State of Mind Preview: Transhumanism, virtual constructs and tech wars

This point and click adventure game set in dystopian Berlin looks set to chart its own course

State of Mind Preview Transhumanism virtual constructs and tech wars  Everybody Plays
14th September, 2016By Ian Morris

Almost everyone who works in games industry is passionate about their work, but some have a way of showing it more obviously than others. Take Martin Ganteföhr, the award winning author currently working as writer and brains behind upcoming sci-fi point and click adventure, State of Mind - a man who's clearly hugely, hugely passionate about his work, and can't help but digress, just a little. All a fellow journalist did was ask him a simple question - will the game have multiple endings? - and he got this back as a reply.

"Well, you know, it's a game about trans-humanism, and when you think about when you upload your mind, a lot of things can happen. Many things that we consider natural aren't important any more when you upload yourself to another representation. You know, you don't need to be a man, you could also be a woman, or something entirely different. Age, sex, location - who are you going to be? How is anybody going to recognise anybody? Or, can you download yourself to another body? It could get confusing. I mean, you'll be super intelligent of course, so it won't be a problem at all, but I'm not super intelligent now, so I just can't imagine it.

So it begs the possibility of multiple endings of course. It could have a couple of outcomes. But you know on the other hand, multiple endings, multiple story branches, all that stuff that I know quite well, I know it, and I also know that it's rather expensive and work intensive, so the question of multiple endings is also a question of multiple Euros. I'm going to be honest about it - I want multiple endings in the game, I'm a man of conviction and determination, so yeah. Now I'm three minutes late!"

That's a very long winded way of saying "maybe"!

Either way, Ganteföhr is right when he says State of Mind is a game with a lot of scope - and he's right to be excited. This is a point-and-click adventure game with a heavy focus on story, as Ganteföhr himself describes the game as being a puzzle game, but only a very slight one - it's "light on gameplay, heavy on story, and accessible".

State of Mind Screenshot

The game has a really unique graphical style - dark, brooding, and interesting

The game itself is based around the concept of transhumanism, and while that may conjur up images of a person who believes they're a plant pot, it's actually much more complex than that. "Transhumanism says that technology develops at an exponential pace, and soon machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence" explains Ganteföhr - and as a theory, the concept certainly has some legs. Our old pocket calculator is probably already in front of Kim Kardashian in the IQ stakes, anyway. But transhumanism isn't just a glimmer in the eye of a sci-fi writer - it's a real thing, that real, intelligent people are taking very seriously. Ganteföhr drops in the example of Ray Kurzweil, Director of Engineering at Google, who has apparently predicted that in 2050, we'll all be able to upload our very brains to the cloud, and into virtual constructs, effectively creating a virtual copy of ourselves, with our own personality.

Taking this as its starting point, State of Mind is set in the year 2048, in a more dystopian version of Berlin, and tells the story of Richard Noland, a journalist who finds the world moving in a way he doesn't exactly appreciate. Something of a technological neanderthal, he doesn't just dislike technology - he actively hates it. Much like we believe whoever invented loudspeaker modes for phones without realising how berks would use it to listen to their music in public spaces should be shot, Richard isn't fond of the influence technology is having over his life. And with good reason.

State of Mind Screenshot

Neon lights, shiny pavement, and blue sky thinking

You see, while Richard may not be aware of it, he has a legitimate reason for the technology hating chip that's sitting on his shoulder. Part of the reason he feels such a disconnect from society is that he's been the subject of a "mind upload" - and one that went wrong. "Breaking" half way, effectively removing half of his personality, Richard finds himself struggling with his job, working for major media conglomerate The Voice, as he suffers from flashbacks, and some drastic memory loss. And our demo begins in the midst of one such flashback.

Waking up in the midst of a burnt out wreckage, we see Richard come to as he finds himself in what looks like a disaster zone. There are flames everywhere, the building's on fire, and warped metal beams litter everywhere you look. Before too long, Richard has another flashback - an image of a woman pops up, then a proposal, then a child, quickly filling you in on his backstory (Richard has a wife and son), but not really telling you much beyond that - the game is meant to be a bit of a mystery, after all.

Soon, Richard awakes to find himself in a hospital, where he's put through some tests to see how much of a bad state he's in. Whether this is his first taste of reality after the mind uploading accident, you don't really know, but it's certainly hinted at. Yet despite not doing all that well on the test - after all, poor old Richard has only got half a mind left - he finds himself being sent home - and it's here his day goes from bad to worse.

Walking into his apartment, Richard looks around to discover the wife and child he thought he had are no longer there. In fact, it turns out his wife has left him, taking his child with her - and worse still, she's bought a robot butler in his place, while Richard was away, leading Richard to give him a piece of his mind (metaphorically, of course - it's not like he has much mind left to share).

State of Mind Screenshot

Who the hell are you, and where is my wife?

Like with many adventure games, interacting with characters doesn't just follow a set path - instead, you can choose from several dialogue options to steer the conversation in the direction you want to go, and discover new facets of the story. Talking to your new robot "friend" (turns out his name's Simon), you can choose to throw him out, you can ask him if he knows why your wife, Tracy, bought him in the first place, or you can leave him where he is, as you go about your day basically ignoring him.

Much of our demo focussed on the various additional storytelling tools the game will pack in, to help keep the plot moving apace. One such tool is "cloud calling", which lets you use a holographic telephone to talk to more distant characters in the game. Just to kick a man while he's down, after discovering his wife has replaced him with a robot, Ganteföhr decides Richard should place a call to his father in law, and ask if he knows where Richard's wife is. Bad move - turns out the in-law isn't too fond of Richard, and actually, he hopes she's left him...

But it's not just family dynamics that play into State of Mind's story. Jumping forward, Ganteföhr showed us a group of Luddites - people he described as those who'd still be using a Nokia 3310 today - who actually go around smashing technology up, because they believe it's evil. In this case, it turns out they may actually be onto something, as it's they who reveal to Richard that he's been subject to this mind upload that's gone wrong. They don't know why it happened, they don't know why he was chosen, but they do know it explains a lot of his issues. And, in an even bigger plot twist, it turns out the other half of his mind hasn't been lost forever. It's been uploaded into a virtual construct, where a virtual being known (slightly cheesily - and creepily) as Adam Newman is living his life, with the other half of Richard's mind. To cut a long story short, the plot becomes one of two halves, as Richard desperately wants to get his mind back together, by joining it with that of Adam's, but Adam wants none of it, and is glad to have left Richard behind - without the cheating, lying, careless part of his personality, Adam hopes to become a better man than Richard ever was. You'll be able to play as both Richard and Adam in the game, jumping between the two worlds, and two characters, to see things from another perspective in the most literal meaning of the word.

With a unique graphical style, an intriguing story, and a fascinating set of characters, State of Mind is one we'll be keeping a close eye on. Set for launch in Q1 2017 on console platforms, you can check out the stylish debut trailer below:

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