Created by Finnish developer and publisher Tribe Studio, Velvet Sundown is a free-to-play, online, role-playing Dramagame, a new genre that Tribe Studio’s aim is to simulate real-world social encounters in a virtual world.
Playing as one of five characters on a luxury yacht, the player is given the history of the character and a introductory quest. Unlike quests given in other games, Velvet Sundown tasks could be considered personal ambitions or selfish goals. One character may want to have a good time, get drunk and get laid, while another is asked to keep an eye on the same character and report bad behavior back to their employer.
At the start of the game you’re given a set of items. These items are often involved in yours or another players quest and can be essential for them to complete their task. Without deadly weapons or pickpocket skills, players must obtain these items or complete your objectives by interacting with the four other players on the boat. While there are a small number of dialogue options available, the majority of these conversations are user generated, allowing you to role-play your character as deeply as you need to achieve your goals. Using your keyboard to type (voice options are currently only available to premium members) whole conversations to another player is the core game mechanic in Velvet Sundown.
Online multiplayer games can devolve into a pile of unstructured humanness: without a clear, universal objective, players can they turn on each other and turn the game into a primal frenzy of bad language and sexual innuendo. This is the thin line that Velvet Sundown treads.
During the playthroughs of Velvet Sundown that I joined (each “episode” is roughly 45 minutes) the experience swayed between interesting and funny to boring and gross. During the better games all five of us attempted to achieve our objectives, staying in characters and generally behaving like non-playable characters (NPC) from an open world game. Role-playing as a former mobster, one player spoke in broken English and drunken slurs the whole time. By the end of the episode we were laughing and all agreed that we had fun, with some of the other players announcing that they had created their own goals. This is probably the best example of what Tribe Studio wished to achieve with Velvet Sundown. It was far from the experience of my next game, with all five characters standing in a circle exchanging the same story and ending with two players leaving for the bedroom, one player leaving the lobby, their character standing lifeless in the corner while another player and myself waited for the timer to finish, our objectives now unobtainable.
Other players are the key to your success and this means you can often find yourself faced with someone who’s only goal is to ruin your game. Because the goals and objectives are personal and not the same for everyone, other players can simply not play along or sit there swearing at all the other players. Velvet Sundown does a great job at combating this by allowing to accept or decline conversation with other players. You can freeze someone out who isn’t joining in on the fun and wants to ruin things for others, leaving them with the option to play along or exit the game.
Velvet Sundown is interesting. It’s like a third person game of Cluedo without the safety net of being in the same room as the other players. You have to invest time to talk to other players and trust that they are willing to do the same for you. If you’re not being a jerk, this game can be a lot of fun.
Currently available on Steam, you can play Velvet Sundown for free.