Weather a Very Personal Storm in Three Fourths Home

In Three Fourths Home – out now for Xbox One – players assume the role of Kelly, a woman in her mid-20s who has just moved back to her parents’ house in Nebraska. The story opens as Kelly is driving during an intense thunderstorm, and you have to get her home. The focus of Three Fourths Home is its narrative, conveyed through an extended conversation between Kelly and her family. You must navigate the conversation while travelling through a stylized representation of rural Nebraska, set against rumbling thunder and the music playing from the car’s tape deck. This game is a look into a specific moment of these characters’ lives and their relationships. The narrative touches on a variety of issues affecting Kelly and her family, including disability, adulthood, familial obligation, nostalgia, and loss.

Pretty heavy, huh? [bracket]games’ Zach Sanford, who created Three Fourths Home, recently shared some insight into how his life inspired the game and informed his design.

Three Fourths Home’s design began to take shape somewhere on Interstate 35, between Minneapolis and Omaha. My work computer and hard drives – and with them, the prototype that I had been working on for months – were stolen only a couple of days prior. And with a suitcase and a single box, I was moving back to Nebraska.

I’d been living between Minnesota and Wisconsin for the past six years, but during the drive into Omaha – near the two-“skyscraper” skyline rising up from across the Missouri River – I was struck by how incredibly familiar, yet weirdly unfamiliar, the drive had felt. I’d taken it several times in the years before… but that suitcase and box lent a leaden weight to every similarity and difference. I wanted to stop to process what exactly I was feeling, but I’d been on the road for seven hours, and just wanted to get home.

Kelly, the protagonist of Three Fourths Home, experiences something akin to that feeling.

In the weeks following my return to Nebraska, I struggled to find something worthwhile to work on. Spending months rebuilding the lost prototype seemed agonizing; what I needed was a small project that I could complete in a few months, to “recharge.” After a couple of small prototypes and experiments failed to capture my attention, I thought back to the drive back to Omaha… to that strange combination of nostalgia and alienation, and how it could translate to a mechanically simple game.

What resulted was a text-driven experience that leans heavily on dialogue choices. But, despite my aim for mechanical simplicity, I wanted to incorporate something that tied players to the narrative in a physical way. Early, half-finished prototypes played with varying levels of player interaction, eventually settling in on driving as a supplementary mechanic (and tying back to the first moments of the game’s inception).

After experimenting further with different levels of depth to the driving, I settled on using a single input to drive forward. Stop, and time comes to a halt. I wanted to tie the momentum of the story to the literal momentum of the car – and players have to exert some kind of physical effort to push the car forward. Granted, “physical effort” in Three Fourths Home involves simply holding the right trigger, so “effort” may be a bit generous. Nevertheless, it felt simple enough to not distract from the story, while also serving as a constant reminder of the car’s lurching forward progress. Now I just had to write a story that would not just work alongside this simple mechanic, but hopefully be enriched and strengthened by it as well.

The first thing written for the game was an in-game story penned by Kelly’s younger brother, which served as an anchor for the rest of the narrative. That story served as a continuation of themes that revolved around sexuality – themes that I’d started to examine in my previous designs. In Three Fourths Home, Kelly’s sexuality exists more in the background than in any of my other games; it’s assumed that she’s either been out to her family for some time (giving everyone time to realize it isn’t a big deal), or she hasn’t actually told any of them yet. This particular distinction is something that I wanted to leave up to the player, but either decision feeds into the themes of the story:


Kelly has to get home. You have to keep driving. You can stop, kill time and pretend that nothing is wrong and that nothing has changed… but eventually, the car has to push forward through the storm. Because so much has changed, even though everything feels draped in the familiar. And in the worsening storm, a beast threatens to disrupt everything, to lay ruin to the already uprooted expectations and hopes that you cling to.

You just want to get home.

Three Fourths Home is now available for Xbox One.