Have you ever wanted to sniff out corporate spies on a luxury yacht while maintaining your own secret identity? That sounds like a fairly interesting plot to a one-off roleplaying session, right?
What if I said you had to do this while other characters on said boat proclaim, “Laugh out loud” in bizarre accents and commented on the size of your penis?
If you still answered yes… Well, beyond questioning your sanity and morality, I would like to point you in the direction of Velvet Sundown, the online social roleplaying game (or “dramagame” as it’s called) from Finnish developer Tribe Studios Ltd.
In this absolutely bizarre and fascinating social experiment of a game, each player is randomly assigned a quest or agenda that they must accomplish over the course of a session, typically lasting around 45-60 minutes. Players roam around the environment, interacting with other player characters in incredibly strange, sometimes hilarious and often disgusting manners. For example, one character is a “shaman” of sorts that can impart blessings to others and meditate with them. This has no actual mechanical in-game function, other than to exist as some crazy emote input in the middle of a conversation.
The aspect of Velvet Sundown that is most engaging is its text-to-speech engine; whatever dialogue you type in the chat window, your avatar will vocally speak it to whoever they are actively conversing with at the time. As you can imagine, the text recognition isn’t perfect, often leading to absolutely hilarious results, but it’s still an undeniably impressive undertaking on the part of the developer. In fact, I can easily see this technology being utilized in future online games, but hopefully after it’s been cleaned up a bit.
And that’s it. There’s no other mechanics to Velvet Sundown beyond wandering around and talking to other players, hoping to succeed at the task randomly assigned to your character through arbitrary button prompts. And most attempts to actually communicate with other folks in a “realistic” manner typically devolves into immersion-breaking spoken abbreviations like, “LOL” or “WTF?” Even better (not) are the people that try to use the quasi-functional text-to-speech system to engage in creepy cyber sex activities. Listening to players’ attempts to cyber-score with hilarious accents would be more funny if it wasn’t so fucking disturbing.
But despite the head-scratching oddity of the whole game, there’s something captivating and inspirational about Velvet Sundown. It’s certainly an ambitious social gaming experiment, if anything else.
It’s currently in open beta on Steam right now for your PC or Mac. And the best part? It’s absolutely free.
If you are curious about Velvet Sundown but too cautious or nervous to try it yourself, watch this amazingly hilarious video after the break to see it for yourself. Now excuse me, I have someone waiting to meditate with me down in the wine cellar, and I can’t keep them waiting.