Ascii What You Did: Syndicate Dev’s Message To Pirates

The humble .nfo file is a business card, instruction manual, and score-setting rap song in ascii form. They’re the files that the piracy scene drops into their releases to claim bragging rights for that particular chunk of nefarious code. So why the hell did Syndicate Developers Starbreeze stick one in the legitimate release of their first-person shooter? Redditor MikkelManDK spotted the file in the game’s directory: it’s there to partly to mock the scene a little — the install notes read: ‘1) Insert disc 2) Play ;)’ — and partly to bring the Warez groups into the games industry: Starbreeze’s .nfo asks them to apply for jobs.

The file points out the time it took to make the game, how many people were involved and then gets all huggy and suggests that if you’re good enough to crack the game then you might have the skills to make it in games. I’d be keen to know if anyone does take them up on the offer.

If you must have that .nfo legitimately, Syndicate is out today (in the world of crumpets and fog; the colonies received it earlier this week) and Alec’s WiT is imminent. In fact, here’s a spoiler from the text: “n”. While we wait, lets all watch the launch trailer. Now the game’s actually out, we can play it and not feel lied to.


  1. Runs With Foxes says:

    Yeah apply for a job like Gabe asked the HL2 hacker to apply for a job.

    • staberas says:

      and expect the party van to arrive soon outside your house.

    • battles_atlas says:

      Trick is to use reverse psychology. I mailed Gabe last week asking for a lengthy jail term. Now I’m lead designer on HL3! I’ve no idea what I’m doing but designing a lead can’t be hard right?

    • Windward says:

      Lead designer? Heavy job, man.

    • Kaese says:

      NUKE> Syndicate-STARBREEZE

      Am I the only one laughing hard at the insert disc, play thing while the game requires you to use Origin on every available version?

    • Aemony says:

      This isn’t the same as this file is found in all copies of the game, regardless of legitimacy, nor does it require any form of cracking or such to apply for the job. I don’t know why RPS phrased it as such but the job opportunity is merely a normal one and would be interesting for all players of the game with considerable talents in any of the three areas.

    • KuraraII says:

      battles_atlas, you owe me a new keyboard! ;)

    • nrvsNRG says:

      @ Aemony
      “I don’t know why RPS phrased it as such but the job opportunity is merely a normal one and would be interesting for all players of the game with considerable talents in any of the three areas”.

      Its the same as a scene Nfo obviously aimed more at the crackers more then joe public.

    • The Tupper says:

      It’s a trap!

    • psyk says:

      Yep hacking valve is exactly the same as cracking a game.

  2. c-Row says:

    “n”? That’s all I needed to know.

    • apocraphyn says:

      nascent? Nice? Not nice? Wonderful?

    • Ricc says:

      So, ‘n’ out of ‘z’, right? That’s like a 5.3 … :3

    • diamondmx says:

      I hereby challe_ge Alex to write the e_tire article without usi_g the letter which comes after m and before o.

    • Wabznasm says:

      @diamondmx: “I hereby dare Alex to write the whole article without the use of the letter which comes after m and before o”.


      This would be a very difficult task. You would have to be extremely creative to stop your prose seeming forced

      You lose – together with other vital words – the use of: the declarative form of the word that is the opposite of yes; the word that bridges a comparative phrase; the word that is roughly the same as “also” or “as well as”; as well as the active participle of every verb.

      There are few obvious words to replace some of the above; the list is also far from exhaustive.

    • Aankhen says:


      @diamondmx: “I hereby dare Alex to write the whole article without the use of the letter which comes after m and before o”.


      This would be a very difficult task. You would have to be extremely creative to stop your prose seeming forced


    • Raniz says:

      There’s still an n in there.
      I hereby dare Alex to write the whole article without the use of the letter which comes directly after m.

    • Wabznasm says:

      Gah, I failed.

  3. Memph says:

    I love how there’s time for this, but not to include a necessary FoV option to tailor the game to the system it’s released on. /evil eye
    Eidos listened, 2K are listening (despite their PR girl being openly ignorant on the subject), why not this eh? No buy ’till no headaches.

    • haowan says:

      Yes because writing an NFO takes just as much time as programming an option into a game.

    • Tacroy says:

      Actually, on modern commercial game engines, the FOV is literally just a parameter the programmer has to set. Adding in an FOV option would probably take less time than crafting the ASCII art in a .nfo file, since it’s just adding a menu option that changes a parameter. Heck, Total Biscuit used some external program to force The Darkness II to use a wider FOV, and the game itself worked and rendered fine (though the external tool was crashy and made the game work weirdly with his recording software).

      Of course, the knock-on effects of adding that parameter (e.g, QA testing) would make it take a bit longer, but then the .NFO file would probably have to go through Legal and HR in a big company. In terms of pure “time to create” an FOV option is probably faster.

    • kavika says:

      There’s the time it takes to test the feature, the time it takes to make sure it works correctly on the different hardware, etc.

      There’s also the time for a UI designer to cram the option into the UI (if they have one), and the asset to be made if they’re image-based buttons.

      The people involve in the programming, and possible testing/UI design of this might be paid significantly more than someone who is capable of writing a text file with ASCII art.

      Also, I didn’t even realize that tweakable FOV had anything to do with different monitors, and I’m a programmer who’s done OpenGL and DirectX programming. I’ve always just taken the width/height of the viewing surface (the screen, if full-screened), used a hard-coded FOV, done a few simple maths, and called it good.

      Why would a variable FOV be a requirement for different monitor setups? How many people have monitor setups like those that would require a variable FOV?

    • LionsPhil says:

      Think about the transforms you’re actually doing to project the 3D scene onto that 2D surface. (Or, for an analogy, think about looking out a window—as you get closer to it, you can see out at shallower and shallower angles.) “Correct” FoV is a function of how far the viewer’s eyes are from the screen, although there’s some wiggle-room for personal preference there.

      The closer you are to the screen, the wider a FoV you (should) have. A game designed to be played slouched on a couch ten foot from the plasma TV will have a narrower one than a game designed to be played with your nose six inches from staring intently into the monitor.

  4. Fanbuoy says:

    I’m pretty sure that I read just this week that Starbreeze were letting like 40 people go. So… Eh?

  5. Lewie Procter says:

    I wonder how the 25 staff that got laid off once they finished their work on the game feel about that
    link to

    • caddyB says:

      They got replaced by hackers, obviously.

    • apocraphyn says:

      “Not only are they stealing our profits, but now they’re stealing our jobs, too!”

    • Fadobo says:

      Don’t want to sound harsh, but I guess that’s the way it is. Most studios can not afford keeping a big staff at all times. There is the core team that is active in pre/early production and they upscale when they go into full production. After that, they lay people off until the next project get’s signed by a publisher and they have the funds/need for more people again.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      @Fadobo: everyone knows that this is “the way it is” – it’s a shitty way to be, and it should be changed. :)

    • Stevostin says:

      That should make it into the news.

    • Fadobo says:

      @Alexander: I was not saying that, but there is also nobody there pointing out, if a studio has 25 job openings when upscaling to full production. There are also alternative scenarios existing already. For example: Being indy, going for Steam etc. making a share that is big enough to keep everybody employed. In this case it’s way more risky for the studio, since they basically break if the game fails, but they get rewarded for not putting this risk on a publisher. Some big publishers with in-house teams also may just shift people over to other studios that are in full production right now.

      I am a little bit in between about the publisher situation. I want that the developers of a game get a bigger share of what get’s earned with their creation, but many simply rely on the publisher to fund the whole development, pay everybody’s salary and take the complete risk that the studio creates a dud.

    • bill says:

      Working in a game studio seems like a really shitty place to work. Zero job security, what with people continually being laid off between projects, and studios tending to close after every one or two games.

      That said, lay-offs and hirings are often unrelated. Nokia just laid off a few thousand people and are simultaneously advertising for a large number of positions. As markets change the company tends to want staff in different areas.

    • abigbat says:

      Working in the games industry (and media industry in general) isn’t shitty at all, you just need to accept that most of your work will be contract based. If you work hard and get exposure you’ll pick up work with a new studio soon enough. Our team has only 2 full timers, the producer and admin, the rest are all contract (hired depending on what we need).

    • battles_atlas says:

      I wonder if this is evidence of Starbreeze being distinctly nervous about how the game is going to sell? DX:HR made the task a lot harder one would imagine, and the only review of this I’ve seen so far has been pretty scathing

    • apocraphyn says:

      Eh, not all companies within the game industry are the same. I work for a big company where staff are hired to work on multiple projects with potentially “unlimited” contracts. You only see people getting laid off if times are particularly dire and there are literally no projects on the go. Which is very rare. Inbetween projects, people get to stick around and get paid during downtime.

      Guess it comes down to their accepted business practice and what they see as being sensible/acceptable. And how big they are. EA are infamous for doing this.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      I only posted here because I wanted to be enshrouded by a warm, loving orange halo.

    • Skabooga says:

      If a company does not need a significant portion of their workers after a game is finished (and they know this to be the situation going in), could they not just hire those workers on a fixed-time (or until project is finished) contract instead of laying off so many people? I suppose the end result is the same, but it just seems nicer.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      I consider those layoffs as a lazy form of arg…. since Syndicate is all about evil corporations, it seems fitting to “eliminate” some of their staff positions.

    • Shuck says:

      @Fadobo: That is the way it is, but the problem is that game industry still doesn’t acknowledge it. People are still being paid and being made promises as if that weren’t the case. So many rewards are tied into being around after the game ships – bonuses, actual days off… Traditionally, studios worked people hard before the game shipped and then made up for the abusive crunch time by having a period of down-time after the game went out. Now, you just have the abusive crunch time followed by unemployment. In the US, where health care is tied into employment, being laid off is especially stressful, though having to relocate at the end of each project isn’t fun either, especially with shorter dev times.

      @Skabooga: If the industry was honest about their labor practices, developers would end up being paid more than they are now, so it’s in the best interests of studios to pretend that the old ways of doing things are still in effect (which, for some larger companies, they may be).

    • DigitalSignalX says:

      I was initially charmed by the idea of a NFO file tucked away in the game as a prod toward piracy. However, after finding out about the layoffs (even if it’s the routine nature of the business) it seems in *really* poor taste to go recruiting with the product these fired people worked on.

  6. RaveTurned says:

    “1) Insert disc 2) Play ;)”

    No digital download then? Or is this some crazy DRM where we have to burn our own disc?

    • roryok says:

      doesn’t sound all that crazy. I’d be fine with burning a disc. Sure beats the old constant internet connection

    • RaveTurned says:

      Sounds great! Now we just have to find a DVD burner that only legitimate users can use! ;)

      Edit: That only legitimate users can use *once*. Well, once per game. Or maybe authorise another one if they lose it or something. Oh yeah, and that every legitimate user owns.

      I see no problems with this, do you?

    • Goomich says:

      Simple enough: attach couple grams of semtex to every burner.

      Or make them spin with 100x speed second time they’re used.

  7. Alexander Norris says:

    Thanks to the magic of VPNs and the game having literally nothing to enforce the release date except one single, one-time-only, easily-foolable release date checker the first time you launch it, I’ve been playing this since Tuesday.

    It’s pretty good! I wish they’d not bothered with the single player and just made twice as many co-op levels instead.

  8. Maldomel says:

    I know this is not really meant to fight piracy, but I find it nicer than DRM or other bullshit stuff like that.
    I like when devs are taking other routes to adress this problem, like Serious Sam, this or even Batman AA with the missing move that was blocking the game (I think it was something like that? no glide?).

    • Thermal Ions says:

      I suspect you may be confused. Doesn’t this require Origin?

  9. WMain00 says:

    I hear the single player is short and uninteresting, so I’ll probably be giving this a miss.

  10. virtualmatrix258 says:

    The game is absolutely terrible. I bought it day before yesterday and the engine looks okay, but there’s no real options for PC, the FOV is horrible and the “boss” fights are way too repetitive. It’s like all old school PC games that get turned into consolized FPS crap.

  11. bill says:

    I’m going to guess that this game is pretty fun in multiplayer, with all the abilities, but pretty dull and linear in the single player.
    Based on nothing but intuition and custard cremes.

  12. Limes says:

    Nice Try EA

  13. MalikDama says:

    Campaign Save is on their servers, when the servers are down you can’t play single player; wouldn’t have purchased if i caught that; Grenades explode on impact, sometimes when the impact the empty space around objects

  14. radian says:

    Starbreeze has a lot of (ex?) demoscene people IIRC.

    So taking the simplified view that early demoscene and warez “scene” are the same, then hiring warezers is how the studio stared

  15. Sunjammer says:

    Starbreeze to me is still the dudes that made Fasttracker2, and so they are responsible for my entire music career. They have more scene cred than most, and if it was natural for any one company to include an nfo, it’d be them.

  16. Adam Dawes says:

    I like Adam Jensen’s new hairstyle.

    • gou says:

      seems huge arrow is still prattling on about “future” at the end there

  17. Maxheadroom says:

    Now, can I ‘please’ have my motor boat?

  18. Shooop says:

    For legitimate copies of the game is there a file included that calls you a sucker for buying the POS?

  19. RegisteredUser says:

    Looks like an overscripted, bad copy of Deus Ex without the shreds of freedom, i.e. utterly piracy-enabling.

    Maybe they should put more time into thinking about giving more interaction to the gamer again rather than doing just more of the same old unattractive herpderppiratesarepureevilandanyonetryingfullgamesmustbehatedprosecutedandfined dance in a slightly more pseudo-hippie-colored “can’t we all just get along” fashion.

    “Ascii not what pirates can do for you, but what you can do to sway pirates in the first place.”

    • Kryopsis says:

      If you think that piracy needs a justification of sorts, you must be one of those “company X is evil so I’ll deliberately pirate their games” blokes. Most people torrent software because they can’t afford it or simply because they can. Generally only misguided but self-righteous crusaders can be ‘swayed’. Fortunately they are in the minority.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      Sometimes its also a perception of worth and pricing points.

      You can pirate a game now, feel it is worth 10$ and buy it when it arrives at that pricing point.
      If however you play it and find it utterly worthless, you are not going to buy it.

      Another motive is if you want to financially reward behavior, attitude or support and service.
      I own several indie games that interest me zilch because I wanted to support the people behind it that stood up not just against generic sequelitits, but also DRM and FOR consequent support of their product.

      Financial viability is only one of many, many aspects in my opinion and the focus on just the financial transaction is likely part of why this debate is in some circles wrongly one-sided and the other side misunderstood.

  20. Enzo says:

    I just want to say that the game is absolutely brilliant in coop. Great sounds, guns, visual style, awareness of your body (it’s Starbreeze after all). This is mainly a coop game, the singleplayer is just and addon. I’ve been playing it a lot in the past few days and I still love it. Awesome stuff.

    You just need to remember that the singleplayer is just a bonus to the coop.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      Well then its shit and I wish others would take notice and not make SP games in this fashion.

      I want an engaging and unique singleplayer experience as a SP game. One that I feel was also MEANT for me as a single player in this gaming world.

      Or a game dedicated to a multiplayer and/or team perspective that excels at that.

      Slopping on either the SP or the MP just makes me want to tear my hair out in frustration at the wasted potential(Borderlands is a classic example of pure frustration if you want to play it as a SP game whereas I don’t feel it would have taken a giant leap and massively different direction to get it to be that).

  21. Milky1985 says:

    So if i put the disc in and it requires online activation can i now take it back and say its not fit for purpose?

    A file on the disc says all i need to do is put the disc in and play!

  22. Enlightend says:

    I would love more scene people to get into making good games, but their talent would be so utterly wasted on a POS like Syndicate.

    They choose to use a classics name to do something completely different, and then manage to squirt out the most generic FPS in the “cyborged human pwnage machine” genre.

    In the long run, I think making an actual Syndicate style game would have been way better for their creds then this mediocre shooter. Might even have been more profitable, since people are actually hungry for a real Syndicate style game.

  23. DocSeuss says:

    I looked around yesterday to see if there was a crack, ’cause I’d rather not play it with Origin. There wasn’t any. In fact, the only PC syndicate versions I saw were either non-scene or 1993 releases.

    Meanwhile, on consoles…

    EDIT: also, for all the bile coming at it from people who haven’t played, the people who have played it seem to have enjoyed it. Is it worth $60? Nah, doesn’t sound like it. Is it worth the same price as Hard Reset or Serious Sam 3: BFE? Apparently!

  24. marksn says:

    Lewie, if you’re going to comment on industry layoffs then I would expect you to do some homework on the issue. Layoffs at the end of the development cycle of large AAA games is to be expected at the moment, a lot of studios and publishers are still adapting to this new bulking up and bullking down way of staff management on projects …. the “layoffs” that get so much media attention are usually people who have been hired on permanent contracts and then laid off, where they should have been hired on fixed-term contracts.

    I’d advise you to check out this post on Polycount which sums it up quite neatly: link to

  25. eclipse mattaru says:

    That’s funny. It would be even funnier if playing legit games *were* actually a matter of just popping in a disc and playing, but they forgot a couple of intermediate, 21st century steps like “Introduce serial key seven times in a row”, “Tear hair in frustration when one of the multiple DRM layers denies access to game with generic error message”, and my personal favorite “Stuck money up own ass when it turns out game is not available in country because of reasons”.

  26. scab says:

    I didn’t read more than the first sentence (as is my wont), but aren’t scores settled and not set?

  27. nope says:

    What about people who live in regions where the publisher refuses to sell the game? Aren’t you just piling on the guilt for no good reason at that point?

    • Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

      I suspect that the import option is available almost everywhere in the world, but if it sounds like too much hassle just to supposrt the developer, one can always choose not to play what sounds like a lacklustre Deus Ex knockoff at all, and avoid becoming a criminal.

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