Home » Fantasy/SciFi, Video » 3D “visual novel” explores life in a future city-state circa 2039

3D “visual novel” explores life in a future city-state circa 2039

28 August 2018

From Fast Company:

It’s 2039. You’re a hacker named Chloe living in the East Asian surveillance city-state of Abraxa. Once apathetic, you reconnect with old friends and find new ones as your district is blocked off by a mysterious corporation. Quickly, you set about disrupting its surveillance network by hacking into the city’s architecture with machine-aided perception, forging political alliances across ideological divides along the way.

This is the world of Solace State, a 3D visual science fiction novel about a near-dystopian future. Made by Tanya Kan, in collaboration with other Toronto-based artists and developers, it is an attempt to fuse three worlds of particular interest to its creator: cinema, gaming, and activism. Solace State, which is still in development, tackles various themes, from corporate surveillance and governance to ethnic roots, immigration, and economic justice.

Kan, whose academic background is in political science and cinema studies, tells Fast Company that Solace State grew out of time she spent in Hong Kong in 2012. Though Canadian, Kan has roots in Hong Kong. While living there, she quickly noticed a city in a deep state of rapid cultural and political flux. For one, a major housing shortage was hitting one of the most expensive real estate markets in the world. She saw people struggling to feed and shelter themselves and their families. Kan queried Hong Kong residents about how they motivated themselves to find decent food and housing, stable jobs, and careers, as well as care for their city’s environmental health. These conversations formed the basis for the Solace State script.

“I started thinking about how I can represent East Asian culture in a way that is in an interactive medium, and how can I talk about an emergent kind of activism and advocacy,” Kan says. “I took a lot of pictures of [Hong Kong] as photographic records so I could build up a 3D city. I wanted a story that articulates some of our generation’s concerns in the sense of what kind of life do we have, and how can we find a future worth living for.”

. . . .

With this concept in mind, Kan began searching for a format that would fit the story. Ultimately, she decided to combine her cinematic and gaming influences into a 3D visual novel. Given the format’s inherent interactivity, Kan wagered that it would allow players to make difficult choices in striving for social change, while also creating (and maintaining) social cohesion.

Link to the rest at Fast Company

You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox here.

Fantasy/SciFi, Video

10 Comments to “3D “visual novel” explores life in a future city-state circa 2039”

  1. I’m sorry, but a ‘novel’ is nothing like this interactive ‘game’ …

    And the ‘3D’ bit often makes the users ill because what they see doesn’t stay in sync with what their ears are telling them …

    “You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox here.”

    You are sitting down and holding your head with both hands but due to a mis-calibrated gyro in the headset your worldview is still slowly spinning out of control … 😉

  2. Ashe Elton Parker

    I read lots of “visual novels.” They’re called books, and all of those I’ve read, both in print and ebook form, have required the sense of sight.

    You’ve made a video game, you pretentious twit.

  3. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, Visual Novel is a long-standing term for a genre of video game, though it is less well-known in the US. It is most popular in Asia, where it originated. It is primarily relationship- and character-focused, and is usually driven by dialog and plot, not action. Many of them have pretty complex decision-trees and multiple very different endings, which makes them in many ways similar to choose-your-own-adventure stories.

    So yes, this is a visual novel, and the article and game developer are using the term correctly in their context, as a game format and genre term. Of course, one can not like the term, or think it shouldn’t be called that, but I don’t think it is fair to fault the developer for using an industry-accepted term to appropriately market her product.

    • So Secondlife in solitaire, huh?

    • Ashe Elton Parker

      Is this explained at all in the article, or not? If not, they should perhaps have considered that, in posting the article online, it just may be read by people who aren’t conversant with video game terminology and genres and done so.

      If it is explained in the article, then I apologize, because I haven’t clicked through to read the entire article.

      • I double-checked, and they don’t specifically describe what a visual novel is, but they do talk about how the game fits into the visual novel game format. I definitely get your point about it not being clear, and the author of the OP should have done better at explaining the term, especially since I think the Fast Company website is geared toward business, not tech or gaming. Rereading my comment, think I came across as confrontational, when my goal was to provide an explanation for anyone who needed it. If that is how I came across, I apologize.

        I do agree that this particular game sounds pretentious in that it seems to be using a game as a vehicle for ham-fisted, issue-driven preaching, instead of creating an engaging story that naturally brings out the themes the developer wants to highlight. Those kinds of games always irritate me to no end, even when I agree with the issues they are preaching about.

  4. Wow. Pretentious, at least.

    In my humble opinion, one sure way to “find a future worth living for” is to get out of your own 90% and help someone else for a change. And I don’t mean by spouting cookie-cutter ideals.

    Another way is to have your air supply cut off. But the first way is much less traumatic.

  5. This cross-over also goes the other way in game-inspired novels called ‘litrpg’. I’ve read a couple that were actually not that bad.

    My problem with the video clip for this visual novel is that it’s activism inspired instead of story driven. The language seems wrong for the medium as well, but VR still has a long way to go so I suppose it’s a beginning.

  6. Two thoughts:

    1) It’s hilarious how the headline says “visual novel” like it’s some strange and newly-created term unique to this game. It’s about as silly as saying “video game” in quotes. Visual novel is actually a pretty big genre of video games. Not so big here in the US, but apparently pretty big in Japan.

    2) Based on the video, this game isn’t really a visual novel. Visual novels are usually static images of characters combined with written text (there’s usually voice acting, but almost always in Japanese because they don’t tend to bother doing full English voice acting for the localization). This video doesn’t look like any visual novel I’ve ever seen, and it seems to be more in the vein of heavily story-driven games or walking simulators. (I didn’t hear the audio, though, so I don’t know how story driven it might actually be.) Calling it a visual novel as if there isn’t a well-established definition for what a visual novel is seems a bit disingenuous or perhaps simply ignorant.

    If anyone wants to see what a visual novel really is and happens to own a PS4, I highly recommend the game “Code: Realize”. (It is a very female-aimed story, but it has a good amount of action and worldbuilding along with the romance.) There are visual novels you can get for free on PC, but I haven’t played any of them yet, so I can’t give any recs there. I found that the game was really more of a strange novel format than a proper video game, but since I love stories in a variety of formats, I quickly got used to it and really enjoyed it. One of the more interesting aspects that separates it from novels (aside from the audio and visual aspects) is how you can make decisions that change the path the story takes, so in order to get the full picture, you have to play the game through several times in order to see all the alternate timelines/endings. (Which I’m sure some people won’t like, but I found it a very interesting way to tell a story.)

    Seriously, if you scoff at the very idea of a visual novel video game, maybe give a good one a try to see what it’s actually about before offhandedly dismissing it as a silly concept.

    (And it’s funny to see people here getting all snobby about a visual novel being a video game, not a novel, because I’ve seen hard-core gamers get snobby and say that they’re not really games because, accurately enough, there isn’t any game play. In a real visual novel, that is; not whatever this thing is that’s co-opting the term.)

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