What is Sternwood, Montana?
Sternwood, Montana is an experiment in storytelling. I want to take one story and tell it differently as many times as possible. I'm beginning this journey by making it a video game and a book.
What's the plot?
Sternwood, Montana is a city of 50,000 that is surrounded by thick woods. Since the 1960's, Sternwood has had one of the top ten highest crime rates in America. Now, in present day, Sternwood has spiked to number one. Numerous people are going missing, violent crimes have sky rocketed, and people are committing suicide in the woods. With the police not showing any sign of progress, the story will follow multiple Sternwood citizens who have decided to take matters into their own hands.
As the story progresses, the characters will begin to uncover a sinister and nightmarish reality that is tied in with the city's history. The situation becomes more unsettling and dangerous as unstable members of society act out of control and people begin reporting supernatural occurrences.
The book will follow 13 main characters (not all at once) throughout the story, as well as minor characters who will be featured in a couple chapters.
The game will follow a few minor characters from the book and the story will shift to make them the hero of the story.
- Story: Because of how games work, the video game's story will not only be different from the book, but different every playthrough. The campaigns will have a branching narrative, with a roguelike event system. The event system will be inspired by great indie games like the Banner Saga and FTL.
- Campaign: A campaign is a playthrough of the story. There are three campaigns with an individual main character. These three characters appear in the story no matter what, but each of their campaigns is an alternate way of telling the story. When you play the character's campaign, you choose what they say and how they act while you learn their backstory.
- Random Events: Each campaign has a certain set of missions which fit the character's story and lead to the ending. To keep things surprising, the location of the missions will be randomized and random encounters will be likely to happen before, during, or after a story mission. These encounters can be can be positive, negative, or just weird, unsettling moments that reveal what kind of place Sternwood is becoming.
- Gameplay: The gameplay will work like classic table top games. Your character will start off with their own set of skills and attributes and will fight in turn based combat. When outside of combat, you will face different challenges that can be overcome by your party's skills.
- Combat: When combat is initiated, the game will switch to a random map with a possible encounter. The combat will likely be 2D isometric and grid based. Initiative will be rolled and characters will take their turns. The map will have random items that can be picked up in the middle of battle. Teammates who aren't as good at fighting can search the area for healing items or improvised weapons, which are impractical, every day items in the area like pencils, TVs, and chairs.
- Experience: The experience system is reminiscent of Fable 2. Instead of your character getting to level 5, their attributes and skills will level up through their own individual experience or general experience. General experience can be appointed to anything and is achieved through different ways like completing an objective and getting a kill. Individual experience is achieved through specific tasks. For example, if the character takes damage, they will get endurance experience. If they pass a skill check, they'll get experience for the skill. For every two levels, stats will grant perks.
- Stress: Many of the people you meet will be average citizens. As the situation in Sternwood becomes more dire, it will take an emotional toll on people. When their stress level raises, they will start showing signs of PTSD and anxiety which can affect their performance in combat. If their stress reaches the maximum of 10, they will go crazy and become prone to erratic behavior for the rest of the game. To reduce stress, the characters can relax at the safehouse or become intoxicated through different means. Relaxing is a low risk option which requires you to stay at the safehouse. Drinking and doing drugs allows the character to stay active, while affecting their stats and having a small risk of addiction, sickness, and overdosing.
- Allies: Allies are characters who can be recruited to help you. Each campaign starts off with its own specific allies. Allies who don't come with the campaign's story will be encountered randomly and can be recruited through different ways. Once an ally is recruited, they can be assigned a task at the safehouse, where you can talk with them and get possible side mission. Each playthrough will have random allies who betray you at different times. The player will have to decide if the extra help is worth the risk.
- Time: Time is a factor in Sternwood. The player starts the game in their safehouse at 12:00 PM on September 1st. The game will keep track of the time and how long it takes to perform tasks.
- Safehouse: When you aren't out doing a mission, the game takes place in the safehouse. It's possible to reach a point in the game where some of your allies have to stay at the safehouse. That's okay! Characters can spend time in the safehouse relaxing, working on skills, or improving the safehouse. The safehouse's defense becomes more of an issue farther in the story.
- Classes: Every party member in the game will be one of eight classes. When they have an attribute reach level 6, the character can either keep their current stats or rearrange them to become a subclass. Each subclass has a preferred attribute and skill which will offer a class specific perk instead of the first perk. Each class has two subclasses. Every class has a +15% damage bonus to a specific weapon type. This way, the character can use any weapon they want, while still incetivizing a certain strategy.
I'm still way into pre-production. Once I've finished the game's rules and perks, I will write the entire outline of the branching story. I'm in the process of hiring a freelance game developer and I am going to work with artist friends of mine to have proper concept art on here. There will be more details about characters and classes to be released on this page, so keep checking back!
The Bottom Line
This campaign is purely funding for the game. The book will be coming out regardless of what happens with the game. In my writing, I always strive to make something unlike what I usually see. And with this roguelike gameplay, I think we could set a new standard in video game storytelling. A game that you can continue to play and never know who to trust or what risks are worth taking. I didn't know it until now, but this idea has been ten years in the making for me. Regardless, I don't want this to be about me. I want to work with a community of like minded people who have a passion for storytelling and engaging gameplay. If this idea sounds even mildly interesting then please, spread the word about this project so we can make something excellent.
Do you have a suggestion to improve on an idea you like? Do you think something needs more work? Do you think I should give up without trying? Let me know!