[Indie Game Development] Jonathan Blow Talks about Braid at Game City

This is the video of Jonathan Blow’s talk at Game City. He is an indie game developer who created the game Braid. In this talk Jonathan shows some of the process that Braid went through to get to the final stage and reasons behind some of the decisions he had to make.

To start the talk Jonathan shows one of the early prototypes for Braid. As he plays some of the levels from the prototype, he mentions some of the levels which actually made the release but with some changes to simplify and make it better. While playing the prototype, it’s apparent that the game mechanics in the prototype are similar to the final game.

Jonathan mentions the importance of establishing a good relationship between the game and the player. This was something important that he had to take into account when thinking about the narrative aspects of the game. Initially, it was just a wall of text that you had to space bar through to get to the game. This created a feeling of the player having to fight the game just as they started playing which usually gets players frustrated. The way he solved that was by moving the story into the same room where the player chooses the levels. This way, any player who doesn’t want to read the story can immediately begin the game.

Another point Jonathan mentions is the fact that the art style was chosen based on the mechanics used. Because Braid is a puzzle game, players tend to feel naturally confused as to how to solve the puzzles. In order to get the players to have a enjoyable experience with the game, they can’t be confused with anything else. For example, what the player can or cannot collide or interact with must be clearly defined through the artwork. One way he did this in Braid was to have backgrounds and foregrounds with very contrasting color pallets.

He mentions finding a certain beauty about simplicity. When the levels had too many objects, the players couldn’t really figure out what had to be done. Whenever he simplified levels or puzzles, it helped put it right in the face of the player. As the puzzles were obvious enough for the players to understand, they generally felt an “ah-ha” moment when solving the puzzle.

Throughout the entire lecture Jonathan points out many specific puzzles and interactions of the game mechanics with the player and the Braid world from which you can learn a lot of game design concepts.

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