The Unfinished Swan's director Ian Dallas answers questions from the PlayStation Community about the BAFTA award-winning PS3 adventure.
Top three questions:
The Unfinished Swan is a very emotional game about an orphan child. Where did you get the idea? (Akdenir)
The original inspiration for the story was a basic design problem: how do we explain why there's a world that's entirely white? What sort of place could that be? I hit on the idea of an unfinished kingdom and then spent a while thinking about all sorts of unfinished things.
It seemed to me that the most unfinished thing in the world is a child whose parents will never have a chance to finish raising them. So that's where the backstory came from. It's something that I'd also thought about a lot when I was a child. It's a pretty horrible thing on both sides which is why I think it still resonates for me so strongly now that I'm at an age where I could have kids myself.
Are there going to be additional downloadable stories for The Unfinished Swan? (AGT-EU)
We don't have any plans for downloadable content. Since just about everything we really wanted to put in the game got in, there isn't a big push for us to do extras. We're a small team, so we'd rather put that energy into making our next game.
However, if you've got a copy of PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale, there's a battle arena based on The Unfinished Swan that you can download, so you should definitely check that out.
What's been your greatest achievement in the game during its development? (Sam_Boi9)
What I'm personally most proud of is that we were able to create a game that encourages players to explore it at their own pace. The challenging part was making it feel open without actually being truly open. We found in playtests that if we didn't give players clues about where to go then they'd wander around aimlessly for hours, which sounds fun but ends up being really tedious. Finding the right balance where players instinctively had a sense of where to go but didn't feel like we were telling them took a lot of tuning but I'm really happy with the result.
What was it like to work without colour the whole time? (Blackangel320)
It felt a little numb to be looking at a black and white world all the time. That's why, towards the end of development, we ended up spending a lot of time making things like ripples in the water, swinging signs and creatures, to give the world some life. That's also part of the reason that we made the story about a world that was uninhabited, since everything already felt desolate.
What feelings are you hoping to awaken in the player with The Unfinished Swan? (Mykau_Mk)
I hope that players learn to see the world in a new way. And I hope they come away with a couple of really memorable moments that are like snapshots from an impossible vacation. Our goal was to create a sense of curiosity and wonder. To do that we tried to fashion a space where players had no idea what to expect and were in a state of constant discovery. It's a chance for players to experiment with how it feels to confront the unknown.
What were some of the crazier ideas you guys thought up that didn't make it into the final game? (Syph33r)
The biggest idea that didn't make it was a river painting mechanic where your water balls would create puddles that were 10 feet deep. We spent six months, on and off, trying to make that interesting but we never found any gameplay that used it, so we scrapped it.
Which other forms of art and entertainment inspired you whilst making the game? (josh_shift)
Alice in Wonderland was definitely the single biggest inspiration for us. We also looked a lot at Shel Silverstein, Harold and the Purple Crayon, plus Edward Gorey for how to tell stories that connect with children and adults. Time Bandits was our biggest movie reference, though Jim Henson's Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal were close seconds. Oh, and Spirited Away. Architecturally we were heavily influenced by Escher, Piranesi's etchings of Rome and the surreal French animated film The King and the Mockingbird.
After working on such a beautiful and touching video game, what do you have in store for your future projects? (JMTP92)
Hopefully we'll be able to talk about that soon! We've started working on our next game and so far all we can say about it is that it's definitely unlike anything players have seen before.
Thanks to Ian Dallas for answering the above questions.
Don't forget, you can experience the magical wonder of this BAFTA award-winning game by buying a copy from our online store now.