The Binding of Isaac

Update: With his next game due to be officially unveiled this week, Edmund McMillen took to Twitter to share more information about the mystery project, along with its first official artwork.

Previously, McMillen said he's working on a turn-based multiplayer game that's based on one of his old games but is not directly connected to The Binding of Isaac, Super Meat Boy, or his upcoming puzzle game, The Legend of Bum-bo. He's since clarified that it is, in fact, a Binding of Isaac game, but it's also something completely new. He describes it as "a spinoff that kind of connects the end of Isaac to ideas I have for a sequel," and it's set "after/during the end of the current game."

Here's everything else we learned about this mystery Isaac game from what McMillen shared on Twitter:

  • It's titled The Binding of Isaac: _ _ _ _    _ _ _ _ _  (and the last letter is 's')
  • It can only be played in local multiplayer. There is no singleplayer component, and you can't play online. McMillen says playing with four people "is ideal." 
  • It's a turn-based "casual strategy" game that uses cards. But while it is something of a card game, it doesn't have a mana system like Hearthstone or a land system like Magic: The Gathering.  
  • There are currently eight playable characters, and McMillen is working on more.  

 Original story:  

Edmund McMillen has been busy. Six weeks ago, he released the final free content booster pack for The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+. A few weeks prior, he and James Id released the first trailer for their upcoming match-four dungeon-crawler, The Legend of Bum-bo. And a few weeks before that, McMillen said his delayed, cancelled and now revived game Mewgenics is back on track. Apparently McMillen's still got free time, though, because judging from a recent string of tweets, he's got a new multiplayer game in the works.  

With its official announcement still a few days away, little is known about McMillen's mystery project, but he did share a few interesting details on Twitter. Firstly, it's not connected to The Legend of Bum-bo, The Binding of Isaac or Super Meat Boy. And for those wondering: no, it's not a battle royale game. McMillen also held a dedicated Q&A, and assuming his answers are only half-joking, his mystery game is a turn-based, local multiplayer PvP game that's not a platformer or a shooter but is based on one of his old games. That oughta narrow it down.  

The Binding of Isaac

On April 30, the last official add-on scheduled for The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ was released. Booster Pack #5 contained 'The Forgotten' and a treasure trove of bits and bobs, including "White Poop, a new poop type." It's been quiet since then. For the first time since the original incarnation of the randomly generated gross-out dungeon crawler was released in 2011, it seems like Isaac may finally get to rest.

At least, in game-form. "There's a lot of little things I want to add and that I really want to explore with the IP that I haven't been able to because I've been mostly just working on the game," Binding of Isaac co-creator Edmund McMillen tells me. "Without revealing too much information, yeah, there's stuff on the horizon."

I didn't think Steam would be interested or even allow Flash games on Steam.

Edmund McMillen

Isaac and he have now been together for the bulk of a decade, a period that's seen all kinds of change in the games industry and in his personal life. Isaac's come to symbolize the kind of auteur-driven success many enter the medium to obtain, with the kind of longevity major publishers fall over themselves to replicate. And it all started with a two-week game-jam.

The origins of Isaac 

Wanting to take a vacation post-2010's Super Meat Boy, McMillen chose to stay home and make a quick passion project with friend Florian Himsl as a way to unwind. Two weeks gradually became three months, and friends started telling them they should consider making the thing into a proper release. "It was just one of those situations where everything clicked together and it was too hard to put down, but I also didn't see any means of actually selling it," McMillen says, "because at the time it was Flash and I didn't think Steam would be interested or even allow Flash games on Steam."

Indie distribution was still finding its feet, and they considered simply selling the IP to someone like Adult Swim for a big down payment. However, encouragement from those in the know pushed McMillen to overcome his assumptions and reach out to his contact at Valve to see if Steam would give Isaac a look. Thankfully, they did, and soon Isaac was available to the world.

But back then Isaac was a very leftfield piece of work. Nowadays its core elements are common, but in 2011 the response was muted. Review scores were decent, but nobody really seemed to get what was really on. "They just kinda put it aside, it was a lot of 'oh it's like a remix of Legend of Zelda, and it's pretty cool,'" McMillen says. "It was like, OK, well, I don't know how I'm supposed to sell this thing."

It wasn't until Let's Plays latched onto the game that things started to snowball. Hours of videos demonstrating the ever-changing longplay aspect of Isaac on YouTube generated a sudden spike in interest. McMillen remains at a loss as to why people enjoy watching it, but the benefits were quick and significant. "100-200 copies, 1,000 copies a day—that summer, the first summer after release, which was probably nine months after release, is when it just exploded, and it just kept climbing higher and higher and higher."

Little did he know that a steadfast community was forming, and that it would prove integral to Isaac's longevity. Ryder Hicks, owner of The Modding of Isaac, was one of them. "I had some friends on Steam that were playing it and I was like 'What is this?' and I watched the trailer and it was very bizarre," he says. "And I was like 'all right I gotta try this' and it was amazing."

The Modding of Isaac is a community forum for fanmade Isaac creations. Through the 2014 remake The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth and beyond, modding it has become easier and easier, drawing in more creators. Hicks had run a modded Team Fortress 2 server for years, and wanted to help this community grow in the same way, working to preserve mods and encourage their creators. "It's so easy to mod and add stuff that you think might be interesting," he says. "If you're like, able to theme it in properly, you can make it some pretty cool stuff by yourself, not really having to put in a whole lot of work."

The modding scene blindsided McMillen, but has since become vital to The Binding of Isaac. The-Vinh Truong, aka '_Kilburn', now an integral Isaac team-member, began as lead designer on one of the biggest mods, Anti-Birth. "Initially I didn't want it to be anything too big, just a few items and enemies, and then Afterbirth came out and we hadn't finished our mod yet," Truong says of Anti-Birth. "But we saw what that added and thought maybe we could use this as an opportunity to show what we could do."

When people ask what would you do to improve the game, there's a bunch of stuff that I would do. And I probably say that the first thing that I would do is strip out the story bosses

Edmund McMillen

Anti-Birth is a testament to how inspirational Binding of Isaac has been. It's a massive slab of new stuff, containing intuitive bosses and clever items built by Truong and his friends in their spare time. During our interview, McMillen can barely restrain himself from singing the modder's praises, going so far as to call him the best collaborator he's ever had. "There's a lot of great modders out there, but he's on a whole other level," McMillen says enthusiastically. "I feel like he understands me in a way that I'm not completely aware of yet." Truong is considerably more modest: "[People] don't always get what the game is supposed to be like. I'm not going to pretend that I do, but I try. I guess I do my best."

The following of Isaac

At this stage, McMillen is very aware of the crossroads facing Isaac. The free updates were becoming more and more elaborate, and the question of a sequel has been looming. The additions contained by Booster Packs were starting to make their way uncomfortably close to his list of ideas for a sequel. Ending the updates now is as much about putting a formal follow-up into perspective as anything else. 

"When people ask what would you do to improve the game, there's a bunch of stuff that I would do. And I probably say that the first thing that I would do is strip out the story bosses," he says, on the subject of possibilities for number two. "Like, after you get to a certain point in the game, no more story bosses. No Mom, no Satan, all those dead-end bosses. Then I would design bosses that are more difficult and randomize them into those slots, and then you'd have a more random experience. That's where I'm heading just for a base level design for a sequel."

The current game is now at a critical mass, as he puts it, and any more big additions would require uprooting the carpet and taking down the upholstery. It would require another re-design, when a blank slate with new foundations makes more sense. After the troubled development of Afterbirth+, during which Edmund was absent for four months due to personal issues, he's keen to make sure everything they put out is as consistent and worthwhile as possible.

The ending of Isaac 

Though he loves The Binding of Isaac and loves working on it, it eventually became work. After several years of various ups and downs professionally and personally, McMillen was ready to quit games and take his life elsewhere, a feeling he dealt with in a familiar way—by making a game about it. "The End Is Nigh was by far the most cathartic experience I'd ever had," McMillen says of his macabre 2017 platformer. "I was ready to be done with games. I just wasn't getting what I have gotten out of it. I just had a bunch of terrible experiences when it comes to designing and working with people."

Formed from the husk of previously announced but unfinished Ouroboros, The End Is Nigh let him really ponder if everything had been worth it. It's a story of perseverance by any means, challenging you to find the motivation to try again and again, without the promise of a happy ending. Thematically, it was his toughest undertaking, and he considers it one of the best games he's made.

Right now, McMillen is seeing where the wind takes him. Later this year there's Legend of Bum-bo, a Binding of Isaac prequel, and he mentions a desire to release smaller, weirder games in the future. After nearly quitting two years ago, now he sounds optimistic, no doubt bolstered by having Vinh around to riff ideas with and Ryder's site collecting together Isaac's ardent fans. But whatever comes next, he's resolute that the ending of Binding of Isaac has already happened.

"The Forgotten in itself is the final ending of the game. You loosely see that Isaac's bones have his soul chained to the ground because of how he died," he explains. "It puts into question what happened and why, and where is he now. In the story of the game, that is its conclusion, and I don't see myself adding any more to that."

PC Gamer

If you've played The Binding of Isaac, Super Meat Boy, or Crypt of the Necrodancer, odds are you're a fan of Danny Baranowsky, the composer behind the music that helped make them great, not to mention several other videogame soundtracks. Baranowsky is dropping a new batch of tracks next month, but this time it's an album, not a score. 

In case you were confused by the trailer: "dannyBsides" is a collection of 12 previously unheard tracks from Baranowsky. You won't find them in any game (though some of them bear a striking resemblance), and until recently they weren't publicly available. That is, until Twitch musician The8BitDrummer streamed a blind accompaniment to the entire album as a promo—no small feat, and quite the jam.  

Baranowsky has been inadvertently working on this album for nearly 10 years."[The song] 'Hooked Into the Machine' is from my first-ever gig, a game for the Sidekick phone, in Midi, and later an audio version for Android," he says. "'Plummet' and 'End of the Road' are from a free flash game called Fathom I did with Adam Atomic around the same time. It's technically been released before, but not individually, and not mastered like this."

Although he's best known for scoring The Binding of Isaac, Super Meat Boy, and Crypt of the Necrodancer, Baranowsky says the album doesn't echo any particular game or theme. 

"'SunnyBsmile,' 'Takeoff,' 'Circuit Lounge' and 'Skybridge' are all from a more recent game that I had to pull out from due to health concerns," he says. "I was really sad that they wouldn't see the light of day, so it was nice to finally have a good reason to release them. And they were made within the last couple years, so it helped assuage my neurosis of releasing super old stuff. The old stuff is still good, but production-wise i get real embarrassed about anything more than a couple years old."

The question, then, is why release an album now? 

"Honestly, the primary goal was to offload some of these tracks off my conscience," Baranowsky says. "You get used to having people hear everything you do, and it feels weird to have hours of stuff just sitting there, unheard. It's also nice to have an album that is just music, and not associated with a game. I'm ultra keen on making original albums for their own sake, and this was a great step in that direction. My manager, Patrick, has been instrumental in pushing me in that direction. Would love to tour someday soon, see what the audience for game music is like in the real world!"

The album costs $10 and is due out Monday, December 1. You can find more details and the full tracklist on Ghost Ramp's online store.

The Binding of Isaac

The Binding of Isaac developer Edmund McMillen announced the contents of Isaac: Afterbirth Plus' second 'mod booster' pack yesterday, and right at the bottom of that blog post, as if to reward people for scrolling down, he revealed that he's been working on another project with frequent collaborator Tyler Glaiel. It's an "unannounced IP", so it's presumably got nothing to do with The Legend of Bum-bo, which was similarly teased last year, before retreating into the shadows, never to be whiffed again.

Here's what McMillen has to say about the secret project:

"On a side note not many of you know this but Tyler and I have been in crunch mode for the past 3 months trying to finish this secret project. We are coming close to announcing it and its release date, so keep and eye out for it, I don't want to spoil the fun yet but I can say this.

"It's hard, it's weird, it's personal, it has amazing controls, it's a totally new unannounced IP and it's easily one of the largest games I've ever made level wise."

I'm not going to speculate, because McMillen's announcements are always surprising, and because it sounds like we'll know before too long. So let's take a look at Afterbirth+ and its second mod booster pack, which once again incorporates some select mods into the base game. This time, give a big welcome to the projectile-repelling Telepathy, the item-ferrying Moving Box, the charge-replenishing Jumper Cables item and more.

The Binding of Isaac

The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth was, er, ushered into the world a few months ago, and if you're not up to date with the roguelikey action game and its various incarnations, know that it's basically The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth but with a load of additional tweaks and content, and modding tools layered over the top.

Before release, developer Edmund McMillen said that the game would receive monthly 'booster packs', adding select fan mods into the game via official patches, and while it's taken a little longer than expected, the first pack just went live a couple of days ago.

McMillen details the free update here, revealing that it adds new items and trinkets, including a few by the Isaac creator himself. These include Buddy in a Box, which grants Isaac a randomised baby buddy, and Lil' Delirium, which randomly swaps your familiar every 10 seconds.

For the next booster pack, which McMillen hopes will be out late next month, he's looking for new challenges, Angel Room items, enemies and bosses. So if you're interested in Isaac modding, get creating, as there's a chance your mods will be included in the game.

PC Gamer

Today's announcement that The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ is live on Steam was a bit premature, because at this particular moment it is actually not live at all. But it's coming, any minute now, possibly by the time you read this, and creator Edmund McMillen said in a message that while the Afterbirth expansion will "close the book on a five-year journey" that began as just a fun Flash project with a friend, it also marks a new beginning for the game. 

"I never had any idea Isaac would become what it has, this little monster has consumed my brain for what feels like a lifetime and I'm at a point now where I can be happy with officially finishing the story and calling the Isaac project done," he wrote. "But as sad as that may sound to some, this is really just the start of things to come. AB+ started as just a mini DLC of mod tools, but slowly ballooned into another game expansion with a bunch more added content… But still at its core the whole point of AB+ was to hand the game off to the community, who at this point knows the game better than i do." 

McMillen said that going forward, the game will get monthly "booster pack" updates that will incorporate the best user-made content into the official game, a plan he unveiled back in November. Mod makers don't have to submit their work for consideration—"You can honestly do whatever the hell you wanna do," McMillen wrote—but for the benefit of those who do, he also provided a list of basic guidelines for the content he's looking for, including theme and design tips, ideas about enemies, bosses, and challenges.

Getting your work to him will be a bit of a crapshoot at first: He suggested tweeting a gif or video of your mod in action (but don't overdo it), or maybe posting something on Reddit. "It's a bit hamfisted," he admitted, "but as the months roll by I'm sure we will find a smooth way to exchange ideas and I'll keep updating the blog with new info as the year unfolds." 

The Afterbirth+ announcement post also warned that "like any launch there is a good chance that we missed some bugs and players may experience some issues that our testers might have missed." The developers will continue to work on over the launch week, and there may be some nerfing too, if it proves necessary. 

PC Gamer

The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ isn't going to make it out before the end of the year, but it will come awfully close. Developer Edmund McMillen announced today that the game will debut on Steam on January 3 with a full suite of mod tools, new items, trinkets, and pickups, a new final chapter, plus a new final boss, playable character, "greedier" greed mode, and more. 

"So basically what you are looking at is a slightly smaller afterbirth expansion but with mod tools that potentially make it 20 times larger!" McMillen wrote. "I'm honestly quite excited about what the community will end up making and even more excited to make some of it totally official in Isaac!" 

McMillen said in November that he'd be keeping an eye on the Binding of Isaac mod scene, and that he'd be picking particularly good ones for official inclusion in the game. "I'm positive that there are a ton of cool ideas out there that are so left field that they MUST be added to the main game," he said at the time. 

The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ will go for $10 on Steam, but will be available for a week after launch for $6.66. Until then, enjoy this devilish new teaser.

PC Gamer

It's been almost a full year since The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ was announced for release sometime in 2016. And as of today it looks like that date is going to hold: A new post at bindingofisaac.com reveals more about the expansion, which will include new items, enemies, bosses, challenges achievements, and "in-depth mod tools," and says it will be out within the next 60 days hopefully before the end of the year.

"We are currently in testing and finalizing achievements, but are running into some minor release overlap issues with the holiday rush," Binding of Isaac creator Edmund McMillen wrote. "What i can say is AB+ will release in the next 60 days on steam the goal has always been to release at the very end of the year and [we] are still shooting for it but there are some things that are a bit out of our control."

Following the release of the expansion, McMillen said he'll be keeping an eye on the mod scene on Reddit, and will every so often select a favorite for official inclusion in the game. "This is a feature im really looking foward to, i feel like ive personally scraped the barrel when it comes to item design and feel quite depleted, but im positive that there are a ton of cool ideas out there that are so left field that they MUST be added to the main game," he wrote. "So once this thing releases, its time to prove your worth!"

He also touched on the status of the other projects he has in the works, The Legend of Bumbo and 0uroboros. Legend of Bumbo "has been a hard nut to crack" but is now "an officially fun and very interesting game," which means it will be getting its own dev blog within the next few weeks. As for 0uroboros, "sadly there isn t much new to show gameplay wise but im sure we will have some fun news to share in a month or so."

PC Gamer

We should have known that whatever The Binding of Isaac creator Edmund McMillen was working on next, he wouldn't do something so mundane as telling us what it is. McMillen enjoys making us dance like puppets, so the teaser for his new project, The Legend of Bum-bo, raises more questions than it answers.

The Legend of Bum-bo is another collaboration with James Id, who directed all the Binding of Isaac trailers. This time, he'll be handling the programming and 3D, while Matthias Bossi and Jon Evans will return for the audio.

The description of Bum-bo as "a turn based puzzle RPG type thingy that's randomly generated" poses the following head-scratchers: why is a giant poo a key feature of the logo? Why does it also feature a Binding of Isaac coin? And of course, "but why is this on the isaac blog!? what does this have to do with isaac!? when isaac!? isaac? isaac! why!?".

All of that we have to wait for, or figure out from the manifold ARGs that are probably embedded in the Tumblr post.

PC Gamer

The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth caused quite a stir when it came out in October. It wasn't the DLC itself that caused the uproar, though, but rather the complex ARG it kicked off, which began with what appeared to be a bug that left promised elements of the game inaccessible. Hopefully the launch of the "mini DLC" tentatively entitled Afterbirth+ will go a little more smoothly, or at least make fewer people angry when it rolls out.

And yes, Afterbirth+ is actually something that will exist sometime next year. Tyrone Rodriguez of Nicalis made the announcement on the Binding of Isaac blog, although the details were heavily redacted by "Evil Edmund," aka Binding of Isaac creator Edmund McMillen.

"Afterbirth will have a bunch of new ***** ********, including a couple of new bosses, a few transformations and new items/trinkets. How many? That s a ****** you ll find out on *******," he wrote. "Oh, also, ***** ***** **** and maybe something else related to ***** ****. There s also a *** ****** I m leaving out until a later time so you can wonder and conjecture/speculate ***** ****."

Got that? Afterbirth+ will also include a Bestiary that will provide detailed information about enemies you've encountered, as well as support for mods, which Rodriguez said is the "big news" in the announcement, and a "user-friendlier" room editor, mod editor, and Lua support.

"It s a lot of changes to the game and I m really excited to see what all of you make. Thanks for sticking around and being patient while we continue to improve the game," he wrote. "Keep sending your good/bad feedback. We are listening, even if you think we aren t."

A launch date more precise than "next year" was not mentioned.

...

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