Post Script

writer, di­rec­tor and Dou­ble Fine’s CEO


Tim Schafer is the CEO of Dou­ble Fine, hav­ing made his name in the ’90s with his in­volve­ment in the first two Mon­key Is­lands, Day Of The Ten­ta­cle, Full Throt­tle and Grim Fan­dango. The past few years have seen him ex­per­i­ment with new forms in Psy­cho­nauts, Brü­tal Leg­end and Stack­ing, though, so we ask him how it feels to re­turn to the genre that he helped de­fine. Bro­ken Age’s puz­zles are slickly de­signed. Did you con­sciously try to avoid the kind of head-scratch­ing as­so­ci­ated with the genre in the ’90s? We def­i­nitely tried to re­move some of the cra­zier, re­ally il­log­i­cal and im­pen­e­tra­ble puz­zles from the old days. The mon­key wrench puzzle in Mon­key Is­land 2: LeChuck’s Re­venge seemed to make com­plete sense to us at the time when we were sit­ting gig­gling in Ron [Gil­bert]’s of­fice about it. But then when I played the spe­cial edi­tion, I was like, ‘How did we ever ex­pect any­one to get this?’ Es­pe­cially some­one who doesn’t use the term ‘mon­key wrench’ – some­one who might call it a span­ner, for ex­am­ple. Just a few clues would have made that more ap­par­ent. But there’s a con­tin­gent of our back­ers who are like, ‘That’s the best. I worked on that all night. I love that!’ Un­for­tu­nately, you can’t tune a game to ev­ery­body, and we re­ally wanted this game to have a flow to it and play in a way that ev­ery­one could fin­ish it. I think that’s go­ing to make it maybe go faster than a game that kept you stuck for three days on one puzzle. But I also hope people en­joy the jour­ney, and it’s not nec­es­sar­ily about bang­ing your head against a wall, but about the in­ter­play be­tween the char­ac­ters, the story and the puz­zles.

Tim Schafer, How was it re­turn­ing to writ­ing du­ties, and the point-and-click genre? I’m al­ways more com­fort­able in that role, writ­ing all the di­a­logue, be­cause I’m kind of con­trol­ling about story, char­ac­ter tone and stuff like that. I was re­ally fa­mil­iar with cer­tain things that were go­ing to hap­pen, so it was re­ally in­ter­est­ing work­ing with a team who hadn’t made an ad­ven­ture game be­fore and watch­ing them learn all about them, and how hand­crafted and hard to make they are. Ev­ery mo­ment in these games is cre­ated – it’s not like a sys­tem that is then ex­panded over a set of data. With ad­ven­ture games, ev­ery time you pick up an ob­ject and talk to some­body that mo­ment has been hand­crafted by some­one. Some crit­ics ex­pressed con­cerns that Bro­ken Age’s in­ter­face is tablet-fo­cused, and lim­it­ing as a re­sult. What’s your re­sponse to that? Our re­sponse is we’ve changed it. We [were] in a beta with our back­ers and that’s ex­actly the kind of stuff that we wanted to hear. We were re­ally try­ing to make the best in­ter­face and con­tinue the stream­lin­ing we’d done in the old ad­ven­ture games to have more of the screen filled with beau­ti­ful art rather than UI, and so it got sim­pler and sim­pler as we went along. Drag­ging verbs around was sim­ply what I had been used to with other games, and a lot of our PC play­ers wanted to click on an item then click on the world. Stool jokes aside, the story feels very ma­ture. I al­ways liked Kurt Von­negut. His books are very funny, but they’re aware of the range of hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence and how it can be very tragic and sad. That doesn’t mean it’s any less en­joy­able over­all. In some ways, be­ing aware of the hard­ness of life is what makes the sweet mo­ments more sweet, and so I think that’s been present in ev­ery­thing I’ve done. There’s a bit­ter­sweet el­e­ment to Full Throt­tle, for sure, and that’s how it ends. And Grim Fan­dango was a lot about death and re­gret and choices like that. In Psy­cho­nauts, it’s more hid­den in the lev­els, but since you’re in people’s minds, you could re­ally get in there and see their sad­ness and fears. They’re not meant to be su­per-dark sto­ries; they’re just about life and what people go through. I think Bro­ken Age is a lot like those, but then, when you get into the game­play of it, you have a talk­ing spoon and there are poop jokes. That’s what life is all about: tragedy and poop jokes. Are you dis­ap­pointed that half of those poop jokes have had to be held back for the sec­ond episode? At first I was kind of re­sis­tant to [split­ting the game in two], be­cause I imag­ined the game as a whole, and it’s frus­trat­ing to see some of the re­views say, ‘It’s good, but it’s short; it feels like half of what the game should be,’ and I’m like, ‘Yes, ex­actly. That’s ex­actly what it should feel like.’ But by the time we were done and I saw that last cutscene all pol­ished, and the way it felt af­ter go­ing through this ad­ven­ture with these people, I was like, ‘Man, that is a great place to end,’ be­cause it brings up so many ques­tions – you just thought you knew what was go­ing on and then all of a sud­den this new raft of ques­tions come up. And it’s not like a TV se­ries where you know we’re go­ing to drag out an­swer­ing those ques­tions for the next five years. We’re go­ing to an­swer them all in the next in­stal­ment. I think in some ways it’s nice that there’s at least one point where ev­ery­body has to stop and wait and think about what they just played be­fore they rush through, be­cause other­wise a lot of people just binge play games like this, and it’s hard to force people to stop. If you’re do­ing your job, they’re kind of hooked in and they don’t want to stop. But you also wish they’d savour it, be­cause it took you so damn long to make!

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