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Tim Schafer

Double Fine Productions aims to rekindle the spirit of adventure

Apr 28 // Alessandro Fillari
"It seems like there's been so many people talking about adventure games, people crowdfunding new adventure games," recalled Tim Schafer, the founder of Double Fine Productions and game director on Broken Age. "It's just that everyone felt that it's okay to talk about it again. We don't have to talk about it like a dead genre anymore, people just throw that word around casually, like 'Oh, you're doing an adventure game?' -- it's become normalized now." With the renewed interest for adventure games in recent years, there's never been a better time to become invested in the once-dormant genre. There was a time when adventure titles were common, and full of optimism, but with a steep decline after the '90s, traditional point-and-click games seemed to have gone by the wayside. But recently, these games have seen a reawakening, thanks in part to developers like Telltale Games and Double Fine outputting a steady flow of titles. And with titles spread across so many platforms (including mobile), they're now more accessible than ever. The development of Broken Age, which is easily the studio's highest-profile project, has been a unique case to watch. Tim Schafer and the team aimed to create a title that was a true throwback to classic LucasArts titles like Day of the Tentacle, The Secret of Monkey Island, and Grim Fandango -- while also taking advantage of today's technology to illustrate visually vibrant and diverse worlds to explore. With the pretty positive reception the first act received last year, people have been anxious to get their on the final part of the game. During my session, I had some time to play the PlayStation 4 version of Broken Age along with Tim Schafer. Though I went in mostly blind, as I opted to wait until the full release was ready to play, I still had a wonderful time experiencing it this way. It felt great with the PS4 on a big screen, and adding to this was a sense of playing with a community that chimed in with thoughts and helped with clues for puzzles. It really added to the fun. Schafer hopes that players who've already cleared Act I will start from scratch now that Act II is out, as he believes many of the references and characters from the first half of the game may have been forgotten by players by now. Though the developers have launched other titles during the three years of Broken Age's development -- such as Grim Fandango Remastered, Costume Quest II, The Cave, and the beta for their second crowdfunded project, Massive Chalice -- firm interest has still been kept on their work for Broken Age. And with good reason. I mean, how many other games in active development have a film crew following them around recording all their successes and missteps for the masses to see? While they had the challenges of their own project to manage, they also had to deal with the high-profile nature of it following the success of the funding campaign. With everyone watching, the developers wanted to ensure they'd knock it out of the park with the completed title and not only live up to expectations but also to set a good example for the future of crowdfunded titles. Because whether they wanted to or not, they essentially became the people to follow and emulate. "We were like, 'We can't obviously walk away from [the Kickstarter project], we made a commitment to fans and to our backers," said the director of Broken Age. "It did feel like the beginning of something, and it did feel like the responsibility to not mess it up, because our game, our studio, and other people's games kind of were depending on it now, and if done well could lead to a whole bunch of things being funded, that couldn't have been funded otherwise. So we definitely felt like there was a lot riding on our shoulders, but we would've stuck with it anyway, because we always finish our games." The success of the Kickstarter certainly felt like a watershed moment for many. During my interview with Brian Fargo last year for Wasteland 2, the success of Double Fine's project sparked a lot of enthusiasm among many of the "old-school" designers looking to explore forgotten genres and franchises. In our chat, Fargo spoke about trust being the cornerstone of the relationship between developers and their community. And I definitely got a sense of that from my visit to Double Fine. There was not only a clear respect for the genre that many of the developers were returning to, but also for the many of backers and fans who have contributed to the title as well. For better or worse, however, the level of transparency has also contributed to scrutiny over the project. While there have been many successes with crowdfunding over the years, there are also many projects that missed the mark, or outright failed to deliver. During our talk, I felt that Schafer was humbled by the process, and even spoke honestly about their own stumbles with limiting content and details to backers only, leaving everyone else out of the loop. One of the important things they wanted viewers of the documentary to see is what exactly the process is like for game creation -- to give them an understanding of the challenges they often faced. "A lot of people make games, and they care so much about what they make," he said while discussing the challenges of development. "There are so many hard tradeoffs they have to make, there are features in the game they wanted but couldn't because there are these other things they wanted even more, and I want everyone to see that process, because I do think that when you ship a game everything you see in it is an active choice by someone, and it is, but sometimes it's a miracle the game got done. [...] I don't know if they need to think about that stuff, but I like to know that at least some people out there know how hard people work, how amazingly difficult or complicated problems are solved everyday, and all the choices they have to make while making a videogame." This definitely struck a chord with me. I'm inclined to think that there are many gamers out there who are unfamiliar with the actual process of game development, and assume many features and key aspects of development can be added in and removed as if they were text on a document. It felt very refreshing to see so much openness about game creation. Though that may be in part to due to the needs of transparency for operating a crowdfunded project, I found that it helped to not only give the developers their own chance to tell their side of the story, but also to humanize the actual process of game creation. While the added publicity of their project added pressure to make sure they did right by fans, it was the kind of pressure they were more than familiar with during their time on past titles from the LucasArts era and in recent years at Double Fine. Over the years, they've developed games that inspire a lot of love and respect from fans, and making sure they deliver was something that kept them on track. "It's definitely pleasurable to succeed and fulfill all those promises, and anyone who's kinda hoping we would fail, it's nice to hear their quiet tears in the night. If you listen quietly you can hear them cry into the night," Schafer said while joking about the messages they get from cynical commentators. "But we always have this pressure of trying to do things that the fans would like anyway, now that the fans are actually funding the game, so it's the same group. But you put that kid of pressure on you anyway so you'd make a good game."   With the complete Broken Age experience available now, this marks the end of a long and unique development period for the studio. Though it has still got another crowdfunded title in the wings, its first is now out in the wild, ready to be experienced by fans and newcomers alike. But as we've seen in the years since Double Fine's success on Kickstarter, there's no shortage of campaigns looking to reignite the same fire that only a few projects can attain. Schafer definitely believes the future is bright for crowdfunded titles. "I think crowdfunding is here to stay," said a confident Schafer. "I think when people realized you could get organized and make things happen that couldn't be made by the old gate-keeper system, I think that'll always be the case. [...] Basically I think things always go crazy on Kickstarter when there's a great story. I think we had a good story that was new, and also people were saying 'Here's this thing we wanted to happen for a while.' Like this new adventure game, and it hasn't happened, but we could fix that and make it ourselves -- and that's really powerful." "But there are a lot of other different kinds of stories, besides old-timers like me going back and doing the genre again. Just people doing projects no one has ever thought of before, but instantly want to happen, I think there'll be these spikes whenever that happens and continue to be more popular. I mean the things about crowdfunding will change and improve, but I don't think it'll ever go away." A good story is important. Whether it comes from a struggling developer looking to strike out on its own with a project that was rejected by countless publishers, or from a group of veteran creators seeking to return to a classic franchise all while doing it their way -- crowdfunding has inspired a lot of people with an idea to put themselves out there and hope to find others who share their vision, and to ultimately realize it. And with Broken Age out now, we're approaching the end of another story from the folks at Double Fine Productions. But as the genre goes, there are always more adventures to be had. It's not often you get to be a part of the revival of a once-dead genre that inspired many to create their own titles, bond with friends and family over the complexity of puzzles, or get caught up in heated debates about what the real ending is for contentious titles. As the name of the genre states, an adventure is an exciting and hazardous journey into the unknown, and the developers of Broken Age experienced just that with their first foray into crowdfunded game development. Regardless of how you feel about Broken Age as a whole, or whether the developers at Double Fine made the right choices, it's hard to deny that it all made for one of the most interesting development periods for a game in years. Whether you view Double Fine Productions as the underdog or not, it still made for an engaging story. And aren't those the ones worth telling?  
Double Fine interview photo
Everyone loves a good story
Who could forget the great Kickstarter boom of 2012? You remember, right? Out of nowhere, this website called Kickstarter suddenly became a focal point for established developers and indies looking to crowdfund the next big t...

Review: Broken Age: Act 2

Apr 27 // Caitlin Cooke
Broken Age (PC)Developers: Double Fine ProductionsPublisher: Double Fine ProductionsReleased: April 28, 2015 MSRP: PS4, PS Vita, PC, Mac, Linux, Ouya: $25 / iOS and Android: $15 Broken Age is very much designed and intended to be played as one game, not chopped up into two parts. If you've managed to hold out this long to play both acts together, rest assured that you've done yourself a favor. The second act gets straight to business, dumping the player into some heavy plot points right off the bat. The game’s challenging puzzle logic also comes through in full force with no time to ramp -- progressing in the game relies heavily on prior knowledge of the landscape and characters. I asked for more puzzle complexion in my review of Broken Age: Act 1, and boy did I get it. The puzzles are of the same kindred as the first act -- difficult to piece together at first, with a dash of trial and error mixed in. However, this time around the obstacles are far more difficult and obtuse, requiring deep creative thinking, but more often than not bordering on the “impossible to solve without help” realm. I found myself pondering puzzles for long periods of time until eventually giving up, clicking through every possible option as a last resort. Where the first part of Broken Age had more environmental exploration and shorter, more gratifying puzzles, the second act tends to lean on more long-term challenging puzzles. Puzzle solutions from the first portion of the second act were used throughout almost the entirety of the game -- much of my time was spent drawing out diagrams on post-its and endlessly referencing them. The ability to switch between stories is still present, which comes in handy when stuck on a puzzle or in need of a change of scenery. However, during certain parts of the game some puzzles require information from the other side of the story. This caught me off guard at first but was less annoying once it became obvious that this would be a theme throughout the latter half of the game. The bar from Broken Age: Act 1 is definitely met if not exceeded in Act 2 in terms of the visuals, nostalgia, and clever dialogue. However, the setting in the second act is practically the same as the first half of the game, with the exception of a few minor changes. Although I adore the characters in Broken Age and was happy to see them again throughout the second act, I had hoped to experience new scenery and perhaps new characters. The story in Act 2 goes in a strange direction, and feels rushed -- especially compared to the first act, which has an even progression and was much more cohesive. Conversations are had between characters that lay plot points out on the table very quickly, and in an uninventive way. It seems a tad thrown together, and I would have preferred to discover the plot through means of gameplay instead of having it explained via single lines of conversation. Unfortunately, by the end of the game I was also left with with a lot of unanswered questions. Since it had taken a year for this second installment to make it to us, I had expected a little more on that front. Broken Age: Act 1 was so perfect that perhaps my expectations were inflated when playing through the second half. However, despite the challenges Broken Age is still very much a beautiful game with a heartwarming story. The puzzles, as frustrating as they are, come from a place of creative invention that defines the point-and-click genre. I choose to treasure its high points-- the charming characters, ingenious dialogue, and silly childlike whimsy. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher. This reviewer also backed the game's Kickstarter campaign.]
Broken Age 2 review photo
Mostly worth the wait
[Disclosure: I backed the Kickstarter. A review copy was used for this verdict.] Three years since the launch of the infamous Double Fine Adventure campaign and a year after Act 1’s much-anticipated release, Broken Ag...

Tim Schafer open to revisiting Psychonauts

Mar 13 // Laura Kate Dale
With that out of the way, we got Tim to chat a little about his career over the years. First up on the chopping block was a question we had been dying to ask Schafer for a while. Just how did he expect people to get through his obtuse adventure game logic back in the day? I have no idea; people were smarter back then. Playing the games I sometimes wonder that myself. I think, "This puzzle's really hard, how are people supposed to get that?" Part of the reason is that back in the day [...] the thinking was "people are not going to finish this game." Sometimes we thought that. That's why we did the easy mode in Monkey Island 2, but the answer is for most of these puzzle the hints are there if you keep talking to people, if you keep digging down. Most of them are hinted at if you keep exploring all the dialog.  So we made the first half of Broken Age and the first half is always easier than the second half of a game. We were like "this is too easy." We made Grim Fandango and that's too hard. Adventure game fans are hard to please. Next up on our list of questions was one that readers have been trying to get an answer to for a while. Which of Tim's series means the most to him, and which would he most like to revisit? That's a tough question because of course every game is important at the time. There's things people don't expect when they ask me this like Kinect Party -- did you ever play Kinect Party? It was our lowest-selling game of all time. It's a Kinect game where little kids play with their grandparents together and it was really rewarding to see families playing that, it was just so rewarding, you know? The world of Psychonauts is so interesting because you can just keep creating more brains every time you meet somebody and wonder what the world inside their brain looks like. It also feels like the kind of unfinished story of Eddie Briggs [Brutal Legend] would be a great excuse to work with Jack [Black] again. It's hard because of how Grim ended. It was a really rich and full world but I feel like that character had such a complete progression that I feel like he's done with. I don't know if I want to go back down that road with someone who isn't Manny. All the other ones, a lot of them at least like Psychonauts you can just imagine. For Brutal Legend it's kind of already designed because we had to throw away half that game to get it done two years late. It's a lot easier to imagine going forward with that or Psychonauts. A recent hot topic brought sharply into focus by Peter Molyneux's Godus was the effect crowdfunding campaigns can have on audience's faith in developers. From pitching your game to fans for financial investment before development has begun to the pitfalls along the way, with Schafer himself previously facing the firing line from disgruntled Kickstarter backers, we wanted to know if he plans to continue crowdfunding his future projects and what effect he thinks Kickstarter failures have on the reputations of developers. There were so many great things to Kickstarter when it first exploded and we had that rush of not just money but also goodwill too. That love and support from the community told us that people want to play adventure games still and that was really important to us. Because everything's announced at the start of creating your game and not the end like we normally do, it makes more sense to be transparent like we were. That made us vulnerable to a lot of criticism because people could see "oh, the schedule's changing" or "You're doing this thing the way I don't want you to do it." The experiment's not over yet and I'd still call it an experiment, but being that exposed and vulnerable was difficult. There were some good things and toward the end there have been some bad things. My hope was that by being really transparent and showing all the ups and downs of game development, that people who play games would start to understand more of what goes on when making a game. But still, after all this time, it still seems like people get super mad about things that are totally normal. Things like schedules slipping happen on almost every project but people just don't hear about it because we don't usually show people.  I think developers have to learn like publishers had to learn before the warning signs when a game is in trouble and what is just going through the normal ups and downs of development. The question I personally wanted an answer to the most: when is Broken Age: Act 2 coming? Well we're in beta now and we're going to come out this spring. There's not much time left in spring. When's the last day of spring? It's coming out this spring which is very soon. At this point we pushed him on how soon was very soon? We confirmed basically that it's more than three days away still. Well, not this week. I've been playing the Vita version on the plane over here. It's finished, we just want to catch all the bugs. Finally, with all our serious questions out the way, we ended the interview on a slightly lighter note. Yes, you guessed it, we asked him about his favorite butts in videogames. We mainly learned that Tim Schafer rarely thinks about butts when designing a character. Favorite butt in videogames? Are there a lot of butts in videogames? I guess everyone has a butt but you don't often get to see them. I guess in third-person games you're running behind them. I'm now trying to do the interesting task of trying to visualize butts from videogames, they don't usually get a starring role. I'm now seriously worrying I've not been paying enough attention to butts in the games that I've made. Have we ever shown any butts in my games? Yep, you've stumped me with butts. Manny's butt in Grim Fandango is boney; it's basically just a pelvis in a suit.  In Costume Quest actually there was a cat that had a very prominent butt featured, so I guess that butt.
Tim Schafer interview photo
Schafer talks Broken Age, crowdfunding, narrative, and butts
Last night Destructoid attended the videogame BAFTAs in order to do some hard-hitting journalism. Speaking to Tim Schafer, who was in attendance to hand Shadow of Mordor the BAFTA for Best Design, we spent ten minutes discuss...

Molyneux Interview photo
Molyneux Interview

Tim Schafer comments on the Molyneux interview


Feels his colleague was treated unfairly by the press
Feb 19
// Rob Morrow
In a YouTube video posted by Double Fine Productions, founder and CEO Tim Schafer provided an update on the current state of the point-and-click adventure Broken Age's second and final act. Schafer also t...
Oh heck yeah! photo
Oh heck yeah!

Remastered Grim Fandango looks great, out next month


January 27 to PS4, Vita, PC, Mac, Linux
Dec 10
// Steven Hansen
I know a skeleton of people are waiting to play this, what with it being a chore to track down a playable copy of the classic adventure game. And now we get an even more playable, modernized version with nicer textures and s...
Grim Fandango photo
Grim Fandango

Tim Schafer, Grim Fandango, and a Between Two Ferns knock-off


Soooo...this happened
Dec 02
// Brett Makedonski
Sony's really been gearing up for this weekend's PlayStation Experience. There have been projects teased. There's been confirmation of a big No Man's Sky event. Now, there's a Between Two Ferns knock-off interview ...
Grim Fandnago: Remaster photo
Grim Fandnago: Remaster

Here's Grim Fandango running on PS4


Aiming for 1080p, but keeping the 4:3
Sep 01
// Steven Hansen
Double Fine has the original Grim Fandango running on PS4, with some joystick tweaks so it controls smoother. In the development video, they talk about things they want to address, like the compression, and things they ...
Double Fine photo
Double Fine

Double Fine embarks on new publishing venture


Sounds (double) fine to me
Jul 24
// Brittany Vincent
Double Fine Productions has decided to point its talents in the direction of helping indie game studios with publishing and marketing. In an interview with Tim Schafer, it was revealed that although Double Fine won't be a pub...
Broken Age photo
Broken Age

You can play Broken Age now on your iPad


Now's the best time to check it out
Jun 12
// Brittany Vincent
Double Fine's latest adventure game Broken Age has made its way to the iPad, and it's just as gorgeous as a mobile game as it was upon its original release. It's split up into two releases, and right now, you can catch Broke...
Grim Fandango remaster photo
Grim Fandango remaster

Yes! Grim Fandango remaster for PS4 and Vita!


Yesssssssssssssssssss!
Jun 09
// Steven Hansen
I always complain about how hard it is to find a copy of Grim Fandango, which I desperately need to play. Well, Grim Fandango is getting a PS4 and Vita exclusive remaster. Of all the remasters, reboots, remakes shown off thus far at E3, this is by far the best.  Thanks you based Schafer.
Day of the Tentacle photo
Day of the Tentacle

Watch Tim Schafer play through Day of the Tentacle after a 10-year lull


Yes, I squeed like a little girl
May 14
// Brittany Vincent
This glorious video before us is a Let's Play of Tim Schafer himself playing Day of the Tentacle. The 40-minute video features Tim narrating a playthrough and sharing little tidbits of information regarding production, voice...

Video: We played Broken Age with Tim Schafer

Jan 27 // Bill Zoeker
Here we have the second part of the show; a brief AMA with the legend of adventure games: [embed]269591:52361:0[/embed] In the conclusion, Max lures Tim into hanging out longer with some Brutal Legend action: [embed]269591:52362:0[/embed]  
Broken Age w/ Tim photo
Tim sticks his fingers in our nostalgia veins, as only he could
This past Wednesday, Tim Schafer and Greg Rice of Double Fine Productions brightened our doorstep and hung out in the Dtoid HQ studio. Tim was like a magical woodland creature, exploring the nooks of our office, and majestic...

Review: Broken Age: Act 1

Jan 24 // Caitlin Cooke
Broken Age: Act 1 (PC)Developer: Double Fine ProductionsPublisher: Double Fine ProductionsRelease Date: January 14, 2014 (for backers) / January 28, 2014MSRP: $24.99 (with free update for Act 2) Shay has lived his entire existence on a spaceship designed for toddlers. Day after day he’s coddled by the ship’s “mother,” an overbearingly saccharine computer unwilling to allow him to take care of himself. Mother babies Shay in every way, including knitting sentient pals to keep him company and forcing him to take his daily nutrition paste. Shay’s unending routine consists of completing childlike “missions,” like saving his yarn pals from an ice cream avalanche or a hug-attack, which are designed to keep him occupied throughout his existence. Struggling with his confined life, Shay manages to discover a secret part of the ship and quickly experiences what it means to have real responsibility. Vella wakes up on the last day of her life, preparing to uphold the long-standing tradition of being eaten by a giant abomination named Mog Chothra to keep her village safe. A town that once prided itself on raising fierce monster-fighting warriors, Sugar Bunting now concedes to offering up its finest maidens to Mog Chothra during what they call the “Maiden’s Feast.” While the other maidens are excited to be considered potential meals, Vella can’t help but wonder if there’s another way out. She rises up to fight against her supposed destiny of becoming a delectable treat for Mog Chothra and breaks free to search for a way to defeat the monster before it consumes her town. Both stories are engrossing and highlight a certain childish curiosity that I haven’t felt in a long time. I adored every second wandering through these worlds - the dialogue on all fronts is hilarious and crafty, the story elements thoughtful. Broken Age captures a style that is imaginative and expressive while still maintaining an environment that's easy to interact with. Above all, the art is captivating so much so that at certain points in the game I found myself staring at scenes just to take it in. Almost everything comes to life in Broken Age - characters range from charming to downright ingenious, all with spot-on humor and fantastic voice acting. One of my favorites is a needy spoon who regularly vies for the attention of Shay by shouting things like "It is my honor to be your training spoon today sir, I can't wait to start MISSION NUTRITION!" Puzzles are integrated well into the character’s personalities - I found it amusing to discover what dialogue or actions would make characters give up an item or a piece of information. The game allows for switching between both stories seamlessly, which is not only creative, but a very useful feature. I enjoyed going back and forth regularly because it allowed for me to pace out the stories (for example, not getting too far on one side) and also gave me a chance to escape if a particular puzzle was stumping me. I also felt that Shay’s story involved more interactive gameplay elements while Vella’s focused more on dialogue and riddles, so being able to leave one story and hop to the other gave me a nice break. The format of Broken Age is obviously very reminiscent of the older point-and-click adventure games, however there are a few interesting camera perspectives and design choices in the game that change up the formula a bit. For example, in one area of the game you can literally fall through clouds if you’re not careful where you step. Another section has the camera angle peering in through a window that’s being cleaned by an adorable spaceship minion. These details seem marginal, but they keep the gameplay fresh and original. I found that the gameplay is so seamlessly integrated with the art that it’s sometimes hard to tell when you’re supposed to be viewing a scene and when you need to take action. For instance, it took me a while to solve one of the first puzzles in the game because the action I needed to take was during what I thought was a cinematic sequence. Although I appreciate that the game never took me out of the moment mentally, it did become frustrating after a while. My solution to this was to whip my mouse around the screen just in case the action circle appeared in future cinematics. Broken Age manages to keep the hand-holding clues to a minimum without completely withholding answers from the player. However, as the game progressed I wasn't entirely clear on what actions I could take. During one puzzle in particular, I had tried to combine and use every item possible to get past what I thought was the obstacle, but really all I had to do was move around it. The puzzles eventually make sense in time and are fairly thoughtful, although some of them could have stood to be a bit harder -- because for the most part, they didn't require a lot of brainpower. In the end this may not be a terrible thing but I would like to see a tad more complication thrown into the mix for Act 2. I haven’t felt this surge of nostalgia and excitement about a game in a long time, and I truly think Broken Age will be looked back fondly as one of the greats. That being said, the first Act is only a few short hours and ended on a nail-biting cliffhanger with no word on how long we’ll be waiting for the rest of the game. In some ways I feel cheated, but in the end it’s the heart of the game that matters - and that certainly isn't broken.
Broken Age review photo
Point-and-click heaven
[Disclosure: I backed the Kickstarter. A review copy was used for this verdict.] The game formerly known as "Double Fine Adventure" has finally made its debut -- or should I say, half-debut. Broken Age: Act 1 is the culmina...

Brutal Legend photo
Brutal Legend

Tim Schafer muses on return to the world of Brutal Legend


'I would love to go back there'
Jan 22
// Chris Carter
Brutal Legend's development was marred by a series of unfortunate incidents involving IP rights, but eventually, it hit the market. Sadly, we haven't seen anything indicating that we'd ever get to return to the world, outside...
Charlie Brooker photo
Charlie Brooker

You should watch Videogames Changed the World


Helps if you're in the UK though...
Dec 01
// Alasdair Duncan
Following on from 2009's Gameswipe special, acerbic critic and former PC Zone writer Charlie Brooker has delivered another excellent videogames program this time on Channel 4. How Videogames Changed the World is a two-hour sp...
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...
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...
Tim Schafer photo
Tim Schafer

Schafer tells the secret to Double Fine's fiscal success


And the formula isn't very complicated
May 10
// Brett Makedonski
We're living in a time when the terms "AAA game" and "financial success" seem to practically be mutually exclusive. The list of titles that companies have deemed a commercial failure feels as if it's growing by the day. Due t...
Free game photo
Free game

Play as Tim Schafer in Host Master Deux


Help Schafer make it thorugh the GDC Awards
Apr 05
// Allistair Pinsof
Host Master Deux: Quest for Identity is a free, browser based sequel to 2009's Host Master. Once again, the player must help Double Fine founder Tim Schafer bumble his way through preparing for the GDC Awards. It may be the c...

Looking back at Star Wars, Monkey Island, and LucasArts

Apr 04 // Allistair Pinsof
I sometimes wonder why more games don't feature extensive use of time travel, and then Iremember that Day of the Tentacle exists, so they don't need to. Dave Grossman and Tim Schafer's first game as lead designers is adventure game perfection. It's set in one location yet covers three distinct time periods. It won't melt your brain with time travelling quandaries like Primer, instead it focuses on humor and puzzles that, while steeped in loony adventure game logic, never threaten to become unintuitive.My original copy of Day of the Tentacle was the floppy version, but there was a second CD-ROM version that came with the wonderful voice acting I no longer know how I could have lived without. When my folks finally upgraded to a computer not stuck in the past, the first purchase I made was the “better” Day of the Tentacle, and what a delight that second playthrough was.This was LucasArts at its peak, and it's how I always want to remember the company. Not as a bully of a publisher, not as a company that milked Star Wars dry, and certainly not dissolved, but as a studio that churned out some of the most hilarious and clever games I've ever had the pleasure to play. - Fraser Brown Our family didn't have a decent PC until the mid-90s, so the majority of my gaming had been done on the NES and SNES. Once my dad dropped the cash for a blazing fast Pentium 75, I knew one of the first games I absolutely needed was X-Wing.The X-Wing series (followed by TIE Fighter, the multiplayer X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter, and finally X-Wing Alliance) were space combat sims that put you in the cockpit of a Rebel (or Imperial) starfighter. While I'd loved the vector based Star Wars arcade game when I was younger, the X-Wing games' free flight, varying missions, and realistic (for the time) graphics blew it out of the water. There was nothing more exhilarating than deciding "screw the mission objectives" and dodging banks of turbolasers to single-handedly take down a Star Destroyer. This series was also responsible for my undying hatred of escort missions.The catalog included with X-Wing introduced me to some of LucasArt's non-Star Wars stuff, including my personal favorite: the adventure title Sam & Max Hit the Road. Based on Steve Purcell's comic about a fedora-wearing dog and his psychotic lagomorph partner, you control the duo on a road trip across the country searching for a stolen bigfoot. It made me realize that games could not only be funny, but downright hilarious. Although the follow-up Sam & Max: Freelance Police was sadly cancelled in 2004, thankfully Telltale Games (made up mostly of former LucasArts employees including Purcell) picked up the ball the next year and gave us two great episodic sequels. - Aaron Yost I have a fond place in my heart for a lot of LucasArts games, but if I had to pick one favorite, it'd be Indiana Jones and the Fate Of Atlantis. I ordered it out of a Scholastic Book Fair catalog from my school, in spite of the fact that it wasn't remotely a book. At the time, I was having a miserable beginning to junior high school, and had moved from living next door to my best friend in a fun neighborhood, to an old house miles from anything in the middle of the woods. 1996 was a rough year for me, especially the cold and dark Connecticut winter spent in that lonely house, and some of my fondest memories from that time are exploring Crete, The Azores, and Monte Carlo with Indiana Jones. Even when stumped by some intensely frustrating (no, seriously, they still piss me off) puzzles, I still managed to entertain myself by trying to make Indy jam a broken ship rib into Sophia Hapgood's Atlantean necklace. "I don't think that will work."We all have a game or two that makes us get all sentimental, for reasons that transcend your run-of-the-mill nostalgia, and Indiana Jones And The Fate Of Atlantis is one of mine, and that's enough to make me pour one out for LucasArts. If nothing else, it's an Indiana Jones sequel that didn't involve Shia LaBouef swinging around with CGI monkeys. - Max Scoville Maniac Mansion completely changed the way I looked at games. Just utterly destroyed it. Up until that fateful day in the late 1980's when I brought the game home for my recently acquired Commodore 64 computer, the concept of different playable characters requiring their own approach to problem solving had never really crossed my mind before. I had probably had the experience by this point without really thinking about it (the North American release of Super Mario Bros. 2 was already out by this time and I'm sure I had played it somewhere), but seeing the various combinations of kids that were possible and the realization that every group would require me to find other ways to rescue Sandy from the clutches of the mad Dr. Edison blew my young mind. It was so effective that I never even noticed how startlingly inappropriate the game's content was for a nine year-old. No child should be exposed to the tragedy that was the Ford Edsel.It became something of an obsession, ultimately, and I still have a batch of 5/14" floppy discs with save files for every possible combination of kids. I wonder if I ever finished with Jeff and Michael... - Conrad Zimmerman   Maniac Mansion changed my idea of what videogames could be, and in doing so, changing the trajectory of my life in a permanent way, but it was Zak McKracken the really blew the lid off for me. The game worked to parody aspects of American culture that had already seemed ridiculous to my 12 year old mind, while effectively giving me a believably "realistic" adult world to safely explore. These two aspects worked together in perfect sync. The more believable the world, the more effective (and hilarious) the parody, the more drive to explore the world, and so forth. The power in that formula is unquestionable. This is a videogame that made me believe, even if for only the briefest of moments, that aliens might be using telephones to make me stupider, and that someday, little plastic cards may replace paper money. What am I saying "had"? I still believe those things to this day, and for arguably good reason. More than anything though, Zak Mckracken amazed me with how unique, original, and personable it was. Unlike Maniac Mansion before it, and Monkey Island after, Zak Mckracken didn't rely on film genre gags and tropes to get by. It was a wholly original madcap adventure, released for Commodore 64, in the year 1988. That in itself is amazing. This was a time before the internet, before Adult Swim, before any non-Monty Python Frankenstein-ing of ludicrous surrealism sewn together with cultural satire was known to be potentially palatable for the mass market in any form, let alone in the largely untested medium of videogames. And here was a game about a tabloid reporter who meets a two-headed squire, digs a into solid rock with french bread, travels the world, infiltrates a secret alien headquarters, trades brains with a dolphin, and goes to mars, all of which with nearly no death or violence to be found. I couldn't believe it was real. To be so consistently surprised, amused, and enlightened by a game was a first for me, and it's a feeling I've been chasing ever since. I can only hope that the original creators of Zak McKracken will reacquire the license for the property, so that Zak's adventures may outlive the flawed, trailblazing, and now sadly departed studio that birthed it. - Jonathan Holmes The first time I played through The Dig I did so huddled in front of my parents' 486, my two brothers and neighbor at my side. We didn't care that it was voiced by the dude who played T-1000, produced by Steven Spielberg, or written by that guy who wrote Ender's Game; we were there for one reason and one reason only -- the thrill of discovery. And boy did The Dig thrill.The production values were astounding, the world was exciting, and goddamn if some of these puzzles weren't downright hard. In fact, to this day I still have the original game manual filled with our notes and solutions to the puzzles, and when it was finally released on Steam not too long ago, I was able to fly through the entire adventure in a matter of minutes -- a far cry from the days upon days we spent on that original outing.The Dig was the first adventure game I ever remember really investing myself in, and the first game I played through from start to finish with my brothers and friend (who would later become my gaming compatriots), and for that I will always hold it dear to my heart. - Andy Dixon If there was ever a game that was eligible for the "most improved sequel" award, it would be Dark Forces II. Although the original Dark Forces is a serviceable first-person-shooter, Jedi Knight really took the genre by the throat, turned it on its head, force-gripped it, and threw it off the ledge.What was the simple innovation you ask? Lightsabers. By adding a third person lightsaber mechanic into the game, Lucasarts wowed PC fans everywhere and let them give into their darkest Jedi fantasies right in their own living rooms.But it wasn't just melee combat that made you feel like a badass -- the power to wield the Force -- either dark, light or neutral (a rarity for any Star Wars game) -- allowed you to customize the experience to suit your playstyle. With my group of friends through LAN play, all of us were able to craft our own unique way of experiencing the game -- ages before "perks" were a widespread first-person-shooter mainstay.To this day, no one really does lightsaber combat quite like the Jedi Knight franchise, and it will be sorely missed. - Chris Carter George Lucas always talked about how the Stars Wars franchise -- the comic books, the toys, the games, the lackluster prequels -- are there to allow him to make experimental films, returning to his roots established in his USC short films and on the set of THX 1138. He never made good on this promise, but game developer and publisher LucasArts sure did. While Star Wars games -- many of which were experimental and incredibly influential in their own right -- continued throughout the years, LucasArts used the revenue to invest into some of the most memorable and peculiar games of the '90s. I still don't know how to play Afterlife, I still think Outlaws sounds and looks like nothing else, and I still want to set aside time to check out Gladius and Herc's Adventure, one of these days. What I'll think about most, when it comes to the LucasArts name, are all the days spent playing its adventure titles. I still return to The Curse of Monkey Island, Full Throttle, and Grim Fandango, and instead of being let down by nostalgia, I find so much more to appreciate now that I know how rare it is to find quality storytelling, good humor, and innovative art direction in games. When I load them up on my Nexus 7, it still feels like the future to me and everyone else is just struggling to catch-up. - Allistair Pinsof [image via AllGamesBeta]
LucasArts Retrospective photo
'Death makes sad stories of us all.'
With the Stars Wars license and money behind LucasArts, the studio only needed to follow. Instead, they innovated for 31 years. Not only did the studio have a hand in adventure, first-person shooter, real-time strategy, and f...

Double Fine photo
Double Fine

Ron Gilbert announces departure from Double Fine


The adventure veteran is working on an iOS game, until his next project
Mar 12
// Allistair Pinsof
In 1990, Ron Gilbert made the genre-defining Secret of Monkey Island with Tim Schafer. Two decades later, Gilbert joined Schafer's studio, Double Fine Productions. And now, after releasing his latest adventure, The Cave, Gilb...
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...
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...

Win one of 10 early tickets to Ümloud! this Thursday

Dec 04 // Niero Gonzalez
[embed]239871:45981[/embed] You don't have to be in San Francisco to help this charity: You can donate over the web Funds collected benefit Child's Play, a non-profit organization founded by the guys at Penny Arcade to help bring awesome to 70 children's hospitals around the world.  If everyone reading this donated enough to buy a cup of coffee, it actually adds up to a lot. They've raised over $40,000 in the past years, and we hope to beat that number this year, so every little bit helps! We'll see you at the show!
Free Ümloud! tickets photo
Rock out for a great cause
In the Bay Area this Thursday? Come melt your face at San Francisco's DNA lounge for Ümloud!, the annual California fundraiser that benefits Child's Play. Did I mention Tim Schafer, creator of Psychonauts, Grim...

On The Media talks to Tim Schafer about being awesome

Jun 03 // Jonathan Holmes
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NPR is slowly but surely becoming the best "mainstream" media outlet for intelligent and well-meaning coverage of videogame news. Their coverage of Ian Bogost's Cow Clicker phenomena was fantastic, and I still ...

Preview: Double Fine ventures into The Cave

May 24 // Ryan Perez
The Cave (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [previewed]) Developer: Double Fine Productions Publisher: Sega Release: TBA 2013 First, I want to clear up what this game isn't: It's neither a point-and-click style game, nor is it in old-school 2D sprites. Can you at least handle that? Please do, because everything else that is so loved about this genre is certainly here, and in the cherished style of one of the genre's pioneers, Ron Gilbert. For those of you who don't know who Ron Gilbert is, well, I feel a tad sorry for you. His body of work consists of some of the most cherished games in history: Maniac Mansion, The Secret of Monkey Island, Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders, and more. I'm pretty sure he also invented driving on two wheels while blasting Sabbath (screw it, might as well give him a little more). I'm an infant in this industry, compared to my peers, and even I've experienced this man's games. So an adventure title being made by a man such as Gilbert would be like an epic biopic being directed by Orson Welles, were he alive today. It's the creator making another of his divine creations. The Cave started off exactly how I expected, charmingly funny. An ominous voice explained how he has been a source of hope and desire for people throughout the ages -- those who simply seek for their greatest of wishes to come true. We were then introduced to the Cave. Really, it was a talking cave. Don't laugh at him, though. As he stated, "It's hard enough dating, as it is." Players are given the choice between three of seven character archetypes: the wise Monk, the daring Adventurer, the slack-jawed Hillbilly, the methodical Scientist, the stalwart Knight, the rift-bending Time Traveler, and the creepy-as-shit Twins. All of these characters, as expected, have their own personality, story arcs, and special abilities. How you combine them, though, is where the real meat of the experience lies. After picking a combination of three characters, players are thrown into the depths of the Cave, where they must solve a variety of zany and kooky puzzles -- in that familiar Gilbert fashion -- to reach that specific area of the cave where a particular character's wish will come true. Double Fine was pretty light on the details of each character's wish and quest, but after being told that the Hillbilly's ultimate goal is to find love, I can tell that plenty of gratifying heart, humor and hubris will be present in each character's journey. Stuff like this is where Double Fine excels, after all. Did I mention the game is kooky? One of the puzzles shown consisted of the Scientist, Knight, and Hillbilly. At a particular area of the Cave, a giant, fire-breathing monster blocked their path (discovered after the lovelorn yokel was fried to a crisp). Just before the monster lay a spiked pit filled with bones, and above it hung the giant arm of a crane, which lowered into the pit and hoisted up whatever remains it could grab. To lure the monster to the pit, though, the Scientist had to reactivate a vending machine (which read "OMDOGGG!") with a bucket of water, subsequently providing a plump, juicy sausage. She put the frank on a spike in the pit, the monster began gnawing away at it, and then bam. The crane pulled the then-yelping and squealing beast out of harm's way. Another such puzzle was from the Knight's storyline, where a large coin had to be retrieved from a deadly dragon, and then traded for a princess's tiara. Obviously, a head-on approach resulted in a flame-broiled archetype, but the Knight's special ability -- a magical aura that protected him from harm -- was the perfect distraction as the Scientist snuck into a gate behind the dragon with the words "Do not leave gate open" written beside it, nabbed the coin, and then ran off with it. Unfortunately, she didn't close the gate behind her, and as she ascended towards the princess, the sounds of chaos and bloody murder could be heard. One random voice even screamed, "What idiot left the gate open?!" When the Scientist reached the Princess's tower, though, her highness dangled from the gnawing jaws of the escaped dragon. No worries, though; the beast coughed up the tiara after he gulped her down. These two puzzles are but a taste of The Cave's many different puzzles that are indicative of the adventure games that inspired it. They never really made much sense, logically speaking, but they sure were funny and a blast to figure out. A lot of you are probably wondering how the game looks and plays, though. As I stated before, it doesn't look as old-school as many fans would have liked, but it is still in 2D. Or rather 2.5D, to be specific. The game is being built with 3D graphics, but on a two-dimensional plane, based in a seamless environment (no more going from room to room, static screens and all). Nonetheless, it looks great, as is expected from the fantastic art direction that Double Fine typically provides. With all that said, The Cave handles much like a 2D platformer. While no balancing acts or quick actions are required, the camera constantly follows whichever character is being controlled. Like I mentioned in previous examples, up to three archetypes are chosen at any given time, which requires the players to switch between them, depending on the situation or puzzle that is present. Basically, The Cave is an adventure game at heart, with some of the trappings of more modern titles. Considering that the game will also be available on consoles, it only makes sense that such a control scheme would be present. So there you have it. As countless eyes have been gazing at the activities of Double Fine, they've been slowly but surely working with a genre that many people have long considered "dead." Obviously it's not; publishers have just kept it caged for many years. Thankfully, companies like Double Fine have enough faith in their fans and the genre to let it run loose for a little while longer. And yes, if you caught the rumors from earlier this week, this is also being published by Sega. Weird, right?
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Double Fine is one of those rare anomalies that carries a truck-ton of admiration from its fans, almost no scorn or distaste from anyone in this industry, and yet it has still experienced a fluctuation of moderate monetary s...

Getting It Right: Grim Fandango

Apr 26 // Allistair Pinsof
Grim FandangoDeveloper: LucasArtsPublisher: LucasArtsReleased: October 30, 1998 In a nutshell: Before Tim Schafer departed from LucasArts, he left behind one last classic adventure unlike anything else he's done before or since. Released in 1998, Grim Fandango was one of the first 3D adventure games where you controlled the protagonist through keyboard or gamepad instead of mouse (think Resident Evil). Set in the Land of the Dead, the game tracks one undead travel agent's sprawling journey across an Aztec-inspired afterlife. Owing much to film noir classics like Chinatown and past LucasArts adventures, Grim Fandango was a mix of something old and new -- a singular vision that stands the test of time. Characters wanting to do good I like stories about good people trying to live good lives, but I rarely turn to videogames to find one. By and large, videogame characters are voiceless, often literally, and morally ambiguous. In recent years, it has become a trend for videogames to incorporate morally bankrupt protagonists (Call of Duty series, Kane & Lynch) into their plots, posturing as mature storytelling. It leaves me detached from the story and characters, because I just can't care about an asshole with a gun. Grim Fandango's Manuel "Manny" Calavera is a hero in the truest sense. He's sympathetic, funny, and bold but has a hidden past of wrongdoings that we know as much about at the beginning as we do by the game's end, which is to say very little. It's his character that we get to know throughout this adventure. Like Rick Blaine in Casablanca, we love Manny for his mannerisms and biting quips, forgiving whatever unethical life he left behind before coming to this place. In the Land of the Dead, the good go to the afterlife in four minutes, the bad go in four years, and the terrible have to work a dead-end job in order to pay off their debts so they can join the other two groups in time. Manny belongs to the later. He works as a grim reaper ("travel agent" to clients), tasked with guiding departed souls into the Land of the Dead and giving them their deserved travel plan. Sometimes they get pushed into a coffin with nothing but a congratulatory coffee mug and packing foam, and sometimes they get sent on a bullet train across the afterlife, though Manny doesn't ever get these more fortunate clients. Grim Fandango has two major influences: Aztec culture and film noir. Like all great noir heroes, Manny must make a decision in his journey to save the ones he loves, even though his survival no longer depends on their well being. There comes a pivotal moment when he decides to do good voluntarily. The result is a multifaceted character in an inspiring story about getting your dues in time by being an honorable man, while those paying their way to heaven face their own cruel fate in time. Unique art style influenced by things outside videogames The world of today's videogames seem to have grown up solely on yesterday's videogames. Like many of us who play them, it results in a woefully uncultured, monotonous entity. After all, there is so much in the world of literature and other arts to experience and be inspired by. Yet, our industry is still one filled with retro graphics from indies who refuse to grow up and dark bulky worlds from studios trying to replicate the ominous, masculine worlds they fondly remember from the days of Nintendo and Genesis. When you enter the world of Grim Fandango, you realize what can be done once one walks away from this limited perspective. This lush, varied world merges early 20th century art deco, film noir, and Mexican folk art. It all seamlessly fits together and immerses you in a fantasy that you haven't before seen in games -- or film or books, for that matter. The game constantly surprises you with its art direction, character design, and remarkable architecture. Despite its low polygon models, it holds up very well over a decade later. Since Grim Fandango's inhabitants are modeled after Mexican calaca figures, they are brought to life through simple geometry that doesn't feel dated in the way many other 3D games of the late '90s do. By culling from various influences outside gaming and bringing them together in a playful way, Grim Fandango made a world of its own that lingers in the player's mind long after their journey is complete. Large city hub that you can get lost in It's easy to get lost within the wild plains of Skyrim or Xenoblade, but it's rare that we feel bewildered in a town hub these days. Rubacava, a massive port town within which most of Grim Fandango takes place, is one of gaming's most memorable cities for this reason. While Manny arrives at a diner at the outskirts of the city at the end of the game's first act, we aren't given a fair introduction until the subsequent chapter. The first time I explored Rubacava, I was dumbfounded by its scope. One path leads to an abandoned lighthouse, another to a pier with its own secrets, and another to a massive casino which leads to a whole new level of the city that has its own smaller casino. At the start of the chapter, the city seems endless. By the end, you feel you have outsmarted every alley and shortcut the city has to offer. In an adventure game, it can be very frustrating to have to deal with such a large possibility of space. With so many areas, characters, and items, problem solving can become a difficult task. Yet, it's worth the troubles for the sheer spectacle of Rubacava. What Rubacava and other massive city hubs (Midgar and the Citadel spring to mind) give to the player is a sense of immersion on a grand scale. From the creative architecture to the detailed backgrounds, Rubacava feels alive and bigger than the player. You feel like a small speck in the world that surrounds you -- a feeling I rarely get in games these days, despite how far technology has come. I'd much rather have a world as detailed and believable as this, instead of 5,000 extra virtual acres of trees and more of nothing. Concise dialog and action For a long, long while, I didn't think I enjoyed adventure games. I played them because I liked the story and worlds contained within, but I often felt fatigued by the time I reached their conclusion. Grim Fandango changed that for me. A major factor of this is the dialog -- there isn't a lot of it. Now, I'm not afraid of reading, but I do believe in something best described as "story flow." The goal in storytelling isn't to immerse the player through realistic conversations -- which are long and boring to an outsider, more often than not -- it's to immerse through concise, stylized dialog that sounds good and conveys ideas and emotions succinctly. There is a place for Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers' 15-minute conversations on Voodoo mythology, but I value Grim Fandango's lively and brief conversations much more. Every line is building the plot or leading to a brilliant punchline, if not both. The same is true of the game's puzzles. I recently tried playing Yesterday and was horrified by what I was seeing. Not even five minutes into the game, I had an inventory of nearly 10 items. Even worse, the puzzles required me to combine items without a good sense of understanding. I imagine it was saying, "This is an adventure game. You do this dumb stuff, you know?" Grim Fandango minimized inventory management and world interaction without forgoing interesting and challenging puzzles. On the contrary, I felt closer to the world and my actions because it seemed far more sensible and focused. Modern adventure games rely too heavily on hint systems when they really should be focusing on maintaining the simplicity and logic that Grim Fandango embodied so well. Milestones in adventure We often measure our lives not in the distance traveled but in the faces we see along the way. Grim Fandango understands this and builds a memorable adventure around this observation. There was once a time when "quest" was not a synonym for "task," but few young gamers today would believe such a claim. In Grim Fandango, you are always progressing towards a goal that isn't exclusive to reaching a location, and along the way, you meet new friends and enemies. Okay, so many other games aren't so different in this respect, but Grim Fandango stands out by giving these characters recurring roles in the narrative's four-year journey. I'd hate to spoil the game, so I'll just focus on one example early on in the story. In the game's opening cinematic, Manny sends a poor soul on a four-year journey across the Land of the Dead with only a walking stick. By the end of the first act, as you arrive in Rubacava, you bump into this old client. Now he is a janitor at a small diner near the docks, spending his days cleaning the floor as he waits for his old flame from the "fat days" to pass through town. Grim Fandango is full of moments like this that serve as milestones in Manny's journey. You find old faces in new states, while new problems infest old places. The afterlife is constantly changing, and its inhabitants have their own journeys that operate outside Manny's adventure. It can be incredibly jarring to immersion when you find the same people saying the same thing in the same town throughout an entire game, not to mention 40+ hour RPGs! Grim Fandango shows just how effective and immersive doing the opposite can be. Mysteries unsolved There is a tendency for games to answer so many questions within the narrative that you can often get lost in the answers. I can't tell you the intricacies of the plots of many games, but it's not for a lack of effort. Games often have a defense mechanism to fill their simple plot full of asinine details in a vain attempt at complexity. It not only confuses the player, it also takes away much of the mystery that can help build a game's world. As an ode to film noir, Grim Fandango capitalizes on mystery. We come to know the characters through their actions in the afterlife, but their days spent in the Land of the Living remain unknown. It is left to our imagination to fill in the gaps. Was Manny a terrible person or just a poor guy who found himself on a slippery slope? Like many great films and novels, Grim Fandango gives us just enough info to understand these characters while interpreting the details through our own judgement. I especially love how the game leaves four years of the story untold. The focus of Grim Fandango is Manny's journey to find and save Meche, a client given a rotten deal due to mysterious reasons, so we don't need to know about his year as a janitor in Rubacava or his year aboard the SS Lambada. Yet, our mind can wander and imagine what could have taken place during these enormous gaps in the story. It works so well because we are never told we missed something major. Going from janitor to casino owner in a year is quite a career trajectory, but do we really need to know how that transition happened? Not really. That's what our minds and fan fiction are for. By respecting the player and keeping the integrity of the story, Grim Fandango sustains the aura of mystery and romance that all classic noirs seek to obtain. Like many games of its time, such as Final Fantasy VII and Metal Gear Solid, Grim Fandango marketed itself as a cinematic experience. Its ads in magazines were long, foldout posters with credits scribed on them, mimicking those that aligned cinemas of the time. However, Tim Schafer and the development team at LucasArts had a strong understanding of the limits and strengths of the medium -- films, novels, and folk art served as the inspiration, not the blueprint for this project. So many games today fail at building or don't even attempt to build a world. After all, it's a time-consuming process that doesn't always translate to sales in the marketplace. But art is hard! Great art shouldn't have obvious precedents; it should come from a place so personal that few can understand the vision until it is fully manifested. The most beneficial inspiration from classics of film and literature has little to do with the world of Grim Fandango, however. It is found in the game's perfect pacing, smart dialog, and brief, self-contained puzzles. Telling an epic in videogames often feels like listening to a drunk at a bar who can no longer hear himself speak, imagining he will hit on genius and closure eventually. By focusing on the human ... err, skeletal ... struggles of Manny and compatriots, Grim Fandango gives both the player and story a constant goal and focus. The end result is one of the most bizarre and captivating noir stories ever told. [Header image by Argial]
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Putting the things you loved when you were younger on a pedestal is as unavoidable a side effect of growing old as nose hair and weak joints. Will I ever taste breakfast cereal sweeter than the 2003 run of Ang Lee's Hulk ma...

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Tim Schafer demoes Double Fine Kinect prototype 'Specs'


Apr 02
// Samit Sarkar
“This thing that I’m going to show you is a really weird thing,” said Tim Schafer, the founder of beloved studio Double Fine Productions, during a recent presentation at New York University. He had come to s...
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Game dev lookalikes do battle with the 'Guverman'


Mar 22
// Tony Ponce
The trio of king3vbo, Analoge, and Cutie Honey is back with a brand new episode of Gaming Gurus in the Ghetto, a show about Gabe Newell, Tim Schafer, and Hideo Kojima that you wouldn't believe does not actually star the real...
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Hey guys! Here we are again! Today's show, we talk about how Kickstarter is the hottest thing on the web right now, and how Tim Schafer's Double Fine Adventure raised 3.3 million dollars, and how inXile's Wasteland 2 is in th...


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