The 2D top-down prototypes of Journey

By now, we hope you've had a chance to play through thatgamecompany's Journey at least once. (Steve's review should convince those of you that are on-the-fence.) The PhyreEngine-powered visuals help make the experience that much more compelling, with our review noting its "gorgeous graphical flair." But what would Journey look like without its current graphical sheen? At Game Developers Conference, designer Jenova Chen gave us a look at Journey's earliest 2D prototypes. For example, the image above shows how the team was working with a top-down 2D game not unlike Zelda and classic dungeon crawlers. During the prototyping process, the team thought up (but ultimately axed) a number of co-op gameplay features. For example, in this early iteration of the game, players would be able to move faster through the sand by following the trails left behind by another player. Apparently, that didn't work as well translated to 3D. Other abilities, like pushing heavy objects with another player, forced co-op interaction--instead of giving players the option to navigate the world alone. Some ideas stuck, however, like this "dragon" enemy:

Journey was once a top-down game... with dragons

One feature that didn't make it into the final game was sandstorms--for budgetary, not artistic, reasons. While Journey may be a stunner, the small team didn't have the resources to pull off the effect up to snuff. Here's what it would look like in 2D:

Sandstorms were axed from the final game

Finally, before thatgamecompany even experimented with its top-down prototypes, the team actually made a side-scrolling 2D Flash game, to test co-op dynamics. In this very early version of the game, players had to use ropes to navigate through the 2D chambers, using their unique abilities to help traverse large pits.

Journey as a side-scrolling platformer

But once again, the "rope" concept was axed as thatgamecompany realized it would force co-op play upon the player, instead of allowing solitary play--something that was crucial to the game's overall vision. While the final product may look nothing like these early prototypes, the work clearly paid off. thatgamecompany is now working on a new online game, one that's likely to not be PlayStation-exclusive.