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Interview with Synergy development team

Synergy is a co-operative mod for the Half Life 2 saga, which allows you and friends to play through the story together as well as a variety of other maps. Given the recent co-operative influx of games, Synergy pre-dates the craze having first been released three years ago. Since then the title has gone from strength to strength, with a wide variety of maps available as well as a recent update making Half Life: Episode 2 playable with friends.

Alongside team play, Synergy also provides deathmatch and versus game modes, with a Rebels against Combine theme. These games are enjoyable and offer a new spin on the traditional Half Life universe in a slightly different context. The team play maps themselves are also very enjoyable, with a wealth of different levels and locations to choose from as well as different objectives.

Synergy is now easier to download than ever. If you have a copy of Half Life 2 or any source engine game, all you need to do is load up Steam and look under the mod section. Synergy can be automatically downloaded and it supported with regular updates and other benefits, meaning there is no excuse not to give the game a go. We got in touch with the Synergy team, who were kind enough to give us this interview.

GameOn: Where did you draw your inspiration for Synergy from?
Synergy Team: For me, I was disappointed to find that Half-Life 2 didn't have a cooperative mode, even for just two players. I wanted to play through HL2 with my brother.

GO: How difficult was the development of the mod?
Syn: Smooth at times and very rough at others.

GO: How did you go about planning Synergy?
Syn: The old version of Synergy (pre-Steam) wasn't planned at all; it was more or less just experimenting, getting a feel for what the general people wanted. The new version, the one that is on Steam now, was planned from the start with single player campaign gameplay in mind; since the beginning we've been making quite a few changes to our initial plan: originally we wanted to limit the players' lives to just one - but that changed when the players thought it was too harsh.

GO: The mod is looking very professional, how much work has gone into it?
Syn: I can't give an exact amount of time, but it's pretty extreme. Synergy in general has been worked on since the release of Half-Life 2 (late 2004, early 2005; including some planning).

GO: How important is user feedback during the development process and afterwards?
Syn: Feedback from the community is extremely important, I think, for any game - particularly one that is focused on cooperative gameplay. We try to include everything suggested, but sometimes it doesn't always work out.

GO: What features do you think are important for an online game?
Syn: Good networking structure, easy-to-use or intuitive controls, fun gameplay and minimal bugs.

GO: How has the recent Steam support influenced Synergy?
Syn: I have to say that being distributed through Steam makes the whole update process much easier. We got a broad audience, also increasing our players and community. In turn, we receive more feedback from the community, bug reports and so on.

GO: What is your favourite moment from a game of Synergy?
Syn: I like playing ep2_outland_12 (the Strider battle at the end of Episode Two) with my friends and my brother, we all get into the van and carry Strider Busters with us.

GO: What plans do you have for the future of Synergy?
Syn: Currently we're planning on incorporating stats and achievements that help encourage players to work better cooperatively. We'll also be adding new features that may boost replayability in certain maps, incorporated with the achievement rewards.

GO: Have you got any words of advice for amateur mod makers?
Syn: Stick with projects you love; if you don't like what you're doing, no sense doing it. Also, take breaks; programming for several hours at a time, ignoring bodily functions isn't good. :-)

GO: What do the development team like to do when not making Synergy?
Syn: Other games sometimes; JonnyQuattro likes Call of Duty, 4-Legged Tumor does a lot of biking. Recently we've been playing the Left 4 Dead Demo.

GO: Is Synergy just a part-time passion, or would you like to become a full time developer?
Syn: Synergy is, at this point, just for fun - a passion. Of course, I'm sure we'd all like to be full-time developers.

GO: How does it feel to see players having a great time with your creation?
Syn: It feels great. Getting positive and thanks from the community makes it all worth while.

evilgiraffeman | 8th December, 2008

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