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Are you hoping to throw out less this time? You talked about throwing out so much of the stuff you ended up making for Limbo.
AJ: Of course, we became a lot more clever than the last time, so I think there's a lot of stuff that we know from the beginning that we shouldn't do twice.
Did you do a lot of analysis? You talk about not wanting to look back, but did you do a lot of your analysis of your own processes on the first game before moving forward? Or does that choke the creativity?
AJ: [Sighs.] I think throughout the whole production, we tried to find the golden way of producing, but we never succeeded in it. We changed all the way throughout production, the way we did it, and how to be in control with it. We tried Scrum, and we tried hanging small notes up. We tried different programs. We tried everything. I don't know.
Did you arrive at anything? Or did you just keep changing?
AJ: We kept changing. And we still are changing the way we do it. It's like if it's getting too much into a system, I really get concerned. I think now it's getting too much of production, like a factory. It's supposed to change all the way through, because then you will see from different angles. People get new ideas. I think every time it's going too well, I have to push it somehow, and change the way of seeing it.
Battlefield 3 producer Patrick Bach told me "If you build things by a process, you will get the same thing that you got the last time you used that process." You'll end up making something that relates to the method, and not to the goal of what you're trying to make.
AJ: Of course. You can tell by all those crappy games out there. Some of the games. It's a production. It's level after level. You can tell how they do it. For me, it's very boring, because I can almost tell from the demo of the game that I'm not going to be surprised in this game. I don't have to buy it, because it's going to be the same all the way through. There's not going to be any surprises.
Do you find that you can just see? You know, I write. So, when I read, I can see, "Oh, I know what you did there." I can understand techniques people are using. Do you think it's the same with games, and with you, that you can just see through them?
AJ: Yeah. I think so. I really enjoy playing a lot of games, but as soon as I'm in the matrix of it, I don't want to play it anymore, because then it's just a waste of time.
DP: I think you can see definitely what's outsourced, which people are on another floor, and where the music guy sits. It's usually a long way from the team. A lot of these things... It's so easy. You can see all the modules, which have to go into place. For some games. Some games it's harder. Lots of bigger games, it's really...
Obvious? I know exactly what you mean.
AJ: It's so boring that they got 28 levels. What? Who cares? I'd rather have some unexpected stuff, instead of 28 levels. Why should I play those?
DP: The worst thing I hate is random-generated gameplay. It's the worst excuse ever to not have game design.
To that point, Limbo is a very handcrafted game. There's not a single piece of it that doesn't feel designed.
AJ: No, it's very handcrafted.
You said you spent to the very end pushing to put as much stuff into it as you possibly could, but it also feels very polished.
AJ: Yeah. It is. But we polished throughout production, so it can work together, I think. You can get new ideas and still polish. It's not that hard.
DP: Yeah, but I think it's pretty advanced how it worked out, because it was like everything worked together a long time. I don't know. It's not a simple answer to how it was polished. But I know polish is a big part of Arnt's concern, always.
AJ: It is. It has to feel right.
Did you spend a lot of time prototyping the character motion?
AJ: Yeah. It was an ongoing thing for three years.
DP: That was one guy full time on it. Only the boy. He didn't do anything else. I think he would do water, or something, but only the boy. A coder, full time. And an animator, not full time.
AJ: That was important. We've got to do it again.
DP: But as you said at one point, it's the one thing you'll see throughout the game in the middle of the screen, always. So, that makes it kind of important to do it right, and true.
AJ: I don't think people notice that it took three years to do this boy, but we put so much into it, the way he behaves, and physics.
DP: That's how you know it works, because nobody noticed.
AJ: Yeah, exactly. Sometimes people write us and think we did it in a month. "How did you do that? Which program did you use?"
DP: And, "It looks like a Flash game." There's so much into that boy, which is really cool, but you don't really see it, because he works in a dynamic environment. Technically it's hard to make anything work in a dynamic environment. Everything is set. We could build anything and put it in the boy. It's not magic. It's just taking a long time to make this boy acknowledge everything, know what's physical and not, and he anticipates things.
AJ: He can look forward in time half a second to see what's out there...
DP: To reach for the right position. He could actually catch things if you want, because he knows how things move.
AJ: It's pretty amazing.
Like one of those carts you push or something, he'll like reach out for it before he quite reaches the actual handgrip.
DP: Exactly. Especially in the dynamic environments, where things were turning.
AJ: Yeah, the rotating room. Pretty advanced for the boy...
DP: To acknowledge things. Things are changing, moving around. I think it's cool that people didn't see it.
AJ: They feel it, I think, when they play it.
DP: Yeah, I think they feel it. We've gotten a lot of comments from people, like game creators or something, who play a lot of games, they feel this is a bit different. It's not just a bounding box which can jump and run.
It's like with Ico. What made a big impression was Yorda and Ico holding hands, right?
AJ: Yeah. That's interesting.
That didn't really have much to do with the gameplay, so to speak but it was...
AJ: So important.
It's one of the revolutionary things about that game.
AJ: Yeah. It felt like she was living. It was pretty amazing.
So many games have someone following you.
AJ: But never like her. Never in gaming history like her, I think.
DP: It's so hard to copy.