1991, Raccoon City - A City Controlled By Umbrella
It is five years before the outbreak in the Arklay Mountains, and the events of Resident Evil.
Raccoon City is a city unlike any other in America - a city entirely controlled by a corporation. From the stores in the shopping district, to the police department, to the Office of the Mayor itself, every citizen of Raccoon City is an employee of the pharmaceutical giant Umbrella. As a city originally founded by the corporation in the 1960s it has thrived under corporate control; the perfect blend of small-town American values and bustling growth spurned on by big business. It has both the envy and revile of the rest of the country. Free market libertarians point to it as the ultimate expression of the American Dream; social liberals and conservatives alike recoil from the level of control Umbrella enjoys over every aspect of its citizens' existence. Every aspect of its citizens' lives is carefully priced, packaged and sold to go; every child born into Raccoon City is a potential investment, a profit-generating commodity. Even religion falls under the purview of Umbrella, which fosters worship of a nameless Goddess in its little fiefdom in place of traditional religion.
Raccoon's citizens are content. Life is good, crime is low, and the same concerns that furrow the brows of ordinary Americans seem not to find their way into the little bubble the city enjoys. Raccoon City, since its inception, has been an all-round success story for those who feel blessed enough to reside there.
But behind the veneer of clean and efficient privatised living, the cogs in the Umbrella machine turn ever onward.
Four years ago Mayor Thomas Haley resigned amidst a furor surrounding plans to invest a new paramilitary wing of the Raccoon City Police Department, the Special Tactics and Rescue Service, or, STARS. Although the measure was favoured by the majority of Raccoon citizens, it quickly became apparent that the Umbrella shot-callers were deeply against such a measure, and quietly conspired to force the mayor's resignation. Mayor Haley was duly replaced by incumbent Michael Warren who immediately appeared to have quashed the formation of such a unit, in spite of overwhelming public opposition. The scandal has been the first affair to throw light on just how much power Umbrella wields over the city, and has journalists and political activists snuffling for cracks in the marble facade of the Umbrella Corporation.
This year, that debate was kicked wide open.
In February, a disgruntled employee at the city planner's office leaked a hitherto covered-up report pointing to severe irregularities in the city's power grid surrounding the mostly unpopulated Arklay Mountains region of the municipality. Unpopulated, of course, save for the residence of the historic Spencer Family - the family who founded Umbrella. The report highlighted the fact that the lands surrounding the residence drew far more power from the grid than would have been conventionally expected, even for a mansion of its considerable size. The report, filed in 1988, had never seen the light of day, and no explanation was offered either by Umbrella or the Spencer Family as to why the residence required so much energy from the city grid.
The revelation spurned a series of investigations by journalists and up-and-coming politicians alike until, in April, a young journalist at the Raccoon City Times secured a Freedom of Information Request at the State level to fully disclose the purposes of the Spencer Family mansion. It was then revealed that Umbrella had applied for and had been granted permission by the State to operate a biological research laboratory on the grounds of the manor, which the company had cited as the core rationale for its investment in Raccoon City. Though several calls were made for full disclosure of the research being conducted at the labs, Mayor Warren successfully quashed such demands and resurrected talk of investment of the STARS team, this time with full funding and political backing from the Umbrella Corporation. His ruse worked, and approval ratings were restored with the promise of the new RCPD division taking the public's mind off the Umbrella lab.
That was then, and this is now. Marie Spencer, the favourite child of the Raccoon gossip columns, is dead. The 19-year-old high society starlet was reported dead by her own family, ostensibly having died suddenly in her sleep some time in June. No official coroner's report was released, though one aide of the family's - who has since disappeared - spoke in a frantic phonecall to his wife about "evidence of cannibalism." Though ultimately ignored by the mainstream press, tabloid rags have nonetheless run with the story, and it's fast becoming a popular topic for conspiracy theorists and gossips alike. The eerie fate of Marie Spencer is one that not even the Mayor, for all his loyalty to his corporate backers, can simply let slide on good faith. His office is leaning on the RCPD to turn up an official, and satisfactory, explanation to the mystery, one that will let the voters rest easy, and preferably one that does not step on the toes of his donor base.
Not everybody is satisfied with the Mayor's way of doing things. A firebrand new editor at the Raccoon Gazette smells a scoop, and is willing to listen to writers who claim there is a connection between Marie's tragic death and the government's admission of the existence of a laboratory on the site of her family's residence in the mountains. Finding an honest journalist in Raccoon City is hard enough; half are on the take from Umbrella, the other half write alien abduction scoops and Big Foot sightings for the tabloids.
And not everybody is concerned with such lofty notions as the search for truth and justice. For a whole new crop of Umbrella employees, straight out of business school with visions of Jordan Belfort-esque debauchery in their eyes, Umbrella is a meal-ticket that no amount of tabloid gossip will dissuade them from pursuing. Some will find positions in the financial district, managing Umbrella's investment portfolios both in Raccoon City and abroad. Others will take less kosher positions in the Mayor's office, the printing press or the RCPD itself, to maintain corporate regulation over the political and social climate of Raccoon City. The lucky few will get the big show - Spencer Mansion, and whatever such a posting may entail. For these young men and women, "The Mansion" is nothing less than the fast-track to the inner sanctum of the Umbrella machine. Whatever secrets may lie up in the Arklay Mountains, they won't stay hidden for long from an employee with the drive and ambition to pursue them.
In Raccoon City, there are a lot of eyes on Umbrella right now. And yet the corporation remains resolutely uninteresting; hosting a charity event one week, announcing a new line of anti-aging products the next. Conspiracy theories will abound in any environment - cops and journalists need to cash a paycheck, same as any corporate suit. Chances are there is nothing more to the stories and half-whispered rumours than just that; urban legends and ghost stories for a new breed of American city.
And the business cycle will go on. The tabloid cries of foul play in Spencer Mansion will be folded over to the business section, and the quarterly earnings reports. The missing persons reports on corporate whistleblowers that make their way to the Mayor's desk will be lost in the shuffle beneath a pile of faxes detailing new investment projects co-sponsored by Umbrella to extend the city's tram network. And the journalists themselves - at the end of the day - can only print the news. Conjecture and rumour doesn't sell copy.
Life in Raccoon City will go on, as it ever has. This is a city controlled by Umbrella; and Umbrella is in the business of life itself.
I shall update with further details as to actual gameplay and a more coherent plot structure as I continue to work on this idea. It will be a system game (as for which system, that remains to be determined) with a small group of 3-4 players maximum; the precise role of those players is as yet undecided - they may take the form of RCPD detectives, investigative journalists or Umbrella employees or, indeed, a combination of all three (or another job entirely, if another idea comes to me). The gameplay will primarily take place in both Raccoon City and the Spencer Mansion from the original Resident Evil videogame.Anybody potentially interested in this game, when I find the time to get it going, send me a quick PM and I'll note down your name. As I update with more details as to the gameplay, the plot and so forth, you can also PM me with suggestions for characters or tweaks. I'll take note of your name and any additional information you may have about your character and other details. Thanks for reading!