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A Journey To thatgamecompany's New PSN Game

What? Oh, right, the game is called Journey. It's from the Flower people. Just read it!

When I heard there was a new game called Journey at E3, I thought, wait a minute, there was already a game called Journey. It was in a cocktail machine and had a cassette tape in it. What more Journey could you possibly need? Who do these people think they are? 

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"These people" are thatgamecompany and its creative director Jenova Chen, the guy who built a beautiful and moving experience around flowers last year. After Flower I'd be willing to follow thatgamecompany anywhere, so I followed them to an E3 meeting room to see Chen present Journey, a lonely trek through a barren, otherworldly desert that looks like the closest thing to a traditional video game thatgamecompany has made yet. But it's still got their signature artsy touch fully in evidence.

== TEASER ==In Journey you play the armless, red-robed explorer you can see in the screenshots, roaming around an arid, empty-looking world that's occasionally dotted with ancient ruins, sandfalls pouring over rocks, tombstone-like markers rising out of the sand, and long tapestries of cloth flapping in the breeze. Those are pretty much all of the notable features I saw in the short demo, so yeah, there's definitely a lot of empty space out there.

With Journey thatgamecompany is setting a record for the number of buttons used in one of its game: two. One is for jumping, and one is... singing? You run around with the analog stick and control the camera with Sixaxis tilt. Much like it did with flowers in, um, Flower, the developer has put a lot of effort into its sand tech in Journey, and you leave a trough behind you when you run around in it. You can also ski down sandy hills to move around faster.

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Chen is tired of the empowerment fantasies inherent in most modern games. He said he wants to return players to a feeling of being small and powerless, with a sense of awe toward the wide unknown world. That means no rocket launchers or double jumps in Journey. The game is about exploring this strange world as a hapless character with no foreknowledge of his or her strange surroundings. There's an ever-present giant mountain with a beam of light off in the distance that serves as your constant goal, but other than that, you're just there to explore.

There will be some things to find. Chen ran behind a sandfall in one area and found a cloth covered with ancient glyphs on it. That seemed like some sort of collectible. Later, there was a bit of rudimentary platforming across a series of long tapestry-like pieces of cloth, which your character can "harmonize" with when it touches them, stiffening them and allowing you to climb on them. Finally, Chen encountered a statue that briefly came to life and imparted some sort of information to the player character, but he didn't elaborate on the meaning of that interaction. There will also be other AI-controlled characters in the game as well. What, you think they gave us anymore information about that?

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You may have heard Journey is an online game. (If you haven't, Journey is an online game.) But it doesn't sound like any sort of normal online game. Chen was extremely cagey about the multiplayer details since thatgamecompany is still figuring out how it will all work, but for now the gist of it seems to be that you'll have the potential to occasionally encounter another player running around in your game world. Chen likened this setup to hiking. You go out for a hike, and while hiking, you might pass some other hikers. You might stop and engage them in conversation, and then walk with them for a while. Or you might just let them go their own way while you go on yours. 

You're probably wondering if you can play Journey entirely by yourself. You can. And I'm not sure exactly what you'll do with another player, but Chen did say that's what singing is for. There's no voice or text chat in the game, but you'll be able to produce different kinds of singing based on the way you press the sing button, and this is intended to provide some degree of communication between players. You can even harmonize with the other player if you sing well. Hey, just like that other Journey! 

Brad Shoemaker on Google+