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Clean energy journalism for a cooler tomorrow

Solarpunk is going mainstream. This couple’s $1M Kickstarter proves it

Canary chats with the co-creators of the forthcoming video game Loftia, set in a renewables-powered utopia that celebrates community and climate optimism.
By Mike Munsell

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A man and a woman stand in the foreground, a large solar array is behind them
Martina Qin and Michael Su, developers of Loftia, a solarpunk video game, visit a wind and solar farm in New South Wales, Australia. (Martina Qin and Michael Su)

Canary Media’s Climate Meets Culture column explores the intersection of energy, climate and the culture at large.

During a recent Instagram Live Q&A session with U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–New York), a viewer asked about her thoughts on climate doom.

AOC replied that she doesn’t ascribe to climate doomerism but instead is a big believer in solarpunk.”

Most people watching the livestream were probably scratching their heads at that moment, as some of Canary’s readers might also be doing right now. So what is solarpunk?

One definition of solarpunk is an optimistic environmentalist subgenre of speculative fiction, art, and design that envisions future life on Earth transformed by the use of sustainable energy, close co-existence of human beings with nature, and progressive sociopolitical values.” (Grist and Vice also have great explainers on the topic.)

AOC continued on the Instagram livestream: It’s way easier to imagine everything going to hell than it is to imagine things working out and actually getting better. That’s where science fiction [of solarpunk] plays a role. […] You’ll see depictions of what a better future could look like.”

Solarpunk has been popping up in my feed over the last few years in various forms, including Grist’s positive climate-fiction contest, a dedicated Reddit community, a number of books and a ton of AI-generated art.

More recently I’ve come across a couple of solarpunk videogames on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter, including the aptly titled Solarpunk, and another called Loftia that has raised, at the time of this writing, an impressive $1 million from over 13,300 backers.

The game is being developed by a couple in Australia who have been documenting its progress on TikTok and growing a following of hundreds of thousands along the way.

@loftia.gg Introducing Loftia’s solar panels! Solar power will be another major sustainable energy source alongside wind power 🔋☀️ You’ll be able to harvest solar energy generated from solar panels installed within your home, or from Loftia’s community solar farms. Solar energy can then be utilised for activities such as farming, crafting, cooking and more 👀 However, events such as weather, location, time of day and the quality of solar panels will all determine how much solar energy you can generate. What else do you think we can use solar power for? We’re also looking forward to introducing more forms of sustainable energy as we continue to develop the game, so let us know what other sources of renewable energy we can introduce to Loftia! As always, you can sign up to pre-alpha testing on our website and join our discord, link in bio! 🥰 . . . . . #game #gamedev #indiegames #gameart #gamedesign #mmo #mmorpg #gamedevelopment #solarpunk #conceptart #3dmodeling #blender3d #videogames #cozygames #cozygamer #stardewvalley #animalcrossing #sustainability #couplegoals #gamergirl #relationship #Loftia #minecraft #pcgaming #gametok #gaming ♬ Moonlight - Villano

I wanted to learn more about Loftia and its solarpunk influence, so I reached out to the co-founder couple, Michael Su and Martina Qin. We had a lengthy email exchange, followed by a video call, both of which appear below, edited for brevity and clarity.

Munsell: Can you introduce yourselves?

Su and Qin: Hello, we’re Michael and Martina, the founders of Qloud Games! Qloud is a new indie gamedev studio currently focused on developing Loftia, a multiplayer online game. We’re from Sydney, Australia, and we originally come from the tech and finance/​marketing industries, respectively.

Munsell: Can you tell me about Loftia?

Su and Qin: Loftia is a cozy online game where players can engage in activities like farming, crafting, exploring and customizing, all with a solarpunk twist. As an alternative to the traditional soil farming in many other games, players will be able to use hydroponics and aquaponics, and crafting will involve recycling materials and upcycling unused items. Clean energy generated by solar, wind and hydro farms across the game world will power many of these activities, giving players the opportunity to learn about renewables.

As a massively multiplayer online game (also known as an MMO), Loftia also weaves in traditional systems from that genre, such as guilds and group content in the form of Clubs and Adventures — where players will be able to group up with their friends and other players, and go on fun side quests to tackle challenges. On top of that, what we think will really bring the community together is the concept of World Progress projects, where everyone in the game world works together to gradually transform Loftia City into a vibrant, sustainable paradise.

Munsell: How do you define solarpunk?

Su and Qin: Our definition of solarpunk is standard” in the sense that it’s a vision for the future where humanity, technology and the natural environment grow and thrive in harmony. It’s an optimistic vision — one that challenges where many believe the future is headed in our modern-day society.

Loftias solarpunk world will project what life could be like in one version of such a future. On the environmental sustainability side of things, we’ve integrated solarpunk features like hydroponic farming, renewable energy generation, sustainable crafting and upcycling. And on the social and community side of things, we’ve designed gameplay systems that will encourage joint play and hopefully foster genuine relationships between players.

Munsell: What inspired you to make Loftia a solarpunk-themed game?

Su and Qin: Both of us have had varying degrees of interest in gaming and sustainability throughout our lives. Upon taking some time off work in early 2022 to figure out what was next in our lives, we decided to embark on creating a video game inspired by Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing, games we had really enjoyed during the tough times in 20202021.

The idea to focus on themes of sustainability and solarpunk emerged early on, soon after we had settled on the cozy and MMO aspects. Building a solarpunk world is particularly compatible with the other pillars of Loftia: the relaxing, non-combat-oriented and altruistic” style of gameplay, as well as the goal of working together with the community.

Even if video games haven’t been a conventional medium by which to share ideas that shape the world around us (yet!), we’re hopeful that Loftia, in its own way, will help inspire more people to dig a little deeper into sustainable technology, innovation and ways of living.

Munsell: Have you worked with any clean-energy or climate professionals at all in the development of the game?

Su and Qin: In the past year, we’ve been in contact with various representatives within the clean energy and climate space, and we hope to connect with even more industry professionals going forward.

In April 2023, we traveled to the Gullen Range Wind and Solar Farm in our home state of New South Wales, Australia to tour the farms with a representative from BJCE Australia, and it was a great opportunity for us to learn more about how the technology operates and what other renewable innovations are on the horizon. Through this experience, we were able to take what we learned about wind and solar energy, and apply it into our game.

A woman with long dark hair and a man with short dark hair wave at the camera. Behind them is a large wind turbine.
A TikTok still documenting the couple's visit to a wind farm (Martina Qin and Michael Su)

Munsell: What are your all-time favorite video games?

Martina Qin: My favorite games of all time have to be Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang and Club Penguin! Animal Crossing: New Horizons has greatly inspired many of Loftias game features and the art direction. Mobile Legends: Bang Bang has provided a great reference for how games are able to maintain player retention, and finally, Club Penguin is a childhood fave of mine that introduced me to the world of MMOs, and it had an influence on the design of social, multiplayer features in Loftia.

Michael Su: Multiplayer online games have been my bread and butter for as long as I can remember. I started at a young age with RuneScape and MapleStory, and then moved on to a number of others. One particular eye-opener was Stardew Valley, which we got into during the lockdowns a few years ago, and which opened my eyes to how non-combat-focused games could be incredibly fun in their own right.

Munsell: What message do you have for Canary’s audience of climatetech professionals and policymakers?

Su and Qin: If there’s one thing that has become apparent to us on this journey so far, it’s that there are so many people out there who are interested in sustainability and climatetech. Sharing ideas and making it easier and more accessible for wider audiences to learn more about the significant progress being made in these areas will be critical to building out the future that we believe in.

Thank you to everyone devoting your time and energy to the pursuit of a greener future! We hope that our game can contribute in some small way to the overall efforts to improve the world and the lives of everyone on the planet.

Since I work for Canary Media, I wanted more details about how Su and Qin plan to integrate renewable energy features into their game, so I followed up our email exchange with a short video call to discuss that topic.

Munsell: Do you think you will add more clean energy technologies into the game, or are you far enough along in development that you’re done building those out?

Su: We’re open to introducing additional technologies as we learn more. At the moment we’re about to enter the post-Kickstarter, full-blown development phase where we need to balance scope with additional research and introducing more features. But yeah, we’re open to new ideas.

Munsell: I’ll throw out a few you could start exploring: heat pumps, a direct air capture system — that’s a hotly debated topic — or how about battery-powered vehicles?

Qin: None of those yet, but we do have some concepts that we’re exploring. We have done some research on various vehicles that would be most suitable for our city and how they interact with the whole energy system we’ve designed.

Munsell: In the game, do the solar systems just power individual buildings and homes, or do they feed into a larger power grid?

Qin: We have this overarching concept of progress. You do things in the game that progress and improve the overall city. So I would say that we probably would have some kind of energy grid system that benefits the whole city, but players will also be able to install solar panels and other energy systems in their own homes as well. But that’s a great question that has actually got me thinking.

Munsell: Would you consider adding a Canary [bird] into the game somewhere?

Qin: We don’t have any flying animals yet, so I think a Canary would be a good one. The community would love that.

Loftias Kickstarter campaign ends on August 31, and the team estimates an early version of the game will be available for select backers in late 2024, with a final version coming in December 2025. If you’re looking to get your hands on a solarpunk-themed game now, check out Terra Nil.

Mike Munsell is director of growth at Canary Media.