A truly beautiful game, Flower is enchanting people with its splendour. President and Co-Founder of thatgamecompany, Kellee Santiago, explains how the original idea blossomed on PlayStation Network.
What was the original inspiration for Flower?
The idea for Flower grew organically from a number of inspirations. One was to try and capture the feeling of being in a large flower field; to capture both the sense of beauty when you see them all, but also the visceral feeling of being up close to an individual flower. If you do a Google image search for the term flower you discover photographs from people all over the world, all fascinated with this aspect of nature. Technically, it was an exciting challenge. What would happen if we took this aspect of videogames that is normally an afterthought on the edge of the world – the bushes and grass – and put it right in front, and make the entire game about it?
What I really like about Flower, though, is that it feels like a very personal expression of Jenova's [Chen, Creative Director]. The story and the themes that are expressed in the game really evolved from what I see as his current interpretation of the world around him, and the game invites the player to participate in that space. It has an intimate feel to it.
How did Flower come about on PlayStation Network?
Flower is the second PSN game in thatgamecompany's three-game deal with Sony Computer Entertainment Santa Monica. We really love working with the company, as it really demonstrates a huge amount of faith in us. I mean, could you imagine us coming in, and pitching a game to you as I described in the answer to your first question? The guys there just get it, and we really enjoy collaborating with them on PSN.
What makes Flower such an ideal PSN title?
I think PSN players are looking for variety in their game collection, and Flower will definitely expand their menu. It's also a great compliment to the more core titles; like a delightful orange sorbet at the end of a meal.
What is it like working on PSN?
It's fantastic. Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. has really committed to this idea of making PSN a place for unique downloadable content you just couldn't find anywhere else. PixelJunk Eden, Linger In Shadows, and Riff: Everyday Shooter are just a few examples of how SCEI has really gone above and beyond in publishing some pretty awesomely unique titles. The company really supports the developer's vision, not just in the game itself, but in what we say about it, and how it's promoted. I would say that we are spoiled, but really, it's just how it should be! And the company gets this.
How has the internal and external response to Flower helped shape the game?
Player feedback, even informal playtests with people in the office, is an integral part of our design process. We aim to make games that communicate ideas to our audience, so getting reactions early on is very important, even with our first prototypes and the feedback from that fed into the overall development of the game.
What challenges were there in developing Flower?
Developing Flower was not a straightforward experience. We initially began with an extremely vague and difficult subject. It took us more than a dozen prototypes to settle on the gameplay. We went through so many different versions of stories and characters, and we ended up not using any of them. Because we are innovating on the experience, the process is very much like walking in the mist. Our destination is very exciting. However, the path leading to it is not clear. Nobody's left any footprints for us to follow. There is quite a bit of trial and error. But once someone sees the light tower in the distance, we hack through bushes and jump over ditches to reach there. It's hard and painful, but the final view is worth the effort.
What have you learned from the development from flOw to Flower and how did this affect development?
Technically, we learned a lot about PlayStation 3. The grass system renders 200,000 blades of grass simultaneously, and what's done with it in order to give it a very visceral feel is very much targeted to leverage the PS3. Production-wise, we learned from flOw what our limitations are, but also what we can accomplish as just a small team. I think players will see in Flower how much we have grown as a studio since flOw.
What inspired you to make a game so dependant on motion control?
One of our main goals at thatgamecompany is to create games that are accessible to a wide variety of people, both in content and in playability. For Flower, using the Wireless Controller's motion capabilities to fly around and having every button do the same thing so players could choose for themselves or switch it up was an easy choice for us. People who wouldn't normally get near a Wireless Controller suddenly relax when you tell them all you have to do is tilt it to move.
Where do you think the future of PSN will take us?
As players get more accustomed to downloading content, I think we'll start seeing larger games on PSN that are equally as exciting and unique in content. As a gamer, I'm really excited for the upcoming years of PSN.