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Journey promises to revolutionise the experience of playing with others it hits the Playstation 3 in 2012, while providing an epic quest through wistful and striking vistas.
In a thrilling presentation at this year's GameCity Festival, Robin Huniche from thatgamecompany outlined the exciting vision behind Journey: the long-awaited follow-up to the critically and popularly acclaimed Flower. It's always exciting to hear a genuinely new take on gameplay and Journey is no exception, hoping to create a game which delivers online multiplayer gaming in a totally new way. It's still early days, especially with the developer's love for what they call "exploratory development" but even these hints at the shape of Journey are intriguing.
Journey is a game designed to explore a relationship between two players who meet to play together. Many of us do not have a good experience of gaming online. Verbal abuse, unwarranted competitiveness (especially in games which are meant to be co-operative) and a general lack of teamwork can make it a trying experience.
The first thing that will set Journey apart from many online experiences is the random nature of the meetings which players will have. Characters will meet in-game, as if they were two strangers meeting on the same path.
The flexible design of the game will allow players to choose to journey together or alone as they see fit. There is no online chat or messaging system (it's nice to see there is finally a good use for the Playstation 3's inability to add voice chat to any online title!).
Journey is a game designed to explore a relationship between two players.
It's the optional nature of the co-operation that makes Journey such an interesting proposition. Rather than create a game which forces players to link up in order to overcome locked gateways, thatgamecompany is instead finding ways to encourage players to stay together. Through camera positioning, gentle co-operative rewards and the sheer pleasure of travelling with company, Journey aims to encourage two people to pursue the goal as a team. At the same time there is no problem with choosing to part company.
With completely non-verbal communication it is encouraging to see that solo play is also an option. I think that what Journey will teach us as players is how important it is to find a partner with an unspoken synchronicity. If we end up playing with someone who doesn't "get" us - and we don't have the tools to communicate - it is likely there will be a number of walk-outs. It's also possible (but not inevitable) that years after the popularity of Journey has waned it may be difficult to find an online partner. The optional solo approach will ensure that Journey can be enjoyed years after its initial player base has dispersed.
That said, it's conceivable that Journey may never wane (ed: Never?). Similar to Flower, Journey has beautiful design and captivating landscapes as well as graceful and unique characters made of flowing materials. It is reminiscent of the quiet captivation of Ico, more than anything else I have seen, and if Journey manages to capture the co-operative spirit of Ico and Yorda between two real human players then it's easy to predict a legacy without end for this landmark game.
If I have a hope for Journey it is that the musical aspects are as significant as those in Flower. I really appreciated in Flower how it felt that each opening petal released a new note into an ever-growing soundtrack. From what I've seen so far, the new orchestral soundtrack for Journey is just as beautiful, but how it grows and is shaped by the player's own actions will be highly intriguing.
The game is incomplete without the emotions of the player contributing their half of the dance.
If Flower has taught me anything it's that Journey will be hard to judge until I actually get my hands on the controller and immerse myself in the world. thatgamecompany's games are always a very personal process and in some respects the game is incomplete without the emotions of the player contributing their half of the dance. As a passionate fan of co-operative gaming and someone with a love of unique and personally-crafted games, Journey will have me counting the days until its release.
Journey is currently planned for release on PS3 via Playstation Network in Spring 2012.
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