DEVELOPMENT BLOG
Abbie

February 2022 / The Protagonist

Feb 16, 2022

Hello fellow travellers!

Welcome back to our monthly blog posts, where we’ll be looking more in-depth into Season – and peek behind the curtain to see what inspires our team. We’ll be using this space to tell you more about our world, our characters and the talented team of individuals working on the game.

In this month’s instalment, we’ll be taking a first look at the protagonist of Season. You’ve seen her in our trailer, on our posts, and in our concept art. Let’s talk about how she looks and moves and how her appearance has grown over the development of Season.

She is your view into the world of Season. Here is where she started.

The Protagonist of Season

Season is a unique game that eschews action to explore the subtle power of lived experience.

 

The beauty of the art and the landscapes calls for a minimalist approach to the characters. In Season, we discover a few people still going on about their lives with quiet dignity, as if in denial that their way of life is about to be washed away. In these last moments of stillness, we witness their world untouched, as it has been for generations.

 

The tarot card of Death does not represent mortality, but rather it represents change. Each character we meet in our travels faces this card in their own way.

 

Our protagonist is a witness. She’s not there to save their world, but rather to record it, to preserve the memory of it. She is our avatar, through which we meet and learn about the people of the valley. However, she must also have a  personality, emotions, and have her own agency. Will her curiosity and compassion for people help them face change with optimism?

 

 

Ideally, each character we meet will express a range of emotions. In addition to loss and grim acceptance, they might also have a sense of humour, opinions, passions, happy memories and hopes for the future.

For themselves, and for what little of their world they might be able to carry out with them.

 

 

Even in graveyards, flowers still bloom.

Senior Animator Alumni

Caption: Season Concept Art

In the beginning…

In the early days of Season’s pre-production, when we were still trying to establish the overall world look and feel of the game, we did a lot of experimental concept art of both environment and characters. These were very wide, ranging from very fantastical to very grounded; it was mainly to see what would stick. You can see a variety of inspirations found in the clothing and silhouettes of these early designs.

Back in those days, characters had weapons. We were maybe toying with the idea that we could reuse some combat mechanics from our previous title, The Darwin Project. We eventually got rid of most of the ideas from this period. Still, the blue hat character stayed with us because we liked her vibe.

Caption: Concept art & intial Season tests
We ended up exploring the world and playing with a variety of ideas. At this point in time, we thought about having a co-op mechanic in the game or seeing how the world could be experienced by two players simultaneously. The blue hat character has evolved a bit, but you can still see the origins of the design as we move forward.

You can even see that there still is a weapon present (though not for much longer!), and the bike has made its first appearance.

Caption: Season concept art
At this point, we decided that a significant pillar of the game would focus on bike travel. We experimented with various concepts in how a bike traveller could be conveyed. You can see elements of past ideas being carried forward. Some of these ideas would stick with our protagonist, and some you’ll come to find in our other characters.

Refining “Blue Hat”

During this process, we came across this piece from Njideka Akunyili Crosby. We thought this was the perfect reference/inspiration when we saw this painting. The look, the style, and the whole concept were iconic to us. She was cool and confident, both unique and timeless. We knew our protagonist would be older, and this work inspired us with the emotions that it conveys.
Caption: Season concept art
From there, we polished and refined our main character’s look. Ideas and concepts were carried forward, and you can start to see the final appearance take shape. The bike, the sound recorder, the bag, and the general style now better reflect the game and its world.

Sadly, we eventually got rid of the big hat because it covered too much of the character when seen from the back. The game is played from a third-person camera point of view, and the large hat ended up hiding too much of our character. 

At this point of the pre-production, the story was also evolving, where we felt her jean jacket felt a bit too modern. We wanted to give her a slight redesign of her clothes to have a sense of fashion/elegance, but you couldn’t pinpoint precisely what period it would be from. It would be something that people in a reclusive community, who maybe create their own clothes, could be wearing. It would have style but also function.

We would give them a hoodie scarf, a sweater tied around her shoulders. This broke up the outfit in a fun visual way, hinted at practicality, and could be matched to various times and places so that it would feel classic but modern. It also had the added bonus of livening up her animations.

All of this would lead up to the character we have now.

Giving breath to our protagonist

This also lets us talk about how we bring our protagonist to life beyond her appearance. We also use her movement to tell her story.

There are three main pillars to her animations:

MINIMALISTIC 

Season is a game about subtle but meaningful actions. The gestures performed by a character will be shown sentimentally rather than physically, they are subdued and combine voice acting with smaller animations to convey emotion.

EMOTIONAL 

The goal is to make the audience understand what the character is feeling. Instead of accomplishing complex actions, the characters conduct their behaviour through empathy. Each action has purpose and weight to it.

CONTRAST 

In animation, contrast is exhibited in posing or timing. Contrast is key in creating believable characters. Season expresses its contrast with feelings. We add a dash of humour to a dramatic or emotional scene to achieve this contrast.

Our protagonist shows her emotions with composure. She has delicate and very agile gestures. She values true friendship and always acts respectfully towards tradition. She adopts a lower shoulders posture rather than a confident stance. She is cautious, polite, and inquisitive.

From her initial concepts to her now refined look and animation, we look forward to you meeting her properly and seeing the world of Season through her eyes.

Thank you for taking the time to read our update! We’d love to hear your thoughts over on our Discord where you can talk to the developers, share your own inspirations, and learn more about Season.

As always, you can add Season to your Steam wishlist now!

Don’t forget that we also have a newsletter that will share some different information you won’t get in our blog posts! In our following missive, we’ll be talking about how our protagonist interacts with the world and how she records her travels.

Be safe in your journeys, and never forget.

With love,