In the sense that you feel like there's enough creativity and choice that you don't feel like there's anything to complain about, in other words?
HS: No, that's not my words. I think it's always worth disrupting things creatively, and complaining, and pushing harder, which is what Raf and I do half the time. We are not content with games where you march down a linear bridge and shoot a monster and don't have any choice but that and to exit. We like multiple solutions, multiple stylistic approaches, and multiple moral compasses in a game. We definitely are agitators in that sense; we want more out of games -- more atmosphere, more agency.
What I'm trying to say is that there's a natural ecology of things; it's impossible that everything is that -- you cannot have a 100 percent everything is better than everything.
RC: And also the advancement in creativity cannot be achieved at every game like it used to be, at the beginning of the medium. We are at the stage where, right now, it's baby steps, and everybody is aware. Everybody can't come up with something totally different in every way. Even the most creative game that you can think of right now probably can be composed of two games that are directly influential to it.
HS: The exception, of course, is when a new technology comes out, like the Kinect... that new technology puts new ideas forth for awhile.
It's interesting that you say when a new technology comes out; is that what drives most left turns?
HS: It's one area for that. The other is looking at things that have been around for a long time and putting a twist on it. Braid is one of my favorite games, and it looks on the surface like a 2D side-scrolling platformer; but it was a game where a lot of thought was put into the theme, and all of the aesthetic elements serving the theme. Of course, there was a piece of technology at the heart of it: the rewind mechanic that was deeply explored for the benefit of the player.
I would definitely say that that's an example of a game that's based on other games but it uses the fact that it evokes other games to twist the knife, if you know what I mean. I would say that that game isn't a platformer; it just looks like one.
HS: Right. It uses a lot of tropes from previous games, for sure, but it's entirely original at the same time. My point earlier was if there's three pies and you have to pick the best one; they all can't be the best one. It's the nature of all things: film, books, paintings, everything. You might have your different taste or whatever, but, as soon as you start choosing excellence, that by definition means that there are some things that are better than others. If this was easy and all you had to do was to set out and do it to end up with something better than everything else... It's just not the way the natural survival of the fittest ecology works. A bunch of people try strategies, and some are more successful than others.
Speaking as someone who is creating, you're obviously trying to find your strategy for quality; is that something that comes through process or something that comes simply through inspiration?
RC: Both. I bet every creative person will have a different answer to that, by the way. He might have a different than mine, of course. In my case, I think it's the mix of experience and methodology, purely based on things like, whatever -- the market, or our values, a variety of filters.
And some of it is just like an intuition. What is the moment that I have in my head right now, that I would like players to experience? This moment, this part of the process -- "inspiration", as you call it -- of course is very cheap. We can develop it as much as we want; we could just let go and have the creative side forever. Then we have to reconcile that with all sorts of technology and practical approaches. We're not really artists. We are designers.
HS: I agree completely with Raf, but I also think that our role has changed over the course of the project. There were moments early on when we were literally just talking to a group of people in a room with a whiteboard, and we were trying to explain the tension that happens when someone may have spotted you in the game but they may not have -- and you know you're very powerful under the right circumstances, but you're vulnerable under other circumstances. We're trying to describe that, and then on a different axis we're trying to describe the atmosphere.
Of course, later, at some point, this is not an auteur field where we just do it no matter whether anyone likes it or not; this is a design field, so you're making something someone's going to live in, basically. You're architecting a little playroom for them. Later, you bring people in, you let them play it, and you ask them what their emotional experience was, and then you decide whether it deviates from your original vision or not -- to change it so that you can maximize that experience that they had. So at different phases of the project, I think, some of it is inspiration, as you called it, and in later phases some of it is process.