On A Boat: Ad-Hoc RPG Velvet Sundown

At last: Eldorado, the MMO

Our post about The Ship giving away all the ships for free prompted lovely Wired UK chap (and writer of our Sim City 2000 retrospective) Duncan Geere to mention Velvet Sundown. And thus, there was yet another ship. This is one of a slate of short story-like online roleplaying games from Finnish outfit Stagecraft that throw away the numbers and the NPCs, and focus purely on players inhabiting their characters. Velvet Sundown specifically is set on board a luxury yacht, with each player assuming the role of one of its passengers.

Crime, romance, the trading of poetry and wearing sunglasses indoors: my sense of it from the video below and Duncan’s write-up was of a cross between the ad-hoc storytelling of Sleep is Death and the cheesy melodrama of a late-80s US soap opera starring rich people with too much make-up and over-large shoulderpads.

It’s the first of a planned series of DIY storytelling games called Stagecraft. These freeform seabound tales of love, duplicity and hiding in closets to take around an hour each, with five players involved. While there’s something of an open brief, there are set objectives (and, eventually, timed events will be introduced) – but it’s up to you how to achieve them, and to use a gilded tongue to convince others to help out.

Of course, much depends on how adept at writing and conjuring up scenarios and backstories said five players are: like any good session of AD&D, you’ll no doubt enjoy the experience if you approach it in the company of imaginative colleagues.

Velvet Sundown is due for a 2012 release, but you can beg for beta access now. I’ll see if I can get team RPS on there, just so we have somewhere else to flirt with each other.


  1. DigitalSignalX says:

    Only one hour? No time for love baby.

  2. Craig Stern says:

    Interesting. Reminds me of old boxed games like How to Host a Murder.

    • phlebas says:

      Mm, particularly the more freeform ones with a selection of goals beyond ‘guess the murderer’. Could be a lot of fun.

  3. hoobajoo says:

    AD&D? Alec’s really showing his age.

    • Alec Meer says:

      I am quite old now, it’s true. I presume all the kids are playing RPGs called IncestQuest or RiotLand or AllBangingSoundsScape these days.

    • X_kot says:

      Hey, calculating THAC0 on the fly is an important life skill!

    • Dr I am a Doctor says:

      FATAL is all the rage these days, you should check it out.

    • Grey_Ghost says:

      THACØ is WACKØ!

      Also, IncestQuest… ewwwww!

    • Daiz says:

      Well, there’s always Monster Girl Quest… and that one’s a real game too!

  4. Buttless Boy says:

    a cross between the ad-hoc storytelling of Sleep is Death and the cheesy melodrama of a late-80s US soap opera starring rich people with too much make-up and over-large shoulderpads.

    SOLD. It’s about time we got some over-dramatic soap opera video games.

  5. Skabooga says:

    Should RPS get beta access to Velvet Sundown, the resulting story will probably be one of the best things I read all month.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      Ooh, yes. It’s been too long since we’ve had a RPS playthrough. What was the last one.. Solium Infernum or that browser-based one set in space?

  6. machineageproductions says:

    Sort of a weird setup. I now have account access, but I can only play if someone that has a beta key invites me to. While I’m eager to see how it works, this is a pretty severe limitation.

    I’m hoping that someone that creates a game, post-beta, can announce it publicly and have its parameters available publicly. It looks like a multiplayer that won’t appeal at all to the inflammatory troll crowd. This is relevant to my interests.

    • VelvetSundown says:

      We are working on making creation and joining games much much easier than what we have currently. You and everyone else signing up have been registered as wanting beta testers. More beta access to the wanting will be granted as soon we implement the most acute requests made by the previous beta-tester batch.

      A primary interest for us is to keep trolls and especially the indifferent crowd from bothering gamers who want to have a fun time in Velvet Sundown.

  7. malkav11 says:

    Well, it sounds like it’s more focused and provides more context than Sleep is Death, which would be nice. I never really got the point of that one. If I wanted to do completely freeform roleplaying I have easier, free options available to me without the limitations of pixel art. More like one of those brief indie roleplaying games like Baron Munchausen, implemented as a videogame. I’m skeptical because I can see such things going really poorly with random internet strangers, and I don’t have a built in group for anything like this, but it could be intriguing.

    • VelvetSundown says:

      The conversations, actions and decisions made by the players are freeform, but the scenarios do set limits on what you can do. Whatever happens on the yacht stays coherent and interesting due to these limits and help the players perform. The existence of those limits also let us convert our retail-gamedev experience into audiovisual quality (the teaser is made with our ingame engine).

      I feel that the best definition for a game is creative freedom within borders. Products like Sleep is Death or Second Life lack those borders or the borders are very far away. Meaningful gameplay in those products requires a player to stand up as the game master to set those borders. I feel that we as the gamedevs should do that hard work and the game itself should support such creative freedom as much as possible.

      Respects to Sleep is Death and Second Life, both of which are inspirations to us.

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  9. VelvetSundown says:

    Thank you for this spot on article!

    I’d like to emphasize that Velvet Sundown is not a single shot scenario. It is replayable not only by taking on different characters and playing with different people, but also due to varying scenario content.

  10. Gira says:

    I know games media wants to dilute the term “RPG” into complete meaninglessness, but really, this is going too far.

  11. harvb says:

    Cheesey or what.

  12. bill says:

    In before Wizardry: It’s not an RPG!