Interview with Kevin

Kevin has been writing Season for over two years now. In other words, he can’t wait to present it to you (and the whole team too!).

Until we can show you a little more about the project itself, we wanted to talk to you a little more about the profession of a video game writer; meeting with our creative director Kevin Sullivan.


  1. Did you dream of becoming a writer when you were young?

It’s what I wanted to do from the moment I realized that a human being made up Star Wars.


  1. What is your favorite game?

Writing wise it’d be Kentucky Route Zero. It feels like it was beamed here from the future like they jumped a few spaces ahead. It’s encouraging it was well received considering it basically jettisons all the reliable tricks of storytelling and is more akin to the work of someone like Samuel Beckett or Gabriel García Márquez. It’s already influenced a lot of games but still feels ahead of its time.


  1. Do you think it’s easy to write a video game?

All writing is hard in different ways. Writing a game is hard in that you’re not only dealing with the multifaceted nature of the form but with the realities of production too. It depends on the nature of the game too; some games live and die on their text and some are less reliant on it.


  1. What are the good and bad sides of writing?

The good side is when you’re surprised by what’s happening in the story as it unrolls or by connections made by other people that you weren’t consciously aware of when writing. The bad side is that, for me, pretty quickly my feelings about my own writing become very neutral. There’s more enjoyment in listening back to a piece of music you’ve written than in reading your own text, I find.


  1. Do you have any habits when it comes to writing?

My routine for when I’m writing on paper is to read in the morning and write when I take my second coffee from around 2p.m. until the evening.


  1. Do you know how much time you have spent writing Season? 

Hoo boy, no idea. But hours were more spent in the conceptualization phase of trying to imagine a particular world and particular tone. That took awhile.


  1. Do you improvise as the story goes, or did you know the ending before you started writing Season?

It’s usually good to leave breathing room in the story for characters to make choices on their own or to let you make more intuitive associations. But with the resources involved in making a game, outlining quite a bit is smart, just to be safe.


  1. Is the story of the game drawn from real events and from personal anecdotes?

It’s a mixture of things I read about, saw, or that happened to me or people I know. I find when I’m writing a detail, some little bit of text, I tend to draw on my own life to try to make it feel specific and real.


  1. What made you want to write this game?

It had a long gestation period, so there wasn’t a single moment of inspiration. I feel like explaining why you wrote something is always a retrospective explanation and not what you were thinking at the time. So, looking back I think on my side it came out of becoming more extroverted in a way, from traveling and reading more history, being both more worried and more attached to other places and time periods.


We hope you appreciated this little insight into Kevin’s journey, and learn some things about what it is like to be both a creative director, and a writer in games! 


– Season team

Between real and imaginary travel

“Season” draws inspiration from a lot of sources. I’d like to talk about a twin axis of influence; some experiences traveling in Taiwan, and the cinema of that same country. The question I want to pose, and also avoid answering, is this: to what extent can we learn about other places and people through their art? If we read War and Peace, do we have a modicum of feeling for early 19th century Russia? Think of the qualifiers we’d have to add to this; well, Tolstoy was writing about Counts and Princes, not so much the peasants and serfs that made up the majority of the population. Tolstoy was writing about the generation of his parents and grandparents; he wasn’t alive at the time the novel takes place. The magic of narrative art may be in empathizing and becoming entangled in fictional lives set 215 years ago. It feels as though that time and distance have collapsed. Without going so far as to imagine these grant us any certainty or authority, I feel sure a parcel we can take with us is an affinity for the time and place, that when we imagine a scene set in a particular time, we project into it, into particular lives and details that make it real to us. Imagine you see a newspaper headline that says tensions are flaring up between your country and another. If that other country is a place you’ve been, you might picture the faces of people you met and knew. What if you’ve read their books or seen their films? For myself, the appearance of Iran in American news media feels different having seen movies by Abbas Kiarostami and Mohsen Makhmalbaf.¹

Another place that I knew from films is Taiwan. I first saw Yi-Yi by Edward Yang and became interested in Taiwanese New Wave² cinema. The style and content of these films are very beautiful and original. They’ve been on my mind while working on “Season” because of the way they locate an individual life, and the life of a family, within their environment and the larger historical context³. The style oftentimes eschewed traditional coverage and covered entire scenes in a master wide shot. This gives you a feeling of spending time in the place itself with the characters. Intimate but historical, emotional but distant.

A moment in A Brighter Summer Day – two highschool students talk in a field while a military exercise is conducted in the distance. This combination of nostalgia and tenderness, with an ominous feeling tied to a historical moment, is something we’re trying to create in “Season.” 

When I had the opportunity to travel to Asia four years ago, I wanted to go to Taiwan, a place I’d only seen in these films.

Here: A photo taken by someone just before they gave us a ride. The only POV shot of “I’m about to pick up these hitchhikers” that I have.

Hitchhiking in Taiwan is tied with Albania for being the easiest of anywhere I’ve done it. When hitchhiking, you may gently try to get the person giving you a ride to drop you off somewhere slightly out of their way, usually when you’re trying to avoid getting stuck in a bad spot. You’re already in their debt for the ride, so it can be a delicate ask. On the contrary, in Taiwan we realized that if the driver knew our final destination, they might drive us straight there regardless of how far out of the way it was. This made us feel guilty so we started to shield this information. We had multiple drivers who insisted on taking us to certain landmarks or to eat at a certain place.

Finding a couchsurfing host in a big city is always difficult. You may need to send up to 20 or 30 personalized requests before succeeding. Taipei was no different. The host we finally found was a young dentist/aspiring filmmaker. He said he accepted my request because I had the aforementioned Edward Yang as one of my favorite directors in my couchsurfing profile. We talked about movies and culture and he taught me a lot. We even went to see a Q&A with the excellent director Tsai Ming-liang. He took questions while sitting in front of a piano and would occasionally start playing and singing.

From the art of another culture, we can get a partially understood glimpse into something profound. And in traveling, we accumulate impressions and bits of information that we’re getting directly from the place. The feeling of incompleteness is part of what’s so enticing about going away from what we know. What I’ve learned from the two different ways of experiencing Taiwan is that interest, or an affinity, can be sparked by art and can open the door a little. There still remains the moment of passing through it. These kinds of encounters are at the heart of “Season.”

– Kevin

¹ Politicians are aware of this, in fact. A great artist may be like a prophet, not without honor – save in their own country. But after you die, they’ll start building statues of you.

² A “New Wave” of filmmaking often coincides with political and social reform, such as the brief Czech New Wave that was linked to the Prague Spring. It’s no coincidence that the Taiwanese New Wave emerged at the same time as the democratic reforms of the 1980s and 90s.

³ The first batch of films were groundbreaking in how they depicted modern life in Taiwan. After these autobiographical films like “Growing Up” and “A Summer At Grandpa’s”, they made films about their recent history which were even more acclaimed and controversial. “A City of Sadness” touched on taboo subjects like the February 28 incident, when thousands of protesters were killed by the government.

This is the historical background that the audience is given towards the beginning of A Brighter Summer Day
“Millions of mainland Chinese flew to Taiwan in 1949 with the Nationalist government after its defeat in the civil war by the Chinese Communists.
Their children were brought up in an uneasy atmosphere created by their parents uncertainty about the future.
Many formed street gangs to search for an identity and to strengthen their sense of security.”
The text is establishing the character’s emotional lives and environment within the historical moment, why things feel the way they feel.

⁵ Although the world and ‘history’ of Season is made up – what they called ‘lore.’

Hitchhiking From Paris to Istanbul

Our game “Season” draws inspiration from our experiences traveling. The role of the player is the role of the traveller, the witness, the visitor, unattached but absorbing everything. It is the fantasy of going beyond tourism, of being embedded somewhere. 

I want to share a few stories from a hitchhiking trip that I did with a friend. To hitchhike is to step briefly into the life of a stranger. People who pick up hitchhikers are usually very friendly, since they’re someone who stopped to help. Hitchhiking was common in North America up until the 1970s when it developed, or was given, the reputation of being dangerous. This was at the same time that public trust of strangers went down. In other parts of the world it remained popular. Hitchhiking reveals a lot about a place, both its good and bad sides. Despite being a free activity, it also exposes boundaries of privilege in terms of how different looking people will be received and where. I’ve met all sorts of fellow hitchhikers, people I either gave a ride or came across while traveling. As we’re increasingly atomized, especially with the pandemic, this kind of social institution would be good to recover in the future.  

You enter into a stranger’s life at a random moment. The most dramatic moment I found myself in while hitchhiking was when I got a lift from an old French couple. When they were young, they had been in love but were separated by circumstances beyond their control. Each married and had a family but then, in their old age, were unexpectedly reunited. They said the moment they saw each other they knew they had to be together again. When they picked me up, they were on their way to tell their respective spouses that they wanted to get a divorce. I was sitting in the back of the car as this happened. I’ll never know why they stopped to pick someone up while this was going on. 

The longest hitchhiking trip I did was with a friend in Europe. On March 26th, 2012 we boarded a metro train leaving Paris and rode it to the outskirts of the city. There, we walked to the highway and caught our first ride. It was a young man who would be heading to graduate school in Mississippi soon. He took us just a few miles down the road to a rest stop where we found a stop sign decorated with various destinations and dates. Paris to Moscow, Paris to Warsaw. We didn’t write ours but if we had it would have said Paris to Istanbul. 

Our second ride was a tour bus driver. They aren’t supposed to give rides, but he saw our sign for Deutschland and offered anyway. He had just dropped a band off in Paris and was heading back somewhere so the bus was empty except us three. He told us stories of having to pay off border guards in Russia with Evanescence merchandise.

Entering Germany it became harder to get a ride. That area in particular of Germany would end up being the hardest place in the whole trip. Finally, a guy driving a custom van came by and picked us up. When you see someone driving a crazy van, you have certain expectations as a hitchhiker. The drivers seem to be aware of these expectations, because when a van like that doesn’t stop for you they really put a lot of effort into miming an apology as they pass by. His sound system was incredible.

The sun went down with us still loitering outside a gas station. Hitchhiking at night is not a good idea. Luckily one of the dudes who worked there gave us a ride when his shift ended. He was from Kazakhstan and dropped us off in town.

At this point we figured out how to hitchhike in Germany. Sticking out your thumb is no good, but if you ask people personally for rides at gas stations it’s usually an instant ja. We would approach with our map out, do a little “sprechen sie englisch?” indicate where we were headed on our map, ask if they were going that way too and then ask for a ride. We had an exhilarating run of this working with the first person we asked over and over again, including the couple pictured above.

Our next ride were with two Swiss Kung-Fu masters who were heading to a big tournament. Along the way, a car full of the Italians from the same dojo passed by, leaned out the windows, slapped our car and yelled insults. We fought back, I remember someone throwing a water bottle but I can’t remember if it was us or them.

We got dropped off in Tübingen, a small old college town. Because it has no industry they say only one bomb fell on it in WW2, and it was by accident. My friend had been hosting people on his couch in Paris and one of them had family in Tübingen. So we messaged him before the trip. He asked his family and they were down to have us. They were incredibly welcoming; gave us a room, lent us bikes, cooked us meals, even though our connection to the family wasn’t even there. It was hard to leave and I think even then we resolved that Tübingen would be the one place we would make sure to return to on the way back. We sent out couchsurfing requests to Lintz, Austria and got back on the road.

Jovan, a Serbian truck driver. We approached him at a rest stop as he was cooking his lunch. He didn’t speak English, but agreed to give us a ride after his meal. While he was eating, we were approached by undercover German drug police. They checked our passports and searched our bags, making us take out our tent and everything. On the road, he had us call his daughter who spoke English.


A Hungarian police officer and his daughter. There was no room up front so I chilled in the back.

After that, a tour bus with just one Romanian family on board. They said they’d been skiing in Italy. They also said “You think you are free in America but in Romania, if you have money, you can do anything!” They dropped us off outside of Cluj Napoca, which turned out to be a University town. On the bus we couldn’t figure out how to punch our tickets properly until a Portuguese girl helped us out. We ended up hanging out with her and her friends during our time there. The outskirts of Bucharest were populated with numerous packs of stray dogs. I remember being cold coming into the city in the morning, trying to find a bus or anything to move on. We were pretty scared but ended up laughing uncontrollably at the thought of the stray dogs constituting a political force in the city and having to negotiate with them.

In Istanbul we stayed with an actor named Umit. His English wasn’t great but he was one of the funniest people I’ve met. He was on a weekly soap opera, and we got to watch it with him in the room. We asked him what was going on in the show but he didn’t seem interested. “Woman loves man…” waving his hand “very complicated!”

We went from Istanbul to Bursa and then to a small lake town called Iznik. Iznik appeared to be devoid of anyone close to our age. There were only two bars, and since drinking is frowned upon they were hard to find and no one drank visibly. We were a real novelty there. We were sitting on a dock and a group of young girls behind us started shouting out English words at us. “Ice cream! I love you!” That night we met the people from the bar and drank and made a fire on the beach. We sang our national anthems to each other.

The first thing we noticed getting in this guy’s truck was that the seat belts didn’t have anything at the end. They were more of a sash. He showed us how to wear them and said “For Police!” 

When hitchhiking, if you leave an hour later, your entire trip might be different. Once into Macedonia, we hit our worst run ever of not getting a ride. When there are only a few cars going by, you can’t help but put mental pressure on the ones that do pass to please please just pick us up. So when they inevitably don’t, you get mad. We were at our most frustrated when the guy above picked us up. The sight of his car stopping brought intense feelings of relief. He was Albanian, which made sense later because Albania is the greatest place to hitchhike.

The guy who made this sculpture changed his mind halfway through about whether or not he should be wearing glasses so it came out looking like someone you’d find in the cantina bar in Star Wars. Our host himself is an artist and was bummed at how nepotistic the public art scene was there. In Macedonia you can’t sell alcohol after 7 PM or so. He took us to a speakeasy in a mall after the rest of the stores had shut down. He also recommended that we stop by a lake town called Ohrid on our way to Albania so we did.

Ohrid. That night we tried to camp out along the lake but couldn’t find a spot so we found a hostel. The Hostel had a real freewheeling vibe that we locked into immediately. We met a guy who was half Russian half American and had tried to hitchhike to North Korea. He wound up being held in a border prison. He said another guy there was from England and claimed to be an economist. He had 80 euros in his pocket and said he was going to use it to restart the North Korean economy.

Looking back on this trip in 2012, the atmosphere and political situations in many of these countries has changed a lot since then. In some cases they’ve improved but overall it was a more optimistic time. This feeling is also an important part of Season, of passing through the world but also passing through a particular moment in time. While the pandemic makes this kind of travel impossible for the moment, possibly for a long time, I’ve linked to a few useful free travel resources below.

Some free travel resources

Hitchwiki is very useful, it has maps that show good spots to hitch and a lot of solid advice about how to do it.

Couchsurfing is also good and free!

Above: My friend and I on the right, some folks who gave us a ride on the left. 

Next time: Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan! 

– Kevin

Season highlights


We did a nostalgic dive into our Season behind the scenes photo archive and put together a little visual timeline here

2017. “Season” begins.
Above: Hitchhiking from Nagano to Kurobe, thinking about “Season” which only had the title and a few ideas at that point.
(The bicycle was briefly a motorcycle, yikes! Maybe this deserves its own blog post one day…)

2019: “Season” started as just a few people in the back of the studio. Back in the olden days, when we worked in the same space instead of at home.

Fall 2019. The Season team grows!

We received a CMF production grant that helped get the project off the ground! 

JANUARY 2020. We finished our first playable demo!
FEBRUARY 2020. Hitting PAX East and proud to test out our Season demo. It felt great to have people finally try the game
MARCH 2020. Season was among Ubisoft’s Indie Series Finalists. We won National Bank’s Special Prize (Prix Coup de Coeur)
JUNE 2020. Dev blog launch

We feel super lucky that this project germinated and is now a reality. We’re looking forward to sharing more about the project itself soon! 

Season team