VFX and Feeling in Games – Flower and Journey

I am continuing to look at games that inspire me and how they use vfx in a manner that is more than generic gun flashes and explosions.


  • Effects in flower are as both part of the environment and to indicate where to go, surceases and failures.
  • Wind trails are used to subtly direct the player towards their goal.
  • Effects are used to show progression, as the things light up or sparkle after events or opening certain flowers.
  • These effects bring the world to life, which is really the entire point of the game.
  • Small effects make the world seem more appealing, like petals on the wind or lights in the grass.
  • These dissipate as you come in contact with them, again adding movement and life to the world.
  • Goals are shown using large ribbon swirl effects.
  • There are beautiful tight colour schemes though out.
  • Light and dark are used to show good and bad areas/events.

_-Flower-_ Capture Capture2 flower-e3-490 flower-game-screenshot-12 flower-game-screenshot-13 flower-game-screenshot-14 index inset_09_0222_flower

Nearly all of the art in Flower could come under the title of vfx. The grass and flowers sway in the wind, the player is a gust of wind, sparkles and particles are everywhere. The aim of the creators was to invoke emotion and communicate a message.

“an emotional connection with the audience. If you can touch them in anyway it has to be relevant and when we work on these games its about whether we can make the player feel something that’s very deep.”

““Flower” represents an important moment in the development of interactivity and art. This innovative game puts the player in an unusual role—the wind—and uses minimal controls to create an emotional, immersive experience of the landscape which changes in response to the player’s actions. Conceived as an ‘interactive poem’ in response to tensions between urban and rural space, Chen and Santiago imagine an unexplored land for the player to discover. “Flower” presents an entirely new kind of physical and virtual choreography unfolding in real time, one that invites participants to weave aural, visual and tactile sensations into an emotional arc rather than a narrative one.”


  • Shimmering powedered sand that moves when the player walks gives the world a rich texture, making it seem more alive and real.
  • Cloth billowing in the wind gives a sence of the climate and weather.
  • Shines for magic and events – ribbon tail when gaining scarf pieces and light up murals. Gives magic/mystic/religious feel when supported by Islamic style structures.
  • Dust, smoke and heat ripples- supports idea that the inital levels are in a desert setting, make the world seem hot and harsh.
  • Fx also used as a part of gameplay, indicates goals and puzzles, shows when puzzles have been completed.
  • Beautiful lighting – really brings things together.
  • Sand waterfalls – interactive and leave sand on the player. Again, adds a richness and extra level to the world.
  • Tight colour schemes support mood and environment.

Journey-Screen-One 6879191848_2ec5a643eb_z content_5 index2 Journey2 Journey-Desert-Trek

Feeling, mood and atmostphere are all elements that are integral to thatgamecompany’s design philosphy.

“That’s because thatgamecompany, the studio behind those titles, is highly experimental with its game design, and uses emotions as a starting point instead of hooky game mechanics.”

This means that their fx artists and programmers must support the feeling that the studio wishes to promote in the player with their work. John Edwards,  lead engineer said at GDC that the effects are trying to simulate

“the human physical experience” and “that feeling you get when you’re out hiking, after not seeing anyone for a while.“,

rather then any particular real life phenomenon. However, the studio still looked at real life for inspiration.

“We thought the best environment to encourage this kind of interaction would be a vast and barren desert, and we spent a long time on technology to make the player feel like they were really hiking out in nature, so that when they did eventually encounter another player in the game, they would treat them like another human being.”

“To make that happen, the company took a field trip to Pismo Beach near Southern California to wander the dunes and re-create the same look and feel. That included “running and jumping and diving through sand,” Edwards said.”

“I personally only started to look at reference photos very late in the project, because we were never going for photorealism, but we were trying very hard to convey a realistic feeling to put the players in the mindset of being out in the middle of nature so they’d appreciate each other more when they encountered each other during the journey.”

The sand effect in journey actually acted more like water than sand. The fluid feel was deemed more important than realism.

“I think that’s because another property of the feel of sand. Sand, on the Pismo dunes at least, was actually very fluid. Walking out in the Pismo dunes was like walking on a giant ocean of sand.”













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