While delivering a discussion on the challenges of evoking unique emotions for video games at the Montreal International Games Summit, Kellee Santiago revealed new details on the development of her studio's second project, Flower. The project was announced at this September's Tokyo Game Show but details were scant.
Santiago described the project, which is the spiritual follow up to the popular PlayStation Network game flOw, as thatgamecompany's "first game outside the safety net of academia."
Based on Santiago's talk, it's clear that the abstract PlayStation 3 game will be based at least partly around raising flowers - alongside more traditional gameplay elements based on emotional responses to challenges consistent with the natural environment.
While the full details of her talk will later be compiled in a more extensive story on Gamasutra, we can now report that the genesis of Flower is a search to "give the player a visceral perspective, surreal and dreamlike" and "to experience a field in a way you couldn't in real life." In a break from most games, Flower will "focus on micro and close up moments as well as the macro -- this relationship would be part of the experience."
In an interesting move, the developers began with audio, commissioning two musical pieces that set the tone for the project. These tracks, which will likely not be included in the final product, help "get everyone on the same page... doing sample audio tracks to evoke the emotion [will] keep everyone’s work consistent." Before there is even concept art, let alone prototyping, the music "seeps into everyone’s subconscious."
This began with simple prototypes to find such things as the "emotional impact of flying petals around, possible interactions for playing as the wind." Flash prototypes on "flower growing -- possible emotional impacts of the feeling of growing a flower, and possible interactions as the sun" helped find a "balance between procedural and artist-designed content."
When the game moved to the prototype stage, the goal was to find experiences that maintained the feelings the team had set out to express rather than simply to find gameplay mechanics that would fit the setting. One prototype introduced "challenges of gliding and surviving in wind," but Santiago cautioned that "it's really easy to get distracted by traditional game elements."
At one point, according to Santiago, Flower "...had magic and abilities, but we ended up removing both of those features because they were just distracting the player from the feeling we were trying to get them to." The full title is expected to be released on the PlayStation Network in 2008.