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Brutal Legend

UDON at SDCC photo

UDON to sell SDCC-only Street Fighter, Mega Man books

Exclusive Brutal Legend and World of Warcraft volumes will be available as well
Jun 24
// Tony Ponce
As it does every year, comic and videogame art book publisher UDON Entertainment will be attending San Diego Comic-Con with a bunch of event-exclusive goodies in tow. Technically, all these books will be available elsewhere i...

Humble Bundle photo
Humble Bundle

Humble Double Fine Bundle adds a bunch of prototype games

Play around with some of the studio's unreleased ideas
May 14
// Darren Nakamura
A week ago, the Humble Double Fine Bundle was announced. For some, it was easy to resist; though the games on the list range from decent to great, fans of the studio already owned most, if not all of the titles. Of course th...
Brutal Legend on PC photo
Brutal Legend on PC

PC Port Report: Brutal Legend

Be prepared to use a controller for Brutal Legend on PC
Feb 26
// Joshua Derocher
[Want to know how a developer handled the PC version of a multiplatform game? Check out the PC Port Report for the full scoop.] It's been about three and a half years since Brütal Legend came out on consoles and it has f...

The tricky tale of Brutal Legend

Feb 26 // Brett Makedonski
Double Fine hit its share of roadblocks in the development process. Brütal Legend's history is marred by publisher issues and nasty lawsuits. The title was originally picked up by Sierra Entertainment to be published. When Sierra was acquired by Activision, the company decided it wasn't interested in funding the game, and dropped it from the release schedule. Months later, EA signed a deal with Double Fine to publish Brütal Legend, at which point Activision asserted that it was still the publisher of record. Activision filed a lawsuit just months before the game's release, in an attempt to prevent the game from coming out, which spurred a counter-suit from Double Fine. Eventually, all sides reached an undisclosed agreement, but not before the matter seriously affected the psyches of the lead executives at Double Fine, including Tim Schafer. With the road to release clear, Double Fine and EA engaged in their marketing campaign. Most notably, a demo for Brütal Legend was made available three full weeks before the full game hit store shelves. The demo featured almost thirty minutes of gameplay, showcasing the game's third-person hack-and-slash elements and introducing players to the wonderfully twisted world before them. The only problem is that the demo really wasn't indicative of what the game was actually about. Brütal Legend is the From Dusk Till Dawn of videogames. While approximately the first one-third of the game emphasizes the action-adventure and open-world exploration elements, Brütal Legend eventually shifts to a stripped-down real-time strategy component that transforms the entire experience. Critics almost universally praised the game's setting, characters, and soundtrack, but seemed to be baffled by the sudden change in direction to an RTS -- especially given that this approach hadn't really been revealed beforehand. The end result was a core mechanic that was unfamiliar and mostly unapproachable to players looking for an action game, and scaled-down and downright odd to veterans of the real-time strategy genre. This damning combination produced a system that very few people were actually thrilled with -- one that struggled to resonate or find an audience. Despite Brütal Legend's RTS-induced shortcomings, it offered plenty of meaningful moments. Brütal Legend was crafted in such a way that could make even the most mundane of situations feel absolutely epic. Everything about the game definitely oozed metal, and the near-perfect soundtrack exponentially enhanced the experience. For the collecting type, nothing was better than summoning your vehicle and exploring the bowels of the sadistically gorgeous underworld while finding the hidden secrets generously smattered about the landscape. Although Brütal Legend had plenty to offer, Jack Black playing the role of Eddie Riggs is what really stole the show. Make no mistake about it, although his name was Eddie Riggs, Brütal Legend featured Jack Black playing Jack Black in a setting that felt like it was ripped straight out of Jack Black's mind. In hindsight, any other lead character may have resulted in a somewhat disastrous outcome, and a certainly more underwhelming product.  More than three years later, Brütal Legend never really did find its niche. It's not mentioned among Double Fine's best games, but it's certainly not bad. It seems to receive divided opinions from gamers, but no one's particularly passionate or adamant in their judgments. As of 2010, it was reported that a sequel would not happen, evidently because of poor sales figures. For a game that was built around maybe one of the most memorable premises of all time, it turned out sort of the opposite; it was kind of forgettable. And that's too bad. Brütal Legend deserves more. Hopefully with the PC release, the game will catch a second wind and find a passionate audience. Honestly, it probably won't happen, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed -- anything to possibly justify a sequel. I can't help but shake the feeling that if Double Fine was given a second chance at creating a game within this world, it would absolutely stick the landing this time around.
Brutal Legend photo
A retrospective look
This week, more than three years after its initial release, Brütal Legend, Double Fine's sophomoric effort, makes its way to PC. To the casual observer, Brütal Legend appears to be nothing more than an inn...

New releases photo
New releases

New releases: Brutal Legend makes PCs metal

Plus Dynasty Warriors 7: Empires, Etrian Odyssey IV, and Star Wars Pinball
Feb 25
// Fraser Brown
Monday has once again snuck up on us like an unfortunate rash you got from a really good weekend. Don't worry, there's cream for that! And much like a soothing medicinal balm, the new releases of the week are here to cure wh...
New Brutal Legend DLC? photo
New Brutal Legend DLC?

Tim Schafer might add content to Brutal Legend PC

Feb 25
// Chris Carter
Depending on how well Brütal Legend does on PC, we may be able to take part in some new adventures in the world of metal. Schafer explains what he would change, speaking to Rock, Paper Shotgun: "I mean, we have a wishlis...
Brutal Legend PC photo
Brutal Legend PC

Worth the wait? Brutal Legend heads to PC this month

Pre-purchase to save and get TF2 items
Feb 13
// Jordan Devore
Years later, Brutal Legend is finally going to be available on PC. It'll hit Steam on February 26, 2013 for $14.99 and is curiously being published by Double Fine. The landing page is already up, allowing would-be players to ...

All Double Fine games are on sale this week

It's Rocktober!
Oct 10
// Dale North
Double Fine says that October is a special month as it is both Rocktober (for Brutal Legend) and the month of Halloween, which relates to Costume Quest. These and all of their other games are on sale this week, with most disc...

The grand adventure: Making a comeback

Mar 30 // Fraser Brown
I was something of a late adopter when it came to digital distribution. I clung to my boxes and physical media for as long as the world let me. Everybody has a price, though. It turned out that my price was the complete Space Quest collection on Steam. Imagine my surprise when I noticed that it was far from the only example of a classic adventure game on the platform, indeed, there were plenty of new ones as well. Steam already had a massive user base and it offered a great space for promotion.  Telltale Games is no stranger to digital distribution; its games can be found on all manner of digital platforms, including those of the console variety. CEO Dan Connors explained, "Digital distribution allows independent publishers to reach the customers without taking on the costs associated with building and marketing a retail title." Telltale sells directly to their customers via their own site, as well. "We're going to be relaunching that soon, because we've learned a ton and we're really going to start making that a big part of our mission again, to get a community there and get people excited and offering them things they can't get in other places. It's a way you can test experiences, try new things, message however you want, position product however you want, provide information on products, and let people participate." Along with Steam, indie bundles have been a massive boon to smaller adventure game developers. The first three titles in the Blackwell series and Gemini Rue were both featured in indie bundles, last year. Those games were the work of Dave Gilbert and Josh Nuernberger, respectively. Dave told me, "It was like launching the games all over again. I think more people have played Blackwell in the [week since it featured on the bundle] than they have in the last five years. My inbox and forums have exploded since the Indie Royale launch, and the association also gave Blackwell the final push it needed for Steam to accept it. We’ve been trying to get the series on Steam for two years but they always said no. So we’re very grateful for that." One of the largest problems for adventure game developers in the years since the golden age of the genre was publishers' lack of faith in the products. When they were willing to invest in such a game, it was lazily marketed and rarely got the support it needed. With promotion and direct access to players, developers have been able to show that there's a healthy audience out there, which will hopefully lead to more publishers investing in these types of titles. Better tools have also made it easier for small developers to make a finished product. Adventure game studio (AGS) is a free development kit inspired by Sierra's interface for its adventure titles and it's been used to create a vast number of games, including many commercial ones. Most of Wadjet Eye's catalog used AGS. "The creation of third-party tools like AGS enable idiots like me to make these games, so more of them are being made every day." Although AGS games frequently favor a retro aesthetic, that's a design choice rather than limitations imposed by the software. Dave explained, "It’s a big misconception that AGS can only handle low-res games. It can actually go as high as you want, just most people prefer not to. So the decision to use AGS has nothing to do with aesthetic choice, but it has everything to do with money and time. Right out of the box, it has everything you need to make a point-and-click adventure game. Not having the experience or knowledge to make an engine of my own, it was the most logical choice." Dave's own games have a distinctly retro look and thematically they are similar to the much-beloved Gabriel Knight series. Playing the Blackwell series instantly transported me back in time to the days when Sierra were still blowing my mind with new adventures. It's a wonderful feeling. "Blackwell is very much me trying to do Gabriel Knight. The story of Joe Gould and Joseph Mitchell was my Jensenian attempt at merging real-life historical people with supernatural events." As Al Lowe reminded me, these smaller teams using AGS are a lot like the teams that developed adventure games in the '80s and early '90s. "I think that's great because it brings back the small team concept of one or two people working closely together on a project and actually putting their own personalities into it. I think that so much of what we see that's wrong with games today, that there is no key personality that comes through." While cost is obviously a concern, I do think that there's a tendency for adventure game fans and developers to be incredibly nostalgic and thus gravitate more towards retro design. I'm guilty of this, myself. My love of the genre classics means that I'm immediately more interested in titles which are inspired by those particular art styles or certain mechanics. In Telltale's case, Dan defends nostalgia, believing that older franchises still have much to offer. "Well I think that for us, with having Sam & Max as our flagship, we looked at the content as being so rich and relevant in the modern day... [It] needed to be brought up now. Having Sam & Max in 2004, and 2010 and all the times we've been able to use them as characters ... I mean they're just great characters and it's a great franchise. So for us introducing that content to a new audience was a huge thing." Expanding into new markets such as consoles and handhelds has also increased the userbase. Adventure games used to be pretty much a PC only affair, with the occasional shoddy console port. While PC is still the focal platform, titles like Phoenix Wright, Ghost Trick, and 999 made the DS a must for lovers of strange adventures and interactive stories. PSN and XBLA have also seen their share of adventure ports, most of Telltale's games can be found there, for instance. Fans of the genre can even get their adventure on with their phone or tablet. Machinarium on iOS is fantastic and might be even better than it was on PC, thanks to it becoming a more tactile experience. Dan seemed to be willing to embrace new platforms and technology. "It can bring more imagination to how you interact with the characters in the world and how you experience the story." He acknowledges the risk of doing that when it comes to traditionalist fans, though. "It moves away from traditional stuff and is a bit risky. So you have to be pure adventure game or you're in this vanguard story game type of place." When I recall playing most of my favorite adventure games, I remember pouring countless hours into them. Getting stuck on a puzzle meant that I was going to be doing a lot of trial-and-error experimentation, exploring loads of areas, doing a lot of pixel hunting and then finally leaving the computer to go and contemplate it elsewhere -- maybe in a dojo or on top of a mountain. Failing that, I'd pester my friends. Now there's a strong temptation to just go online and find a walkthrough, even if you've only just been stuck for a couple of minutes. It can ruin the pacing of the game and rob the player of their satisfaction at being able to think of a solution. In an effort to keep gamers immersed, or at the very least to stop them alt-tabing every time they get stumped, many modern adventures contain an in game hint system or simply less taxing puzzles. This can certainly frustrate old fashioned players, like myself, but one cannot deny it has lowered the bar for entry and possibly increased the genre's fanbase. Dave doesn't think this is really anything new, however. "You often hear that gamers are less patient these days. I’m not sure if that's true. Back in the '80s, I would spend several months playing the latest Infocom game and never think of ordering the hint book unless I was desperate. But then I got the game Enchanter, which mysteriously shipped with the hint book. I finished that game in less than a week. If I got stuck for maybe ten minutes I'd reach for the hint book, because it was so accessible. The only thing that has changed since those days is that we all have instant access to that hint book via Google. There's no reason to force hard puzzles on people, because everyone can solve them. So the trend has moved away from difficult puzzles and more towards making the experience of playing an adventure game more enjoyable. It's a very hard balance to strike." The importance of story in adventure games cannot be overstated. It's what drives the exploration forward and it's the motivation for completing the puzzles. One of the positive aspects on these titles not relying merely on head-scratchers is that there's even more effort put into the narrative. Josh Nuernberger's Gemini Rue contains one of my favorite stories in the genre of late. It's a tale of loss and identity set in a bleak neo-noir future. Even though it's an understated adventure built using AGS, it's gained a lot of attention and you'd be crazy for not checking it out.  Josh advocates the importance of telling the story through gameplay. "What I'd really like to see is games that make these complex stories your experience in the game -- e.g. you are hunted by a mysterious oppressor, or you must face your alternate personality in physical form. Many games today are unfortunately sequences of simplified gameplay strung together by cut-scenes that provide context for your actions (see many first or third-person-shooters). Great games tell stories through their gameplay -- you understand the world and the story by the way you interact with them as a player." Gemini Rue also has several action sequences: cover-based gun fights. "Although in adventure games you can't always go the route of totally removing all cut-scenes, you can at least integrate other aspects of gameplay so they don't just turn into quick time events. I knew when incorporating combat I wanted it to be meaningful and to work on its own as a mechanic. The ultimate goal is to give players a unique experience and a quick time event doesn't really capture a gunfight in the same way that a developed combat system does." I personally think that the integration of interesting mechanics is something the adventure genre desperately needed to continue expanding its audience and I think we're starting to see a lot more of that. A great example of a game that does this is Double Fine's Stacking. It was built around the delightful premise of controlling a matryoshka doll and jumping inside larger ones to gain their abilities and overcome puzzles and obstacles. It was incredibly inventive and its unique gameplay mechanic really made it stand out. Double Fine seems to have had more success with the downloadable market than it did with Psychonauts or Brutal Legend. Their use of Kickstarter to fund their latest project seems to have paid off, as well, with fans almost throwing money at the company. It will be interesting to see the long-term impact of Kickstarter on independent developers as more start to use it to secure funding. Along with shorter downloadable titles like Stacking, episodic adventures have become increasingly common in recent years. It has always struck me as a perfect fit for the genre. Most classic adventure games can be completed rather quickly if you know the solutions to the puzzles. The games' lengths were augmented by the challenge of solving the puzzles yourself. It also meant that each episode could fund the next one, making it financially more viable. It's far from an automatic route to success, however, according to Dave Gilbert. The Blackwell series has been going since 2006 and contains four games, but not all episodic series are so fortunate. "The most obvious thing that can go wrong is that the game flops. What then? Do you forge on ahead and finish the series, knowing that the first one didn’t do well? If you do, then you run a much greater risk of the sequel doing just as badly. If you don’t, then you lose a lot of faith and goodwill and that is hard to get back." Episodic games require a big investment from players as well as developers. Dave continues: "The main problem with episodic games is that isn’t a lot of faith in the format yet. Only Telltale has managed to pull it off successfully and gained the trust of the consumers. While opinions on their games vary, nobody doubts they will finish what they start. By this point, the gaming public probably has a bit more faith in my ability to deliver than most, but I still get a lot of emails from people saying they don't want to get invested in Blackwell not knowing if it will ever be finished. I can totally understand that." It's not just independent developers and publishers working to bring adventure games to a new audience, though. Quantic Dream's Heavy Rain, an interactive thriller that reminded me a lot of FMV titles from the '90s, made some big waves a couple of years ago. While it enjoyed both commercial and critical success, it also got criticized for being more movie than videogame. Our own Jim Sterling is far from a fan. However, its success may lead more publishers to take risks on games with such a strong focus on story. The now-defunct Team Bondi made quite the impression last year with their investigative adventure (and driving simulator,) L.A. Noire. It made an even bigger impression with its implosion, some might say. The game itself, if not the treatment of the people that worked on it, still deserves praise, however. Before the genre started to have problems, it was ahead of the curve when it came to animation, so it's good to see so much effort being put into making believable game worlds and characters again. If you'd asked me, back in 2005, if I ever thought big studios would be designing AAA adventure games again, I would have laughed. Now it doesn't seem nearly as absurd. I'm not going to be dramatic and suggest that we're seeing an adventure game renaissance. I wish I could, but it's simply not true. We're definitely seeing it making something of a comeback, though. There's a lot more faith in them, both from publishers and players and that's gone a long way to start bringing them back into the mainstream. The fact that the market is growing at all is a massive step forward and looking back just five or six years, we can see how far the genre has come. There are a lot of talented developers out there bringing us more and more experiences to enjoy. It might not be a renaissance yet, but that doesn't mean it won't happen.

Check out the first part of the feature, here! The last few years have been an interesting time for the adventure game genre. After a decade of disappointment, fans finally started to see more and more titles appear and most ...


Tim Schafer wants to make games for Nintendo consoles

Nov 28
// Jonathan Holmes
I've always been baffled by the fact that no Tim Schafer games have ever made it to a Nintendo console (that I know of anyway). The man's irreverent sense of humor, general rejection of realistic visuals, and a focus on absur...

Bobby Kotick destroys Schafer for calling him a prick

Sep 27
// Jim Sterling
A while ago, Brütal Legend developer Tim Schafer called Activision CEO Bobby Kotick a prick, following the former publishers attempts to block Electronic Arts from releasing his game. Today, the flame-maned dem...

Double Fine taking gamers on a Costume Quest? (Update)

Aug 10
// Nick Chester
[Update: Well that didn't take long. The game's been announced -- it's a downloadable title being published by THQ. It'll hit Xbox LIVE Arcade and PlayStation Network in late October. More details here.] It’s already be...

There will be no Brutal Legend 2

Jul 16
// Jim Sterling
Did you think Brutal Legend was a promising, if flawed, game that could have ironed out its problems in a sequel? Well if so, you've been DENIED! Double Fine has confirmed what many of us suspected, that Brutal Legend 2 would...

Tim Schafer to invade Europe, talk at Develop

Apr 28
// Nick Chester
Double Fine's Tim Schafer's a funny guy. Great talker. Talented industry veteran. Makes some pretty great, clever games. That's why he'll be giving a game design talk at this year's Develop conference in Brighton. Makes sense...

A charming skull-laden kickass world: The art of Brutal Legend

Apr 09 // Andrew Kauz
Imagine this: Tim Schafer walks up to you and asks you to make a videogame world out of every metal album cover in existence. I mean, good lord, what do you even do with that? "It was a bitch," Lee told me. "We had years of concept art and a ton of really awesome ideas that all of the members of the team had come up with. Way more than could fit in one game. Or maybe three. Trying to integrate that into a cohesive experience with some sense of progression and achievement was really tricky. "I think what worked for us is that we had largely divided the characters of the game into several 'factions': the human 'Ironheade' faction lead by Eddie Riggs, General Lionwhyte’s glam-rocking sell-outs, Ophelia’s Goth influenced 'Drowning Doom', and the demonic race of the 'Tainted Coil'. Each of these groups represented some side of the metal experience for us -- and they all had their own look. "We pretty much organized the world around these groups -- so various areas of the world reflected their inhabitants. As the player progresses through the game, the world around them changes as they encounter and become involved with these different groups. "Layered underneath all of this was the backstory. That meant incorporating remnants of the ancient race of Titans throughout the world. This is the race that helped forge the world, and allowed us to create some really cool "album cover vista views" with giant weapons and skulls embedded into the terrain." With so much to create and integrate, there must be, I don't know, one or two bits of art that have to be drawn up, right? I asked just how much art is created for a game like Brutal Legend. "A metric ass ton," Lee responded. "More than any other studio that I’ve worked at, Double Fine provides a lot of time for “exploration and inspirational” concept art up front in a game’s development. But the concept art doesn’t stop there. Once a game is actually in full production, there is still a lot of “production designs”, “model sheets” and “draw-overs” that are generated to help guide the art team." And the amount of environmental design changes? "Two metric ass tons. Although we have a process, with defined milestones, for making a “level” once we’re in production, games evolve pretty organically. We employ agile development when making our games–so every two to four weeks the entire company is always looking at the game and thinking about how well some of the pieces are working together. One of the things that makes big games difficult is that it’s hard to see how all of the elements are fitting together until relatively late in development. But it is how well the game harmonizes with itself that makes for good art design. "Something that felt great earlier might need some lovin’ later in development because other parts of the game have changed. With environments, for example, it’s a close connection between the space design and the actual moment to moment gameplay that makes the world really rich. Gameplay is a very iterative process, so finding ways to account for that in the visual design is key. It’s an imperfect process, filled with both successes and failures, but it’s something we try and do well at Double Fine." The scale of some of these changes can be rather startling, and there was no lack of this in Brutal Legend. "Early in the development of Brutal Legend’s world, we made everything giant. We wanted an epic, crazy metal world so everything was made immense. In our early skirmish mode (multiplayer), where the player can fly, this worked out great. However, in the majority of the single player game, which was developed later, the player is on the ground -- either chopping wildlife with his axe or driving his car through a throng of druids. While on the ground, it felt like the player was “staring at the ankles of the world”. The immense world was simply too large to be appreciated from that angle. "Because of that we re-thought the world a bit, and added more detail of different scales to the game, catering specifically to what Eddie was going to be doing in that space. If it was an “on-foot” mission, the space was smaller and the detail more human-scale. If it was an “open world” driving space, we mixed in a variety of different sized detail, and organized the space around specific “album cover vista views” to still capture the epic heavy metal feel that we wanted." As I hinted at before, art design, in many cases, feels dull and impersonal. Shouldn't an artist inject personality into videogame art? "I think personality is one of the focuses at Double Fine -- not just in the art design, but in the story, the characters, and the gameplay. There are other studios out there who focus on creating slick “roller coaster, Hollywood” game experiences, but I think Double Fine really excels at instilling a sense of personality. Sounds easy, right? If only it were. There's a reason that so many games look similar, and Lee had some thoughts on why personality was so evident in Brutal Legend. "I think giving a game a strong sense of personality starts at the top with strong creative direction; that creative direction should influence and be incorporated into all aspects of the game. From a visual standpoint, we thought about the whole world as a living breathing METAL world, which meant incorporating many of elements of heavy metal as natural elements in the world. So the sky is metal, t shirts are the bark that sloughs off of trees, and beer is a natural resource that trickles in streams from sacred trees." Wait, you mean all members of a development team should inform and support one another? Yeah, it sounds obvious, but a large number of games seem to stray from this path. To make a game a success, Lee thinks a little cooperation can go a long way. "More than ever," Lee said. "I think the best game experiences are when all aspects of game production are really in tune with each other. The best teams approach the game as creative partners, blending together their divergent backgrounds and perspectives to make something that is better than a single discipline could. "So, yeah, all of the aspects affect each other whether you want them to or not. Playing the game a lot in development and thinking about how those elements can be brought closer together, even in small ways, is one of those things that is both satisfying to a developer and a player. "Tim is a huge creative presence at the studio, and the backstory he wrote and his tastes had a huge impact on the art. Tim’s a very visual guy, too, and thinks a lot about context and what story the art and the gameplay is communicating to the player." Ah, yes, Tim Schafer. The man with the plan. Let's be honest: he's the kind of boss that we all wish we could work for. And I just had to know: what sort of craziness suggested by Tim actually ended up in the game? "When you work with Tim Schafer, there are a lot of jokes and lot of crazy ideas that end up the game. In fact it’s so common place, I’m not sure I can come up with a great example. I do remember that we were having trouble coming up with the design for the “Bound Serpents”. These were elements that we could put all over the world that the player could do a guitar solo on and get some rewards for exploring the open world. The problem was that everything we came up with involved the player doing something that was destructive, making the world look more desperate, or downtrodden. Tim wanted the player’s actions to the make the world better in some way (“to create beauty simply by rocking”). "I came up with the idea that there were ancient statues that the Tainted Coil demons had defaced. The visual design for the Tainted Coil was an unusual combination of the paintings of 16th century artist Hieronymus Bosch and the Bondage/S&M scene. Taking this into account, we made the statues bound with leather studded straps and placed a red ball gag put in the mouths of the serpents. The player would play a pyro solo on his guitar, which would free the statue from its straps, causing it to spread its wings in freedom and the bright red gag ball would fly off and roll around the world like a ball. "I was always trying to get as many gag balls as I could in the game; it’s been a career goal of mine." Can anyone think of a more noble career goal? Didn't think so. Indeed, inspiration seemed to flow from every stream in that game, but what exactly was it that the game's inspiration was founded on? After all, as we saw before, there's plenty of opportunity to fill the game to bursting with every possible inspiration. "Last year," Lee said, "I gave a speech at GDC on the art direction of Brutal Legend. For that speech, I broke down the inspiration of Brutal Legend into four main elements: Heavy metal, fantasy artist Frank Frazetta, Hot Rods, and Tim Schafer. It was the combination of these elements that gave us our unique feel. "Our take on a heavy metal game was a charming skull-laden kick ass world filled with painterly skies and giant hot rods. I think other people would’ve approached a heavy metal world game very differently. Lee felt that great art design in general, across all games, is tied directly to inspiration. "Something I often say is to not imitate your inspirations, but make them your own. Being influenced by others’ work is a good thing, but if you don’t bring something of yourself to it, you’re in danger of your game not having its own visual identity. Of course, there's no simple answer to the question "What makes awesome art design." There's quite a bit to consider, and there's quite a bit that you might not have thought about yourself. "I think excellent art design is also about unity and not uniformity. Some dissonance in art design is good. It’s all too easy to design the art of a game in a really obvious, cookie cutter fashion. Making choices like the “good guys” are green and all of the “bad guys” are red. It sounds silly, but this type of thing happens a lot in games, especially when, from a gameplay point of view, there are valid reasons for that type of approach. But I think when something has more depth and subtly, you get a better total game experience. "I think it’s a tricky combination of left and right brained thinking. Trying to let your imagination go to new places and thinking about last few thousand years of art as inspiration, but then adapting all of that to work with the medium of video games. "But that still isn’t enough. You have to help find a way to make it happen. You need to communicate ideas to a team, and work with a whole group of people of very different backgrounds to make something that somehow feels cohesive and original." Without much of a personal background in art, art design, or really anything beyond three-armed stick figures, I also wanted to know just how many different facets of art design there were to consider in the creation of a videogame. "Art design isn’t just about a drawing on paper. You really have to know your medium, and be willing to work closely with some very smart and technical people to understand what the hardware can do. You need to find what elements of your art design work best on screen, at your target resolution, and with your particular game engine. "What’s working best needs to be embraced and expanded and maybe other elements need to be re thought or redesigned. For example, in Brutal Legend, one of the things that always felt great was the skies. Even early in development, they had a great painterly, overly dramatic quality that made the whole game feel more “metal”. At the same time, the characters’ surfaces felt flat and uninteresting. Because the skies were working so well, we pushed the characters’ surfaces to feel more believable and respond better to what was going on in the sky. This decision helped define the sky and lighting as one of the central parts of the game’s final look." Well, from where I'm sitting, Double Fine has always gotten art design right. Psychonauts, of course, did just about everything right, and Brutal Legend kept up that tradition for the HD crowd, and in style. So, what's next? Ha, as if I was going to get an answer to that. "Just keep an eye on Double Fine. We’ve got some really cool top secret stuff going on right now that I can’t wait for people to see." Let the speculation begin. Personally, I'm pulling for Goggalor vs. Eddie Riggs in Space, but perhaps that's just me. And, hey, while you're here, don't forget to check out some awesome exclusive artwork from the game in the gallery below. For more art from Lee, check out his personal art blog.

It has been said so many times that it now borders upon a meaningless cliché, but the fact remains: a lot of games look the same. I'm not going to lament the propagation of brown color palettes, generic RPG characte...


Brutal Legend will save you from a crappy Christmas

Dec 23
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
For those of you worried you'll be getting a sh*tty Christmas gift this week because you've been a naughty little bastard, then fear not! EA and Brutal Legend are hosting a contest where they want you to send in pictures of t...

Brutal Legend DLC 'Hammer of Infinite Fate' announced

Dec 09
// Brad Nicholson
A second piece of Brutal Legend DLC is slated to hit PSN and Xbox LIVE soon -- as in December 17th, soon. Dubbed “Hammer of Infinite Fate,” the content adds several new Eddie Riggs outfits, a few item upgrades, an...

Double Fine would like to rock more Brutal Legend DLC

Dec 04
// Nick Chester
Can't get enough Brutal Legend? That's good, because Double Fine may not be done with it just yet.  In a recent post-game-release chat with GamePro, Double Fine's Tim Schafer reveals that the developer is keen on not onl...

These Brutal Legend shirts are f**king metal

Nov 11
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Double Fine and Mishka NYC teamed up to produce two of the most metal f**king shirts you have ever seen in your life. The Headbanger graphic was created by James Callahan and "brings a scene of pure metal aggression to life, ...

Tim Schafer walks us through the Brutal Legend DLC

Nov 03
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
The new Brutal Legend DLC, "Tears of the Hextadon", is out this week and is bringing two new maps to multiplayer. To prepare players for the new content, Double Fine's Tim Schafer hosted a multiplayer match on the Death's Fj...

Eddie Riggs roadies for Dethklok, makes good sandwiches

Oct 29
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
When Eddie Riggs isn't busy saving an alternate dimension from pure evil, he's helping out the most metal band ever, Dethklok. He gets the band women, saves them from a demon and even cuts the crust off their peanut butter an...

Building the Brutal Legend Bus: The end [photoblog]

Oct 27
// TheBigFeel
[Editor's note: TheBigFeel recapped his entire Brutal Legend soap box car that got him first prize at the Red Bull derby -- CTZ] So we built the Tour of Destruction from Brutal Legend, won a race, set a speed record, and then...

Brutal Legend DLC incoming: 'Tears of Hextadon' announced

Oct 27
// Brad Nicholson
More is coming to Brutal Legend in Rock-November. Publisher Electronic Arts and developer Double Fine have just announced a downloadable map pack dubbed “Tears of the Hextadon.” The pack adds two additional maps -...

Watch out ladies, this Brutal Legend video is for you

Oct 19
// Brad Nicholson
EA and Double Fine’s Brutal Legend is available in stores, but that doesn’t mean the marketing for the pseudo-RTS/open world action game is toast. In fact, there’s still one demographic -- a veritable gold ...

Jack Black talks Brutal Legend on Jimmy Kimmel Show

Oct 15
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
For the past couple of weeks, Jack Black has been going around dressed up as Eddie Riggs from Brutal Legend promoting the game at various venues. His latest appearance as the roadie hero took him on The Jimmy Kimmel Show last...

Review: Brutal Legend

Oct 13 // Nick Chester
Brütal Legend (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed])Developer: Double FinePublisher: Electronic ArtsReleased: Rocktober 13, 2009MSRP: $59.99If you're a fan of videogames and heavy metal culture, Double Fine's Brütal Legend should be the greatest game that has ever been made. Hatched from the creative and (sometimes) twisted minds of Tim Schafer and company -- one of the gaming industry's most lauded designers -- Brütal Legend is truly the over-the-top world of heavy metal brought to life. It's an homage that pays respect to the genre -- its music, imagery, and artists -- while at the same time having a laugh at some of its most ludicrous tenets. In that respect, the world as brought to life in Brütal Legend is brilliant, and sometimes awe-inspiring.Schafer has gone on record as saying the goal with Brütal Legend was to take every scene, every single still image you could possibly get from the title, and use it as the cover for a heavy metal album. From an art standpoint, Brütal Legend delivers on that promise, offering a land littered with skulls, architecture that looks strapped in bondage, and skies seemingly painted in the blood of demons. The world as a whole looks like a watercolor work, like an absurd Boris Vallejo painting brought to life, with Double Fine interpreting the words and imagery of heavy metal music to influence its aethestic. For those familiar with metal culture, the world will feel both unexpectedly alien and immediately recognizable; for those not in the know, the game will be like a subliminal heavy metal master class.As expected, this extends to the game's writing, which is, unsurprisingly, Brütal Legend's biggest strength. The game follows modern-day roadie Eddie Riggs as he gets sent "back in time" to a world where heavy metal (or at least the spirit of it) ruled the land. Tasked with using his roadie skills of organization to lead an uprising of metalheads to overthrow the oppressive Doviculus, Eddie ends up becoming a key player in a war that's been brewing for centuries. Brütal Legend has enough snappy dialogue and plot twists to keep it captivating from beginning to end, with a cast of characters that are surprisingly well thought out, despite being based on well-known cliches.Fans of Jack Black might be disappointed to hear that his delivery as the voice of Riggs isn't typical of the actor's over-the-top rock-n'-roll comedy persona. His more restrained performance is good for the game, however, and Riggs comes across not only as tolerable, but likeable. Performances by the rest of the cast, including everyone from Tim Curry to Lita Ford, are mostly solid across the board. Hell, Ozzy Osbourne even managed to deliver understandable dialogue as an in-game merchant. The connection to the story and the characters does suffer due to a few of the game's technical hiccups. For instance, in-game dialogue is sometimes delivered with the wrong timing -- an environmental cue will trigger a conversation too early or too late, for example -- which can be a bit jarring and confusing. Even some of the game's odd editing, including sloppy transitions from in-game action to cut-scenes, can interrupt the flow of the narrative. Simply put, the impressive efforts in writing simply don't translate as well as they could have with a bit more polish.As far as the gameplay is concerned, Brütal Legend is a mish-mash of gaming styles and genres. While it's an interesting approach to design, the problem here is that not a single one of these elements is as satisfying or as fleshed-out as it should be. If you've played the demo, you're already familiar with the game's third-person action mechanics. Eddie can swing his big heavy metal axe to dismember, slice, or decapitate his foes. Alternately, he can use a guitar for attacks, including playing a button-pressing mini-game to perform one of the most amazing attacks you'll see in any game -- the "Face Melter." Aptly named, the attack will literally melt the faces of your enemies. Yes, it's as awesome as it sounds.But for all of that, the third-person combat can also be repetitive and sloppy. With the block button mapped to the out-of-the-way "B" button, we rarely used it; instead we'd quickly hit "B" plus the analog stick while locked on an enemy to dodge attacks. Holding down the "B" button to block left us without a good way to attack, and therefore we mostly ignored it.As far as the lock-on is concerned, it's not exactly the most intelligent setup. Combat can sometimes get hectic, with Eddie and his army (more on that in a bit) taking on huge groups of baddies at once. Attempts to lock on to an enemy directly ahead of you, but a bit off in the distance, sometimes will cause you to lock on to a closer enemy to your left or right... one that's already engaged in combat. All the while, of course, that enemy off in the distance is repeatedly pounding you with some kind of ranged attack. It's fortunate that in big battles such as these, there's little reason to target enemies -- simple button mashing generally does the trick. While you can upgrade your abilities as you progress through the game, that button mashing feeling never truly goes away.Brütal Legend isn't necessarily all about its one-versus-all combat, though. It's also an open-world game that Eddie can navigate in the Deuce, a heavy metal hot rod nicknamed the "Druid Plow." The Deuce can be summoned nearly anywhere in the world and at any time by simply playing a heavy metal riff, and you'll be doing this often, as the game's story objectives and side missions are scattered all over the game's world. Here's where the problem comes in -- navigating the world is a bit of a bitch. While you can can access a map by pressing select, the game's clean "we don't need no damned HUD" design means there's no constant mini-map on your screen. While it's great that developers are looking for ways to immerse players in the game experience, doing that at the expense of having to pause the game to see a map every 30 seconds is unacceptable. Yes, you can set a beacon/waypoint on the map, which you can then follow to your destination, the turn signal of Eddie's car helping with general navigation. Regardless, there are times when you simply won't be able to see the beacon (if it's not in your line of sight, for instance), or the turn signals are giving seemingly odd direction advice... so it's back to the map screen, slowing down the action.As for what you'll be doing in this open world, it's a mixture of missions that will advance the story and side quests that can earn you credits for various upgrades for Eddie and his metal army. The game's side missions are generally very basic, and nothing we haven't seen before in open-world games -- things like fending off an enemy attack or point-to-point races, for instance. As for the story missions, while some of them are basic "kill the enemy" or escort missions, it's only a few hours into the game that Brütal Legend reveals its hand and makes a surprise turn as a real-time strategy game.You read that right: a huge part of Brütal Legend -- including most of the missions that will let you advance in the story, and those that serve as boss battles -- is a real-time strategy element that mixes the basic concepts of standard RTS games with squad-based console control mechanics from titles like Rainbow Six. It's unfortunate that this is such a significant portion of Brütal Legend's core gameplay, because quite frankly, it's the most tedious, least fun, and most broken part of the game. These instanced RTS battles generally have two factions battling for fan geysers to build "mech booths" on, which then provide you with resources to spend on units that you'll use to destroy your opponent's rock stage (or in at least one instance, the door to a fortress) or protect your own.While it's clever of Double Fine to incorporate such a disparate and unexpected style of gameplay into Brütal Legend, it simply doesn't work on so many levels, and it kills the overall experience. Imagine, if you will, playing a real-time strategy game with no mini-map to keep track of troops; instead you're given the ability to oversee only part of the battlefield by flying up and hovering above the action. The only way to order your troops is by way of clunky point-and-click beacons, and stop/go/attack commands that (if you're lucky) your troops will only listen to half of the time. Frustrating doesn't begin to describe these experiences, forced throughout Brütal Legend.Some of the battles can go on for upwards of one hour, with you fighting off hordes of enemies with your own troops, the back-and-forth struggle more repetitive and boring than fun. With zero checkpoints in the battles, it's possible to fail (or in many cases, you might simply turn off the console in frustration) 30 or 40 minutes in, and then get sent back to the start to do it all again. Simply put, these RTS sections are a miserable addition to a game that features otherwise inoffensive (if not somewhat obvious) gameplay. Being forced to participate in a number of these battles, including most of the major boss battles, was simply painful. With each RTS battle presented, we would groan, wishing at the most that Double Fine would have been able to refine this console RTS experience to make it more playable, and at the least, enjoyable. (Full disclosure: Towards the end of the game's story, we were forced to switch to the game's easiest mode, "Gentle," just so we could complete a particularly frustrating battle to "get it over with.")As it turns out, these RTS sections are simply a tutorial for the game's online multiplayer, which mirrors these instanced sections in just about every way. The multiplayer mode does offer a bit more variety in that it lets you choose from three of the game's factions: Ironheade, Drowning Doom, and Tainted Coil. Each has its own look and unit types, as well as its own leader, which is directly controlled by the player. However, when it comes down to it, each is balanced evenly in terms of strenghts and weaknesses. The online mode also offers four-on-four battles. Having three other teammates admittedly makes it a bit easier to manage troops than in the single-player, and it opens the game up to eke out a bit of fun. But considering the multiplayer is built around what is easily the one gameplay style that ultimately destroys the single-player experience, it's hard to imagine this mode will have legs in the long run.Again, Brütal Legend should be one of the greatest video games ever made; the key word here is "should." It's with a heavy heart that, after almost 15 hours of play (including multiplayer and single-player side quests), we have to report that it simply doesn't deliver the way we wanted it to. For fans of metal, there are enough inside jokes and nods here to make you smile, and even casual observers of the culture will find something to hold their attention. But ultimately, the game disappoints, with some "been there, done that" gameplay mixed with some potentially interesting concepts that either fall flat, or sometimes feel like a chore.Is Brütal Legend brutal? Definitely. Is it metal? The world, its inhabitants, and the 100-plus metal tracks that nearly tear out your speakers as you play are proof enough of that. But unfortunately, those things didn't quite add up to an amazing game, instead leaving us with a title that could have been so much more. Score: 6 -- Alright (6s may be slightly above average or simply inoffensive. Fans of the genre should enjoy them a bit, but a fair few will be left unfulfilled.)

Despite having only developed one game prior, there were a lot of expectations for Double Fine Productions' follow-up, Brütal Legend. With founder Tim Schafer behind the wheel, this heavy metal world translated to videog...


Brutal Legend is out today, we've got stuff to give away

Oct 13
// Jim Sterling
Electronic Arts has not sent me a copy of Brütal Legend, but would still like me to help promote their game for them. Not sure how that works but Hell, I've already agreed and we've got two sweet limited edition 17"...

Rock Band DLC: Brutal Legend pack, Satriani, and more

Oct 09
// Nick Chester
If you were wondering what you'd be doing until the Queen 10-pack for Rock Band dropped in two weeks, here's your answer -- rocking the f*ck out.  Next week brings the "Brutal Legend Pack," which features ...

Tim Schafer talks Brutal Legend on Late Night

Oct 04 // Matthew Razak

I don't watch Late Night at all, so far be it from me to pass judgment on the quality of the show, but if this is how Fallon runs all his interviews it has to be the most awkward show in the world. When Tim Schafer is on your...


Brutal Legend video explains multiplayer, talks rock

Oct 02
// Brad Nicholson
Raucous rock music does more than annoy parents in Brutal Legend. Harnessing the power of metal is as vital to the game’s lifeblood as an oxygen tank is to a scuba diver’s lungs. That is to say, without rock n&rsq...

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