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Flying With Four Engines: Tim Schafer On Double Fine's New Mission
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Flying With Four Engines: Tim Schafer On Double Fine's New Mission

October 15, 2010 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next

Coming from two long projects, how did you communicate, and how did you get everyone on that page? We're talking almost ten years. The studio had been going from two long projects to this short one. Did people really wrap their heads around the mindset of creating this way?

TS: Well, there are two things. One, we had a great time doing it, as a test, twice. We did those Amnesia Fortnight projects. Once at the middle of Brütal Legend, once at the end. We just took two weeks, and everybody forgot what they were doing for two weeks -- hence the name -- and broke the whole 60-person company into four groups. Each group made a game in two weeks.

And it was such a great morale boost. Everyone just had so much fun, and everyone was so focused on what they were doing. And in two weeks, that scoping thing is even clearer. It's like, "You know what? We have time to get one thing right. Let's just do that."

Because so many games... you start a huge production. When you have infinite time, it seems, you don't just focus on getting one thing right. You're often like, "Let's start a million things, and let's go." And then at the end, you'll try and tie them all together, and there's a big panic. "Let's cut half of them." But we had like two weeks of "Let's try and get this one thing done."

Anyway, everyone really loved that. In smaller teams, you can get everyone in the room for a meeting. Communication is easier. Everyone has more ownership, and everyone has more responsibility and gets their input. Everybody gets to help with design. So, it was fun, and everyone was on board in that sense.

But doing smaller games is something I wanted to do for a long time, but I was always thinking we'd kind of toy around with it on the side and ease into it -- ease into doing multiple games. And then we found out we weren't doing Brütal Legend 2. We were basically like, "Wow, we don't have another game ready to pitch, except for these eight prototypes we made in our Amnesia Fortnight process. So, let's take the four best ones and pitch them."

How did you determine which were the four best?

TS: I just picked them. (laughs) The end of each Amnesia Fortnight, we had a little kind of game... It was like a little indie gamejam, a little game festival. We played them, and all of them were fun in different ways. It's just some of them were, you know... It's both proving a game that could be pitched, made, produced, and published, and also just testing out crazy ideas.

Like some of the ideas were just wacky technology, things we wanted to try to see if we could do -- augmented reality or something like that, just as a hypothetical example. So, they don't necessarily turn into games. It's not like they were bad; they were just a fun little thing.

These other things, like Costume Quest... The combat wasn't done or anything, but walking around the street looked a lot like the final version of a game, and we were like, "I can totally see that being a game."

How did you determine how long the schedule was going to be in the end for the game? Was it based on like the budget when you signed it, or just the scope of the game that you scoped out at the beginning of the project?

TS: Well, a while ago I just got it in my head that I had a really great time working with Monkey Island, and I would love to that again. I would love to do a game on that timeframe and spend... not that exact same amount of money, because it was about 250,000, I think, to make Monkey Island... but to do a smaller budget.

There were a lot of things that went into that exact number, you know, for both the budget and the team size. When we did Amnesia Fortnight, "What is splitting out company into teams of 10 to 15 people? How many teams does that give us?" That's a good working size for a team. "And how many games can we make?"

I think a year is a good amount of time to work on something. I feel like creatively that's enough time, where it's always fresh and fun for the entire time. And, you know, at the end of it, you can do another one. You wouldn't feel bad about it. Because it would have been hard to rev up to get creatively decided immediately about Brütal Legend 2. I think we would've felt like, "Okay. Let's take a month off."

But these games, just getting them done in a year, basically the honeymoon period is still on when you ship, creatively.

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