Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Jonathan Blow, creator of Braid, to modernize adventure games

Allow me to break my silence to share a recent post on PC Gamer.

In an interview titled for his views on "Social Games" Jonathan Blow says quite a bit about adventure games and even levels a slight criticism against the modern IF community:

Adventure games are all confusion. If it’s text, it’s “Why doesn’t the parser understand me still?” So the core gameplay of adventure games is actually fumbling through something, right? And that’s true with modern [versions]. All the episodic stuff that’s coming out. And there’s a whole community that makes modern interactive fiction games and all this stuff. And it’s true for all these games. [emphasis mine]

Maybe I'm misunderstanding, but it seems to me that he's saying adventure games, and IF, are broken. Wait, no, he addresses that pretty clearly:

PC Gamer: A lot of fans of old-school point-and-click games would probably take instinctive offence – not at refining the genre – but at assuming that they are broken and inaccessible.

Jonathan Blow: Yeah, but it’s true. And I’m sorry, you know. I love those games.


Count me as instinctively offended; some of my most memorable gaming moments of the past two decades have been from IF. Of course, I have a bit of a selective bias problem.

Blow proposes to "fix" adventure games using his modern design sensibilities in an upcoming game called The Witness. I suppose we will have to wait to see how exactly he will fix things, but from the interview it seems that he will probe deeply philosophical and existential questions by giving the PC a case of amnesia.

Yeah, or you have amnesia or whatever! And then through the course of the game you find out who you are. Like, BioShock did that. Tons of games do that. This game does it but in a very self-conscious, self-referential kind of way.

That sounds totally new, or whatever.

Okay, perhaps I'm not the right person to dish out the snark as I haven't designed a single game in my life, and certainly could never make anything as remarkable as Braid (which I enjoyed, a lot) if I tried, but I find the whole interview to be a bit much. Of course there's no way to evaluate his claims until I've played the game (and I surely will), so time will tell.

Oh, he also says some stuff about morality and game design.