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Psychonauts

Double Fine photo
Double Fine

Double Fine regains rights to Costume Quest and Stacking


Plans re-release of titles, including Psychonauts, sometime next year
Nov 26
// Alessandro Fillari
In a recent press release from the San Francisco developer Double Fine, we have learned that the recent owners of the titles Costume Quest and Stacking, Nordic Games, have handed the rights back to the creators. Previously ow...
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Psychonauts, Brutal Legend soundtracks now on Bandcamp


Plus Dropchord, The Cave, and Middle Manager of Justice
Aug 01
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Double Fine has uploaded six game soundtracks to their Bandcamp page. They're all available for purchase, and you can stream them too. Middle Manager of Justice soundtrack is $2.99, Psychonauts: Original Cinematic Score is $7.99, Psychonauts: Original Soundtrack is $7.99, The Cave: Original Soundtrack is $7.99, Brutal Legend Original Soundtrack is $9.99, and the Dropchord soundtrack is $9.99.
Bit.Trip Runner2 photo
Bit.Trip Runner2

Cave Story and Psychonauts crossover coming to Runner2


Bit.Trip spin-off scores some hot guest stars
Jul 08
// Jonathan Holmes
Gaijin Games have announced a game-changing load of DLC for their latest masterpiece Bit.Trip Presents: Runner2 Future Legend of Rhythm Alien. Seven "well-loved" videogame characters will make their way into the game this Th...
Psychonauts photo
Psychonauts

Feel doubly fine with Adam WarRock's Psychonauts single


Download "Basic Braining" for free exclusively on Destructoid
Jun 07
// Tony Ponce
Asian sensation Adam WarRock is a pretty chill dude. Our own Tara Long of course loves him to pieces, but it was I who managed to score a brotastic fist bump at last year's Nerdapalooza in Orlando. He's so skilled, he can tu...
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...
Psychonauts 2 photo
Psychonauts 2

Notch backs away from funding Psychonauts 2


Potential sequel still in limbo, though not all hope is lost
Feb 05
// Jordan Devore
The mere possibility of Minecraft creator Notch funding the development of a creatively rewarding yet financially risky game like Psychonauts 2 was wonderful to see play out online, even if the odds were against such an arran...
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Humble Bundle V might be the best yet [Updated]


May 31
// Alasdair Duncan
[Update: Humble Indie Bundle V has just broken the $1 million mark in just over 5 hours.] Whilst I can appreciate that the proliferation of indie game bundles might not be a good thing, everyone needs to check out the new Hum...

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.
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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 ...

The grand adventure: Adventure games through the ages

Mar 29 // Fraser Brown
The 80s through the mid-90s have been called the golden age of adventure gaming -- it's easy to see why this period gained such a moniker. It's hard to think about the genre without taking note of Monkey Island, Space Quest, Leisure Suit Larry, or Indiana Jones, just to name a few. The adventure giants, LucasArts and Sierra Online, offered us an absurd number of challenging, witty, and frequently hilarious games as well as gripping mysteries and psychological horrors, in which we could immerse ourselves for far too many hours. Although I've never been one to play a single genre exclusively, back then, I could have probably just played these games and been more than content. Dan Connors, CEO of Telltale Games -- a success story I'll be looking at in our forthcoming second half -- emphasized how important these titles remain today and how dissatisfied gamers still look to them as the high points of the medium. "From a creativity standpoint, it was a golden age then of just all this young, super talented, super brilliant people who had all this time to invest in creating these amazing characters that are totally perfect for the space, like Guybrush.... [It's] so deeply ingrained in the gaming culture and the gaming ennui." A significant portion of my youth was swallowed up due to the creations and contributions of Al Lowe. While at Sierra Online, he worked on such classics as Kings Quest and Police Quest, but he's best known as the creator of Leisure Suit Larry, a series chronicling the misadventures of one Larry Laffer, a sleazy, horny, double entendre-loving wannabe womanizer. Adventure games were still in their infancy; it was a time of experimentation and risk taking. "I remember going to a video store with Ken [Roberts, co-founder of Sierra Online]," Al reminisced, "We walked down the aisles and looked at all the headings above the shelves, and he said, 'Why are there no mystery games? Why are there no western games?' And so that was one of the things he tried to do, to get Roberta [Williams, creator of Kings Quest and Phantasmagoria and co-founder of Sierra Online] to do a mystery product and Jim [Walls, creator of Police Quest] to do a police product and me to do a western game [the hilarious Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist]." Al calls this the baseball strategy -- Ken would look at what was missing from the game space and he'd try to fill it, like hitting a ball to where there are no fielders. It certainly served Sierra well, as their products filled many niches. Most of these games were written and developed by people who had to teach themselves. There certainly were none of the classes, courses, or workshops that we have now, and there wasn't much in the way of a previous generation to learn from, either. "You have to understand, when I started, there were no computer classes available to me. This sounds impossible to anyone growing up in the 80s, but when I started in 77, the only courses available were in COBOL and Fortran; BASIC was just a joke. I learned to program in BASIC merely by reading books, but Ken said my BASIC code wasn't good enough and I'd have to learn assembly language, so I bought a bunch of books... I couldn't take a class, there weren't any." That meant there were a lot of design choices that would seem like shortcuts or attempts to make the game artificially longer today, but it was that trial-and-error approach that allowed them to perfect the genre. Being about the same age as the Leisure Suit Larry franchise, I'm young enough that my first foray into the series -- and into adventure games in general -- occurred right as the art, animation, and mechanics started to evolve into something more recognizable to the modern player. Simple sprite art was on the way out, and gorgeous hand-drawn art started to take center stage. FMV titles like Phantasmagoria and the Tex Murphy series gave players a whole new perspective to enjoy; while they didn't age particularly well, back in the 90s, they made me feel like I was interacting with the real world and not just with a videogame. Although the FPS genre is often cited as the catalyst for the technological leaps in gaming, adventure games advanced the medium by leaps and bounds long before then, especially in terms of how we interacted with the environments. I still have a soft spot for parsing, typing in commands, and hoping for the best, or at the very least, discovering an Easter egg or hidden joke. But that was eventually dropped for more convenient interfaces which involved more clicking and a lot less typing. That's not to say that gamers didn't develop a case of rose-tinted glasses. Even back then, people wanted to return to the old ways. In Larry 7, parsing was actually included as an alternative feature, but it never took off. "The problem was," Al explained, "in Larry 7, people tried it once or twice and thought it was cool, then ignored it. It just proved to me that whatever group of people said to bring back parsers were wrong. They didn't really want to do that, they were just enamored with the concept." Unfortunately, during the mid to late 90s, adventure games started to lose popularity. Even the big titles weren't bringing in many players. The future looked bleak for Sierra, as Al reminded me, "When 3D graphics cards came out, it looked like the future of gaming was going 3D. With the rise of the shooter genre, the money and interest had to come from somewhere, and it really came from adventure games. Plus, a lot of the games stole a lot of the ideas that made adventure games work, like inventories, puzzles, and conversation trees, and those became integrated into those other games." What I found most surprising about the way other titles adapted adventure mechanics into their gameplay was how so many people completely forgot where they came from. It was a sad time for fans like myself. "Larry 7 was the last adventure game that really sold well. I remember when Grim Fandango came out after Larry 7, it was at a time when LucasArts was producing these great products and everybody loved the game, the gameplay was great, but it sold like crap." Grim Fandango's failure was something of a tragedy, really. Such an immensely clever game, with memorable characters, a wonderfully told story, and a unique art direction, deserved to succeed. While the critics and those who actually played it loved it, it went by generally unnoticed by everyone else. It is somewhat fitting, however, that this tale of a Grim Reaper would herald what many felt was the death of the pointing and clicking. The focus shifted from stories and puzzles to action and graphical fidelity. "Suddenly, these games where you'd sit and pound your head and try to figure out what to do next looked antiquated and old and slow. But the more I played the new games, the less I liked them and the more I appreciated puzzle solving. And also, I really liked humor -- I love Monkey Island and Space Quest and those games that made you laugh, where there was a big pay off and a belly laugh coming in. Man, that just went away completely. There were no products that had any sense of humor back then." Al's love of humor in videogames is something we share, perhaps because it is so rare. A game that makes me actually laugh is something I cherish, even if it's just because of some terrible puns or a bit of slapstick. That's not to say there weren't any developers trying to bring humor back into our wonderful hobby. Seven years after Grim Fandango felt the sting of an apathetic market, the game's designer and LucasArts alumnus, Tim Schafer, gave gamers the gift of Psychonauts, a unique experience that merged action and platforming with the storytelling and puzzles of the adventure genre. People still talk about it today, but it's just a shame that few people were doing so in 2005. Psychonauts' combination of styles is something that I think fits adventures very well. Story and puzzles are at their core, and there's no reason why players cannot experience those things through action and platforming or even driving and shooting. It was this sort of thinking that almost brought us the action/comedy Sam Suede. Al Lowe formed a new team to create a console experience which attempted to combine 3D gameplay and action with the comedy and narrative of golden age adventures, but it was never finished. It's clear that Sam Suede is still a sore topic for Al. "Psychonauts came out and sold 50,000 copies or whatever and went immediately to the bargain bins. It was like every publisher looked at our stuff and said, 'Well, what are your comparables?' We said there really aren't any comparables because we've got sexy girls, a lot of funny conversation, and they said, 'Well it's an action comedy and the only action comedy we know is Psychonauts, how did that sell?' Oh shit. So we evidently got tarred with the Psychonauts brush and we just could not find a publisher who would take a risk." Even when the developers tried to bring gamers back into the adventure fold, publishers lacked confidence in the genre. It would be easy to just pin all the blame on the publishers -- after all, we do that a lot with other things. But when their biggest concern is the bottom line, if they don't see anyone buying these types of products, then there's no reason for them to take these massive risks. By the second half of the 2000s, things were changing. After LucasArts cancelled the long-awaited sequel to 1993's Sam & Max Hit the Road, a group of designers left to form their own studio, known today as Telltale Games. Their first titles were Telltale Texas Hold'em, a couple of episodes based on the Bone comics, and a series of CSI spin-offs. After securing a round of investments, they were eventually able to work on adventure IPs like Sam & Max and Monkey Island, something old adventure game fans like myself had been waiting on for a very long time. CEO Dan Connors believes that this had a large influence on bringing the genre back into the public eye. "Certainly, the adventure genre seems to have grown, as far as the size of the audience is concerned, since we started in 2004, and I believe Telltale has had a roll in that. Tales of Monkey Island and Sam & Max succeeded in capturing the essence of what was great about the original games and modernizing the experience." Dan recalled, "I think we built games that allowed a new generation of gamers to experience franchises that were considered legendary but weren't the type of thing the average gamer was going to dig up and play. With Back to the Future, we built a game that used adventure mechanics and was received well by a mass audience." By securing their own funding and taking out the publisher middleman, they were able to bring these games to a new audience despite the risk involved. Publishing these titles themselves was far from the only reason for their success, however. The rise of digital distribution and episodic content has had a massive impact. This is something I'll be looking at in greater depth in the second part of this feature. I hope you'll join me, but until then, go and play some adventure games!
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There's a second part, too! For almost a decade, I used to hate being an adventure game fan. It meant that I had experienced some of the best writing and most inventive gameplay the medium had to offer, only to have that take...

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The DTOID Show: Mass Effect on iOS and Psychonauts 2?!


Feb 08
// Tara Long
Could it be that all our dreams have suddenly been answered in just one, 13-minute news program? I hope not, otherwise I may as well pack up my desk and non-existent belongs RIGHT NOW. (Don't worry, I'll never give you the s...
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Schafer wants to make Psychonauts 2, and so does Notch


Feb 07
// Jim Sterling
Perpetual maker of doomed games Tim Schafer has confessed that, no matter how many times he's tried to pitch a sequel to the critically acclaimed Psychonauts, he has never found anybody willing to make it. However, he's still...
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Psychonauts gets Mac version, new patch, and a free app


Sep 29
// Jordan Devore
What's this? Double Fine getting its hands on Psychoanuts again? Better alert the Internet. The beloved game has been updated on Steam, and is now a Steam Play title (buy one version, get both) to coincide with the new Mac re...
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Double Fine nabs Psychonauts publishing rights


Jun 15
// Nick Chester
Perhaps the stars are aligning for a follow up to Double Fine's 2005 cult classic, Psychonauts.  Yesterday I noted that series protagonist "Raz" made an appearance in Spicy Horse's Alice: Madness Returns. Now Double Fine...
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Poor Raz: Alice: Madness Returns references Psychonauts


Jun 14
// Nick Chester
So I'm finally back from Los Angeles, recovering from E3, and working my way through American McGee's Alice Madness Returns. It's out today, and while I figured I'd be done with it by now, this is a game that features some of...
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GOG sale: Psychonauts for $2.49


Feb 23
// Jordan Devore
Ooh, here's a terrific one. Good Old Games is offering Double Fine's beloved Psychonauts for $2.49 on this otherwise yuckiest of yucky days. The sale is good for today only, but it should be an impulse buy for anyone still on...
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Tim Schafer wants to make Psychonauts 2


Nov 12
// Conrad Zimmerman
I'd like to imagine that today, all around the world, the rabid fans of Psychonauts will read this news and have involuntary muscle spasms of joy. Yes, their master, Tim Schafer, has seen fit to throw his wisdom down fro...
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Inceptionauts: If Psychonauts and Inception had a baby


Sep 13
// Jordan Devore
Warning: you are about to have another one of those "Why didn't I think of this first?" moments. YouTube user FineLeatherJackets has put the audio from one of Inception's trailers on top of the visual stylings of Psychonauts...
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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...
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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...
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Monday Mind Teaser: The Company of Myself


Apr 26
// Tom Fronczak
Let me be very clear: The Company of Myself is brilliant. I'm a lifelong defender of the gaming industry as one of the best art mediums the future has to offer, but due to my high expectations I often find myself not agreeing...
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Good Old Games gets Psychonauts, Advent Rising, and more


Nov 05
// Jordan Devore
Majesco Entertainment is the latest company to get in on the Good Old Games action. What does it mean for us? Surprisingly good things. Available now completely free of DRM are Psychonauts ($9.99) and Advent Rising ($5.99). A...

Interview: Picking the brain of Double Fine's Tim Schafer

Aug 20 // Ben Perlee
DESTRUCTOID: Now, this event is the multiplayer event, which you said was the first part of the game that had been developed and worked on. Can you describe how the multiplayer came about with Brütal Legend?Tim Schafer, President and CEO of Double Fine Productions: I always imagined it as a multiplayer game right from the beginning, which is that it's all about being a kind of leader of a rocker army, and Eddie is this guy who, in the single-player campaign, builds an army. You get to see the creation story for each element of the army, the headbangers, the razor girls, the thunderhogs, and each unit he adds to his army. In multiplayer, you have them all at your disposal. And the idea is that you are building this stage, and, in Brütal Legend, we kinda equate rock shows with wars, and bands with armies. So you are building a band, you are building an army. So you build these headbangers, you recruit them to your army; they come stage diving off the stage. You go out there, you find these fan geysers -- which are naturally occurring fans bubbling out of the ground -- and you win them over to your army by playing an awesome guitar solo in the game, and then you build them a merch booth, because fans need merchandise. And they stay loyal to your army and they fly back to your stage and that's basically the only resource you have to worry about. They fly back to your stage automatically, and they help you put on bigger and bigger shows. You can make either a bigger stage or you can recruit more warriors to your troops, so that's kind of a strategic decision you make when you play the game. So that's the flow of the game. Capture resource points, get fans, build warriors, send them out on the battle field, capture more resource points, eventually get a big enough army that you can just attack your enemy's stage and burn it down.Tonight we are playing just 1v1, but I know that this goes as high as 4v4. Describe that experience.That's a cooperative experience with your friends. You get on team chat, and you hopefully agree amongst yourselves that “Okay, I'll take care of maybe the resource building, you take care of harassing enemy troops.” Or maybe you all do everything at the same time. It's really up to the players to decide how to split up the duties. You can play the game that way, just as an action game, just you and your ax, doing the combos, you can do your rockslide and you can do your rock kick and you can do pyrotechnics and play as an ax-wielding brawler. Or you can play more strategically. You can change the weather by playing the right solo at the right time, which changes the tide of battle. Or flying around over the battlefield, you get this bird's-eye view of your troops or your enemy's troops. You can scout out and see, “Oh, they're building a lot of infantry,” and if you're an advanced player, you'll think, “I've got my metalbeast, which is really strong against infantry, so I'll build some more of them,” and there's these counters in the game. Really, it's for all levels of play, where if you are into the action, you can be in that, or if you want to go deeper, you can go deeper.I've noticed there's only three different character factions. Could we see any more factions down the line with downloadable content?I can't say...but sure, I think right now, the three are so different and they provide such a different  experience that there's a lot of things to explore with it. For instance, there's the Ironheade, Eddie Riggs' army, and it's Ironheade with an extra “e” on the end, 'cause they are extra metal, and they are more of what you'd think of a classic rock, kinda something you'd see on an album cover, just like rocker girls and the headbangers and guys on choppers and stuff. They have a lot of fire attacks, and they're really fast. Then you have the Drowning Doom, which is more of a black metal. They listen to black metal, they look undead, they're really creepy, they have a guy who barfs rats, and their specialty is playing debuffs and buffs. They can play really depressing music with an organ. They are willing to use keyboards, which sets them apart from Ironheade. They depress everyone on the battlefield with their music and that makes them fight better and makes their enemies fight worse. And then the Tainted Coil is the demonic army, and they are run by Doviculus, who is voiced by Tim Curry. They are all about the hierarchy, so they have Battle Nuns and War Fathers, and Over Blessers who are like this structured, organized army. They all have their own minions, and you can talk to a Battle Nun, wherever she is on the battlefield, and she can spawn minions right there. If you are at an enemy base, you can spawn a bunch of minions, so it's a very powerful technique. But they are more complicated, so there's strengths and weaknesses with each faction. I think there's a lot of stuff for people to be exploring for a long time in our multiplayer.So the multiplayer looks like it's going to be a strong component of Brütal Legend. It's getting close to the completion of the game, and it has gone through some hurdles that most games don't go through. What is it like for you knowing that this game is almost done?It's exciting. I mean, you work on a game for a long time, it kind of becomes your life, it feels like your job is not games, but Brütal Legend. I'm so excited for people other than us to actually be able to see the game. We've been looking at it, we've been playing it, and we think it's really fun, in the office, right? But you never know. We're like, “Oh, I can't wait to show it to people,” and showing it tonight, to anybody, is really terrifying. The fact that people are still hanging around, playing it, and having fun is a good sign.So now that we are entering this exit phase of sending Brütal Legend out to the presses, when are we going to learn about the next Double Fine's next product? Can you offer some hints?[laughs] It might be a while before we can talk about that. I mean, it could be a lot of different things. There are a lot of stories in the Brütal Legend universe I'd like to tell. There are also new ideas I'd like to do. You're just going to have to wait for that, but there's a lot of stuff with Brütal Legend still to come that we'll be talking about.Very cool, it sounds like good things are to come. Within the last month, some very cool releases and re-releases have come out. The Monkey Island franchise, which you helped create, has all of a sudden become a really big deal. What's your response to this game being remade and reborn and having a whole new generation play it? It's really interesting. I mean, it's great. I have a lot of warm feelings about Monkey Island; when I hear the music, I get instantly happy, and I remember it being 1990, back when you were three years old. I was sharing an office with Steve Purcell and Peter Chan and Dave Grossman, and Ron Gilbert was down the hall, and we were making this game together. I was much younger, and it was before you could go online and read a bunch of nasty forum comments. [laughs] It was you and a bunch of friends making a game to entertain yourselves. It was really a fun time. When I play the game, especially when I play it in the classic mode, all those kind of feelings come back to me. It's really a fun experience for me to play. It will be interesting to see how people react to it. Things change, and people want different experiences. Part of the thing with games in the past is that they are either better than you remembered, or they are worse. I hope people remember Monkey as even better than they remembered, because maybe they were so young when they played it the first time, they didn't get half the jokes. You always try to write it like a Warner Bros. cartoon, where there is a juvenile version of the joke, and where there's a more sophisticated version for people who want that, so hopefully people who played it as kids will play it as adults and get a deeper level of understanding. That's what I hope. I hope it's not like Catch-22, where you read that in college, and it blows your mind. Then you read it as an adult, and you're like, “I think this was better when I read it in college.” [laughs]So were you involved in any way, shape or form with the re-released Monkey Island?I only heard about it through rumors. I mean, Ron and Dave knew about it, but they are really tight-lipped professional dudes [laughs], so they wouldn't tell me anything, but I could tell something was going on, because a lot of people were rumbling about it.Do you think you'll ever go back to a point-and-click at all?The way I work is, I just have an idea, and do it. So if I ever had an idea for a point-and-click game, I would do it. I play a lot of console games, and they kind of inspire me. I would say playing Super Mario 64 is what made me change from thinking about PC games to thinking about making a console game. That's where Psychonauts came from. It started this long process that eventually became Psychonauts. Playing Ocarina of Time and Mario 64 made me realize there was different ways to explore a world. There's a much more accessible way to run through it, instead of just clicking on it. There's nothing wrong with clicking on it; it's a different experience. We had a lot of fun making The Host Master and Conquest of Humor, which is a silly little Flash game that our web guy Clint made, and you're playing that and you're like, “Well, it's kinda fun to make this kind of game.” Basically, I'm optimistic about the future, because it seems now the industry can support games of all sizes, so we can make a small adventure game. They don't have to be five-year projects. Double Fine itself is maturing to the point where it can hopefully make a big game and a little game at the same time.I actually have some questions from community members on our site, and one of our community members, Naim Master, asked if you had ever thought about making a 2D-style game, or a quick and easier downloadable title for Xbox Live Arcade or PlayStation Network? Could that be something in the future of Double Fine?Definitely. I feel I am open to making whatever idea comes into my head, and I feel very fortunate and lucky to be able to say that, cause everyone would like to be able to say that. Hopefully, through this team we've built up through Double Fine, there's a lot of talented people there, we're able to do more than one thing at one time. And we do little 2D games, like Tasha's Game [a side-scrolling platformer on the Double Fine site]. I don't know if you've played that, but it comes off like a web game based on a comic. Clint had made it all by himself with some art from Tasha, and music from Raz, and Bird, but if you play it, it actually has a really fun mechanic. Basically, we are doing it; that's all I'm saying.You mentioned the creative process, and we have some community members, DaedHead8 and Krow, who really wanted to know: You are known for making very unique, very special, very...not necessarily outlandish, but very different types of games and types of characters and tropes and images, especially with Psychonauts, and with Brütal Legend...What's a trope?A trope? [laughs] Uh, it's like an overarching theme within a work.Nice.Sorry, I'm an English major, it's terrible.Wow, man, you tropes. What a bunch of tropes.[laughs] But I want to ask you, what do you do to get creative? How do you get your creative juices flowing? First, I like to eat a bunch of tropes. That really inspires me.[laughs]I always believe there's like a goose in your head, and the goose either lays golden eggs, or it doesn't. When you live off creative ideas, it's kinda scary, because at the beginning of every day, it's like a blank page. You won't get paid, and you won't pay your mortgage if you don't have an idea. Which is kind of terrifying if you think about it. Everybody is capable of being really creative; it's just a matter of not being afraid to follow up on those ideas. I learned that while working on Monkey Island with Ron [Gilbert]. I think the only reason we wrote funny dialogue is that we thought it was temporary dialogue. We were just joking around. I was like, “Look behind you, a three-headed monkey!” I assumed Ron would tell me the real line and we would replace it. When Ron came up to our office -- it was shared with programmers, and he laughed at the line -- and I was like, “I don't really know what to say there” and he was like, “That's it! We're gonna say that line!” I was like, “You can't be serious. A three-headed monkey? There's no such thing as a three-headed monkey, Ron. Don't you ever watch the Discovery Channel?” [laughs] In fact, maybe it was Dave or Ron, but one of them said, “We should actually make art of a three-headed monkey to come out behind you.” And I was like “No, you guys! That's too ridiculous!” And then we did it, and it was one of my favorite things about the game. That's when I learned that there's this internal sensor you have in your brain that kills your own creative ideas because you are afraid other people will laugh at you. And you are afraid someone will come by and say to you, “That's WRONG!” So you censor yourself. And there's a lot of that stuff in Psychonauts, the censors that go around with ideas, these self-censors who destroy your own ideas. Also there's that big fat critic in Gloria's level who is like the idea of having an internal critic that's too large, that is too critical, that keeps you from doing the things you need to do. It's a psychological thing that people have to deal with. Doing that experience with Monkey Island is what taught me that, “No, actually, you're right. The stupid ideas that you have are often the best you have,” and who cares what anyone else thinks about them? Everyone else is wrong, and those people are really stupid, so who cares what they think? So take those dumb ideas and run with them. There are no consequences for putting that stuff out there. That's what I would encourage people to do, run with their stupid ideas more.It's really a testament that you are running with those ideas, because it was your name that was chanted on cable television for, like, five minutes by one of the most popular comedians in the nation, Jack Black, going “Tim F**kin Schafer!” What was that like for you?That was unreal. I mean [both laugh], 'cause on those shows, you don't have developers at all; they have an actor come out and pretend to be the guy from Grand Theft Auto accept an award. They won't be an actual developer. I think in some ways it came from Jack, because Jack was one of the creative forces behind those awards, and he's a real gamer. You know, he played Mass Effect twice. That's a scary thing working on this game, is I'm working with his voice. I know he's gonna play it, and he's going to find every line of dialogue, and there's, like, 30,000 lines of dialogue. So I have to make sure he's going to like it. Anyway, he's a real gamer, and he knows what he's talking about when he talks games, and I think that was his choice to elevate a gamer to that level. It was kind of a joke, but it was also kind of great, in a way, for all developers. We'll never be as glamorous as the Oscars. I don't think any award show for games will ever be as glamorous. I think the most glamorous we'll get is the Director's Guild Award, because game developers -- until we have a Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in our games -- are craftsmen. So it was really a lucky thing that I got to be on TV.  And, it's a tribute to Jack, but with our generation, a lot more people are game-savvy these days. It used to be voice talent. They would come in, they would work on the game, they didn't know what they were saying. Nowadays, people know what they are talking about, games are more prevalent, and it's a different age.Well, thank you so much, Tim Schafer, this has been a incredible interview, and I really appreciate you being so candid.Was I too candid?No, no! [laughs]Did I say anything I'm going to regret?Well, would you like to say anything las--Would you like to say anything you'll regret? [laughs]Well, sure! Would you like to? [both laugh] What would, like, people, when they sit down to Brütal Legend, come Rocktober, if you could sum up in three, or five, or ten words -- what is the feeling you would like people to have?I want people who love heavy metal to actually feel like someone who loves heavy metal made a game just for them. But I also want people who hate heavy metal to be drawn in by the humor or action of the game, then come out of it liking heavy metal just a little bit more. It's something that's true [to me], and I really do love it. And I hope it really does expose people to a lot of great bands they haven't heard about before.Awesome. Well, thank you very much.Thank you!
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Tim Schafer. Tim f**king Schafer. He's a man that most of us know. One of the writers behind The Secret of Monkey Island, and the man behind Full Throttle, Grim Fandango, Psychonauts, and Brütal Legend, Schafer has remai...

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Schafer: Gamers care too much about sales


Apr 06
// Jim Sterling
If anybody knows a thing or two about good games selling poorly, it's Double Fine's Tim Schafer. His last game, Psychonauts, was notorious for a disappointing sales performance despite widespread critical acclaim, but unlike ...
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Psychonauts 2? What a nice Christmas present that would be


Dec 24
// Jim Sterling
We are possibly just falling into a ploy by Double Fine to get some attention, but we figure Double Fine deserves it. A few days ago, the studio launched a Psychonauts themed Web site, The Psychopedia, and today we've spotted...
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While we'd love for Double Fine to be quietly working on a sequel to Psychonauts, that doesn't look like it's happening any time soon. But even having their hands full with Brutal Legend, Psychonauts is not forgotten. &q...

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No Psychonauts or Grim Fandango sequel sez Schafer, crushing hopes and dreams


Nov 05
// Earnest Cavalli
Tim Schafer, in a conversation with Playboy.com -- the Internet's answer to boring, highbrow pornography -- revealed that Grim Fandango and Psychonauts, while excellent games, will not be getting sequels. Here's a quote:"...
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Nothing to see here, move along: No new Psychonauts game in the works


Oct 23
// Nick Chester
What, you expected a new Psychonauts game? Pffft. That game sold, what, four copies? So what if it was really, really good. That story we (and everyone else on the planet) ran earlier about a mysterious Psychonauts "Comi...
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Psychonauts Two? Teaser image hints at possible project [Updated: It doesn't]


Oct 23
// Jim Sterling
It has been hailed as a modern cult classic and like those that came before it, many lamented its lack of sales and poor marketing. Hope for a new Psychonauts may have seemed dim, but it's been served a little more ignition t...
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Tim Schafer's Brutal Legend announced: are you going to ignore this one too?


Oct 12
// Earnest Cavalli
This NeoGAF thread contains the below image of the latest cover of Game Informer magazine who apparently picked up the exclusive rights to announce Tim Schafer's Axes & Axes epic Brütal Legend. Since I can neither re...

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