Seaman (video game)
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|Programmer(s)||Arka Roy |
Microsoft Windows (cancelled)
Nintendo 3DS (cancelled)
The game was released multiple times including a limited edition version titled Christmas Seaman that was released in Japan in 1999, alongside a limited edition red Dreamcast and a PlayStation 2 version in 2001, titled Seaman: Kindan no Pet - Gaze Hakushi no Jikken Shima the first edition of which came with a microphone. A PC version for Microsoft Windows was planned, with the Seaman being able to interact with the user's applications. No release date was specified, and it was later canceled.
A sequel called Seaman 2 was released in Japan for the PlayStation 2 in 2007.
The "Seaman" is a form of freshwater fish (the color and shape of the fins suggest that it is a Carp) with a very lifelike human face. It possesses human mannerisms and behavior with which the player interacts.
Seaman is considered a unique video game in that it presents limited action. The player's role is to feed and care for Seaman while providing him with the company that he needs. In fact, the player is required to check on the Seaman every day of real-time, or he could die. A portion of Seaman's knowledge is random trivia. When he asks what the player's birthday is (and the player responds via the microphone input), Seaman will then share significant events that happened on that date.
The player is provided with an unhatched Seaman egg at the beginning of the game and through various terms of development and conditions develops and interacts with it. By using various buttons on the Dreamcast controller, the player controls all of the machinery and physical contact with the mysterious creature. The player is also provided with multiple Seamen for breeding and interaction purposes. Over the course of the game, it is required of the player to evolve their Seaman to different stages in its life cycle, eventually transforming into a frog-like creature outlined on the Disc's cover.
In the Seaman's first days of life, it begins as a Mushroomer, a form consisting of a well-developed optic organ and a flagellum, lacking a face or any verbal means of communication. In this form, it is essentially a parasite, which overruns a host Nautilus after being eaten by it and consumes it from the inside out for nourishment. Mushroomers tend to stick to one side of the tank by the ends of their flagellum if left alone. In this stage, the player's interaction is somewhat minimal and plays similar to a tutorial, allowing the player to learn to control the heat in the fish tank, direct the Mushroomers, and clean out any filthy water that has accumulated over time.
After emerging from the deceased body of the Nautilus, the organism enters a stage called the Gillman, which resembles a cyprinid fish with a human face and a tentacle-like tube atop its forehead. During this stage, the Seaman becomes capable of speech but can only speak in gibberish, copying and reiterating comments through microphone input. At this point, the player will begin the communication process and continue maintaining the aquarium as the Gillman grows larger, developing scales and a larger vocabulary. As the Gillmen mature, they develop scales and more advanced speaking abilities, but they will soon kill one another until only two remain. Their genders are indeterminate until they mature to the point of being able to be named. Once one is named, it will change its color and sex.
In this stage, the Seaman is still fish-like in appearance and is similar to that of the Gillman but has the addition of frog-like legs. After mating, the male Podfish dies.
The aquarium is also transformed into a terrarium, being drained of most of the water and introducing land and oxygen to breathe. Following this, the female then lays its eggs on the shore. Shortly after depositing the eggs, the female also dies, leaving the player a new generation of Seamen in a new evolutionary stage.
Instead of the introduction of hatching as Mushroomers like the first generation the player began the game with, the player is instead provided with a new form called Tadmen. They superficially resemble the baby Gillman but instead of a fish-like appearance, they resemble tadpoles. In addition, they still retain the same deep voice that their parents had. As they age, their bodies grow larger and small limbs begin to form. The Tadmen's diet consists of feeding upon their fellow siblings until the number is reduced to two. When this happens, the siblings will climb ashore and walk on land, ushering them into their next evolutionary stage, the frogman.
This is the Seaman's final stage of its maturity process. It has now become an amphibious creature resembling a frog with a human face and a tentacle-like tube atop its forehead. Now able to co-exist between the habitats of water and dry land, the Frogman is now capable of powerful leaps and the consumption of insectoid organisms; however, like the real-world frog, the creature still requires the moisture of water to stay alive. The player is provided with a sprinkler system to remedy this. It is also at this stage where the player releases the seaman into the wild. While anything concerning metamorphosis and reproduction is left to speculation while the Frogmen are in the wild, it can be assumed the Seaman will eventually lay Mushroomer eggs and start the cycle over. This is similar to the reproductive cycle of real-world fungi, which the name Mushroomer may allude to.
Story and setting
As a new pet owner, the player is given the responsibility of caring for and learning about the enigmatic "Seaman" species using a replica of the discoverer's laboratory. The player must figure everything out by themselves, such as appropriate care, with some guidance from the narrator Leonard Nimoy.
The game's manual goes into further detail about the backstory of the seaman species. During the 1930s, Dr. Jean Paul Gassé was a member of a special team of French biologists sent to Egypt by the French government. During that time, Dr. Gassé was determined to research a creature that was an "omnipotent messenger of gods" among the ruins of the Third Dynasty. In March 1932, in the city of Alexandria, Dr. Gassé met up a local resident, who, while fishing, caught a seaman. Dr. Gassé obtained a sample of some of the seaman eggs, and went back to France with the egg samples in his possession.
When Dr. Gassé returned to France, he attempted to raise the eggs, but the seamen died in his care. Shortly after this, he published a thesis of his work. His hypothesis suggested that the Seaman was responsible for transferring knowledge that increased during the Third Dynasty across oceans and other lands. Leading academics, however, dismissed him and his work as a PR stunt, leveraging the complaint against him that he lacked the proper evidence to support these outlandish findings. As the result, the work was ignored, and no one believed him. Despite its controversy, his theory became the basis for Anthro-Bio Archaeology, a highly valued field of study.
Shortly after publishing his thesis, Dr. Gassé was fired from his post. After his dismissal, news of Gassé’s whereabouts and activities were unknown, and details during those times were sketchy. Rumors began circulating that Dr. Gassé's trail traced to some remote islands in Southeast Asia. It is known, however, that he escaped the horrors of World War II and met up with his colleague, Kimo Masuda. It became clear that sometime during these years they were able to conduct further research on Seaman's evolution, quite possibly even up to the creature walking on all fours. Unfortunately, there was very little hard data or evidence that substantiated these findings.
In March 1996, the French Government established the Anthro-Bio Archeological Research Institute (ABARI), headquartered in Paris. The institute is based on the work of Dr. Gassé, and most of the modern day research of Seaman specimens has taken place there. In 1997, the ABARI announced there was a strong possibility that these Seaman species were closely related to the origins of ancient civilizations in Egypt. On October 6, 1998, one of Gassé’s formaldehyde specimens is discovered at the University of Paris.
On February 15, 1999, parts of Gassé's journal and note entries were found in the Masuda family storehouse in Matsuzaka City in Mie Prefecture, Japan. Professor Kendare Takahashi, who was directing the Japanese branch of the ABARI, successfully managed to breed Seaman eggs in captivity, in July the same year. Soon after, Seaman was presented in aquariums across Japan. In July 2000, an expedition team embarked for Egypt in a first major research of the Seaman in the wild.
Development and release
Seaman is one of the few Dreamcast games to take advantage of the microphone attachment. The narration is voiced by Toshiyuki Hosokawa in the original Japanese-language version and by Leonard Nimoy in the English-language version. The face of the Seaman creature is modeled after game's producer, Yoot Saito.
Seaman was developed by Vivarium. It was conceived and designed by Yoot Saito. Saito originally came up with the concept of a joke when one of his coworkers was creating a tropical fish simulator. When Saito informed the concept to his wife, she supported the idea despite considering it gross and strange. Saito also shared the concept with Shigeru Miyamoto who also liked the concept and was credited as someone important to the development of the game. Seaman was intended to be developed for the Nintendo 64DD, but was instead made for the Dreamcast. The decision to develop the game for the Dreamcast was when he was introduced to the vice president of Sega, Shoichiro Irimajiri and thought it was interesting to become a market leader for the console. The prototype was initially developed on a Mac computer and spent a year and a half converting it into a Dreamcast game. Near completion of the game, test players attempted to use long sentences to play the game. This caused the Seaman creature to say "Can you say that again?" repeatedly. To fix the issue, Yoot Saito changed the phrasing to say, "You talk too long, I don’t understand" in order to inform players they need to use shorter and simpler sentences to interact with the Seaman creature.
Localization was handled by Sega of America and spent a total of nine months, where multiple changes to comments were made regarding sex, politics, and slang based on cultural differences. In the Japanese version, the in-game Seaman creature would make comments based on the player's content saved on their memory card but this feature was removed in the English version due to privacy concerns. The creature's personality was different from the English version being more casual and negative.
A limited-edition titled Christmas Seaman was released in Japan on December 16, 1999 alongside an exclusive red Dreamcast. In 2001, Seaman was re-released in Japan for the PlayStation 2 as Seaman: Kindan no Pet - Gaze Hakushi no Jikken Shima[b], the first edition of which came with a microphone. A PC version for Microsoft Windows was planned, with the Seaman being able to interact with the user's applications. No release date was specified, and was later canceled.
In Japan, the Dreamcast version of Seaman sold 399,342 copies as of February 1, 2004, making it the third best-selling Dreamcast game in the region at the time. The PlayStation 2 version of the game sold 305,632 in Japan as of November 2, 2008. It received an Excellence Award for Interactive Art at the 1999 Japan Media Arts Festival and received the Original Game Character of the Year award at GDC 2002. In 2008, Game Informer named the game one of the top ten weirdest of all time.
Greg Orlando reviewed the Dreamcast version of the game for Next Generation praised the game stating: "The gentle art of conversation meets Resident Evil - and the Dreamcast gets its most bizarre title ever".
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