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The Smartest Man in Gaming EXTRA!

The rest of our Jonathan Blow interview...

If you're reading this then chances are you've scanned the QR code found in the brand new issue of Xbox World - ON SALE TODAY! - for our full Jonathan Blow interview. Welcome! Due to space constraints we could barely fit half of our interview in, but thanks to the wonders of the internet, here are some of the questions and answers we couldn't print...

XBW: Are the targeted platforms and systems for The Witness all set in stone?

JB: It's undecided, really. We want to do some consoles and we want to do the PC. We are looking at the Xbox 360, for example. Obviously it's got a big crowd and it was very good for Braid and all that. I'm not really signing anything yet. It's going to be time for that soon, though I thought that this time last year and I procrastinated.
With respect to the 360 specifically though, if I did it the way I did with Braid, which is to work directly with Microsoft, they tend to deal with exclusivity still and I don't think I can do that. This game is much more expensive. When you look at Xbox Live Arcade games, some of them are still wildly successful. Limbo did great and a couple of other games around that other time did great. However, you also see a lot of games come out on Live Arcade and sell basically nothing. You could 'hit' but if you're not one of those hits you don't do well, and that is not a risk that one could take if one is being diligent and signing exclusivity to that platform.

I wouldn't mind saying, 'hey we are going to release on the 360 first because we are a small team because that's all we can do, and then turn around and do another platform later'. But I cannot put us in a position where we're not given that option, so we'll see.

The other thing coming in is that the 360 is starting to become a low end machine now. It's been a very successful console and it's been out a while. But my PC at home that I develop on, if you don't count video RAM, it has 24 times as much RAM as an Xbox 360. And that's huge in terms of my ability to make a game. So the 360 version of the game is going to have worse graphics than the PC version. Even if I had an army of graphics programmers to put on it that would still be true. How do I approach that and how do I deal with it? One way is to wait for the next Xbox platform but I think that's a little too far in the future. We are trying to deal with all these things to figure it out.

XBW: Going back to Braid, we understand you created one of the puzzles and, then much later on, discovered a new, easier way to solve it. The idea that you could create these set-ups and then, as the designer, be surprised by the solutions seems astonishing to us...

JB: I guess that's true. My original design idea [for that specific puzzle] was this brute force solution. My idea was you place this ring and you'd slow these guys down and it takes a certain number of steps. And the original number of steps that I envisioned as a designer started out relatively small and it could be solved precisely, and it turned out that because of the world rules that wasn't true. So I started playing around with it, and discovered the solution was possible but hard, yet in the process of exploring that I was like, 'oh yeah I could do this other thing that is so devastatingly simple that there is no reason to do all the original stuff'.

When I saw this simple solution I could design the puzzle so that the timing was easy to execute.

But that process of design was: observe the puzzle. Almost like the player would do, just trying to figure it out better. In order to get that simple solution you have to understand the game pretty well and that's why I liked it.

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