The Only Cure- Art Direction Game Design Project
The Only Cure
The game is a post-apocalyptic one player adventure game. 

The game begins inside the sanctuary, which is the CBD of Johannesburg surrounded by a high wall and a dome above the wall that filters the air breathed. The virus manifests as a high fever but the symptoms progress within two weeks until the patients body gives up and dies. The rest of the world has abandoned South Africa and isolated them- leaving the country to fend for itself. The sanctuary is a disease free zone and the only safe place left in the country. The game follows a young girl named Francesca (Frankie) who is cast out of the sanctuary and is left to fend for herself after being denied reentry into the sanctuary because she supposedly caught the disease when she was on the outside. She then learns about the market and goes on a quest to find tattoo artists who are looking for the cure to the disease that has infected Frankie's body. They believe they have found a cure (They tattoo it into her skin) and once they cure Frankie she learns to tattoo so she can help save people and help the country and her family and helps the tattoo artists to develop a vaccine. She desperately wants to see her family again once she is cast out of the sanctuary and will do anything to achieve this. 

Side quests include: 
Smuggling items into the Sanctuary such as food, selling goods at the market, mastering different tattoo styles, gathering better tattoo equipment, advertising and more. 
Objectives
The player must earn experience points (XP) to advance through the game levels, these are earned mainly through completion of main quest tasks but can also be increased during side quests that can be done in the market. The main aim of the game is to survive and to find a cure. 

"People get sick. 
People get sick and then they die. 
It’s manageable - in small doses. 
What happened to our country was the biggest overdose the world had ever seen. We’d dealt with our fair share of shit in the past. We got out of the Apartheid regime and were finally getting somewhere, we were a phoenix rising from the ashes. We were damn good at dealing with shit but this time wasn’t what we were used to. We weren’t prepared. The world wasn’t prepared. 
For once we couldn’t blame the government, we couldn’t blame anyone. 
We were truly fucked. "

The Main Character

The main lead is a girl named Francesca who had just graduated high school and begun a tattoo apprenticeship when the outbreak occurs. Her family were one of the few lucky enough to be allowed into the sanctuary when the outbreak began. The player becomes one with the character and becomes invested in her story which she tells throughout the game in a diary. Each achievement unlocks new parts of her story. Her main goal in her life was to become a tattoo artist, however the virus stopped this plan. 
 
"Let’s flash back to a year ago, we were all fine, healthy and alive. Sure there was crime and disease but we were dealing with it in our own way. 

"It scares me to think that a year ago everything was good, normal enough at least. There wasn’t an apocalypse at least. I was fresh out of high school, apprenticing in a tattoo parlour. I hadn’t even put needle to skin before it all went to shit. The last days of my normal life were spent mopping floors and cleaning grips yet I wish for those days every time the sun rises. Even though I was a glorified cleaner, I was surrounded by what I loved and I had hope that I would eventually become as good as the tattoo artists I admired. Now I have no hope at all. 
All needles and anything needle related has been eradicated to minimise risk of infection, there are no exceptions in this regard, not even for the sake of art. The only tattoos I see now are those on others who wear them proudly inside the sanctuary, those lucky enough to be a canvas before the apocalypse.

She doesn't like it inside the Sanctuary where she lives, she feels confined both physically and creatively.
"I remember a time when the white noise that helped me sleep at night were driving cars and the sound of aeroplanes, now I barely sleep. There is no white noise, only silence interrupted by screams and machine guns firing.
"More than anything, I miss the sound of tattoo machines. I used to spend hours sitting in the parlour I was apprenticing in and listened to the machines. The noise soothed me, calmed me down.

In summary her view of the sanctuary is 
"There’s no sickness in the sanctuary but there’s no creativity either.


The Setting
The game is set in Johannesburg (see Game map below)

"Now, no one is healthy and the dead outnumber the living. The rest of the world has cut us off due to fear of infection and isolated us to diffuse panic. The land that we’d come to love became our prison, the areas were we used to find sanctuary were slowly being obliterated at an attempt to slow down the disease that was spreading like… I was going to say that it spread like a cancer but cancer has got nothing on this disease. We don’t know how its transmitted, we just know that once its in you, you die. Our home was contaminated. The only places that are still living, or rather, surviving are those apocalypse nuts who ‘knew this would happen’, small communities that are either immune or know how it spreads and the sanctuary- that’s where I am spending the rest of my days."
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Game map
The red circle shows where the sanctuary was built when the outbreak first began. On the outskirts of the circle lie the suburbs in which some people remain and survive. The area just North of Parktown is Parkhurst where the market has formed. This market allows the player to go on side quests, earn money, trade goods and learn valuable skills that can increase experience level of the player. 
The Sanctuary

"Some rich capitalists saw the people getting sick and built a sanctuary where only a select few were allowed in and anyone willing to pay the price. We now hide behind a wall where the unaffected remain safe."

Due to the lack of research available it is uncertain how the disease transmits, therefore the sanctuary remains as sterile as possible. They even regulate the clothing worn, allowing only white clothing. 

"The rest of the world has shut us off and they’re waiting for us to die. They still airlift us supplies but that’s been slowly decreasing. It used to be once a week and now its every two weeks, sometimes we wait as long as three. Soon it’ll be once a month, or at least that’s the prediction. We’re slowly being written off by other counties who previously came to our aid. We’re running low on supplies, rations have become smaller and they’ve been asking for volunteers, people who will go look for supplies or try to communicate with the rest of the world but nobody wants to risk being unable to come back. While life inside the walls is shit, life outside is way worse."

I think they dress us this way so that we lose our individuality, so its easier to ration food, limit supplies and send us out there, send us to die.

The game revolves around the change that occurs in the sanctuary. The main character gets drafted and has to go outside.  

"So now things are changing, they’re beginning to send out letters, drafts… choosing some of us to go outside the walls to get supplies. Although it seems more like they’re chopping the weakest of us to thin the population and give the strongest of us a fighting chance or just to increase our own lifespan until by some miracle aid will come and we’ll all be saved. But we’re on our own, at the mercy of those in control. "

The Outside

Those outside the wall, the ones who aren't educated wear gas masks or at the very least balaclavas around their airwaves. 
The people outside don’t know how its transferred, they don’t have the wall or the bubble that we live in. So everyone outside wear balaclavas over their mouths. Its become a defining factor. It protects from the air and the germs, or at least its been doing that right now. People still get sick but they are surviving, but they’re not just surviving, they are living. They’re making art and they’re fighting for their lives.” 

The Market

The people outside barter, trade, exchange skills and do anything they can to stay alive. 

Her opinion on the outside: 
"Its dirty, its grungy but its real"
The Cure

"Supposedly there are still people working on a cure, trying to figure out how its transmitted, how it all works but those people aren’t within our walls and probably would not share the cure with us even if they did find it. Plus they’ve been outside too long, the residents of the sanctuary would never let them in, never accept a cure without undeniable proof, and there is no such thing as undeniable proof as far are they are concerned. 
So we’re on our own, at the mercy of those in control." 

"There are rumours of an alliance of tattooers who are looking for a cure, they were doctors, scientists and researchers who thought that DNA tattooing was the solution to the disease and the spread of it. I used to believe that my mother was one of them but when people get kicked out of the sanctuary, they die.Supposedly these people have got their own fortresses and their own methods of survival but the city will not acknowledge them. On the rare occasion however they do notice them but then they annihilate them.

The rumours are in fact true and those who are not sick are those with tattoos. They now administer tattoos as a cure if one lives outside. Frankie has one tattoo, a single flower when she goes into the outside but by the end of the game she is covered in flowers and she has mastered the art of tattooing. 

When she is inside the sanctuary her opinion of the cure is as follows.
"However I’m mostly certain its all bullshit. I prefer to believe that nobody is working on a cure, because nobody cares.

The Other Characters

The tattooists working on a cure. 
Fiona - Medical doctor turned tattooist
Jai- Tattoo Artist turned scientific researcher
Nia- Geneticist turned tattooist


The Only Cure- Art Direction Game Design Project
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The Only Cure- Art Direction Game Design Project

Game Design Art Direction Project about Post-Apocalyptic Johannesburg
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Published:

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