Grim re­solve

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Tim Schafer on bring­ing Grim Fan­dango back from limbo

Point-and-click vet­eran Tim Schafer on bring­ing Grim Fan­dango back from limbo

Like an Excelsior Line trip to the Ninth Un­der­world, Grim Fan­dango’s re­fresh has been a long time com­ing. With the rights buried in the Lu­casArts vaults for over a decade, it seemed like the game might re­main for­ever bound to Win­dows 98. But cre­ator Tim Schafer’s dogged per­sis­tence and Dis­ney’s ac­qui­si­tion of Lu­casArts in 2012 al­lowed Dou­ble Fine to ac­quire the rights, and Schafer to re­alise his work’s im­por­tance. Did you feel any trep­i­da­tion about re­vis­it­ing a 16-year-old work? I had a bit of trep­i­da­tion about an­nounc­ing it; I was scared ev­ery­one would be, like, “What game?” But there was a big re­sponse, a lot of peo­ple who got re­ally ex­cited. But it’s held in such rev­er­ence. Do you think your per­cep­tion came about as a re­sult of Dou­ble Fine mostly en­gag­ing with a dif­fer­ent au­di­ence th­ese days? Well, we had much less en­gage­ment with our play­ers back in the ’90s, be­cause there was no Twit­ter. We would some­times get phys­i­cal fan let­ters, and that was it. You’d make a web page and see the press, and maybe, if you looked, you’d dig up some fo­rums. But there just wasn’t this feel­ing like we have to­day, where I’m in a con­ver­sa­tion with the com­mu­nity all the time… So maybe that’s why it didn’t feel like [ Grim Fan­dango] had that same ac­tive fan­base. It was nice to see it did. Did work­ing on the re­mas­ter at the same time as Bro­ken Age: Act 2 re­veal how your ap­proach has changed? It is in­ter­est­ing to be re­mas­ter­ing a 15- or 16-year-old game while mak­ing a brand­new one – and re­play­ing Day Of The Ten­ta­cle, which we’re also re­mas­ter­ing. They have so many similarities. I’m like, ‘Wait a sec­ond, I’ve used this fork-andspaghetti puz­zle be­fore!’ But I’m also see­ing how things have changed in terms of puz­zle dif­fi­culty. It just made me re­alise how hard they are to make and tune. How do you think mod­ern au­di­ences will cope with Grim’s puzzles? I think we re­lied on the fact that there’s the In­ter­net now if they re­ally get stuck! With Bro­ken Age, we re­ally tried to cap­ture all those peo­ple who are get­ting lost and go­ing off in strange di­rec­tions and lead them back to the path with­out destroying their en­ter­tain­ment. But with Grim, I was like, ‘We’re not go­ing to al­ter the con­tent of it. We’re go­ing to make it look bet­ter and sound bet­ter, but we’re not go­ing to make it eas­ier or any­thing like that. And we’re go­ing to hope that peo­ple re­spond to the aes­thetic of the time, which was that you were ex­pected to be OK be­ing stuck.’ Some peo­ple just im­me­di­ately tweeted me, say­ing, “Look, I’m stuck. Tell me what to do.” And I’m like, “Yeah, I know – you are now be­ing en­ter­tained, You just don’t re­alise it.” [Laughs] Some of the puzzles, we just kind of ex­pected peo­ple to make the leap, be­cause when you solve it, you’ll be like, “Oh, that was hi­lar­i­ous”. The de­mon beavers, for ex­am­ple. I think that’s the kind of thing where, in your mind, you see all the stones. You see a fair leap be­tween them. But look­ing back on it, I don’t know if we put them all in. There’s sup­posed to be this idea that the fire ex­tin­guisher works on the beavers, but then they re­light each other. And that’s sup­posed to be a clue that you’ve got to sep­a­rate them. And then you’re like, ‘How do they get through this thick river of tar? Oh, they’re su­per­heated. But if I could put them out and get them in the tar river sep­a­rate from their friends, they couldn’t re­light and they’d be stuck in there.’ But I feel like some of those steps along the way aren’t made clear, like the fact that they’re us­ing the heat to cut through the tar, for ex­am­ple. So if we were go­ing to go over it again with th­ese 15 years of hind­sight, I would be re­ally clear about ev­ery step in that log­i­cal chain be­ing es­tab­lished in the game.

“Some peo­ple just im­me­di­ately tweeted me, say­ing, ‘Look, I’m stuck. Tell me what to do’”

How did you de­cide what to change, and what to leave alone? The choice there was re­ally fo­cus­ing what time and money we had on the places that we felt mat­tered the most, which is Manny and all the char­ac­ters. You’re go­ing to be look­ing at Manny, so the pro­gram­mers fig­ure out a way to make his dy­namic cig­a­rette light up his face and have his tex­tures look great. The back­grounds are im­por­tant, but I guess we felt that, among all the stuff, they held up the best, be­cause they were ren­dered to a high qual­ity level back then.

Schafer was re­luc­tant about the widescreen op­tion, since Grim was in­ten­tion­ally framed

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