The interactive text-based story game for iPhone, iPad and Apple TV.
The near future. The effects of computer intelligence and robotics on employment. The morality and politics of human genetics.
TRUE LEGACY takes place in a near future of monstrous metropolises, uncontrollable unemployment, and state oversight. Aspirations are reserved for the privileged.
You are Thornhill, a career city investigator, institutionally loyal with a worn sense of protocol. The perfect choice for this type of investigation.
The game takes the format of a text based interactive story adventure, overlayed above rich interactive 3D hand crafted scenes.
Five chapters lead you through a dark noir adventure, a city investigation in a dystopian future, that collides with the morality and politics of A.I., robotics, and human genetics.
Interactive scenes lay behind and between the typography of the story. These scenes are beautifully crafted interactive illustrations.
Explore the world and narrative for information and clues and solve interactive puzzles.
True Legacy is developed in collaboration with scientific experts and specialists in the fields of forensics, artificial intelligence, and robotics.
True Legacy is developed at the Arch Creatives, a co-working game development space in Leamington Spa.
For all enquries, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
9th May 2017
We have been quietly working on our new text based, story-puzzle game, called True Legacy.
True Legacy is a choice-driven text based game in the sci-fi noir genre, about the moral questions raised by 21 st century technologies for labour automation and genome sequencing. The narrative unfolds in a polarised near-future society, where technical advances have only exacerbated dangerous social divisions. Automation has rendered swathes of the population economically redundant and the inherent inequalities in our genes have become a fundamental factor for deciding citizens’ life prospects. The player experiences a text-based branching narrative in which bureau agent, Claire Thornhill, navigates a complex case that threatens to destabilise the delicate power balances which keep her society from collapse. Alongside the text sections, stunning 3D scene illustrations and puzzles help bring the setting to life. This blog post looks at some of the key influences which informed our world-building work.
True Legacy city concept art
The format is inspired by text-based adventure games, where players make decisions and decide which branch of the story to follow. As well as this core thread of text, the player can step sideways off the path and discover side areas and details by rotating their device, exploring the world in a literal new direction. Behind and between the text are beautifully illustrated and animated scenes describing the world, giving clues and information, and presenting cryptographic puzzles.
The story genre is neo-noir detective thriller, set in a terrifyingly likely dystopian world. Research for the narrative includes consultations with acedemic experts in the fields of forensics, artificial intelligence, and robotics, visits to laboritories, and extensive reading into these fields (we will post details soon!).
We are having a fantastic time making the game, and look forward to sharing it with you soon. In the mean time, we will be posting regular blog posts discussing the stuff we find interesting that we are learning behind the scenes.
True Legacy city concept art
True Legacy will be released later in 2017 for iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV.
16th May 2017
Although True Legacy’s setting (Hong Kong in 2084) is evidently speculative, we really wanted it to chime with readers’ contemporary experiences today and thinking about what sort of ‘tomorrow’ they consider desirable. To that end we decided we’d extrapolate our world-building from the contemporary reality – even if this only represents one of many possible futures we could find ourselves facing in a few decades time. One key requirement for True Legacy’s world-building therefore became that it should be ‘scientifically-credible’. In practice, this meant placing an above-average emphasis on the research phase of our world-building – and including in it various popular science materials, as well as looking at fiction, film or gaming references. Our motivation for this is simply that we believe True Legacy’s dystopia will be all the more immersive - and its narrative all the more engaging - if it speaks to existing concerns and fears about what sort of lives we could be living in fifty years’ time if we mishandle new technologies.
True Legacy isn’t about the transformational impact of one particular scientific advance but rather about the way mankind’s technological developments interact with cultural values, political and economic systems to influence the way humans live in a particular time and place. This meant we needed far-reaching ‘big picture’ scientific references to use in our world-building.
For a broad introduction to automation trends (encompassing both robotics and AI) we consulted Martin Ford’s hugely successful book, The Rise of the Robots, which looks at things from an economic perspective but is also great on the tech specifics of what is likely to be automated and when. Likewise for The Second Machine Age by Andrew Mcafee and Erik Brynjolfsson. These (highly-recommended!) works informed our broad design of the True Legacy world’s social structures and economics.
Another feature of True Legacy’s dystopian vision is the ubiquity of algorithms in shaping citizens’ lives, present in various everyday activities such as the allocation of jobs or investigation of crimes. In order to understand how AI algorithms already wield significant power in our lives, we turned to Cathy O’Neil’s Weapons of Math Destruction. This gave us the necessary basis for designing some of the powerful algo systems which Truecorp uses to govern Hong Kong’s society in True Legacy.
Finally, we were interested in the ways 21 st century inequality will go beyond external material factors and extend internally to our physical bodies, as biotech and genetics creates new possibilities which our genetics may have hitherto ruled out. For this we read Yuval Noah Harari’s ground-breaking Homo Deus. This work informed our vision of a society in which genetic data becomes a sorting principle which mediates citizen interactions, deciding whom we employ, incarcerate, marry or even trust.
Rise of the Robots, Martin Ford (2015)
True Legacy’s world-building was equally informed by popular culture references and classics of both sci-fi and noir, ranging from Ridley Scott’s perfect fusion of the two genres in Blade Runner, Syd Mead’s inspirational and iconic art style, and classics of the noir genre in which flawed detectives dig the depths of a corrupt and unfair society from Chinatown to the novels of James Ellroy. (Even the debt to classic dystopian fiction such as George Orwell’s 1984 is acknowledged in our own setting of Hong Kong, 2084). We’ll do a separate blog post about these in the months to come!
Bladerunner concept art, Syd Mead (1982)
Thus far, True Legacy’s world-building work has been greatly enhanced by our use of scientific literature alongside our pop culture references. We even extended the process to include a few face-to- face consultations with scientific experts from the relevant fields (more on this in a future post). Ultimately the process has proved inspirational and given us some creative inputs which we may otherwise have missed out on. Hopefully the end result will be a more captivating, immersive and relevant fictional setting for True Legacy players to explore.
23rd May 2017
The near-future version of Hong Kong that provides True Legacy’s setting is one in which complex AI algorithms play a central role in running the city, managing everything from driverless traffic flows and job allocation to the enforcement of law and order. One of the most prominent AI tools is the crime-solving assistant, ‘Agatha’, consulted by bureau agents such as Claire Thornhill at various stages of the narrative’s core case. This post details some of the design considerations behind it.
With criminality and its investigation being so central to the classic noir genre, we started considering what the future for noir might look like, beyond fedoras, wise-cracks and cigarette smoke. How could these tropes be updated and refreshed for modern contexts? To answer this, we had to think about what a criminal investigation looks like in 2017, and what it may resemble in 2084.
Although we’re huge fans of the classic noir genre, we didn’t want to create a nostalgia pastiche in which tropes lifted from the 1930s are transposed into the future without any sort of thoughtful ‘translation’. We wanted to update some of the tropes, ever so slightly, so that while remaining recognisable they’d also feel contemporary to the near future society of True Legacy. We needed a new sort of noir detective.
Mass Spectrometry Laboratory, University of Wisconsin
Two things, which informed our design of Hong Kong in 2084, are relevant here.
First up was the fact that, even today, we already inhabit a reality mediated by powerful algorithms, from those deciding how our newsfeeds construct perceptions of the outside world, to those scanning our CVs on popular job websites to auto-match them to vacancies. For True Legacy we want to speculate on what life might look like in a world where such systems have had another six decades of development.
Secondly, the reality of contemporary life in an economically-advanced country is that most human activity – including crime - now leaves digital as well as physical traces. Police forces often check the cloud server to know what’s happening on the street corner.
Whether logging citizen movements (Oyster cards or facial recognition CCTV), communications (via GCHQ or laws like RIPA in the UK), or financial activities (via the transition to cashless payments), almost everything we do is already ‘monitor-able’ centrally, especially so with the lessening value according to privacy. We’re interested in what this means for the crime-solving detective of the noir genre.
True Legacy concept art
Consequently, we set about designing ‘Agatha’, an AI system which aids criminal investigations by bringing the physical and virtual evidence realms together in a frictionless and instant way.
To plan Agatha’s capability credibly, we spoke to numerous academics, including Dr. Tim Thompson at Teesside University and Emlyn Butterfield at Leeds Beckett, who helped us get a clearer understanding of how criminal forensics works today and where innovation is heading. Prof. Ross King, University of Manchester, also helped with our understanding of AI systems and surveillance.
Agatha is therefore both a cloud database search tool and a data-analysis AI. For example, it can facilitate instant crime-scene DNA identification (with the aid of cheap hand-held field sequencers linked to a cloud database of the population’s DNA). Agatha therefore looks to a future in which the back-and-forth delays entailed by lab testing are eliminated with the help of powerful mobile computing capability and cloud systems.
An example of Agatha’s data-analysis capability can be found in its suspect tracer feature, which checks digital data sources against physical evidence prompts to identify criminal suspects. This may entail checking citizens’ movements in the geographic vicinity of a crime (as logged by CCTV or mobile phone mast data) or scanning personal communications for evidence about criminal motives. (Interestingly, many of these capabilities are either already a reality in the UK or are anticipated - within coming years rather than decades).
True Legacy’s protagonist and detective, Claire Thornhill, is a therefore a different sort of investigator than her noir predecessors. First off, she is not a self-appointed crusader but rather someone who’s appointment in the role was approved by an algorithm which analysed both her genetics and her behavioural traits to determine suitability. She has been officially approved for her role and is hence not the outsider figure that a classic PI may have been. Whether Thornhill remains of the establishment however will depend on the player’s choices.
More importantly, her methods acknowledge the technological realities of life – and crime - in the 21st century and bring cloud computing, digital forensics, and AI into the noir genre, hopefully sitting alongside the more established tropes like fedoras and wisecracks to provide players with a fresh take on a classic.
True Legacy concept art