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The Syndicate - Open world multiplayer crime game

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In the future, I'm looking to create a multiplayer game that's influenced by other games -- namely GTA IV, GTA Online, Watch Dogs, and a number of multiplayer shooters to create something both familiar and different at the same time. I've enrolled in college, and this is just something I've had in my head for a while and hope to make a reality in the future.

I'm sure we've all played GTA. GTA IV had multiplayer set in New York (or Liberty City), which had a fun assortment of modes but was rather simple. GTA V has GTA Online, which has some really good ideas, but I'm not the biggest fan of the execution. There are a lot of gimmicks involve that take away from the crime feel, and some questionable decisions. The game is still a lot of fun, but I want to take the best parts of it and create something new.

As mentioned in the title, the working name of the game is The Syndicate. I'm not sure if I can keep it, as EA has a game called "Syndicate" and I might have to come up with something else. But for now, that's just what I'm calling it.

The Syndicate is set in the East Coast. Specifically, the locations include New York (New York City, Long Island, Hudson Valley, a portion of Upstate), New Jersey (Newark, Jersey City, Paterson, Elizabeth, and Edison), and Connecticut (Bridgeport, New Haven, Stamford, Waterbury, Norwalk, and Danbury). The reason I chose this area to be the location of The Syndicate was simple: It's the most populated area in the United States, and has a rich history of crime. It's also extremely diverse, even by American standards, so anyone could fit in with the environment.

The game is multiplayer, but I'm hesitant to call it an MMO. Rather, it's a shared world game. Everyone shares the games world, but it has the gameplay more reminiscent of GTA with shooting and driving mechanics not specifically tied to your level. Anyone can beat anyone, with enough skill. However, there are RPG and loadout mechanics with a sense of progression to make sure things stay interesting. Also, there are modes with separate lobbies, so that no one can intrude on the experience.

Your Character

The Syndicate has a wide range of customization options. You can play as a male or female, and you can choose your character's race: Caucasian, Slavic, African, Native-American, Asian, Middle Eastern, or Latino. There's a number of ways to tweak out how your character looks, such as customizing your face, hair, eyes, etc. You can also choose what kind of clothes you wear, which you can change at any time. There are different clothes shops around the map, and each shop has different options based on its theme (example, one that's high end, another that's cheap). There are also tattoo options, if you want to express your personality or show loyalty to your gang, it's there.

There's a lot of options you can use to make your character your own. You can wear plain clothes to fit in with everyone else, or you can make your status as a criminal more obvious, such as wearing a skull bandana with a rolled up pant leg, and prominent tattoos. There are numerous themes you can fit into with the options available, such as urban, biker, mafia, casual, and yes, even hipster. The customization options are completely aesthetic, so as to make sure no one is at an advantage or disadvantage just because of the visual appearance they chose.


The Syndicate takes its cues from Grand Theft Auto. There are both on-foot and in-vehicle mechanics, and like GTA you can steal any car in the game by pressing Y/Triangle. However, there are crucial differences to the gameplay that separate it from GTA and make The Syndicate its own beast. In GTA, you could carry every weapon in the game, which meant there was no strategy in what kind of weapon you used. The Syndicate however, only lets you carry two at a time, and one of which (usually) must be a handgun. Not only is it more realistic, but it actually means you have to think about what kind of weapon you want to use in a situation. For example, an assault rifle has more range and power, but an SMG allows you more mobility and can be used inside vehicles. If you want, you can substitute a handgun for a rocket launcher (if you can acquire one), but while it's great for taking out vehicles, it's highly situational and you lose mobility with it. You can crouch, unlike in GTA V (for some reason), which increases your accuracy and can give you cover and stealth.

The game has RPG elements in the mix, so that there's a feeling of progression. When you first start out, you only have a pistol and a few hundred dollars cash. As you work your way up, you get options for what kind of weapons you want to use. There are different ways to acquire weapons, both legally and illegally. Having your weapon drawn out is risky, because you will get the attention of the police if one sees you. There are cover mechanics, and the ability to use stealth in order to silently take your enemies. A number of attachments are available for your weapons, and if you got the cash, you can get a really decked out gun. These include suppressors, laser pointers, sights, and grenade launchers. You can also paint your gun, to give it a unique look. You can use this to create your own loadout, which you can select before going out in the world or on a mission.

As for driving, there are a wide variety of vehicles at your disposal. Like GTA, all vehicles are fictional, but based off of real life brands. There are cars, bikes, boats, and helicopters. The vehicles should drive smoothly, as you'll be spending a lot of time behind the wheel. As with your character and weapons, there are shops where you can customize your vehicle both visually and in performance. Similar to GTA, if your car is destroyed, you can get insurance so you'll get a replacement in a moment's notice.

Similar to GTA Online, you can claim a vehicle as your own. There are also a number of safehouses throughout the map which can be purchased, and the coast depends on factors like the location and the features available.

If all goes well, I would like options for both third person and first person views, for a really immersive experience if one desires.


I'm hoping for at the very least ten factions, covering a wide range of criminal enterprises, that the player can become an affiliate for. The idea is that each faction pays bonuses for completing missions, killing enemy players associated with rival factions, and performing faction-specific free roam challenges. Each faction has their own missions. Also, the job payment will be based on enrollment numbers, so a faction with significantly more players than another will pay less, to ensure there's a roughly equal number of members for each faction. As you can imagine, the factions have their own characters associated with them, and their own personalities to match. Factions I'm planning include:

  • Los Diablos (Latin cartel)
  • The Forgotten MC (Biker gang)
  • Akagi Family (Japanese yakuza)
  • Rossi Family (Italian mafia)
  • Coastal Club (Street racing/tuner gang)
  • Lapin Bratva (Russian mafiya)
  • White Tiger (Chinese triads)
  • O'Malley Family (Irish mob)
  • Thompson Posse (Jamaican yardies)
  • Rollers (African-American street gang)

Why care about respect? Earning enough respect nets you perks that you can use in-game to make your life easier. It's entirely optional to join a faction, as there are neutral missions not involving the factions, but you'll be missing out. Perks include sending a mugger to another player, paying money for the cops to temporarily turn a blind eye to your deeds, and paying to remove your wanted level. You need a certain level of respect to achieve this. Your faction's respect is increased by killing players belong to other factions, and decreased by killing players belonging to the same faction, which should hopefully help prevent the "kill on sight" mentality from becoming too prominent. 

Naturally, there are PVP events where people from different factions compete against each other in modes like deathmatches and races. They compete for money, XP, and to increase Global Faction Points. Speaking of which...

To encourage joining a faction and fighting for your colors, there are Global Faction Points. Every offensive action you take against another faction earns YOUR faction "Global Faction Points", which improves your faction's Global Ranking. Killing players from other factions, defeating other factions in certain activities, and possibly through other ways. The faction with the highest Global Ranking will earn some sort of bonus at the end of each month, be it a unique clothing item, money rewards, or whatever. This gives players motivation to choose a faction and stick with it, helping to serve a higher purpose by actually working together with their fellow faction mates for a monthly reward. Then the ranking resets at the start of the next month.

It should be noted that not everything is tied to the faction. Players can work with each other regardless of their affiliation, and play modes like deathmatch, capture the flag, races etc. without contributing to the GFP. It's special Faction vs. Faction modes where they go against each other.

The Open World

At the forefront, there is the shared world open world experience taking place in the hub of crime. The game world is referred to as the East Coast. This is your playground, where you explore, do jobs to earn money, and work with others to do crime. Or simply kill each other. This is likely where you'll be spending most of your time. Jobs here are different from missions. A mission takes place in a separate lobby, while a job takes place in the open lobby. A job has you doing things that can go in any way, due to the nature of the open world where everyone can meet each other. You can bust a drug deal and take the money for yourself, but someone else can crash the party and take the money from you, just as an example.

There's a system called Most Wanted. Should a player kill a lot of other players, they will become Most Wanted. Then there will be a cash prize for killing that player, with a large skull marker appearing on the map, and regardless of faction, you won't get a decrease in respect. There are mini-games available, such as bowling, air hockey, darts, and pool, where you can play with others -- and bet money, if you wish.

To make sure it's not completely chaotic, one must deal with the police going after you for causing trouble. The police will react when near you, or if someone calls 911. Since the East Coast covers different locations, there are different police officers for each area. They are not as cheap as the ones in GTA V, but shouldn't be underestimated either.

The idea is that one could only play in the East Coast without playing the other modes and still be satisfied with the game, so naturally, this will get a lot of focus.


There are a variety of different modes to play in The Syndicate. They're familiar, but with a twist. It takes full advantage of the world, featuring large maps and vehicles to ensure that it's not just your standard mode. Also, most modes have a Best Play, which is like Overwatch's Play of the Game, where you see a brief clip of the best play in the game, often involving a multi kill.

  • Deathmatch: Free-for-all deathmatch with a large map, and vehicles in the mix.
  • Team Deathmatch: Like the above, but in teams.
  • Team Capture: It's Capture the Flag, but with a briefcase. Two teams try to break into the enemy team's side and steal their briefcase, then bring it to their side. Similarly, it involves a massive playing field and vehicles.
  • Race: Pretty simple, it plays like a racing game where you try to race to finish to first. You can't leave your car, and there are respawns if you fall upside down or wreck your car too much. No slipstream, no catch up (ahem), just you and your racing skills.
  • Syndicate Race: When racing takes on Syndicate rules. Instead of respawning, you get out of your car and steal another. There are weapons on the map, which you use to kill your enemies to win.
  • Fragile Alliance: It's a semi-competitive, semi-cooperative mode that's directly inspired by the mode of the same name in Kane & Lynch (which I consider the only good thing about that game). The players are in a crew where you try to rob a bank. At first, everyone works together to secure the money and fight off the police. But there is friendly fire, and one can kill their teammates to get a bigger cut of the score. It's a risk vs. reward mode where you can either work together, or kill each other for more money, but that's assuming IF you can complete the mission with more cops after you and less teammates to help.
  • Crime Work: Each player competes over being the first to complete a set of objectives, which can vary wildly at any time. Whoever completes the most objectives by the end of the timers wins.
  • Wanted: Basically, it's this version of Horde mode. Four players face wave after wave of police officers, who aren't exactly taking prisoners. The whole map is yours, but the team must stick together in order to have a chance of surviving all the rounds against the increasingly tough police officers.


As with other open world games, there is a licensed soundtrack. There are stations that play classic rock, EDM, alternative/indie rock, hip-hop, hard rock/metal, among others. There are also websites you can use, which increase immersion of the world and serve as a gameplay mechanic, where you order vehicles and weapons. You can also check the news, and get updates on the world around you. The internet can be accessed through a computer, or just by using your phone.


NOTE: This is a work in progress and more will be added/changed as I time passes. If there's anything you'd like to say or suggest, please let me know!

Edited by StrangeThoughts

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I really like your idea, especially the factions. However, I think if you were able to properly produce this game, it wouldn't be able to compete with gta since there is already a large fanbase for the gta games. I would recommend changing the setting somehow in order to move away from seeming like a gta ripoff; because despite all the new cool features the general public will still write it off as a ripoff. Otherwise, again, I like your idea!

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I'm not trying to be a "GTA killer", in fact I think marketing it that way would be a kiss of death for the game. Rather, I'm hoping to make a game that fulfills what a large number of people wanted from GTA Online but never quite got: the feel of a multiplayer game focused on crime. I've talked to a lot of people, and many (myself included) believed that while GTA Online is fun, it doesn't live up to its full potential. It focuses way too much on zany, over-the-top action with military hardware and supercars galore, and it's only gotten more over-the-top with later modes like stunt races and that Tron homage.

What I want to create is a game where you truly feel like you're living as a criminal looking to make their way up the food chain by any means necessary. Everyone starts off as nothing, a nobody. Only having a handgun and some cash, you have to work your way to the top without any shortcuts. I want it so that anyone who has a high rise penthouse feels like they truly earned it. Supercars shouldn't be something that everyone has and can get easily, it should be something that you have to really work for. There shouldn't be things like tanks and attack helicopters, because that completely destroys the immersion. Don't get me wrong, there will be cool stuff, but it should feel more grounded in reality.

Also, I don't think it would be called a rip-off because there are many differences and open world games have been a thing for a long time. People are used to it at this point, and The Syndicate would serve as a game that can serve a purpose that GTA Online doesn't fulfill.

Edited by StrangeThoughts

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Cool idea! Also wanna play as a criminal, doing jobs, selling/making drugs etc. Building your strength with more gang members, better equipment etc. Bust out gang members from jail maybe?

However if you want to make this game without spending millions and many developers, id say go for more of a 2D or strategy/management type of multiplayer game. Full 3D in the style of GTA with shooting and driving in an open world (on top of the gang management aspects) require IMMENSE resources to pull of in a polished way that makes playing it fun. Even middle-ground budget 3D games (there was a crime game like that a couple of years ago, went F2P, APB reloaded) are mostly annoying since they feel like a cheaper version of those AAA titles everyone plays already.

Edited by suliman

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I realize this will take a lot of resources, but I don't want to make a mobile game. I can't stand mobile games. The Syndicate is a dream of mine that I've had for quite a while now, because I wanted a multiplayer game that actually focuses on the criminal element (I think GTA Online deviated too far from this, instead focusing on zany, over-the-top action). In a game about criminals, not everyone should have access to military hardware. There shouldn't be tanks or attack helicopters, for instance. Nor should there be homing missiles and UTAS auto shotguns. Granted, it won't be completely realistic, so as to ensure it isn't boring, but you get what I mean.

I'm hoping that since this is a multiplayer only game, it will mean I'll have more resources to spare since I don't have to build single player content around it. I want to make the game happen one day, if it means I'll have to strike a deal with a big name publisher, that might be the only way barring a successful kickstarter. I don't want to settle for anything less, and I certainly don't want to make a mobile game with it.

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1 hour ago, StrangeThoughts said:

I can't stand mobile games.

Most mobile games are bad because they are designed as small money grabbers, if you don't like them then why not improve them.

Your game would receive a lot of praise if you brought a well designed game to the mobile market.

1 hour ago, StrangeThoughts said:

I realize this will take a lot of resources

A lot of resources is a understatement, GTA 5 was one of the most expensive games to make. Unless you have over a $100 000 000 USD just laying around it isn't going to happen, in the next 16 years.

I mean it is possible for a single person to make GTA 2 now and for a small team to make GTA 3.

1 hour ago, StrangeThoughts said:

I wanted a multiplayer game that actually focuses on the criminal element

If you focus on this part alone it could be made. Forget about matching GTA graphics, settle for simple 3D  or use 2D, 2D will make the networking easier.

1 hour ago, StrangeThoughts said:

I'm hoping that since this is a multiplayer only game, it will mean I'll have more resources to spare since I don't have to build single player content around it.

Multiplayer games take more resources. Where a one player game is made and shipped maybe fixed from time to time, a multiplayer game needs constant maintenance; so over time they do take more resources.

Also the game type you chose will need the same content for multiplayer as it needs for single player. You still need AI for the police and NPC characters. You still need missions and objectives to keep players busy, the only thing you can really skip on is the story.

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GTA V took that kind of resources because they spent all that money on making it as massive and detailed as possible, mine won't be like that. Not to say there won't be details, but as a game that's multiplayer it means I won't be making an underused underwater area, for example. Also, a game with both a singleplayer AND a multiplayer is more expensive, which is what I'm getting that. It won't be easy to make, but I don't think it'll be completely impossible like you say.

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36 minutes ago, StrangeThoughts said:

GTA V took that kind of resources because they spent all that money on making it as massive and detailed as possible

The money went to feeding the people, paying for the computers and software, paying for electricity to keep things running, paying for advertisement and paying tax. All of these you will have to pay as well; just to a smaller scale.

Making it less detailed isn't going to reduce production price as you think it will. Reducing the scale does reduce the price and by a lot so keeping things simple is the best way to go.


Lets take a basic vehicle as an example:

Low poly: 2 days for mesh and evaluation, 2 days for textures or special shader, 1 day for rigging, 3 days for implementation, 2 days for fixes and unexpected problems = 10 days for one low poly vehicle to work in game as expected.

High poly: 4-7 days for mesh and evaluation, 2-4 days for texture and shader, 1-3 days for rigging, 3-5 days for implementation, 7days for fixes and unexpected problems = 17-26 days for a high poly vehicle to work as expected.

26/10 = 2.6

$ 200 000 000 / 2.6 = $ 76 923 076 - 25%(team size communication) =$ 57 692 307 so we can say about $ 50 000 000 for a low poly clone that works exactly like GTA 5.

Lets say you game is only a fifty of the game GTA 5 is: $50 000 000 / 5 = $ 1 000 000

That is $ 1 000 000 for a GTA 5 clone that will have 52 vehicles instead of 262 GTA 5 has.

So consider that the average american makes $45 000 * 3 = $ 135 000

$ 1 000 000 / 135 000 = 7.4 lets round up to 8.

That is about 8 average people, 3 years to make a GTA 5 low poly clone that is only a fifth of the size.


There is a lot of arguments against the above equation, however money is a good way of finding work potential and of course the worth of the people you hire is difficult to work out.

This is a good estimate and in favour of the indie devs, where realistically it would take around 15 professional employees 3 years to make the low poly clone.

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I'm still in college so I can cross that bridge when I get to it. But I'm not planning to be an indie dev, at least not when I make this because I know this isn't quite what a team of 15 people can make with no publisher assisting them.

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14 hours ago, StrangeThoughts said:

I know this isn't quite what a team of 15 people can make with no publisher assisting them.

Yes, the described game is far beyond such a team.

I'd estimate what you described feels somewhere in the $20M - $50M range. It has potential, but the scope is rather expansive.

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