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Interview: Kian Bashiri (Burn The Rope)

APRIL 9, 2008

An interview with Kian Bashiri (Mazapán), developer of the Flash game You Have To Burn The Rope.

Hi Kian, kindly tell us a little about yourself and your newly-gained internet fame.

Well, I'm 21. I'm half-Persian, half-Finnish/Swede, but I was born and raised here in Sweden. I'm currently studying computer game development, and I love playing indie games. Yeah... I don't really know what else is interesting.

Oh, about my newly gained-internet fame... it's crazy. I'm so in the middle of it all, I'm still not sure how big it is. Some people have called You Have To Burn The Rope (YHTBTR) their game of the year, but I'm still not sure whether it's something that will be forgotten next week.

I'm googling "You Have to Burn the Rope" all the time, checking my referrals on my web statistics and wading through the mail.

Can you explain YHTBTR in your own words?

Well, it is a joke. And I don't want to say too much about it, because dissecting a joke always makes it unfunny. Part of it is this really silly idea, and part of it is this statement about how games are too hard and complicated. It's also a subtle reference to how some games are kind of patronizing toward the player, like too easy.

But I never set out to make it this way, it kind of turned into this with time. It started out as an attempt to make a game that spoiled the whole experience for you before you played it. Funnily enough, people really don't read instructions...

A lot of people that I saw playing the game live actually went through the tunnel without reading the instructions or thinking about the name of the game and realized that you have to burn the rope first when they saw it themselves. I think this is what has happened when I read comments like "it wuz so easy.", these people went right through it and didn't realize that the joke was on them.

Tell us more about Henrik, the musician who wrote "Now You're a Hero" (credits song for YHTBTR).

Sure.. he's in my class, so I met him two years ago. We're close friends and I think he makes great music. He just got his new site, He started out with hiphop, a loooong time ago (he's REALLY old. Like 30+) but now he's doing video game music, which I think is great. He's really found his spot.

I get a lot of e-mails from people asking for the music from YHTBTR. :( It's all available on Henrik's site! I don't think the game would have gotten so big without it.

Funnily enough the credit song was just something he made in a burst of inspiration. I didn't ask him to. If he hadn't, we probably wouldn't have been so successful.

What inspired you to create YHTBTR?

I can't really remember, it wasn't anything special. I just had this silly idea of a joke and I decided to do it.

I thought I could pull it off in a few hours, all I had to do was modify my platform engine and voilà... well, theoretically, things always take way longer then you think.

Was Valve's Portal an influence to the creation of YHTBTR?

No, Portal was not an inspiration. I've seen a lot of people compare the two games, but I really can't see any resemblance. Henrik's song was indeed inspired by Jonathan Coulton's Still Alive, but that's it.

Did anyone from Valve contact you about YHTBTR?

No, haven't heard anything from the Portal crew. Do you think YHTBTR and Portal bears any resemblance?

The song, like you've mentioned.

Ok, yeah. We actually sent a beta version to Jonathan (Henrik did) and he was kind enough to respond.. about one line or so.

"Nice work! That game is even shorter than portal. ;) -j" so.. he didn't get it ;D

Have you played Portal?

Yes, I've played Portal and I think it's great!

Is there only one way to beat the game? Were there any easter eggs or secrets that most players did not know about?

Nope, no real easter eggs.. there's the context-menu (right-click) but I think most people know about that.

You can't kill the boss with the axes, although there is a GREAT video on YouTube who does just that. I'm not sure if he hacked the swf or just edited the movie together, but it looks really good. But it's completely impossible.

Did the release of YHTBTR caused excessive bandwidth usage to your site? It's a surprise that the page is still up, actually.

Yeah, I just got a new host, so I'm hotlinking my .swfs to that site while the domain is being changed. The site was actually down, but only for a few hours before I could get the new one.

No. of hits?

400,000 total view so far. This is my mochibot stats (the swf's own stats) and they are public. I'll probably link to it on my site too, it's kind of interesting to poke around with.

According to the stats, YHTBTR has been out for two months.

I started the counter two months back, but I've just recently submitted YHTBTR.

We started this project a long time ago.. it took so much longer then I'd think. This is normal when developing stuff... even big companies does it all the time, right? Of course I did a lot of other stuff in between, like working on other games and university courses.

Henrik (my friend who makes the music) and I have done some other stuff together before (like boring, work stuff... web campaigns, ugh) and we have this mantra from gapingvoid (which is a great site about creativty and stuff) "things are made slowly and in pain"... I've found it to be so true. Everything takes a lot of time. Probably longer then you'd first expect..

I mean, I don't think there's any geniuses who just comes up with this great stuff.. I don't think it works that way.. Everything is made slowly and in pain :) Maybe not constant pain, but everything takes work, and I'm sure it wasn't funny all the time.

Tell us about some of your favorite YHTBTR mentions on the internet, and also the best comments or emails you've received for the game.

I've been reading so many comments.. I like reading those from people that really get it, although you can do that on many different levels. My favorite mention was probably the one on gaygamer. They said the main character looked like a testicle.

Oh, and there was this really great one on a Swedish site that assumed that I must be really handsome. And intelligent. And funny. I had to sign up just to let them know it's all true.

I think the game got a lot further because of the song (and the song got a lot further together with the game), so most comments that really talk about the game is great to me.

There's so many mentions, but I couldn't possibly tell you about it all.

What's next for you? sequels? any release dates?

No sequels. :) People have asked for more levels, but they don't get it... right now I'm working on a mobile game for Swedish Game Awards.

Does that mean you're not going to do anything related to YHTBTR in the future? (besides working with the same musician again)

Yeah, we might do some sequels ... "You Have To Burn The Bridge", "You Have To Burn The Ship".. it's really a franchise now ;)

Nah, we want to do other stuff.

Any previous work of yours you'd like others to know about and try out, once they're done with YHTBTR?

No, not really. I don't like my other games for different reasons. Most of them were made to learn. Like Adrenaline Challenge is a terrible Elasto Mania clone, but I learnt a lot about 2D physics.

Games you're playing now?

I just got an Xbox360, so I'm playing a lot of N+ (I used to play a lot of N too. I love reading their blog, what they did for the Flash community with their articles on 2D physics was great!).. also Rez HD.. it's nice.

Oh, and I'm really really looking forward to playing Braid.

How good are you at N+?

My gamertag is "MazapanSe" and I'd love to play against, well anyone. I think Metanet is great. Their blog is great to read. It's exactly what you'd want to read on a development blog. Oh, and I'm doing my best to promote their game (and indie games over all) at my University.

Your favorite indie games?

Favorite games are probably N, Flywrench, Psychosomnium and Muon.

What is it that makes Swedish game developers so awesome?

Sweden is awesome! Konjak, Cactus, Nifflas, Erik Svedäng etc etc... (many more) we MUST be doing something good. :)

Some players have reported that the game skips towards the end the moment it loads. Have you found the solution for this?

The reason for this is (I think, at least that's what I read from a reddit comment) some issues with their Flash player (it only happens on computers with more than one processor). I haven't seen it in any other games, so that's weird. But then, it's really nothing that one could do by programming weird in Flash. It must be related to the Flash player.. So, really, just update your Flash player to the newest version.

What's the craziest YHTBTR-related thing you've seen on the internet?

Craziest thing.. hm, I got to know that the president of a swedish gaming company that I'm about to apply to (for the summer as a Flash programmer) loved my game. Also the spanish wikipedia site. It's hilarious. :D

Oh, any I was approached by Clint Hocking (Ubisoft game designer), that was crazy. Then there's the text version of YHTBTR by Michael Cook. It's great and by far the best tribute. :)

Anything you'd like to say to YHTBTR fans?

Well, thanks for playing the game, I'm really glad people are enjoying it. Henrik isn't here right now, but I'm sure he'd tell people to go watch a video or something. Also, if anyone has trouble playing the game. There's plenty of walkthroughs and a game manual on my site!

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