SCAVENGERS STUDIO
DEVELOPMENT BLOG

Behind the scenes : COVID-19 Playtest

Today, we wanted to talk to you more about what goes on behind the scenes of running playtests for our indie studio. As Scavengers studio is focused on creating new IP, it is part of our culture to get feedback about our games as soon as we can in the development process for two main reasons.

  1. As devs, we usually get very attached to the game we build. We put so much time and energy into it, that we tend to develop a “tunnel vision” of the product we are building. Sometimes, we even have this unique feeling like we are slowly becoming the game ourselves; we dream of it, we think of it in the shower and we work on it. It becomes 100% of our life. Getting fresh and external eyes helps us to see what we cannot see anymore being so involved in it. 
  2. We love validating key features or content that we are unsure about to eventually make informed decisions that will then improve the player experience. Our main goal is to create a game that will resonate with the player’s values and wishes.  

Step 1: choosing our playtesters target audience

Megan, our dear community manager, coordinated everything. To find our playtesters, we decided to turn to our wonderful community. A newsletter sent, a post on Steam and Discord, and an article in the Alpha Beta Gamer (thanks!) allowed us to collect more than 3600 applications. Wow! We were so happy and surprised by your enthusiasm. Of these, we had to choose only 30 people for our first playtest. It was some tough choices.

Step 2: schedules and moderators

Then, Megan coordinated schedules with the availability of moderators and managed to find playtesters from all around the world. Almost half of the Season dev team moderate the playtests. As a team, it was something incredible to see someone in front of us playing a game that we have been working on for almost 5 years. We were very happy to meet you and finally be able to present our project to the world… well a few people.

Step 3: playtests sessions

It has been a busy week for the whole team. Our playtests sessions were booked for four hours at a time. Even if most of our playtests sessions did not take that long, some of them looked at every little detail. It’s funny, because when all the moderators got together at the end of the day, we spoke together and realized that some behaviours are very similar through the gamers and some are totally different! We thought it was fascinating to have the chance of seeing that in action. It helped us a lot to understand the player behaviours better than we ever did before with Season. We also have learned that the most subtle reactions are usually giving us the most important feedback; someone who is closing their eyes, a smile or some frowning eyebrows gives us a huge hint about the course of action.

PS: Our longest playtest was five hours long! As you can imagine, bathroom breaks were needed.

Step 4: result analysis – looking for general trends

After the playstest sessions, we analyzed the results. For this time, our playtests were more focused on the mood and tone of the game. As we said, our goal was to provide new information to the developers so they could make informed decisions to improve the quality of the game. As we can see here, our development team even created a map where we could track people’s movements and actions through the game. Player moments are so precise that to understand what they are doing on a micro scale, we divide the map into smaller areas. To find general trends, the team analyzes playtest through: data tracking, recordings, moderators notes and playtest questionnaire. Analyzing all the results took three members of the team a whole week!

Step 5: learn from the results to build next steps

After the results were presented to the whole team, we couldn’t wait to improve the game to make it even better for you and obviously closer to your expectation. The one thing that was reinforced for us, test after test, was the focus on the game’s affective impact on the player. After the tests, we saw that this “moment of a tear falling down your cheek”, the strong emotional response we are looking for, was missing at the moment. Also, people felt a little bit lost, in a world that felt a little bit too empty. We are improving it as you are reading these lines. Overall, the results from this first playtest are very positive, not only because people have enjoyed it, but also because a lot of topics mentioned by the playtesters, to make the game better, were already planned as our next steps. 

PS: If you have not been selected for these playtests or if you are interested in contributing, more playtest sessions are planned over the next few months. You can still register here.

– Season Team

A glimpse of sunshine

Summer is slowly coming to us in Quebec, letting a glimmer of happiness and light shine through the entire Season team. The winter has been particularly difficult here, not only with the sanitary measures in place, but also because of everything we’ve been through as a team.

Our vision for Season is stronger than ever; beautiful, soft and luminous, as reflected in these magnificent images taken by a member of our creative team, Mathieu Leroux. In our hearts, inspiration is always present. Sometimes it even seems like we have too many great ideas to show you.

Recently, we had a few playtesters try the game out and it was so motivating to see them playing this game that we worked so hard on. We were happy to meet you and share with you a small part of our creation. We are currently taking your feedback to improve the gaming experience and make this moment enjoyable, as we promised you.

The beautiful season is slowly coming to us.

– Season Team

We finally announce Season at the Game Awards 2020

On December 10 we announced our new project, Season. You might have watched it at the Game awards. As a team we are thrilled to start telling you more about the world we are creating for you. 

At this point, you are probably wondering what sort of gameplay you can expect from Season… We can’t share everything yet but here’s what you should know.

Season is an escape from the world you know into a place familiar and strange. Equipped with a bicycle and your bag of documentation tools, you will set off into this world, choosing which roads you will turn down and pausing for anything that sparks your interest. This is your world to discover. Choose what is important to you to record through sound clips or photography.

The mission is similar to making a time capsule, deciding what would capture the spirit of the time period and carry it onwards. It’s a strong action to perform in the face of an uncertain future. In Season, the mood is warm and melancholic. It’s a world at the end of a golden age, where you take a bittersweet last look before it becomes a distant, faded memory. 

No release date yet, we are keeping that secret for now. 

We still have a lot to do before Season makes it into the hands of players, so expect lots of updates on the development process. 

We wanted to take a moment to thank you all for your support during this announcement and after. Your words of encouragement echo through our digital office space, from all of us, thank you. 

– Season Team

Outside the Studio – the Shaping of Season

We have already told you that Season is a project of passion for the team. Season is a unique experience that captures fun, innovation, beauty, emotion, and culture, with the goal of welcoming a wide range of people to our world. The shaping of the experiences in the game is born out of the passions of our team members, so it’s about time you meet more of the team. 

Our team is made up of unique, open-minded and extraordinary humans. We wanted to get personal with you, and introduce some of the women who capture the essence of Season through their values and passions. We are all so different on the team, and that makes for a beautiful blending of experiences to share within the world of Season (and you’ll just have to wait to see how). 

Meet four members of our team who contribute in their own way, day after day, to the success of Season.

GENEVIÈVE B. – THE STORYTELLER

My name is Geneviève and I am a 3D Artist working on the environments of Season. 

One of my core passions has always been storytelling through visual arts and crafts. I’ve also been obsessed with games, both tabletop and digital, as a means of interacting with stories ever since my childhood. What this means, aside from playing a lot of games, is that I’ve been experimenting with tons of different mediums over the years. Traditional 2D and 3D art, digital painting, 3D printing, game jams, woodworking, gardening, nature photography, and even a very short (and confused) foray into LARPing. The latest hobby I’ve taken up this year is pottery on the wheel. What does that have to do with storytelling? I don’t know yet. Whatever story a piece of pottery holds can be very short, but there’s a long and engaging process behind it. Making things that are unique is something that I’ve always enjoyed.

So, my ‘’passion’’ is still something that is hard to define for me, but it’s not from the lack of options.

How do you feel it is related to Season? 

This kind of unending struggle to figure out which tools to use to carry out a story is a theme that I feel is part of the dilemma of Season, both in its global theme and during its development as a whole. How do you choose to record and encapsulate a moment? Are you allowed to reinterpret it or is the aim pure documentation? Do you make its meaning explicit, or let the viewer piece things together on their own? Can the viewer be more than just a witness? Will they experience the piece, and its story, in a unique way?

In my opinion, these are all important game development questions. Wide, overarching ones, but they are interesting nonetheless, and I’m happy that Season will have its own personal way of answering them whatever the game will turn out to be. 

– Ge B.

QINHUA – THE TRAVELER

I am Qinhua and I’m currently working as the payroll and accounting technician at Scavengers Studio.

I am passionate about traveling. Since I was young, I started to travel around with family or friends. I still remember my first trip to Luoyang, one of the most ancient capitals for many dynasties. It was during my school holiday which was the peak season for tourists. All the trains were overly booked, and that left me with only one option, a standing ticket. It took a lot of effort to squeeze into the train. The train looked much like a can fully filled with sardines. I was standing on the train for fourteen hours without even a teenie weenie space to move my legs until my destination. However, the trip was amazing! I met a Buddist who shared with me many stories; I met a little girl, who kept calling me Auntie. I also participated in a feast with twenty dishes, all of which are soup dishes.

After that first trip, I just can’t stop travelling. Each year, I visit different places in different countries. In Thailand and Japan, I was enjoying the breathtaking natural beauty as well as experiencing the extraordinary internal peace. In Italy, there was the perfect harmony of history and modernity. In Australia, I got to experience  “Christmas on a scorching summer’s day.” Here in Canada, I am getting to know what  real winter is like and expecting more adventures to come my way.

Travelling to me is adventure, replenishment, and a part of my life.

How do you feel it is related to Season? 

When I first read the development blog on the Scavengers website, the cycling and travel stories from its creators hit my heart. A lot of beautiful memories came rushing back. At first sight, I believe the natural bond has been established between Season and me. I am determined to continue my travelling journey with Season.

– Qinhua

MEGAN – THE FOLKLORIST

Hiya, I’m Meg, your friendly Community Manager! A fun fact about me, I have a Diploma from Elf School in Iceland (yes, you read that right). Some might call me a folklorist, which means that I love stories passed down within cultures. 

When I was a child, my grandmother would tell me stories about the fairies that lived in the gardens and the tricks they would play tilting the sunflowers to the light.

My interests have always been twisted towards the darker parts of folklore, the tricksters and villains of this world. I would read any ghost story I could get my hands on and learn about the ghosts that visited my family over the years. I exhausted my limited network and started looking into dark tourism, a tourist attraction surrounded by dark history. It turned out, my home of southern Ontario has a dark past, especially London, Ontario, with its history of serial killers. 

Oddly enough, my interest in dark tourism pushed me down the path to games! I travelled to England to learn about magic and myths. From that experience, I started to devour anything I could get my hands on about Jack the Ripper, including a DLC of Assassins’ Creed. I later found myself living in Guelph, studying simulation dark tourism and war games as a digital game scholar. 

The funny thing about this all: If I play a horror game, I’ll never sleep again.

How do you feel it is related to Season? 

There is an interconnection between stories, people who tell them and their culture. In Iceland, the roads twist and turn to avoid certain rocks, believed to be elves’ homes. I think there’s something beautiful about learning how culture shaped its land and how stories share the meaning of places with strangers. 

The aspect of storytelling and learning from one another is what is beautiful in Season. As a player, you get to experience Season’s collective memory through stories, architecture, art, and so much more. Although you won’t collect Jack the Ripper’s history, you will be experiencing something extraordinary to connect you to the world we created for you in Season.

– With love, Meg

GENEVIÈVE P. – THE COOK

Hello. My name is Geneviève (yes, a second one!) and I am Scavengers Studio’s Communications Coordinator.

My passion lies in everything that has a direct or distant connection with the phenomenon of zero waste in the kitchen.

Since I was little, I have loved to cook! I first discovered cooking with my mother. She’s the one who taught me almost everything about it. Well, she didn’t actually teach me how to cook; she taught me how to have fun with different vegetables, flavours and colours. She taught me that food doesn’t just meet our needs; it fills our lives. Is there anything better than a good family meal or a romantic dinner for two? 

On a more practical side, when I think of cooking, I mainly think of:

– Recovery: did you know that carrot stems can be used in pesto and that radish stems make the best summer green soups?

– Reuse: with a little bit of imagination, you can turn the leftover Thanksgiving turkey into a soup, paté or sandwich instead of eating it every day for two weeks.

– Creativity: I NEVER cook the same recipe twice. And obviously, to recover and reuse food, you have to be creative!

My love to cook whatever I have on hand goes right with my love for recycling, reusing and composting. As I live in a small place, I compost in two ways: Bokashi and Vermicomposting (Google that. I swear it’s worth it!).

How do you feel it is related to Season? 

I believe that my passion directly relates to my love for nature and the environment. I sincerely believe that we all need to do our part for the planet. Its protection is fundamental to me. Thanks to my passion, I am making a (very small, but significant!) difference for our beautiful and fragile planet.

As you will play Season, you will undoubtedly understand my love story for the planet… This game will make you appreciate the beauty of nature, the fragility of the elements that surround us and the importance of preserving this fragile natural balance. With Season’s end of the world both so near and mysterious, this game will make you realize how much the present moment defines the future.

Gen x