A Good Case of Design ~ Journey

Design can refer to many different things, and yet it comes back to the same core meaning: the efficiency of function. That’s how I see it anyway.

The design of appearance can refer to how easily it can make you feel one way, or how much it can captivate you just based on appearance; we can see this in Apple products. The design of operation refers to a collective of parts that are used to output a physical mechanical purpose, and the less/smaller pieces used, the more efficient we can claim it to be; we can infer this about an automatic transmission. But the best example of design in numerous aspects I’ve yet to see is actually in the the form of a videogame called Journey.

Journey's Opening Cinematic

This game has no rules. It has no explicitly given goal or objective. It has no dialogue. There are only three things you are even able to do:

  • Walk or Run,
  • Jump, and
  • “Chirp”

You begin in the middle of the desert, with nothing prompting you to do anything, aside from a subtle rumble on your Dualshock controller. Once you do, you quickly realize you are able to move and that’s when you discover the vastness of the environment, along with some epic music. It’s simple, but with the right details and accentuations placed thoughtfully around. It immediately sets the tone for the game. Again, no dialogue, and no explanations. In the distance you see a summit with a shining light, and little else around you. Just like that, reaching this summit becomes your goal. As you press forward you naturally pick up on controls for jumping and chirping, but first only when their function is actually required to progress. This tells the player when these actions are needed, and how to use them properly(efficient in using and putting forth the mechanical functions).

The "Chirp"

The “chirp” activates context-sensitive objects immediately around your character.

As you push forth you discover there’s more to this environment than meets the eye. There’s ruins that foretell your journey, underground passages that feel like underwater abysses, and a harrowing expedition up a mountain ravaged by constant blizzards. The game makes it really easy for you to become attached to your character in very clever ways. One: the world responds to you, and helps you when you complete objectives. Two: you are randomly paired up occasionally with someone anywhere in the world playing the game. While it is possible to complete the game on your own, it’s much more fun to have a partner help you complete puzzles and push each other on along the journey. And finally, three: it’s only two hours long, on average. This length does a lot of things. Because it’s so short, it’s an experience that can be comprehended in it’s entirety, in a single session. Normally games have you playing, saving, taking an extended absence, and resuming another day. We are conditioned to enjoy movies in one sitting, so this two hour experience helps players appreciate every single moment they put into the game. And because of that, the emotional response at by the end is truly a pinnacle of emotional engagement.

Made Me Cry

A randomly assigned partner that appears and goes along with you on your journey.

So why is Journey a great example of design? I believe so for multiple reasons:

  1. The game takes a direction that is not only unconventional but is also risky and statistically unprofitable. But because of the attention to detail, ThatGameCompany, the development studio behind Journey, was able to prove that the industry, that the community is ready and willing to accept new forms of entertainment. Even in a gaming space riddled with first-person shooters and other games that sell on the basis of violent content, Journey was able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them.
  2. The game could have taken advantage of the entire controller, but only used what it need to. “Don’t fix it if it ain’t broken.” Numerous buttons on the controller were left unassigned because they would not have added to the core experience of the game. The genius is that even though the developers had the opportunity to increase function while not increasing player control requirements, they still opted for only the most necessary controls. Because of this, the player is never overwhelmed by the game and can always access the functions they want to use.
  3. The untold narrative has the player creating their own story. You may or may not help the trapped creature in the sand. You may or may not discover the hidden ruins. You may or may not find a companion along your journey. Every little thing controls what the player experiences, yet they can choose the permutation of what effect each thing has on the tale they make for themselves.

Journey is a phenomenal entertainment experience. It’s not just a good showcase of function of every aspect, but is also very elegant and unembellished in its aesthetic.

That all makes for good design in my book.

About Raiyyan Khan

Tech Editor & Site Manager, Social Media 'Expert', Graphic & Web Artist, Music/Gamer/Anime/Cat Connoisseur & A Pretty Awesome Individual. Future IDM Specialist.

One Comment

  1. I just stopped by your blog and thought I would say hello. I like your site design. Looking forward to reading more down the road.

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