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'Journey' wins five awards at British Academy Games Awards

JOURNEY was the clear winner at last night's British Academy Games Awards, taking home five awards for Artistic Achievement, Audio Achievement, Game Design, Online Multiplayer and Original Music.

Producer of Journey, Robin Hunicke, said there were so many Baftas on their table she thought it would tip over.

Journey has received acclaim for its innovative use of online multiplayer, with other users drifting in and out of the game with no user ID or any on-screen alerts. Has Journey revolutionised the online multiuser experience? Nick Clark, lead designer on Journey, humbly answered: "I think that it's just doing something new, and that's really what's interesting to me in moving forward with games- it's seeing games push into new genres with the tools that we have. So I think that any game that is doing that is going to get recognised."

The music in the game is heavily influenced by the multi-user experience, and in many ways shapes the 'journey' of how you play the game. Journey picked up awards for Original Music and Audio Achievement, but composer of the soundtrack Austin Wintory could not be there to pick up his Bafta game.

Journey producer Robin Hunicke said on his behalf: "Austin designed Journey so that when people play together the music reinforces a sense of togetherness and when you're alone you really fells alone. It's a subtle thing but if you play through the two settings you'll see the music influences the game."

The game, as its title suggests, puts an emphasis on narrative and personal exploration over violence and more typical gaming graphics. Journey missed out on the award for Story, but its art director Mark Nava explained why he thinks there has been more of an emphasis put on storytelling this year.

"As game consoles get bigger and better and graphics become more detailed, people are still just craving an experience that is really well crafted - something where they are really touched by and that is where those narrative games come through."

The Walking Dead picked up the Bafta for Story, as well as Mobile & Handheld. Executive producer of the game Kevin Boyle explained what narrative and character development meant to the makers.

"A lot of what is successful about the comic and the TV show is the degree in which you invest in these characters and the struggle you make to make those decisions. If we couldn't achieve the story in an experience that had you really caring about these characters, those hard decisions would be really hard."

Did Boyle and TellTale games founder Kevin Bruner learn anything about the gamers' moral decisions from analysing the choices they made? Bruner explained the game was never meant to be a morality challenge.

"We didn't want the game to be played a 'good' or 'bad' guy, a light or dark side. We really wanted it to be true to The Walking Dead, which is that there are no good choices- you just make the choice seems right to you."

The TellTale server tracks the decisions the gamers make so Bruner and his team could see what choices were being made. "We feel like we've succeeded when the audience is split pretty evenly," he said.

"If we overwhelmingly saw that somebody leaves somebody for the zombies then we know we didn't make the character conflicted. What we really want to do is to spread it out as evenly as we can."

Boyle admitted seeing the choices the players made gave him a "little bit of hope for humanity" because they always chose to save even the worst characters.

The two stayed quiet about developments for the next season, but Bruner did hint this: "Season two will read what you did in season one and that will tailor some of the things that happened in season two, and there will be a lot more social and in-between feature episodes in season two that will definitely exploit what the new platforms have to offer."

In answer to whether PS3 players will be able to take their save over to PS4, Boyle said: "We're in close contact with Sony and they understand the specific recipe for The Walking Dead."

Also at the awards was Rhianna Pratchett, writer of the new Tomb Raider reboot, who admitted that Lara Croft had been "sexualised in the past". She hopes that taking Lara back to when she is 21, to a time when her strength and tenacity is still there but hidden slightly, will make her seem more vulnerable.

Pratchett also hoped more game developers would be encouraged to develop lead female characters, saying "if real life is ahead of you, you've got to keep up." She spoke about a blog she had read in reaction to Tomb Raider from a man who said Lara's strength had helped him overcome abuse from his father.

"It blows away any notion that only girls can identify with female gaming characters," she said.