Fake Game Friday: The City That Never Sleeps

Feel free to suggest other awesome ideas for future Fake Games Friday stories and maybe your idea will get picked for one of the next Fridays to come, with a fake game cover and full game review made for your sweet idea, too. Try thinking up awesome games you would like to see be made, or think up crazy combinations of games that would be hilarious to see. So start brainstorming and get creative!

This week’s article is based off what has essentially been my dream game since sixth grade.Hell yes.To anyone who is a fan of noir, or detective novels in general, this image should feel pretty familiar. Now, I say “feel,” because whether or not you’re aware that this is a screenshot taken from the 1955 film noir The Big Combo, it just seems familiar. It’s dark. It’s mysterious. It’s larger than life. It’s film noir.And I want to make a game out of it.The game is called The City That Never Sleeps. It puts you in the (gum)shoes of a detective that you customize: everything from his clothes, his physical features, and the sound of his voice, to the name on the door of his detective agency. The game puts you into the role of a private detective working in the (slightly exaggerated) film noir world of New York in the 1930s.VisualsThe game can be played from a first or third person viewpoint. The third person camera has two options: a Max Payne-esque option has the camera permanently attached behind the character, while the second option, the Noir-cam, works much like a survival horror game: as the player moves through the environment, the camera chooses the most interesting and noirish angle to shoot the action from. Granted, it’s tougher to play the game with the camera constantly shifting, but what it lacks in grace it makes up for in pure aesthetic awesomeness.The game is also purely in black and white. Every environment, every character, and even every menu screen is rendered in glorious monochrome. The default style of the graphic scheme will be more akin to a regular movie from the 1940’s than something as stark and minimalist as, say, Sin City, but the mod tools (mentioned later) would allow for different takes on the visuals. Concept art by Sheir.The HUD (pictured above, as conceptualized by Sheir) will be extremely minimalist, consisting only of a minimap, and a list of clues you can open up by hitting tab. You won’t need to have a health display, or a readout for how many bullets you have left: for most of the game, your gun will be holstered, and if you ever get into a situation where harm is going to come to you, then you probably screwed up to get yourself there–you get shot once in the right place, and you’re done for. The point of the game is to use your brains, not your brawn. That being said, if you get into a hand to hand fight, you’ll be able to tell how much health you have left by how close your character is to blacking out. As you take more and more damage, the screen will begin to get dark around the edges. If you keep getting hit, the darkness will fill more of the screen, and eventually the entire monitor will go black and you will have been knocked out or killed. If you get shot, the screen will flash red for a moment–I know I said there’d be no color, but the use of red adds a greater impact and surprise when you get shot. Depending on where you get shot, you will either begin to bleed, have a crippled limb, or you’ll die right on the spot. A visit to a hospital will clear this up.SoundUnlike most games, music would play a big part in The City That Never Sleeps. Like most good film noirs, the soundtrack will consist mostly of lonely-sounding saxophones and pianos, occasionally joined by a strings section for added oomph. The music will obviously be context sensitive, but it will almost always be present: it’ll only disappear when it’s beneficial to the mood, not just when the developers don’t feel like writing a score for a particular scene.Similarly, the sound effects in the game would be extremely high quality. From the sound of boots slapping wet concrete to the blast of gunshots, every sound effect sounds crisp and individual. The sound of a gun going off, for example, can actually be heard across several ingame city blocks.Rain: making badasses even more badass since the creation of the planet.The WeatherMost of The City That Never Sleeps takes place at night, but occasionally you’ll be out in the daytime, to talk to people or to find new cases to solve. During times of great emotion, the weather may reflect the mood of your case: if you’re being hunted by a killer, a full moon may appear, casting a ghostly glow to the night. If you’re tracking someone, the night will be darker and even more quiet. During moments of great romantic emotion (let’s say, a femme fatale is professing her undying love to you), or dramatic awakening (your best friend betrays you) it may even begin to rain.The WorldThe game world of The City That Never Sleeps will be based around the titular metropolis of New York City, circa 1930. Much like The Godfather game did, the entire game world will be rendered, as accurately as possible, to mirror NYC during that period of time. However, unlike The Godfather game, the world will be just slightly exaggerated: shadows will be bigger and darker, alleyways larger, dirtier, and more common, and everything will just feel more like a somewhat overblown film noir. While it won’t end up being the most realistic game world ever made, the feeling of actually being inside a world that previously existed only in novels, comics, or movies will more than make up for it.Also, you can walk, drive, bicycle (although, what kind of badass rides a bicycle), hail a taxi, or take the subway to commute around the massive city.Gameplay“Nonlinear” is the key word. You, the player, will have your own detective agency, with an office somewhere in the city. Sometimes cases will come to you, and sometimes you’ll have to go out and find them. Occasionally, clients will drop by your office and hire you for a particular case. Sometimes, you’ll meet people that coincidentally need help figuring something out. Even other times, you’ll see a high profile crime in the newspaper, and you can choose to try and solve it before the city’s police do—the methods with which you can find cases are as diverse as the cases themselves. Throughout the course of the game, you’ll take pictures of husbands committing infidelity, you’ll find missing persons, and, of course, you’ll solve murders and catch the perpetrators. However, how you wanna go about this is up to you.Imagine that you have to squeeze information out of a woman. She’s beautiful, intelligent, and possibly deadly—a typical femme fatale. Do you say the right things to her and trick her into giving you the information you want? Do you slap her around to beat it out of her? Or do you simply wait outside her house and follow her until something turns up?I was gonna put a quote from The Maltese Falcon here, but I can't really think of one.What’s important to note is that you aren’t told any of this. These are just possibilities that exist in the game world. You won’t have an objective that says “follow the girl”, or “interrogate the bartender.” You’ll just have to figure it out for yourself…like a detective would. Your character has a notepad where clues and statements are recorded, but as far as connecting the dots between what a character says, what clues you have, and what the ultimate truth is, that’s all up to the player. When you play detective in The City That Never Sleeps, you’re really playing detective. If you screw up, the culprit could get away, the evidence could be lost, or you could get whacked; it’s all up to how well you pay attention to the clues you’re given.And you’ll have a hell of a lot to pay attention to, with the game’s detailed AI system. The conversation system will basically be a dialogue tree that works like many other games: Oblivion, KOTOR, Jade Empire, and so on. What will be important is that small clues will be held within what they say—certain statements will contradict others, they’ll reveal facts that they wouldn’t know if they weren’t involved, and so on. Robert Mitchum is number 4 on the list of my all-time heroes, by the way.Additionally, each character will have a REAL schedule they adhere to. When other games say their characters have schedules, that typically means that they sit around, move, then sit around, move, then sleep, and if they’re involved in a quest or event in the storyline, they never actually have to move to where that quest or event is—they’re just there once you show up. Not so in TCTNS. Since the city will essentially be one big area with no loading times, you can, without interruption, follow a person wherever they go and find out whatever you need to know about them, simply by tracking their movements and paying attention to who they meet. You can take pictures of locations with your ingame camera, or take pictures of your target committing illegal acts (after which you can either take them to the police in order to have the target arrested, or you can even use them to blackmail the target). Modding ToolsThe modding tools will be released with the game, and the game will have an official website where any modders of the game can upload their stuff. Mods will take the form of additional cases, graphical overhauls, (like the aforementioned Sin City mod), and gameplay tweaks. The world of 1930’s New York will have literally infinite possibilities.Internet StuffThe game will come packaged with two neat tools that will allow you to share your experiences online: the ingame camera, and the gameplay recorder. The camera takes—surprise—snapshots of things in the game, sort of like Dead Rising. Unlike Dead Rising, however, you can actually save and share these photographs for later use. The other tool, the gameplay recorder, is even more interesting: at any time, you can turn it on and record as much gameplay footage as your hard drive can carry. After you’re finished playing, you can take the gameplay video and either export it to a professional editing program like Final Cut Pro, or put it into the game’s included video editor. The packaged editor is pretty streamlined (for the most part, you’ll just be cutting things and adding music, no really fancy stuff) but the coolest thing the editor allows you to do is easily add voiceover narration to the gameplay footage you captured. When you combine the noir-cam with the gameplay recorder and your own narration, you can literally make your own film noir movies using nothing more than the tools the game was packaged with. Then you can share them, of course.This could be you.Episodic ContentWith a city this big, there are literally hundreds of cases to solve and things to do. With the ability to eat, sleep, travel anywhere, and do anything, the game will feel more like an MMORPG than a simple nonlinear detective story. It is for this reason that a “main storyline” will not be present—not initially, anyway. The game itself will sell for around 80 to 100 dollars, which sounds incredibly steep until you consider that this one purchase guarantees you literally years of episodic content, released every two months. The one initial payment gets you the game, which includes more than a hundred cases, just on its own. As time goes by, more and more cases will be released online, adding more characters and more crimes to solve. There will be not only optional cases, but larger cases that, when the entire game is done (after two years or so), will add up to one huge storyline that you were involved in from the beginning. Once the entire game is done, all the cases are solved, and the main storyline has played out to its end, you will have felt that you really know what it’s like to be a film noir detective. And, hopefully, you’ll have enjoyed every minute of it.

Anthony Burch