Afterlife (video game)
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Afterlife is a god game released by LucasArts in 1996 that places the player in the role of a semi-omnipotent being known as a Demiurge, with the job of creating a functional Heaven and Hell to reward or punish the citizens of the local planet. The player does not assign citizens to their various punishments and rewards, since the game does this automatically. Instead, the player creates the infrastructure (roads, zones for the various sins/virtues, reincarnation centers) that allows the afterlife to function properly. Players are accountable for the job that they do because their bosses, The Powers That Be, check in from time to time. The player also has the assistance of two advisors—Aria Goodhalo, an angel, and Jasper Wormsworth, a demon. Aria and Jasper provide warnings when things are going wrong with the afterlife, and offer tips on how to fix the problems.
The game is very satirical, with various references to pop culture (such as a passing mention of a "San Quentin Scarearantino" or sending a Death Star to destroy buildings if the player cheats too much).
Sins and Virtues
The primary goal of the game is to provide divine and infernal services for the inhabitants of the afterlife. This afterlife caters to one particular planet, known simply as the Planet. The creatures living on the Planet are called EMBOs, or Ethically Mature Biological Organisms. When an EMBO dies, its SOUL, or Stuff Of Unending Life, travels to the afterlife where it will attempt to find an appropriate "fate structure". Fate structures are places where SOULs are rewarded or punished, as appropriate, for the virtues or sins that they practiced while they were alive.
The seven sins and their corresponding virtues are based on the seven deadly sins, and are as follows.
Alternatively, players can choose to lay down generic zones for fate structures, that can house all SOULs of all types easily. However, these structures don't support as much population or are as effective as the single virtues/sins, and are considered more of a short term solution for lost SOULs whom can't find a reward/punishment, if they can't reach it (No road connection or in the other side of a river) or if the structures are full.
The paths that SOULs take through the afterlife depend largely on the tenets of the SOULs' belief systems. Depending on these tenets, a SOUL may visit a single fate structure or it may be rewarded/punished for multiple sins or virtues. Tenets also determine whether a SOUL will visit only Heaven, only Hell, or both, as well as whether that SOUL will reincarnate after it has received its final reward or punishment.
The different tenets are given abbreviations, which are defined below.
- NAAAists believe that there is No Afterlife At All. They have no effect in death beyond lowering the entrance rate.
- AAAAists believe that there is Absolutely Always An Afterlife; every incoming SOUL is an AAAAist.
- HAHAists believe that Heaven And Hell Await; that is, that they will go to both Heaven and Hell to be rewarded and punished.
- HOHOists believe that SOULs will go to Heaven Or Hell Only, and not both.
- OCRAists believe that Only Cloud Realms Await; these SOULs believe only in Heaven and not in Hell.
- OPRAists believe that Only Pit Realms Await—they do not believe in Heaven, only Hell. This is, understandably, the least popular tenet.
- SUMAists believe that SOULs Undergo Multiple Afterlives. These SOULs believe that, depending on where they are going, they will either be rewarded for all the virtues or punished for all the sins at some point (or possibly both, if they are also HAHAists).
- SUSAists believe that SOULs Undergo Singular Afterlives. These SOULs believe that they will be punished or rewarded for only a single sin or virtue.
- ALFists believe that the Afterlife Lasts Forever, and that SOULs are never reincarnated.
- RALFists believe that Reincarnation Always Loops Fate; that after SOULs have received their final reward or punishment, they will be sent back to the Planet to try again.
Each SOUL believes in some combination of these tenets, which determines how one will travel through the afterlife. For example, a HOHORALFSUSAist would go only to Heaven or Hell, would be punished or rewarded at one fate structure, and would then return to the Planet via reincarnation. A HAHAALFSUMAist, on the other hand, would travel to both Heaven and Hell, would be rewarded/punished for each sin and virtue at various fate structures, and would then permanently inhabit the fate structure that it visited last.
As mentioned above, the Planet is simply referred to as such and is populated by EMBOs. As Demiurge of the afterlife, the player's influence and interaction on the planet is minimal, but it is still wise to keep an eye on things. Viewing the Planet will allow viewing of the current distribution of sins and virtues, as well as the percentages of EMBOs who believe in each of the tenets. This information allows for estimation of what future SOUL traffic will be like.
If the player wishes, he or she may spend a considerable amount of money to influence an important EMBO on the planet. This influence can cause the EMBO to adopt one or more of the sins or virtues, as well as persuade him or her to believe in the tenet or tenets selected. This EMBO will then spread their newfound ideals, which will cause a shift in the beliefs and sins/virtues in the surrounding area.
Technology also plays an important role on the planet. At the start of the game, the EMBOs on the planet will be at the lowest level of technology, which is fire. As the game progresses, new technologies will be discovered, ranging from pottery to medicine to aviation, and eventually culminating in Advanced Golf. New technologies will help the EMBOs to become more widespread on the planet, which means a larger population for the afterlife when they die. The development of new technologies can be assisted by wielding influence on an EMBO artist or inventor in the same way that EMBOs are persuaded to new tenets or sins and virtues, as described above.
There are many different structures available in the game to assist the functioning of the afterlife.
- Fate Structures are the main component of the afterlife. They are available in eight varieties: one for each sin/virtue, and "generic" fate structures which can accommodate SOULs of any sin or virtue. Unlike other buildings, fate structures themselves are not built, players merely provide zoning for them. The structures are created on their own when SOULs begin to inhabit the zoned area. All fate structures begin as small single-tile buildings, but have the potential to evolve into larger structures. There are typically twelve different structures of each type, with the largest being a 3x3 tile building, but generic structures have more possibilities, the largest of which is a 4x4 building.
- Gates Are the means by which SOULs enter the afterlife. Gates come in different sizes; bigger gates allow more SOULs to pass through the gate each year.
- Karma Stations Are where SOULs go to be reincarnated. Karma Stations must be connected by Karma Track to one of several Karma Portals, permanent structures which dot the landscape at the outset of the game.
- Topias are built to house angelic and demonic workers, so that they don't have to commute from other afterlives. Topias are known as Utopias in Heaven and Distopias in Hell.
- Training Centers are used to train SOULs into angels and demons so that they may join the afterlife's workforce.
- Ports serve to ferry SOULs across rivers, and are the only means by which the rivers of Heaven and Hell can be traversed.
- Banks must be built in order to take out loans. Each bank has available a predetermined amount of money for lending. Loans are taken out for periods of 100 years. At the end of that time, the loan must be repaid. The payment terms are different in each realm. Heavenly banks charge a small yearly interest rate, and if the loan is not paid back in 100 years, the bank simply continues to charge interest until the loan is repaid. In Hell, no interest is charged, but the full sum of the loan must be repaid after 100 years, or the bank will start deducting money directly from the player's yearly salary.
- Ad Infinitum Siphons can be connected to rocks in order to "empower" buildings. Without power from a siphon, fate structures will only reach half of their capacity potential.
- Special Buildings are given by The Powers That Be upon reaching certain population milestones in Heaven or Hell. There are five Special Buildings available for each realm. Each building ties into one of the five senses, making Heaven an exquisite marvel or Hell a torturous pit for that particular sense.
- Limbo Structures are taverns which are capable of entertaining SOULs for years at a time. If a SOUL cannot find their appropriate reward or punishment (usually because all the structures of that type are full), then it will be considered a "lost SOUL", which will result in deductions from the player's next paycheck. Limbo Structures will keep SOULs busy while the player remedies whatever situation is causing SOULs to be lost.
- Omnibolges (as they are known in Hell) and Love Domes (as they are known in Heaven) are large buildings that are capable of housing vast numbers of SOULs with no maintenance whatsoever. Each Omnibolge or Love Dome is a complete, miniature Heaven or Hell unto itself, meaning that they are capable of performing all the functions of that realm, including reincarnation. These structures are available very late in the game—they can be accessed only when the population of Heaven or Hell has reached one billion SOULs. At this point, the game can be considered "ended" or "won" because these structures make any further care of the game unnecessary.
Most buildings in the afterlife produce Vibes, which are a measure of how buildings affect one another. Buildings can either produce "good vibes" or "bad vibes". In Heaven, good vibes are good and bad vibes are bad, which makes sense. Hell, however, is exactly the opposite—in Hell, "bad vibes" actually happen to be a good thing, and "good vibes" are a bad thing, since they shouldn't be in Hell. Vibes primarily affect the evolution of fate structures. Fate structures need to be under the appropriate type of vibe (good in Heaven, bad in Hell) in order to evolve into larger and more efficient structures.
Buildings that remind SOULs of their past lives on the Planet, such as Gates and Karma Stations, tend to make SOULs in Heaven depressed and SOULs in Hell more cheerful. These buildings, therefore, put out anti-evolutionary vibes. Buildings such as Utopias and Distopias, on the other hand, serve to reinforce the values of their respective realms and therefore produce pro-evolutionary vibes. The Special Buildings that are granted as rewards put out large amounts of pro-evolutionary vibes.
Fate structures vary greatly in the type and strength of vibes that they produce. Some structures produce good vibes and some produce bad vibes, and the type of vibes a building puts out could change when the building evolves. Also, it is possible that the largest and most efficient building of a particular type could produce anti-evolutionary vibes, meaning that it is sometimes better to use smaller, less efficient buildings to control the vibe situation.
Economy and Workforce
The currency used in the game is "Pennies From Heaven", or simply pennies. As Demiurge, the player receives a yearly paycheque from The Powers That Be. The amount received is based on a number of factors. You receive a certain number of pennies for each SOUL that passes through the gates of the afterlife in that year. The amount received per SOUL is known as the SOUL rate. The SOUL rate is calculated based on the average population of all the tiles in the afterlife. Therefore, having many small, spread-out buildings will yield a lower SOUL rate than having a few large ones. Your SOUL rate is also dependent on the current year that the game is in—Heaven and Hell are expected to show increases in average population over time, so more SOULs per tile will be needed to sustain a particular SOUL rate.
Your afterlife is staffed by angels (in Heaven) and demons (in Hell). At first, all workers are imported and must commute from other afterlives, which quickly becomes expensive. The costs can be lowered by building Topias to house workers in the player's afterlife, meaning that the commute is no longer necessary. Employment costs can be further reduced by building training centers, which train processed SOULs to become angels and demons. These homegrown workers are cheaper than imported ones, but attention must be paid to the acceptance rates of the training centers. If the centers are set to accept anyone who applies, then the workers produced will be of low quality and will not be as effective as imported workers. If the training centers are told to be very selective, however, then they will only take the best of the best and the resulting workers will be of higher quality than imported workers, though not as many will be produced.
Care must be taken when training angels and demons, because the training centers will continue to produce new workers at a steady rate unless specifically told otherwise. If the player winds up with more workers than are needed, then the excess angels and demons will have nothing to do. If they sit around being bored for long enough, then they will start launching raids on the opposite realm—that is, demons will begin demolishing buildings in Heaven, and angels will start destroying structures in Hell. This may lead to unemployment in the attacked realm, and return raids by those unemployed. If these raids get out of hand, the entire afterlife could be destroyed.
Balance, Micromanager and Macromanager
In order to increase SOUL currency, especially early in the game while training angels or demons to reduce imported and commuting rates, fate structures are expected to be both well balanced and efficient. This is measured in a number of factors, including the quality of workers, the number of fate structures present, their capacity to store and cope with permanent and temporary SOULs and the evolution level of these structures. The efficiency level of these structures (In an alphabet grade) can be reviewed in the maps of both Heaven and Hell.
Balance can be done in two ways. The first, the Micromanager, allows the player to browse a specific structure and adjust it's balance level for free, unless the player decides to lock the structure, in which a maintenance fee will be charged yearly. The balance level is measured in a grayscale bar, with the two extremes dedicating to research (Permanent SOULs) or production (Temporary SOULs). The more white the bar is, the better balanced is the fate structure in either Heaven or Hell. This is very useful early in the game, as it requires no cost but effort, but a larger afterlife makes this task almost painstaking.
The Macromanager, on the other hand, allows the player to balance manual or automatically all fate structures of a specific virtue/sin simultaneously, though this is a late-game tool. That's because fees are charged for balancing, particularly automatic, and adjusting manually a level for all fate structures may not be effective, as all fate structures vary between temporary and permanent SOUL populations. Also, trying to balance all of Heaven or all of Hell can be particularly expensive, so it's preferable to focus on one sin or virtue at a time, as well as the generic variants of fate structures.
Bad Things can happen in the afterlife, which are akin to natural disasters. Their occurrence is random, but each one can be repelled by one of the Special Buildings that are granted as rewards for reaching population milestones.
- Birds of Paradise: Birds fly over Heaven, depositing droppings that reduce the efficiency of structures for up to 75 years.
- Bats Out of Hell: Bats fly over Hell, depositing guano that reduces the efficiency of most of structures for up to 75 years. However, this is Hell, so the guano actually increases the efficiency of fate structures while it is present. After all, the only thing worse than being in Hell is being in Hell while covered in bat droppings.
- Heaven Gets the Blues: Rainclouds cover the Heavenly landscape, completely shutting down everything they encompass for up to 75 years.
- Hell Freezes Over: Sections of Hell undergo a deep freeze, and are completely incapacitated for up to 75 years. Demons tend to build snowmen during this time, which cannot be removed until the region thaws out.
- Paradise Pair O' Dice: A pair of dice tumbles across Heaven, destroying anything in its path.
- Disco Inferno: A giant demon begins dancing across Hell, demolishing anything in his path.
- Heaven Nose: A giant nose flies over Hell, sucking up random tiles and depositing their equivalents in Heaven.
- Hell in a Handbasket: A picnic basket flies over Heaven, picking up random tiles and depositing their equivalents in Hell.
Bad Things can be disabled via an in-game menu. However, doing so decreases the player's SOUL rate by half, which means that the amount of money received each year will be half as much as normal.
Losing the Game
Like most god games, Afterlife is open-ended and does not have set conditions for winning the game. There are, however, a few definite ways of losing the game.
Twilight of the Demiurges occurs when there are a lot of unemployed workers who begin to stage raids on the opposite realm. If the worker problem is not controlled, these renegades will eventually begin an all-out war between Heaven and Hell, at which point recovery is impossible and advisers inform the player that the game is over.
The Four Surfers of the Apocalypso will make an appearance if the player stays too deep in debt for too long. If the player does not turn a profit for several decades and takes out some loans without repaying them, then The Powers That Be summon the surfers to destroy the afterlife in a wave of fire and destruction.
Nuclear Apocalypse can occur on the Planet, wiping out the whole population and essentially ending the game. This will only happen once the Planet has achieved a certain level of technology, and requires a particularly wrathful civilization. Therefore, as technology nears the point of nuclear weapons, it is wise to use influence to promote the virtue of peace on the Planet.
Extinction is a rare occurrence, but can be more easily attained through use of money cheats. If a player raises the tech level of the Planet to its maximum at the beginning of the game, EMBO expansion will not occur. Once an asteroid event wipes out the existing population the player is shown an empty street, SOULs stop coming to the afterlife, and the game is over.