Game Design From Outer Space

What do you think about this prototype version of Zwan? We’re working on it until July 1st and then we’ll go to the Netherlands to present it to the organisation and jury.

Zwan Earth

Zwan: Development Notes on Prototype v05

And it’s finally Friday! This week we launched our first playable prototype of Zwan (v05-2013-06-18), our entry for the Bosch Art Game competition, which was selected as a finalist earlier this year. You can download it here (Mac/Win), if you haven’t already played it. We have to present our final prototype to the Bosch Art Game Foundation on July 1st, so we have a little bit more than a week left. Then we’ll go to the Netherlands in August to know the organisation and the other five finalists, and in October when the six prototypes will be officially presented during an event. And after that the winner will be declared! Be sure to follow us on Facebook/Twitter, we’ll post updates from the Netherlands too.

Where were we? Right, Zwan. Zwan is falling short on some departments. Sure, that’s a prototype and there’s a lot of space for improvement. But still, we need to have a clear picture about how the final project will look and feel. And that’s why we want to put in writing our vision for the complete and final project, the one that is in our minds right now but maybe – who knows – can find a reason to be in pixels too.

What We Love About It

Our first concept was centered on a simple exploration mechanic: hurting yourself is the only way to unlock parts of the world. In the meantime, the world decays: the Eden begins its transformation in the Earth and then it becomes the Hell. We always wanted to reproduce the tryptic format, very dear to Bosch, so these three stages were decided from the start. The fade and the environment change is pretty convincing even if – in our minds – the process should run more smoothly.

We gave a lot of thoughts about how to frame the swan and the world. Where do we put the camera? What colour choose for the ambient/directional light or the fog? We asked ourselves questions like these at least three times a day (one for each stage of the game). Tuning the camera parameters has been a very long path, but in the end it seems satisfying. During the first try, we could see how much the experience changed just by keeping the swan closer to the camera or changing the light colours. And then, boom, the idea: manipulate the camera during each different stage. That’s why we chose a wider field of view in the Eden – something peaceful and relaxing – and a narrow one in the Hell to increase anxiety. In the last few days we’ve improved camera and light colours – so here’s a sneak peek!

Zwan Eden

What a lovely giraffe!

Zwan Earth

Look, fishes!

Zwan Hell

Fire! Fire! Fire!

Controls are very easy to use: you can turn the swan right or left and that’s it. No different speed or high,  just right or left. This is essential to our concept who want to be an inclusive and easy to play game. This will allow us to adapt the game to many different control systems.

How Can We Improve It?

One of the main problems of Zwan is the dullness of the world. There’s very little to do (partly by design) and the exploration – which should be the core mechanic of the game – is still not so meaningful. Part of this could be solved later just by adding objects and variety to the world. And that’s why we have to redesign the game world form scratch. We need a much larger and complex environment and consequently some more assorted landscapes with canyons, tunnels, cascades.

Than we have some problems with the creatures: the giraffe is probably the most convincing one, but it’s still dull and it doesn’t do nothing except lazily pecking on the swan when you fly near. That is quite intended, but probably some more animations can be added. The flute creature has a lot of issues and bugs related to the particle system representing the music. In particular, when the swan flies from behind, it is often hit without any particle being shown. Sometimes particles continue flowing even when the flute animation is finished. The beak creature is still not perfect: often the swan is hit without seeing the enemy, and the behaviour of the creature feels clumsy.

Another problem is the lack of human beings. When you see Bosch’s works you cannot ignore the incredible amount of people who populate his paintings: bodies represent corruption and sins. They are altered and violated, mingled together with animals and artefacts. In the prototype we couldn’t express this side at our best, so we choose to include some body parts (heads, ears and legs) with no animation at all, as if they were just statues or human-shaped shrines.

And then there’s everything else. We want to redesign the world, improve the decaying of the world, add more animations, creatures and interations with the environment. But that’s another chapter.

And you? What do you think about Zwan? Leave a comment or contact us here!

One thought on “Zwan: Development Notes on Prototype v05
  1. […] was looking at some screenshots of the version 05 when I saw a problem: the coloured fog was flattening our world, especially the mountains […]

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