1000xRESIST is a fearless fantasy that’s going to break your heart

7.9.2024
By Francisco Dominguez, Contributor

In 1000xRESIST, you are Watcher, the apocalypse’s lone survivor. But you’re not entirely alone. You’re also one of many clone Sisters born from the ALLMOTHER, a teenager turned mythic figure after proving immune to the extraterrestrial plague that destroyed humanity. 

Unlimited by time and space, darting through generations of a clone society searching for a way forward, you often have no idea where or when you’ll go next—or who you’ll be when you arrive there.

According to developer sunset visitor 斜陽過客’s creative director, Remy Siu, he had no idea either; not having a plan was the plan for the Vancouver studio’s ambitious, time-hopping sci-fi thriller. After all, it worked for SquareSoft in the ’90s when they made Final Fantasy VII and enchanted an entire generation.
 

The unknown journey


Siu told Epic Games his goal was to apply the JRPG classic’s mystery, surprise, heartbreak, and fearless spirit to the Asian diaspora experience—a theme shared with his experimental performing arts non-profit Hong Kong Exile.

As influential as Final Fantasy VII has become, Siu had to look past its more obvious features—a grungy cyberpunk setting, a love triangle sparking decades of debate and a thousand fanfics—to replicate the twists and turns of SquareSoft’s roller-coaster ride. 

“What you should be looking at are the processes they undertook; that’s where the energy of it, the spirit of it lies,” Siu explained. “You can’t just try and make that same thing by looking at the surface of it.”
1kxr Screenshot 01
He found the production secret he sought in Final Fantasy VII developer interviews. Reminiscing on the experimentation of early 3D gaming, they revealed SquareSoft made their groundbreaking work across simultaneous clusters of scenarios at a time, not following a strict outline from Midgar to Junon, North Crater, and beyond. With everything in flux all the time, holistic oversight was impossible.

For Siu, this explained everything; fearlessness and unpredictability were baked in from the beginning. So sunset visitor 斜陽過客 aimed to capture the same creative excitement and uncertainty. Siu likened this freeform approach to devised theater, which the team encountered across careers in dance, theater, and new media. Similar to improv, collaborators develop the script and performance on the fly instead of working from a pre-existing script. 

“The pitfall is that, somewhere in the middle, you get really lost. You can [feel like], ‘Oh my God, how many chapters are left?’” Siu said. “A lot of people said it feels like there's lots of twists and turns [in the game]. It's because we were twisting and turning throughout, trying to find our way through and understand it ourselves in the writing.”

To keep the game on budget with so much in flux, the team deployed TV writer’s room tricks like reusing sets, animation, and character designs—which worked seamlessly with the game’s focus on clones. 

For a game about uncertainty, about humanity’s struggle to understand its past and find a way forward, the doubt doesn’t show. And, like its spiritual predecessor, it’s entirely unafraid to surprise players with a heart-piercing stab—emotionally or literally.
 

Immigrant sci-fi stories


1000xRESIST is an immigrant story as much as a wildly inventive sci-fi tale. It’s rooted in the trauma of the 2019–2020 Hong Kong protests and the resulting friction of ALLMOTHER’s integration into Canadian culture, consequences echoed then amplified through a succession of clones who share the weight of intergenerational trauma. 

Games aren’t known for immigrant stories like these, but Siu along with many players and developers are glad to see that change. He named 2023’s Venba as an example, Visai Games’ narrative cooking game about a Tamil family who migrated to Canada in the ‘80s, which won Best Debut Game at this year’s BAFTAs.

Venba was such a breath of fresh air to be able to speak about the diaspora story this way. I do think it's something that is missing,” Siu said. “There are lots of Itch.io games out there that are very personal, very intimate, that talk about this stuff, but it’s a gap in commercial games, and that’s something 1000xRESIST tackles. Diasporic stories are not always clean and happy. They’re super messy, there’s a lot of anguish. […] I hope there's space in the future where diasporas of all kinds can tell multifaceted stories and not feel like they must shy away from some of the ugliness.”
1kxr Screenshot 02
As well as facing the complexity of the diaspora experience, the 1000xRESIST team took care to emphasize non-Western forms of storytelling. Siu and the team’s narrative designers avoided Hero’s Journey tropes and employed code-switching dialogue. Their narrative treats characters as an evolving ensemble, not as individuals. “The root of the problem is much deeper than this person's immediate psychology,” Siu said. “There are larger societal aspects at play here that affect them; they've come to think this way, but it's not all about them.”

There’s one major shift underpinning 1000xRESIST: “People don't say what they mean,” Siu said. “A lot of it is in coded ways we recognize in our diasporic peers or grandparents speaking to each other. [...] There's these amazing things that happen in non-Western cultures, one can navigate space and hierarchy just with speech.” It can be cryptic, often poetic, but preserving that space for ambiguity, both for the voice performers and in the player’s imagination, became a cornerstone of the game. 
 

Conjuring worlds from shadow and light


In terms of visual design, 1000xRESIST features some of the most eerily unique environments you’ll see all year. A dance in the school gym becomes the haunting venue for an alien rapture. Underground caverns hide Lynchian fragments of memories before opening into an apocalyptic Vancouver.

Siu was strongly influenced by performers like avant-garde dancer Hiroaki Umeda, whose work can be seen in 1000xRESIST’s abstract psychodramas, striking scene transitions, and unsettling audio cues. “He can make worlds inside the space,” Siu said. “He never, as they say in dance, travels along that space. He’s just in one spot, and the world is changing around him.” 
The Dance
1000xRESIST incorporates this idea in several unconventional ways. Players spend the most time in The Orchard, a utopian “transitcore” hub inspired by Osaka’s Umeda Sky Building and its iconic glass bridges. Like any major train station, it can feel like a labyrinth. Originally, there was no minimap, only a compass and surprisingly realistic signage. This was intentional, as Siu believes one major advantage games have over other media is a degree of coherency to space.  

“I find any time I have a map or mini-map in a game, I just never learned that space…I'm in a 3D world, but I’m treating the space like a flat thing,” Siu said. Since release, the team compromised: they patched in a map, charmingly scribbled by the ALLMOTHER as a child, adding some - but not too much - guidance, with a lot of character besides. 

Art Director Kodai Yanagawa’s talent for making characters’ personalities, intentions, and feelings clear through pose also shines. Additionally, Siu credits the team’s resourcefulness; after a career of making evocative art installations with just a flashlight, a box, and a set of speakers, they’d mastered conjuring drama from tools you might find at home.

“All we had was an empty space, some bodies and light, and maybe like a fog machine. Ninety percent of our work is made with that and speakers,” Siu said. “We really learned how to shape space with…[the] interplay between light, sound, and bodies. And of course, tableau [creating meaning through human posture and position] because there were bodies present, and really just shadow and darkness and contrast. We truly had nothing. It was almost intangible.”

A matter of perspective


Beyond performing arts and FFVII, Yoko Taro’s works like NieR: Automata and the Drakengard series were guiding stars. Siu was drawn to their philosophical earnestness, bold aesthetic, and jumps between genres. For a game about knowing and unknowing, both yourself and the memories you investigate, the latter was thematically essential. “I don’t know how we would have told this story without all of those things,” Siu reflected. “Halfway through, I was like, ‘Damn, we've bitten off more than we can chew.’”

One reason was to reference video game history in the same sense that films recall specific times through choice of lens, lighting, aspect ratio, and color grading. When a third-person level swaps to Gone Home’s FPS view, it draws on the walking simulator’s more intimate associations when players inspect the ALLMOTHER’s teenage baggage. 

More importantly, it was yet another tool for sunset visitor 斜陽過客 to masterfully experiment with player expectations—part of what makes 1000xRESIST such a dizzying roller-coaster ride that will break your heart if you let it. 

1000xRESIST is out now on the Epic Games Store.