So Journey’s pretty much the greatest. It’s a few hours of pure exploratory bliss – short and sweet as its scarves are irresistibly snazzy. It is, to be frank, exactly what it needs to be. And that’s why Jenova Chen and the rest of thatgamecompany aren’t in any hurry to mess with perfection.
“Our focus is to make a strong, immersive experience that’s entertaining and relevant to people – and to deliver it in the most efficient time-saving way [possible],” Chen told VG247 during an interview at GDC. “I mean, we don’t want to keep the player for two hours longer by adding a bunch of grinding, which does not produce anything.
“I mean, you can play those free-to-play games for days and months, but if you’re spending money on something, that thing has to be strong and efficient. That’s our approach. It’s like, I was asking myself ‘OK, what am I going to add to levels?’”
“More costumes?” Production lead Robin Hunicke chimed in. “Hats? Like, what would you add that would change or embellish the experience – make it more personal or meaningful? Those are the kinds of questions we ask.”
“We spent three years on this thing,” Chen continued. “If we’d spent one year, then sure, if we want to add something, we could do it with a patch. But after three years of pick and choose, I think it’s pretty perfect. Adding things is very difficult.”
Given, however, that this is thatgamecompany’s biggest and – at least, compared to fl0w and Flower – most traditional production yet, what about a sequel? You might think so, but there’s more to Journey than, well, just a journey.
“So far, we’ve been [making radically different games each time]. It’s about pushing the boundary of what games can communicate. And I can hardly imagine how Journey 2 would break new ground,” explained Chen.
“Yeah, it seems like it’s best to leave [the game's world] the way it is for the reasons that we made it,” added Hunicke.
So no helping of dessert for your desert adventures – which makes me sort of sad until I remember that this industry is built on a rickety tower of infinite sequels. Every other game company could stand to take a few pointers from thatgamecompany. Why tread water when you can break new ground?
Also, that was only a tiny snippet of our massive GDC interview with Chen and Hunicke. Look for the rest soon. And probably bring a comfy chair. And a scarf.