Multiplayer can also be of the cooperative variety, where the different players assist each other to accomplish tasks. In some games, the cooperative multiplayer is separate from the single-player part of the game. Sometimes that means a separate set of missions. Sometimes that means that the cooperative part is stored on a separate save. However it's done, multiplayer has always something that the player opts into. A choice is made at some point, they either select a menu option to take part in multiplayer or they tell their friend to pick up the other controller and join them.
Journey is a very unique game in many ways, but one of those ways is in its approach to multiplayer. For one, the only way to opt out of the multiplayer would be to forcibly disconnect your system from the internet. You see, after you have completed the introductory section, which literally teaches you the five things that you need to know about for the duration of the game, the game will find another, random player who is at the same point in the game as you and decide that you will play together. A white mark will appear on the edge of the screen that is typical of so many games to indicate that there is something of interest in that direction. When you turn the camera to it you will find someone else who looks almost exactly like you.
|Your clothing becomes more detailed as you accumulate trophies and the gold accents crawl up it.|
|Deserts are only in the beginning of the game.|
Furthermore, since there's no way to talk to one another, you can't harass the other player. You can't grief them. You can't inconvenience them. There aren't any tasks that you can't complete yourself, so you can't even let the other person down. Those who do fear potential harassment, at the end of a playthrough, after the credits roll, the game does tell you the names of everyone you played with.
One thing that I find particularly interesting is that as you gain trophies (the PS3's version of achievements), your character's robe becomes more ornate. Because of this your robe acts as a sort of indicator of your knowledge of the game. None of the trophies have a prohibiting skill requirement, they're pretty much all about finding things. So if you see someone whose robe is particularly adorned, then they know where much of the game's things are and just might show you where they are. In fact, as of this writing, I'm one trophy away from having all of them, and that trophy requires that I spend a week not playing the game. Once I have that, I'll have earned the platinum trophy and I plan on going through the game showing other players where things are, and hopefully they'll pass the knowledge on themselves.
Playing Journey has been a fascinating experience in more ways than way. It has really challenged ideas that I've had about multiplayer, storytelling, and achievements. I'm very curious about how the concepts used in it could be put in other games. Could Journey's anonymous multiplayer be put to good use in other games, such as cooperative shooters? What about a game, such as a shooter, where you "sign up" for various missions and the game picks a random partner for you to play with. Turn off the friendly fire and the ability to communicate and you could potentially have a rewarding experience. It's an interesting thought, and it's something that I really hope to see some day again in the future.