Journey.

Journey is another of those games that I was keeping in my list of interesting ones to play. It was released in 2012, so it’s not too old. I’ve seen also there is still people playing it. In fact, I’ve played it online with almost 20 persons this weekend. And I’ve played it, from start to finish, three times this last weekend. One of them with my 6 years old daughter.

I think this one  also deserves your attention. It is short, it can be finished in a few hours. It doesn’t need strong platforming traversal skills, accurately shooting aliens, or remember character statistics and convoluted plots. Some people say it is the closest thing to an interactive piece of art. Others that it is the greatest game ever made

All that sounds a bit pretentious to me. Still, someone told me that Journey was awesome, a very soothing experience to play, with a clever design, so I decided to try. Sometimes, instead of official reviews, I just prefer to hear what friends and colleagues say. Given that now I don’t hurry playing the newest and the latest, this usually gives me a better idea about what to play or not.

The first thing that I noticed was the art style used in this game. It reminds me a lot to Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker, another of my favourite games. Now that games are so full of high contrast detail, this simplicity is really appreciated. The art is just gorgeous. The sand, snow and other gameplay related particle effects are really well done.

About the gameplay, it is really simple. Basically you have to make a journey to a place that is clearly shown at the beginning. The character has a scarf, and its length gives you a rough idea about how long your jumps can be. There are floating pieces of scarf around all the world that you can use to reach higher areas. In this higher areas, there are some objects that will increase the length of the scarf. Also, this pieces of cloth are used everywhere as a way to trigger certain events during the game (I should say journey…). The character talks, with some musical noises and symbols, with the press of a button. Initially, the usefulness of this mechanic is not clear, but when your partner appears, things get much more interesting.

Who is this partner? Just another person that is playing the game at the same time as you. Journey can be played as a cooperative online game with another player. You don’t have to access  a list of online players, as in other games. In the same way as they appear, they can disappear without trace. At the end of your game, a list with people who accompanied you in the journey is shown. You can use the talk action to emit a sound and this sound gives the other partner more jumping strength, only if he/she is in range. This can lead to funny jumping sessions where you and your partner just try to reach the highest places, looking for hidden things on the levels. Or just break the game, if you fall out of the collisions of the world, as it happened to me when I tried to follow someone who seemed really interested in climbing walls. The fact is that you cannot know with who you are playing the game. But also, if you play all along  Journey with someone, or sections of it, a kind of bonding with your mysterious partner can even be made. A really weird feeling, to be honest. But also a really difficult thing to find in any other game, as far as I know.  I’m sure that the ones who played with my six year old daughter thought What is this one doing? at some points of their Journey … 😉

Braid

I have a backlog of games not played/to be finished. In the not finished list, I have some very lengthy ones, that I have no idea when I will be able to finish. And what is worse, I’m afraid that the moment I try to come back to them, I might have forgotten about what the game was. It is like having to reopen an already started 500 pages book, and not remembering anything about it (Game of Thrones, I’m looking at you!). In the not played list, there are a few interesting ones.  One of them it’s called Braid. It was released a few years ago, but its been only recently that I  had  a bit of time to spend in it. This picture in their site explains the basic idea: Time manipulation.

This video show the thing in action:

Wonderful 2D art and great design. Worth your time and attention. At least it made me grab my xbox 360 controller at home again.

I’ve worked in games for more than 10 years, and what happens sometimes with that is you no longer play enough games at home. The usual comment from friends is: Ah, you must be playing all the day at the office!. Nothing farther from the truth!. This days I have very little time or interest in playing the nth iteration of a famous first person shooter, or spend hours analysing statistics in a Japanese RPG. And I did that in the past! A lot! But not any more.

Games like Braid are far more interesting to play for me now.  Some developers are trying to make less expensive games, but much more interesting than some big ones in the market now. What they do is avoid all the expensive procedures needed to publish a game and try other sorts of ways to get to the public. Also they have much smaller budgets, less staff, less everything. But sometimes a great idea behind. Here is an opinion of one developer about these associated costs. They created Super Meat Boy, an extremely fun (but hard to master) platforming game. It was a success. Now, they seem to be reluctant to all this new next-gen consoles:

“The overhead cost of just developing for those consoles is insane,” continued Refenes.
“It costs zero dollars to develop on Steam if you already have a computer. When you look at PlayStation and Xbox and Nintendo you have to buy thousand dollar dev kits and pay for certification and pay for testing and pay for localisation – you have to do all these things and at the end of the day it’s like, ‘I could have developed for other platforms and it would’ve been easier.'”
This overhead makes it risky for independents to get behind new platforms without some guarantee of their success.
“You have to take into consideration that when you’re independent, you don’t want to take the risk of jumping on a platform that you have no idea how it’s going to do until it’s already established,” said McMillen.
via Team Meat has no plans for next-gen | Game Development | News by Develop.

“Indie games: the movie” is an interesting documentary film about these kind of games and how they are developed. Basically, lots of hard work, time, passion and dedication. Watch it when you have time! 🙂