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In I Am Alive, there are twenty “victims” scattered throughout the city, poor souls who need your help and precious supplies. They only give a retry in return, but they fill in some interesting backstory, and hey, who doesn’t like achievements? There is one victim, though who is a bit more out of the way than the rest (this coming from someone who did not find all of them). This victim, an old man, doesn’t call out for help like the rest. He can only be seen across a chasm at first, his hunched figure silhouetted through the fog by his campfire. His movements recall Gollum, and his eerie silence evokes hostility more than anything. Nevertheless, I decided to investigate.
Unable to find a way to him my first time through the streets, I eventually found the series of gutters and ledges leading to his broken section of street after nightfall. In the lower light, I wasn’t sure I was in the right place; the man was nowhere to be found. After quickly searching the ledge for supplies, I cautiously entered the connected building (a garage?). Here, I found the fire that had lit the man before, and at the back, a curtain with another silhouette. The man warned me away, and I prepared myself for an ambush as I drew closer. But none came, and he, realizing I was no marauder, offered a plea for supplies, just a hunk of mystery meat (I sure as hell wasn’t going to eat it). I had helped others like him before, any who asked, so I obliged.
And then he asked for more. Huh. That never happened before. Still, some meat, an inhaler, they were nothing compared to the bottle of wine I found for one woman. I gave him the inhaler.
Still, he wanted more! Who did he think he was? I scraped every surface in the city for this stuff! His requests were becoming increasingly trivial. A can of food? I had at least four of those! Besides, three is the magic number…
More! Fruit cocktail? Buddy, have you done any searching for yourself? There’s one of those on, like, every bus stop! Fine. Take it.
Christ, you geezer! A soda. You need something to wash down that nasty-ass meat with? God, just give me my retry so I can get back to rescuing people with real problems!
Finally, without any fanfare, it was over. I got the retry and…something else? That’s definitely never happened before. A shotgun? I didn’t even know there was a shotgun in this game! Five bullets? That’s more than I’ve ever had for even my pistol!
That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you make satisfying side content: Make it seem dangerous to pursue, engage the player on an emotional and mechanical level (even if it means pissing them off), and then make it pay off with a unique, awesome item. I Am Alive, you’re something else.