The bright lights and rainy streets of Tokyo and Hong Kong tend to invoke feelings of "cyberpunk," and it's no wonder that many games within that genre take inspiration from such scenes. That's what we tend to imagine, anyway, when we think cyberpunk. And sure, there might be a few flying cars here and there, but Cloudpunk's multi-tiered city and voxel style make it special. The upcoming title is taking a whack at the cyberpunk genre, and the setting is a city called Nivalis. While you might be able to pick out Cloudpunk's similarities with notable genre franchises such as Shadowrun and Blade Runner, you haven't quite seen cyberpunk like this.
Cloudpunk takes place within a city called Nivalis, and you take the role of Rania. As Rania, it's your job to deliver packages in this vast, living metropolis. Marko Dieckmann, founder and developer at ION LANDS, gave us some insight on creating the visuals and worldbuilding of Cloudpunk. Welcome to the city of Nivalis.
Creating Cloudpunk's Atmosphere
The first thing you'll notice, like with most pieces of media falling within the cyberpunk genre, is the visual design. It's fitting, then, that ION LANDS chose to begin the development of their next title by focusing on the visual style first and foremost. After messing with voxel art—the graphics you find in games such as Minecraft—the style for Cloudpunk started to come together.
"An obvious choice for me was something futuristic which translated well with the blocky style," said Dieckmann, "and I always loved a futuristic city! Then, of course, there were questions to answer. How do I tackle the size of the world? How will the lighting be? Which lead to 2 years of testing and gameplay prototyping."
Again, if you picture a piece of media within the cyberpunk genre, neon lights and a somber, dark atmosphere immediately come to mind. It's ingrained in the DNA of the genre. Cloudpunk utilizes a lot of these elements in its design to bring the city of Nivalis to life.
"We always wanted to have the game set during the night," said Dieckmann. "So windows could be glowing with color, mixing together elements of realistic particle effects and a more stylized design too. We can’t make the whole game stylized from a production perspective as a world like this needs smoke, particle effects etc. For example, the clouds are very stylized but still shaded in a very interesting way."
You'll notice that the cars themselves are blocky and stylized, too. Cars are at the forefront of Cloudpunk's gameplay. You are a courier, and you have to get around—and well, Nivalis is a gigantic city. These cars, like the zooming ships of Coruscant from Star Wars' infamous prequel movies, all tie in to the theme and complement the cyberpunk vibes.
"We looked at how futuristic cars looked and we went from there," said Dieckmann. "Of course, because of the voxel art aesthetic the result is kind of interesting but the cars are very often round shapes, we do a lot of these round shapes so it can look quite quirky."
Dieckmann says you'll also be able to choose different models of cars as you progress further in Cloudpunk, and you'll see plenty of these sweet vehicles as you speed your way through Nivalis' streets to deliver packages. To be a courier in Nivalis certainly seems like a daunting task, so at least you'll be well-equipped for the job.
More on Cloudpunk's Nivalis
You might make the assumption that Cloudpunk's setting, Nivalis, is a floating city. Besides, the name of the game itself features the word "cloud" in it. You also have those iconic floating cars and the stylized clouds that Dieckmann mentioned. The truth behind Nivalis is more interesting than having Cloudpunk set in the sky and acting like it's scientifically feasible. Nivalis is actually a multi-tiered, layered city.
"You explore the city layer by layer," said Dieckmann, "which has story reasons attached to that. The city is very vertical, but the buildings are not floating as there are platforms that appear like they are floating but they are sitting on top of other buildings. The lower part of the city is very structural, as they’re big concrete structures which have less windows and are the foundations for the higher buildings near the sky!"
Dieckmann says there are five such layers, creating a vast city indeed. As you go higher up, the game becomes more true to its name and you'll be soaring among the clouds with huge, towering buildings all around you.
"We also have numerous smaller underground areas you can explore," said Dieckmann. "It’s a large world and we’ve been working hard to fill with lots of interesting content. We still have even more room to fill it, which opens up possibilities for DLC or even sequels later on."
It seems that ION LANDS has created a world that can be expanded upon, but right now the developer is excited to see the game finally release. Dieckmann and his team put a lot of hard work to bring Cloudpunk to life, so he hopes players become enveloped in ION LANDS' hard work.
"We want the player to be happy exploring, enjoying the music and atmosphere and immersed in the characters we have created!"
If Nivalis sounds like a cyberpunk world you'd like to explore, you don't have to wait long. Cloudpunk is out April 23 on Steam, and on consoles later this year.