State of Mind shows us society is the story and not its technology

Daedalic are renowned adventure game specialists but State of Mind is set to be their most ambitious release to date.

State of Mind is a third-person cyberpunk thriller that peeks at futuristic Berlin through the eyes of a journalist, Richard Nolan. After entering a coma, Nolan awakes to find his wife and child have left him, and is bemused by a world that is ‘torn between a dystopian material reality and a utopian virtual future’. Crikey!

It sounds incredibly ambitious but Daedalic are more than up for the task. Despite using Unreal Engine 4 for the first time, Kai Fiebig, Head of Productions, said the studio’s experience has definitely benefited the development time. “During the last 10 years, we worked on different genres and also different approaches like 3D, 2,5D to 2D. So, in general, we had a lot of experience using different engines to fulfill our needs. We were quite surprised by all the possibilities and freedom the engine gives you as a developer.”

The relationship with Unreal Engine 4 seems like a match made in heaven for Daedalic as State of Mind also enabled them to build a game in a way that was custom built for their original vision. “For the first time we used a lot of level streaming which was not really possible in the previous Daedalic games. This feature gave us a lot of freedom to develop the vision we had from the State of Mind settings.

And as if that wasn’t enough, State of Mind is the first title Daedalic are bringing to Nintendo Switch. Unsurprisingly, the development process seemed to ‘run like a charm’ according to Fiebig. So much so that he described the result as ‘way cool’ and like ‘a 1:1 port from the PS4 with a few performance tweaks.’

The world we live in

It’s appropriate that a game set in a future of assisted living is built using tools which make the operation smoother and easier for the developer. But it’s not a future everyone is eager to pursue, with some concerned about the impact on jobs, personality, and livelihoods.

This is a line of thinking that inspired, Martin Ganteföhr: Creative Lead of State of Mind, to work on the game in the first place. His focus is the impact on the individual living in the future, not so much the technology that surrounds them. To him ‘That’s what matters, that’s what creates drama.’

80s films often focus on the AI and how it will change life around them, but as technology moves at an alarming rate and we move closer to reality as opposed to fantasy, perhaps we, as a society, have become the more interesting story. As Ganteföhr puts it “The question of “How, in all scientific detail of quantum computing, could this technology work?” is far less interesting than the question of “What would it mean if a technology like that were actually available?”

We are a society that is both excited and inspired to create amazing new possibilities, but at the same time hesitant and instinctively fighting back against our creations because we’re resistant to change.

When you look at tech concepts like “mind uploads”, the underlying technology only exists in the imagination of transhumanist scientists and futurists. Their papers are full of completely fantastical assumptions and magical thinking, but that’s kind of the core of their idea: Incredible, unimaginable things will become possible. And they’re not conspiracy theorists or video game writers. They’re the directors of engineering at Google.

The world of State of Mind

Some of you may remember a game called The Moment of Silence from back in 2004. This was also written by Ganteföhr and is set in a futuristic New York City where, on one hand, the Government silence those who speak out against them, and on the other, advocate a ‘freedom of speech’ campaign.

It became clear to me that The Moment of Silence mirrors State of Mind in many ways, and not just because a journalist is a key component of the story. Ganteföhr conceded that “in a way, the games are related.” but perhaps not in the way I had initially thought.

The Moment of Silence was about an electronic surveillance state, but it was mostly about controlling reality through technology, in an Orwellian sense. State of Mind takes takes things a step further, it’s about technology gaining full access to mind and matter.

While The Moment of Silence was something of a cult hit, the critics were, unfortunately, less receptive. And while Ganteföhr admitted to us that he can “see a million things in TMOS that (he’d) want to change.” He still thinks “of it as a good game, and it was a lot of fun making it.” 

But his vision back then certainly ties into the game he is making now. One of the big issues tackled in State of Mind is the theme of Transhumanism, which links back into his comment about ‘technology gaining full access to mind and matter’

Transhumanism is defined as ‘the belief or theory that the human race can evolve beyond its current physical and mental limitations, especially by means of science and technology.’ It’s certainly a controversial subject as there is split opinion among scientists with some dismissing ‘the whole idea as nonsense’ 

However, it plays a significant role in the relationships and world building of State of Mind and Ganteföhr has clearly done his research as he sees things a bit differently. ‘When I look back at how technology (and thus, our life) has changed in the last 20 years, and who it was that changed it, it’s difficult to ignore the direction we’re heading into.

Whichever way you look at it, Ganteföhr knows that ‘The world’s most powerful companies are actively pursuing transhumanist ideas and projects.’ and with the money and resources behind these projects, there’s no telling what humanity could accomplish next. When ‘Google’s head engineer is a confessed transhumanist and utopist.’ it’s clear there’s no shortage of enthusiasm and desire to take things to the next level.

But whether we’re actually any closer to being able to transform into posthuman beings anytime soon is another matter entirely. And with others ‘like Elon Musk … planning for the AI apocalypse, and basically preparing for an escape to Mars.’ then Ganteföhr is aware how it ‘all sounds like the stuff Science Fiction is made of.‘ Yet, ‘these people have the insight, the means and the determination’ and ‘if transhumanism is actually possible — then they will make it a reality.’

They’re clearly committed as Ganteföhr reveals ‘Quite a few of them have signed up for life extension programs and cryostasis and stuff like that, because they’re convinced it’ll all happen within the next 30 years.’ 

Who knows what the future holds over the next few decades. The only certainty for now is that State of Mind will release on August 15th 2018 for PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One.

Thanks to Kai Fiebig, Head of Productions at Daedalic and Martin Ganteföhr: Creative Lead of State of Mind for taking the time to talk to us and for Renaissance PR for facilitating the discussion. Please source any quotes from this interview back to the original piece.

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