Virginia (video game)
|Release||September 22, 2016|
Virginia is a 2016 first-person mystery adventure video game developed by Variable State and published by 505 Games. The game follows graduate FBI special agent Anne Tarver as she investigates her first case: the disappearance of a boy in rural Virginia.
The game was directed by Jonathan Burroughs and Terry Kenny, with music composed by Lyndon Holland. Burroughs, Kenny and Holland co-wrote the screenplay.
The game was first announced in July 2014 and originally slated for release in 2015. A game prototype was showcased at the 2014 Future of StoryTelling summit and at the EGX Leftfield Collection that year. On August 30, 2016, it was announced that video game publisher 505 Games would be publishing the game. A game demo was released on Steam to coincide with the announcement.
Virginia is a first-person mystery thriller adventure game that takes place in a fictionalised Virginia in 1992. Players take on the role of Anne Tarver, a graduate FBI special agent who is assigned a partner, special agent Maria Halperin. Much of the game involves the player, as Tarver, in the company of the non-playable Halperin, travelling between locations, interacting with other characters and with objects in the environments. Scenes transition using real-time cinematic editing, with cuts and dissolves occurring as dictated by the story, to propel events forward and to juxtapose moments for dramatic effect.
Set in the last days of summer 1992, players investigate the disappearance of Lucas Fairfax, a young boy from the fictional rural town of Kingdom, VA. The game is experienced through the eyes of Anne Tarver, a graduate FBI special agent assigned to her first case. As a rookie detective, she's paired with an experienced partner, Maria Halperin, whom Tarver's superiors instruct to keep a watchful eye on. As the story progresses, the pair's trust in each other is tested, and their investigation takes a supernatural turn.
Virginia is the first game developed by Variable State, a British independent game developer founded by Jonathan Burroughs and Terry Kenny, former developers with DeepMind Technologies. Lyndon Holland joined the project early in development in the role of composer and sound designer and is responsible for creating the entirety of the game's music and Foley. Virginia is developed in the Unity game engine.
Upon forming Variable State, Burroughs and Kenny initially pursued a range of game ideas, but met with frustration, deeming early concepts to be too ambitious. Progress resumed after the developers played Brendon Chung's Thirty Flights of Loving for the first time and found themselves inspired by its creative use of cinematic editing in the context of real-time gameplay. In combination the team's shared interest in American television and films of the 1990s, in particular FBI noir productions such as Twin Peaks, The X-Files and Silence of the Lambs, this gave the developers a stepping off point from which they could fashion an original story.
The developers took the unusual decision to omit dialogue from the game. This was due to the Burroughs' and Kenny's desire to keep the team small and agile and keep the focus on the cinematic editing, a technique that would require experimentation to get right. Spoken dialogue was perceived to be risky because of how many factors were involved in achieving quality; the writing, the choice of actors, the performance and the dialogue systems themselves. Instead of dialogue, Virginia conveys its story through the physical performances of its large cast of characters. The large animation workload required Variable State engage the help of Niamh Herrity and Aoife Doyle, Irish animators who run Pink Kong Studios animation company.
During development, Variable State expanded the Virginia development team to include programmer Kieran Keegan, the lead programmer on Kitty Powers' Matchmaker. Additional contributors included technical artist Matt Wilde, 3D artist Stephen Brown and animators Abby Roebuck, Steve James Brown and Mikael Persson. 3D artist Wayne Peters assisted in an outsourcing capacity.
On Metacritic, it holds a score of 82% on Xbox One, 77% on PlayStation 4 and 76% on PC. The Daily Telegraph awarded it 5 stars, saying "It is the game that titles like Dear Esther, Gone Home and Firewatch have hinted at, but in a way that evolves the interactive narrative form way beyond anything we’ve seen before." TIME awarded it 4.5/5, saying "what gorgeous, reverberant moments there are in this game, empowered by its absent words and explanations." Game Informer awarded it a score of 9.25/10, saying "Virginia is a taut thriller that strikes a fine balance between storytelling and interactivity in a way that narrative-driven first-person adventure games have not accomplished since their inception." PC Gamer awarded it a score of 72%, saying "A slick cinematic thriller, but interaction is limited and the story loses focus in the final act." Caitlin Cooke of Destructoid agreed, saying the game "sadly sacrifices the player's ability to absorb what's happening around them for the sake of cinematics" and that the story "falls apart towards the end".
TIME, The Washington Post and The Telegraph included Virginia in their respective lists of the top 10 games of 2016. Mic included Virginia in a list of the 10 most underrated releases of 2016.
|2016||Fun & Serious Titanium Awards||Best Indie Game||Nominated|||
|Global Game Awards||Best Adventure||Nominated|||
|Unity Awards 2016||Best Desktop / Console Game||Nominated|||
|2017||Independent Games Festival||Best Audio||Nominated|||
|Excellence in Narrative||Nominated|||
|Excellence in Visual Art||Nominated|||
|The Nuovo Award for innovation||Nominated|||
|Writers' Guild Awards 2017||Best Writing in a Video Game||Won|||
|13th British Academy Games Awards||British Game||Nominated|||
|Develop Awards 2017||New Games IP||Nominated|||
|Creative Outsourcer (Pink Kong Studios)||Nominated|||
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