We talk to Matt Nava as we play his new game Abzu. This may look a lot like Journey and Flower, projects he has worked on previously but the experience is quite different.
“I got into the industry as Art Director on Flower. A very lucky opportunity for me. I then worked on Journey and learned a tonne from that team. Taught me about what games could be and the emotional and meaningful experiences they could create.”
“After Journey I founded Giant Squid to take those ideas further by creating experiences that were beautiful and lush and meaningful to people.”
Abzu initially looks similar to Journey, and with the same composer (Austin Wintory) the soundscape is familiar too. This is certainly from the same school of thought that considers games more than entertainment, perhaps even as Jenova Chen put it to me as doing “social work”.
“We wanted to capture the majesty of experiencing underwater environments. As a diver I realized that the second you hit the water all the gauges and air tanks disappear. They are just there to give you access to this amazing world.”
“The diver can discover and repair drones that in turn can find and collect mineral resources. Later on you realize the ramifications of collecting this resource and how it relates to the environment.”
“Instead of focusing on the simulation aspect of air gauges and tracking and logging fish we have focused on the atmospheric quality.”
“The experience of diving is weightlessness. We wanted to give the player this ballet motion in the water. This is the dream of scuba diving. You just want to be in the water with a connection to the sea and sea life.”
“The story is a hopeful one about how the diver relates to the ocean. What’s the place in this space. Our hope is that players can reflect on that narrative and their identity and place in the world.”
“After working with Austin Wintory on Journey it’s been a honor to work with us from day one on Abzu, interweaving the music with the game. It’s a collaborative process creating the moods and environments and using the music to drive the story.”
“We want to create an experience that’s accessible to a lot of people. There’s no game over or check points. Anything you do is OK. There are dangers and scares as part of the narrative but big picture the game is focused on atmospheric exploration.”
Abzu is planned for release in first half of 2016 on PlayStation 4 and PC.