On the first floor of Moscone's North hall last Friday, flOw developer That Game Company presented their storied origins. Co-founders Jenova Chen, who took a brief recess from the company to help on the DS version of Will Wright's Spore, and Kellee Santiago, met at the University of Southern California.
"I don't see [video games] as being any different [than other interactive media], it's all story telling," Santiago said.
Chen, who affirms that his proudest work is flOw and Cloud, explained their place in gaming with an ever-popular culinary allegory. Think of Gears of War as steak and World of Warcraft as chicken. Let's give lettuce a relation to Nintendogs and fish can be Brain Age.
"Let's say you focus on chicken, but somehow you find a way to make it accessible and customizable," said Chen. The according Power Point slide shows the chicken transition into a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. "That also expands the audience or customers. How can you make existing games more accessible to wider audiences?" Does that mean flOw is a bowl of cereal? All we know now is that we're quite famished.
FlOw, as we've talked about before in an interview with Chen, was part of his Graduate thesis concerning Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment. For the statistical-minded, here are some numbers regarding flOw that we gleaned from their presentation. The atmospheric title is currently the number one downloaded game on the PlayStation Network, with 110,000 users. The flash game, in contrast, has been played or downloaded 2 million times since it was released.
The original specifications for the PlayStation 3 version (that, as we previously discussed, almost found itself on the Nintendo Wii) had planned for seven creatures, seven non-playable characters and seven bosses. Ultimately, however, the team ended up with only five creatures, two NPCs and one lonely boss. Given the frequent delays that made flOw 100% over schedule and 50% under features. "That's just really embarrassing," remarked Core Engineer John Edwards.
As for Cloud, That Game Company's other creation, the childhood dream sequence was released November 5, 2005. Over the next three months, the title saw more than 400,000 downloads, over 4 million hits spanning 25 countries and citations in 20 academic papers, 37 printed articles, 15 TV programs and well over 300 internet websites.
"Really, I'm still completely glad that I did this, that I hopped on that little adventure boat," said Edwards. "I'd do it all again, but I hope I don't have to." Chen mentioned that they are in the initial phase of a new project but can't really say anything.
"We will [make] small and deep experiences, especially emotional experiences," he said. Earlier in the presentation, Santiago mentioned the first game they were pitching to publishers was Cloud but later rescinded when they realized the scope of their ideas were too great and their experience as a development house too minimal. Perhaps the impending announcement is a return to Cloud, though that thought might just be our head floating wistfully overhead.
A numerical history, and future, of flOw dev That Game Company
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