Specter developers Jordan Crawford and Fred Toms met while working together at a restaurant in their teens. They quickly came together through video games, and one game in particular: Splinter Cell. The duo played Splinter Cell jokes to other employees and introduced themselves to restaurant guests as ‘Sam Fisher.’ After decades as friends and a COVID-induced split, the two veteran developers, who have worked in the industry separately, decided to form Symbiosis Games together, “a nod to our symbiotic relationship,” Toms said. “Jordan is a very artistic and visual person, while I am the absolute opposite of that.”
Their minds kept going back to Splinter Cell, a beloved franchise that, aside from some Fisher cameos in other Ubisoft titles, has been dormant since the Splinter Cell blacklist of 2013. “We thought, what better way to introduce Symbiosis Games to the world with a game that features deep teamwork and partnership, heavily inspired by the glory days of our favorite franchise? ”Toms told IGN. And so Specter was born.
Screenshots of Specter
It’s a multiplayer game, for now (more on that later) – a spiritual revival of Spies vs. Mercs, as Ubisoft has shown no interest in doing it themselves. As a staunch companion of Splinter Cell, he was eager to learn more about the couple’s ambitious project. I had to start by asking a key question: What version of Spies vs. Mercs is your favorite? Pandora Tomorrow, chaos theory or blacklist? “Jordan and I totally agree here,” Toms began. “It is chaos theory. The level design, particularly Aquarius, was outstanding. We both felt that Blacklist directed the genre Spies Vs Mercs, if you can call it a genre, away from what made it really special. When you were a spy on Chaos Theory, stealth was exhilarating. Seeing an unsuspecting mercenary from afar and surreptitiously planning his next move was thrilling. I feel like Blacklist removed some of that magic by making the spies much more deadly and making the game much faster. I feel like it took away some of that classic, slower-paced, and biting experience that stealth games used to offer. Our goal is to bring that feeling back to Specter. “
The multiplayer gaming landscape has changed a lot since the heyday of Spies vs. Mercs, so, I was curious, what makes Symbiosis optimistic that Specter will find a dedicated audience and that the project will be successful? “One big benefit we have is that we are a very small team,” Toms said. “Symbiosis Games is Jordan and I, two guys, although we have a small team of contractors who work with us. But success for us means that if we have the support of that small group of devoted SvM-loving fans, then we have succeeded. Our very straightforward, indie approach to Specter means we don’t need to experience AAA sales like the bigger companies do. “
“Advances in hardware and software aside,” Crawford responded, “I think a massive benefit that we’ve seen has been community involvement and support. Right from the start, we were able to tap into a wealth of SvM experience through members of our Discord community who have been waiting for a long time and who have a wealth of valuable input.
“Another benefit that will work in our favor is post-launch support. With today’s technology, it is much easier to implement. “
Symbiosis says its current plan is to include three maps, two training missions (one per side, which, by the way, are referred to as wraiths and reapers here rather than spies and mercenaries), and two modes. Expect seven gadgets per side along with a progression system and a kind of skill system called “Edges” that provide additional, seemingly temporary perks. And teammates can combine their Edges for greater effect. For example, the guys told me, “One of our Edges is ‘Ohm’s Naw’. It’s an Edge implemented by Reapers that reduces the amount of time they spend in shock.
In trying to successfully win back Spies vs. Mercs, Toms says he and Crawford have had to be careful not to get too attached to the past. “Many of our fans remember chaos theory with rose-tinted glasses,” he said. “It’s an amazing game, even to this day, but we couldn’t launch it today. The whole experience required a major overhaul to bring it up to today’s standards. This approach has been infused into every aspect of Specter. However, we wear our inspirations a lot on our sleeves. “
While Symbiosis plans a PC release by the end of the year, the team called Specter “a perfect fit for PC and Xbox,” adding: “We look forward to seeing Specter on Xbox Series X, hopefully as a Game offering. Pass. We think the Xbox Game Pass service is exceptional. With a little luck and a little hard work, we hope to release it on both platforms simultaneously. We can’t wait to see Specter on the new Steam Deck either! “
Toms and Crawford also intend to react to their community once the game is available, and they are planning a lot more post-launch content. “In truth, we hope that the launch of SPECTER will begin to scratch the surface of what it eventually becomes,” they said.
I couldn’t help but conclude by asking about the other Sam Fisher-sized elephant in the room: a single-player campaign. “We have talked about this!” Toms told me. “If Specter takes off, we would be absolutely delighted to offer single-player content. We’re not sure what that would look like yet, but the idea is really exciting. “
If you are interested in Specter, you can wish list on Steam.
Ryan McCaffrey is IGN’s executive trailer editor and host of IGN’s weekly Xbox show. Podcast unlockedas well as our monthly talk show (-ish), Unfiltered IGN. It’s a North Jersey guy, so it’s “Taylor ham”, not “pork roll.” Discuss with him on Twitter at @DMC_Ryan.