‘To the Moon’ Director Talks About ‘A Bird Story – Part 1

To the Moon is one of my most treasured experiences over the last few years within the gaming industry. It told a beautiful story of a old man named Johnny, who wanted to experience the memory of going to the moon, hence the title. Despite the somewhat simple premise, what was presented here was a tale containing emotional twists, beautiful writing and majestic music. Needless to say my excitement for the upcoming follow-up, A Bird Story, is at fever pitch.

I recently had the pleasure of conducting a written interview with extremely talented Kan Gao, who is the director, composer designer and illustrator at Freebird Games. During this two part interview we discuss the finer narrative details of A Bird Story, as well as the future of the series, length to complete and much more.

AA:  A Bird Story will focus on the relationship between a young boy and an injured bird, interestingly though there will be almost no dialogue throughout the adventure. Was this a decision you made early on? And how difficult has it been to portray a meaningful story with no dialogue?

Kan Gao: It was the idea from start, yeah. Surprisingly, it actually came rather naturally – after all, a boy and a bird can’t really talk anyway. The difficulty was more a matter of workload, from the need to make a lot more sprites to convey things through actions, and to add liveliness. To the Moon had about 10 sprite sheets for the two doctors, but A Bird Story has over 100 sprite sheets for the boy and the bird.

AA: To the Moon revolved heavily around dialogue, with the lack of dialogue within A Bird Story will there be a stronger focus on puzzle gameplay?

Kan Gao: Definitely not, actually. It’s odd when I think about it, but the player probably has more player-controlled time in A Bird Story than To the Moon, yet there are less traditional “game-like” elements like puzzles in A Bird Story. The interactivity has more to do with immersion and putting the player in the characters’ shoes.

AA: The To the Moon universe is unique, due to the fact the series could provide an endless amount of stories. How do you feel about continuously exploring new narratives and problems that Dr. Watts and Dr. Rosalene need to solve? Can you see this being a series that continues for many years to come?

Kan Gao: It definitely can, and that’s one of the fortunate things about working with something like this. And not only just exploring limitless types of life stories, but even side spin-offs like the holiday special at Sigmund Corp. In fact, I was thinking of making a murder mystery type of game with the doctors at one point!

AA: How long will it take to complete A Bird Story in comparison to To the Moon?

Kan Gao: I think for most people, A Bird Story should take just about 1 hour to complete; maybe a little more. It’s a very concentrated short, though; although To the Moon was already pretty condensed, I think A Bird Story is even more so.

AA: To the Moon dealt with a central theme, which was self explanatory in the title. What is the narrative focus in A Bird Story?

Kan Gao: It’s a very simple story about a boy who found an injured bird, but I think it’s also about loneliness and certain naïve human nature that many of us still carry with us even past childhood.

AA: One of my favourite aspects of To the Moon was the emotional, yet beautiful soundtrack that was created. Following such an astounding score, did you feel pressure to somehow create something better?

Kan Gao: I suppose so, but not so much the music as specific expectations of the game/stories, hahah. To be honest, I don’t consider myself that great of a composer of a pianist (definitely not) to begin with; especially in a technical sense. But I think being able to have the music and scenes come from the same source is a great advantage, as you can make them complement each other exactly the way you want it. I think for a lot of folks, that helped to make the music more pleasant than if they were just on their own.

AA: There have already been a few tracks revealed for the upcoming release of A Bird Story, and so far they sound beautiful. What was the inspiration behind these musical tracks? And did you feel you needed to make these tracks more emotionally meaningful due to the lack of dialogue throughout the title?

Kan Gao: They were written with the scenes in mind, so there’s that! I’m not sure about trying to make them more emotionally meaningful (compared to To the Moon with dialogues, for example), but A Bird Story definitely has more meticulously fitted music. For example, there’re a lot more short musical cues that play at specific timed moments for sure.

We hope you have enjoyed part one of our interview with Kan Gao, and hope you stay tuned for part 2 over the coming week. In part 2 we will be discussing the success of To the Moon, the development process and the possibility of A Bird Story coming to other platforms.

A Bird Story will now release on November 7 on Steam and GOG for Windows, Mac and Linux.