“There have been plenty of games that let you experience what it’s like to shoot people in a futuristic city. Cloudpunk is a game where instead, you can experience what it’s like to live in one,” writes Cloudpunks’ writer Thomas Welsh.
Back in 2017, Ion Lands Marko Dieckmann started tinkering with Cloudpunk. It was a vague idea at the time, eventually catching on when Dieckmann shared a concept on Twitter. “The initial reactions were very promising,” he writes. Ion Lands grew, leading to the nine people (plus a few freelancers) who currently work on Cloudpunk.
Looking over the screens, videos, and other media, it’s clear Cloudpunk borrows a bit (just a bit) from Blade Runner. Anything cyberpunk inevitably will though. Cloudpunk separates itself through non-violence and a focus on characters. You play a delivery driver stuck working for a not-entirely-legal company. “You don’t really have much of a choice. You’ve lost your family and the debt corps has taken your home on the Eastern Peninsula, a place far away from Nivalis,” explains Dieckmann.
Making deliveries means meeting the people of Cloudpunk’s world. Imagine that while Harrison Ford is running around chasing Replicants, this is the slice-of-life tale happening around him. “We wanted to tell stories about anarchists living in giant, frozen exhaust pipes, cleaning robots with a superiority complexes and street vendors selling retro video game cassette tapes, even though video games are more illegal than hard drugs,” writes Welsh.
With sci-fi trappings in tow, the goal is to tell a story about the now, with touches of what might be if things stay on their current path. Dieckmann notes some things will improve, others will get worse. What matters in Cloudpunk is how those circumstances impact the citizens.
“At its core, I think Cloudpunk is about what it takes to make it in a city. Whether that city is New York in the ‘80s, San Francisco today, or Nivalis in a few thousand years, the struggles are similar, and the richness and character of those cities make them places everyone fantasizes about,” explains Welsh.
Ion Studios previous game was Phoning Home, a game about two robots trying to find their way off an unfamiliar planet. That release taught Dieckmann about the ins-and-outs of Steam, the community, and players. “But each game is different and no rules are static in games and game development,” he notes.
Based in Berlin, funds from the organization Medienboard help out Ion Lands, as does a vibrant community of developers. Living in a smaller area helps too, while the larger city nearby factors into his work. “Rents are going up a lot and we’re seeing the effect of gentrification everywhere. It’s one of the topics we included into the Cloudpunk storyline,” Dieckmann notes.
Of course, this isn’t all about Berlin. Cloudpunk goes deeper. “Lots of fiction deals with grand ideas about how AI will change everything and we’ll create robots that will either kill us or replace us,” Welsh begins. “In Cloudpunk, it’s much messier. Just like every other technological advance in human history, AI will be useful, dangerous, exciting and terrifying all at once and here we see how androids, cyborgs and digital assistants will be integrated into every aspect of our lives, for better and worse.”
Now, imagine living in such a world and that’s Cloudpunk.