The Tomorrow Children is a unique open world parody of a mid-60s cold war inspired future where players take part in a social experiment to rebuild the ruined world. Simple enough, right? Coming from Dylan Cuthbert and his crack team at Q Games in Japan, The Tomorrow Children presents an interesting cooperative experience that combines resource management with platforming exploration. Without a doubt this was one of the strangest games shown at Gamescom this year.
The Marxism Simulator
The game takes place within a world decimated by experiments gone wrong leaving the entire planet as an empty, flat, featureless landscape now known only as “The Void”. Across the Void lies a series of cities inhabited by the surviving humans. When the game begins you will be assigned to one of those cities and be tasked with rebuilding and restoring your new home. Restoring the world requires players to find and recover human relics, which take the form of old Russian stacking dolls, while collecting resources necessary to run your new town. Each one of those recovered humans require additional resources such as food and electricity, however, which necessitates making supply runs out into the Void. If you build your town too quickly you’ll wind up starving these people while failing to provide enough electricity means lights out.
The game presents an interesting mix of synchronous and asynchronous multiplayer manifesting in the way players interactions are represented on screen. When a player performs a direct action, such as whistling or attacking a monster, their image is projected across the world for all other players to see. You won’t actually see everyone running around, however, which seems to give the world a rather bleak feel as projections pop-in and out of existence while you play. All of these actions are recorded and taken into account on a global scale.
So just what sorts of actions are available then? The demo started off with the player standing near a large, foreboding statue which, upon further investigation, was actually hollow. We were shown how resources could be gathered and used to build structures within the world such as a set of stairs. Mining and building all happen at a much faster rate than, say, Minecraft as the game seems to be focused more on the bigger picture. Once he emerged from the statue we were greeted by a tram of sorts that transports players back and forth between the cities and the outer Void. The Soviet-style propaganda videos adorning the tram were a nice touch and gave a sense that you were just a cog in the machine.
Somewhere along the way he jumped out of the tram near a massive creature stomping about. We could see other players performing actions against the beast while the player jumped into a turret to help out. Once the monster fell everyone ran over and began climbing all over its now crystallized shell which apparently works as a resource. Only after this did we finally get a peak at the town with the first stop being the local business office where you can line up to receive pay for every action you performed while exploring the void. That money can then be poured into upgrading your character.
Lights, camera, and more lights
Perhaps one of the most striking features stems from the games visuals. As Mr. Cuthbert noted in his presentation at the Sony Presser, his background actually lies in 3D graphics (such as the original Star Fox) as opposed to the 2D variety we saw with the Pixel Junk games. It’s hard to imagine real innovation in the rendering space at this point but Q Games has certainly managed to deliver something truly unique. The Tomorrow Children is built using cascaded voxel cone ray tracing with three lighting bounces. It’s a technique that has been discussed and implemented in various demos over the years and produces incredibly realistic lighting with a lower rendering cost. In fact, voxel cone tracing was originally present in early Unreal Engine 4 demos but has since been eliminated. It’s an efficient method for achieving the cohesive look ray tracing can deliver. It’s a technique that we hope to see become more common in the coming years as it brings us much closer to achieving the look of pre-rendered offline sequences in real-time.
There’s still a ways to go before the game lands but the potent mix of truly unique gameplay with cutting edge rendering technology results in something everyone should keep an eye on.
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