Velvet Sundown, the name sounds more like an alcoholic beverage than it does a video game, but there’s no doubt; this game has me just a little bit tipsy. This new title from Tribe Studios may have you a bit confused. You might ask yourself “is it a game? Is it a glorified chat room?”. The answer, is it’s just a little bit of both.
Tribe studios “Dramagame” engine was originally designed as a “social simulator”. It can be used in a variety of situations as a training tool. This powerful education tool could serve as a valuable asset to a wide variety of different companies. For instance, it could be used to help employees practice interacting with clients in business engagements, or how to train retail employees on how to respond and act to a variety of different of different customer situations.
It’s interesting to think about the possibilities the Dramagame engine holds. There are countless applications for entertainment purposes alone. My imagination runs wild with possibilities for new titles and concepts using the drama game engine. The general gaming community seems to be slightly confused as to what Velvet Sundown actually is. At times it was quite amusing to watch the lobby chat. It was filled to the brim with questions like “how do I play this game?” and “what the heck is this? I don’t get it.”
“Dramagame” may have been designed as a training tool, but there is no doubt it also has value as entertainment software. Velvet Sundown is the first foray in to this realm. as a roleplaying simulator, Velvet Sundown has very few rules and only a loose set of objectives, the rest is up to you. The game is set on a luxury cruise ship and the player is randomly assigned one of several different characters. You might end up being a well known pop star or even the son of a mob boss.
All of the characters in Velvet Sundown have a great level of depth to them. The back stories are very well written and give you plenty of material to play on. The information available for each character is very extensive, even a novice role-player should have no issues diving head first in to the experience
Currently the game has two different scenarios, each one has a different objective. Both of the scenarios take place on the same ship. The world presented is pretty small, but it does the job. “Sea of Fire” is the more constructed of the two, it has relatively clear cut “win conditions”. Players are randomly assigned one of two corporations to be employed by. There is also a freelancer on board, the idea is to roleplay information out of the other characters and figure out who is who. In “Fathers and Sons” the emphasis is less on objective based game play and more on the role-play between the characters.It’s worthy to note, although there are objectives, there is no score system and no real “winner”.
Velvet Sundown is a game that lives and dies by its community. Throughout my experience I had some sessions that were incredibly fun and others that were almost miserable. One of the issues is the game currently does not handle AFKers very well. If one or two people decide to go away from the keyboard it can drastically change your enjoyment of the game.
The community is tiny and niche, This creates a few problems. Free accounts are limited to the weekly scenario and the player count is limited to 6. In the premium versions of the same scenario the player count can be as high as eleven. Even if you are a subscriber the community is so small that sometimes it is hard to get a premium scenario launched. This can create an environment that almost feels broken. With less players, there are less characters which in turn leads to a less dynamic play experience.
Overall, the engine seems sturdy. There are a few features I felt were “missing”, none of the objects on the boat are interactive. You can’t sit on any of the chairs, or get in the hot tub. You can invite another player down to the bedroom for an “intimate” encounter but you can’t even lie on the bed. The lack of interactive objects takes away from the overall experience and leaves something to be desired. The roleplay mechanics are for the most part really well thought out, but with objects not being interactive it comes off a bit flat at times.
The game features a Text to Speech engine. Although in concept this sounds like a wonderful idea, in execution it just doesn’t seem to work very well. Some of the voices sound more authentic than others but it often creates an uncanny valley effect. The voice over work almost sounds human but it still has this artificial tinge that is a slight put off. Hopefully in the future this feature can be improved on.
Graphically Velvet Sundown is pleasant on the eye. The textures are well polished and the models have a solid level of detail. Everything in the game looks crisp and clean. Water textures and sunlight effects are exemplary and really help with the immersion factor.
Velvet sundown is a unique and entertaining experience. It relies heavily on community interaction, designed to appeal to the player who desires a more structured role-play experience. Although it has its setbacks such as limited interaction with the environment and a slight lack of content, Velvet Sundown is overall a very enjoyable game. This may be a title that only hardcore roleplayers will find appealing, but those players will find themselves in a very unique and unforgettable world. Even with its shortcomings this is one is worth playing until the sun sets.
Wonderful role-playing experience
Friendly niche community
Fresh and unique game play
Limited number of scenarios
No interactive objects
Text to speech falls flat.
Overall rating 3.5 out of 5.Related: MMORPG, Non-Combat, Roleplaying, Velvet Sundown