AdvertCity's Visual Inspiration

This post goes into some detail about the media that inspired the look, content and gameplay of AdvertCity.

Films, Books & Anime

(It's all about cyberpunk, of course)

We're all big cyberpunk fans here at VoxelStorm, so there was no shortage of inspiration in terms of films and books. The perpetually dark city and palette was inspired partly by Blade Runner (and its concept art), but then everything is these days. The giant blimps are of course a Blade Runner thing.

The obscured half-dawn

One of the notable visual things about AdvertCity is that there are times of day, but the sun never quite rises. Most of the time is spent in night, but a golden half-dawn appears briefly - only to sink back into the sea, without ever giving you a glimpse of the sun directly. Most of the colour is carried in building reflections, rather than viewed from the sky itself directly. This is a reference to the frequently seen ambiguous cyberpunk dawn/dusk scenes, such as the Blade Runner shot above, which make you feel like you're coming at sunrise from the wrong side - having stayed up too late, rather than risen early. A lot of the city palette, especially the distant greenish-blue lights and the golden half-dawn colours come directly from Ghost in the Shell, as well as other cyberpunk anime, which seem to understand well this idea that the cyberpunk city may hint at sunrise but never really slip into full daylight.

The megacorps

The advertising itself is full of references. The subtly evil and all-too-sloganish overall style is a nod to They Live. The bright posterised and Japanese-inspired style of the advertising is also a partial tribute to the art style of Wipeout. But each of the megacorporations has its own vibe. There are also hints of other dystopian visions speckled throughout the work - CRM114 and POE/OPE references in the Posters of Interest advert hark back to Dr Strangelove. Blimpy Bros' advert is a subtle mix of evilified Mario and a hint at the less remembered Bonanza Bros. Some such as FriendFace and The Narcotics Cooperative are more obvious lampoons of real-life brands, while others such as The Transhumanist League incorporate many separate layers of references. A full discussion of the symbology of the megacorp logos in AdvertCity is a topic for a future blog post.

Cyberpunk is already here

Real life cities had their impact, too. Some places look cyberpunk enough already in real life - the night skylines of Hong Kong, and a few buildings in Singapore provided inspiration for architectural shapes (mostly cuboid) and a rich palette for colours of window lights at night.

As well as floating in a godlike view over the "meatspace" city, the player must dip frequently into "cyberspace". Rather than a totally separate realm, as in games such as System Shock, we wanted to have a vision of cyberspace as a way of looking through things - an alternative perspective on the same city, with the same map, from the same perspective - that shows relationships and meanings that are otherwise hidden. The cyberspace views of Hackers and how we pictured it in the Neuromancer trilogy were an influence for this, and colours were again inspired partially by some dive sequences from various Ghost in the Shell media.


It's tempting to take inspiration from other cyberpunk games, but in a way that's too easy. However, our palette couldn't help but coincide at least in part with that of the classic Snatcher.

And on the topic of games, continue to the next post in the series - about the games that inspired AdvertCity's gameplay.