The Tomorrow Children Appreciation post, and why it was ahead of its time

How I Got To Know The Tomorrow Children, One Of My Favorite Games Ever

Back in 2016, it hasn’t been long since I got my PS4, and I was curious on what kind of exclusive games it had, so I looked into that. Among the games I found was The Tomorrow Children. Despite the fact it had no specific release date (release date said 2016, but without specifying the month or day), and so I waited patiently for it. I remember being so happy when they announced the open beta in June 2016. It was a rare opportunity to experience the game I was looking forward to. When the game came out in September 2016, I bought it day one. I can confidently say it’s one of the reasons I am glad I bought PS4, along with Bloodborne & other games.

This post is dedicated to all the fellow fans who played & liked The Tomorrow Children. It will hopefully serve as a way to tell new people about it. I hope you find it a good tour through the history of the game & its features.

What’s The Tomorrow Children All About?

The Tomorrow Children’s story takes place in an alternative history, after the Soviet Union did an experiment to merge all the minds into one, which resulted in wiping almost all humanity. The world turned into a weird place called the void. Which is similar to cloudy white quicksand, with nothing in the horizon:-

You play as a projected clone, which looks like a sculpted doll, and your mission is to build different towns & save people, who turned into Matrioska dolls

Every player looks exactly the same little girl, which I heard looks like the director’s late daughter:-

Looking all the same is one of reasons the game feels so communist, and it is one of the game’s defining factors, as we will see in multiple ways. The only way to make your character unique is to have one of the many costumes in the game. My favorite was the nurse outfit, which I wore almost all the time since I unlocked it:-

I always had the feeling there has been more to the story than what Q-Games managed to reveal to us, but they didn’t get to the point of revealing it to us.

You start playing in one of the many towns in the game, which you could get to via the underground metro. There are various buildings in the game, like the Ministry of Labor, where you exchange your toil for coupons. These coupons serve as the free currency in the game. You could use them to buy different tools, including flashlights, chainsaws & mining axes. Another building is the workbench, where you can create buildings & other things

Every once in a while, an island appears in the horizon, the shapes of the islands look like stuff from our world, like a face with rockets falling on or sunken fish. Some players speculated this is part of the result of the soviet experiment, where the stuff that disappeared from our world are reappearing every now and then on the form of islands.

You ride the bus to go to the island (unless the island appeared really close to the town, something I always loved). If you had a driver license, you could build & ride your own car (until some other player takes it from you, lool), or you could buy some skids to get there. Islands have all sorts of resources, like Matrioska dolls, fruits, metal & coal. You can carry a limited amount of resources at a time, so it takes a number of players to work together to collect these resources. Some players may choose to mine the resources and toss them toward the bus stop, while others collect them and place them for the bus to carry them there, or just wait for the bus loaded with resources to arrive at town, and collect them and place each type in it corresponding pile:-

After some time, the island disappears in a very beautiful spectacle, and gets replaced by the void, so you have to get back to town or risk dying by sinking into the it:-

Sometimes two islands appear at the same time, which means you could pick the island to go to, or to simply visit both if you have the time.

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Some islands have some hard-to-get places, which you could use the Jetpack to get to. More often than not, there are free tools or Matrioska dolls hiding there. To make it easier to your comrades to get up there, you could install a ladder for everyone for everyone to climb on. In some islands, ladders were so tall it took too long to climb them XD

Just like many games, The Tomorrow Children has its own share of RPG elements. Every time you gain enough EXP, you level up your character. That gives you skill points, which you could use to level up a certain aspect of your projection clone.

Every now and then, a monster would appear & attack the town, and it’s the duty of all of us to defend it. Specially those who are in the town during the attack. The most common type of monsters is the Izverg, which looks like a shiny metal Godzilla:-

The Izverg has shiny parts whose color indicates how strong it is. Green Izverg is the easiest, while the red one is the toughest. Comrades can build turrets to make it easier to defend the town more easily. Once the Izverg is down, we could mine it & get resources from it. Sometimes, the Izeverge’s guts hide some nice surprises, like a large amount of flash lights.

To complete a town, you need to revive 500 Matrioska dolls. After that, you move to the next town to build. Finished towns look more beautiful. I find it a bit of waste we couldn’t walk in them once we are done building them. Since all we do in the game is building one town after the other, the game kinda lacks a purpose to a degree, so it’s only for those who enjoy the process. Again, I keep thinking on how the game would have evolved had Sony not shut it down. The game kept getting updates each month, so it could have evolved quite a bit in the span of multiple years.

Lovely Graphics

One of the first thing that attracted me, and many others, to The Tomorrow Children is the graphics. It’s just so beautiful; it’s as if you’re playing a Pixar movie in real time. Even today, after playing many games with great graphics. There’s nothing that can match the beauty of its graphics (some games like Dreams give similar vibes, but it’s not quite the same). The game uses an innovative shading technique called voxel cone tracing to achieve that shiny & clean look.

Having the whole world as a clean, flat & shiny ground gives a weird, eerie feeling, but it also looks quite beautiful & interesting in my opinion.

Sense Of Community

There’s a lot of work involved in managing & building the town, and that makes it very hard to run the town on your own (Well, you can, but it’s quite difficult & time-consuming), so you have to cooperate with the other players (or comrades, like we liked to call each them) to collect resources, of which you can carry 3 of at a time, arrange them in their repositories, generate power for the town & defend it, and more importantly, hunt & collect Matrioska dolls from the islands.

Since mining the resources and moving them around takes more than one person. Multiple comrades had to work together to make things happen, and that gives you a sense of community. To make it even better. I didn’t play the game alone. I was part of the game Subreddit & its Discord server back in 2016. We would pick a town with the lowest population possible, then we all go there to build it together. We discussed the game & coordinated our efforts there. This made the game more fun than if I played it alone.

Sometimes the community was very innovate, some towns built some sort of parking lot for the town cars, or a trash can to store excess tools. There was a time when someone built a tools shop right besides the island, so that we didn’t have to go back to town to buy new tools. That was quite useful & fun. XD

One of the game trophies requires you to stand at a 150M height. To make it easier to get the trophy, comrades built a huge monument you could climb & get the trophy very easily. I am not one to hunt trophies to be quite honest, but it still felt good to get that one with the help of everyone.

I can still remember one of our first towns, where we stacked 3 barricade cubes together. When Dylan Cuthbert, the director of Q-Game, the company that developed The Tomorrow Children, tweeted about the town, we managed recognize it from these cubes (besides the matching town layout, of course).

    • ——-

And if you want a big example of how much the community can be innovative, then take a look at this:-

If you find that someone isn’t being cooperative or doing damage to the town, you could snub them, and that could place them in jail for some time, until they solve some sort of puzzle. If someone is doing a good job, or if you just want to show your appreciation to your fellow comrades, you could praise them, which gives them EXP. when the game launched, there was no limit to how much EXP you could get that way, which caused many of us to have praising party by the bus stop the day it came out, and that made it easier to level up my character very quickly, but that also caused the server to crash multiple of times. That part was patched eventually though, nihaha~

One of the downside about the game is that you can’t see your comrades, unless they did some action. That kind felt lonely in a way. I remember once reading Dylan saying that they optimized the game to run on slow ISDN connection, so that anyone could enjoy it. I still prefer to have the ability to see our comrades, even if that was optional, and even if that feature was limited to people with faster Internet. I won’t be exaggerating if I said that this feature was the most requested feature during the time the game was up.

I remember sitting in a bench when I was away from my PS4, which makes me visible to anyone passing by. It was my way of telling my comrades “Don’t mind me, I am just chilling here”. :3

You probably noticed that I keep mentioning Dylan, and that he said this & that. Dylan himself was quite involved with our community, and he replied to some of the threads every now & then, which is how I know many of the stuff I keep mentioning in this article (besides the stuff he tweeted). Some of the other developers of the game were also involved in the Subreddit. The only game I know where something like that happened was Crash N.Sane Trilogy.

The Bad Side Of The Tomorrow Children’s Community:- Griefing

To be quite sincere, not everything about the game community was positive & lovey-dovey. While many of us cooperated as comrades, there are some people that did nothing but ruining the work done by their comrades. You could spend some time arranging the town & help it grow, then you log out feeling happy with the progress you made. Only to log in the next day to find things are all over the place. This can make building the town an uphill battle, specially if the town was targeted by a persistent troll, something I have seen happening multiple of times. Issues like this started to happen more frequently after the game became free once the early access period ended. The fact that destroying a town is much easier than building it makes that even worse.

To be fair, not all the griefing was intentional, since you may have a different view on how the town should be like than I do. This made it more crucial to able to communicate with the other players. The game gave us some tools for that, like the ability to send a message to everyone in town, but they were still limited.

Over time, Q-Games added many tools to mitigate some of the griefing issues, like limiting the use of disassembler to the town resident (a tools that’s used to remove buildings), but these issues continued to the very end.

Besides griefing. Sometimes not everyone show love for the town. The town may need more houses in order to restore new dolls, and no one is bothering with that. I have had to be the one building the houses in some of these cases. That includes collecting the materials to make that happen. This kinda gives the same feeling as workplaces in real life.

Communist Atmosphere

Because the game takes place in the Soviet Union(or whatever left of it after the experiment), the whole atmosphere feels so communist. Because you have to work & get coupons for your toil, it makes you feel like you’re a cog in a machine.

There are propaganda videos playing in multiple parts of the town or in the bus. The soundtracks tend to give soviet vibes. All that serves to get you to feel you’re part of the soviet culture.

Islands Atmosphere & Soundtracks

Each island has its own atmosphere. And most of them give you this eerie feeling that you’re exploring the unknown. The soundtracks help to amplifies that feeling:-

Not all the islands soundtracks were eerie, some of them made you feel relaxed, as well. Like this “tropical” island’s soundtrack:-

Negative Game Reviews

The Tomorrow Children wasn’t received very well by game “journalists”. And some gave it as low rating as 2/10. This makes me not trust review sites much. Giving how unique the game was, and giving that it takes some time to get used to the game & many of its mechanics, I don’t think those lazy reviewers understood the game. It’s not that they understand the more common games to be quite sincere. I once saw a review of Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, where the reviewer criticized the game saying that the enemies don’t come at you. Seriously? Did that reviewer even play the original?

The game was unfairly compared to Minecraft when it wasn’t really that similar. Yes, you build towns in both games, but that’s where similarities end. I think these negative reviews played a part on why the game was shut down eventually.

From what I heard, people in Japan liked the game, and I could see that from the Twitter accounts that tweeted about it.

The Tomorrow Children had a Metacritic user score of 5.8 by the time of me writing this article, which is considered low.

Monetization Model

during most of its life, The Tomorrow Children was a F2P game, with a paid Founders Pack that gave you an early access to the game & the ability to have multiple perks from the get-go, including the following:-

    • Bourgeoisie papers:- Allows you to build residence in town. This gives you multiple perks, like voting or the ability to remove buildings.
    • LV.1 Arms License:- Allows you to use better weapons.
    • Lv.1 Tools License:- Allows you to use better tools.
    • Eagle Corp. Jetpack:- The Jetpack makes it easier to fly up & reach interesting areas in islands. This one is the American one that’s better than the soviet version.
    • Special costume:- The miner gear
    • Exclusive PSN avatar pack
    • 1000 Freeman Dollars
    • Five invitations to send to your friends, where they could join as F2P players before the actual release of the game.

The Founders Pack had a lot of value, and it made the game quite fun the moment you start playing.

To monetize the F2P players, the game had to offer some sort of currency, which are green money called freeman dollars, which you use to obtain American tools from the black market. These tools are much faster than the tools you get using toil coupons. You could mine or cut trees almost instantaneously with these tools, unlike the regular tools, which forces you to wait for X seconds to get your materials. You can obtain green money by finding them laying on the floor, or by simply swiping your credit card & buy a pack of them.

Green money can be used to obtain other stuff, like boost packs, and more importantly, costumes. I remember having almost all the costumes in the game before it shut down, if not all of them

And Eventually, It Was Shut Down

On July 2017, Sony, the publisher & owner of The Tomorrow Children, announced that The Tomorrow Children was going to shut down on 1 November 2017, only one year after it went live. Part of the reason it was shut down was because of the costs of running the server. Apparently, the game wasn’t making enough money to keep it going, and so Sony shut it down.

Despite the speed the American tools give you, you don’t exactly need then. They are only nice to have, and once you level up your character, and with the right costume & upgrade points, your toiling speed could get close to what the American tools give you. As a player, I find that quite generous. But it makes me also think whatever the game was greedy enough to survive. Dylan once mentioned that the payment model is there so that you could have some sort of “silly fun”. That you could buy a RPG and leave it laying around so some of your comrade could use it to defend the town.

I am not an insider or anything close, so I can’t give you definitive answers here, but I think the game should have stayed paid, so that they could at least get the money they need to run the server profitably. Keeping the game paid could have kept some of the griefers away. Apparently, it was Sony that wanted the game to be F2P. Dylan said this about that here:-

“I wouldn’t say it’s been turbulent. It’s certainly been busy. Making The Tomorrow Children involved quite a big team. We made that, and at the end it was a small team maintaining it – so it was fine from our point of view. In general, I don’t think Sony was ready to do a free-to-play game. It wasn’t our idea to do a free-to-play game – around halfway through development, they said we want to make it free-to-play, and I said, well, do you know what that takes? It takes a lot of marketing, data, research, analysis – and, for me, I felt that they didn’t really do that. It always felt they hadn’t quite got the grasp of that, and I think Sony is much more efficient at making a game and selling it. It’s not a big shock – their whole engine isn’t geared for that.”

As a way to say good bye to the game. I played it during its last days, and I made sure to record videos of that. Most of the pictures of this article came from these videos, with few exceptions.

 

During the last days of the game, people did all sort of things together, like arranging characters to show appreciation for the game & having praising parties. They stood together until the last moment the game was up. There are many videos that show these last sweet moments of the game. Making me wish I was there with them:-

Didn’t I say it had a great sense of community? (≧▽≦)/

Why Is It A Big Deal That The Tomorrow Children Was Shut Down?

It’s because there’s no real alternative to it. Say, for example, some shooter game was shut down, that won’t be a big deal, as there are many alternative for it already, and one of them will definitely fill the game for the most part, not to mention that many shooters are on PC, where people could make custom servers & all. The same goes for games in other genres, but The Tomorrow Children was so unique it makes me wish I played it way more. The combination of nice atmosphere, graphics, sense of community, fun platforming & all can’t be found in any other game I know. Me and many of the fans of the game are still searching for such alternative. While I played many good games since then, I still haven’t yet find one that replaces it (there are quite few candidates though, which I talked about below).

Revisiting The Tomorrow Children, With A Glimpse Of Hope Of It Getting Back

A while ago, the Twitter account of The Tomorrow Children started tweeting again, and they announced they were going to stream a development build they managed to set up of the game, with Dylan being the player, all while answering some of our questions.

The stream is still on YouTube, and you can watch it right here if you like:-

There are talks of Dylan trying to take the rights of The Tomorrow Children from Sony. He said the following about it:-

“I don’t like having a game I made missing, people can’t play it. Especially one as pretty and interesting and rich as The Tomorrow Children – it just feels wrong to not be able to play it, you know? It’s great being able to play it now like this, and come back into the world. The people around the office playing it now, they’re just like, ‘Oh we can play it again?’ It’s great fun, you know? We’re all excited to be able to just get this old build running like this.”

Dylan also said if they managed to get the right of the game back, they may relaunch it, but without the need for a server:-

“Unfortunately, right now the IP is Sony’s, really. So I’ll keep trying to get the IP back, and if I do get the IP back, then I’ll definitely think about ways to kind of relaunch it but without a server, I think, because it was the running costs of the server that brought it down, If it didn’t have that we probably just could have left it running and people could have kept playing it, right?”

So…. Is There An Alternative To The Tomorrow Children?

As I mentioned earlier, I don’t know of any real alternative to The Tomorrow Children. However, there are few games that give you one or two aspects of the experience. I will quickly explore two alternatives that stood out for me.

Dreams

While Dreams isn’t exactly a game, but more like a game were you create games or play the games made by others. It has some of the vibes of The Tomorrow Children. Specially when it comes to the graphics. It doesn’t have any sense of community though.

Some of The Tomorrow Children fans managed to create an exhibit of it inside a dream. I visited it myself, and it made me feel nostalgic for it:-

I hope Sony manages to support Dreams for years to come, instead of shutting it down eventually, the same way they did with The Tomorrow Children.

Deep Rock Galactic

I haven’t played this game yet to be sincere, but from the videos I watched, it seems quite fun & similar to The Tomorrow Children. You play as a Dwarf, and up to 4 players can do together to complete a mission . It’s a first-person shooter though. Both the mining aspect & kinda the graphics remind of me The Tomorrow Children. The sight of metal/gold in the game looks quite similar too:-

 

And Finally

Hopefully, this post has managed to shed some light on The Tomorrow Children, and why I think it’s such a wonderful game. And hopefully it helped you live the experience to some degree. If you played this game before, then my salute for you, my comrade O/.

I tried my best to be honest about the game’s flaws. There are many things I wish the game had, like the ability to see my comrades all the time, more story materials & more endgame goals. Despite that, I pretty much think The Tomorrow Children was ahead of its time. Some of the societal elements in it were found in later games like Death Stranding, but no one can deny that The Tomorrow Children did them first. Online games where we do things together can be quite fun if done right, and I won’t be surprised to see this as a new trend in gaming.

I think a game like The Tomorrow Children can be good on PC, specially if we were able to mod & be innovative with it. This is more of a reason I hope Dylan manage to get the right of the game from Sony. Who knows, maybe we will be able to host our own servers, or at the very least, play it offline at our own pace forever.

See Also:-

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2 responses

  1. Absolutely loved reading this!! I saw the TTC twitter account retweet this just today (10/24). Wonderful write-up of how the game was, I truly miss it just like you. If you follow Dylan’s twitter, you can tell he really misses the game so much. The last few tweets from the past few days make me wonder if he actually got the rights back and is getting ready to announce it soon. He said he was excited about something that he can’t talk about yet! Let us hope for the best, the world needs this amazing game back.

    • I am so glad you liked it. I felt like I needed to talk about the game, so I wrote this.. I saw the tweet about something good happening with Dylan, and I really want that to be related to The Tomorrow Children. I guess we will know in few weeks or so. It would be nice to be comrades in the game again~ :)

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