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Journey dev: shooters are "not useful"

Chen rips into lazy online FPS design.

FPS and fighting games are "not useful" and contribute nothing to a player's life, so says the developer behind boutique PlayStation Network download Flower.

Speaking to the PlayStation Blog about his next game, Journey, Jenova Chen, creative director of thatgamecompany, said, "As I get older, what's the point in pulling off another infinite combo? What does that do for your life? It's not useful.

"People still play chess because strategic thinking is useful. Brain training games, fitness games...these have relevance. People don't have much time to waste, so they want relevance. Whether it's emotional relevance, like experiencing joy or sadness, or intellectual relevance, or social relevance."

Elsewhere in the interview Chen launched a scathing attack on unimaginative online design in many of today's core games.

"When people design online games, they often do lazy work. They bring an existing single-player game - an RPG, an RTS, a fighting game, a shooter - and duct tape on some online technology. They say, 'okay, there's multiple players, now do something cool. Here, play a kid's game like Capture the Flag.' That's the level of design. 'Why don't you kill each other until the last guy is left standing.'

"If you really wanted to stimulate a social activity, you need to re-think it from the ground up," he continued.

"What is the skill they're supposed to acquire? Accuracy? Or is it the ability to convince others? If the skill is social, it'll be very relevant and useful. People still play poker. Why? Because the skill of deception is useful for real life.

"Look at online games. How many skills are based on social elements? Most games are based on grinding, accuracy, physical dexterity. They are not social games. They're just old games with online features."

Chen emphasised that his team was planning a different approach with its upcoming PlayStation Network title, Journey.

"We make games for PS3 owners, but we also make games for their relatives or children," he explained.

"I don't think your grandma is going to know what a 'lobby' means. I don't think most children will understand what 'latency' means. So after we eliminated the lobby concept, we had very few choices - other players have to be able to connect at any time, not just the beginning of the game, and a player has to be able to finish the game by himself if he can't find someone.

"We didn't try to redefine multiplayer," he added, "we just wanted to create a more intuitive experience. If your grandma asked, 'what's Journey?' I'd tell her 'Journey is just like hiking. You go to hike a mountain, and there are other hikers you might meet and if you like them you can hike with them.' And that's it."

Journey is due out on PlayStation 3 later this year. Have a look at the trailer below to see how it's shaping up.

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Fred Dutton


Fred Dutton was Eurogamer's US news editor, based in Washington DC.

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