Will the world end with a bang, or a whimper? Certainly, the gently melancholic tone of Scavengers Studio’s upcoming Season suggests the latter. There are no crowds of screaming people fleeing in panic, or vast alien battleships flying overhead, or raging lava flows; there’s just your lone protagonist, riding their bicycle, diligently taking down photos and sketches. As follow-up games go, Season couldn’t be more different from the team’s previous title, the chilly battle royale survive-‘em-up, Darwin Project, though writer Kevin Sullivan says that embarking on a new creative direction wasn’t a conscious decision when work on Season began. “It was inspired by our experiences travelling,” Sullivan tells us, “ and a general sense of foreboding regarding the future.”
That sense of foreboding is all over Season, even if it’s a subtle background tone. It’s a game we previously covered in our feature on photography in video games in Wireframe issue 53. “Your goal in Season is to bear witness to a world that’s about to disappear,” the studio explained to us back then, “in order to transmit what’s important to future generations.”
In essence, then, Season is a kind of road trip adventure, though your protagonist is at the helm of a bicycle rather than a car. According to Sullivan, the original idea was to have the player riding around on a motorcycle, but the slower pace of a pushbike was chosen to better fit the game’s low-key tone.
“Even though you’re still in the environment, [riding a motorcycle] made the landscape feel abstract and distant by virtue of the speed,” he says. “We want you to feel that you’re in, and subject to, the world around you.”
As for the character you play, their identity and backstory is something you’ll learn about as you journey through Season’s quiet landscapes. “You’ll have to learn about the main character in the game itself,” Sullivan tells us. “As fantastic or strange as the world of Season is, I wanted it to feel emotionally grounded, so the best way of doing that was to write from experience whenever possible, so I knew the cast of characters would be diverse because that’s the world we live in. But beyond that specific desire, it came together quite naturally. The concept was done for the main character by the art department and it felt right, we never considered anything else. I find a lot of creative decisions are made intuitively and the explanation comes later, and is often articulated better by the audience than by the creators.”
In your role as documentarian of a world with an uncertain future, you’re constantly faced with agonising decisions. Much like in real life, you can’t possibly capture everything you see around you: the world is simply too big and too busy to record in its entirety.
Ultimately, then, it’s up to you to decide what you’ll photograph with your finite rolls of film, jot down in your sketchbook, or what sounds you’ll capture with your portable tape recorder.
As the team succinctly put it to us in August, “We wanted the camera to play a central role in the experience. When you travel and visit foreign cultures, there’s always that tension between being part of a moment or recording it. When you pull out a camera, you’re not in the moment anymore; you’ve already extracted yourself from the experience to record it. In building the game, we’re trying to capture that tension: ‘Should I enjoy the moment, or should I record it?’”
It hasn’t exactly been plain sailing behind the scenes at Scavengers Studio, and it’d be remiss of us not to mention here that, following some serious allegations against its CEO and creative director Simon Darveau, reported by GamesIndustry.biz, Darveau stepped down from his position in 2021.
It takes more than one allegedly toxic manager to make a game, though, and the rest of the creative team behind Season have evidently poured their artistry and passion into making what is shaping up to be an understated and thought-provoking adventure. “Happily, the game is growing up,” Sullivan says of the game’s late stages of development. “I do hope Season will serve as both a refuge from our worries and a place to turn them over in our minds.”
Genre: Adventure Format: PC / PS5 Developer: Scavengers Studio Publisher: Scavengers Studio Social: @SeasonTheGame