Whenever the little boy dies sometimes it can actually be quite funny, with the rag doll effects. But it also looks so painful. Is there an intentional sense of black humor about the game?
AJ: Yeah, definitely.
That's what I thought. But I don't think a lot of people took it that way.
DP: I think it's definitely Arnt's black humor.
AJ: Yeah, but it's fun.
DP: It's definitely something about you, I think.
AJ: It gives a good tension to the player, because you know you can die in an instant. [Snaps fingers.]
DP: There's a thing about combining calmness with brutality.
Yeah, sometimes it's peaceful for a second. Well, you never think anything is going to be okay, though. Actually, one of my best friends who played the game, she hates it because nothing ever improves for the main character. There's never a feeling that things are going to get better. They're going to get worse.
AJ: Oh, but it does, in the end.
DP: Oh, but you get better as a human, playing it, because you learn how it works, and you solve all these puzzles, I think. You expand as a human being.
But if you're a very empathetic person, it can be a bit stark, right?
AJ: It's supposed to.
It's supposed to be stark?
AJ: Yeah. [laughs]
Obviously it conveys something, but it's ambiguous. The message, or meaning, or anything about the game is ambiguous. Was that a goal, or was the goal to be more atmosphere and gameplay-driven?
AJ: [Asks for the definition of "ambiguous" in Danish]
DP: [Translates into Danish]
AJ: Ohh. Yeah, yeah. I think it's supposed to be... Hmmm. I think it's great when you're done playing it, you're still thinking about it. It's not supposed to be, "It's like that, and that's how it is." I hate that. In everything -- in movies and books.
I really like this, that you have to think by yourself, and you have to talk with people about it. We enjoyed reading all those forum posts on the net, people talking about, "What is happening? And what does this mean?" Some people have a pretty clear idea, and others think it's bullshit. And pretty funny, all these in-betweens. [laughs] So, it's been great.
I definitely spent a lot of time thinking about it and talking about it afterward. I know that you like the ambiguity, but did you find that people were really getting the message you wanted to portray? Was it more about just giving something people to play with in their minds?
AJ: Yeah. I get a little upset when people say, "It was a stupid ending, and I don't know what was happening." All those people who enjoyed the open ending, that makes me happy, because it was supposed to be an open ending. What it means, I don't want to talk about.
DP: You told me that you think somebody got close.
AJ: Yeah, very close. [laughs] Sometimes scary.
DP: Scary close! To things we've been talking about in the office. Things only Arnt has in his head.
Is it scary that somebody would correctly interpret your vision?
AJ: Yeah, it is. Because then there's too many clues. It has to be... [falls silent]
Have you talked at all about the next game? I mean, that's kind of the luxury, I guess, of indie developing, is that you don't have to follow what you did with the sequel, you don't have to do anything the same the second time.
AJ: No, but I think we got the same approach to it. It's still going to be a puzzle-platformer-adventure-action game. Yeah. It's going to be very different, and we're going to iterate on what we already know, so it's going to be some of the same stuff. In a way, it's a sequel with a lot of new, more ambitious ideas. It's not going to be a first-person shooter.
DP: It's more like a company sequel than a game sequel.
It goes back almost to the band thing I was saying earlier.
DP: Oh yeah. Exactly. We have a lot of the same people as Limbo. We have new -- not better, but very good people on the next one.
AJ: Better. [both laugh] One of them is better.
DP: [whispers] You can't write this.
I can write anything. [laughs] I think that hopefully the sense of humor will come across. Just like with the game, it might be ambiguous, though.
DP: I think it's a company sequel.
Were you surprised by the popularity of the game?
AJ: I was a little concerned that people got it. [laughs] Is this stuff only in my mind? People, do they really want to be this involved in a game? I had my concerns about it. At the end of playtesting, and when we showed it to people, people were so impressed, we knew something would happen.
DP: Yeah. I still think it's crazy, somehow. We still get a couple fan mails each day. We got a lot in the beginning. We get so many requests, and offers, and so on, from different places.
AJ: They keep coming.
A lot of people like games in different ways. Is it okay to you that people just play it? They play it for the puzzles?
AJ: Yeah, of course. I hate games, so of course.
You hate games?
AJ: Yeah. Most of everything, I just hate it. It's hard to convince people of that.
DP: But when you say you hate games, you mean...
AJ: I love games.
DP: You mean you love games.
AJ: Yeah. But there's so much crap. That's the problem.
DP: There's so much crap. [laughs]
AJ: It's only every second year there's a good game, I think.
What games do you like?
AJ: It's obvious, I think. It's everything that has a personal touch in it. It's Braid, and Ico, and Half-Life. Stuff like that.
I was surprised to see a Dead or Alive poster in the office. That would not be my first guess.
AJ: No. That's another fanboy in here. [laughs]
That was not my first guess for Playdead's top list of beloved games.
DP: We allow people to have their own interests and opinions. It is allowed.
Obviously, a lot of the games you don't like are probably liked by a lot of people who play Limbo, right?
AJ: Yeah. [laughs]
And that informs their approach toward your game. In a sense, I think that enhances the likelihood of your game standing out, because to people who like regular games, it seems like a breath of fresh air.
AJ: Yeah, probably.