The Average Gamer

The Unfinished Swan: Falling Into The Pit Of Success

The Unfinished Swan - GardenIn the beginning everything is white as you gaze upon a completely blank screen. It”s pristine. One press of a button later and a wall edge is revealed by a splodge of black paint. Ah, ha. Splat! Splat! Splat!

It”s through your actions with a paint gun that a world takes shape before your very eyes. A corridor stretches out into what was a white abyss. The more paint you sling, the clearer the world becomes.

The Unfinished Swan is a PlayStation Move game currently being made by Santa Monica-based developer Giant Sparrow. It”s a game about exploration. You play a small child chasing after a swan through a strange world composed of corridors, castles, creatures and a mad king. There is no HUD or gameplay hinting. It”s up to you to find your own way.

I asked Ian Dallas, Creative Director at Giant Sparrow about the lack of on-screen prompts. “We did a lot of play testing so we”ve definitely had moments when players got completely stuck,” he said. “In fact, the city area where players grow vines was one place where some of them would spend like 20 minutes [looking around] and they wouldn”t see the vines like we wanted them too. In that particular area we solved it by having a swan fly through and draw players” attention and try to have people fall into the pit of success. So they just feel like they have accidentally discovered this thing.”

As you progress deeper into this ostensibly black and white world you are able to manipulate more of your surroundings, like the vines. Replacing your paint with water and propelling a drop of the blue stuff in the general vicinity of a vine causes it to burst into life and start growing. Anywhere and everywhere.

Handily enough, you can then use vines to climb walls and reach to those previously unreachable places. It”s like having an army of silent, leafy, marauding snakes at your fingertips.
The Unfinished Swan - Gate
The vines have their own AI which, according to Dallas, has become so complicated even they can”t predict each vines exact behaviour. Have they not seen the Terminator films? Don”t make the AI too clever or we are all doomed!

Giant Sparrow have designed The Unfinished Swan to be playable by anyone aged six or over. However, casino online the behaviour of a particular group of players surprised even the developers. Dallas said “Two players that we”ve had that were under ten years old did not get out of the first room. They just discovered “oh, I can splat things” and then they went “I”m just going to splat everything. I”m not going to move. I”m going to make this whole thing black. ” They didn”t have that more adult fear of “Maybe I should be doing something more important with my life than just making a mess here.””

The Unfinished Swan is an intriguing game which reminded me a lot of the fantastic Journey from thatgamecompany. Leave the player alone and they will explore, discover and craft their own adventure. Later on this year we will be able to uncover just what secrets the game has in store for us. I can”t wait.

The Unfinished Swan will be coming to PlayStation Network soon.

Update 19th Sep 2012: Ian Dallas got in touch to tell us more about what happens when kids play The Unfinished Swan. He said “We had a six-year-old girl play the game at PAX [Penny Arcade Expo] a few weeks ago and she totally breezed through it. No problems whatsoever figuring out where to go. I think maybe we just got some introspective ten-year-olds. Or a pro six-year-old.”