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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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Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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