下一个问题，是用户名。因为玩家在玩进攻性的，竞争性的游戏，所以他们的名字也常常很有攻击性。这里图中的名字已经还好了。但这些名字把我带出了游戏世界。Haris Pilton，它提醒我我看到的是Haris Pilton，是现实世界。我们花了这么大力气把玩家置身于一个魔法世界。而这些名字，这些文本，瞬间把他们推回了现实。要让玩家们合作和产生情感连结，他们必须忘记这些现实的东西。
So designing Journey.
Journey took us 3 years to make. But the company, That Game Company started in 2006. In the first 3 years, we were making other games. You know, so far we’ve made 3 games on PlayStation Console, Flow, Flower and Journey.
This is the Journey team at the end of the development.
Here is the celebration, and we’ve made scarves for every member. It’s a small team. There are 12 people here. When we started making Journey, there were 7 guys after the finish of Flower. You know, over the course, various people come and leave. Most of them were on the stage last night.
Actually before Journey, we’ve already kind of made quite a few awards, which I’m proud of. And after Journey it’s kind of going crazy.
But what I’m most proud of, is these kind of association of game with museums and art and some other industry giving our game nominations and awards. Because deep down, I always want games to be accepted by, I guess, the mass?
how did your guys do it?
A lot of people asked us, how did you guys make it? You didn’t have a PR apartment. Your CEO in the news all the time. Well, I guess it’s the difference is we view game development in a very different perspective. I remember in GDC at 2004 or 2005, we were talking about innovating games around gameplay mechanics. There are different ways you can innovate games. You can use new technology and build games around it. You can create unique art style and build games around it. But when we approach innovation, we like to look at it from the perspective of emotion.interactive media
I kind of see games as an entertainment. When I think about entertainment as a whole, I see a kind of industry to fulfill human desire. Just like food and water. When a human has a craving for emotion, there are various ways to get it through various media. It just happened to be interactive media can provide entertainment, uh, can provide various emotions.
Compare games to films. If you look at films which has grown quite mature and the genre of the films are often divided based on the feeling, from negative to positive.
When we look at video game genres, and particularly the early video games. These are what I consider as arcade era, even though Angry Birds and Bejeweled are here, I consider these games that are very popular in the early days. These games are about the sense of accomplishment. You really get better at performing certain skills and the feeling of achievements is really a powerful emotion that is often not achievable in cinema. I think that is why in early age, this emotion has been explored a lot.
And over the past 20 years, games have become bigger and bigger and particularly console games. With the teenagers and the younger male. And you take a look at the games appealing to this particular age group, a lot of them are about empowerment. Particularly when we think about what this group of people need, most of the time in school they were told not to do certain things. At home, they can’t drive, they can’t drink, they can’t. These schools leave a lot of limitation about freedom, so in a way, a feeling of freedom is something that really appeals to this age group.
But as I grow older, I have the freedom, I have a job, I have the money. I can go anywhere I want to. I such find it’s less appealing to me and I start to play less and less games. If you look at the innovation on emotion in the history of video games, I can recall a couple, for example Sims. Sims is the first game that gives me a feeling of socializing with someone. That is huge. That’s like before multi-player even existed, this single player game can give me the feeling of connection and relationship. I think that’s why it has huge hit and it has very different appeals to different demographics. So when we started ThatGameCompany, we want to push the boundary of what kind of emotion can games communicate to the players. If there is a variety of feelings that’s attainable in gaming, it is going to be a healthy media, it will make gaming a more healthy media. And for players, if all the play is empowerment, if there is a new feeling, it can also be healthy for them.
So now I’m gonna talk about Journey. This is why you are here. In early 2006, this is before ThatGameCompany was created, I already have this idea for Journey.
At the time it was the 3rd year I play WOW, I started to play since early alpha because my friends work in Blizzard and I felt super privilege to play this game before everybody.
But it is the time I started getting really sick of WOW. And the reason is that most of the time I was very busy at school, and there is almost no social life. So being online, being with other people, the real people, they are on the Internet, is something that makes me feel close, and makes me feel less lonely.
When I play a game online, what I want is emotional exchange with each other. I want to have romance and friendship.
But most of the time, the player doesn’t care about those things. They like to talk about the strategy, how they are supposed to kill the boss, like: move up to left, you’re slow.
All they were saying is that I want to loot. This is my turn and you are not supposed to get it. So I was kind of disappointed because the more I play this game, the more people I encounter, the more I realize I have no connection with any of these people. It just remind me that I’m a lonely person. It’s sad. I was hoping that there will be a different type of game out there that will satisfy me desire, to have a connection with people.
As you can tell, I’m an introvert, I don’t like to go to parties or bars. So I was imagining the online world where there is no longer difference between…, first of there is no enemies you can kill and there is no … like armor sets. You know I’m platinum and you are only bronze. I want everybody to forget those material things and focus on the fact that we’re all human.
The other thing I got quite annoying is that a lot of people will check to see if you are a guy or a girl in these online games and it’s always a sad ending. I really wanted to see a game where there’s no difference in gender or age. Sometimes I realize this guy I really have connection to during play and raids is actually a 12-year old boy, I suddenly felt like such a disappointment. I want to see a world that everybody is the same. You can’t tell what their gender is, they are all on their path searching for something, something I don’t know what that is.
So I have the scene here where one person is simply standing on the bridge and looking down in the waterfall and I’m just imagining a scenario where I can walk up to him without words and he is staring at the waterfall and I decide to stop, looking at the waterfall and thinking why he was looking there, the very action of stopping next to someone and not keep moving on. Give me a feeling that at the moment we are together for this.
And back down I was thinking about MMOs because what I was playing was WOW, so there are supposed to be lots of players. This scene is something I really liked and I want to see in the game one day. It’s basically just finished? Shadow of the Colossus. How ridiculous is that. So in the scene, there are dark pillars actually the legs of the giants. They are walking through the snow field, kicking all the dust. So it’s very foggy and dusty and you can’t see in the front. And you guys have to keep silent because if you make noise, the giants will notice you. You have to slowly contract through the way and relying on the guy before you to lead you away from danger. And at the same time, being relied on upon by the person behind you. That is some feeling I really want to experience in this game.
But we have no money and no banking company back then. We are very very lucky to be able to find the opportunity to work with Sony. They helped us to build the previous 2 games. Flow took us a year, Flower 2 years.
So when we finished flower, we say OK, finally let’s make a third game and I feel we finally ready to tackle online gameplay. We want to take what we learn from Flow and Flower and try to induce a new emotion between 2 strangers online.
When we think about emotion-we’re going back to dispatch here. We mentioned social game like sims. This is also the era at 2009 when facebook got big and the social games got big. People talk about social games. I looked at the social games. I looked the mechanics interactions. It’s not about socializing. It’s more about exchanging numbers and resource management, which reminds me more of the earlier games.
And when I think about social emotions, Sims is one of them. When playing Guitar Hero, I have a great social bonding with people who play with me. And even play Minecraft, well Minecraft is recent but I’m trying to say that they are interactions that make you social.
My habit with previous games is to try to make emotion that’s stronger and different. I really know that it’s some emotions there that gonna bind people. They’re gonna have deeper emotions of the finished game. But I have no idea what is the emotion.
Identify the emotion
It takes us quite a while to search for what is the emotion behind social interactivity.
So I first look around at the online games that’s popular on the console. There are a lot of team fights, or team survival co-op. It was very interesting for me to look at what is the average noise. People keep telling me how they hate online players. And people are mean online and don’t want to know who they are. I really want to make something that feels differently, or make people trust each other better.
I was very lucky to have a met with quite a few astronauts(Charles F. Bolden Jr.) in my life and talked with them about the experience in the space.
They talked about how there is a weird myth between all the astronauts who went to the moon, that after they came back, they all become very very spiritual and religious. That’s like a joke I heard from the lunch table, right? There must be something mysterious about the moon that really transform these people who were at there.
And later on I met the guy who jove the first moon buddy. I asked him what’s so special on the moon, that makes these people feel different after they come back. He said, on the moon, there is nothing. There is no sound because there is no air. It’s elderly quiet. The earth is so small. It’s like you put your thumb there and you can cover it up. And you are on the strange place where there is nothing, no sound. You can’t stop but thinking ,why. Why are we here? What about the rest of the universe? Everything you know, these astronauts, they are mostly scientists, they know a lot about earth. All of a sudden, they are facing with a lot of unknown. I learned psychology and I know that sense of awe and unknown is directly tied with a lot of religious meanings.
It’s kind of inspiration you cannot connect to what the game is. But it inspired me to look at our life today. We are kind of super empowered by technology and knowledge today. We can move really fast, we can live and walk above the clouds. We can talk to anybody at anywhere and anytime. And in our pocket, our bag, we carried the entire knowledge that human has ever gathered. It makes me feel powerful because if I got to bring things today to 10 years ago, they will think that I’m a god. I know everything, I can do everything. But also it kind of makes me feel like we are living in a life we are trapped by these empowerment. We can’t simply live without them anymore.
When we look at video games, particularly the popular commercial games, most of the characters are carrying something that symbolize power.
The gameplay, as I mentioned earlier, is mostly about empowerment. When you have empowerment, when you put a bunch of people in that environment, their first reaction is that I’m gonna apply my power on someone else. If you give me a gun, and you lock me up with another guy in a room, I think I’m gonna use it someday. So the problem is when you have a lot of power, even though the game is about to be survival, and bonding, and collaboration, most of the time you apply the power on, let’s say shooting someone to death, and if my teammates block me, I’m like, uh, get away, I’m gonna shoot this zombie.
The only time I felt connection while I play Life or Die, is when someone is patching me up and I really feel something. But too bad, it’s rare. The majority of time, I’m still applying power.
Redesign online experiences
So when I think about redesign a social experience, something that will connect people together, I think the very first important thing is to reverse the power relationship between the players and the world. The player needs to be less powerful and the monster needs to be more powerful.
And then you will think about collaborating with other people. And in a lot of games today, it’s most about achievements, and challenge about conquering the monster. Make the monster logo looks like the angel logo. It has no indication here. So I’m trying to see in a online game, most people think about getting items, and getting power, and think less about the other player, particularly in WOW, most time I don’t think about a player only when I think this guy is too difficult to beat. I need another guy to help me beat this boss. And I kind of think them as a tool to get the treasure afterwards.
I want to see a reverse. I want to see the treasure and the monster only be a mean to make me realize how awesome the other players are.
In most of the online games, it’s about shooting. But I want to see an online game where the skills a player gain and improve every time is communicating emotions and really feel each other rather than how accurate your gunshot is.
The problem is trying to create that world is very difficult because in a lot of modern day games, the scene of war is too noisy. You just don’t have time to look at the other friend when the tank, the helicopter is attacking.
So I thought, it’s easy, the first thing we do is to remove the noise. We just keep a game to focus on people.
Then we have the problem that if you have a gun, you want to use it. So we have to ditch that. Then it starts to get interesting. A bunch of people in a lobby waiting before the rites started and talk to each other.
But I kind of want to have more structure so I think what if we have less people. It’s easier to design when you have less people. Let’s say we are in a hazardized environment, not many people can survive. And there is only two people left.
And then all of a sudden, this guy in this distance become very interesting, compare to constant warfare or action.
That’s the very beginning of Journey. We want to have a game which will make you feel somewhat lonely, somewhat small. But you have a great sense of awe, and the feeling of unknown, towards this mystery behind this game world.
Prototyping the emotion
That’s just the emotion we have indentified. But to actually accurate that emotion, we have to do a lot of prototype because not seeing a lot of games trying to achieve that, maybe Myst, Shadow of the Colossus is the only two I can see that is having the similar feeling.
When we prototype, actually we start prototyping music. It’ not the interactivity because music is the most effective and powerful media that can create emotion. So I work with Austin Wintory, BTW he is Grammy nominated. I was really really lucky to have a music that he made. Pretty much like the right beginning of the game development.
So 4 months into Journey’s development, Our artist make this mock-up trailer with Austin’s music. I’m going to play it here.
You can see in the early days, our character looks like a ninja. He still have human shape like arms. It’s very much the early stage. But we know the world it’s make you feel big and inspiring. You need to feel awe. It’s kind of various landscape. You can hear the music. That’s the music we use in the end game. It’s the music you will hear on cross media before we launch Journey. It has not changed and hit something strong and I really feel there’s something there. And we kind of start to build the game around the music. And the mountain used to be a gravis of canyon rather than a hill.
experience through the development
Then we start to enter all kinds of round problems. I think the trailer is only successful in the early day. Let me show you something we learned.
Coop Works Against Single Player
We start prototyping with co-op(cooperation). We want people to work with each other.
So we start this prototype called rope. So basically it’s a one button game. You just press Space(空格键). Rope is the action. A long light guy can’t break the rock because he doesn’t have arm. But the fat guy, he has strength, he can break a rock. But still the chance is not always 100%. So as they collaborate, here is the rope, they can climb up. The long light guy runs fast and can jump through gaps. With a rope, anybody can launch a rope at any time. Eventually was the chance they can collaborate. We thought this was a great game. You help each other. But the problem is you can’t play alone. Sony keep telling us that this game could have a great multi-player, but needs to have single player. Otherwise, you will not sell your game. So we are like, OK, this doesn’t work.
Here is an example where two people are collaborating and they are pushing a heavy rock. This is a common feature I think most collaborate games have. But if you are alone. You can’t even finish this level. Even though there is a great feeling of collaboration, it become a great trouble for us when we want to design a game that’s possible to play alone.
2D doesn’t translate to 3D
The other thing, as you can see most of prototype earlier times like JAVA and flash are 2D prototypes. And stuff we saw was brilliant, didn’t work in 3D at all.
We start this idea of a trail. If you walk in the desert, you can only see so far from top down. How would you that there is another player? And even if the other player exists, they are moving towards one direction, how you’re ever gonna catch up if you all have the same speed?
So if you walk on other people’s trail, you would speed up. And so, eventually, as you explore, you will run into other player. You can see the shots in very earlier prototype, we thought that was successful.
Here I’m trying to show you that if the player can be next to each other, they will be more strengthful and they climb rocks.
But these mechanics, eventually when you transfer into 3D, it’s almost impossible to put it out because cameras and other things.
Here is another prototype. We saw it smart because when two people are travelling, they get to go faster because they can leave frog from each other, and they can increase speed.
Another great idea we had, we thought was smart, was calling to distract the monster. In Journey, you see the monsters, right? If you shout at them, the monster wanna attack you.
So between the two players, you might be able to collaborate and distract the monsters and to get through. But when we actually try to execute this idea in 3D, it’s almost impossible to tell the distance between you and the monster and coordinate. This is way too hard. It tells me that a top down view is great for strategy menuval and collaboration, but it’s almost impossible in 3D.
Here is another scenario which we really saw as great idea but got killed. We saw the desert and of course the sandstorms. So sandstorm is coming and people have to find shelter. The shelter is kind of a grey color. You can see the sandstorm keep going. If they stay at the shelter too intimately, the color of them will change to pink. I don’t know what that means, maybe they are shy. So this very scene of the sandstorm wiping the entire world was very powerful emotional experience but in the end when we bring it to 3D, we realize how difficult it is to actually do a sandstorm.
Graphics is Gameplay
And there is also this idea about graphics as gameplay. This is something very unique in TGC(Thatgamecompany) where internally we call it Grameplay. We are more a grameplay company than game mechanics company.
What do I mean? So imagine you are in the desert and you’re walking towards a mountain in the distance. And you’ve been walking, the mountain is so far that almost nothing changed on the screen.
This is how it feels early on in Journey where we have to keep jopping breap crowns to keep the player feel like I’m actually making some progress. The world is so big. We want to feel epic. But it’s really boring to traverse through the land. For a quite long time we feel this game is not fun at all.
In order to create feedback, for simple traverse like walking, we added the sun trail. At least you join something, you can sense how long you’ve been walked. We want to have a lot more like dunes, things that will be passing by. So when you walk, the entire screen is giving you a feedback rather than just staring at the image.
We went out to a really kind of desert. This is the Pismo Beach. Here is a video our leading engineer John Edwards climbing the sand and I’m like if you jump off the sand, can you actually slide down? So here I’m telling him, hey let’s try this, let’s try just jump off and see what’s gonna happen. And he jumps down and just stopped. How terrible is that!
I wish in the ideal world he would just be sliding down and that’s what we did exactly in Journey. You climb up, it’s kind of slowly. And then eventually you kind of slide down the other side. It’s kind of wired that we try to catch realism but we’re trying to catch realism we wished.
Then walking become interesting because every dune you climb up, you have this patience of what’s behind it. You also have a reward. There is a lot more engagement in the basic grument.
There is no mechanics here, really. Just feedback.
Avoid Emotional Distractions
As we work on this game, we went out to a lot of distraction. As a good designer, you need to be very clear about the experience you want and stay the hell away from those you don’t want.
So Journey is a very simple interface game because we want to make it for everybody. We want to kids to be able to pick up this game to play. We want to give this to my dad or my mom and they should be able to just enjoy it rather than learning a lot about game.
When I think about online game, the first thing I think about is the online interface. This is Journey’s online interface. There is another guy. So you know it’s a online game.
When I think about the online games, before we made this game, it was like this. You have to figure out a lobby, check out a room and check everybody’s pin number and make sure it’s all green and you start the game. And you have to say ready. I just don’t know how to explain what is a pin number to my mom. So we say we have to hide all these interface.
And the next problem, is just the user ID. Because players have been playing the aggressive, competitive games, their names tend to be very aggressive. This name is actually not too bad. They actually take me out of the game. Haris Pilton, I’m seeing Haris Pilton, I’m seeing real world. It takes so much efforts for us to transfer the player in the living room into a magical realm. And these names, these texts, just bring them back. In order to have them collaborate and connect, they have to forget these realized things.
And the next thing is people will say, oh online game, I get to talk to my friends, I need to have voice chatter. Knowing console games, I just don’t want to hear the voice of the 12 years old boy.
Who knows who’s playing the game on the other side.
Sony was talking to us that if you have friends invite, you will have a viro marketing(病毒传播). Because it’s fun to play with friends. They will tell other players to buy the game. We thought this was a good idea but when you implement that, if you have two strangers on the internet, and they can’t chat, they can accept that. But if I’m playing with my best friends, and he’s on the internet, and we can’t chat, it’s kind of frustrating. And because of that, we actually decide not to support friends invite because it will break the integrity of the world.
The only way we allow players to connect with each other is at the very end of the game, after all the player roles we show you the ID of the other player. So that way, we can protect the feeling between the strangers.
The other distraction is in the early days, we try four players call up. We realized there are a lot of weird situation. After they play for a while, they start to talk about us verse them. They suck. We agreed. I think, sure, having competitions is great for online games, but that’s not the emotional connection I’m thinking about.
And a worse case is when there are 3 players in a bigger group and this single player is isolated. I remember talking to my professor Tracy Fullerton who is sitting here, and she told me she hated this game. Because she is an explorer. She wants to explore the game but all the other testers want to move on. And she felt forced. She has to conform herself towards others.
So in the end we start to focus on one on one interaction. Also based on that particular problem that the 3 verse the one, I want to bring this idea of collaboration and flow.
Collaboration and Flow
I originally learned flow from the single player game because you know as a psychology theory, flow is about the balance between the player’s abilities and the challenge of the game.
You want to make sure no matter where the player evolves in the game, they are in this nice balance.
But also, there is the concept of flow for collaboration. Coliberation, which is like in any group co-up, there is the balance between individualism and the group conformity. You can’t just be too much about yourself, then the group will abandon you. You can’t just do what the group wants to do then you lose yourself.
The player needs to have the choice to actually navigate through the experience to stay in the flow and also to stay in the flow of collaboration.
That’s really why we tried really hard to create Journey’s seamless online lobby system. We will match you up with all kinds of players. But some of them might not match with you. They might want to explore while you want to finish the game as soon as possible. We believe if you have the choice to walk away from a player, eventually you’ll run into someone who wants the same thing, the similar type of player. Then you would love to be next to the player. When you have the choice to leave, the co-up is more real and sincere, it’s possible to have a stronger emotional connection.
In the end, Journey’s online matching system is based on the physical distance. If someone is close to you, we’ll match you up, if you don’t like them, you start to walk away, the system will disconnect them and find someone else.
Another type of distraction, resource. In Journey, you go through and pick up those cloth, strength, and you fly, and you love them. When two people who loves strength, they meet, and one guy take the resource, and he flied. The other guy hates you. In fact, in our early days play testing, people will say like I really don’t want to be with the other player, they don’t belong here because they’re gonna steal my resource. For quite a while, in order to compensate, we thought we had a great idea, we had the player who jump the resource after use that. They don’t actually consume resources.
This is the early days 3D prototype, you can see the players flies, he jumps the strength behind them. So for the other player, he can just pick them up and fly up for free. It’s kind of like a coming thing. You share all the resource. But the problem is that even though mathematically you share it, psychologically you don’t. A lot of players complain how epic he got all these resource carry all the way to the other guy, and he can use my resource to fly. He take the advantage of my labor, even though most of them are not intentional. And a lot of people feel very weird when there’s a guy stuck you, stay behind you and pick up your stuff. They still feel like some kind of stealing happening. In order to really eliminate that, at least people don’t hate each other, we decide to jump the idea of percetion of resource. We just have infinite resource, except the player has limited pocket size, can only carry this much money. People go through resource, they pick up their money and they can all fly and they don’t hate each other.
And then, at some point, we have another distraction from physics. In most online games, there is no collisions, so people can just walk through each other. Because collision online is very difficult to do and it causes all kinds of problems.
At some point, we talked about the two people helping each other to go through the rock. You can see the 2D prototype is very easy but to do this in 3D you need to carry the guy, push him up and the other guy pull you up. So there is a lot of collisions, physics we have to be permitted. We thought, but this would help people trust and help each other even more. Let’s do this. This gonna make the emotion deeper.
So we add the physics so the player can push each other, they feel the existence of each other. This is great.
But instead of helping each other push them to the rock, they push them to something more exotic. For quite a while, I thought those playtesters, they play too much Call Of Duty, they’re just mean.
And then, we were doing playtest at our own office, our leading engineer, John Adams who jumped off the sand, killed me, multiple times. Wait, you know this game is about helping each other and having connection, right? Why are you keep doing this? He was just staring at me laughing because we are just right across the office, come on, revive me. Then I realize, for quite a while, I was just disappointed about humanity. I was so disappointed and one day Kelly told me to meet her brother’s girlfriend. She is a spiritual psychologist. So I talked to her about the very dilemma of humanity. She said oh, it’s because you are players. They are babies. What do I mean by that? When you transfer yourself from real world to a virtual space, particularly when character looks like adults, they don’t carry the morality from real life. It’s like a new baby. A baby only seek for feedback. And pushing a guy to a rock has almost no feedback. But pushing a guy to kill him, there is animation, there is blood, there is a sound of crying and there is social anxiety of waiting you to revive them. It’s so much more rewarding. Of course the player wants to do that. So what I learn is morality doesn’t necessarily carry over and in order to shape players’ behavior, you have to control the input and output.
In order to prevent this happen, we actually get rid of collision in the end. So what happens is that instead of pushing each other, when you’re next to each other, you start to give each other money. So people love to be next to each other because there’s a lot of feedback but there is no feedback by pushing them into a cliff and kill them. And now they can both fly just being next to each other. They love each other.
These little twigs about features can go a long way. There is so many small things about Journey kind of like constantly playtesting before this start working.
Executing Emotional Catharsis
And now I’m going to talk about I think the most important thing in Journey: if you wish to figure out about mechanics, you really need to push for emotional catharsis. And catharsis is kind of like what people will say a climax of a great story. But what’s important for catharsis is it’s not emotion, it’s just an intensity. I think no matter what emotion you are pushing for, whether joy or sadness, all kinds of emotions. You need to push to a certain depth, a certain intensity. Because otherwise adults, like myself as a gamer I’m too jaded. I need to be really shaken, really surprised, to actually feel something.
Three Act Structure
So this is a typical three-act structure from Hollywood: how you would structure the intensity of your emotion in your story, hoping at the very end, there is a huge rise. And that rise, is a change of intensity. That’s the catharsis of emotion.
Awe & Mystery/ Structure of Transformation
You know, for Journey, the feeling is awe and mystery. We want to be able to control that. This is where I sought to look for Joseph Campbell’s work. He is a master about myth and awe.
This is where I get to learn the hero’s Journey in depth. I keep hearing it but never pay attention to it. The hero’s Journey is essentially a structure of storytelling about a transformation of human being.
They can be something like a transformation of a farmboy into a galaxy saver, or some hacker guy turning into the One. It could also be useful for more abstract stories like the transformation of the little lion into the king.
So when I lined up the transformation of the hero’s Journey, which is called the monomyth, with the intensity of three-act structure. I’m thinking about doing a transformation of a character’s life from birth to death. It’s surprisingly a line. It’s almost like perfect a line. It’s such a great three act story about a hero’s journey which is also a human’s life. At that point, I’m so kicked down. This is so perfect. People all figureit out long time before we look for cinema and audio things. We have to try it out as a game.
So we create arch of Journey, and based on the arch, we create the landscape, the world of Journey, which you can see from the altitude, it’s almost like based on the arch. Then we figure out the character’s growth from young to old, and they eventually transcend. And based on the story line, we create the mood and colors. The detail of every areas in the world.
And based on that, we have a even more detailed emotion arch with gameplay elements classified in this chart, and divide these archer into smaller levels. This is all finished in the first year, the first happy year.
Basically, we break audience those? down into small scenarios that gameplay elements, storytelling elements and the history elements. There is actually two story line for Journey.
You can see based on this arch, we can have this intensity curve here. If I map it onto an axis, you can see basically we can use that as a guide to direct what we want in terms of gameplay. So on the positive side of the intensity, we want to make the player feel free. We want them to have lots of movement. We want them to feel energetic and feel connection with each other. And in the opposite, you can imagine what kind of emotion that is.
When we work with artists, it’s very easy to tell an artist to paint something that’s in a very intense or very low. It’s easy to work with composers to get music that feels sad or happy. But it’s very hard to work on controls and gameplays, because what is a sad gameplay? There’s almost no reference.
As game designers, we have a lot of vocabulary to refer from all the games in class about how to create a sense of fun, a sense of achievement and a sense of accomplishment and empowerment. But my knowledge about other emotions is only through the game I’ve done, you know Flow and Flower which is zen like games, love games, and peaceful games.
End of the first year
So it takes a lot of effort to explore these mechanics, to form the arch. At the end of the first year of the Journey development, the game suppose to look like this. This is a concept art.
But this is the game look like. We kind of block it out.
And this is the second bridge area which is supposed to look like this.
We have basic foundation of this.
They actually block out the entire game before the first year. So we have formed mountain level, underground level.
Except this is the target of the emotion.
This is how it feels. Nothing really makes me feel anything. The game sucks. Nobody have any confidence it’s gonna be well.
End of the second year
We keep pushing it. This is the trailer we’ve made at the end of the second year.
You can see this is very similar with the final trailer, except the sand is not as sparkling, and some of the mod is not very polished. You can see mostly the character is there, the scene is there, and the storyline is almost there.
This is the curve we measured at the end of the second year. It’s basically there. We have most of the levels basically there and we have a lot of people to playtest, and the result is not good.
And they say the game is really bad.
Some people told me before the final heaven level, when the player dies, you should just cut it there. Because the later part is making the game worse. I’m like, what? really?
So I looked at the game, and what happened is that if you look at the green curve, this is the final emotional rise. That is not even bigger than the level where the water can floating. That’s not even higher than the sand level. It’s not satisfying. But the guy was saying when he died, accidentally the game crushed. He was just staring at the white screen for 2 minutes with nobody noticing.
He was in a deep thinking. He was like this is very serious tragedy.(laugh…) And he really like it. I started to look at why. Actually if you jump from that level to the very bottom and you just died, it’s the biggest emotional change. If you reverse it, it’s actually the catharsis of tragedy. But that’s not what we intended. We are not going to make a sad story here.
One Extra Year
So we actually took another year, just to fix that problem. What did we do to increase the catharsis?
First we have to make sure the mountain, the level before the final rise, is low enough.
What we change is the mountain kind of feel shallow and tedious, because it’s just a lot of wind blowing at you, and it takes forever to walk away. We actually want to make it more struggling. We create a completely new animation set. You know an animation set is hundreds of animations. We just make it for this level where you kind of feel weak walking against wind. Climb slowly, jump slowly, and shout weakly. And we change the physics of the scarf and clothes. When they are frozen, they become heavy, they become lifeless.
In the middle of the scene, the guardians, the surpence, usually they just stay above, they just kill other cos features? above but they never attack you. We actually make you to be attacked. We make these shelter actually crushed so it’s no longer safe.
To extent the amount of struggling, we also need players to spend longer time in the level. So we added two new areas just to extent how long it is. There is a sanctuary which gives you a brief rest, and then there is just fortres? areas you just have to go through.
And eventually you go to the final walk of death. To make this area even better, we have to figure out a way to continually slow down player’s input. We actually dimmed down the light, because the light is a symbol of hope and goal, so when you actually die, there is no hope. We spend so much time tweaking the timing. A lot of time I walk, I saw 3 minutes a good time, to walk to a death. And then my team member is like, this is too long. They want it to be thirty seconds. I think 30 seconds is not enough, I’m not even in the right mood yet. So it’s constantly back and forth tweaking about the exact right number where everyone is happy for you to fall down.
Then we move to the summit to make sure the summit is a lot more exciting, a lot more climatic, a lot more free. What is the emotion of the intensity?
Originally summit looks like this. At the end of the second year, but the whole game is on rail. You just follow the rail, see everything, you don’t have a lot of control. You can star fox? a little bit.
But because of that, I think that’s why the game was not climatic. Because even though visually it’s the same as a final game, gameplay wise it’s not. You have no freedom, you can’t move anywhere you want, it’s just not right. So what we did, is we break the rail, end up that you can go anywhere you want. We actually added a surfing area because surfing is the most fun of the entire game, we know it, the fly is not fun. To bring the surf back, just to bring you a feeling of excitement again.
And all the way until you walk into light, we kept it free. You can do it. You can go anywhere. It’s your decision. Until the very end. I think this freedom is super important for Journey because if you think about other highs of Journey, whether it’s the surfing part or the water temple, or eventually the summit, it’s always about movement and freedom.
3 out of 25
So eventually we executed and the end of the 3rd year, in the playtest of 25 players, 3 of them actually have tears in the end, which is amazing. Because that’s where we know the emotion is actually working. Before that, all the playtest is just like people get lost, people don’t know what to do here, or people get stuck. And I think while we do playtest, mostly for utility, test for emotion is super crucial, but unfortunately you won’t get it until the very end. I really wish a better way to test those things.
Launching an emotional Jouney
So when we launched Journey, I was very nervous because we spend way too much time to build this game. We extended the project for two times, and in the end we have to put out our own money just to make sure we can finish the game. If all the things gonna be worthwhile? You just don’t know. You have been making this game forever.
It was really relieving the first day we launched the game. People start to post on our forum, to apologize to each other for not being able to play through the whole game because they had to leave. But they couldn’t tell the other players. So they start to leave post on our forum. And I can never imagine a console player do that but they are the same person.
So as you play the game, you slowly build your scarf and your cape and you become a more veteran player.
And I have a lot of fan art(Fan art or fanart are artworks created by fans of a work of fiction (generally visual media such as comics, movies, television shows or video games) and derived from a character or other aspect of that work. As fan labor, fan art refers to artworks that are neither created nor (normally) commissioned or endorsed by the creators of the work from which the fan art derives.) here because I think fan art is a great way to see what the player remembered about your game. And usually they remember the most intense emotion.and you know this is what they remembered. They draw heart at the end of the game.
They remembered the awe and the splendid beauty of the world.
They remember being scared and afraid of danger.
They also remembered struggle together with each other and helping each other to push all the way in the end.
And so before all these award season, I still question whether it’s worth it to push a game to its three. Up to today, we have 896 emails from our fans telling us very personal stories about how they interact with the game. While back and dies, I’ll share this letter. I gonna read it.
Seeing this letter, somehow it brought back to me about this fan art. I think it is what life is about. We are only here for such a short amount of time, we happened to be living in the same era, and let’s help each other, let’s make each other’s life better. That’s why I think as a game developer, that’s the best thing I can do and that’s why I love making games.