D.I.C.E. 2013: Jenova Chen: "Journey is a Game About Strangers"

D.I.C.E. 2013: Jenova Chen: "Journey is a Game About Strangers"

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Jenova Chen tried to implement character physics, but discovered that player behavior wasn't what he had hoped.

Journey is leading the way at the 16th Annual D.I.C.E. Awards this year with 11 nominations, and Jenova Chen, co-Founder and Creative Director of thatgamecompany, gave his talk about the process of eliciting the emotional response that makes Journey the experience that it is. "What kind of emotion can a videogame communicate," he pondered, "At thatgamecompany, we always start with emotion and work everything around it." He described the arduous development process, the extra year of development time, and a handful of features which didn't end up working for the game.

Along the way to the final product, thatgamecompany tried out a number of features for Journey which either detracted from the experience, or elicited the wrong emotions, prompting Chen to cut them entirely. A particularly poignant example is the character physics. "Wouldn't it be great if you could actually feel the existence of another human being," he wondered, prompting them to implement it for a time. The idea was that players would be able to help each other navigate the environment, lending a hand to help another player climb a rock, for example. Naturally, that's not how it actually played out. "Rather than push each other to help each other," he said, "they like to push each other into dangerous things, to kill each other." Likewise, displaying player names was considered, but given the "aggressive" nature of many handles, and the fact that real world references can pull a player out of the game world, the option was canned. "Most people don't want to know who's on the other end of the computer," he said.

What really makes Journey work, according to Chen, is the shift to a barren setting so "the other player becomes the focus." Unlike in many other games where "the other player is just a tool to be used to defeat the bosses," Journey encourages players to "like each other, not kill each other" by providing energy, the resource of the game, when you come across another player. "Journey is a game about strangers," he said, "Look at them as a pure human being."

There were troubles as well, with development going a year over budget, which put the company into a dangerous financial situation. But in the end, Chen believes it was well worth the troubles endured, referencing player feedback as a source of great satisfaction with the final product.

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Yeah, that pretty much sums up what the game is like.

It's neat to find out the other thing they tried first was getting players to hate each other, though.
:) Glad they found a different way.

I've always wondered, if I asked the creators what the story they meant to tell, was the same as the story I got.

I'd really like to know... especially about the end.

"Rather than push each other to help each other," he said, "they like to push each other into dangerous things, to kill each other." Likewise, displaying player names was considered, but given the "aggressive" nature of many handles, and the fact that real world references can pull a player out of the game world, the option was canned.

In other words, kids and assholes shaped the game's development because they couldn't be trusted to help each other. Given what comes out of xbox LIVE headsets, I don't see any reason to ever want contact with other unknown gamers, so I think they made the right move from what I saw. Shame I can't play the damn thing.

I watched my roommate play this game and it is on my "To do" list of games and I can safely say that if you play this game and aren't moved by the experience then you don't have a soul.

This is one of those beautiful, artistic games that I would love to play and experience for myself, but probably never will. Why? Because the publisher has chosen to artificially limit their audience (and their income) by making it exclusive to only one system. Some of us PC gamers would love to see more games like this, it is a pity so few developers are (or are allowed to be) platform agnostic.

lithium.jelly:
This is one of those beautiful, artistic games that I would love to play and experience for myself, but probably never will. Why? Because the publisher has chosen to artificially limit their audience (and their income) by making it exclusive to only one system. Some of us PC gamers would love to see more games like this, it is a pity so few developers are (or are allowed to be) platform agnostic.

It stinks that Journey cannot become multiplatform, but part of the reason it exists is because of Sony's three game contract with thatgamecompany. I don't know if they could have gotten the same kind of funding if they didn't have a deal like that, and I think that would have had an impact on the game's development. Still, I wish there was a PC port, since I don't always have my PS3 available.

yes, leave the asshattery to nsmb

where shoving your friends into holes is the law

 

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