Building the narrative

Eternal Thread’s non-linear storyline presents some very unique challenges for not just the player, but also the creative team. David Bottomley, Designer at Cosmonaut Studios, dissects the storytelling process.



Finding an ending

While the story for Eternal Threads is enormously complex - and in terms of sheer narrative ambition, we’re not far off the length of a Netflix TV series here - structurally, the ending was relatively simple for us. From the outset, we had all six characters who were dead in the starting timeline. We wanted to have at least one ‘good’ ending for each character as well as a ‘best’ ending. As the characters developed, we ended up squeezing in even more outcomes based on who else survives and how that might affect the survivors in the future. We also wanted to include alternative deaths for as many of the characters as possible in order to keep the experience varied.


With every action, a consequence

With our characters established we started building our plot arcs and threads, at which point the two became inextricably linked. Every time we added something at a micro level, be it a character moment or a plot point, we then had to evaluate the timeline at a macro level and see how that affected the bigger picture. As a result, most scenarios were rewritten multiple times. Earlier scenes would have foreshadowing added in so that future decisions carried more weight, while later scenes would have multiple versions, with each reflecting the various different decisions of earlier scenes.


Everyone has secrets

Something that was particularly important to us was that each character had some kind of secret or mystery that could be revealed by the player as they change the timeline. The ways that other characters can impact these secrets and revelations ultimately became a way for us and the player to differentiate between the ‘good’ and ‘best’ endings for each character. We also wanted one of the characters to be new to the house. This allowed them, and consequently the player, to be introduced to the house, its layout and the other characters in a naturalistic way.


Signs of life

To start with, we worked with local student actors to record each scene as scratch audio. That scratch audio enabled us to block out and record each scene in the motion capture suite. As we only had two motion capture suits, scenes with three or more characters had to be recorded multiple times. One scene with seven characters took almost an entire day to shoot. After that phase was complete, the animators worked on cleaning up the motion capture and would take the early animated scenes to a recording studio and re-recorded the audio with professional actors.