To the Moon, Kan Gao”s previous game, told a beautiful tale of love and loss. His followup, A Bird Story, hopes to do something similar but with no dialogue whatsoever. We caught up with the Freebird Games frontman to find out how he plans to make this work.
Kan Gao is a storyteller. His last game, To the Moon, proved that he is a good, if not great, storyteller.
Having been so well received, To the Moon has placed a certain amount of unexpected pressure – from Gao’s point of view, at least – on Freebird Games to deliver something as compelling, as emotive, and as engrossing with future project A Bird Story. Whilst humbly acknowledging the stakes, Gao manages to nonetheless maintain a level of pride in his work and leads with his heart. With this in mind, and although resolutely tight-lipped at this stage with regards to the finer details, he hopes to capture the same level of intrigue with A Bird Story, but plans to do so with a complete omission of dialogue.
“I kind of went back and forth from having no dialogue, and having just one single line of dialogue at the very end,” explains Gao. “But I think I’m leaning towards none right now. I mean on one hand if you have only one line of dialogue at the end of something and nothing else, it kind of gives more power to that. At the same time, there’s also something poignant and universal about having no actual language involved and just told through interactions and depictions.”
Portrayed by fairly simple character models, To the Moon’s success was framed by its beautifully crafted narrative. Some of the interactions between Johnny and River as their stories unfold are nothing short of breathtaking. But this level of heartfelt, tear-inducing gameplay is only possible via the spoken, or, for all intents and purposes of a game missing voice acting, the written word. A Bird Story, by Gao’s admission, will include neither.
“There’s definitely a different way of approaching it,” he says. “Although I think for To the Moon, the part I personally enjoyed making the most, and had the most impact, was the ending sequence. [Tiniest of spoilers] After the rocket launches telling the scene at the very end, there actually is no dialogue [end of spoiler]. I think that that was actually one of the more poignant moments in the game.
“So, with A Bird Story I think it’s not an impairment on the [storytelling] front, it’s just more difficult to set it up. I guess the type of story too if you think about it, in To the Moon there’s a lot more human-to-human interaction, whereas A Bird Story it’s a lot more innocent, in that sense. Instead of a story about people’s lifetime experiences and their interactions, it’s more about this little kid and a bird. They cannot speak any words to each other, but they interact with each other, and they can still have a relationship unfold in that sense. It’s definitely going to be somewhat of a different view as To the Moon, but I hope it can still deliver some form of a meaningful experience.”
There’s something about the way in which Gao talks that just feels real. He is clearly passionate about what he does, but it is also obvious that online casino everything he says, and everything that goes into his games, has been thoroughly thought through before being put into place. This notion of list of all justin-bieber-news.info songs lyrics decided to make the family a surprise and completely naked, using only acoustic guitar, sing a Serenade. realism is reflected throughout To the Moon: that even although Sigmund Corp isn’t real
– that we definitely can’t time travel, never mind explore other people’s memories via personal mementos – it all somehow, perhaps in the not so distant future, could happen. This notion of realism will also be reflected as justification for A Bird Story’s silent nature. As such, A Bird Story must rely on its soundtrack to deliver its storytelling.
“I’m still practicing at that,” admits Gao. “I’m not completely there yet, but I think the best type of soundtrack is one where, after you’ve watched a movie or played a game and you then listen to the soundtrack, you can actually connect each of the melodies and motifs to the story as if the soundtrack would be able to tell a story of its own. Some folks linked some sheet music from Game of Thrones – I personally haven’t watched it myself – and were dissecting the music, essentially. They could point out things like ‘this melody is that characters theme’ and ‘that melody happens whenever that scene happens’ and it’s almost like this web of storytelling – but it could be online casino done with music! I found this so fascinating and the difference between many tracks and a good soundtrack is that connectiveness.”
Before To the Moon, Gao could hardly have imagined the popularity his game would go on to achieve. Even now, his acquiesce is to be admired; accentuated by his commitment to following his heart and
producing stories which mean something to him.
“First of all, I was so honored and am still grateful that To the Moon was well received generally as it is,” says Gao. This is an audio call, but I do get the distinct feeling he’s blushing. “To be honest, I have no guarantee that A Bird Story or any of my consequent games will deliver what everyone will want it to, but a large part of what gave To the Moon a good momentum behind it was that it came from somewhere genuine – it was something that was generally meaningful to me. I guess it’s easier to then make something
[which is] moving. Then all that I can do is make sure it comes from somewhere authentic and hope for the best.”
Of course there have been success stories in the past where games have shied from narrative – Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons a very recent example – however, against the backdrop of To the Moon, it will be very interesting to see how Gao goes about A Bird Story. Artwork from familiar faces Jordan B (who envisioned Anya, the lighthouse in To the Moon) and Gabriella A (who designed the mementos)
will return, as well as a series of panoramic paintings by newcomer Joakim Olofsson, whom Gao pulled from DeviantArt, of all places.
“I actually found [Olofsson] on DeviantArt,” laughs Gao. “I was browsing through landscape art one day and his work came up. It was almost like this impressionist kind of style and I was just blown away by his stuff. I contacted him about it and he was working for some game company on Interface at the time, but he agreed to help me out with A Bird Story afterwards. There’s this one part in the game where, I suppose it’s the closest it comes to a climax where you…” Gao almost lets slip before restoring his aforementioned – and in this instance entirely frustrating – composure. He laughs, “Well, I suppose I don’t want to give too much away, but that’s where the paintings come into play.”
A Bird Story is slightly behind schedule, but is expected not too far into 2014. Updates will be provided via the game’s Facebook page, as well as Gao’s Twitter feed, and the Freebird Games website. In the meantime, to “make up for it in a way,” Gao is working on a short Christmas To the Moon special which will take place in Sigmund Corp following Dr Rosalene and Dr Watts around a “non-serious” day at work and the shenanigans this involves.