Most of the games today focus on the action, which is the core of the gameplay. What happens in Left 4 Dead is that even though it's about survival together, 90 percent of your time is shooting, and then you only get 10 percent to look at your teammates. And then when you're putting on the bandage, there's a little bonding there. So we were like, "can we reverse that? Can we have most of the time you pay attention to the other player and you just spend 10 percent on the platforming or whatever.It's an ambitious goal, but one borne out in the section of the game I got play. The trick, as Chen explained, is to make the player feel small. He pointed out how walking around the city we are surrounded by people but we choose to bury our heads in our phones rather than connect with any of them. Out in the vast wilderness on a hike, though, seeing someone else draws an immediate response of "I want to be next to them. I want to talk to them. I could learn something from them," Chen said.
It certainly worked on me. When I saw that other adventurer I wasn't sure what to make of them at first. But then, as started to move, we sort of stuck together and explored around. And maybe one of us would find something, and jump around to get the other's attention. But when I wanted to, I also felt free to just go off on my own. Chen said this was an important part of the design and that when they'd tried having more players in the game at once, it created a sense of social pressure if one member of what then became a group didn't want to go where everyone else was headed. In a brief hour Journey gave me a tremendous flood of experiences. At the start, simply running across the dunes felt inspirational. The game creates a fantastic sense of this broad vista stretching to the horizon begging to be explored. Then I came across the ruins, and got to better know my character and the world though exploring them. And finally, when joined by another adventurer the whole nature of it all shifted as it wasn't just me playing, but neither was it there any place that the design forced us to play together. Chen told me that the desertscapes that have been seen so far are only part of the environments in the full game. He hopes that players will get a sense of being on a pilgrimage when they play Journey. It's one I can't wait to make. For more discussion on Journey, make sure to listen to Weekend Confirmed Ep. 63.
Co-experiencing Journey with a fellow adventurer