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Thatgamecompany

Thatgamecompany

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Thatgamecompany, stylized as thatgamecompany, is an American independent video game developer
Video game developer
A video game developer is a software developer that creates video games. A developer may specialize in a certain video game console, such as Nintendo's Wii, Microsoft's Xbox 360, Sony's PlayStation 3, or may develop for a variety of systems, including personal computers.Most developers also...

 co-founded by University of Southern California
University of Southern California
The University of Southern California is a private, not-for-profit, nonsectarian, research university located in Los Angeles, California, United States. USC was founded in 1880, making it California's oldest private research university...

 students Kellee Santiago
Kellee Santiago
Kellee Santiago is a video game designer and producer, and the co-founder and president of Thatgamecompany. Santiago was born in Caracas, Venezuela and was raised in Richmond, Virginia, where she played video games from a young age and was encouraged by her software engineer father to experiment...

 and Jenova Chen
Jenova Chen
Xinghan Chen , known as Jenova Chen, is the designer of the award-winning games Cloud, Flow, and Flower, and is co-founder of Thatgamecompany. Chen is from Shanghai, where he earned a bachelors degree in computer science and a minor in digital art and design...

. The studio is currently a second-party developer for Sony Computer Entertainment
Sony Computer Entertainment
Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc. is a major video game company specializing in a variety of areas in the video game industry, and is a wholly owned subsidiary and part of the Consumer Products & Services Group of Sony...

, and is under contract to create three downloadable games for the PlayStation 3
PlayStation 3
The is the third home video game console produced by Sony Computer Entertainment and the successor to the PlayStation 2 as part of the PlayStation series. The PlayStation 3 competes with Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Nintendo's Wii as part of the seventh generation of video game consoles...

's PlayStation Network service. The first of these games is a remake of Chen's award-winning Flash
Adobe Flash
Adobe Flash is a multimedia platform used to add animation, video, and interactivity to web pages. Flash is frequently used for advertisements, games and flash animations for broadcast...

 title Flow, with enhanced visuals and sound, added multiplayer modes and compatibility with the PlayStation 3's motion sensitive controller. The title was released on the PlayStation Store
PlayStation Store
The PlayStation Store is an online virtual market available to users of Sony's PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable game consoles via the PlayStation Network. The Store offers a range of downloadable content both for purchase and available free of charge. Available content includes full games,...

 in 2007. The company's second PlayStation 3 game, Flower
Flower (video game)
Flower is a PlayStation 3 video game. It was developed by Thatgamecompany, designed by Jenova Chen and Nicholas Clark, and announced at the 2007 Tokyo Game Show. Flower was released on February 12, 2009, via the PlayStation Network. The game was intended as a "spiritual successor" to Flow, a...

, was released on the PlayStation Store in 2009. As of May 2011, Thatgamecompany employs twelve people.

The company focuses on creating video games that provoke emotional responses from players. Its employees have stated that, while they are not opposed to making action-oriented games, they believe that enough such titles are released by the established video game industry. When designing a game, Thatgamecompany employees start by mapping out what they want the player to feel, rather than by establishing game mechanics. Employees have stated that the company does not plan to produce large, blockbuster titles, due to their belief that the pressure for high sales would stifle innovation.

History


In the fall of 2005, Jenova Chen
Jenova Chen
Xinghan Chen , known as Jenova Chen, is the designer of the award-winning games Cloud, Flow, and Flower, and is co-founder of Thatgamecompany. Chen is from Shanghai, where he earned a bachelors degree in computer science and a minor in digital art and design...

 and Kellee Santiago
Kellee Santiago
Kellee Santiago is a video game designer and producer, and the co-founder and president of Thatgamecompany. Santiago was born in Caracas, Venezuela and was raised in Richmond, Virginia, where she played video games from a young age and was encouraged by her software engineer father to experiment...

 began thinking about creating their own video game company. The two were in their final year as master's students in the Interactive Media Program
USC Interactive Media Division
The University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts's Interactive Media Division first accepted students in 2002. In addition to coursework in film production, screenwriting, and animation, students in the division study across three disciplines within interactive media: immersive...

 at the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts
USC School of Cinematic Arts
The USC School of Cinematic Arts, until 2006 named the School of Cinema-Television , is a film school within the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California. It is the oldest and largest such school in the United States, established in 1929 as a joint venture with the Academy of...

, and had just released a video game—Cloud—that they had developed with several other students. The group intended the project as an experiment, meant to reveal whether they could create a game that "expressed something different than video games had in the past", and to determine the public's level of interest in video games of that nature. Due to the game's strongly positive reception, Santiago and Chen began to consider founding their own company, so that they could continue making games like Cloud—in which the design is not based on gameplay mechanics, but on inspiring emotions in players—after they left college.

At the time, digital distribution was gaining popularity. The two saw it as an opportunity to create games without the high financial risk of retail distribution, which they believed would require them to first accumulate funds by working for other video game companies. Thatgamecompany was founded on May 15, 2006, as Chen and Santiago finished their master's degrees. The company soon signed a deal with Sony Computer Entertainment
Sony Computer Entertainment
Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc. is a major video game company specializing in a variety of areas in the video game industry, and is a wholly owned subsidiary and part of the Consumer Products & Services Group of Sony...

, which had been impressed by Chen's Flash
Adobe Flash
Adobe Flash is a multimedia platform used to add animation, video, and interactivity to web pages. Flash is frequently used for advertisements, games and flash animations for broadcast...

 game Flow—a component of his master's thesis at USC. Thatgamecompany was contracted to produce three games for the upcoming PlayStation Network distribution system, and was given startup funding and a location at Sony's offices in Los Angeles.

Initially, Thatgamecompany consisted of Chen, Santiago, Nick Clark, who had collaborated with Chen on Flow, and John Edwards. Santiago was the president of the company and the producer for its games, while Chen was the lead designer, Edwards the lead engineer
Game programmer
A game programmer is a software engineer, programmer, or computer scientist who primarily develops codebase for video games or related software, such as game development tools. Game programming has many specialized disciplines all of which fall under the umbrella term of "game programmer"...

, and Clark the designer. Although they considered adapting Cloud as their first product for Sony, they instead decided on Flow, as it was "more fleshed-out as a design". They felt that it would be easier than Cloud to develop while they built the company; no members of the team had experience with managing a business or with creating a commercial game. During development, Chen briefly worked for Maxis
Maxis
Maxis is an American company founded as an independent video game developer in 1987. It is currently a subsidiary of Electronic Arts . Maxis is the creator of one of the best-selling computer games of all time, The Sims and its first sequel, The Sims 2...

 on the game Spore
Spore (2008 video game)
Spore is a multi-genre single-player god game developed by Maxis and designed by Will Wright. The game was released for the Microsoft Windows and Macintosh operating systems in September 2008 as Spore...

. Several contract workers assisted Thatgamecompany with Flows development, including Austin Wintory, the game's composer.

The company originally believed that the PlayStation 3 version of Flow could be completed in four months, and that it would be ready for the November 2006 launch of the PlayStation Network. However, when it was finally released in February 2007, it did not include "half of the original design". According to Santiago, the Sony producer assigned to the team had anticipated that they would under-estimate the game's development length, and was not surprised by the delay. The game was well received; it became the most downloaded game on the PlayStation Network in 2007, and was nominated for the Best Downloadable Game of the Year award at the 2008 Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences
Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences
The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences , founded in 1996, is a non-profit organization that promotes computer and video game entertainment with the annual D.I.C.E. Summit event, where its Interactive Achievement Awards ceremony has been held annually since 1998...

 Interactive Achievement Awards, and for the Best Innovation award at the 2007 British Academy of Film and Television Arts
British Academy of Film and Television Arts
The British Academy of Film and Television Arts is a charity in the United Kingdom that hosts annual awards shows for excellence in film, television, television craft, video games and forms of animation.-Introduction:...

 (BAFTA) awards. After its release, an expansion pack and a PlayStation Portable
PlayStation Portable
The is a handheld game console manufactured and marketed by Sony Corporation Development of the console was announced during E3 2003, and it was unveiled on , 2004, at a Sony press conference before E3 2004...

 version of the game were created by SuperVillain Studios
SuperVillain Studios
SuperVillain Studios is a video game development company that develops for the Wii, Nintendo DS, Xbox, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, and the PlayStation Portable.-Company Profile:...

. Thatgamecompany was not involved in the development of either project beyond ensuring that they retained the same design
Game design
Game design, a subset of game development, is the process of designing the content and rules of a game in the pre-production stage and design of gameplay, environment, storyline, and characters during production stage. The term is also used to describe both the game design embodied in a game as...

 and art direction
Game art design
Game art design, a subset of game development, is a process of creating 2D and 3D game art for a video game. A game artist is a visual artist who creates video game art, such as concept art, item sprites, character models, etc.- History :...

 as the original, as they were busy creating their next title, Flower
Flower (video game)
Flower is a PlayStation 3 video game. It was developed by Thatgamecompany, designed by Jenova Chen and Nicholas Clark, and announced at the 2007 Tokyo Game Show. Flower was released on February 12, 2009, via the PlayStation Network. The game was intended as a "spiritual successor" to Flow, a...

.

Flower was Thatgamecompany's "first game outside the safety net of academia," according to Santiago. Six to nine people were involved at different stages of development, and Chen remained with the studio for the entire project. The game's music was composed by Vincent Diamante, who had worked with Chen and Santiago on Cloud. The game was developed for two years, but the team spent three-fourths of that time in the prototyping stage. After they decided on the game's elements, Flower was produced in only six months. Like Flow, the game was well received when it was released in February 2009, selling in the top ten PlayStation Network titles of the year and garnering several awards. After the release of Flower, Thatgamecompany moved into their own building in Los Angeles.

The company's current project is Journey, which is slated for release in 2012. It is the final game in Thatgamecompany's three-game contract with Sony, and is being developed by a team of twelve. This team does not include Santiago, who, in order to concentrate on her role as the company's president, was replaced as a producer by Robin Hunicke
Robin Hunicke
Robin Hunicke is a video game designer and producer, currently working at thatgamecompany. Hunicke began her career at Electronic Arts, where she worked on multiple games, including Sims 2 and MySims as a designer, and Boom Blox and Boom Blox: Bash Party as a producer...

.

Philosophy


When Thatgamecompany designs a game, they begin by deciding on the emotions and feelings they wish to invoke in the player. This differs from the approach of most developers, who build from game mechanics or genre features. According to Santiago, the company creates emotional responses to demonstrate the wide range of possible experiences in video games, which she believes is larger than the few—excitement and fear, for example—that are typically presented. Chen has said that the company's games are meant to evoke emotions more than a message; he specifically changed the design of Flower when early testers felt that the game promoted green energy. Chen believes that he is "too young" to make a game with a strong message, and so designs the company's products to avoid overt meanings. Santiago has said that Thatgamecompany's goal is "to create games that push the boundaries of videogames as a communicative medium, and to create games that appeal to a wide variety of people". She hopes to change the video game industry with this process, so that other companies approach video games as a "creative medium" instead of a mass product.

Thatgamecompany's employees are not opposed to making action titles, and, as a break from their regular projects, have internally created "exciting" games that were well received by Sony. However, Chen believes that there is no reason for the company to commercially produce such games, as they would not be creating new ideas that justified the cost of remaining an independent studio, as opposed to working for existing game developers. Similarly, Chen does not intend for Thatgamecompany to make "big budget blockbuster games", as he believes that the financial pressure would stifle innovation.

Games



In Flow, the player navigates a series of two-dimensional
2D computer graphics
2D computer graphics is the computer-based generation of digital images—mostly from two-dimensional models and by techniques specific to them...

 planes with an aquatic microorganism
Microorganism
A microorganism or microbe is a microscopic organism that comprises either a single cell , cell clusters, or no cell at all...

 that evolves by consuming other microorganisms. The game's design is based on Chen's research into dynamic difficulty adjustment
Dynamic game difficulty balancing
Dynamic game difficulty balancing, also known as dynamic difficulty adjustment or dynamic game balancing , is the process of automatically changing parameters, scenarios and behaviors in a video game in real-time, based on the player's ability, in order to avoid them becoming bored or frustrated...

 at the University of Southern California, and on psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a Hungarian psychology professor, who emigrated to the United States at the age of 22. Now at Claremont Graduate University, he is the former head of the department of psychology at the University of Chicago and of the department of sociology and anthropology at Lake...

's theoretical concept of mental immersion or flow
Flow (psychology)
Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity. Proposed by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, the positive psychology concept has been widely referenced across a variety of...

. It was released for the PlayStation 3 on February 22, 2007.
Flower was intended as a spiritual successor to Flow. Using the PlayStation 3's motion sensitive controller, the player controls wind that blows a flower petal
Petal
Petals are modified leaves that surround the reproductive parts of flowers. They often are brightly colored or unusually shaped to attract pollinators. Together, all of the petals of a flower are called a corolla. Petals are usually accompanied by another set of special leaves called sepals lying...

through the air. Flying close to flowers results in the player's petal being followed by other flower petals. Approaching flowers may also have side-effects on the game world, such as bringing vibrant color to previously dead fields or activating stationary windmills. The game features no text or dialogue, forming a narrative arc primarily through visual representation and emotional cues. It was released for the PlayStation 3 on February 12, 2009.
Journey is an upcoming video game. Interviews and previews have indicated that the player will control a robed figure who wakes up in a desert, with a large mountain in the distance as the destination. While traveling, the player can encounter other players over the Internet, one at a time. Players cannot communicate, but may help each other or not as they wish. The game is expected to be released for the PlayStation 3 in 2012.