Category Archives: Tangential

A query to other game developers out there.

Do people do anything interesting for authoring conversations for RPGs?

I want to be able to just edit a conversation as a text file, but it starts getting a little hairy because I don’t want the conversation to be structured as a strict tree. (At a point in the dialogue, there are some things you can talk about, but for example other things you can always ask about no matter where you are in talking to this person, and a lot of options that are hidden but triggered by variables, etc).

Add to this the fact that I want to support some markup in the text (bold, italics, and such) and it’s looking like I want to go all XML.

Which kind of pains me, because I dislike XML. But, that is obviously one way to go — just make my own markup tags that mean things like “conditional based on a variable”, or whatever, and go from there.

But before I do that, I thought I’d check and see if anyone pursues alternatives. Even if they rely on some huge proprietary in-house thing that took man-years to make, it’d at least be interesting to hear about what the approach is.

Thanks!

-Jonathan.

Misc. Linux Questions

This is not necessarily Braid news. If you don’t do any Linux programming then you may want to skip this posting!

I’m trying to do some basic game stuff under Linux and don’t really know what a reasonable way is to do them, and the cost of experimentation is very high. So I am hoping someone out there can just answer these basic questions…

  • What is a reasonable way to read mouse input? Reading X11 mouse events is not sufficient since (a) it’s had GUI acceleration applied to it, and (b) it clamps at the edges of the screen. libGII seems to be one way to do this — is it reliable and useful? Can I “ship” a game with it (to the extent that anything is shippable at all under Linux)? Are there alternatives?
  • Under X11, is there a way to constrain the mouse pointer to a window without other undesirable effects (such as stealing the focus and locking the GUI)? Last time I tried this (a couple of years ago) I couldn’t figure out a way to do it.
  • For audio output, should I be using ALSA or something else? In a past project I used SDL but the SDL audio API seemed quite lacking for serious game programming.
  • Thanks!

Braid wallpapers, screenshots, forum icons.

David Hellman has put together a very nice collection of Braid graphics called the Braid Graphics Briefcase. This collection contains a bunch of icons you can use as forum avatars, or program launch icons, or … anything! It’s also got some screenshots and a giant desktop wallpaper. And more.

Here is a small taste of what’s available on that page:

This complete set includes all of the Xbox 360 Gamer Pics that shipped with the Xbox Live Arcade release of Braid, and many images that were not included in those. (For fans of the dinosaur, he’s included this time.)

About In-Game Advertising (and advertising in general)

It’s always troubled me how willing people are to accept in-game advertising. Advertising in general bothers me deeply, but whenever I try to explain the problem, I never feel satisfied with my explanation.

Perhaps a little bit of ranting makes all the difference. This week on their podcast, Jeff Roberts and Casey Muratori explained the situation very well. (Both Jeff and Casey are in the credits for Braid, for those looking for a Braid connection here).

If you are interested in the future of games, and for some reason you don’t think advertising is bad, please listen to the following excerpt:

[audio:http://mollyrocket.com/6977?action=download]

(Yes, David Perry, you too.)

Here’s a direct-download link if you want to save the mp3.

Early in this discussion, Casey refers to Sut Jhally’s lecture “How TV Exploits its Audience”, which is available for a small fee at this link. Or, here is a Sut Jhally web site with some free clips.

If you liked this discussion, you may wish to visit: The main page for The Jeff and Casey Show, where you can download any of the episodes (28 so far!).

As a special bonus, as mentioned in the excerpt, here’s David Lynch’s opinion on the matter:


A Lost Interview

Paul Arzt conducted this interview with Jonathan Blow in late 2007 at the Montreal International Game Summit. Due to the unpredictability of Web-based freelancing, the interview never found publication until now.

The interview discusses some of the design philosophy behind Braid, why innovation in game design isn’t so important, life as an indie developer, and ideas about where we can go when pushing on the boundaries of game design.


(Note: The MMO project hinted at, at the end of this interview, is not the post-Braid project any more. Since then I had an idea for a project I am much more motivated to pursue.)

Braid is the highest-rated XBLA game ever. (Also, sales data).

Currently, Braid is receiving excellent reception from game reviewers and critics. Both Metacritic and Gamerankings have Braid rated at 92/100:

That’s a pretty good score. In fact, Braid is the highest-rated Xbox Live Arcade game of all time (out of about 150 games!) Geometry Wars 2, released a week prior, is the second-highest. There are some strong games coming up in the next few weeks, so we’ll see if these positions hold.

But 92 is not just a good score for a Live Arcade game; it’s a good score for any game. In fact, Braid is currently the 10th highest-rated Xbox 360 game of all time — including all AAA high-budget games:

If Braid receives just one more Metacritic point, it will jump to 8th place on this list. (Eran and Alex: Let’s get ready to rumble!)

Of course, it’s possible that Braid’s rating will go down, too. Time will tell!

I don’t want any of this to seem like bragging. I do want it to serve as a clear and useful data point: an indie game made by a very small team can compete with giant games that had huge budgets at their disposal. (I don’t know how much Mass Effect cost, but it surely was a lot. Just licensing the Unreal Engine 3, before even hiring anyone or doing any work to create a game, cost probably 3x-5x Braid’s budget.)

This is important — I have been a proponent of indie and experimental game development for a while, but the attitude toward it always seems to be that they are interesting toys, but not real games. Well, perhaps that is changing. And perhaps some of the indie developers out there who are making cheap clones of PopCap games will realize that if, instead, they go out on a limb and do something interesting and different and important to people, their work will be recognized.


Now, about sales. They are surprisingly good!

I have noticed people on forums looking at the number of entires in the leaderboards and multiplying that out to get a total income for Braid. That doesn’t work, for a number of reasons. There are thousands of free copies of the game given out to the press, and once someone buys an XBLA game, other profiles can play from the same xbox and they get leaderboard entries. So the leaderboard is always an overestimate.

However, vgchartz.com has Braid at 28.5k sales currently, and that seems to be in the right neighborhood.

This is a very good sign, for a few reasons! First of all, it means that in addition to getting recognition from critics, Braid is also being played by a lot of people. We’ve all heard of games that are critically-acclaimed but that hardly anyone plays. That doesn’t seem to be happening with Braid so far. But, that could change — a lot depends on what happens to sales on Wednesday when Bionic Commando: Rearmed is released on XBLA. Will Braid’s sales keep up, as with Geometry Wars 2, or will they drop off?

But right now, Braid is selling as well or better than any massive highly-anticipated XBLA game by a major publisher. So, that is very cool. I would like to thank everyone out there who purchased a copy of Braid, for supporting independent and experimental game development.

People have asked me how many sales Braid needs in order to be profitable. The answer is, a lot more than it has gotten so far. (There are many reasons for this, which I may be motivated to talk about in the future). However, things are looking promising now — if Braid keeps selling, I’ll be able to afford to make the next game, and that will be good.

The Soundtrack to Braid

Many people have been saying they like the music in Braid, and would like to get a hold of the soundtrack.

I don’t have the rights to redistribute the music, but all of the songs were licensed from magnatune.com, where you can listen to them for free and buy high-quality versions of the albums they are on at very low prices that you yourself choose (if you really like the song and want to support the musician, you can choose to pay a lot!)

Here’s a list of the tracks in Braid and links to the Magnatune pages where you can find them. (These songs are also listed in the credits to Braid).

Continue reading The Soundtrack to Braid