Flower Megathread

Jan 29, 2009
7,187
Hi! I am really happy to finally let the internets know the official launch date for Flower. Hooray for releasing games (It’s really my favorite part)!

Flower is a tough game to describe. We like to think of it as a video game version of a poem; an exploration into the tension between urban bustle and natural serenity. Players accumulate flower petals as the onscreen world swings between the pastoral and the chaotic.


But even at E3 this year, a lot of the responses in the press were “it’s tough to describe… you just have to play it.” Because it’s not fair to only ask game journalists to try and describe such a different game, I’ve also asked all the people here at TGC to describe. To keep things even, they could only use 10 words - we’ve had more time to think about the game:

Nick Clark (Game Designer):

A windy journey that lets you flOw in 3D.

Martin Middleton (programmer extraordinaire):

We hope you enjoy our flowers.

Matt Nava:

Flower’s simple concept conceals grander themes that will provoke thought.

Jenova Chen:

An interactive poem exploring the tension between urban & nature.

John (Lead Programmer) [John broke the rule, but earns points for style here]:

Flower, shower, power tower,
First class, string bass, grass en masse,
Sun, fun, nearly done,
Petal, metal, lightning gun?

Once the game is out, maybe I can get you all to submit your 10-word descriptions of the game, and we can see what comes out of it. (Yes, yes, snarky commenter, we know what you’re about to submit.) …I like to think that if we could have expressed it in words, we wouldn’t have made a game about it in the first place.

 
Last edited by a moderator:
Jan 29, 2009
7,187
Flower's the type of game that'll probably elicit numerous reviews slinging around words like "experiential" and other such highfalutin terms. But I'd rather get straight to the point: At its basic level, you fly around. You touch flowers. Green stuff happens. But it's more than that, a lot of which probably extends past the scope of this review.

This won't be an analytical take on thatgamecompany's auteurist endeavor. Though Flower is rife with potential symbolism, I'll try to leave most of the discovery to you; it'd be a disservice to reveal the game's ending. And I can't talk about Flower's minute detailing without discussing the project as a whole -- it'd be like analyzing a half-seen movie. But I will get into what it's like playing this beautiful PSN title. Quite simply: It's fun.

Click the image above to check out all Flower screens.

But maybe "fun" isn't the perfect word. Much like a well-constructed movie's emotional arc, Flower sets the mood, dips into the darkness, soars up for the climax, and ends on a satisfying resolution. Each level, represented by a potted flower sitting on a windowsill, takes you into the dream of that flower. In those periods of resting imagination, you soar through the air and make your way to that flower's secret inner desire, be it lush vegetation, bright color patches, or just shafts of light. But no matter the end, the journey is the same -- you fly around from flower to flower, collecting petals as you go. The more petals you add to your train, the faster you can fly. The levels are all fun, but they're also peaceful, exhilarating, empowering, and, as a mild spoiler, sometimes terrifying.

The game's distinct visual style immediately draws you in; people walking by my cubicle while I was playing would constantly stop and ask me what I was doing. This isn't the most technologically impressive game I've ever seen, but it is still one of the most beautiful. While the landscapes aren't entirely realistic, they offer exactly what I'd expect from a flower's dream -- hills speckled with stunning colors, ethereal orbs glowing in the grass, and a breathtakingly blue sky. Coupled with wonderful music and sound effects -- a dynamic score and chimes that tinkle fittingly as you collect petals -- Flower's presentation grabs and holds your attention.

The Sixaxis control is wonderfully fuss-free. At no time did I feel like I had to fight the controls. And honestly, while in the midst of a level, I hardly thought about the lump of plastic in my hands -- my attention was solely on my petal train, whipping about in the game's wind currents. And the currents are something you have to pay attention to. In some levels, strong winds buffet you along, making your trail of petals surge forward along a wind tunnel. It's these moments that Flower takes on an almost racing game feel, with you banking right and left as you zip along a track. It's certainly exciting, but, if you're like me, you want to collect every last petal -- including the three special green flower clusters hidden in each stage. And being flung along at high speed then becomes frustrating...that is, until you realize you can fight your way back against the wind currents. Once you've gotten familiar with the winds' course, you can navigate your petals up and around them. That way, you can make your way back to a section the game previously blew you through in order to pick up any stray flower petals you may have missed.

It can be challenging to collect every petal, but that certainly isn't a complaint; it's great that a game which starts so leisurely can present a (mostly) punishment-free challenge. My only real complaint is that, when meticulously making my way through each level, my petal trail naturally became quite lengthy causing the camera to occasionally spin out of control or get trapped behind objects. It's a small nitpick, and one that you likely won't encounter unless you're plagued by the collect-a-bug like I am.

Otherwise, the game is wholly enjoyable from start to finish. I even found myself replaying some of the previous levels just to let my petals waft in the air, my controller sitting untouched on the desk while I worked. The game's short -- the seven areas only take about two to three hours to finish on the first try (if you don't play it obsessively like I do). But it's a joy to revisit each stage -- the freedom of movement makes the game feel as relaxing as a gently wafting breeze. The challenge is there for those who seek it, but Flower is something everyone can enjoy.


 
Jan 29, 2009
7,187
Flower is an odd proposition. Just like thatgamecompany's last title, flOw, it's not really a game. It's a relaxant, suited more for a 3am slump on the couch than a 3-hour session after work.

And like flOw, Flower is sure to again divide critics and gamers alike. While the basic structure of a game is present - you, uh, progress through levels towards a conclusion, and stuff – it only takes a few seconds of playing before you realise that, basic structure or not, this is something more (or less, depending on your tastes) than a "game".

Flower sees you taking control of the wind. You begin each level with a single flower petal, and must blow the wind around like a Katamari ball, each flower the petal touches blooming to release another petal, which adds to the size of your windy, flowery mass.

And…that's it. You do that a few hundred times each level until the game ends. Sounds boring! But it's everything that happens in between that makes this game so special.

LOVED

Exhale – In Flower, you are a breeze blowing flowers through tall blades of green grass. To the accompaniment of a soothing orchestral score or sparse guitar strings. Every flower you open makes a short chiming sound, so the more adventurous can attempt to plot a synaesthetic course through the levels, arranging their own soundtrack. There are no time limits. There is no difficulty. Death is only present, briefly, in one level. Video games just do not get any more relaxing than this.

This Is Not LAIR– Flower uses the X button to control the speed of the wind. And that's the only time you press a button. The rest of the game, from menu selection to in-game flight, is controlled by the Sixaxis, and shockingly, it works. Control is fluid and responsive, and the lack of mashing or memorising control schemes only adds to the soothing, low-key vibe of the game.

Game Design 101– It's amazing that a title that so many will allude to as "art" or as some tool for relaxation can also get so many things right on the game design front. Sign-posting is a masterclass in subtlety. You'll experience tutorials that you don't realise were tutorials until you're done. They even sneak a few "boss battles" in there while you weren't looking, and the way the final level leads up to such a confrontation is the most breath-taking moment I've yet to experience on the PS3.

Granted, Flower will not be for everyone. These "artsy" PlayStation Network titles never are. But if you've had a rough day at work and really need to unwind – and perhaps even have your mind tugged at, ever-so-slightly – there's currently no better way to do so on the PS3 than with Flower.

Flower was developed by thatgamecompany and published by Sony Computer Entertainment America for the PlayStation 3 (PlayStation Network). It is due for release on February 12, and will retail for $10. Played game to completion.
 
Apr 17, 2009
7,731
San Diego, CA
Game Testers & Reviews Nominate Flower!


The National Academy of Video Game Testers and Reviewers has nominated “Flower” for excellence in 3D Control Design, Control Precision, and overall best game in the “Special Class.”

Thank you to everyone that voted for us - we are honored to be nominated for two control design awards by people who definitely know their control schemes!
 
Apr 17, 2009
7,731
San Diego, CA
Coming to PSN this Week: Flower Soundtrack for $2.99

Hey, everyone. I’m excited to be back to talk more about the Flower soundtrack originally teased on February 12, the one-year anniversary of the game’s release.

The soundtrack will be coming out this Thursday on PSN, and features eight tracks from the game and over an hour’s worth of music, all for $2.99. So be sure to pick it up when it comes out. I also have a very special treat for you. I spoke with Vincent Diamante, the award-winning music composer and audio designer behind Flower’s wonderful soundtrack, and he graciously agreed to putting together some thoughts on creating the soundtrack. Enjoy!

"Looking back, a year-plus removed from working on Flower, it’s hard for me to remember anything but wonderful times with Sony and thatgamecompany. Then I think a bit harder and remember: the fights. Not fights amongst us developers, no. Besides, that comes part and parcel in the process of game development. Rather, the fights happened within the music. All-out brawls between themes, lines, instruments, harmonies as the music struggled to find identity when Flower was just this bud of a game.

Ostensibly, I was the one in control, penning each note in my music synthesizer as environment after environment demanded score. Not just any score, though; an ambitious score where the number of instruments present in the music ultimately dictated a different perspective on the game. From that simple directive, I codified a way of writing the music that would result in the interactive score I dreamt of."


"In the beginning, however, there was nothing but fights. Instruments weren’t just masking or overshadowing their orchestral mates, they were outright demolishing them. French horns knocking bassoons to the floor, violins contorting cello lines, trumpets trampling over pianos. When I first started working on the music for Flower, I saw myself as being much like a conductor, gently urging sections of the orchestra into the space needed to fit the game. Instead, I felt like I had brought a conductor’s baton to a knife fight.

And then I started playing the game. And playing it. And playing it some more. I believe there were a few days in that year of working on Flower when I drove over to thatgamecompany and “worked” by playing the game for eight hours straight. Yes, I was having fun with the game, but I was also meditating, internalizing the rhythm, shape, and color of the world.

And somewhere in the process, I started writing Flower. There was no real struggle; just, suddenly, it didn’t feel like work to pen line after line of music. Each instrument in the score seemed to love each other, raising each other up even as they were added to the increasingly complex mix. Looking back on it, I can see exactly what changed in my approach to the music.

At the time, though, it all just felt magical. It’s nice, now, playing Flower as just another player, reliving those bits of magic. That amazing exhale when you leave the canyon in the wind level. The drive that pushes you through a darkened city. The serenity of night that accompanies the post-game credits."


"And while those magical parts were carefully composed and scripted for effect, the parts where the computer dictates the order of notes for a flower’s melody continue to floor me.

I remember one time, while playing the color level, a series of flowers set before the beginning of the third section of music played a melody so full of longing that I had to drop the controller to catch my breath.

When people speak of game development, they often describe it as a process of discovery. Though I’ve worked on video game scores before Flower, working closely with Sony and thatgamecompany was probably the best experience I ever had writing music. The music, ostensibly coming from me, seemed to keep on revealing itself to us from everywhere in the development. From level design, art, and mechanics to little things like the time needed to load a level and even the heft of the Dualshock 3; all of these had such an impact on the music composition that I couldn’t help but feel joy that the music was springing up from some space beyond myself.
And here I am, a little more than a year later thinking: I can’t wait to take part in that experience once again."
 
Apr 17, 2009
7,731
San Diego, CA
Stop and Smell the Flowers: Tell Us Your Flower Story

Hello, PS Blog readers. If you follow the blog much, you already know that Flower had its 1-year anniversary a few months ago, and we just released a Flower dynamic theme, plus the soundtrack from the game, to help commemorate it.


Flower is widely recognized by fans and critics alike for being a game unlike any other game we’ve played before. People experience and enjoy the game in different ways. Some people ponder about the deeper message behind Flower’s “story,” while others might use it as a way to relax and unwind, or even share the unique gaming experience with their non-gaming friends and loved ones. We each experience and react to Flower in a different way, and that’s part of what makes Flower so great and so unique. And that was part of the goal thatgamecompany set out to achieve with Flower.


And we want to hear about your story, your experience with Flower. Send us your most touching, most personal, or most memorable story about your experience with Flower. We’ll be working with the developers at thatgamecompany to sort through all of the entries and pick our favorite five to receive a $20 PSN card each, and to be featured in a future blog post.
Here’s what you do: type up your essay about your Flower experience in 2000 words or less, and email it to myflowerstory@thatgamecompany.com before 9 AM (PST) on April 28. You just have to be 13 years old or older, and a legal resident of the United States or District of Columbia. In your email, be sure to include your name and date of birth.
We can’t wait to read your entries! Good luck!

Rules:
The following promotion is intended for viewing in the 50 United States and the District of Columbia only and will be construed and evaluated according to United States law. Do not enter this contest if you are not a legal resident of, and located in, the 50 United States or the District of Columbia at the time of entry.

OFFICIAL RULES & RELEASE
Flower Experience Contest

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN
Void outside the 50 United States and District of Columbia and where prohibited.
1. Eligibility. The Flower Experience Contest (“Promotion”) is open to only legal residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia, who are at least 13 or older at the time of entry. Employees of the Sponsor and its parent, subsidiaries and affiliated companies and their immediate families are not eligible to participate in this Promotion.
2. Sponsor. Sony Computer Entertainment America LLC, 919 E. Hillsdale Blvd, Foster City, CA 94404 (“Sponsor”).
3. Timing. The Promotion begins on April 15, 2010 at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Standard Time (“PST”) and ends on April 28, 2010 at 9:00 a.m. PST (the “Promotion Period”).
4. How to Enter. To enter send an email to myflowerstory@thatgamecompany.com and include the essay entry in the body of the email or attach a text document. Be sure to provide your name, date of birth and email address (hereinafter the “Submission”). Entrant must have played the game Flower. The Submission must describe the Entrant’s most memorable experience with the game Flower.
5. Entry Conditions and Release. Limit one entry per person for the duration of the Promotion Period. Subsequent entries will be disqualified. The Submission must be text only and the original and unpublished creation of the Entrant. Entrant must be the sole owner of the work. The Submission must be no longer than 2000 words in length. Entrant waives any claims against Sponsor, and its affiliates concerning his/her rights in the Submission submitted under this Agreement. Sponsor reserves the right to reject any entries that it deems, in its sole discretion, to be inappropriate including, but not limited to, foul language, gratuitous depiction of violence or sexual behavior, positive depictions of alcohol or tobacco or any other illegal activity. Entry cannot defame or invade the rights or privacy of any person, living or deceased, or otherwise infringe upon any third party personal or proprietary rights. Sponsor is not responsible for technical, hardware or software failures, malfunctions, lost or unavailable network connections or failed, incomplete, garbled or delayed computer transmissions or unforeseen schedule changes that may limit an Entrant’s ability to participate in the Promotion, even if caused by Sponsor’s negligence. Sponsor has the sole and absolute discretion to modify, cancel or suspend this Promotion should virus, bugs, unauthorized human intervention or other causes beyond Sponsor’s control affect the administration, security or proper play of the Promotion or Sponsor otherwise becomes incapable of running the Promotion as planned. Sponsor is not responsible for changes to Entrant’s contact information. Sponsor has the sole and absolute discretion to disqualify Entrants who violate these Official Rules, tamper with the operation of the Promotion or engage in any conduct that is detrimental or unfair to Sponsor, the Promotion or any other Entrant.
6. Winner Selection. Winners will be selected from all eligible entries received during the Promotion Period. Sponsor’s decisions will be final and binding. Winners will be notified by email no later than May 12, 2010. Return of any prize/prize notification as undeliverable will result in disqualification and an alternate winner will be selected based on the stated Judging Criteria. Chosen winners must respond to the prize notification within seventy two (72) hours from when Sponsor sent notification. In the event that a winner does not respond to Sponsor’s notification within the specified time, a new winning entry will be chosen from the remaining entries based on the stated Judging Criteria. Alternate winners will be contacted via email and will have 48 hours to respond from when Sponsor sent the notification, this process will continue until all prize notifications have been responded to. Winners will be announced on or around May 3, 2010.
7. Judging Criteria. All entries received will be judged based 50% on how inspirational the story is and 50% on how touching the story is by a panel of judges composed of members of the thatgamecompany development team and SCEA’s Marketing and Product Development staff.
8. Prizes. Five (5) First Prize winners will each receive a PlayStation®Network card worth $20.00 for a combined total of ARV $100.00. Prize fulfillment is based on availability. Sponsor has the sole and absolute discretion to substitute a prize of equal or greater value if a prize is unavailable. If a prize is returned to Sponsor as undeliverable, Sponsor has the sole and absolute discretion to disqualify a winning Entrant and select an alternate winner based on the stated Judging Criteria. Prizes are non-transferable, and Sponsor need not substitute a prize based on winner’s request. Please allow 6-8 weeks for delivery of the prize.
9. Release and Grant of Rights. Entrants are solely responsible for their Submission and the consequences of posting or publishing it. In connection with the Submission, Entrant affirms, represents, and warrants that: (i) Entrant owns or has the necessary licenses, rights, consents and permissions to use the Submission in the manner contemplated by the Sponsor; and (ii) Entrant has the written consent, release and permission of each and every identifiable individual person in the Submission to use the name of those persons to enable inclusion and use of the Submission in the manner contemplated by the Sponsor. By submitting the Submission to Sponsor, Entrant hereby grants to Sponsor a perpetual, fully paid, irrevocable, non-exclusive license to reproduce, prepare derivative works of, distribute, display, transmit, and permit others to use and perform throughout the universe the Submission, his/her likeness and performance and every identifiable individual person’s likeness and performance in the Submission in any media. Entrant hereby releases Sponsor and its parent and sister companies, and their officers, directors, employees and agents from any and all claims, demands, actions or causes of action of any kind, nature or description, which you or any of your successors, or, assigns, may now, or at any time, have or claim to have any reason of, arising out of, relating to or in any way connected with the rights granted above.
10. General Conditions and Releases. Potential winners are subject to Sponsor’s verification. Sponsor’s decisions are final and binding in all matters related to the Promotion. Potential winners must comply with the Official Rules’ terms and conditions, and receipt of prizes is contingent upon fulfilling all requirements. Sponsor is under no obligation to use the winning submission in any media. Winners agree to the use of their name and/or likenesses for purposes of advertising, trade, or promotion without further compensation, unless prohibited by law. Additionally, winner agrees to release Sponsor and their respective parents, subsidiaries, agencies, divisions, and affiliates from any and all liability, for loss, harm, damage, injury, cost or expense whatsoever including without limitation, property damage, personal injury and/or death which may occur in connection with, preparation for, travel to, or participation in the Promotion, or possession, acceptance and/or use or misuse of prize or participation in any Promotion-related activity and claims based on publicity rights, copyright/trademark infringement, defamation or invasion of privacy and merchandise delivery.
11. Odds of Winning. Odds of winning are determined by the number of eligible entries received.
12. Publicity. By accepting a prize, a winning Entrant agrees to the use of his or her name and likeness for purposes of advertising, trade or promotion without further compensation, unless prohibited by law, and agrees, if required, to sign and return a notarized Affidavit of Eligibility and Release of Liability (the “Affidavit”) within a period that Sponsor specifies.
13. Promotion Results. To obtain a winners’ list by mail, send a stamped, self- addressed envelope to “Flower Experience Contest,” Attn: Sony Computer Entertainment America Marketing, 919 E. Hillsdale Blvd. 2nd Floor, Foster City, CA 94404. Sponsor will send requested winners’ lists within 4-6 weeks after it awards prizes. Requests for the winner’s list must be received by May 31, 2010.
14. Collection of Information. The information necessary to operate the Promotion was collected by Sponsor at the time of entry, and without limiting Sponsor’s rights under its privacy policies with regards to its use of the information, will be used to contact you specifically for operation of the Promotion. Information collected in connection with the Promotion will otherwise be collected in accordance with Sponsor’s privacy policy, available at http://www.us.playstation.com/Support/PrivacyPolicy. By agreeing to these Official Rules, you are also agreeing to the terms of Sponsor’s privacy policy.
15. Restrictions. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.