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Monday, February 05, 2007
Jonathan Blow's game Braid has been much talked about but little played, since he has been keeping the game under very tight wraps. Braid won the award for Innovation in Game Design at the 2006 IGF, but no demo was posted. Braid was discussed at the 2006 Experimental Gameplay Workshop, but no demo was posted. Braid was entered into the 2007 IGF and Slamdance festivals, and still no demo was posted.

Braid was selected as a Slamdance finalist, and I was heading to Slamdance too, so it seemed like I was finally going to get to play this elusive game. Alas, controversy erupted (when SCMRPG was pulled from the finalist list), and Jon pulled his game from the festival in protest. I wasn't going to play-test Braid at Slamdance after all.

However, somewhere along the way, Jon was nice enough to send me a snapshot build for review purposes. That build, version 0.847, is the subject of this preview. The build is a little rough around the edges, with place-holder graphics still lurking in the later levels and some performance issues in the early levels that were nearly complete (on a 1.9 GHz machine with a GeForce4 graphics card, this 2D platform game saw major slow-down when played at it's ideal resolution). Even with this rough build, I was able to draw one simple conclusion without doubts or reservations: Braid is the most innovative and interesting game I have ever played.

Braid has the potential to change the way you think about reality. It will certainly change the way you think about video games. In this preview, I will explain why it has this power, using detailed examples from the game. However, part of the game's interest lies in it's surprise factor: there is great joy to be had in discovering just how clever this game is for yourself. In fact, I am glad that I never read a preview of this game before I was lucky enough to play it myself. All I knew, and all you should know if you want the full experience, is that Braid is a 2D platform game in which the player manipulates the flow of time. If you're willing to wait for an official release, you should stop reading here.

You can read the full preview at Arthouse Games.

Name: Braid
Developer: Number None
Category: 2D Platformer
Type: License not yet set
Size: 120 MB (download not available to public)


Blogger Rinku said at 2/06/2007 06:02:00 AM:  
Now this game has me excited.
Blogger Alex said at 2/06/2007 06:27:00 AM:  
In light of your preview's summary, I shall refrain from reading the preview itself. I am quite excited by the game though, the synopsis is really enticing.
Anonymous Timerever said at 2/06/2007 07:11:00 AM:  
Well I'm afraid I'll have to ruin your expectations:
This game basicly revolvs around a time rewind scheme similar... well infact nearly identical to Prince of Persia: Warrior Within (and the other 2 PoP too but more like WW) but with some over glorification of the said scheme plus very lame 2D graphics. Also unlike on Prince of Persia it doesn't seem to be any kind of limit for time rewind, so whoever plays this will be spamming the rewind like there's no tomorow especially since the game apparently is composed of nearly impossible jumps and actions all the time.
This is nothing to get excited about or even look at if you played the Prince of Persia triology.
Blogger gnome said at 2/06/2007 08:12:00 AM:  
Still, guess I'll have to see for meself and judge. Then again I did enjoy PoP and 2d graphics are quite a favorite...
Blogger Alex said at 2/06/2007 08:28:00 AM:  
Blinx is a more accurate comparison than PoP from what I've read. It did sound like the mechanic had to a certain extent been done beofre, but that doesn't make it a bad mechanic.

Oh and comparing a small-team indie 2D platformer to a AAA 3D one is retarded.
Blogger Raigan said at 2/06/2007 08:28:00 AM:  
good lord timerever.. have you played the game?! there is SOOOO much more to it than that.

to start with, only the first world has "PoP"-style time-reversal. Every other world adds something onto that, such as alternate-reality/timelines, etc.

secondly, if we limit ourselves to _just_ the time reversal, the game does SOOOOO much more than shitty PoP ever did with it: you use time-control to solve puzzles, by changing the timing of moving platforms (some are immune to time-reversal), making enemies shoot each other's bullets, et.c.

basically, you seem to have completely missed the point, or possibly haven't ever played the game.
Blogger Raigan said at 2/06/2007 08:48:00 AM:  
unlimited-time-reversal is the POINT. the ability to "spam" it is something that the level design takes into account.

look, it doesn't matter that bullet-time and reverse-time have been used before in games -- that's like saying that when they first appeared, violins were used to beat people over the head, therefore playing them as a musical instrument is just a boring rehash. the mechanic is the same, the _use_ of the mechanic is not.

Q3A, MS Flight Simulator, and Madden2006 all use the same basic mechanic: a 3D camera moving around a 3D polygonal environment. But in each case, that basic, fundamental technology is put to use in extremely different ways, for extremely different ends.

Another example would be the use of movement and guns in a game: Commander Keen, System Shock 2, and Day of Defeat all allow the player to move around and shoot a gun. So, since they all share this same basic mechanic, does that mean they're equivalent/identical/the same in any meaningful way?!?! NO!!

braid actually USES the ability to alter time in a way that's fundamental to the game, not just a gimmicky "bonus feature".

in PoP you could quite easily replace "time-rewind" with arbitrary save/load + auto-saving every 5 seconds, and the game would be identical.

in Braid that simply wouldn't work, because controlling time isn't just a way to revert the world to a previous state, it's a way to _manipulate_ the world, just like moving boxes around or hitting switches in other platformers. In some cases you end up "playing" the time control much like someone trying to beatmatch two records together.

don't look at it like a platformer: look at it like a puzzle/adventure game, where instead of having discrete puzzle-solving abilities (i.e the set of all actions and inventory items) you have continuous puzzle-solving abilities: the ability to alter your position (and the position of other objects) in 2D-space and 1D-time.

and please, please don't pass judgement until you've played it! otherwise you're bound to feel foolish whenever it's released.
Blogger Rinku said at 2/06/2007 05:37:00 PM:  
I suggest not minding timerever, he seems to always be cynical, to judge from his posts in the forums. Obviously the game isn't just a PoP clone with bad 2D graphics, anyone who even read to the end of the preview could tell that. Cynical people have a purpose sometime, to keep optimistic people from being too dangerously optimistic, so we should still be thankful for them.
Anonymous Sandcrab said at 2/06/2007 05:55:00 PM:  
So... how many of you guys have played it? :(
Anonymous Anonymous said at 2/07/2007 01:49:00 AM:  
'Braid has the potential to change the way you think about reality. It will certainly change the way you think about video games.'

That's gotta be the stupidest thing I've read in a long time.
Anonymous Timerever said at 2/07/2007 04:26:00 AM:  
Whatever you guys say, I've seen far too many of these "will change the world and everything in betewen" to belive it, and these were far better things than a game with time-rewind dullness.
Also as that anynimous dude said the sentence: 'Braid has the potential to change the way you think about reality. It will certainly change the way you think about video games.' is quite dumb and very pretencious.

I think I'll have to just overlook it as yet another Active Desktop or something like that, if it is indeed good I'll be hearing about it for sure. Remember boys and girls vaporware doesn't pay bills (yes I've just made this up :-P)
Anonymous Shawn said at 2/07/2007 04:38:00 AM:  
Raigan mad. Raigan smash. :)
Blogger jcr13 said at 2/08/2007 07:10:00 AM:  
Re: "the stupidest thing I've ever read in a long time."

I wrote the preview with the "stupid thing" in it, and I am one of the few people who has played Braid at all, and additionally one of the fewer people who has played it through all the way to the end. That doesn't make me special, by the way---just lukcy.

Let me rephrase the stupid part:

"Braid changed the way I think about reality a bit. It completely changed the way I think about video games. It may have the same effect on you."

Is that less stupid? I hope so.

Here's another claim: if you're calling my previous claim stupid, you simply don't get it. What is Braid about? What's its thesis? It's actually about video games. Its a kind of commentary on video games built as a video game.

You know how there are some films out there that are more about the medium of film itself than about telling a particular story? You know... that real heady stuff that 99% of people call "artsy fartsy crap" and 1% of people call the "greatest films ever made?"

Well, guess what? People are starting to do the same thing with games now---games about the medium of gaming itself. That's pretty much what Braid is, except that it also connects its thesis about games to a thesis about real life in a very interesting way. I've never seen anyone else doing anything quite like this with video games.

From my understanding, I don't think Prince of Persia was trying to do anything like this. By comparing Braid and Prince of Persia, you're again missing the point.

You might say, "Games with a thesis? Bah! I want games to be fun!" I think there's room for both, don't you? As it turns out, Braid is also a lot of fun.