Eurogamer: Have you had a similar wow moment with The Witness?
Jonathan Blow: Yes. It was also very early on when I had the very first idea, which was before Braid was done but when it was in the final weeks. I took a little bit of time off and I thought about other things. I started thinking about an old game I did a prototype of years ago that didn't quite work, and I wasn't satisfied with it. I looked at it and there was one central piece of it that wasn't the core game mechanic but was a cool thing I was going to do in that game that was really kind of magical.
I looked at it and I was like, you know, that magical part can stand on its own without the rest of that game, so why don't I just take that and build something new around it that fits it? As I did that the core ideas for the game came very quickly and I was very excited about it. It was a bummer because I had to finish Braid before I could do anything.
I didn't get to work on it right away, but I did eventually and it's been very exciting. I'm not at that point where I'm totally used to it yet. It's still cool. Soon, though, I'll be used to it and I'll need to remember why it was exciting.
Eurogamer: And then you'll probably start thinking about other things.
Jonathan Blow: Yeah. Well, I kind of know what the next game after this is.
Eurogamer: If The Witness is a 2012 title, you're thinking very far ahead.
Jonathan Blow: This other game is actually an older game I prototyped a long time ago. And then I revised it and I revised it, and I was never quite satisfied with it, so it's been sitting on the back burner. I'm still not totally satisfied with it, but it's getting better, and I see the path to doing it. I'm not totally sure it's the next game after The Witness, but it seems like a good possibility.
More on Braid
Eurogamer: Will you always work on "made by Jonathan Blow" games with only a handful of people?
Jonathan Blow: That's the only way I know right now to make a high quality game. There is a lot of attention to every detail. Braid was like that. I gave a talk about Braid and I pointed out some things I guarantee nobody in the audience had ever noticed in the game. Those were details I cared a lot about when I was doing it. The Witness is that same kind of thing.
Even if people don't observe and notice the detail consciously, they feel the sum of all that. It helps make the game feel special. If I were to start a big studio, I'm going to more abstractly sit back and creative-direct three or four games that I don't have that level of detail of influence on, I could do that, but they wouldn't come out the same.
So for this game at least, I want to make sure it has this detailed eye. For this next game, probably. However, it takes a long time to make these games. Probably three years again. If I only can make a game every three or four years, I'm 39 almost, so how many more games can I make before I'm dead? Not that many, suddenly.
Eurogamer: You mention The Witness is roughly 10 hours long. Call of Duty is six or something.
Jonathan Blow: I don't know for sure how long it is, but it's in that neighbourhood. Who knows? But I have this long list of games I want to make. Every time I get an idea I type it into a file and there are 80 things on that list right now. I don't think I can make 80 games in this lifetime. They would have to come out pretty fast. Obviously I can only make some portion of those and I'm going to hopefully have new ideas that are even better as I get more experienced as a designer. But I do want to make some of those.
Right now what I'm doing are very much like art games. That's why I feel they want that personal touch. I might try and do this thing after this game is done where I maybe do two games at once – and they still have a lot of personal attention – but they're not quite art games in the same way. They're more, here's a game that represents some kind of gameplay I just want to get out in the world because I feel like it's good to make. It has a personal touch but it's not exactly the same kind of art game.
Jonathan Blow is the creator of Braid. His next game, The Witness, will launch Christmas 2011 at the earliest.