Take me on a Journey.
I would gladly take like… a million more Journeys. Give me more games where the depth of the experience completely blows away any issues I had with the brevity. That's probably why Sony has decided to pick up The Unfinished Swan for release via the PSN.
Way back in 2009, at the first GDC I had ever attended, I quickly found that the indie games were the only ones willing to talk to a writer who was only there with some blog they'd never heard about. One of those developers was what would become Giant Sparrow, and the project they were showing was what would become The Unfinished Swan.
The hook here is that players will start off in a completely white world, with no button prompts or guides to speak of. Designer Ian Dallas explained that more often than not, players will panic and hit random buttons. That's when they realize that they can throw huge gobs of black paint at their surroundings.
This will reveal the environment and where players should be heading in pursuit of their goal. All of this was present way back in 2009, so I asked the devs exactly why we haven't heard of an admittedly very neat gameplay trick.
"Most of the time was spent looking for a narrative, something to hook players into the world and motivate them to explore," Dallas said. Certainly once you'd painted the room black, you'd need something else to move on to, right? That's when The Unfinished Swan's storybook sensibilities kicked in.
Players take on the role of a child, whose mother used to paint constantly. When she died, the child was forced to choose just one painting to take with him to the orphanage. Players first take control after the boy wakes up one day to find that painting missing.
That painting, of course, is The Unfinished Swan. When players escape the no-frills box they start the game in, they quickly discover that there's a very natural environment outside. Dallas explained that first-person shooter players tend to drench their surroundings with black paint, eager to map out exactly where they are.
More thoughtful players will be rewarded when a vantage point gives them the opportunity to reflect on their journey so far. All of this makes great sense from a development standpoint, but I asked Dallas what he would say to those first-person shooter players who'd write off the storybook aesthetic prematurely.
"This game is mature in the sense that Journey is mature," Dallas replied. "We don't want to reveal too much because it would definitely ruin the experience, much like knowing late stages of Journey would ruin that experience for players before they start."
The Unfinished Swan is certainly inviting, and it's nice to see a gameplay mechanic I remembered so vividly brought to life with a narrative that sounds like it will complement the stark visuals. Sony and Giant Sparrow are aiming for a 2012 relaese to capitalize on how the ground-breaking Journey has done so far this year. We'll keep you informed as its launch nears.