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IGF Factor 2010: Limbo

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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.

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Kieron Gillen

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Kieron Gillen is robo-crazy.

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