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SiN Episodes is the title of a series of episodic games for the PC that would have expanded upon the 1998 computer game SiN. A total of nine episodes were planned with only the first one released. Developed by Ritual Entertainment and powered by the Source engine, the first episode "Emergence" was the first computer game by a major developer to both be produced episodically and delivered over the Internet without the intervention of a publisher. This was accomplished through Valve Corporation's Steam content delivery system.

With the sale of Ritual to MumboJumbo[1] and departure of several employees,[2] all future development of Sin Episodes appears to be delayed indefinitely, if not entirely canceled. MumboJumbo has already tasked Ritual to develop "high-quality casual content."[3]

"The idea of acquiring Ritual was to have them strengthen our development in the casual genre and not to have them involved at all in the action style games," Cottam explained. "If there's an opportunity to have them do something on the SiN episodes, we would look at that, but that will not be the focus of the company. The combined companies will focus exclusively on casual, unless opportunities present themselves that we think are strategic from a business standpoint... Again, I wouldn't close the door on traditional games but that's not the primary focus."

Overview

Ritual's original intention was to release an episode every six months that would cost US$19.95 and take around four to six hours to complete.[4] A total of nine episodes were envisioned.[3] Although originally released as a single-player game, various multiplayer modes were planned including co-operative and team based modes.

One of Ritual's main design goals with SiN Episodes was to offer interactivity, character-driven gameplay, emergent AI, and a plot reflecting the choices made by players through an opt-in statistics system that aggregates play data to a database: the intention that future episodes would thus depend on the choices that are made by each player.

Technology

File:SiNE1 GruntAim.jpg

SiN Episodes is built on the Source engine with additional technology added by Ritual.

  • Community-driven outcomes
    Ritual is considering using the trends of players to decide the plot development of the game in future episodes, a concept only possible with episodic development. If the majority of players make the same decision when faced with a choice, future episodes can be steered towards that outcome. Ritual explains, "if a feature is well-received by gamers, we might expand its role in the game, whereas aspects that aren't liked can be changed or phased out completely." At the same time they said, "we understand that it may be frustrating to not see 'your' outcome become a reality, so we’re still determining the extent to which this feature will be implemented."[5]
  • Multiple-material surfaces
    The Source engine does not natively support multiple materials on a prop—in other words, a model can only be made out of one thing. If an object such as a vehicle includes glass it will behave like the metal covering the body, and if you add armour to a character it will behave like flesh, unless you set the entire character to be metal. Ritual has added technology to alleviate this and have different material types on the same model.
  • Dynamic difficulty
    Dubbed the Personal Challenge System, SiN Episodes adapts itself to the player's skill level and varies the skill, numbers and toughness of enemies faced in accordance the player's performance to ensure a suitable level of challenge as well as to help pace the player through the game, ensuring an even game length across all skill levels. Indeed, Ritual claims that a proficient FPS player and a brand new FPS player started at the same time and, despite their widely different level of ability, finished within a small range of time of each other.[6] However, a bug present on release in the dynamic difficulty system caused the system to never ease up on players making it overly challenging and unforgiving. An update released through Steam on May 17, 2006 resolved this problem.[7][8]

Episodes

1. "Emergence"

Released on May 10, 2006, "Emergence" is the first episode in the series and introduces the various characters that will play a part. Reviews of the game were mixed. GameSpot gave it a 7.3 out of 10, while G4TV's X-Play gave the game a 2 out of 5.

2. Episode 2

The following is from an episode of GFW Radio (12/13/2006) regarding Episode 2.[citation needed]

Jeff Green: Sin Episode 2...
Shawn Elliot: ...is likely not happening now. A lot of the people from the dev team have left.
Jeff: At Ritual?
Shawn: Yeah, they've gone elsewhere. They now work for other people. Some of the key people. One of the lead programmers. That's not a good sign.

In 2009, Ritual has closed, leaving the future of the series uncertain.

Arena Mode

Arena Mode is a new single player mode and was designed to run a contest at E3 2006 as part of a promotion alongside Vigor Gaming. This high score mode is superficially similar to Max Payne 2's Dead Man Walking mode, where the objective is to survive as long as possible among the steadily spawning and increasing enemies. Unlike Max Payne however, there are time limits to the maps and it is possible to survive an entire round. The scoring system is also tied to the Personal Challenge System which runs at a much higher rate than in the main game. The challenge level changes every few seconds depending on the player's performance and the higher the challenge, the higher the rate of points that are accumulated. This mode was introduced into the game on June 26, 2006 with four maps available:[9][10]

  • Highrise Lobby
  • The Office
  • U4 Processing Station
  • Turbine

An update was released on July 18, 2006 which included three further maps:[11]

  • The Pit
  • Behind Zee Beaker
  • Vertigo

Soundtrack

The soundtrack was composed by Zak Belica, then Audio Director at Ritual Entertainment, who had also composed the soundtrack to the original SiN. The "Emergence" soundtrack was available as a standalone item on iTunes soon after the release of the game on May 12, 2006. A CD version of the soundtrack was made available later in the year on August 18 and included two bonus tracks.[12]

Unlike the disjointed electronic tracks which changed from map to map as in the original, "Emergence" employs a more focused approach by utilizing a central unifying theme underscoring other elements of the soundtrack. This method was inspired by the approach used by John Barry in the Goldfinger film and other James Bond style soundtracks. The central motif used was Jessica Cannon's theme, the song "What's the World Come to", sung by Sarah Ravenscroft.[13][14]

File:SiN Episodes - Soundtrack - Front.jpg
  1. "Emergence Theme – In Her Clutches"
  2. "Jessica and JC"
  3. "SinTek Checkpoint"
  4. "Freeport Docks"
  5. "Turbine"
  6. "Enter the Tanker"
  7. "Radek and Elexis"
  8. "The Pit"
  9. "Quadralex"
  10. "Supremacy Tower"
  11. "The Helicopter"
  12. "Emergence Suite"
  13. "What's The World Come To"
  14. "What's The World Come To (SinTek remix)"
  15. "Sin Episodes CD – Bonus Track"
  16. "Sin Episodes CD – Bonus Track 2"

Settings

  • Freeport City
    Freeport City is a bustling, futuristic megacity with a population of 27,000,000 and described as a mix of New York, San Francisco, and Tokyo. Areas that are featured in Emergence include the Freeport Docks, Sintek Supremacy Tower, and Radek's hidden drugs lab on board a beached, derelict oil tanker.

Characters

File:Bianca Beauchamp as Elexis Sinclair.jpg
  • Colonel John R. Blade (player)
    Colonel John R. Blade is the leader of HardCORPS and is "obsessed" with bringing Elexis to justice.
  • Elexis Sinclaire
    Elexis Sinclaire is the CEO of SinTEK Industries and wants to speed up human evolution. To do this, she has made a mutagenic drug called "U4".
  • JC Armack
    "A HardCorps hacker with a secret to keep" Jessica calls him "Skeeve". His name is likely an allusion to John Carmack.
  • Jessica Cannon
    The newest addition to Blade's core team at HardCORPS, Jessica is able to infiltrate most secure lockups with ease. She is voiced by the actress Jen Taylor.
  • Viktor Radek
    Viktor Radek leads the Cartel, and is suspected of helping Elexis with U4 shipping. He is voiced by actor David Scully.

Enemies

  • Mercenaries
    The yellow camouflaged Mercenaries, working for both SinTEK and Radek form the basic grunt-type enemy in the game. Ranging from the basic foot soldier to ones equipped with jetpacks and beyond.
  • Mutants
    Elexis' mutants return in the series.
  • SiNTEK A.R.C. (Active Resonance Circuitry) Probe – Sentry Configuration
    Utilizing micro silica celled processor, ARC Probe AI allows for rapid customization. Ideally suited for reconnaissance and security roles, ARC Probes have the processing power to also serve in more aggressive battlefield conditions as well. Secforces around the world have reconfigured ARC Probes to serve as remote negotiators, mines, hunters, and even hazardous material handling. In a Sentry Configuration, ARC Probes make routine patrols, seeking out unauthorized activity; the Sentry Configuration comes armed with a low yield particle cannon that will deter criminal activity with minimum damage to the environment.
  • SiNTEK Heavy Chaingunner
    Representing some of SinTEK’s elite fighting force, the SinTEK chaingunner combines high damage with heavy armor. Though not as mobile and agile as some of their lighter armed compatriots, the Chaingunner provides critical cover fire in combat and the sound of their guns spinning up can evoke fear in even the most battle-hardened veterans.

Weapons

  • M90 Magnum Blade wields a modified version of the standard issue HardCORPS side arm. Equipped with an extended clip and a bored chamber, Blade’s magnum is capable of dropping even well armored foes. Custom balanced for Blade’s particular style, the Magnum is equally deadly at any range, making the weapon useful in almost any situation.
    • Primary Fire – Custom crafted .44 Magnum ammunition, capable of penetrating armor and shallow cover.
    • Secondary Fire – D.U.A.G (Depleted Uranium Anti – Gen) Round. Rare but extraordinarily powerful, the DUAG rounds transform the magnum into a certifiable hand-cannon. The Magnum’s secondary fire uses depleted uranium rounds with a destabilizing antigen component. The result is a bullet that will kill most foes in a single shot and is capable of penetrating through all but the most hardened cover. Walls, Pillars, Pipes – None of these deter the raw killing power of the DUAG round.
  • M590 Assault Rifle – The M590 is the latest and greatest in light ballistics technology. Made from a polycarbide alloy, the M590 is light and heat resistant, allowing for an unprecedented rate of fire. An onboard computer assisted scope makes the M590 an excellent long-range tool, and the outstanding automatic fire ensures you can keep the pressure on your foes in any firefight. When equipped with the RPG launcher, the M590 packs an additional explosive punch that can get you out of a tight situation.
    • Primary Fire – Machine-lathed 9 mm rounds; engineered to prevent jamming and assist in heat dispensation.
    • Secondary Fire – G220 Rocket Propelled Grenades; exploding on impact, these grenades offer the ultimate in deadly force.
  • X-380 Prototype Scattergun – Stunningly lethal at short range, the Prototype Scattergun offers the best means of assault in close quarters combat. The Scattergun is built upon a shotgun frame, but offers the benefits of a magazine-based reload, getting you back in the action quickly. It bears a close resemblance to the Spas 12, Benelli M3 and Mossberg 590.
    • Primary Fire – High yield shotgun shells offer impressive damage at close and medium range.
    • Secondary Fire – Fragmentation Shells expel shards of superheated, high-velocity shrapnel. Larger in mass than the standard fire, the shrapnel offers more damage and the ability to bounce shots off of walls, making the Scattergun the perfect weapon for clearing dangerous corners.
  • The G50 Incendiary Phosphorus Grenades – G50 Incendiary Phosphorus Grenades are light enough to be carried anywhere and used in tandem with any weapon. The G50 wields deadly damage in a wide spread area and is capable of confusing even the most sophisticated heat-seeking technology. Equipped with a time delay fuse, the G50 offers a strategic option for intense battles. Explosions release a super heated cloud of phosphorus plasma, igniting anything flammable within the blast radius.

Vehicles

  • Poseidon Interceptor Vehicle
    Aftermarket additions make the V8 Poseidon the vehicle of choice for SecForces across the globe. With a top speed to rival most consumer level vehicles, the Poseidon puts a quick end to most pursuits, and the unique chassis and frame design allow for the easy installation of ablative armor. The armor segmentation system allows body segments to absorb the impact of high yield explosives, allowing the car to keep running even when under heavy fire.
  • GLG-20 SiNTEK Assault Chopper
    The GLG-20 is the top of line in urban assault technology. Equipped with both a transuranic high speed cannon and multiple fast-loading bays of heat seeking missiles, the GLG-20 is designed to hunt and kill from above.

Cultural references

  • Near the beginning of the game, two NPCs will mention two coworkers named Lenny and Carl who have gone missing. There are two characters named Lenny and Carl on The Simpsons.
  • When passing through the security checkpoint at the beginning of the game, the display above the checkpoint shows scrolling text indicating contraband items that will not be allowed through the checkpoint (e.g. "no guns"). However, this includes "no blades", "no bows" and "leave your weapons here"—a quote from the film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
  • At a random point in the game an NPC might shout out "I'm not even supposed to be here today!" which is a line from the movie Clerks.
  • Numerous statements regarding TPS reports (among other things), a reference to the movie Office Space, can be heard in the game.
  • A sign in the U4 labs states a U4 production plan:
 1. Raw material acquisition and storage
2. Thermodynamic processing
3. Distillation and condensing
4. ?
5. Shipping and distribution
6. PROFIT!
A similar sign appeared in the South Park episode "Gnomes", which later became a popular internet meme.
  • The famous Dopefish from the Commander Keen 4 game can be found in the game, in several of the underwater sections.
  • GLG-20 is a reference to the movie Spies Like Us. Dan Akroyd and Chevy Chase were promoted to "Gathering, level 20." for special ops.
  • Deep within the U4 labs, a message is heard over the PA "Warning, do not feed subject outside of assigned hours" a reference to the Gremlins movies.
  • When entering 0228 into the phones, a brief conversation is heard: "Hey, who put bacon in the soap?!... I made it myself" a reference to Invader Zim episode 24, "Rise of the zitboy".
  • In the beginning of the game there is a note marked "Hi Norm!" and the number 4240. By dialing this number you get a message intended for Norm from a co-worker. The co-worker says that his BLT drive is fine, and he didn't need a new one. This is a reference to the opening scene in the movie Hackers.

Reception

SiN Episodes: Emergence received generally favorable reviews and currently holds a 75 on MetaCritic.[15]

Sales

As of January 27, 2007 the game has sold 150,000 units, enough to recoup development costs but not enough to fund a sequel.[16]

References

  1. Brightman, James (2007-01-24). "Ritual Acquired by MumboJumbo, Goes Casual". gamedaily.com. http://biz.gamedaily.com/industry/feature/?id=15054. Retrieved 2010-04-04. 
  2. Remo, Chris (2006-12-06). "Ritual Sees Departures, Appoints New Studio Director". shacknews.com. http://www.shacknews.com/onearticle.x/44922/. Retrieved 2010-04-04. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 "'SiN's Episodic Sequel Shelved". Totalgaming.net. 2007-01-25. http://tgnforums.stardock.com/?AID=142115. Retrieved 2007-01-25. 
  4. Jake Mitchell (2006-01-15). SiN Episodes Hands-On and Interview. Digital Entertainment News. Retrieved on 2006-05-04.
  5. SpaecKow (2005-08-01). SiN Episodes Interview. Ritualistic. Retrieved on 2005-08-02.
  6. Monki (2006-05-22). Monki interviews Tom Mustaine of Ritual about SiN: Emergence. Ain't It Cool News. Retrieved on 2006-08-24.
  7. Alfred Reynolds (2006-05-17). SiN Episodes: Emergence Update. Steam News. Retrieved on 2006-05-17.
  8. Russell, Michael (2006-05-17). [SiN] Patch Live, Bug Post-Mortem #1. Rom's Rants. Retrieved on 2006-05-18.
  9. John Callaham (2006-08-18). SiN Episodes Update Interview. Firing Squad. Retrieved on 2006-08-24.
  10. Jason Ruymen (2006-06-26). SiN Episodes: Emergence and Red Orchestra Update Released. Steam News. Retrieved on 2006-08-24.
  11. Jason Ruymen (2006-07-18). SiN Episodes: Emergence Update Released. Steam News. Retrieved on 2006-08-24.
  12. Stylsy (2006-08-18). SiN Episodes: Emergence Soundtrack - Now On CD!. Ritualistic. Retrieved on 2006-08-24.
  13. badman & Stylsy (2006-04-25). SiN Episodes Interview: Zound and Muzak. Ritualistic. Retrieved on 2006-08-24.
  14. Zak Belica (2006-05-26). SiN Episodes: Emergence music study. Music 4 Games. Retrieved on 2006-08-24.
  15. Episodes "SiN Episodes: Emergence". http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/pc/sinepisodesemergence?q=SiN Episodes. Retrieved 2010-07-04. 
  16. "Going Small - How the MumboJumbo Merger Will Affect Ritual". 2007-01-27. http://www.ritualistic.com/content.php/interviews/070129_ritual_02.php. Retrieved 2010-07-04. 

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