Working On: ‘Three Sisters’

‘Three Sisters’ is the second of the two games I’m working on currently (it’s hefty original title, ‘Three Sisters in Search of a Mother’, gives away a lot more of what the game’s about). In this game, the player plays as one of three sisters returning to and exploring their childhood home, allegedly in search of their lost mother. It’s what I’d refer to as a narrative heavy experience, placing emphasis on UI narration and text appearing in the game’s world as the player navigates the home. One of its primary interests is in perception, both from a theoretical perspective and from a more practical, gameplay-oriented one. The home isn’t how they remember it, nor can they accurately recall what it was like — as such the house is a cobbled-together amalgam of their recollections and idealisations. They, and in turn the player, must discover the reasons why their mother left them and their father, in turn uncovering some of the realities of their beloved home (realities they were hardly attuned to as children; most notably their mother’s misery in an abusive relationship).

From a gameplay perspective, the player inadvertently passes through, notices, and later actively makes use of portals to alternate versions of the rooms in their home (making use of render planes, duplicate cameras mirroring the player camera’s position and rotation, and trigger planes). The gameplay is largely one of exploration, searching, and light puzzle-solving where appropriate. Each sister accesses a different wing of the family home before their investigations come to an end (and their route is sealed off), with each iteration of the family home becoming more and more dilapidated. Inevitably, the player never quite finds or reaches the mother — she’s never available to provide answers with any certainty. I want her to ‘haunt’ the game but never exactly appear in it. Her voice has been silenced over years of neglect, and now she’s finally gone her children are left scrambling for her words and answers.

I absolutely love the idea of the off-access and idealised past, and I love narratives which explore the tragedy of trying too hard to restore it. I feel the same way about ‘closure’ in general — we can create answers for ourselves but often at the expense of raising further questions; no matter how we might like it, things don’t usually get wrapped up in silk ribbons. And of course, fundamentally, we can’t change the past, no matter our personal development since then.

This is by far my most ambitious project so far — not least because it’s my first first-person game — and although it’s well under way I’ve yet to see whether I can make everything come together (into something tonally consistent). I potentially risk pinning my hopes too much on this project, but if worst comes to worst I can take notes on what went well and what didn’t, making the time to reattempt this project sometime in the distant future (when I have further technical experience in game development).