“We use games to bring loved ones together”: details of creating Sky

Journey developers continue to experiment with social interaction in their games.


Sky: Children of Light is an unusual and atmospheric mobile multiplayer game experiment from thatgamecompany. Unlike many other games, there are no fights, grind and gachi. This is a game about flying, exploring and communicating in a mysterious world.

On-line experience director Tim Nixon and thatgamecompany executive producer Eileen Hollinger on the Gamasutra website talked about creating an atmospheric narrative that works for the mobile format. They also shared the main difficulties that they encountered during development, and described the main idea that shaped the gameplay. We have chosen the main thing from the text.

For me, Sky is a virtual theme park that inspires communication and encourages to show the best human qualities.

Tim Nixon

director of online experience at thatgamecompany

According to Eileen, the studio always tried to tell a story through the environment and the visual component. In Sky, the player gets acquainted with the lore of this world through research – in secret locations you can find murals, and videos shed light on the character’s past. However, developers give users the freedom to interpret all events in their own way.

Nixon added that this approach has given rise to many difficulties because the Journey narrative format is not entirely suitable for a mobile game. As the main differences, he called a smaller screen, a greater number of distractions and small gaming sessions.

For this reason, goals at levels should be very clear. Although developers encourage user attentiveness in many ways. For example, add inscriptions to the walls that can lead to a secret area.

In Journey, only two players could interact at a time, and in Sky this number increased to eight. Moreover, their relationship has become more complex due to an increase in the number of interaction methods. For example, they can transmit accumulated light, which helps to build closer relationships. And this is the basis on which even the domestic economy is built.

In addition, communication has become one of the mechanics of the game – from the very beginning you will not have an open chat with other users. It will appear only if you build a trusting relationship with a certain person.

When the developers created the flight system, they wanted to make it so that everyone could soar without any problems and enjoy it. At the same time, they wanted to enable experienced players to demonstrate a high level of skill in performing tricks.

The team also came up with a reward system in which users receive a reward if they help each other to get into different areas.

According to Nixon, in the early stages of development, the flight allowed you to get to any place. Such excessive freedom is a classic problem for flying games. Also, with such mechanics, users do not feel progress and do not enjoy the development along the way.

And now the player can look for spirits that will enhance the hero’s cloak – this will allow him to rise to new areas. This motivates you to move on and explore other locations.

All these mechanics are also designed to show that interesting games can be made without battles.

Battle mechanics can repel. We have already heard stories from grandmothers who play Sky with their grandchildren – this is our goal – we use games to gather loved ones in a safe, beautiful and interesting world.

All puzzles, quests, exploration and meta-games are just a set of reasons for social interaction. They are needed so that people come together and start working to achieve a common goal. I hope this will allow them to feel connected and learn something new about each other.
Tim Nixon

director of online experience at thatgamecompany

The developers added that they created Sky as a game service, so they must constantly release new content. This means that the team seeks to add new locations, quests and all kinds of activities, so that people have the motivation to run the game daily and find something interesting.

Nixon admitted that this is another important pillar of the entire game design: every day you need to do something new, and many of these activities are focused on working together, which only strengthens the central idea of ​​bringing people together.

To achieve adequate operation of this system, developers had to conduct a lot of tests. A beta test especially helped in debugging the entire gameplay. As a result, now thatgamecompany has a whole community interaction department that responds to feedback and builds communication between players and developers.


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