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Catching Up With Jonathan Blow
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Catching Up With Jonathan Blow

December 6, 2010 Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5

Well I guess when you're trying to make a game that's all about exploration and trying to work out what you're supposed do, there's a danger that players just look for the achievements straight away as a kind of "This is your list of things that you need to do", and it kind of takes away all of that effect.

JB: Yeah, and we haven't decided platforms for The Witness. When we do that, if it's a console that requires achievements, probably my approach would be to make them all secret achievements. And then try to put them in the game in some way that they don't disrupt gameplay and that they come at interval times. I don't know exactly what that's going to be, but I'm figuring it out.

But here's another problem, is that The Witness, part of the game design from the very beginning, there's no text in the game.

There's verbal communication that you can hear, there's like these audio logs like in BioShock and stuff, but the first time you hear one you're also warned that listening to these things is not a good idea necessarily. You might want to do it but you might not.

There's a tension set up at the beginning of the game, that you might want to ignore all this linguistic stuff and play all this nonverbal communication, or you might want to. But there's absolutely no written text anywhere in the game of any kind, and there are reasons for that in the plot.

And suddenly I have to pop up these boxes that say "Achievement Unlocked:, you know, ba-ding ba-dang! or whatever. I can't make a game without text in it now; I'm not allowed to. Like, what the hell is wrong with... I don't know, it just it really bothers me.

Or you can use Wingdings or something like that.

JB: [chuckles] Well, they'll fail you for certification for doing that. So I don't know.

It's a challenge.

JB: Yeah. I mean, it's even a challenge even beyond the achievement thing, right? Most people who play Xbox 360 games, have the little friend note flyer popped up, even though they maybe don't use it very often. And so you're trying to play a game and you get interrupted all the time by like "so and so started watching a movie". And that's fine, but it's like if I'm trying to make a game that's very subtle and very quiet and stuff, even if people aren't necessarily using that because it's defaulted to on, it's going to kind of like mess with that game experience. So I don't know.

There's a very low attention span tendency to the way things are being integrated in the games these days. I mean, you know, it's the classic thing of old people are just like "kids these days have no attention span!" That's terrible, right?

I don't find anything wrong with short attention span games; like WarioWare is a really fun game. But if the future environment becomes so full of pop up things that I can't make that subtle kind of game anymore, because it doesn't work, because there's just too many things grabbing people's attention, that would make me kind of sad. I don't know, we'll see.

And then finally, I'm just interested in maybe what you're playing at the moment and enjoying.

JB: Super Crate Box, is the most recent thing that I've been playing. Again, they do a lot in that game with a small number of elements, and that's really exciting. It's obviously a very low production value game.

Super Meat Boy, another "Super Blah Blah" game. Really interesting platformer that's well designed in many ways. It's sort of following... there's been a trend in indie games for a little while about games with low punishment levels, you know, where you die and you can try again right away and stuff.

It's interesting like that could've been done in the 1980s, back when all these platformers... but we were still in that mindset of "You've gotta kill the player to make them play through all these levels from the beginning" and whatever, right?

To make money, I guess.

JB: Yeah well, that's how it started. But then once you have a home like for Nintendo console or something, you don't need to take their money. So why was it, it was just that we already established that tradition. You know, some other games do that like VVVVVV does that and whatever. But Super Meat Boy does it so much more in that... it gets so hard, like ridiculously difficult, but it works.

Again, it's like a leveling up the player kind of game where you could... you think some level is totally impossible and you play it for like an hour and you finally get through it, but then you play the game five or six more hours and now you can go back to that impossible level and you can just breeze through it really easily.

And that's fascinating, it's like obviously this game has made a change in the player that's effective somehow. And it might be only limited to Super Meat Boy, like the only skill that I'm learning is within the scope of this game, but it's still very interesting to me.

So I finished the game in the light world way, and I played a bunch of the dark world but I've not completed it, in as far as I've gotten I definitely feel like I've gone on this epic journey of difficulty and I've come out as a different person on the other end. And that's a weird feeling to get from something that's like, it's just a platformer where you just try not to hit obstacles.

And that's part of the magic of video games that I feel like almost has been lost in modern game design. Because in the old days, every game design that was, there weren't that many games. Every time someone made a game it was wacky and new, right? And now we've got all these traditions, we've got like first person shooters and whatever.

Once in a while games do things that are kind of magical. Like Modern Warfare 1 did a couple of things that were pretty different, like getting shot in the beginning and, the nuke thing, and all that. Those were kind of magic moments, but they were very narrative magic moments. Which I feel like is easier to do because we have this example of film and all that.

But like Super Meat Boy has managed to do like, and it's not the only game, but it's managed to do some kind of interactive magic moment where it takes a long time, it takes a lot of dedication, but it pays it off. And that's really fascinating, and I'd like to see more of that.

But it's hard to do when our idea of a game is, you know, "Let's make something just like that last shooter but... set in the 1950s!" I'm not naming names here. But the fact that it's being done means that that's cool and we're still progressing and new design ideas are coming in.

Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5

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