If you find this letter, it means you’ve made it back home. It’s been a year since I left you and Mary, a year since that business trip sent me to the other side of the country and the Event hit. It’s been a year of roaming, before my return to Haventon.
Every day I curse myself for taking that plane. At the very second disaster struck, my first thoughts turned to you two. Alone in this decimated world, all that keeps me alive is the hope of seeing you again. I shall scour every street, every building, and crevice if I have to. I vow to find you.
Now that you have returned, you must know:
People have changed since the disaster.
In the space of a few hours, their lives have been turned upside down by the loss of their families and friends. All their certainties were shattered in a matter of seconds. Now all we have are memories. Men are but the shadow of their former selves.
Some have taken to looting, stealing anything they can. They’ll kill if they feel they have to. I am not so different to them. I have looted to survive. I have killed because I had to.
The Event has affected people in different ways.
Some have ganged together and violently attack isolated survivors. They are mainly looking for food and ammunition, if the victim is lucky. But when they attack women and children, they are often looking for something else.
Others have held onto a shard of humanity, but they are few. This world isn’t made for them. In a world where people will do anything to stay alive, there is no place for caring and sharing. Only the hardest of the fittest will survive.
In their terror, people do all they can to protect the little they have left: their homes, food supplies and family, if they still have one. It’s worth giving them a wide berth if you want to avoid a bullet in the skull. People generally steer clear of each other. Keep yourself to yourself and you should stay safe from harm.
For the weak, wounded or starving, chances of survival are slim. Few survivors heed a cry for help.
Straight after the disaster, people’s indifference made me furious, then
I came to understand: helping others can cost you your life. Administering first aid to an injured child is a risky business. You expose yourself to grave danger.
The fact that I’ve held out until now is no fluke.
I have one goal, one reason to stay alive: find Julie and Mary.
People are happy to get by, hoping for better days, as though life is on stand-by, simply awaiting a trigger, a sign, or a message.
I have organised myself in line with my objective. It serves as a reminder as to why I’m still alive.
Food is rare and water is rarely drinkable. As you rummage through the ruins, you sometimes come across canned food and medication. The constant dilemma prevails: whether to waste energy seeking resources or instead focus myself wholesale on my main goal. The gangs roaming the streets, and the pitiful state of the city makes exploration highly dangerous.
Stricken zones are everywhere but I shall have to cross them if am to see Julie and Mary again. I’ll never make it without the right gear.
Climbing uses a lot of energy and I have to rest to recuperate my strength. If only I could find climbing equipments, pitons, a grappling hook, things would so much easier.
A machete and a pistol without ammunition – this is one dangerous city to cross; it’s going to be a long journey. Fortunately, ammunition is just as rare for my enemies.
I have managed to dissuade some from attacking me by threatening them simply with my (empty) weapon. When they attack in gangs, mistakes are not an option (mistakes are never an option).
Guns are effective but I could do with a weapon with less precious ammunition. I have met one survivor with a bow and arrow. That could be a solution.
It’s a miracle, our house is still standing.
Inside, it’s as if time has stood still. Beneath a thick layer of dust, everything is just where we left it. I stared at the photo of Mary and Julie for ages. Where are they now? Where have they gone? The thought of them wandering the streets alone fills me with nausea. I have to get a grip.
The monument that once towered above the city has fallen. The sight of it sprawling on the tarmac is completely surreal. All around the buildings have collapsed into one another. A deathly silence pervades the business district, which once teemed with people. It is difficult to imagine this ghost town was once the pulsing heart of the city.
The damage is worse than I expected. The Event snapped the bridge in two and I have no idea how I’ll reach the other side. Cars and the bodies of their drivers clutter the road. I shall endeavour to mount the pylons to cross. I hope I’ll have the strength. I’m so close now. Failure is not an option.
I barely recognise Haventon. The roads have been ripped open and are strewn with abandoned vehicles. The streets are practically empty. The last survivors have barricaded themselves away to escape the gangs.
Over some streets hangs a permanent pall of dust. In seconds, the air can suddenly become unbreatheable, and you have to find shelter or higher ground to escape.
I went to the shopping mall in the hope of finding something to eat. Waste of time. Looters got there first. I did manage to salvage an unopened can of something though.
I remember when its galleries were full of people, and when Mary and I would go to the movies. Now silence reigns. The walkways are like cemeteries. The slightest noise fills me with dread: a hostile survivor lurking to pounce. My hand finds my weapon. I hope I never have to use it.
READ THE INTERVIEW
I Am Alive is one of the most ambitious downloadable games for Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network. Its 3D graphics, its unusual artistic direction and the intense detail in the game world make the Ubisoft Shanghai game a powerful work, despite the technical constraints imposed by digital distribution.
A year after the Event, a worldwide catastrophe that has wiped out most of humanity, one man struggles for survival in a deserted city as he tries to find his long lost wife and daughter. In this post-apocalyptic world, there are no supernatural dangers, just an ordinary man faced with a state of constant instability in a decaying world, prey to the darkest human inclinations. Each player can choose between clinging onto his humanity, helping survivors, or sacrificing his friends to survive.
I Am Alive takes place in the ghost-city of Haventon. This metropolis in ruins is composed of several layers to explore - subway tunnels, fallen skyscrapers, and the vast gaping chasms of the streets.
Survivors in Haventon behave in different ways and adapt to the player’s actions. Some are helpers, some need help, others are terrified, but many are hostile and will use group strategies to hunt down the hero.
In this survival game, a confrontation that goes wrong can soon become deadly. As in real life, ammunition is rare. Players have to use bluff to face down enemies. Cowards will probably back down fast when threatened with an empty weapon, but tougher adversaries may prove more aggressive.
The slightest effort comes at a price. In I Am Alive, the player has to manage his endurance bar to access resources without exhausting his personal energy. Each time the player moves, runs or climbs, he uses up resources and contributes to the character’s exhaustion. The player has to seek out provisions scattered around the city: water, food, gas, tools, and medication while avoiding exhaustion and pursuing his quest.
The project started life in a French studio a long time ago, then changed hands. We realized the idea behind the game had generated a great deal of interest, so we decided to get a team together at Ubisoft’s Shanghai studio and offer fans something unique and special.
After long discussions, digital distribution seemed the best-adapted solution. We wanted to offer a really distinctive and radical experience, so we turned to digital distribution to enable us to follow this vision.
Digital platforms provide an umbrella for people eager to discover new concepts, while the “classic” market concentrates on big licenses and their sequels that gamers love so much.
The game system we created flies in the face of many modern games based on “classic” principles.
I Am Alive relies on stamina management, very limited ammunition, realistic damage, lives that don’t readily respawn and the simple fact that attacking enemies head-on is not always the right solution. We had to refine the early game levels to make sure that players understand the rules and how to play by them. The rules are fairly logical, just unusual in the world of action games.
Another big challenge was to manage the size of the game which is fairly heavy for a downloadable game. We knew that people were expecting an experience of a certain length and depth and we didn’t want to disappoint them. We produced a large amount of content then had to constrain it within 2Gb, which was a huge challenge.
We studied post-apocalyptic novels and movies tackling the end of civilization, the loss of knowledge and creature comforts, etc. All this makes for really gripping, tense game scenarios, which mean players have shocking choices to make, with heavy repercussions.
wWe drew inspiration from gaming history, especially from classic survival horror games and the tension they generate. It’s never easy to get players engaging with such a desolate world; and it’s tricky to set such a slow rhythm with a drip feed of encounters and resources. But in I Am Alive, as in all survival horror, we have moments of extreme tension that immerse you right inside the survivor’s mind; to this we added big surprises, through special AI behaviors and particular situations that arise at various points in the game.