Interview: Jenova Chen and Kellee Santiago discuss “Journey” as it ventures into beta today

Interview: Jenova Chen and Kellee Santiago discuss “Journey” as it ventures into beta today (photo)

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How would you act if you came upon an unfamiliar face in foreign lands? What if you couldn’t talk to them and neither person knew who the other was? Would you help them? Walk away?

Indie dev studio thatgamecompany poses these questions in “Journey,” an experimental game due out for the PlayStation 3 later this year. TGC remains best known for their moving 2008 release “Flower” and fans of their work have eagerly been awaiting the studio’s take on multiplayer game design. In “Journey,” players wander a series of sandy, craggy abandoned landscapes as mute avatars wrapped in flowing robes. With no spoken dialogue and no text, you’ll only have movement and distance as means to communicate with others. The game will throw challenges–windstorms, creatures, slippery summits to climb–in your way, all of which are better tackled with companions. But, the gameworld won’t be a bustling virtual city like the New Marais of “Infamous 2.” No, you’ll go miles walking through the desert sands of “Journey” before encountering someone. That way– unlike other games where there are partners aplenty–it actually means something.

Sony’s launching a limited beta of the game today on the PlayStation Network, to help test out how the groundbreaking title will function once it’s out in the wild.

“Journey” makes everyone a stranger. It takes away the chatter and other customization identifiers common to online games to try and get at truths about human interaction. I spoke with TGC’s Jenova Chen and Kellee Santiago about “Journey” and what they hope players experience in the game.

Jenova, I saw your talk at IndieCade where you and Robin Hunicke ran through various early prototypes of the game, and it was fascinating to watch how “Journey” has developed from those initial stages. What would you say is the kind of emotional vector that you’re aiming at with “Journey”?

Jenova Chen: It was a lot easier for “Flower” because it is a single-player experience. With “Journey,” we created an emotional arc for two different scenarios. So, if you play alone, it’s a good game. You have what we think is a complete emotional arc. You will feel, I guess, a sense of transformation in the single-player. Because it’s a hero’s journey.

But, if you play multiplayer, there is a different feeling we are trying to accomplish. It’s hard to describe. We had an experience even in the earliest prototype. It’s those moments where you know that the thing on the screen was just a dot, just a vessel. It doesn’t have any body language and can’t really emote. But there are moments where you understand that person controlling it completely. That’s magical to me.


You mean when you come upon somebody and even the fact that you can’t read anything or hear anything, you feel like there is a moment of connection?

Jenova: Uh-huh. And that’s one thing I really enjoy. You certainly hope that there are more moments like this. As the density of players increases, so will the frequency of encounters and we might hear of these moments happening more.

The other thing we had in mind is just changing the impression of online play now. the impression that, if you think about playing with a stranger online right now, there’s some kids, you just don’t really want to play with them. And also, most of the games are competitive. And even, let’s say, “Left 4 Dead,” where it’s co-operative team play, people do bad stuff.

Kellee Santiago: It’s super-stressful.

Jenova: Because you have a gun in your hands. If everybody only had a medical patch, it would be different. So I hope that after people play “Journey,” if the game can make you have a better faith or belief or trust with online strangers, that would be a great accomplishment.

thatgamecompany Shares Journey’s First Trailer – PlayStation Blog
– Watch more Videos at Vodpod.

That’s a very lofty goal. But it’s interesting because you can’t communicate with other people in the game. So, if they’re annoying you, you only have one option, which is to walk away from them and hope they don’t follow.

Jenova: Or press pause.

Or press pause. Yeah, yeah.

Kellee: You can communicate. I mean what you just described, in “Journey,” is someone communicating to you that they don’t respect you and they really don’t want to spend time with you. So, the way you communicate is through your actions by walking towards someone, calling to them softly, trying to help them complete something. You communicate that you’re willing to play with them, just the same way that kids communicate on a playground before they really know how to talk to each other. I think that’s very important.

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Bro and Tell

BFFs And Night Court For Sports

Bromance and Comeuppance On Two New Comedy Crib Series

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“Silicon Valley meets Girls meets black male educators with lots of unrealized potential.”

That’s how Carl Foreman Jr. and Anthony Gaskins categorize their new series Frank and Lamar which joins Joe Schiappa’s Sport Court in the latest wave of new series available now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. To better acquaint you with the newbies, we went right to the creators for their candid POVs. And they did not disappoint. Here are snippets of their interviews:

Frank and Lamar


IFC: How would you describe Frank and Lamar to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Carl: Best bros from college live and work together teaching at a fancy Manhattan private school, valiantly trying to transition into a more mature phase of personal and professional life while clinging to their boyish ways.

IFC: And to a friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Carl: The same way, slightly less coherent.

Anthony: I’d probably speak about it with much louder volume, due to the bar which would probably be playing the new Kendrick Lamar album. I might also include additional jokes about Carl, or unrelated political tangents.

Carl: He really delights in randomly slandering me for no reason. I get him back though. Our rapport on the page, screen, and in real life, comes out of a lot of that back and forth.

IFC: In what way is Frank and Lamar a poignant series for this moment in time?
Carl: It tells a story I feel most people aren’t familiar with, having young black males teach in a very affluent white world, while never making it expressly about that either. Then in tackling their personal lives, we see these three-dimensional guys navigate a pivotal moment in time from a perspective I feel mainstream audiences tend not to see portrayed.

Anthony: I feel like Frank and Lamar continues to push the envelope within the genre by presenting interesting and non stereotypical content about people of color. The fact that this show brought together so many talented creative people, from the cast and crew to the producers, who believe in the project, makes the work that much more intentional and truthful. I also think it’s pretty incredible that we got to employ many of our friends!

Sport Court

Sport Court gavel

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Joe: SPORT COURT follows Judge David Linda, a circuit court judge assigned to handle an ad hoc courtroom put together to prosecute rowdy fan behavior in the basement of the Hartford Ultradome. Think an updated Night Court.

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Joe: Remember when you put those firecrackers down that guy’s pants at the baseball game? It’s about a judge who works in a court in the stadium that puts you in jail right then and there. I know, you actually did spend the night in jail, but imagine you went to court right that second and didn’t have to get your brother to take off work from GameStop to take you to your hearing.

IFC: Is there a method to your madness when coming up with sports fan faux pas?
Joe: I just think of the worst things that would ruin a sporting event for everyone. Peeing in the slushy machine in open view of a crowd seemed like a good one.

IFC: Honestly now, how many of the fan transgressions are things you’ve done or thought about doing?
Joe: I’ve thought about ripping out a whole row of chairs at a theater or stadium, so I would have my own private space. I like to think of that really whenever I have to sit crammed next to lots of people. Imagine the leg room!

Check out the full seasons of Frank and Lamar and Sport Court now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”

Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”

But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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