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Braid’s Johnathan Blow on Developer Regulations and Certification

Should Sony force game studios to add specific features like Trophy support to their PS3 games? This is almost a classic left-wing/right-wing, socialist/libertarian issue and this is a debate that’s popped up on this site several times.

Johnathan Blow, the primary developer behind the critically praised Braid that was just released on XBLA (and soon to be released on PC), spoke to Gamasutra about this type of regulation on XBLA games:

“…there are still a lot of requirements, and I believe that, at least for a single-player game like my game, the vast majority of these requirements are unnecessary”

“I put in a tremendous amount of work meeting all these requirements, when I could have put that work into the actual game, and made it even a little more polished, little bit better.”

Regarding the XBLA certification process:

“But I feel like it actually decreases the quality of games, because people spend so much of their energy on these things that users don’t even really care about.”

Despite his criticisms of the regulations, Johnathan Blow was overally very happy about his experience with Microsoft.

“They also bent a lot of XBLA rules, in order to help me make the game the way I wanted, which was pretty cool of them,”

The obvious counter point is that rather than enforce lots of strict rules on developers and then “be cool about it” by letting some of them slide, they could simply have more relaxed rules to begin with so don’t developers don’t need to get special favors in order to build their games.

In general, Sony enforces less rules and regulations on developers, while Microsoft is more strict on these issues. It’s a tradeoff between developer goodwill and innovation vs. end-user consistency. Of course, PC/web/Flash games offer developers the most relaxed regulations of all since there is basically no intermediate company between the developer and the consumer.

Minimalist regulation tends to work well for cutting-edge innovation, artistry, and satisfies the more knowledgeable enthusiast fans, while more corporate regulation favors the more casual consumers and the mass market. Think of food: food enthusiasts generally prefer small, authentic restaurants that tend to be independent, while the more mainstream crowd generally prefers food chains that run each store through tightly written process scripts. Or with music, the knowledgeable fans often have very specific tastes and prefer authentic live performances, while more casual listeners just listen to heavily scripted broadcast radio.