In Journey, players are free to interact or not as they choose, but thatgamecompany has built a space in which makes hanging out with others attractive.
“One of the things we talked about early in the project was this idea of creating a connection between players in an environment where you feel small and less empowered than you might in a tradition video game setting. We thought this would be conducive to a feeling of wanting to spend time together,” Journey producer Robin Hunicke told the Guardian.
“We wanted to create this connection without forcing it – we don’t make you play with someone else, but we chose the desert setting because we thought a desolate and unfriendly place might actually encourage a connection between players.”
On the game’s lack of traditional communication tools, Hunicke commented that there’s “a lot of pressure” in social interactions, and that to enjoy interaction, you need to form strong connections with other people.
“If you see a person’s online identity, if you hear their voice, if they send you text messages, you’re getting a lot of information that might get in the way rather than facilitate the connection,” she said.
“So we wanted to see – as an experiment – if we could take away a lot of that noise, in the same way that the desert takes away noise from the visuals. The tactile experience of moving through that environment is quite different from, say, a cityscape with tons of buildings and doors and stairs. Similarly, not being able to talk to each another, you just have to be together.”
The very simple communication tools at the player’s disposal – character movement, limited jumping – encourage players to devise their own methods of interaction, something thatgamecompany seems to encourage.
“Some designers have been able to build environments in which the player is also able to create games. Glitch by Tiny Speck, for example,” Hunicke commented.
“The game world itself is an excuse for people to participate in an event with each other. From there on, it’s kind of Wild West – they want to see what happens in a world where players can alter the environment.
“And building a world where players see the game as an interface between each other, it’s like going back to board games, but through digital technology, which is really fascinating.”
Journey is expected to release exclusively on the PlayStation Network in northern spring, 2012.