A Game With That Special Sheen
Emerging from the wreckage of your craft, bleeding, bruised and dazed, you shield your eyes from the piercing sunlight as your eyes slowly adjust to the beauty. Amidst the wreckage, on a hill, the land stretches across the horizon – green, luscious and magnificent. Birds tweet. Water slushes. Grasses and flowers sway. Naked women frolic in groups. Awed, they approach you timidly but unashamed of their naked splendour. Tall and handsome, strong of mind, body and libido; you are a god to them. Paradise. In a land of perfection, you are king.
A woman brings you undercooked meat. The sun begins to burn. The grass begins to itch. The water starts to overflow and flood the rivers, crashing towards you. You begin to see deformed creatures and hideous nightmares. The birds that tweeted now dive at you screeching, trying to claw at your face. Your once strong body is thin and haggard and you struggle to even escape. Desperately you try but eventually, like waking up to a hangover – the worlds crumbles into pain. Blackness.
Then you wake up. Everything hurts. Nauseous and starving, head throbbing, eyes watering, sweaty and sticky; you look around the small room. A dead woman covered in a light dusting of cocaine; an old ceiling fan making a creaky breeze, spreading the wintery powder around the room in gentle swirls.
You are Charlie Sheen. A man being framed. You remember everything. The drinking, the party, the women. You remember the passion, the warmth and falling asleep with her curled next to you. She was alive. Now she isn’t. Looking at the fluttering curtains, dawn is seeping in. Touching nothing, you leave to find a place to think; to plan how to prove your innocence.
* * *
This is the opening to my game. The game I would make if money flowed like drugs and Charlie Sheen was the star. My initial reaction was to just re-create Heroine Hero from South Park. All you do is shoot heroine and chase the magic dragon, but you never catch the dragon. Or I could make The Sims: Drugs Galore. Add an extra bar for current drug level. Downgrade the textures of the houses and make performing sexual acts a viable job.
Then I dug a little deeper. This is what I came up with. The opening is as I’ve described. Charlie’s been framed for a murder he probably didn’t commit. It’s an open world, mystery action adventure extravaganza.
Charlie has to outrun the cops and score enough blow to go back into the drug induced paradise and find out why the land of Narcotica is dying. Why are the naked women suddenly old, deformed and ugly? Why are the serene waters and happy sunshine turning hot and horrible? Why has your body stopped working like it should? While in Narcotica you have to desperately explore and figure out what is making the land turn feral. You can stay in Narcotica only while Charlie’s blow meter remains full. Run out and you’re back in the alley, slum or abandoned house where you slid to the ground.
When that happens, you have a nice bit of a stealth section: avoiding cops, pick-pocketing citizens for money and selling stolen goods. You fight drug lords and their army of dealers, take alliances with certain factions and help them gain territory in return for better stockpiles of blow. When you succeed, you can return to Narcotica to try and find the answers you desperately seek.
For general exploring there is almost no time limit but when you take a mission or a quest in Narcotica it takes some of your stockpiled blow. Complete it with enough skill and you can earn some back.
You fight by levelling up your hand to hand and knife skills while performing a jingle gives you a temporary stat boost. Like potions except instead of ingredients you get lyrics and melodies. Eventually you can earn companions: a small, dumb boy to tank the damage or a thin, wispy man to distract your enemies or whine them to death.
As you delve deeper and deeper, you start to realise that Narcotica gets worse whenever you are there. With this slow realisation it becomes clear – you are killing the land. Your presence changes the land and its inhabitants for the worse.
At this point the warring drug factions have come to a climax and you can tip the balance. On one hand, helping them will result in you having as much blow as you’ll ever need. They will protect you and hide you – letting you live out your days in Narcotica. On the other hand, if you let them kill each other, the police will let you go for helping bring down the drug trade. You are left with nothing but your freedom.
Herein lies the question…help the police, earn your freedom but live in a greying and boring world; or do you save yourself and live out your days in Narcotica which will ultimately kill it.
I will admit that a drug related game has always fascinated me. All substances, be it alcohol, weed or something dumber, make you go into your own little world. It can be fantastic, or it can be harmful. Certainly, going there too often or for too long will cause problems. In comparison, however, the world can feel dim and grey sometimes.
Is life worth living if you’re unhappy? What if what makes you happy also kills you? Better to live short and die happy. It seems like any healthy person wouldn’t ever have to make this choice. In a perfect world what makes you happy keeps you healthy. Still I ponder it sometimes when I should be working and instead I’m contemplating throwing it all away for a night of ridiculous partying.
I think there would be one secret ending to the game. Charlie helps the police and ends the drug war. He says good bye to Narcotica forever. Then while sitting on a grey lifeless street, right before the game finishes, in the corner there is an old piano.
The astute gamer would see it and walk over to it. Charlie sits down and starts to play.
While he plays the real worlds starts to get some colour and slowly, paradise becomes the world he’s in.
I try to enjoy my work. If you enjoy what makes you stronger, you’re going to get pretty damn strong.
True happiness is in loving what you do, not doing what you love.