Flow is another student project by Jenova Chen, lead designer of Cloud and co-founder of Thatgamecompany.
Like the rest of Chen’s and Thatgamecomany’s projects, this one is about the experience rather than accomplishing any given objective. Though this one does have an objective: to descend through your aquatic environment, devour any other organisms you come across, and become, let’s call it, King of the Microbes. Despite how dramatic that sounds, the game is serene and evocative of drifting through the water. Music plays a big role and it’s a little reminiscent of some ocean-appreciation games (Endless Ocean, Ecco) though Flow is not anywhere near the same scale.
Of some minor note is how movement plays into this impression of drifting and tranquility – the player can make no sharp turns, and while it’s possible to move at reasonable speed in a straight line there’s no reason to do so for more than short bursts. The bulk of the motion happens in deliberate curves. Limiting player movement in this way does away with a lot of the stress and speed of a game which responds instantly to player commands.
After Chen’s graduation and the founding of Thatgamecompany, a commercial version of Flow was their first product. It added some additional player avatars and some additional levels to play through, but the character of the commercial game is exactly the same.