Resolution at Develop - 15th/16th July 2009

Resolution at Develop - 15th/16th July 2009

Jenova Chen on games as art, and making Flower

DevelopPosted by Lewis Denby Wed, July 15, 2009 11:45:28
"Does a game offer more than a toy?" asks thatgamecompany's Jenova Chen.

It's a question that's been bandied about a fair bit lately, but Chen knows what he hopes the answer is. "As a grown-up gamer," he says, "I really don't want to see games becoming toys. I want to see mature content and intellectual stimulation."

Talking about the way people view games, Chen refers to us pressfolk. "Game reviews talk about technical features as if they're talking about cars," he says, "but they don't really talk about how a game feels. Whenever reviewers do talk about feelings, it's usually just 'this is fun'.

"If we look at the feelings that games evoke, they're still primal feelings - power fantasies. But this is only a small portion of the emotional spectrum. As a teenager, I was really into these feelings, but I think, as I get older, I'm wondering what's on the rest of the spectrum."

Chen feels that the majority of games still sit around this collection of primal, instinctive emotions, rather than more thought-provoking content. He wants to diversify. "Variety is the sign of a mature medium," he says, "and that's what thatgamecompany is about."

But what about that big old topic of games as art? thatgamecompany's fl0w, and more recently Flower, were very much placed in that category by many. "I'm not an artist," says Chen, "I'm a game designer. But I think the value of art is in how much the audience actually reads from it. So from that perspective, good art is about clarity - in videogames, having good instructions to tell people what to do, for example. I think a common problem in big budget games is a lack of clarity and consistency."

On his inspiration for Flower, Chen cites his move to America. "Where I grew up," he says, showing a picture of the city, "you'll notice there's no green. When I got to America, I started driving on the freeway a lot, where it's everywhere. So I thought, how can I show this to people? And could I communicate this experience through a videogame's interaction?

"It was all about nature. So I searched for the most popular thing about nature on Flickr, and it was flowers."

But Chen's inspiration didn't stop here. "You can ponder the beauty of nature, but after a while, you start to wonder 'well, where's home'? And I started to feel a little bit empty. So I started to add things to the concept art, like a little house in the background, pilons and all these things. So when I started the game, I wanted to give people the sense of freedom, but also an extension of the home space, and for it to be about peace and harmony."

David Jones talks APB

DevelopPosted by Lewis Denby Wed, July 15, 2009 10:44:23
It's safe to say that APB looks stunning.

"APB has to be perceived as a game that players cannot get anywhere else," says Realtime Worlds' David Jones, before launching into a spectacular display of the awesome customisation available to players.

Beginning by enlarging a scantily-clad lady's breasts, he goes on to demonstrate the thoroughly stunning range of options. Built into APB's character creation toolset is what Jones describes as a "mini Photoshop", allowing players to create vertex art and apply the resulting decals to character models as tattoos or clothing details.

Jones also discussed the matchmaking and persistent world characteristics of APB. "This is the first real persistant world," he says. "GTA and Crackdown aren't persistant world. When you turn the corner, those cars behind you disappear, as there's just not enough memory."

And on matchmaking, he says: "It looks at your skill level, and it can bring you together temporarily and then drop you back. It morphs seamlessly from being a single-player game, into 50 vs 50, and then dies back down again."

And so it begins...

DevelopPosted by Lewis Denby Wed, July 15, 2009 08:24:13
Despite invitations to both a poker tournament and a "hardcore beach party," I decided on an early night last night. I'm glad - I've already been up for over an hour, sorting out my schedule and making last-minute tweaks.

David Jones is delivering the event's first keynote, talking about online functionality in videogames. He's then coming back later in the day to play both GTA and Elite with Frontier's David Braben, and talk about the similarities between the two cosmetically very different experiences.

Also today: Flower's designer Jenova Chen talking about the old games-as-art thing, a big panel about digital distribution and some interesting stuff about the writing process in games. It should be a good one. It starts in an hour.

I'd better brush me teeth.

Oh, get our name right!

DevelopPosted by Lewis Denby Tue, July 14, 2009 23:21:16


DevelopPosted by Lewis Denby Mon, July 13, 2009 21:23:48
Oh, fuck, where is Resolution's iPod?

Man. Looks like we're going to have a quiet journey down to Brighton tomorrow. Still, that's probably a good thing. There's a 6AM start in store, so a nice train-based sleep will probably do us some good.

I'll drop the collective. While it would have been awesome to get the full ResoSquad down to Develop, only I managed to blag one of the much-envied press passes, reserved for those actively reporting on the business side of gaming. Which I don't, really - not here, at least. Fortunately, that one seems to have slipped by our PR contacts.

(Writing stuff for HonestGamers and FACEOFFGAMES actually relating to the industry stuff probably helped.)

So tomorrow, for me, involves getting up hideously early and ensuring my girlfriend is very much awake too, as it's only fair. Then, it's down to London for a brief rendez-vous with our capital-orientated reporter Christos Reid - hopefully over a delightful pub lunch, though he's not responding to my email, the bast! After that, it's on to Brighton's Hilton Metropole, and the inevitibly awkward opening night bash, where I'll probably sit on my own sipping an increasingly tepid beer, before retiring to bed.

In other words: if you're there, and you see a short guy with a crap beard (and a press badge saying "Lewis Denby", natch), please come and keep me company.

The work starts on Wednesday. My schedule is, quite frankly, terrifying. Wish me luck, keep checking back - particularly from Wednesday when it all kicks off properly - and I'll see you on the other side.

Lewis Denby
General Editor
Resolution Magazine

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