Baba Is You Developer Arvi Teikari Talks Indie Innovation, Influences and Puzzle Style


“A big motivator for me is the wish to surprise and/or amaze the player.”

It is not just about every day that a game comes along which warps and bends your perceptions of what a game is. It is even rarer for one particular to come along that challenges suggestions about identity and objectives in such a straightforward manner. 

Baba Is You crept onto Steam in March of this year but has exploded in reputation, with a cult following. As a puzzle game is has the straightforward premise of every single level possessing its guidelines dictated by brief, 3 word statements. But every single word of a statement can be pushed about to make completely new guidelines.

It is an outstanding title and we talked to its creator Arvi Teikari about his approaches for puzzle style and innovation inside the indie game space.

Can you inform us a small bit about how you got into games and what motivates you to make them?

I’ve wanted to make games from a extremely early age. My cousin had a Super Nintendo, and playing Super Mario Globe (amongst other individuals) as nicely as watching older people today play other games got me interested in the medium. As far as I can bear in mind, it was widespread in my kindergarten for young children to draw their personal games and levels on paper and ask other youngsters to “play” via them. In principal college a schoolmate introduced me to Game Maker, and from there I at some point migrated to Clickteam items, with which I’ve stayed ever because.

I’d say that the greatest motivator is just basic wish for self-expression. I also delight in painting and drawing, and for me, all of these are largely implies to showcase to other people today what ever ideas bob in my head. A different large motivator is the wish to surprise and amaze players I’d like to give unexpected experiences for players due to the fact these are what I’ve enjoyed a lot when playing games myself.

Baba Is You came about via the Nordic Game Jam in 2017. What was it about the theme that year that brought this exciting puzzle game into existence?

The theme was “Not There,” and this created me believe of how “Not” performs in logic, namely how some idea “X” can be reversed by stating “Not X.” I had been playing various turn-primarily based block-pushing puzzle games prior to the jam, such as Stephen’s Sausage Roll, Snakebird and Jelly no Puzzle, and inspiration [came] from these combined with this “Not X” idea.

What I ended up with was the mental image of a block of ice sitting close to a pool of lava but not melting due to the statement “Ice Is Not Melt”. I was pretty uncertain about this thought, but decided to prototype it anyway due to the fact, nicely, that is what you do at game jams.

It is a fascinating title due to the fact it plays on our familiarity of the puzzle genre and asks us to break it. How conscious have been you of how fascinating the thought was when you have been generating it at the Nordic Game Jam? And how considerably did you delight in breaking the conventions of games?

To be truthful, I initially felt pretty lukewarm about the game, and I only understood its amusingness as soon as other people today checked it out and told me that they liked the thought. I believed some of the interactions in the game have been funny, but didn’t anticipate people today to discover them as surprising as they at some point did.

For the latter query, it was absolutely entertaining to recognize that I could make issues function in unexpected methods. I had initially planned for objects in the game to have intrinsic qualities (so that Ice would be Melt by default, for instance), but ditched this as soon as I realized how considerably additional exciting it would be if the only which means in the levels came from the interactable guidelines inside them.

When you make a new level what do you start out with? Are you focused on teaching players about how commands can be applied or is it about misdirection and asking players to break out of their usual way of solving puzzles?

I typically take into consideration the words I have (or word suggestions in my head) and believe of interactions amongst them till I run into some thing that appears like it could possibly be ‘cool’ or otherwise have prospective. When that occurs, I attempt to reverse-engineer a level that needs mentioned interaction in its answer.

I at times permit for misdirection in conditions exactly where it appears specially funny or amusing, but at a particular point in the game’s improvement I decided to attempt to keep away from red herrings and the like just for their personal sake they make the levels needlessly additional tricky and do not typically make extremely exciting challenge-solving conditions.

Games exist in a great ecosystem of neighborhood followings. You have received a lot of wonderful fan art of Baba, like a great piece with characters from Hollow Knight and Rainworld. What does it imply for your game to be held aloft by passionate fans inside this wild ecosystem?

It is extremely cool! I’ve never ever prior to seriously been in a scenario exactly where a considerable quantity of people today would want to make fanart of a game of mine. There have been some seriously inventive pieces of fanart on Twitter and I’ve attempted to be active in retweeting what people today send me. It is extremely exciting to see how distinct people today interpret the characters and scenes of a game, and fanart showcases the selection of these interpretations seriously nicely.

From this, how have you identified the achievement of Baba Is You? Has it changed the way you method games or are you nonetheless laser-focused on your personal method?

It is a bit early to say because I’m nonetheless really hard at function on Baba Is You post-release content material. When issues slow down a small I’ll have a greater vantage point as to how my style/improvement method has (or could possibly have) changed. I’m absolutely attempting to preserve issues mainly the exact same, due to the fact I’d like to keep away from establishing the feeling that what ever I do subsequent would need to have to surpass Baba Is You, along with fearing that feeling an obligation to be additional ‘serious’ with my game improvement could hurt the enjoyment I get from it.

Your prior games are wonderfully varied. What is it that inspires you to make these games? Is it experimenting with the limitations of genres or exploring particular mechanics in a distinctive way?

Possibly additional of the latter back in 2008 and 2009 I created a lot of tiny experimental games, typically platformers. Back then my requirements have been way decrease, but the simple idea of generating a brief experimental game to discover some type of a twist in a classic game method is nonetheless extremely intriguing to me.

As talked about earlier, a big motivator for me is the wish to surprise and/or amaze the player – I’d like for the player to be caught by surprise by the game and have to reconsider how they method or believe of the game. Seeing a streamer play a game I created and react with amusement to some surprise the game gives is extremely satisfying.

In a medium bursting with innovation, what are the indie games of the final 3 years that have inspired you most? Also, how considerably are you inspired by performs in film or literature?

Sadly, I have played pretty handful of games more than the previous 3 years. In particular as soon as improvement on Baba Is You started in 2017, I’ve spent most of my laptop time at house to function on it alternatively of playing other games, to the point that I at the moment have at least 3 games waiting to be played! Hmm. Stephen’s Sausage Roll is a extremely apparent answer, because it gave a lot of suggestions for how to method Baba Is You’s puzzle and map style. The Witness was yet another puzzle game from the previous 3 years that I enjoyed I’m certain some thing from there gave inspiration to how Baba offers with particular style components.

There have been comments from Jonathan Blow that games are stagnating and that the guarantee they showed ten years ago in the indie scene hasn’t been fulfilled. What do you believe about these remarks? Travelling to conventions and game jams about the planet, do you believe this is the case?

I do not believe I seriously agree. There are way additional games getting created and released now than 10 years ago, and though practically by necessity a big quantity of these games are extremely comparable to other current games or adhere to really hard-defined trends inside their genres, there are quite a few that combine ideas in additional previously-unseen or original methods (and this is not to say that the latter would necessarily often be the greater alternative for just about every developer.)

To me, it’d appear that the perceived stagnation could stem additional from a commonly bigger quantity of games fighting for the focus of the exact same audience on on-line marketplaces rather than from an actual lack of inspiring or revolutionary titles.

Of course, Baba Is You is not the only gem that Arvi has created, with his aforementioned experimental pursuits readily offered on his site. Each his earlier function and Baba Is You illustrate that innovation in games can come in so quite a few types. Arvi specialises in mixing genres and experimenting with mechanics that seldom fail to place a smile on faces familiar with the medium. 


Ryan Young escaped from the PhD basement in 2017 exactly where he worked on the theoretical hyperlinks amongst games, play and narrative. He can be often identified playing any genre of indie game he can get his hands on and yelling at people today on the street about how cool ancient board games are.


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