There's been a lot of talk over the past year of original games for services such as Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network, but apart from a handful of 2D shooters, very few of these titles have made much of an impact. While games like Castle Crashers and Calling All Cars show great potential, flOw looks to be the first big original downloadable game this year. Just days before its release, we caught up with ThatGameCompany president and flOw producer Kellee Santiago to find out more about the game.
1UP: Can you give us some background on flOw's PS3 development? We've heard how you got signed out of school, but what about once you really started digging in on the PS3 game -- how did the design evolve from there and did it end up where you expected?
KS: When we started digging in on the PS3 game -- seeing the creature move in three dimensions through particles -- we knew that the transition from Flash to PS3 was going to be larger from a design standpoint than we originally anticipated. We really had to go back to the core design of the Flash game, and figure out how to achieve that on the PS3. It was like trying to create an orchestral version of a Janis Joplin song; we had all these new tools available to us to amplify the themes, but we wanted to communicate that simplicity that is at the core of flOw.
1UP: Overall, how much bigger of a project would you say the PS3 version is compared to the Flash game? Do you worry that people will assume the two are the same exact thing?
KS: We think of the relationship between the Flash version of flOw and flOw PS3 as like a student film compared to the feature length picture. The PS3 game is a much deeper, fuller experience. It tells the whole story. The Flash game was a starting point, as well as a guide to how we wanted to make the player feel. It's strange to me that people now assume the two are the exact same thing. I mean, of course, the gameplay is similar, but it's definitely a different experience.
1UP: What would you say is the biggest misconception people have about the game?
KS: That it's going to be a free download of the Flash game. I don't know where people are getting that from! It's a totally new game, made from scratch, I promise. I have the scars to prove it. (Just kidding, they're minor flesh wounds.)
SCREENS: How many times do you think people are going to call this game "peaceful?" [Click the image above to check out all flOw screens.]
1UP: How many people did it take in total to make?
KS: The core team was nine people. But, as any start-up can attest to, there are so many people that lend a hand throughout the whole process. Especially because of our relationship with Sony, we got a lot of help from industry veterans, without whom the game would just not be the same. Rusty Buchert, George Weising, and John Hight are really the best publisher's team a young developer could ever hope to work with. They were so supportive the entire time.
1UP: Are you planning on having any secrets, unlockables, or bonus features in the game apart from the main campaigns?
KS: They wouldn't be secret if I told you! The whole game is a journey, and we try to surprise the player a lot, to allude to that feeling of seeing real creatures interact with each other in the ocean.
1UP: We aren't going to see any God of War crossovers with you guys working in the SCEA Santa Monica offices and all, are we?
KS: Well, other than the dual-sword combo action move we added to flOw, there's not much overlap. Seriously, though, it's been awesome to be able to chat with PlayStation veterans and get their view on things. We're still an external team, but we are "on the lot" as they say in the movie business. And we're just trying to learn everything we can until they figure out who we really are...
BLOG: Click on the image above to check out ThatGameCompany's official blog.
1UP: With flOw seeming to have such a peaceful sense about it, how will that work in multiplayer? I don't think I've ever seen a multiplayer game with four people sitting around one screen and been able to call that situation "peaceful."
KS: You have a great point. But, flOw is also about allowing the player to determine their experience. Four people can play peacefully, or they can play frenetically -- it's really up to them. Multiplayer lets people share the game interactively with their friends, parents, or children. flOw is fun to watch, but it felt like, why not let someone have the ability to just jump into it with their friend? And if you want to stop, then you just put the controller down and your friend can keep on playing.
1UP: Do you view the version of flOw that will be available soon as something that will evolve over time with new content being added to it? Any ideas as to what that content might include?
KS: Oh man, we have so many ideas as to what that content might include. But, we want to see how players react. flOw, as well as many downloadable games, has the ability to evolve with its players, which is another reason it's so exciting to be developing in this online space.
1UP: Now that the PS3 game is more or less done, are you guys heading straight into extra content support for it or moving on to your next project? Or both?
KS: Again, we'll have to see how people react, and then if it seems like content support is really important to the fans, then we have a million ideas. But, we also have plenty of ideas of another project for which we've already started prototyping, so we'll see.
1UP: There's been some talk about ThatGameCompany's three game deal with Sony. Can you give us any vague, silly hints about what to expect from you guys next?
KS: Hehe vague and silly, eh? We've been calling flOw a Zen game, and the next project or two will explore that same territory. The problem with making experimental games, though, is that they aren't easy to describe in a few lines, so you'll just have to wait and see.