Creating the world
The world of Eternal Threads is enormously complex, comprising multiple building blocks that come together to create an intriguing, immersive experience. David Bottomley, Designer at Cosmonaut Studios, breaks down how it all came together.
The concept for Eternal Threads, in which the player watches past events unfold, came about predominantly for technical reasons. As a small studio, we had a motion capture system, but we didn’t have the budget or the staff to enable us to capture full photo-realistic characters for multiple hours of content given the scope of the story we wanted to tell. Instead, we opted for ‘ghostly’ visions from the past, which gave us the opportunity to make a game in the size and scope that we wanted using the budget that we had available.
The house in which the action takes place is based on a real life house that our MD’s brother-in-law was renovating. It’s an old Victorian house in Liverpool and, when we first saw it, it had been gutted completely. Our team spent a long time soaking up the atmosphere, capturing photos and videos for inspiration. The layout, with the multiple rooms in the basement and a bedroom off the half-landing was really interesting to us too. The fact that it had been gutted really gave it an eerie, melancholic feeling. You half expected to turn a corner and see ghostly figures replaying scenes from the past.
Look and feel
The game’s lighting style was inspired by Chiaroscuro, the use of strong contrasts between light and dark. The art style was popularised during the Renaissance by artists such as Caravaggio and Rembrandt, but actually has roots dating back to the ancient Greeks. That distinctive contrast established a tone and mood that just dripped with atmosphere.
We wanted the plot and characters to be seamless. Starting with basic archetypes, such as the young doctor, the landlord, the artist, the middle aged housewife, we devised plot threads that enabled us to develop and refine the characters. As we explored each individual’s story, more threads would unfold and the characters and plot grew together. Sometimes we’d realise that the story needed to go in a direction that would change something about the characters. Other times the characters would evolve in such a way that certain plot threads no longer made sense, so these were rewritten or abandoned. It was a very organic process.
Changing the past
The central mechanic of changing the past actually came about during a last-minute team meeting before we entered full production. The premise originally revolved around observing past events and at that time these were going to be caused by the supernatural. Knowledge of the past would then be used to prevent a similar event happening in the present. For us, the challenge stemmed from wanting to create believable, likeable characters that players would invest in. The problem was that, in the original concept, the characters would still perish, regardless of whether the player was successful.. Upon reflection, that didn’t feel like a satisfying ending – the players ‘wins’, yet the characters you’ve invested in are dead. Then the idea hit us: what if you could change their fates and save them? It was at that point that all of these elements began to align.