Narrative/Level Design for This House Is Not A Home
Act one: Self-Worth
Introducing the character
Every puzzle needs two objects to solve. All the objects will trigger a voice log for the story behind it.
Locked room: The Study:
Reads the diary and when you put it down, you find the first item in your room.
The first item is a cracked baseball bat.
He was in the baseball team and bullied by his teammates. He has never been a good student and was bullied at school.
Father is the principal of the high school and he has a really high expectation of his son/daughter, who is failing all his/her classes and is causing all kinds of troubles. Remembering this will trigger the player's depression. How worthless he/she thinks his/her life is.
A glass trophy case. Dad's trophy inside, with the study key in it too, you need to break it with your baseball bat.
(This is also a metaphor for their relationship, a son who cannot meet his father's expectation thus became rebellious. The bat is the son, and the trophy case is the father)
(use the baseball bat to smash open the case) ( the baseball bat breaks and is no longer in your inventory)
The study is filled with father's trophies and awards.
In the study, on the desk, you can find a box that is sealed by screws also with a piece of a phone number by its side.
You pick up the piece, and the darkness happens, and the game goes to the next day.
(Darkness is the metaphor of fear)
Act two: Separation
The two parents are fighting. The player can't really hear what they are saying, but she/he heard something mentioned about a “baby.” The player believes that it's because of him and he blames himself. To the player character, it is breaking him/her into pieces.
Two items that lead to this and solves the puzzle:
One from father and one from the mother
They are separated, this is also a metaphor for their separation.
You see Father's Stuff in a Box at the door showing that they are moving out.
The house is emptier than before.
At the door, you see father's stuff in an open box. Within it, you can find the screwdriver.
You open the box(from act 1) in the study, and you find his wedding ring and a half picture of him.
You go back to the kitchen, and you find the other half of the picture with mother in it in a frame. (when you pick up the picture auto combines, but what is broken cannot be fixed, like the picture that will never be whole again)
When the pictures get put together, you lift the frame with the completed photo. Underneath it on the counter, you can find the key to the parent's bathroom.
Within the bathroom, you see a broken mirror, and in the garbage, you find baby socks (Hints at the event) and the second piece of the phone number.
Darkness happens and the next day.
Act three: Absence of Love
Locked room: The Baby's Room:
The house is almost empty, but the door to the baby's room is open.
In the baby's room, you find a crib in the middle of the room, cold and dark. Showing the lose of a child.
The player finds out that the mother had a stillbirth. Everyone believes they are at fault. What was once a loving family became broken. Without love from the parents, to the player character, they no longer have any purpose to exist in this world since all he/she had was his/her family. (feels like they are a failure and cannot do anything right)
On the crib, you find the final piece of the phone number. With all three put together, the player will realize that it is a phone number.
Now you have the choice to call the number or to go out the door, and the game will reach one of the two endings.
Good Ending The player calls the number then a person saying "Hello this is Suicide Prevention Lifeline. What’s going on?" Cuts to the credit with the theme soundtrack.
The phone call is the final moment of truth; you realize that the phone number is the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and all the events throughout the game change its context. As the player, you are the version of the character that decided to get help, and with that reveal, the main theme of the game is communicated to the player.
Also, at the end of the credit, we will show the real Suicide Prevention Lifeline to the player.
The deeper truth:
Some player might also be able to realize that it is the player character who ripped the number into three and hid the phone number from themselves because they are in denial about their depression. So the beginning of the game is when the player character is at their limit and are about to suicide, and the whole event of the game is the character's action.
Bad Ending The character walks out into the darkness, and leaving the house he/she once called home. Then cut to credit with the darker theme soundtrack.
Alternatively, if you step out the house into the darkness for three times the darkness ending will also happen.
The darkness is a symbol of the character's fear. Nothing is implied, but by walking into the darkness and being consumed by it instead of getting help through the phone, the future of the player character might be a dark one. (Suicide?)
Diary only updates if the player chooses to leave the house showing what happened that day at school. They will get darker and darker until the bad ending happens.