The Dog’s Pollocks? The Unfinished Swan

By Kieron Gillen on October 22nd, 2008 at 3:43 pm.

God, that's a really clever title, innit? I'm a bloody genius. FEAR ME. FEAR ME. FEAR M... oh, okay, it was rubbish.
We’re weak for many things at RPS. Robots. Booze. Skaven. Slightly Sappy American Indie Music You Can’t Dance To. Eve. Pink Pink Sunshine. And, relevantly, fancy indie tech demos which have a good idea and are riding that thought-steed so hard it’s going to be fit for the knackers yard when they’re finished. Such is the case with the forthcoming XNA game The Unfinished Swan. Its conceptually simple – you’re trapped in a maze and have to find your way around via throwing black paint splats. And bar the actual paint-impact noise, it’s genuinely spooky. I look at the following footage and think there’s definitely room for an Indie-Silent-Hill-esque atmosphere fest…


The Unfinished Swan – Tech Demo 9/2008 from Ian Dallas on Vimeo.

No release date, but they’re aiming for March next year. And thanks to Sexy Simon Parkin for the pretentious indie heads up.

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41 Comments »

  1. RLacey says:

    That paint throwing sound effect is supremely irritating, but otherwise that’s a neat idea.

  2. Sam says:

    It’s an interesting idea, and there’s obvious ways to develop it in later “levels” (rain effects washing off paint, etc), but I can’t help being reminded of one of the puzzles in the most recent Hoshi Saga…
    (Is this the problem with random flash games like Hoshi Saga – that because they don’t have to flesh out any of the ideas, they can preempt everyone else?)

  3. Feet says:

    Nifty idea.

  4. rhooke says:

    Definitely a neat idea.

    Two things I thought of: 1) having to deal with the cartoony little ‘ploit’ sound the paint pellet make when they’re fired, ‘specially if they’re trying to go for some spooky, atmospheric thang.
    2) Having to make the player hurry, or put some sort of constraint on the number of paint pellets you’ve got. Being both cautious and something of a completionist, i’d be coating every surface in that place with paint to make sure i didn’t miss anything.

  5. Bobsy says:

    I’d guess that covering everything in paint would just turn it from unnavigable white to unnavigable black. Restraint is key.

  6. teo says:

    well if you make it all black you can’t see so there’s not really a need for a limit

    just make the splats more potent

  7. Jonas says:

    I wonder how much less scary that would be without the extremely spooky ambient music. My guess: A whole lot less. Not that that’s really a bad thing, it’s just testiment to the cool music.

  8. Yhancik says:

    Neat neat neat idea indeed !

  9. Mogs says:

    Interesting, but gimmickalicious.

  10. AndrewC says:

    I’d like to see the ‘in game’ justification for such a gameplay-mechanic.

  11. AndrewC says:

    Plus I demand an article comparing, in regards to what the different approaches say about the nature of our cultures, the aesthetics of this ‘ooh scary’ western work with that Japanese game where you spunk on schoolgirls.

  12. Pags says:

    The music and the whole maze thing gave me a real Shining kick. Just a shame the paint sound is so comical.

  13. jonfitt says:

    Not exactly the next Portal, but it looks like it would be a lot of fun for 15 minutes.

  14. Tom says:

    Awesome idea

  15. Quater says:

    Funny how there’s nothing terribly frightening about it you uncover the words “don’t be afraid”. Makes you think, “afraid? of what? OH GOD THERE MUST BE SOMETHING OUT THERE”.

  16. Malagate says:

    @AndrewC, which Japanese game do you mean? From what I understand there’s a whole library’s worth of games that fit your description, is there a specific game that is similar to the one in the RPS article?
    Just imagine now replacing the “ploit” sound with something wholely inappropriate, this game could turn from slightly creepy into an exercise of wrongness for about 20 seconds.

  17. James G says:

    Great post title by the way, a fantastic combination of mild British sweariness with mildly pretentious artiness.

  18. AndrewC says:

    There was definitely an FPS japanese game that had you sploodging over schoolgirls. A video of it when round the internets about a year ago. I have no idea what it was called (though being japanese is it probably ‘I like star panda’), but somebody here will be able to dig it up. Don’t worry – it’s cultural research.

  19. meeper says:

    @ Jonas

    I had my speakers accidentally turned off while watching the vid and found absolutely nothing spooky about it. Watching it again with sound increases the spook-factor to some small, but non-zero, non-negative number – but it’s still not bone chilling.

  20. LewieP says:

    I’m interviewing Ian tomorrow, anyone got anything specific they’d like me to ask him?

  21. Simon says:

    Cliffy B was right. It’s all about the guns. It’s with guns that the player touches the enviroment and nowhere is that so as much as in this.

  22. Oktember says:

    Change the paint colour to red, call it blood, and you’ve a whole new interesting spin on what’s going on.

  23. Noc says:

    Which would make this the only game wherein you solve puzzles by throwing babies at the problem.

  24. Tei says:

    How this play? is that a gimming or real gameplay?
    If is real gameplay, you can do this in any modern game.
    Take Darkplaces (or Quake3) support “paiting” walls with blood. So you can force all textures to white, disable all the lighting (force fullbright on al textures) and shots “gibs”.

    Theres even a Paintball anyway… (a full standalone Quake3 proyect (or whas Quake2?))… but I digress..

  25. reaver says:

    That’s quite true – if you were really there you could feel your way out but games simply don’t have that level of feedback. So you need a paintball gun.

    I bet backtracking in that game would be a nightmare without any variation in textures to prevent you getting lost. Cute though.

  26. Charlie says:

    I think it looks really cool. It’s not to do with it being impressing graphically or technically. Just a cool idea that looks well done and very stylish.

  27. Heliocentric says:

    I’d like a paint brush as well as the bucket. You could write notes on the walls. Like watch out pit! Then have the paint follow on to your friends and have massive rogue like maps. Together you’ll learn how to get around.

    Or run about drawing penises on the walls, either or.

  28. Resin says:

    This game just needs a sword that you swing blindly as you move killing things that may or may not be evil. The splotches can represent the blood you smell and they can call the game Zatoichi.

  29. Yhancik says:

    @AndrewC :

    you’re almost right :p it was called Love Death 2

  30. Radiant says:

    @simon
    There is a certain game coming out that begs to differ.
    ‘Cause you know…it actually uses hands to touch the environment.

  31. roBurky says:

    I like the look of this. That trailer suggests there’s a few ways to mix it up as well. Going into the unpaintable room was fairly unsettling.

  32. Down Rodeo says:

    This looks really interesting. It will be interesting to see how they can develop it – creatures perhaps? – but I think I’d still like it based on the possible creeping horror and feeling of discovery.

  33. randomnine says:

    That’s brilliant! It could make an excellent horror game with a few active nasties, numerous traps and such. You have limited visibility, no real weapons and it doesn’t feel at all limited – it’s a great setup and I hope it’s taken further than travelling a maze.

  34. Matthew Craig says:

    This is what it must be like to be Frank Miller.

    //\Oo/\\

  35. IvanHoeHo says:

    Reminds me of Jeux d’ombres, a far cry mod you guys posted about a while ago, which can only be good thing. Let’s just hope that they release a PC version eventually.

  36. Mauthagra says:

    The story behind it is that you have been infected with Alien DNA and are gradually becoming an insectoid type of alien. You are losing your ability to discern colour and have to go by smell; the “paint” is your current method of olfactory “sense” – you vomit “paint” onto your surroundings to “see” the smell and thus, your surroundings. Your goal is to find the stabilising element that will return your DNA to human.

  37. Lumberjack says:

    Imagine how freaky it’d be if you splatted something and found it was already moving towards you…

  38. Idle Threats and Bad Poetry says:

    @Oktember
    They wouldn’t have to color it red. The black implies that it might be blood or something like blood, and that’s eerie enough, in my opinion.

    This game could be really spooky if it could establish a sense of being hunted and vulnerability. If it would be possible, to give it a kind of hazy effect would be a nice addition instead of all the sharp lines. Maybe you could borrow a bit from the Left 4 Dead witch. In other words, if you splattered a certain something (or someone) by accident, you’re in big trouble.

    Or imagine this. You’re walking. You can hear your footsteps. But then you hear something else behind you. You know you need to hurry. Then the footsteps gradually become faster. You’re being hunted, and the hunter is clearly playing with you, like some sadist.

    What I’m worried about with this game is that it could really be incredible if it has strong writing behind it, but few independent developers really can do that. A little common sense should have indicated the paint sound is a really bad idea, so how’s he going to make it really creepy?

  39. Richard Beer says:

    This is a wonderful idea that could be really pushed into all sorts of great areas (invisible monsters, lobbing handfulls of luminous alien blood in a pitch black room etc… ohhh the possibilities).

    Good line about the idea horse. And absolutely accurate too. I love the way this industry is going at the moment, allowing Indy developers to move the goalposts all the time.

  40. Crispy says:

    I had my speakers accidentally turned off while watching the vid and found absolutely nothing spooky about it. Watching it again with sound increases the spook-factor to some small, but non-zero, non-negative number – but it’s still not bone chilling.Horror the second time round is never as good as the first time. If horror films told you exactly what was coming most of the impact would be lost.

    You didn’y find it scary because you knew what the words are so an aspect of the experience is lost. When the rest of us watched it we didn’t know what was being spelt out and the music suggested it was something scary, so even though it told us not to be afraid, we still were because the music was undermining the message.

    Either that or you’re a grouch who can’t feel emotion. I’m usually very sceptical about so-called ‘fear’ in games because most of the time (Doom3 *cough*) it’s not fear but shock tactics. True ‘fear’ in narrative is to black humour what ‘things-that-make-you-jump’ mechanics are to slapstick. Regardless, in this trailer I think enough suspense and mood was built for a genuinely unsettling few moments when the words were revealed. Not *bone-chilling*, but definitely unheimlich. /ponce cap

  41. will says:

    I dig it. When the words came up, I laughed a nervous laugh. It was a very sweet touch. I’d really like to play this game. Primarily because in it’s full form, I’d think sound design would be such a large and important part of the game. With reduced visuals like this, sound becomes that much more important, and can almost take the focus. You’d hear things and desperately spin around blasting paint everywhere trying to find out what’s making the sound. The dark ambient music was great. Every time I see a new game messing with the way in which you interact with the world (portals, mirrors edge, this etc) I get more and more excited about where games are going. It’s games like THESE – not monster-fragging FPS – that will force non-game-players to admit that games are art.
    God damn I want to be involved in the making of this game.