When Augustus Caesar agreed to speak to me, I knew the interview was going to be tense. I wanted to get to the root of his reputation, the outlandish promises of friendship that so often aren’t kept, and the wanton acts of warfare which frequently follow shortly thereafter. I especially wanted to do this now that he’d attacked me personally, forcing me to abandon my hopes of a science victory and waste my economy on building defensive units instead.
We spoke via the diplomacy panel, Caesar speaking from his palatial Rome office. Sounding stressed, but composed, he asked whether I had questions or should I just let him talk. I told him I had many questions and so we began.
Earlier this month, Disney announced plans to release ‘at least three’ Star Wars spin-off films to accompany the franchise’s long-awaited sequels, the first of which is due to arrive next year. Fans received the news with trepidation; after the disastrous prequel films, a string of sidequels will surely only dilute the battle-scarred brand further.
Or will they? Having enlisted a small army of underlings in a bit of undercover work, I can exclusively reveal some of the movie ideas which are already being mooted by Disney.
She stood rigid as a statue as she held the motion scanner before her. Its lurid green visage glitched as it struggled on its near-dead battery.
Rook impatiently sucked on one of the cigarettes he’d smuggled past security. “Care to explain what you’re doing, Ripley?”
Akinlaja rolled her eyes. “Didn’t they teach you anything at that academy? She’s scanning.” She snatched the cigarette from Rook’s mouth and took a drag.
Wichelo fiddled with his headset mic. “Yeah, but for what?” He almost regretted asking.
“Just shut up and let her do her job, OK?”
Abruptly Ripley shouted back to her colleagues. “You know damn well what I’m scanning for, Rook. I’ve seen your profile, I know you worked in communications.”
Rook bristled. “Goddammit, Ripley, those files were confidential.”
“Not anymore!” Akinlaja always enjoyed it when Rook was on the back foot. This might turn out to be a fun trip after all.
Rook regained his composure. “Well, it’s of no use to you anyway. They stopped doing…. that years ago.
Wichelo stopped fidgeting. “Wait, stopped doing what?”
The room feel silent. Wichelo tried again. “Stopped doing what? Why are we here? What’s she scanning for?”
Akinlaja sighed. “Well, you may as well tell him, Rook. It’s your area of expertise, after all”.
Another silence. Rook reached into his pocket for another cigarette. As he was about to light it, Wichelo grabbed him by the wrist and looked him in the eyes. “Rook, tell me what she’s scanning for.”
Rook laughed. “Alright, kid, you want to know what she’s scanning for? You got it.”
As if on cue, the scanner elicited a beep. Ripley closed her eyes and said “Jesus” under her breath.
Rook finished lighting his cigarette. “She’s scanning for PR bullshit.”
“FUCK!” Wichelo threw his arms up and began pacing up and down between the crates. “FUCKFUCKFUCK!”
“Get it together, Wichelo” cried Rook. That’s an order!”
“Nah, I’ve heard it before, man. At first everything checks out. The developer you interview is friendly and outgoing, and they can quote the first two movies in their entirety from memory. They talk passionately about how they want to get back to the roots of the franchise. You end up going out for drinks and and doing cowboy shots until four in the morning. You sing karaoke then start drawing on each other with magic markers. You wake up the next day to find that you’ve drawn penises on each other’s faces.”
Akinlaja blew smoke rings into the air. “I suppose that’s better,” she mused, “than having drawn each other’s faces on your penises.”
“Fuck you, Akinlaja” retorted a scowling Wichelo.
The motion scanner beeped again, more than once this time.
“But it doesn’t stay that way” Wichelo continued. “They might start with a live-action trailer. Then they show some in-game footage that looks suspiciously scripted and action-oriented. But you handwave it all away. ‘They’re just macho-ing it up for the trailers’, you say to yourself. ‘The real game will be different’. But it just gets worse. You start hearing quotes from the studio saying that they’re recontextualizing the characters for the modern paradigm, and some bullshit about upgrading Ray Charles to Kanye West.”
The motion scanner continued to beep, by now a constant dirge beneath Wichelo’s rattled voice. “When you finally see the footage of later builds with the terribly scripted dialogue, you swear off of it, you tell yourself that you won’t pay any more attention to it. But you do. Because they already have you, y’see? They had you from the start.”
Suddenly the scanner fell quiet. Ripley remained frozen, soaked in sweat, not daring to look away from the screen. The other three acknowledged each other in turn.
“Maybe it was a false alarm” said Rook. “Those things can get a little haywire when the battery goes low.”
Akinlaja nodded. “Could have been interference, too,” she added. “From that Peter Molyneux presentation downstairs.”
They waited. The scanner remained silent. Ten seconds. Thirty seconds. A minute. Still no movement.
Wichelo smiled, pulled off his headset and clutched it against his chest. “Thank Christ for that”, he said.
The scanner sprang back to life, this time the beeps so close together it was impossible to distinguish one from the other.
“Keep it together, Wichelo!” Rook darted to the front of the room. “Ripley! How much bullshit are you reading?”
“We’re already past Spore levels” Ripley replied. “And we’re rapidly approaching Duke Nukem Forever.”
Wichelo whimpered, now squeezing his headset like a stress toy. Even Akinlaja was worried now, absent-mindedly scratching her chin as she stared into the middle distance. Ripley and Rook continued to study the motion scanner which was now covered in tiny green blips, all converging on their location.
“We’re not going to make it, are we?” deadpanned Akinlaja. “This will be like Thief 4 all over again.”
Ripley shouted over the piercing shriek of the scanner. “Our only hope is to study their approach and –“. Mid-sentence, the scanner let out an awful blurp and died.
“Fuck, the battery!” cried Rook. “Do we have a replacement?”
Wichelo almost wept in the silence. “It takes AAAs, man.” he said. “No one has those.”
Akinlaja joined Rook and Ripley at the front of the room. “Did you see enough of their approach before….” She didn’t need to finish the question. The look on Ripley’s face gave her her answer.
“We didn’t see anything we can use. All we saw is one final reading on how strong their bullshit is.”
“And how strong is it?”
Ripley grimaced. “It’s at the top of the scale. Even beyond Rise Of The Robots.”
Akinlaja collapsed to her knees. Rook made a Sign of the Cross. Water ran down Wichelo’s leg. They all slowly backed into the corner of the room, closed their eyes and waited for the inevitable.
“Oh well” Akinlaja sighed. “This is still a hundred times better than Colonial Marines.”
Alien: Isolation has been announced for Windows and the major consoles and is due at the end of 2014. It is still too early to tell if Ripley’s readings are accurate.