Playing Dead: Limbo Interview

By Lewie Procter on July 12th, 2011 at 9:30 am.

Quinns fleeing Castle Shotgun
Did you hear? After having been stuck in an undetermined state for a long time, Limbo is now PC-bound, releasing via Steam on August 2nd. I caught up with Dino Patti, CEO & Co-founder of Playdead, to ask him some questions about it. He was kind enough answer them all, so I thought I’d share his responses with you:

RPS: Limbo has now been confirmed for a PC release next month, fantastic news. What took so long?

Dino Patti: We are a small team, and with a new game in the mold, we’ve had our hands full.

RPS: In the very early days, Limbo was originally intended as a freeware title for PC, but escalated into much bigger commercial project, eventually releasing as an Xbox exclusive (until now). How have the business developments you’ve made help shape the final game?

Patti: All major decisions which shaped the game from beginning until the end came from Arnt Jensen, with no influence from any commercial aspect. The smaller decisions probably came from the team. It has been a hard fight to keep commercial interests out of game decisions, but that is really how we like it.

RPS: Was there no possibility for a dual Xbox/PC release? Was that a decision from Microsoft or from you?

Patti: It was a long process of getting those details in place, and in the end there were a lot of reasons for a small studio like ours to just focus on that single release.

RPS: How is the resolution support? Will PC players with massive monitors get extra detail compared to the console version?

Patti: You should really not worry about that. Use this game as an excuse to upgrade your gaming rig with good speakers or good headphones.

RPS: Will we be able to Alt-Tab if it gets too scary?

Patti: Yes you can do that. Though, I recommend holding your hands or a piece of cloth in front of your eyes.

RPS: Is there anything else that’s different about the PC version compared to the other versions that you are particularly proud of?

Patti: With no format QA on the PC, Arnt has gotten us closer to the original visions about accessibility. You will notice FX changes, in the way the menu works.

RPS: There’s been a wave of hugely popular indie platformers over the last few years, which Limbo has been very much part of. Do you expect this trend to continue?

Patti: This does not apply to platformers specifically, but more indie titles in general. I definitely think these games are the most interesting games out there.

RPS: Any clues as to what we should expect from Playdead next?

Patti: Color, freakshow, more death.

RPS: Thanks for your time.

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54 Comments »

  1. Joe W-A says:

    ” After having been stuck in an undetermined state ”

    …how could you not say “in limbo”?

    • Magnetude says:

      Because Lewie is a stronger man than most game journalists.

    • MD says:

      I’m pretty sure it was an intentional anti-pun. The pun was so glaringly obvious that subversion of expectations was better achieved by ignoring it than by taking the bait.

    • Kdansky says:

      I’d +1 you for writing “subversion of expectation”, but I’d need a Google+ invite for that. And apparently, they ran out of disk space already.

    • vivlo says:

      As a non-native english speaker, i would have missed the intentionally missed pun here if it hadn’t been pointed out, still i indeed think it’s better in an intentionally missed state now that i know it has been intentionally missed :)

  2. Koojav says:

    Played it on X360. A definite must buy for everyone who fancies platform games.

  3. Derppy says:

    I wonder if it supports high resolutions. Multiple games coming from consoles to PC have a low resolution and look horrible on 1440 or 1600p monitors if you don’t run them in a small window.

    Well, at least they built the menu for PC, which is a great thing. I’ll probably play with a gamepad, but I just can’t stand console game menus in general. They are usually clumsy, full of useless transition effects and present very little data at once.

    • Calneon says:

      It’s a fundamental problem with the way hand-drawn art works, you can’t upscale it past a certain point without it looking pixelated and low quality. I haven’t played Limbo but I would assume it would use this method over flat 3D models, which would allow the graphics to scale.

    • dux says:

      I run every game I can at my monitor’s native resolution of 2560×1440, and in my experience it’s not just a problem with games ported over from consoles to PC – even games designed solely for and released only on the PC are not able to run at higher resolutions at all, with the most recent examples I can think of being Terraria, SpaceChem, and, to a lesser extent, (since I believe it was developed for the PC and consoles simultaneously) Beat Hazard.

    • Nallen says:

      Well that’s not really true, not in a meaningful way. If they are drawn on paper you can scan at a very high resolution and still be scaling them down. If they are hand drawn on a computer you would do so at a very high DPI and again scale down.

      I very much doubt (very much hope) they would not just take the console assets as is and stretch them.

    • Dino Patti says:

      We put a lot of effort into it to making it look exactly as on the consoles, at whatever resolution you might choose to have on your PC.

  4. DSR says:

    Those are the most ridiculous excuses from an Indie dev, I’ve ever heard in my entire life.
    “Small team”, my ass!
    I don’t want to say the game is bad, but as a man, who knows a thing or two about actual game development, this makes me want to reach through my monitor to slap them all across their fat independent(?) faces.

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      You’re a little bit too angry about this. Have you thought about therapy?

    • Tusque D'Ivoire says:

      “…slap them all across their fat independent(?) faces”

      I think i finally have a name for my own indie studio, should it ever come to this: “Fat Independent Face Games”. Yes. This. I can already think of logo videos!

    • Wilson says:

      Hehe, I quite like “Fat Independent Face Games”, has a ring to it.

    • DSR says:

      @ Malawi Frontier Guard

      No offense, but you, sir, are way too happy to swallow everything they throw at you. Ready and willing to stand there, mouth gaping, kindly waiting for more “information”.
      PR managers just LOVE people like you.

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      You’re still too angry.

    • sneetch says:

      I like it. I would like to place one pre-order for your first future game, Tusque D’Ivoire, do you accept paypal? Have they already frozen your accounts?

      “Dino Patti: We are a small team, and with a new game in the mold, we’ve had our hands full.”

      The new game might have a lot to do with the delay but there was a exclusivity contract with XBLA that has just run out (it’s been just over a year after all, almost to the day).

      Why he didn’t just say they had an exclusivity contract I don’t know, probably because of the rage it’d attract.

    • Lars Westergren says:

      You may think you are a critical thinker DSR, but people who get outraged by small things are in fact extremely easy to manipulate.

    • skinlo says:

      So? We aren’t owed the game, they don’t have to make it for us. Stop having such a hissy. You obviously have an entitlement complex.

    • Unaco says:

      “I don’t want to say the game is bad, but as a man, who knows a thing or two about actual game development, this makes me want to reach through my monitor to slap them all across their fat independent(?) faces.”

      And this, ladies and gentlemen, is quite the ad-hominem attack. Slightly different flavour perhaps, but still there. They’ve made some bad PR/Marketing and platform choices (you see them as bad choices at least, they were probably quite -pleased with them… their game is released, and has been successful both critically and commercially). That doesn’t mean the game is bad.

      Also, I think you maybe need to look at your comma usage. “but as a man, who knows a thing…” sounds like the primary attribute allowing you to comment on this is that you are a man, and your knowledge about game development is secondary. “but, as a man who knows a thing or two…” would be much better.

    • edgeblend says:

      ,,,E,,a,t,,,s,sho,,,,,,ots,,,an,,d,,,,,l,e,a,v,e,,,,,s,,,,,,

    • Zelius says:

      @Lars Westergren
      My thoughts exactly. He’s the kind of person I’d like to call “trollbait”.

  5. seanminty says:

    Good interview Lewie and good need to know questions, this guy was really honing the politician dodge technique though – i wanted him to admit to the delay reason being a fear of piracy effecting their bottom line, but then saying that might effect their bottom line. That’s my guess.

    The game looks amazing! looking forward to it, now I just need Fez.

    • Dreamhacker says:

      I was about to use the same arguments for why this was not a good interview. I mean, he said nothing. At all. All he did was make excuses and dodge questions. Now, if this was an interview with a crooked politician or a CEO of a newspaper that was just discovered hacking cell phones, those excuses and dodges would have made for some hilarious reading, but for an interview with a completely non-controversial indie-dev on a completely non-controversial piece of news for a completely non-controversial game? Not so much.

    • Dino Patti says:

      There was obviously an exclusivity in place too. I thought that was common knowledge?

      The “piracy thing” is something our producer said (off guard) at some point. This was not really the main reason for the delay.

      While exclusivity was part of the reason, as said here, production and QA is the main reason..

    • Donjonson says:

      My thoughts exactly, it’s a weird interview, slippery and avoid-ery. Still, I’d recommend Limbo, it’s a really nice, atmospheric, puzzle-platformer. Great sound, at least that’s one thing that was concrete in the answers…

  6. Khemm says:

    I won’t mind even if it runs at a fixed resolution. Most adventure games like The Whispered World have no such option. Yes, it’s either the black bars or a stretched image, but I alway choose the former and honestly don’t care… It might not fill the entire screen, but the image remains sharp.
    With that said, I understand not everyone might be as tolerant when it comes to such things as me. “SHODDY PORT AARRRGH!!!” remarks are inevitable in that case.

  7. Telke says:

    Well, what do you guys want him to say?

    “Microsoft offered us a lot of advertising in the Arcade games section, same as the Super Meat Boy devs, in exchange for a few months of exclusivity. We took the offer. Also, developing for one consile is a heck of a lot easier than many different PC specs.”

    …they’re probably not allowed to say that, or don’t want to. Don’t attribute to malice what can adequately be explained with common sense. Limbo was part of the Winter Arcade, same as Super Meat Boy. they most likely got the same deal.

    And tbh, I don’t really blame them.

  8. Shadowcat says:

    Is this going to be a Steam exclusive? :/

    • Dino Patti says:

      Exclusive as in, available on all other platforms? ;)

    • MichaelPalin says:

      Oh!, I didn’t read this answer before my post.

      So, why are all game journalists suggesting that it’s going to be a Steam exclusive (as in “Limbo in Steam!”, “release date for Steam!”, “Limbo for PSN and Steam”)? Is Steam becoming a synonym to PC now? Because I don’t buy games in Steam and I would be very pissed if suddenly I could buy a lot of interesting games that I passed on just because game journalists cannot do their job properly.

    • Lewie Procter says:

      I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have only ever seen mention of a Steam release. As soon as I hear it is available anywhere else, I will mention it. Most likely mentioning where is the cheapest place to get it from.

    • Shadowcat says:

      Dino: Are you referring to consoles? RPS is a PC gaming site, so obviously I am asking about the options for playing Limbo on a PC. I loved the original trailer, and I think the game looks worth playing, but I dislike Steam sufficiently that I am unlikely to buy it there. I would therefore like to know if there will be alternatives which will allow me to purchase Limbo to play on my PC without the involvement of Steam. I trust that is a sufficiently-clear re-phrasing of my question for you to be able to provide an answer?

  9. suibhne says:

    Patti: “It was a long process of getting those details in place, and in the end there were a lot of reasons for a small studio like ours to just focus on that single release.”

    Translation: “Microsoft paid us bags of money for an exclusivity deal.”

    Sheesh, what a weaselly answer. C’mon, PR people. Don’t assume your audience is a bunch of idiots; if you run up against a question like that, all you have to say is “I wish I could give you more context for our decision-making, but I can’t legally discuss it because it also involves our partners. Sorry!”

    That interview was a masterpiece of misdirection and nonstatement. Well, except it wasn’t, because the misdirection and nonstatement wouldn’t have been so painfully obvious if it were a masterpiece. ;)

    • skinlo says:

      Tbh who cares?

    • vatara says:

      It’s the bullshit answers that bother me, more than the exclusivity.

    • Dino Patti says:

      There was never money involved. it’s not a legal thing, it’s just pure respect for your partners.

    • JP says:

      The terms of many exclusivity agreements forbid developers from any public acknowledgment that said agreement exists. So that Playdead guy might not have been contractually allowed to say anything.

      I find it a very unpleasant practice; it puts developers in the position of having to lie to their biggest fans. I really wish journalists would dig into the reality of it and expose things for what they are.

  10. Masem says:

    From another article: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/99483-PAX-East-2010-Hands-On-Limbo

    “Despite working with Microsoft to bring the game to Live Arcade – citing piracy as the reason for the choice of platform – the game is entirely self funded, which gave Play Dead the ability to develop the game as they wanted.”

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      The game was not entirely self-funded. They got a big grant from the Nordic Game Program.

    • Masem says:

      Its true they got a big grant from Nordic, but this came after Arnt and Dino put in a lot of their own personal funds to establish the company and start hiring – but I think in context of the statement, it basically meant they had no publisher dollars that tied their hands in certain directions – eg no publisher forced them to the 360 exclusivity to start.

    • Dino Patti says:

      @Masem Correct.

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      Yeah, it makes more sense in that context.

  11. Rii says:

    It’s rare to read an interview that off-putting. I don’t mind giving money to artists, I draw the line at politicians.

  12. MichaelPalin says:

    Since Dino is answering questions here: Why Steam exclusive? What would you say to customers who don’t buy games with DRM and expect a more down-to-Earth design decisions from indie developers? I mean, with the amount of games with DRM these days, a gamer with principles can only head to the indie community to make a contribution to the medium. But if indies release the games Steam-exclusive we are not making any advance. And, at the same time, you are neglecting one of the few advantages you have over big publishers.

    • The Sentinel says:

      So now that it’s been confirmed for PC we’re going to start agonising over which distribution channel it’s coming through?

      By god, we’re turning into the Linux community.

    • Dino Patti says:

      Can I ask why you have this principle?

    • MichaelPalin says:

      DRM gives power to the publisher, substracts power from the user. Some years ago, it was difficult to explain to the common gamer why this was a big issue. Nowadays, the examples are so abundant that things have become much easier for people like me.
      My favorite example is how EA banned a customer some months ago from his/her purchased games for criticizing Dragon Age 2 on the forums. But Steam banning customers from playing any of their games forever for different reasons will always be in my heart. Oh!, and video games that can only be played multiplayer through centralized servers to profit on advertisement and promotions. Since the PSN outage, that has become a great example too.

      @The Sentinel: Yeah!, a Linux version will be great too, :)

  13. Zelius says:

    Ignore this post. Misfired the reply button.

  14. eclipse mattaru says:

    I really like those graphics, but I certainly hope this is not the guy who wrote whatever story the game has, because he sounds like quite a dry, boring person if I ever read one. How is he working in such a beautiful looking indie game and not at EA’s marketing dept?

    Also, not to call out a rather lame PR spin here, but being “a small studio” didn’t stop Frictional from releasing Amnesia in /three/ different platforms. And on their own dime too. Just saying.

  15. vivlo says:

    and as a mac owner, i can’t miss the so unasked and unanswered question : will this ever be released on mac ? As it’s coming on “Steam worldwide” and Steam is mac friendly now, and as Dino Patti’s tweeter is apparently following MacRumorsLive, and as it hasn’t been expressedly said anywhere from an official source that it wouldn’t ; i can’t help but hope wholeheartedly for it. But as it was first released for XBox which is Microsoft’s and will be ported on Windows for sure, i guess it was programmed in some windows-exclusive logic language or something, and it’s highly unlikely they will remake it from scratch, will leeds me to believe that i will be highly disappointed on august 2nd and i will maybe someday not have any other choice than try to find free space on my scratch disk to install a windows partition on my mac :((

  16. MonkeesLover1963 says:

    Thanks for sticking around to answer questions in the comment section. I wouldn’t worry about the very small minority of people who don’t buy steam games.

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