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Jonathan Blow: The Next Phase

January 23, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 4 Next
 

So aside from the other versions of Braid, presumably you're working on another game?

JB: I am. I don't really want to give much detail about it, though. And the reason is that I've had three or four different games that I was convinced was the next game I was working on, and I'd work on it for a little bit and decide I could maybe do something better.

My newest game I started is looking very promising. I'm very excited to do it. But if the patterns of history continue, then I may not be working on it a month from now, so I don't want to start telling people about it.

Is it that RPG-ish thing you alluded to in your blog, where you mentioned you were interested in conversation scripting systems?

JB: Yeah. It's an RPG right now, a 2D RPG that I'm working on. You never know. Next month, it could be a Pac-Man clone or something.

Braid had hardly any dialog, so to speak. It was all narration, or prose text.

JB: It had a very small amount of dialog. It had four words or so.

One of the things you seem to attempt to do is include mechanics that are fundamentally tied to the larger theme you're trying to express in the game. Some traditional video game interactions would be difficult to handle that way, I'd think. Most dialog interaction, for example, is very transparent mechanically, moreso than the world interactions at the heart of Braid.

JB: Right. When you play an RPG, you usually go and try to exhaust the whole conversation tree, just because you know that there might be something that you get. That's true.

The way I'm thinking about it for the current game is that what goes on in those dialogs is actually very closely related to the core mechanic that you do in the RPG. And I can't really say more about it. But there is more of a tie, like you were saying is going on with Braid -- a tie between the game mechanic, or the core ideas and themes, and the things that you do.

That said, though, if in this game, people do the, "Oh, I'm just playing with the dialog tree" thing, it's fine, because the way the dialog is used is not necessarily in a straight, dramatic, linear story sense anyway. I think that you just have to be aware of those things and design with them in mind.

Do you think that mentality is something of a nonrenewable resource for a designer? I can't help but feel that the time-control mechanic as it relates to telling a story where time is a central theme, as in Braid, has now been "done." It would be tough for another designer to want to also make a game that does that without coming off as derivative, as opposed to just making a game where time control happens to be a mechanic.

JB: Yeah. I know exactly what you're saying. I think that, interpreted very narrowly, that is true. And that's one reason why I'm not sitting down and doing Braid 2. Because what would it be other than what it already is?

But in a broader way, about trying to make games that are somehow more meaningful, I don't necessarily prescribe exactly what method by which that should be done. There are a lot of ways to do it. And what I did in Braid is maybe one way.

I think that we don't even have a very good picture of what all the ways are that things can be done, just because, if you look at how many people have seriously been trying anything remotely like that in games, it's been a couple years or something, right?

You can't expect to even have a good map of what's possible in a medium after just a couple of years.

I think that Braid serves as one data point. "Hey, here's a thing that somebody did. It's a technique that is possible." Maybe somebody in the future applies it to a different subject or whatever. Maybe they could apply it to a time-rewind game and have like a different theme that they're hooking it up to, and that could still be refreshing, too. I don't know.

It sounds almost crass when you put it that way, when you strip it down. [laughs]

JB: Yeah. It's hard to talk about it. I mean, you know that that's not the way that I feel about it. But I just hope to serve as an idea like, "The bulk of what we're doing in games now is this over here. Then there's this other thing over here."


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