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Braid's Blow: Game Challenges Clash With Good Story

As part of a larger interview with Gamasutra on his plans following the success of time-disrupting platformer Braid, Number None's Jonathan Blow shares his th
As part of a larger interview with Gamasutra on his plans following the success of time-disrupting platformer Braid, Number None's Jonathan Blow shares his thoughts on why so many games suffer from uncompelling stories, and calls out titles for sacrificing challenge to emphasize their stories. He says that the problem with lacking video game stories lies not only in development priorities and the shortage of capable writers in the industry, but also in the games interfering with the stories they're trying to present. "To give a really simple example: almost every game we make now is challenge-based in some way, right?" says the designer. "Unless you're talking about Wii Music, there's some goal that you have to meet. "The player is here, and wants to go this way. The game's challenge pushes back on him, adding some friction. You want the player to get through the game eventually, but that challenge slows them down or makes them go in a circuitous path," he says. Blow continues, "That's half our game, this challenge element. In story-based games, the other half is the story. And the problem is that story needs to go [the opposite direction challenge does]. Because stories have pacing. They have an order of events that happen." He argues that games provide challenges to hold players back from getting to the next segment. "But the story part wants you to get to the next part in order to keep going," he argues. "This structure doesn't actually work, because these two fight each other." "You try to balance them, but usually one of these is going to be more strong than the other, and that's the direction you'll feel more of." Blow also criticizes designers are only providing "the feeling of challenge" and not actual challenge in their games, citing the pushover combat portions in the God of War series and Fable II as an example. He says, "I think this is a problem because, in terms of what games have to offer us, we're not giving people the greatest stories ever told. What we can give them is experiences that challenge them or invite them to do something that they haven't done or whatever." "But we're decreasing this challenge element more and more -- challenge being the new thing that we have to offer over other media -- in order to try and increase this story element," the designer warns. "I think that that might be the wrong trade-off." "If we eventually become no interaction and all story, then we're just a bad movie, right?" You can read the full interview, which includes more of Braid creator Jonathan Blow's thoughts on the game industry, releasing titles on Steam, and lessons he learned from publicizing his game on the internet(no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).

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