gore, General Mature Content

System Requirements

    • OS: Windows 7
    • Memory: 4 GB RAM
    • OS: Windows 7
    • Memory: 8 GB RAM
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