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Jonathan Blow talks Braid

Braid has been celebrated by gamers for a while now and we sent a bunch of questions to the creator of Braid - Jonathan Blow...

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Talk us through the process of Braid. How did you start out, and how did you end up with one of the highest rated games ever?

I started out just by sitting down and programming a prototype, with very low production values so that I could focus only on gameplay. That is the secret to indie game development: you just sit down and do the work. In terms of the eventual ratings, I just refused to put the game out into the world until it was as good as I felt it could be; until all the obvious problems were fixed. That took a long time, I originally planned to work for 1 year on the game, but it ended up being more than 3, but the time was worthwhile, I think.

From where did you get the inspiration to Braid?

The best ideas just come. I don't know from where. There was some obvious inspiration from other games - Super Mario Bros, for example, or being disenchanted with the use of rewind in games like Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, but all of the ideas that give Braid the character it has, they came at once.

What do you think about Microsofts pitch to the community with XNA? And what is the future for these games?

Maybe some people will have a good time with XNA and manage to make good games. However, I would never encourage people to make XNA games, because they tie you permanently to Microsoft's platforms. As an independent developer, one of my biggest assets is all the code that I have written over the years, that I still have the rights and the ability to use anywhere I want. Without that code, Braid would have been much harder to make and either I would not have finished it, or the quality would have been lower. With XNA you give that up; you are basically just writing disposable code. But if you just want to do some small things that you intend to throw out before too long, then it's probably fine.

What is the status on the indie-game development at the moment?

That's a very broad question! I think indie game development is doing fine, and there are high-profile indie games appearing on XBLA and PSN and on the PC, and they are high quality. What more can I ask for? Also, there are some very interesting Art Games being developed by people like Jason Rohrer and Rod Humble. I do wish that the rest of the indie developers would make fewer clones of PopCap games, but you can't have everything!

What is gained by joining an established developer/publisher, and what do you gain by working parallel to that system?

I think lots of people could answer this question for you. I don't have much interest in working closely with large developers or publishers, because they do not facilitate or encourage the kind of work I am interested in.

Can games be art? Any examples?

Of course games can be art. I don't even want to perpetuate the argument by providing evidence. Anyone who doesn't understand without a doubt that games can be art, probably has not played the appropriate games. Or else they have some grudge against art and don't want to admit that certain things can be art.

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What's your favourite game of all time, and why?

I have a lot of favorite games. It's too general a question to answer, but on specific platforms... my favorite XBLA game is Space Giraffe, because it is so personal and because the game design is excellent and because it encourages the player to discover and dance within a zone of excellence. I like Counter-Strike on the PC because it is a very deep multiplayer game that goes against conventional game design wisdom and is all the more compelling for it; and it's just very intense and interesting to play.

Anyone in the business you really look up to? Who and why?

I don't really think of games as a business. Also I don't admire very many people. I do admire some of the work that some of my friends are doing -- for example, Chris Hecker developed the creature animation and skinning technology behind the Spore animation system. That's pretty cool.

What is true "next-gen" to you?

This term is meaningless. I don't care about it. It's just something that companies use to sell new hardware to people.

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What do you want or expect from the next generation of consoles?

I want the next generation of consoles to be easier to develop for, and to be cheap so that everyone can afford to get one. Also, they should not break. Also, the controllers should be much simpler than the DualShock-style abominations we have now.

Where do you go from here? I heard you won't be doing new puzzles or downloadable content for Braid. Any new ideas? Any plans for a regular, full-price game, maybe putting together a bigger development team?

I do have plans for a new game, but it's too early to say much about it. I don't even know how long it will be. I may hire 1 or 2 people to help me work on the game, but I don't want to put together a big team, because I don't want to lose the personal touch that Braid has. I think that's one of the things that people really responded to, with Braid.

Any tips for anyone out there with good ideas for a game? How do they get going?

They sit down and start programming the game. If they don't know how to program, then they learn to program. Seriously. This is much easier and more effective than trying to put together a team with people you may not know and who you are not paying good money.

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