Wednesday, 29 February 2012

An Interview with Jonathan Blow (Braid)

Many of you may know Jonathan Blow as the brains behind Braid, a beautiful Xbox 360  arcade, Playstation Network and PC release that saw gamers experiment with time in a variety of puzzle-platformer levels. Jonathan is now currently working on his next game, The Witness, and I thought it was a good time to pitch some questions to him about it all.
Q: Hey Jonathan! Now we know you've created Braid, and you're currently working on this years The Witness, but how did your gaming development career start out for you?

A: Way back in the 6th grade when I was lucky enough to be at a school with a computer class, I started making game-like things in a hobby kind of way.  Eventually, when I was 24 years old, I started my first company with a friend from college.  I've been working in games one way or another since that time: 16 years!

Q. Braid is an outstanding game. Not only for the gameplay itself, but for the beautiful music and visuals. Where did the idea come about originally, and what made you decide to make a puzzle style game like this? Also, did you expect such a positive reaction upon it's release?

A: There were many threads for the idea (wanting to do a game with unlimited rewind, wanting to do a game in the tradition of books like Calvino's "Invisible Cities" and Alan Lightman's "Einstein's Dreams", wanting to do a game that was not trying to be 'mere' entertainment.)  These all came together at the right time to form the seed for what you see now.

I personally thought the game was good but I didn't know what to expect.  In retrospect I am surprised that critical reception was as unanimous as it was.  I thought some percentage of critics would hate the game.  I was also surprised by how many people out there in the gaming world were interested!
Q. Braid experiments a lot with the notion of playing with time, which I think really enhances the gameplay. Was there any significance of toying with time in relation to the story? 

A: Yes, there is a connection there.  But the story is told in a way that provides a lot of space for interpretation; I don't want to mess with that by filling the space with too many of my own comments.

Q. You're currently developing The Witness. Can you tell us a little bit more about this, and when should we expect to see a release?

A: It'll be released "when it's done"!  It's a first-person puzzle game, with a mood and setting inspired by games like Myst, but with gameplay that is very different from those games.  It's coming along very well -- there is some very good stuff in it, and every day now I am excited by what I get to do when working on it.
Q. After you've finished work on The Witness, is there anything else that you're wishing to get cracking on? 

A: I have about 100 ideas for other games; I'm not sure which we will do!  I'll probably start thinking about that seriously only after The Witness is done.


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