The art and design of The Unfinished Swan

Like a lot of folks, I first saw the tech demo for The Unfinished Swan when it made the rounds online in 2008. The idea stuck in the back of my head but it wasn’t until later when Giant Sparrow put up a job posting that I decided: I had to make that game.

I had just graduated from college without much professional experience, so I did what I do best and made a game for them. You can check it out here if you’d like. The video cuts off because the end of the game says “Call me” and has my phone number on it. It got the attention of the Giant Sparrow team, and I ended up flying out to Los Angeles to work on the game.


I was elated and a little shocked, but I came to learn that at Giant Sparrow, the player experience always comes first – and my little game was designed to create a very specific experience. Now, in October 2012, The Unfinished Swan is out in the wild (well, to PlayStation Plus members – it’s on general release from 24th October) and we’re proud that we were able to make a truly experiential game.

We had a very unique creative process. In planning out each level, we used a series of index cards representing emotional beats. I would then work with Ian to put together a rough version of the level. If something didn’t feel right, we’d cut it out and shuffle our cards.

Hokyo sums it up really well when he says the experience of play is more like eating a meal than looking at a painting. We eat with our entire bodies, at our own pace, using all of our senses. The metaphor of food isn’t purely conceptual; both Hokyo and Ian’s love of food manifests itself in the personality of the King character. In one chapter, players explore the King’s dining hall, complete with an abandoned feast. Also, see if you can find a giant piece of toast hidden somewhere.


Working at Giant Sparrow has been a creative challenge. On one hand, we had a tremendous amount of freedom to experiment with new ideas. On the other, we were a very small team with limited resources, and working with a group of really creative people can be a game of compromises between tech, art, sound, and design. The best part about working with our small team was that the people posing questions were also the ones creating solutions.

Overall, The Unfinished Swan is a really personal game to all of us. We worked together for a long time and poured a lot of our own quirks and experiences into it. When you sit down to play, know that it was created from start to finish with your whole experience in mind. Go forth and explore.


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Awesome and unique game, well done guys :D

Please check out our review here, it’s a little different :D

I wan this on my vita! >.<

I still don’t get what this game is. Is it another “flower” game or that other weird game in the desert?

Looks both weird and beautiful too. Good combination.

Is this FREE to Ps Plus users? Or just available early btw?

Thanks Ben, for that background info. It’s what I love best on this blog (apart from the PS Plus updates, naturally :-)) The Unfinished Swan looks like a tremendously innovative game, which fits neatly in the Sony tradition of games that “don’t fit in a category”. I understand PS Plus will not only get this game early (this week), but also at a discount.
Does this work well with a normal controller, or is a Move necessary to experience it fully? (I know you support both, but does it ‘WORK’?)

I’d love to see some more concept art, and I don’t mean pure white pictures!

I’m a third of the way through the game now after buying it and I actually feel sick! Had to take a break! Made me feel sick in the same way Cloverfield did (not as bad)! :( disappointed!

Greetings Ben and all at Giant Sparrow, i’ll definitely be picking up this game and i’m looking forward to seeing what else you have in the pipeline.
And you really should check out this review .. it’s really quite special …;)

Why is this game $US14.99 in the US store yet it costs $NZ24.95? in NZ store. Is that not a rip off? $14.99 american comes to just over $18 dollars New Zealand. AND, what has happened to our store. Even if I COULD buy the game at this elevated price, I can’t because I keep being prompted to buy PSPlus whenever I go to disbelievingly doublecheck the price in my cart of the game, even tho my + subscription doesn’t run out until the seventh of December 2012. I think I will have to give it a miss. Actually I have to give it a miss. I can’t BUY it….


I want! Damn Plus >< Oh well, back to Dishonored and Killzone untill this comes along.

Couldn’t put this down Unfinished Swan is a brilliant game, just like Flow, Flower, Journey, Datura, Detuned and Linger in the Shadows all unique games on PSN that make me realise why i love gaming so much.

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