a writer's blog

Storytelling in Videogames: The Unfinished Swan

collateral tales

collateral tales

Sometimes storylines can be evoked by form rather than developed by content, and the results can be quite astonishing.

Maybe the most exciting (but also the most tricky) narrative technique I focused on in recent years was and is storytelling in videogames. To give gamers more freedom or even free reign while trying to develop a captivating storyline and build up suspense, for example, seems tantamount to squaring the circle: it can’t be done perfectly, only in approximations.

But sometimes it’s possible to circumvent these constraints altogether by emphasizing form instead of content. Meet the Unfinished Swan:

The Unfinished Swan

The Unfinished Swan

Here’s a tech-demo:

The Unfinished Swan

In the cold light of day, The Unfinished Swan doesn’t really have a “story.” What it does have, though, is a crazy idea and a highly suggestive soundtrack. There seems to be a story, and effects like these have made me a vocal advocate for form over content to a certain degree and under certain circumstances, where form can take over and neatly execute a set of functions to make us feel as if we were following, or experiencing, a story.

The Unfinished Swan is being developed by Ian Dallas:

The Unfinished Swan is a first-person painting game set in an entirely white world. Players can splatter paint to help them find their way through an unusual garden.

The game is still in development and no release plans have been announced. Our goal is to have a near-finished version ready by March of 2009.

I doubt that this deadline is even remotely realistic. But I can hardly wait.


If you have something valuable to add or some interesting point to discuss, I’ll be looking forward to meeting you at Mastodon!

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4 Responses

  1. Wow! Das ist ja der Hammer! Die innovativste und schönste Spielidee, die ich seit langem gesehen habe. I want it!!

  2. Ja, ich auch!! Absolut fett. Ich glaube, ich habe mir dieses Tech Demo seit gestern mindestens 15 mal angesehen oder so …

  3. Wunderbar! Was da alles noch draus entstehen könnte! Der Sog, der durch das allmähliche Finden des Weges entsteht, war jedenfalls eine geniale Idee.