IGF Factor 2010: Limbo

Click to make bigger! Missus!
Limbo is the definition of a Dark Horse, both obviously in its striking visual style and because the scarcity of details about how you actually play the thing. It’s a puzzle platformer, and that’s about all we know. However, it’s impressed the hell out of the IGF judges who’ve played it, leading to it being shortlisted for both the Technical and Visual Arts awards. Our interview with Lead Designer Jeppe Carlsen and footage of this enigmatic game follow…

RPS: Firstly, a brief intro to those who may not know you. Who are you? What’s your background? Why get into games? Why get into indie games?

Jeppe Carlsen: My name is Jeppe Carlsen and I am the lead designer at Danish indie development studio PLAYDEAD. I have worked on LIMBO for about two years, and we are currently working hard on polishing the game. My background is in computer science, and I have previously worked as a game programmer in another small company before being hired by PLAYDEAD, where I started focusing on game design. I have always had a great passion for video games, and spend a lot of my spare time playing all sorts of games. I did not choose to get into indie games specifically, but, to me, LIMBO was one of the most promising projects to come around in a long time.

RPS: And… the game. Tell us about it. What was its origins? What are you trying to do with it? What are you most pleased about it? What nags?

Jeppe Carlsen: We have not announced any details about the game yet, but I guarantee that details will begin to surface in the near future. Essentially, LIMBO is a puzzle platformer in which you play as a young boy travelling through a hostile world looking for his sister.

LIMBO was conceptualized by our game director Arnt Jensen almost six years ago, and a concept trailer was released in 2006. The trailer caught a lot of attention, and eventually PLAYDEAD secured funding without involvment of any major publishers, thereby keeping all rights and creative control. There is a long way from an initial concept to an actual game, and LIMBO has been a great challenge both technically and design-wise. As a designer I work on refining the core design principles, and on designing the specific challenges and puzzles in the game. I am very pleased with how the game is turning out, and after a long period of intensive play-testing I feel confident that people will be pleasantly surprised when it comes out. The game keeps you guessing all the way through, and the constant flow of unique challenges makes for an intense gameplay experience. LIMBO is a game that demands your full attention, it never gets predictable, and stands in sharp contrast to modern AAA games where similar challenges are repeated over and over. Closing up on a project, you always look back at all the great ideas that never made it into the game, and we had quite a few that I really would have liked to get in there, but… another time, another game.

RPS: What’s your feelings on the IGF this year. Pleased to be nominated? Have particular love, bemusement or hate for any of the other entries? Is there anything you think is missing?

Jeppe Carlsen: We are very pleased to have been nominated. In particular, it has been nice to get so much feedback from people working in the industry. Having played a few of the game finalists, I feel that VVVVVV (played the hell out of this game) by Terry Cavanagh and WindoSill by Vectorpark are missing from the list. Also, there are a few of the finalists that do not personally interest me much, but that is the nature of this sort of competition. I am very much looking forward to playing the games on GDC and meeting the developers.

RPS: How do you feel about the indie scene generally this year? People have been relatively downbeat about 2009, after 2008 being so obviously incendiary. What are the themes, in your eyes? What are people missing?

Jeppe Carlsen: I guess the indie scene has been relatively quiet in 2009 compared to 2008’s big hitters – Braid and World of Goo. But I think there is little reason to worry, and believe that the indie scene will become more and more apparent in the gaming industry. I also believe that established development studios and publishers will be increasingly interested in making smaller unique games, which is a good thing. I really wish we could get rid of the fixed price tag on console retail games, which would leave developers with a lot more flexibility in terms of content. It is hurting the industry that developers are forced to artificially extend the lifetime of their games, by putting in multiplayer modes etc., for the purpose of meeting the expectations of a standarized price tag. Having smaller games digitally distributed on all major consoles this generation is definitely a step in the right direction.

RPS: And how does the future look for you? What are you working on now and the foreseeable future.

Jeppe Carlsen: We are still hard at work on finishing LIMBO, and I cannot say much about the future other than we are looking forward to finally getting the game out.

RPS: Thanks for your time.

You can follow the development of Limbo at its website.


  1. Zealot says:

    Looks pretty neat. Nice graphic

  2. Rich says:

    So, we don’t actually know much more than we did before. Except maybe that the little chap’s goal is to find his sister.

    I wonder how unforgiving it will be. That bit where the kid is jumping around cogs and things looks like it could be riddled with opportunities for insta-death, which I’ve never found fun. I think I only finished Another World due to some perverse self-hatred that compelled me to keep going, despite the number of times I was eaten by those damn tentacle things.

  3. nabeel says:

    I look forward to actually seeing more than that years-old trailer. Very intriguing game.

  4. Scott says:

    @ Rich – Good to see a mention of another world, that was my initial thought, in the sense that this game looks like it could be rather unforgiving.

  5. Aganazer says:

    I wish I could get indie game news without the platformers. Not that I’m unhappy about the indie news sites or anything. I’m sure there are a lot of people that really enjoy platformers and I’m sure there is some really cool innovation happening with them. The indie scene is awash in platformers. Each new one with more stylized graphics than the one before. Each with its own creative twist, but it seems like I spend most of my time filtering out the platformers trying to find all the *other* indie games that interest me more. Probably just me though.

  6. Wulf says:

    It saddens me how forgotten Machinarium has become, as it was a bigger game on my radar than either World of Goo or Braid were. D: [Insert VVVVVV sadface sound here.]

    I thought Bob Came in Pieces, and Windosill were absolutely lovely too. Windosill I’ve replayed many times and it makes me smile.

    Not to mention Aaaa[snip!], which I had loads of fun with.

    2009 was a great year for indie! It makes me frown inside that to be successful an indie game has to be a near-commercial success rather than simply a brilliant, charming, and ultimately memorable game which one won’t forget for years.

    [Tangent!] I’m also still mildly annoyed that VVVVVV wasn’t in the IGF. Maybe next year! This is tangental because VVVVVV just slipped into January, rather than being ’09. If VVVVVV were ’09 I’d be wanting to maul people for saying that ’09 was quiet. >.>

    • Kakksakkamaddafakka says:

      I’m totally with you. 2009 had Machinarium, easily the best indie game in the last couple of years. I get the whole “getting press” thing, though, yeah, sure, 2009 was probably more quiet in that regard, but RPS should really make a parenthesis behind that 2009-statement.

  7. Rock Tumbler says:

    It seems like it’s been a lot longer than two years.

  8. Cheespuffs says:

    Man its nice to see it is actually being worked on. I’ve seen the trailer four years ago and almost forgot about it.