an alien abduction mystery adventure game following two siblings
as they search for their brother in the humid haze of 1970's Alabama
To Azimuth begins with the disappearance of Eli Windham. It is 1978, and three years out from a third tour in Vietnam, Eli has a history of erratic behavior driven by the use of drugs and alcohol to cope with the trauma of his experiences at war. With the help of his sister, Susannah, he had been taking action to put his life back together, getting a job at a tire factory and attempting to break his spell of isolation deep in the woods of Alabama. Things seem to be going well, until he vanishes.
The police are hesitant to investigate – they've been dealing with Eli's drinking and drug use for years and expect he'll show up soon, hung-over and apologetic. Susannah refuses to believe this interpretation of events and convinces her other brother, Nate, to return to Alabama from Colorado to help her find Eli. As they search, they begin to find evidence that Eli may not have just disappeared; he may have been taken by something extraterrestrial.
As a narrative-focused game, revealing too much further than this basic setup would be detrimental to the experience of playing the game. What can be said is that the story does go beyond this initial situation, pulling players into a world involving space agencies, truth control, conspiracy theories, familial ties, and mental illness.
It is not difficult to point to the primary source of inspiration for the game's storyline: an unabiding love for science fiction. Its alien abduction mystery especially is born from a fondness for the X-Files and stories of its ilk, as well as a childhood fascination with alien abduction accounts. That said, To Azimuth is a story that is akin to this genre, but isn't beholden to it. Its inspirations are many, and the hope is that it will be able to sit alongside its influences without attempting to imitate them.
Setting the game in Alabama was a decision made due to personal ties to the region and a complicated relationship with Alabama in particular. The era was chosen primarily due to a certain affinity for 1970's sci-fi, but also because of the social backdrop that the time period provides. 1978 finds Alabama fourteen years removed from the Civil Rights Act but still in turmoil regarding its history and its place in a world quickly becoming more connected, creating a tension that factors into and informs the game's narrative.
In To Azimuth, players take on the role of Susannah or Nate in their search for Eli. Each character has their own separate story, though the narratives of each intersect and intertwine in many ways. To Azimuth is, at its heart, an adventure game. Much of the game will entail exploring environments and rummaging about to look for pieces of information and clues, many of which will be locked behind environmental puzzles rooted in real-world logic. How deep players want to go into this exploration is up to them; a lot of information will be hidden in the self-contained environments (and not all of it necessarily true), but much of it can be ignored if the player would rather main-line the story. Choosing to ignore all of this evidence will have an effect on the game's story, though.
The game will contain a sizeable amount of dialogue, with essentially every line spoken by the player character presented as a choice. Through these dialogue choices, as well as through decisions made outside of dialogue, players shape Susannah and Nate into their own unique take on the character. This will affect the story of the game in subtle ways; while it may not always completely change the outcome, it will color the story very differently based on the way that the characters are being played.
|character sharing feature|
One of the ideas that sparked the initial development of To Azimuth was the idea of forming characters through decisions and gameplay that could then be shared not only between one player's playthroughs, but between people. For example, playing through as Suzannah will provide the option to import the decisions you've made into a playthrough as Nate. Characters can also be shared with others, essentially inserting the Suzannah or Nate that you have created through your decisions into another person's game.
This won't always mean a 1:1 interpretation of what Nate or Susannah has said or done, since room has to be left for flexibility in that second playthrough. Instead, this involves more broad personality-based strokes. Players are building a character while they play the game, and sharing that character will place their specific Nate or Susannah into another game, where they will act and react in ways that make sense to the way that they were initially played.