Members of the Scavengers Studio Team talked about the idea behind their road trip adventure game where you have to explore and document the world around you moments before it disappears forever and shed some light on the development process.
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Scavengers Studio is an independent video game studio that was founded in 2015 by Amélie Lamarche and Simon Darveau. In 2018, with a small team of approximately ten people, they launched their first game called Darwin Project, a free multiplayer third-person survival game in a dystopian post-apocalyptic landscape in the Northern Canadian Rockies. The project has won multiple awards such as Best Future Esport (Top Games of E3), Best Multiplayer Game — Casual Connect Kyiv, and Best of E3 — Twinfinite.
The studio experienced a wind of change in 2019, as cofounder Amélie Lamarche became the Chief Executive Officer, giving birth to a very different new project called Season, a third-person atmospheric adventure bicycle road trip game. As we speak, the Scavengers team is now composed of 30 (amazing!) people who are mainly working on creating Season. In that game, the player takes on the role of a traveller recording the last moments of different cultures before they’re washed away. The studio’s goal is to create unique worlds and experiences for the players, a game that they won’t forget!
The Idea Behind Season
The project was inspired by traveling experiences. The initial goal was to create a new fantasy world and a specific way of being in that world, connecting with how it feels to be alive right now. There is a sense of impending loss in the air that the project reflects. It was conceived years ago when this feeling was hazier, but it has since become more palpable. The hope is to create a new tone in the game, a mood that is emotionally light and heavy at the same time.
Creating the World of Season
When we started building the world of Season, we knew that we wanted the player to have a feeling of a huge space while discovering the environment. We wanted the world itself to be the central part of the game. One way we like to think about it is that the world is the co-star of the game. On the other hand, the Season team needs to let the players feel free in this universe. To achieve that, we had to create a new camera system that creates a good balance between control and dynamism while playing the game. We can’t talk that much about it at the moment, but let’s say that we worked hard on it and that it’s something we are very proud of.
The other important thing to mention is that Season’s world has been fun to navigate with a bicycle. A bicycle could seem like a simple type of feature on the surface, but it is extremely hard to get right to achieve the sense of flow we feel while cycling.
We want to alternate and present different experiences with the bike, from the contemplative feeling of cruising between fields to the exhilaration of going down a slope, passing by exploring dark paths in a forest. The level design of Season is conceived with that in mind, from the scale of the world itself to the inclination of the slopes, the number of bumps, the lighting, and even down to the audio. All those things contribute to offering the best biking experience possible to the player (well, we hope so).
Deciding on the Genre
Travelling is an exhilarating and humbling experience. You realize your own life is just one experience among billions of possibilities. It's also a very particular but flexible role to play in the lives of the people you meet, to be a visitor. You're powerless in some ways since you might come to a place without any knowledge of it, without knowing the history or the culture. But you do have the power of an outside perspective. The story is about someone leaving their home for the first time and encountering the past, present, and future of a world undergoing a significant change. The goal is to document and understand this world before it's gone.
The Challenges of Marketing
Launching the first images of a new game is always a challenge. Since no one knows about it, the goal is to reach as many people as possible. We had the amazing opportunity to promote our game for the first time at the Game Awards 2020. It was both a real honor and a chance for us to show our teaser trailer at that event. Since we are a small indie studio, it helped us a lot with the discoverability of Season. We were also very proud during the night of the event and the week after to read all the community’s comments. Overall, people were excited about what we presented in the trailer and were eager to know more about the game. It was a very good feeling for the whole team. At the moment, we are posting blogs, and we are slowly starting to talk more about the game because there are more things to come.
We are also researching to improve the game itself and to understand our community better. For example, we recently did our first playtests (pre-alpha). It was so much fun to meet some members of the community and talk with them. Having real people playing our game made our project feel more alive. Playtesters also gave us a lot of interesting feedback. We started working on it the week after! Our goal was to use their comments, good or bad, to improve Season. To do so, we built huge documents with all their comments (that was a lot!) and emotions while playing. Building a game is a long process, and sometimes, when you are too close to a project, it’s more beneficial to take a step back and ask for feedback from others.
Getting Into Gamedev
If you want to join a game studio, you have to be passionate and hone your skills! Nowadays, game engines are very accessible. For example, both the Unreal and Unity engines are free for personal use. For the Gamemaker engine, the pricing starts at $39 for a Creator Licence. In addition, YouTube is full of detailed tutorials for virtually learning anything related to game development. Start small. Make games. Keep learning. Repeat.
Try to be part of a community, either online or around you. As in any industry, the more people you know, the more opportunities you might unlock. This suggestion might sound intimidating, but people have more accessibility to developers in our current digital spaces than ever before. A lot of studios have Discord channels created explicitly for people to share their art and games with the rest of the community. The developer’s team also sees their work and can interact with it (and we are impressed with what we see on the Season Discord). Sharing work with others is excellent for building confidence in yourself, and sharing in a friendly space makes it a little less intimidating. Having people around you is also great for motivation, getting advice, and it’s just more fun that way.