Storm bird is a multiple-choice, text-based game about the mental stability of Steven Larsson.
Steven's lifestyle would be, by many, considered unhealthy. As the player, you get to observe his life on a day-to-day basis and make some of his decisions. Depending on how you play the game Steven's life will have different outcomes.
The story in short
The narrative follows Steven Larsson, a university student studying international economy.
He's in the middle of his third year, but university life hasn't been too kind to him. It all started off great but the party life became more and more addictive, soon to the point of a necessity to relax. With these parties, drugs entered Steven's life. At first, the drugs were just for fun but he realized that they helped with studying as well.
As the first two years of the university went by the parties and the drugs became part of his everyday life. The third year is where it really started to spiral out of control. His mental health got worse and worse. The pressure of exams weighed heavy on him and he needed larger doses for the drugs to have the same effect.
Steven's psyche reaches a very fragile state and this is where the game takes place. Steven has a week full of studying and home parties, which lands him in a drug-induced psychosis. The player's actions as Steven's mind is slowly deteriorating, will be the deciding factor whether he survives his psychosis or not.
The original idea
The initial idea for the story was to have it take place in a dream world where you befriend different characters.
These characters would later turn out to be the embodiment of the drugs the character was using. Focusing more on a spiritual journey in which the player would have to distance themselves from these characters.
Why it changed
The decision to go for a realistic story came after discussing what message we wanted to send with this game.
We wanted to tell a story that gave a fair representation of what substance abuse could look like. We wanted to keep a neutral position to show why substance abuse might seem appealing but also show the consequences some might suffer.
Why it was important
It was important for us to tell a story that didn't point fingers. We wanted the story to be more of a grayscale rather than just black and white.
The player is, in many cases, not the one choosing if Steven should take drugs or not. The player often makes decisions for Steven when he is or recently has been under the influence of drugs, dealing more with the aftermath.
Since we were working off of my base concept we decided that I was going to map out the narrative in broad strokes along with the story beats.
We blocked it out in Miro. I wrote what each scene would contain along with important choices. Another designer used my notes to elaborate and fill the story with more text and then the third designer took that text and implemented it into Twine.
After I was done with the blockout I then also elaborated on the notes to make a richer story.
Since we wanted the player to feel suspense, the pacing of the story is quite slow.
The intro and day 1 give the player an idea of the way Steven lives his day-to-day life.
Day 2 introduces tension and the feeling that something isn't quite right with Steven as he wakes up to a shadow figure passing his bedroom window.
On day 3 Steven has an encounter with the shadow figure. This releases some of the tension but further raises suspicion as the figure seemed to have been a hallucination.
Day 4 is the part of the narrative that slows down the most. After Steven wakes up, feeling extremely ill, he confronts all the important people in his life as they worry for him.
The idea here was that we got to show how much Steven was suffering and also show how hard it could be for him to open up to the ones around him.
Day 5 is quite short but effective. It introduces a new setting and tone when seeing the world from the perspective of Steven's psychosis, showing the full extent of his mental illness.
It ends one of two ways. Either abruptly, as Steven falls to his death, or gradually, as he wakes up hospitalized with his family and friend next to him.
If we had more time
Originally the story was going to take place over seven days. However, due to time constraints, we had to cut it down to five days.
If the time had been there we would have explored the shadow figure a bit more, showing a more gradual shift in Steven's mental health.
This project was one of my favorites during my time at Future Games.
What I took with me most from this project was the way we split the narrative tasks. How we managed to get a very cohesive story and writing style despite two of us writing at the same time with a short time for polish and reworks.