Creator Highlight Month 2022: Solutus Eversol
A Guide to Ace Combat's Epic Worldbuilding The long-term popularity of the Ace Combat series boils down to its rosters of well-known aircraft, an accessible flight model that even newcomers to arcade flight can learn quickly, and particularly its worldbuilding. The term "Strangerealism" used in Vice's Waypoint Podcast in October 2020 is pretty well-founded because of how dense the history of the original world of Ace Combat is. A single web search can send someone into an multi-hour deep dive. The series has excelled in worldbuilding and storytelling in ways that literally decades of other flight series have never matched. For new players, wrapping their heads around a fictional planet and its history can be a bit of a hurdle when all they did was show up to blow up some airplanes. Our first entry in Creator Highlight Month 2021 is an interview with Solutus Eversol. A creator that specializes in producing videos that explain even the most obscure lore with original diagrams, animations, and illustrations. The interview covers his beginnings, recent change in style and digs a bit into understanding the still expanding and evolving world of Ace Combat. I just want to say for the record that this interview was a long time coming. It started back in 2019, but Skyward’s rebranding in 2020 canceled it. I’m glad we can finally do this properly. Me too! I can finally say, Hello friends and fans, my name is Solutus Eversol! I run a YouTube channel under the same name covering many known and unknown Ace Combat lore topics through digitally hand drawn scenes. When I am taking a break from content creation, I am learning how to draw, or playing games and chatting with fans over on my second channel SolutusLive. Right now, I mainly cover Ace Combat lore but I hope to branch out to other flight game lore in the future. How did your interest in aviation and flight games start? It all started when History Channel aired their one-time special of Dogfights: The Greatest Air Battles in September 2005. It's an old show I recommend military aviation fans to check out if they haven't already. I recalled being mesmerized learning that we had planes that were capable of performing what seemed to me at the time impossible maneuvers. That documentary made me invested in fighter planes so much that I bought books and die-cast models of any aircraft I could find. Luckily my Dad decided to strike while the iron was hot and brought home a copy of Ace Combat 5, The Unsung War.
We will dig deeper into this later, but in short, what was it about the Ace Combat series that initially grabbed your interest? At the time, I was terrible at video games. I always quit during the first mission and never went back to try again. Ace Combat had that one thing that kept me returning to play it; Strangereal. Growing up, I had an interest in history and world maps. I would stare at World War maps seeing the before and after of a country's borders learning what happened and how such events changed the world. When I started Ace Combat 5’s campaign I was introduced to Strangereal’s earth. I knew the game was set on planet earth since I saw the image of the cover but the landmasses were different. Here was an alternate earth with unique nations and it’s very own historical events. No matter how many times I struggled at a mission, I kept on trying and trying just to see that map again. I had to learn more, especially about the war 15 years ago. You can imagine my excitement when I found out that the next Ace Combat game was taking place during the Belkan War. Today, I am still that history loving buff with a passion for worldbuilding and Ace Combat lore. How did you decide to begin creating content about this series? Have you created anything besides video? I always wanted to have a YouTube channel but I never knew what I wanted to discuss. In 2018, I was getting back into Warhammer 40K and thought about becoming a WH40K channel. I could create tutorial videos on how to make battlefield terrain from cardboard or convert your models into unique poses. As I thought about it, I felt I wouldn't have put all of my heart and soul into that idea and decided to scrap it. Jump to 2019. Ace Combat 7 was released in North America. Finally, after 12 years we get to return to Strangereal. What stood out to me the most in the story was the references to previous Ace Combat games. As a returning player I appreciated these nods to the past. However, it would fly over newer players' heads and probably confuse them. After beating the campaign I thought, “What if I created documentary style lore videos explaining the events mentioned in Ace Combat 7?” If a new player was interested in learning about Strangereal history, there was a short video for them to watch. Even veterans could watch them to brush up on their lore knowledge. I still do today. The current landscape of video content for games is primarily live streaming or gameplay heavy video. Why did you choose a more documentary style? As someone who lives with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), I am a visual learner and have an easier time retaining information by watching documentaries. I can sit down and learn something new from a book but I do not enjoy it. My ADHD also influences how I want to teach people. I am an animated/active person who enjoys giving a powerpoint presentation in front of a crowd rather than remain seated and write a paper. Naturally, I just gravitated towards structuring my video and narration as a documentary. Plus presenting the lore as a documentary can help the viewer imagine that they’re living in Strangereal.
On February 13th, 2019, you released the first Strangereal History video. What was most surprising about it was everything being hand drawn. Up to this point other Ace Combat focused video content creators primarily use in-game video or screenshots. Why did you choose to hand draw things? Before I started making my first video, I had to figure out how I was going to visually present the topic. I could have used random images and photoshops on Google but the transition from a real life photograph to a CGI screenshot would have felt jarring from a stylistic point of view. If I had the gameplay recording equipment and a pc built for video editing, I probably would have gone down that path. However, I did not have the budget to purchase what I needed back then. All I had was MS paint on my old laptop, a free voice recording app on my iPhone, and iMovie. After watching Simple History one night, it finally clicked. I can draw the scenes. After a few weeks of drawing and editing the images on my iPhone, the first Strangereal History video was uploaded. Is it true that your first videos were made solely on mobile devices? What does your current workflow look like? That is true. Now I draw and edit my videos on an iPad and I don’t think I would change that process. Back in 2019, I could crank out two videos in a month. By the time I obtained a full-time job at a school in 2020, my workflow was drastically cut as expected with any job. Despite this, I will continue making lore videos for Project Aces and the community. My plan this year and beyond is to upload one video every two months.
Is there a video from within your early period of activity that you can call your best work at that time? What are your thoughts on it looking back to it now? I considered my second video “Planetfall and Aftermath” to be my best work. As I look back on it today, I still consider it as one of many in the playlist to be my best despite the art being outdated. I do have plans to remaster it sometime in the near future.
On March 30th, 2021, your video "The World of Strangereal - Strangereal History" was posted. It is considered the start of a style shift by some people. How do you view this change in your style? I view it more as a positive than a negative. Do I get nervous if I make a change to my formula? Yes. When you make a video with consistent style, theme, or topic, people will return to your channel more often. If you change anything about your videos, the viewer's interest drops and the videos won’t show up in their recommendations. But I do not let the amount of views or likes influence how I make my videos. My goal from the beginning was to make the best Ace Combat lore content that helped everyone understand the lore. By the time 2021 began, I looked over my old videos and wanted to improve upon the presentation and art. I made it a year long goal to improve my art skills and find my style. That is also why my upload schedule for 2021 was very sparse. The World of Strangereal and Fenrir videos are my test videos for style and presentation. I hope to continue to improve my art skills for the community and give the franchise the quality it deserves.
Have you considered re-recording any of your earlier videos to match your current style? Absolutely. It has been on my mind ever since I started studying art fundamentals in 2021. Plus there is some information that is incorrect and not up-to-date that I want to fix in a future remaster.
Ace Combat has outlasted many other game console flight series from the past. Air Force Delta, Aero Dancing, Sidewinder, Energy Air Force, etc. Do you feel as though Strangereal is a part of why Ace Combat has survived for so long? I believe Strangereal gives Ace Combat a bit of an edge over other flight games. Project Aces creativity would be limited if the stories were set on our earth. Players would always question the realism of a conflict, motivation, or item unless an earth changing event was introduced. Strangereal is Project Aces sandbox that gives them more creative liberty for storytelling. But the worldbuilding does not end with the world map and campaign. Project Aces always takes the opportunity to establish a backstory. Let's use the Arkbird as an example. In Ace Combat 5, the Arkbird is described as a low orbiting spacecraft made to clean up asteroid fragments orbiting the planet. Diving a bit deeper into extended lore from official books and lore-accurate websites, we learn that the Arkbird’s original purpose was to counter enemy ICBM missiles during the Cold War between Osea and Yuktobania. Even if it is a minor detail, Project Aces still puts in the work to flesh out their world. Now, you are focused on Strangereal but I do have to ask about the spinoff timelines that have appeared in the past. What are your thoughts on these spinoffs?
Honestly, I played two spinoff Ace Combat games: Infinity and Assault Horizon. In short, they’re not bad. Even Assault Horizon is a good Ace Combat game despite what some say. The one thing I was not a huge fan of was the Dogfight Mode (DFM). Don’t take it the wrong way, DFM was fun at certain times but when it was the only way to take down specific enemies (besides the boss) it felt forced. If the game gave us the option to switch DFM off, the community would have been a little more favorable to the mode. Taking a look at the rest of Assault Horizon, it is a pretty solid Ace Combat game. The campaign was not bad. Although I like Ace Combat 5’s story, I would rank Assault Horizon’s story higher than it. The second half of 5 becomes convoluted when the Grey Men are introduced and character dialogue contradicts what's happening whereas Assault Horizon was simple like 04 and Zero. The soundtrack is an 11 out of 10. If anyone tells you Assault Horizon's soundtrack is bad they are lying. Personally, Naval Warfare is the best song on that soundtrack. The flight mechanics have not deviated from the original formula making it easy to pick up for long-time fans. Finally, destructible aircraft. When DFM is used at the right times for cinematic moments it is satisfying to watch an enemy plane break apart. I am very happy that the game introduced this addition and is continued to be used in future installments. The lore of Ace Combat is somewhat daunting for newcomers. It’s something that covers multiple official websites, games and books. What is your advice for people who are unsure how to approach it for the first time?
Just start learning about the lore within the first Ace Combat game you play. Almost every Ace Combat campaign can stand on its own without relying on previous stories. Then branch out to other Ace Combat games. If you haven’t already go and check out Acepedia. The team at Acepedia have done a superb job of gathering and organizing the lore. Also remember to take your time as you traverse the wiki pages. You don’t need to cram all of the lore in one sitting.
Selecting from your video catalog, what do you think are some of the most important videos newcomers could watch to get started?
I would recommend newcomers to watch “The World of Strangereal” video. I created that video as a starting point for people to get generally acquainted with the Strangereal universe. The extended lore you’ve mentioned is often only described in text with no visuals to go along with it. Is your video about the Rectan Conflict an example of how you’ll handle these events? The Rectan Conflict and Birth of Aerial Warfare video are great examples where I have to come up with an artist interpretation with little bits of lore. For many people Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown (2019) is their first Ace Combat game. Would you suggest they go back and play all the games in the series or is there a short-list of games they could play to get the “Ace Combat experience”? If you have a PS2 or emulator, I recommend playing Ace Combat 04, Ace Combat 5, and Ace Combat Zero if they want to get that Ace Combat experience. If they do not have access to those, watching playthroughs on Ace Combat Fan or Zaptroxix YouTube channels is another good way to experience Ace Combat’s story. The Ace Combat series has had a few retcons in the past 25 years. It’s something long-time fans have noticed as time goes on. How do you feel about the development team’s efforts to keep everything connected? The retcons Project Aces have made so far with the previous games is welcoming. I admire the work they do to keep the Strangereal continuity as cohesive as possible while figuring out a way to incorporate the game before Ace Combat 04. Have you ever considered adding others to your team or working with other Ace Combat creators to produce content? I have and still do. Especially for a big project in the future. I worked with my buddy Netzone by using scraped music tracks and remixes of current Ace Combat songs. If you ever have a song request, I recommend reaching out to Netzone. That guy can create some beats! I would also like to reach out to modders and other artists for possible collaborations but that will have to wait once I get my ideas organized. Besides creating content you’ve also been managing your own Discord community. What has that experience been like? Was it something you had planned on doing from the start? When I first started uploading videos, discord never crossed my mind. But after some time thinking it over and having some responses in the comments asking if I will make a server, I decided to make an account and see what the community was like in discord. It was a decision well made. Over the past 2 years I was able to meet and make friends with so many great people! Plus, making a Discord community was the next step to reaching out to friends and fans for ideas and feedback. Have there been times where owning a server was not fun because some people join and choose to misbehave? Yes but every online community has its few bad apples you need to chuck out of the barrel. As long as you focus your energy towards the friends you care about and the things you want to create, you will have a great time. I want to thank my server moderators and online friends on Discord! You are wonderful, funny, and kind hearted souls who brighten up my day! You have started livestreaming with your secondary channel, Solutus Eversol Live. How is it being able to interact with your audience and being more casual on stream? It is really nice to just lay back and be myself while gaming and talking to the fans. That's what a livestream should be about. A relaxing time entertaining fans around the world. I haven't been as active since last year. But now that a few games are coming out this year, I am looking forward to streaming it on the second channel. Many have praised your recreation of the Strangereal map from Ace Combat, but it seems like your map skills have also been utilized by Dawn, the upcoming animated audioplay direct by Jose Pavli! What a development. How did this happen? I would spend my free time creating fantasy and Strangereal inspired maps in my notebooks in middle school. You could say world building has been an interest of mine growing up. When Jose Pavli announced that he was gathering a small team to make a fighter pilot audio drama set within a fictional modern day world, I reached out and asked if he needed someone to design an original world for Dawn. After a few days of conversing, sharing samples of my recent works, and creating quick concept sketches, Jose came back and said yes. I was very excited and a bit nervous because this was my very first commission I was making for a development team. Once I signed an agreement and was given the go ahead, I got started aiming to give them my best work. Was there any direction from the Dawn team about how the map should be designed or was this map made with only your design? Yes, right from the start Neiwa Interactive provided me with information about Dawn’s world in order for the map to make sense with the story. You have to approach it from a geological perspective if you want your landmasses to not feel random and out of place. In order for the map to fit their vision and feel naturalistic, I spent 90% of the concept phase looking at fictional maps, landmass creation tutorials on YouTube, and using a free tectonic plate simulator. Once I gathered every info I could, I drew and modified a rough sketch. Neiwa Interactive reviewed my work and shared what they liked as well as directed me on which areas they would like to see changed. They also gave me the names of nations that were going to be featured in the story. By the end of the summer, the final version was finished and given to Neiwa Interactive. Now that you’ve worked with a development team, do you have any interest in working with other projects? Audiobooks? Indie game dev teams? My time spent working for Neiwa Interactive was a pleasant experience. The team was professional, kind, willing to teach you a few things, and were great to work with. I would gladly accept to create another commission for them. If any other development team reached out and asked if I would be interested in working with them I would not shy away from the offer. As we begin 2022, are there any personal goals you have set for your content creation? Any big announcements coming up? My goal is to post a lore video every two months. As for big announcements for the channel this year, I like to keep the videos a surprise. However, there is one big project idea in the back of my mind that I want to do for 2023 so be on the lookout on YouTube and Twitter for an announcement. Outside of Ace Combat, I’ve been getting into Dungeons & Dragons and would like to try and start a D&D session later this year in my Discord server if people are interested. Lots of worldbuilding can be done with D&D and would like to try my hand at writing a campaign. Thanks for the interview! Best of luck going forward in your efforts. We look forward to how your lore videos and future videos turn out. Thank you for the interview! I hope that everyone was able to get to learn a little more about me and my channel! As always my name is Solutus Eversol and I hope to see you all in my next video! About the Interviewer Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza Co-founder of Skyward Flight Media. A lifelong aviation enthusiast with a special interest in flight simulators and games. After founding Electrosphere.info, the first English Ace Combat database, he has been involved in creating aviation related websites, communities, and events since 2005. He continues to explore past and present flight games and sims with his extensive collection of game consoles and computers. | Twitter | Discord: RibbonBlue#8870 |