The Art of Journey coffee table book is beautiful, and holds a few surprises
The Art of Journey
There are few games that can support an entire book made up only of concept art and examples of iterative design in the game’s characters and locations. It’s not that all games don’t have piles and piles of art created during production, but it’s a rare game where looking at these dead ends would be fascinating across 180 pages. The Art of Journey is a look inside one of the most beautiful games of this generation, with enlightening text and hundreds of examples showing just how the world was created, why certain ideas were thrown out, and how the lead character was designed.
Journey is a game where so much has to communicated through the design, which is part of why these images and stories carry so much weight. Matthew Nava explains why certain designs were thrown out, and what players assumed about their abilities by how the character looked. An early design had arms, but they players became frustrated that they couldn’t climb. Another version had a cloak that sometimes obscured the character’s arms and hands until they were needed.
“Finally, the character design was finished,” Nava wrote. “It incorporated the best aspects of the previous designs and gave players a good immediate sense of its abilities. The character’s lack of arms meant it did not climb, and its lack of a mouth meant it did not speak. Its legs, which had finally lost their feet, had just enough there to there to demonstrate the ability to move… The character had become iconic in that its features directly symbolized its abilities.”
When I spoke with one of the concept artists who worked on Borderlands 2, he told me that a good concept artist has to understand many disciplines. They design fashion for characters, they help to create the game’s architecture, and they have to understand how color theory and the history of the world they’re creating. An almost surreal amount of thought and detail went into each section of Journey, and the book takes you through the characters, monsters, landscapes, and color palette of the game. There is even a section for fan art.
All of this is worth the $60 asking price, but Journey was a 3D game, and those designs are hard to get across with 2D illustrations. By downloading an app for your iOS or Android device you can point your phone or tablet at certain pages marked with a specific icon and view 3D models and animations. I looked at these models through my iPad, and it was great fun to be able to turn the book and see character models or architecture from any angle. This features allows you to really explore certain models and scenes from the game, and watch how early versions of the character were animated. On one page a boss character flies above the paper, allowing you to watch how it moves in the game. You can peek into the window of the castle shown in the image to this story and see people walk behind the windows.
Anyone who is interested in game design in general, Journey specifically, or just loves looking at beautiful paintings and sketches will find something to love here. I can’t recommend this book enough.
More Journey and concept art